Rain fell hard the day Ole Jerse brought
her new calf to the barn. Another little bull.
Disappointed, Daddy shook his head and
scolded Jerse. We needed a heifer, you know.
He tried to smile. Bull calves brought less per
pound than heifers. And the farm mortgage
was past due. I found that out when Daddy
and Mama talked late in the kitchen.
Mama had made cornbread for supper using the
last of the meal. Moisture filled her eyes. She
tried hard to make it look like her glasses had
fogged up with steam from the teakettle. I was
going on ten and knew more than they thought
I did and I wished I didn’t. I prayed that night.
Didn’t ask for Bossy to have a heifer but I
hoped she would.
My sister, Sadie, came home from school–
she was in the eighth grade. She asked to go to
the pie supper the next night. And she asked for
a new dress. Daddy got up and went out of the
room. I reckon he couldn’t stand to hear Mama
tell Sadie, “No.” I listened. Sometimes I wished I
wouldn’t, but I couldn’t help it. Mama didn’t tell
Sadie, “No.” She told her, “We’ll see.”
Mama’s feet pressed the sewing machine treadle
like a seesaw, into the night. Next morning, the sun
glared through the bare windows. Feed sack
curtains with green background and tiny white
flowers had turned into a beautiful sundress.
Sadie hugged Mama as if she hadn’t seen her
in years. The dress fit. Mama’s glasses fogged
up again, and the teakettle hadn’t steamed yet.
Daddy came in. He grinned as if he’d found
gold. In a way, he had. Bossy had given birth
to triplet heifers.
c Copyright, 2006, Freeda Baker Nichols
Poet’s Roundtable of Arkansas
Lily Peter Luncheon Award