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I was pinning wet laundry to the clothes- line when I heard cries echoing over the field. Turning in surprise, I rushed to see what was happening. I heard the screen door slap the frame of the house as Sadie, my eldest, entered. She was clearly upset, breathing hard and fast. As
she spoke, her voice raised with hot frustration. “Mother, hurry! Come and help! Quick!”
“Is someone hurt?”
“No, but they’re making fun of Josephine again.
You’ve got to hurry!”
I felt my heartbeat increase with worry.
“Kids are teasing her about her skinny legs and
big boots. They’re singing a dumb song that they made up.”
I felt an added surge of annoyance take hold of me. “Why don’t they stop? It seems they are always poking fun at you girls. Why can’t they just be kind? I’m tired of it! Skinny legs and boots . . . What if I poked fun of Hillary Swenson’s cross- eyes?” I asked sharply.
Sadie, sensing my increasing ire, continued, “I got so mad at them that I threw a big rock at George Humphrey and promised I would come and get you.”
Within moments, Ida, my ten-year-old daugh- ter, also entered the house. She was frazzled and frustrated.
“I did all I could,” she announced. “But Jose- phine won’t budge. She’s crying awful hard and I tried to get her to come with me. The kids are singing a song about her. I tried to calm her down, but she’s so upset. The kids thought the song they made up was funny. I yelled at them, but it didn’t do any good. They just kept singing it. When I left they were still dancing and singing about Jose- phine. I couldn’t get her to come. She’s at the edge of Gardener’s Field.”
“All the kids from school were there,” added Sadie, looking insistent.
Their words pierced my heart as I thought about my youngest daughter. I felt my face take on a hot shade of red, and I quickly untied my apron and tossed it over the chair. “Come on, girls!” I told them, watching hope rise in their faces. The screen door slapped the frame once again, and my little army followed immediately behind me.
“I’ve had enough of people making light of Josephine,” I muttered out loud as we made our way to the back road that would lead to Gardener’s Field. “She’s barely seven years old! Last week she came in crying because that Dumont boy said her legs looked like a dead chicken’s legs. Don’t these children have better things to do than torment and make fun of others? Why, if I had a nickel for every unkind word people have said about her, I’d be rich today,” I said strongly, the thoughts continuing to march through my mind. With each thought my stride increased.
“Even Ms. Martin laughed,” Sadie piped in. “She told the class, ‘If Josephine Brown didn’t wear those heavy boots of hers, she could be taken up, up, and away into the sky by a sudden gust of wind.’ ”
My jaw dropped. “I’m in a good mind to march right over to Ms. Martin’s home and give her a piece of my mind as well. I can’t believe it! Jose- phine has never done anything to deserve this. Hurry, girls,” I urged.
“With her skinny legs though . . . you must admit it, Mother,” said Ida, trying to keep up.
“Hush, Ida! I don’t care if her legs are skinny. No one needs to point it out, make fun, or espe- cially make up a song about it!”
I was almost at a running pace when I heard the children chanting. Their voices were loud and mocking. The rhythm of the song was taunting, and the melody echoed in the gully.
Shoes and bones, shoes and bones You’re nothing more than shoes and bones. Itty biddy bones, and boots so big . . . Makes your legs look like twigs.
“Twigs!” I cried. The words burned within my soul. I looked in the direction of the voices. “Where’s Josephine?”
“We left her just over the ridge,” said Sadie, pointing.
“I can see them now,” I responded. Breathing heavily, I stalked up the hill.
“Are you going to take a switch to them, Mother?” asked Ida hopefully, catching up to me and Sadie.
“Oh, I would like to take a twig to each one. If this had been just the first time making fun of her boots, that would be one thing. I’m tired of it! I’d like to kick some sense into a few! No, Ida, I’m not going to take a switch to them. I don’t know what I’m going to do.” I gathered up my skirts to muster the energy to climb the hill. “But I’ll have a word or two to say to them for sure. Come on, girls! I can’t believe it. Josephine has never done anything to deserve this—nothing!”
