A farmer learns a hard lesson.
| “Can you tell us a story?” Coon asks his father as he climbs under the covers.
“Let me think.” Coon’s father settles into a rocking chair and nods. “Once there was a man mad with greed.” All his children settle in their beds entrapped in the story. His wife stands in the door holding the baby and smiles sadly remembering the story he was going to tell.
* * *
Howard watches the weather close waiting to plant his corn seed and begin his crop for the year. Sitting up late in the night watching to see if the ground will begin to frost or if today is the day. Cinda; Howard’s wife lies in bed staring at the ceiling listening as Howard paces back and forth across their porch to stay awake waiting for the frost to appear. This crop is going to be the death of him if he keeps this up. She thinks, rolling over and pulling the blanket to her chin.
She wakes the next morning to find he never came to bed. Shaking her head with a sigh she knew the day had arrived. She may never be able to talk sense into him now. Howard sits in his seeder bumping along the tilled ground. The last frost would be in two days and then his crop would begin and they would be rich by the fall.
The last frost comes and passes leaving behind the ugly brown dirt in its place with the blazing sun. Howard faithfully waters and fertilizes the seed everyday watching for the first sprig of green. He builds tons of scarecrows to keep the birds away. Cinda goes to bed every night and listens to him as he covers the ground to keep the heat in the ground from the sun.
Howard sits on the porch in the sun gazing at his beautiful creation. Cinda joins him on the porch quietly and looks out to where Howard gazes and shakes her head sadly. He stares at the brown dirt as if it were gold in itself, but he didn’t seem to notice the gold he was missing. Cinda rubs her stomach tenderly. She leaves him to gaze at his ugly dirt and sits down to knit some new very tiny clothes.
* * *
Howard checks his little sprouts and notices little claw marks on a few stalks. After more investigation he finds a nest of baby raccoons. The little thieves were eating his sweet corn sprouts. He shoos them out and goes to search for a way to get rid of the little thieves.
“Ahh yes of course all I need is squash that will keep the raccoons out.” He plants a row of squash all around his corn field.
As the weeks go by he doesn’t find any more nests or raccoons. He had done it wait until Cinda hears he had saved the crop. Howard hurries into the kitchen where Cinda is making bread. He tells her all about his success and she nods listening but never compliments his work. Angry, he storms back out to the garden. Fine if she wasn’t happy about it at least he could look at his success.
* * *
Howard glares at the squash someone had been eating it. Deciding to catch the thief he sits up on his porch with his gun and watches the field as the sky darkens. Cinda watches him through the window as she pieces together a crib. Howard startles awake and sees something in the field. A deer was eating his squash.
“That’s an easy fix," He says, "I'll just build a fence.”
* * *
Howard walks through the beautiful knee high stalks petting the tops of them and looking into his rich future. Seeing a wilted stalk he bends down to investigate.
“Hmm, the thorns are choking it to death. I must find something to kill those thorns.” He says to himself. Cinda looks up cheerfully when Howard walks through the door expecting him to join her near the fireplace. Not even seeing her, he passes to the kitchen and leaves the house again mumbling to himself.
“Must get rid of them, they’re choking the beauties.” Cinda watches him go with tears in her eyes. So he hadn’t even noticed the crib beside his bed. Was he so blinded by greed?
Howard walks into his crop with a bright smile he had found a way to save his crop. In his hand he carries a large bucket full of weedworms. He spreads them throughout the field. That will do it. He watches the thorns wilt away and congratulates himself. Howard goes in early and sits with Cinda. Cinda, tired of him not speaking to her, asks him about the crop. Howard goes into explaining how good he had done and how amazing he was at planting until at last Cinda interrupts him.
“Howard don’t you think you might spend a little too much time on the crop and not any inside?”
“Of course not, the crop has to be loved and taken care of like a delicate flower.” Cinda watches him wondering if he remembered calling her a delicate flower in the beginning of their own marriage. He stands and walks out the door towards the field. I’ve all but lost him, Cinda realizes.
* * *
Howard stares at his stalks and scratches his head. How was his corn dying again? He had gotten rid of the choking thorns. Howard digs around the plant and sits back on his knees. He had failed. The worms were killing his plants because they no longer had the thorns to eat. Realizing this he runs to his barn and grabs an ax. He could fix this.
