I trotted home maybe a bit too happily that day. I had stayed another hour and visited with Mrs. Johnson, but she soon grew tired and decided it was best for her to rest. Her journal- now my most treasured book- was grasped safely in my arms. I would never let any harm come to it.
Instead of reading entries by myself at night, my sisters and I made it a tradition to read new entries out loud before bed. I found out quickly that it was more enjoyable reading it with others, and by reading it through the second time I discovered many more details that I did not notice before. I love sharing with my younger sisters the thoughts that Mrs. Johnson had added along the way.
Every morning, when my sisters and I wake up and get out of bed, the littler ones rush to tell Mama what “Mrs. Johnson did last night”. This morning is no different.
“Mama! Mama!” Jill and Gracie tumble into the kitchen.
“Good morning, my dears.” Mama pecked us each on the forehead with a kiss. “What did Mrs. Johnson do last night?”
“Oh, Mama! She got stuck in a muddy hole because she was trying to get their cow back.” For the next five minutes Anna, Jill, and Gracie stumble over their words and talk over each other to try to be the one who gets to tell Mama the story.
“Oh dear, that story is very interesting. Thank God she is alright after being in the hole!” Mama smiles and looks at Joy and I. “Where are the boys?”
“Probably sleeping in after the long night they had with Bella,” I reply. Last night Joy and Anna had gone outside to close the barn doors and our newest calf’s mother was lying on the ground breathing very heavily. This cow, Maude, has breathed unusually heavy in the past but we thought not much of it. But as it grew worse, we started treating her for it. One of our older cows had the same thing last year and it was determined that she had a bacterial disease. It only grew worse. Papa, John, and Edward had stayed out nearly all night. Mama knows what has happened, but us girls are eager- yet worried- to know what happened to our dear Maude. She was our main milking cow, the mother of Bella, and most of the children’s favorite farm animal.
“Is Maude alright?” Anna wants to know.
“I’m afraid not, my dear. She couldn’t breathe properly due to the bacteria that got into her lungs. Clots that were lodged in her airway eventually stopped her from breathing. I’m sorry, children. She was a good cow, wasn’t she?”
Perhaps the only downside of growing up on a farm is not being completely affected by animal’s deaths. It is just part of having animals. However, new births of little animals never gets old.
Anna and Gracie don’t have the same perspective. “Mama! How did she die??”
“Honey, I just told you. I’m sorry, I know you loved Maude very much. We’ll get a new cow soon enough.”
Anna soon realizes that there is nothing she can do. But Gracie, knowing something was wrong, is crying. All she knows is that “Muddy has gone”. I don’t think any of us really knows what that means to her. Joy picks up Gracie and tries to console her. Mama sends me to get the boys. Papa has been up for hours working already. I wonder if he got any sleep at all last night.
Today, Thursday, I am visiting Mrs. Johnson. I am telling her about Maude and catching her up on news around town. She always listens with interest, but it is more than likely she knows more than I do since so many come to see her.
“My sisters are dearly enjoying your journal, Mrs. Johnson.”
“Oh, I’m glad to hear that! Let anyone who wants to, read it. I want it to be shared,” she paused to cough, “with everyone.”
“Why do you want so many people to read it?”
“Child, you must know how many mistakes I made. If you have read my book then you know that I wasn’t the brightest bulb. I made many mistakes,” she coughs more “and I learned a great many things. And most of the things I learned in the younger years of my life are recorded in that journal. I want others to learn from my foolish decisions.”
“I will let anyone read it if they would like.”
“I know you will.” She smiles brightly and heaves a sigh that sounds weak.
“Should I leave you now? You look very tired.”
“Katherine, I am always tired. I don’t want you to leave just yet. Unless, of course, you have somewhere you ought to be.”
“Oh, I don’t. I’ll stay for as long as you’d like. Would you like some tea?”
“Ah, that would be nice. Thank you, child!”
As I get up to go to the kitchen, Mrs. Johnson starts humming. Just like old times, I think to myself.
Featured image taken from Stock Snap.