As my small platoon arrived at the ridge over- looking Gardener’s Field, we heard an alarmed cry.
“It’s Josephine’s mother!”
The circle of children dashed like chickens in all directions.
“Stop! You stop right this instant. Don’t any of you dare move!” I yelled. From the intensity of my voice and cutting tone, I was sure none of the children doubted my directive. They stopped and stood like frozen statues until I firmly declared, “Come here right now!”
Then, to my surprise, the children darted in every direction across the field. Within moments we had been abandoned. With hot anger, I yelled, “Don’t you ever make fun of Josephine again or I’ll . . .”
In reality, I didn’t know what I would do, but I knew I would do something. Returning my atten- tion to the scene in front of me, my heart sank. There was my little girl curled up in a ball amid the tall grass, covering up her legs and boots. Her face was red and wet from tears.
Quickly kneeling by her side, I held her tightly. She nestled closer, her arms searching for my caress. Her sobs seemed to increase. I instinctively began to rock back and forth. I wiped her tears with the corner of my skirt and tried to sooth her trembling frame. “It will be all right,” I whispered as I tried to rock away the hurt.
“They made fun of me again,” Josephine said, choking on her tears. “You heard their dumb song, didn’t you, Mother? ‘Shoes and bones, you’re noth- ing...’” She hid her face as she began to cry in earnest. “I don’t want to wear these ugly boots any- more! I’m not just shoes and bones!” she cried, pull- ing away from my embrace. Unlacing the boots, Josephine kicked them off to the side. “I don’t care what Father says. I can’t—I won’t—wear them. They’re ugly, they’re too big, and they’re heavy.”
Placing my arms around her once more, I could feel her body shake. “Josephine, you’re so upset, but it will be . . .”
“I don’t ever want to see those kids again either. I don’t want to ever go back to school,” said Jose- phine with a streak of stubbornness.
“Josephine, I know you’re upset, and so am I. It’s a stupid song, sung by children acting stupid. You’re right. You’re not just shoes and bones. You’re a precious, beautiful young lady. God isn’t pleased with those who make fun of others. I know it’s hard right this minute, but somehow, Josephine, we must learn to forgive them. They don’t under- stand the hurt that you’re feeling.”
“But, Mother!” said Ida. “They were so mean to her.”
“Yes, they were,” I admitted. I had never before been driven to such anger. I had heard that mother bears will go to great lengths to protect their little cubs, and at that moment I felt like a mother bear, for sure.
“Girls, they were very unkind and thought- less, but most of them don’t even think that they’re hurting anyone. They see it as poking fun and nothing more than that.”
“Well, it’s not fun,” said Josephine. “Kids are always pointing at my legs and shoes. I don’t have chicken legs or legs that look like sticks! Why don’t they make fun of Sadie or Ida? They wear the same boots!”
“Oh, you know they do,” responded Sadie. “Talmage Ball told everyone that ‘Sadie Brown should wear boy’s pants if she wears boy’s boots.’ Remember? I kicked him hard in the ankle. After that he didn’t say anything more about my boots.”
“I remember,” I replied, nodding in sober recall. “It worried your father and I for a good two weeks after as we watched Talmage limp around on a crutch. The doctor was worried that the boy had severed his tendon.”
“That’s when Father made me promise—cross my heart—to never kick anyone again. It was probably a good thing because Jonny Larsen told the class the very next day that I could kill a cow with just one kick from my boots. I got upset with him, but I held my feet to the floor, since I had made Father a promise.”
“What did you mean, Mother, when you said, ‘I would like to kick some sense into a few’?” asked Ida.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said. “I wouldn’t kick anyone. It was just a silly response, an old saying. It simply means that I would like to help people better understand and be sensitive. We shouldn’t kick, hit, or bite anyone.”
Picking up Josephine’s boots from the ground, I said, “You know, I don’t like wearing boots either.” I drew my skirts back to reveal my own heavy boots. “I have a memory of my own about boots.” The girls sat down beside Josephine and me.