Cinda lies in bed listening to the constant, “Thwak” “Thwak” of the ax hitting the scarecrow posts. The birds flock into the crop, flying away each time with a worm.
* * *
Howard wanders through the shoulder tall stalks beginning to see buds. He is tenderly brushing his hand across the bud when he sees a bird swoop down and steal a bud. The fowl were stealing his gold. He yells at the birds chasing them away. This would not do. Howard sets out a few fox traps in the woods and then releases the foxes in his fenced crop; they would take care of the fowl. Cinda sits in her rocking chair on the porch reading poems to herself. She looks out to the field as Howard yells at the foxes scaring them from their cages. Sadly she rests her hand on her growing stomach.
* * *
Howard keeps a close watch on the fowl reduction and the foxes begin to over-populate, starting to hunt him. Howard carries his gun through the field and sets up the scarecrows. Taking down part of his fence Howard smokes the foxes out of his field. Too late Howard realizes his drying husks have caught fire. He does all he can to save the crop but finally gives in and lets the fire turn his hard work to ash. His gold, all his success was gone.
* * *
Devastated Howard trudges to the house to tell Cinda the bad news. Searching the house he realizes she isn’t there. Where could she be? She was there last night, wasn’t she? He searches the house for any clues and notices odd things placed around the house. Tiny neat knitted clothes near the fireplace. A crib beside the bed in their room. A children's poem book in Cinda’s rocking chair on the porch and on the table a paper with her handwriting. Of course she must have gone to town and left a note telling him. He unfolds the paper and sits down to read her handwriting. My Cinda has beautiful handwriting, he realizes.
I have missed you dearly and the days are growing closer to a special date. I hope you read this before our special beautiful baby is born. You may not have noticed the little clothes I have been knitting or the crib beside the bed but I pray you see this note before the day has passed. If you do not, I hope your harvest is a success. Please come back to me before it is too late.
Your Delicate Flower
Howard stares at the note with tears in his eyes. They were having a baby. How had he not seen it? Why had he been so obsessed with his crop? He had to go to her.
* * *
Howard drives into town on the verge of panic and bursts into the hospital.
“I’m here for my wife; Cinda Due. She is about to have a baby.” The nurse looks up startled and hesitates.
“Um if you could wait in the room to your left I will tell um the doctor you're here.”
“Why can’t I just go see my wife and baby?”
“Please sir, the doctor will explain.” Howard walks into the room and sits down then stands and paces the room.
* * *
“Howard Due?” The doctor asks.
“Yes yes, why can’t I see my wife and baby. Is something wrong?”
“I’m sorry Howard, we did everything we could.” Howard freezes.
“What are you saying?”
“Three days ago…”
“THREE DAYS AGO!”
“We tried to get ahold of you but no one ever answered. Cinda lost too much blood and she was O-. We had no one that could donate blood. We lost her yesterday morning.” Howard falls back into the chair.
“I’m O-.” Howard drops his head into his hands. “And the baby?”
The baby was a girl.”
Was?” Howard whispers.
She died shortly after her mother. I’m sorry sir. We did all we could.”
This is my fault. I became obsessed over my crop and ignored her. I became greedy and selfish, I hadn’t even realized my wife was with child."
* * *
He lost his crop because he hadn’t looked to God for direction and help and now he had lost his wife because he hadn’t looked after and cared for her as he had promised too." Coon's father stands. "The End."
“Daddy what happened to the man after that? Did he die of sadness?” Thorn asks. Her father smiles sadly.
“Well five years later he married again and planted another crop but he prayed over this one and he looked to the Lord for guidance.”
“Did he have trouble like the last time dad?” Foxie the youngest asks.
“Oh yes he had lots of trouble but he didn’t become obsessed with fixing it. He found it was best to let the animals eat a little and not worry too much about the corn because he had enough.”
“So did he still use scarecrows?” Bird asks.
“Yes and a fence.”
“But isn’t that bad?” Coon asks.
“No, that wasn’t bad.”
“So what did he do? Did he forget the lesson he learned dad?” Worem asks.
“He named each of his children in a way he would never forget the lesson he learned.”
“What were their names?” Ash asks him.
“Coon, Quash, Thorn, Worem, Bird, Foxie, Ash, and Gold. For each new problem he made he then named each of his blessings so he would always look back to the lesson he learned that year.” Howard tells his children as he turns off the light. “Goodnight.”