hearthstones had remained overturned onto the puncheons of
the floors. The chimneys too had begun to crumble. All of the
old making that remained intact were the cellar and the well. For
a long time two apple trees had lived on at the edge of what had
been the garden, still bearing good early apples that Art and Mart
came up to pick every year. But life finally had departed from the
trees as it had from the house.
Art went on to the wire gap into the pasture where they wintered the cows and let himself through. Adjoining at one of its
corners the tobacco barn where the hay was stored, the pasture
was a field of perhaps twenty acres now permanently in grass. It
was enclosed by the best fence remaining on the place, but even
that fence by now was a patchwork, the wire stapled to trees that
had grown up in the line, spliced and respliced, weak spots here
and there reinforced by cut thorn bushes and even an old set of
The place was running down. Art and Mart were getting old,
and the family had no younger member who wanted such a
farm or even a better one. After so many years as the Rowanberry place, it was coming to the time when finally it would
have to be sold. Mart perhaps already would have sold it, had
the decision belonged to him alone. Art so far had pushed away
even the thought. He needed his interest in the farm. “A fellow needs something to be interested in.” He had pushed away
the thought of selling, as Andy still supposes, because so far he
could not think of it. He could not distinguish between the place
But the place, its life as a farm, continued only by force of
old habit. The two brothers went on from day to day, from year
to year, doing only as they always had done. They did nothing
new, and as their strength declined they did less. They extended
the longevity of fences and buildings by stopgaps, patching and
mending, and by the thought, repeated over and over, “I reckon
it’ll last as long as it needs to.”
Their earnings in any year were not great, but they spent far
less than they earned. They grew most of their food, or gath-
ered it from the woods and the river. They heated the house with
wood they cut and split as they always had. They were thrifty and
careful. Mart kept a pretty good used car and went places for
pleasure. Art stayed mostly at home and spent, by the standards
of the time, almost nothing.
THERE WERE TEN COWS and, as of that morning, four calves.
The cows were Nancy, Keeny, Yellowback, Baby Sitter, Droopy
Horn, Brown Eyes, Doll, Beulah, Rose, and Troublemaker.
They had their tails to the wind, grazing to not much purpose
the short grass. The four calves were lying together, curled up
against the chill.
Seeing only nine of the cows, Art set o= to find the tenth. He
crossed over the ridge to the south side. There, in a swale a=ording
some shelter, he found Troublemaker, afterbirth still hanging, and
her still-wet heifer calf uneasily standing.
“Well, look a-there what you’ve done!” Art said to the cow.
“Ain’t you proud of yourself!”
He said to the calf, “You’re going to make it, looks like.”
He didn’t go near them. The cow would be ruled entirely now
by the instinct to protect her calf. Her long acquaintance with Art
would not have mattered. Not to her. She wasn’t named Trouble-
maker for nothing.
“Well,” he said to her, “I’ll leave it to you.” He turned around
and went to the barn.
The timbers and poles that framed the barn had come
from the nearby woods. The posts, girders, and top plates all
had been squared by somebody—Grandpaw Rowanberry, Art
thought — who had been a good hand with a broadax, for the work
was well done. The barn, in its time, had been a fair example of
good work with rough materials. Its posts rested on footers of
native rock, and it had been roofed originally with shingles rived
out of white oak blocks also from the woods of the place. The only
milled lumber had been the poplar siding. Now the barn, like the
pasture fence, had become as much a product of the last-ditch
cunning of making do as of the skills that first had built it.
From the hay rick, by now much diminished, Art carried five
bales one at a time into the pasture, spacing them widely, cutting
the strings with his knife, dividing and scattering the hay, so that
even Doll, the timidest cow, would get her share.
Having scattered the hay, he stood a while watching, to have
the culmination of his trip and the satisfaction of hunger fed.
Soon it would be warmer and the new grass would come. The
time of surviving would be past, and the cows and calves would
begin to thrive.
On out beyond the winter pasture, the upland narrowed and
then widened again, becoming what they called the Silver Mine
Ridge. A long time ago Uncle Jackson Jones, an old man nobody
knew much about, had passed through the country, digging for
buried silver. A number of his excavations were in the Port William neighborhood. Andy Catlett and a few other old men still
know where they are, shallowed by time to mere depressions
in the woods. The largest was the one on the Rowanberry place.
Art’s father had worked on that one when he was a boy. Uncle
Jackson hired several of the local boys to help him dig. They
made a hole long and wide and deep enough to bury a small
house or a large corncrib. They had to use a ladder to get to the
bottom of it.
While they were digging, Early Rowanberry remembered, another stranger, “a man with a needle,” happened by. The “needle,”