“It was before you were even born, Josephine. Martha Newberry moved into our town all the way from Boston. She lived in the house where the Monroes live now. She dressed so pretty and in the most current fashions. I admit that I admired her beautiful shoes. They were dainty looking, with brown ball buttons up the side.
“To welcome her to the neighborhood, I baked a peach cobbler and took it to her. Some- where in our conversation, she glanced down at my boots. She didn’t say anything, but her eyes were very telling. I guess I was pretty sensitive and embarrassed. I can’t even remember what she said about them. I pretended that I didn’t hear her and told her I had bread baking in the oven. I rushed home.
“For weeks, I let my feeling and pride fester. I even shed a few tears. I didn’t even want to talk with her. Then one day, she came to my door with a loaf of bread. I didn’t even go to the door to get it. I watched her through the window. She left note on the plate.”
“What did it say?” asked Sadie.
“‘Please forgive me, Phoebe. I believe I must have hurt your feelings in some way. I didn’t mean to. Whatever I said, please, please forgive me.’”
“Did you forgive her, Mother?” asked Josephine.
“Yes. After I put aside my pride, Martha and I became the best of friends. She even taught me how to sew. When she and her husband moved to Oregon, I must have cried for weeks. The lesson I learned from Martha is forever held within my heart. Girls, we must forgive others quickly. I’m sure she didn’t mean to hurt my feelings. I let myself be hurt.”
“Don’t you want to wear pretty shoes, Mother?” asked Josephine.
“Oh, yes. Even now, and every Sunday. I see all the women wearing those buttoned high shoes and I think they’re so much prettier than these hardy boots of ours,” I said, lifting my foot into the air. “I can only imagine how wearing women’s shoes would make me feel.” I giggled for a moment. “I would love to have some of those ‘paper shoes’ as your Father calls them. But we all know how your Father feels about protecting his girls.”
“So? That doesn’t make it right that we should suffer,” said Ida. “These shoes are made to outlast eternity.”
Josephine giggled at the thought. “That means forever, doesn’t it, Mother?”
I nodded my head. I could see her mind think- ing on it further.
“I’ll go barefoot!” Josephine burst aloud while getting up off the ground.
“Let’s all take off our shoes and walk home,” suggested Sadie, taking off her own shoes.
I was surprised as I watched thirty pink toes welcome the freedom. I could almost hear my hus- band, Byron, proclaim, “I’ll not have my girls with bloody blisters and sores on their feet.” I decided it wasn’t worth the fight to debate their choice, espe- cially after what Josephine had just been through.
It wasn’t too long or too far, however, before the girls discovered how thistles and rocks can make walking difficult.
“Ouch, I got a sticker in my toe!” cried Ida. Within seconds, Sadie complained about a stubbed toe. Josephine immediately began taking smaller, careful steps.
“This will take us all day,” said Sadie. “I’m going to put my shoes back on.”
“That’s probably a good idea,” I advised. “It didn’t take long for you to see that these boots can be a blessing.” Sadie rolled her eyes and Ida smirked. “Better put your shoes back on, Josephine,” I said. “Feet can get hurt easily. Can you imagine walk- ing all those miles across the plains, as your father did with bleeding feet? I can’t. He was your age, Sadie—just thirteen when he entered the Salt Lake Valley. You’ve heard him talk. How he had to take scraps of wood, string, strips of canvas, and cloth to wrap around his feet—whatever he could find—because his shoes had worn out. He told me once that he couldn’t remember a time when his feet weren’t bleeding. I know you’ve seen his scars.”
“How many miles did Father have to walk?” asked Ida, looking at the rock-laden path.
“I know it was well over a thousand miles,” I said, watching them tip-toe between weeds, this- tles, and rocks.
“My feet hurt already,” said Ida, stopping and putting her shoes back on. “It really must have been hard for Father.”
“Your father loves us, and that is why I believe he’s insisted on and provided good, sturdy boots for us. It’s probably his way of pro- tecting us.”
“Well, I wish he wouldn’t protect us so much,” said Sadie. “We don’t look very pretty in them.”
“Sadie just wants to look pretty for Billy Watson,” Ida said, giggling, as a blush colored Sadie’s neck. Sadie lunged for her but tripped and fell to the ground.
“Ida!” I chastised. “Remember how we don’t make fun of others?”
Continuing homeward, I said, “Girls, just remember that your father loves us and we need to respect him. He is the head of our home. Maybe someday he will let us have shoes, pretty shoes that we can wear and dance in.”
“That would be a miracle!” replied Ida.
“Well, I believe in miracles,” I said. “I promise I’ll talk with him again, and a few prayers couldn’t hurt. With prayers from each of you, someday his heart might soften. Or at the next social dance, I might just accidently step on his toes.” I laughed as a sudden thought popped into mind. “Girls, we just have to learn to grin and wear it!” I said with a wink and a giggle.
Hanging His Hat and jacket on the welcome post by the door, Byron greeted us with his tradi- tional, “Well, how was the day for my four sweet beauties?”
The girls quickly surrounded him for their daily dose of hugs and kisses. Without hesitation, Ida informed him, “Oh, Father, you should have seen how mean the children were to Josephine. They were making fun of her again. We were on the way home from school this time. You’ve got to do something!”
“They made her cry,” added Sadie. “They danced around her and made up a song.”
“They what?” he asked, sounding surprised. “What kind of song?”
“A stupid song,” said Josephine with a grouse look.
“A song about you?”
“They made up a song about her bony legs and those big boots,” said Ida.
“Josephine was so upset that she couldn’t even walk. She sat down in Gardener’s Field and wouldn’t move, so Ida and I ran home and got Mother. When we got back to her, she was sobbing and curled up in a ball. She was covering up her legs and those darn boots!” said Sadie. “Mother, Ida, and I chased them away. You should have seen their faces when they saw Mother. They all took to running even though she yelled for them to stay put.”
Byron met my eyes. It was easy to see that he was upset. He stooped down, picked Josephine up, and held her close. Once again Josephine began to cry, and he comforted her quietly as he thought.
Almost duplicating my earlier intensity, Ida ventured a comment, “Father, Josephine needs to have shoes that are her size, not big, ugly boots. No other girls wear boots like ours! They’re heavy and big, and we should look like girls and feel pretty. Metal toes and thick leather—”
“Ida! Stop this at once. You don’t hear your mother complaining, do you?” Byron interrupted, looking at me intensely.
I looked at him and my cheeks heated. “As much as I would like you to know of my apprecia- tion for the boots, I must admit that I did complain today. When I saw those children making fun of Josephine, all I could do was get upset, and not just with the children.” Byron looked even more concerned. “I know I should be grateful for these Hibbard boots, but they don’t make me feel much like a woman. I know you—”
“Your mother and I will discuss it later,” he said. He must have sensed my displeasure, and his eyes turned sad. We all knew the topic was no longer to be addressed in his presence.
From our small farm each morning, we could see the sun cresting over the tops of the Rocky Mountains. I loved mornings on our little Lehi farm. Byron called it his “garden spot,” and to me it was “heaven on earth.” In eight years, our farm had grown from two cows to five, three sheep to ten, and two hens to five with the need to build a hen house.
We had also been blessed with a garden big enough to feed the family and then some. I loved flowers and delighted in the fact that our farm boasted everything from roses and daisies to lav- ender and lemon grass, each adding their perfect touch of color. Yet, to Byron and I, our greatest joy was having three beautiful daughters.
Even before first light, Byron would go and milk our cows. Then, almost like the ticking of the mantle clock, our rooster, Melville, would announce the arrival of the sun. Streams of light would awaken the animals and another day would begin.
I was usually taken with the morning duties in the kitchen. I loved mornings because they were much like a fresh, new page to write upon.
I remembered as a child waking up to the sounds of my mother singing a morning wake-up song. So I continued in the legacy for my own girls.
’Tis time to celebrate the morning, Rise now to see the sun.
Listen, my dearest sweethearts,
For the day has now begun!
The birds are ready to chirp their best It’s time for my lovelies to all get dressed.
I sliced the bacon and breathed in a savory memory of my own mother. I could see her scram- bling eggs and allowing the bacon to sizzle on the griddle as aromas waft throughout the house.
Oh, how I missed my mama. Sweet home- made moments always seem to conjure up memories, I thought, marveling at how fast time goes by. It seemed like only yesterday that I was playing the part of the child, and now I was a mother with three beautiful daughters of my own. Ida’s voice from the back bedroom broke into my daydream.
“Bacon!” Ida exclaimed aloud. “I smell bacon.”
Sadie said, “I bet Mama is making sliced pota- toes and eggs over easy.” Within minutes, she would burst into the kitchen to investigate.
Josephine was predictable with her wish: “I want my bread dipped in hot grease. ”
“Don’t forget to wash your faces and get your night clothes changed,” I called into the next room, spurring a fit of giggles. “I have a kettle of warm water all ready to add to the basin. Your father should be walking through the front door any minute. Let’s be ready to eat.”
“Did you hear that I want my bread dipped in hot grease?” asked Josephine, peeking in the kitchen to ensure I had been listening.
I smiled. “Greased bread coming up.”
I was grateful that Josephine’s attitude toward the children at school had changed. There had been a few days of stubborn resentment and tears, and that’s when Byron had sat everyone down at the kitchen table and taught from the Bible. Opening to Matthew, he shared that we must forgive others when offended—even if that means forgiving sev- enty times seven. Sadie took out her pencil and figured the math. “Why, that’s four hundred and ninety times!” she’d exclaimed. After that, I never heard Josephine complain about her schoolmates again. I was grateful as life seemed to move forward.
Dresses and jumpers were pulled over heads. Ida and Sadie set to brushing their teeth. I helped Josephine with her pigtails while I let the bacon sizzle. Stirring the eggs one last time, I tossed in a dash of pepper. I quickly poured the yellow scram- bled eggs into a porcelain bowl and watched the steam dance like a ribbon into the air.
“It looks to be another beautiful morning,” I said, drawing back the curtains. “Melville is busy raising the roost. It’s fun watching him strut around the yard.” Then I caught a glimpse of Byron unlatching the gate. “Oh, look! Your father’s coming, girls.”
Like clockwork, Byron came through the front door, smiled, and extended his usual greeting, “Where are my beauties?”
I watched with pride as the girls lined up by the table for morning inspection. “Faces washed and smiles ready?” he quipped, looking into their faces. “Breakfast sure smells good!” Byron gave me a hug and a light peck on the cheek.
Lifting the water pitcher, he poured some warm water into the basin. “Nothing like warm water, warm food, and warm spirits to make you feel good inside and out,” he said while washing his face and hands. I grinned fondly. I had heard him say that statement for well over fifteen years.
He dried his face on a towel and then said, “Your mother makes a tasty meal, girls. I sure hope you appreciate it. We best be thanking the good Lord for it.” It was easy to tell everyone was eager to eat, because the prayer lasted less than a minute. “Amen!” we said in unison.
I piled the bacon and greased bread on a large platter and placed it in the center of the table. There were sighs of joy as hands quickly drew portions to their plates.
“There are plenty of hash browns and eggs coming too,” I announced while spooning them into large bowls.
“Chew your food,” said Byron. “Gulping isn’t good for you, Ida. Too much air gives you gas.” Jose- phine laughed, but we all knew he truly meant it.
Placing the lunch tins on the side table, I quickly filled them. “Each of you has a red, shiny Jonathan apple, right from the cellar this morning. You also have a small slice of cheese and a piece of smoked turkey, and don’t forget to eat your hand- ful of raisins.”
“Do I have to eat the goat cheese?” moaned Ida.
“I’ll eat it if she doesn’t want it,” said Sadie. “It will taste good with one of those hard bread rolls.” She pointed at the last two remaining on the counter.
“We can’t waste food, girls, especially when so many go without,” said Byron.
“I’ll eat everything in my lunch, Mother,” Jose- phine promised, hurrying off to get the “beauty box.” It was so called because all the pretty ribbons, charms, and pins our family owned were kept in it. “Mother, I think we need more ribbons,” said
Sadie with a sly smirk on her face.
“You need more ribbons?” asked Byron, a bit
“More ribbons?” I echoed his words. “I think
we have every color that we need.”
“We need matching ribbons, so we can use them
on our shoes. We could lace them up pretty,” she said, demonstrating with a pale blue ribbon atop one of her boots. “It could make such a difference.”
Josephine giggled. “It looks silly Sadie.” “Father, we need—”
“Stop right there, Sadie Brown!” said Byron,
interrupting. He then shot her a small smile. “I do like your creativity. But your definition of need, and my definition of need might be very different. When my feet were bleeding as we crossed the plains, I needed shoes desperately. I remember the day old Brother Packer died on the trail. They removed his boots when they buried him. I watched them take the boots off his feet. I asked the captain if I might have them. The captain informed me that Sister Wilcox needed them more than a young, healthy boy. I remember I cried for a long time.”
The girls stood silent. Then Byron added, “Right now I think you believe your need is to look good. Trust me, Sadie, you can be as clever as you like, adding ribbons or lace, but until your shoes wear out or you find some way to buy your own, I will have no more discussion about shoes. New fancy shoes are not in the Brown budget.”
Almost instantly, Sadie excitedly said, “Father, you just said that if we find some way to earn money for them, then we can get new shoes!”
It was apparent that Sadie’s mind was a bliz- zard of merging thoughts. “I could grow pumpkins and sunflowers in the far field, Father. I could get Jenna Smart to teach me how to weave straw hats and sell them. What do you think?”
“Me too!” joined in Ida, catching the vision. “Maybe I can iron shirts or mend clothing or tend children. I’m old enough.”
“What do you think I could do, Father?” asked Josephine, stepping closer and bouncing up and down before his face. “I want to work for my shoes too!”
“Girls,” Byron quickly responded, “I appreciate your willingness to work, but you have good shoes to wear.”
“But you said if we earn the money, we can buy them!” said Sadie.
“I’ll think about it,” he softly responded.
The girls smiled and looked at me with a sense of possibility. I knew Byron pretty well, and for him to even open the door a crack was a major accomplishment.
Almost without pause, he said, “We’ve got to get going on the day. Come, it’s time for family prayer.”
Gathering in a circle, we knelt for prayer. Sadie was called upon to be the voice. It was a tender moment. She talked to God about helping them figure the ways to raise the money for their shoes. As we rose from our knees, I could hardly wait to hear Byron’s response.
“Well, if the heavens part, and the rivers move, and the sun shines all its rays upon you, you might earn enough money for those shoes,” he said, “but I believe it would take a genuine miracle.”
“Well, if we don’t get moving, it will take a miracle to get to school on time,” I said, digging in the beauty box to find a ribbon for Josephine’s pig- tail. It was then I noticed my favorite beauty pin. “See this little pin?” I asked, holding it up in my hand. “It was given to me by Martha, my friend I spoke about earlier. She gave it to me before she moved. Martha said that her mother had given it to her along with a saying: ‘Beauty is as beauty does.’ That’s why it is called a beauty pin.”
Byron, overhearing our conversation, quickly spoke up. “Girls, you don’t need beauty pins, pearls, ribbons, fancy dresses, or shoes to be beautiful. Beauty is mostly within. You and your mother have been blessed both sides of the soul.”
I smiled and winked at Byron.
“We need a bigger mirror,” said Josephine, standing on her tiptoes to see herself.
“There are too many girls in this house,” said Sadie, trying to get a view while brushing her long brown hair. I finished tying a rose-colored bow in Ida’s hair and said, “You’re perfectly beautiful!” It was true. Her long golden curls cascaded down her back. “Your hair is almost to your waists now,” I said, watching my three beautiful young ladies all looking in the mirror. “Your father and I couldn’t be more blessed. From your heads to your toes—beau-ti-ful!”
“Not so much the toes,” said Sadie, lifting her foot to show her boots while looking at her father. Clearing my throat, I quickly changed the sub-
ject. “Now, before you go, girls, let’s have some good-day hugs and wishes from each of you.” I opened my arms and reached for Sadie.
Sadie wrapped her arms around my neck. “I wish to get all the spelling words correct today.”
Ida stepped up next. “I wish that Sam would leave my hair alone. He keeps untying my bows and playing with my curls.”
Stepping up for her hug, Josephine said, “I’m going to pray for a soft heart.”
“A soft heart?” I asked.
“Yes. I’m praying for a soft heart for someone.”
I knew exactly whom she meant.
Byron stepped closer. “Well, my wish this morning for all of you is that you feel of the love your mother and I have for each of you. You are such a blessing to our lives. I have a short story and then you must be off.
“Yesterday, I ran into an old school friend from Vermont, Martin Smart. I hadn’t seen him since I was a young boy. He got married about the time your mother and I did. He asked if I had any chil- dren. They hadn’t been able to have any children yet. I told him I had three beautiful daughters. His eyes lit with envy. Martin told me to count my blessings and I told him that I do each and every day. One, two, three, and four, counting your mother.” He tapped each of us on the head. We all smiled, and Byron happily got extra hugs.
“Now, you’d best be going, girls. Grab your books and lunch buckets.”
“Make it a great day!” I said.
They were down the path a little when he yelled, “Remember, act like ladies and remember who you are. You all look beautiful.”
“No one is beautiful in ugly boots!” yelled back Josephine.
Closing the door, Byron turned to me. “Phoebe, what are you going to do? You know how I feel about shoes and what I said about needs and wants.”
I smiled and nodded. “It may have taken me fifteen years, but I know not to waste anything, not a thimble or thread, not a carrot or curd.”
“Phoebe,” he responded smugly, “my girls will not wear those ‘paper shoes.’ ”
“But you must admit, Byron, your daughters seemed eager to earn the money for their own shoes. Sadie has a little bit of spunk in her. She’s a little like her father,” I said with a wink. “She’s caught the vision of what you often say, ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way.’ ”
“You and I both know, Phoebe, it would take well over a wagonful of pumpkins and who knows how many straw hats to pay for one pair of shoes. I insist you make that very clear to them. We cannot allow the girls to be tempted by trend and fashion.”
“Your daughters don’t complain about having to wear hand-me-downs, so do you really feel that fashion is their focus? They are girls, young ladies, Byron. Girls like to look nice and femi- nine. That’s why I put lace and ribbons and dainty buttons on their dresses. If I thought for a moment that I was instilling in them shallow beliefs, I wouldn’t stitch another stitch. Your daughters have watched you pretty closely over the years. They know you are a loving and caring father, but sometimes you are a bit overprotective and too insistent, and a touch stubborn.”
Byron stood fixed. I giggled to break the silent moment. “And if you think Sadie has spunk, you should have seen Josephine in Gardner’s Field. She showed a streak of true stubbornness that I’ve never seen before. She was so upset with all those chil- dren dancing around her that when we got there she took off her boots and tossed them aside. Then she convinced her sisters to walk home barefoot.”
“Barefoot? How could you let them, Phoebe?” asked Byron.
“It was all right. Within a short distance, they eagerly slipped their boots back on, what with Ida getting a sliver in her foot, Josephine stubbing her toe, and Sadie walking on the rocks. You’re right— some lessons have to be experienced.”
“I made a promise to myself years ago that none of my family would ever suffer with painful feet as I did.” He continued to look at me straight in the eye and spoke with firmness. “Josephine may look awkward with her small frame, but she’ll learn to stand up for herself. I will not let my girls wear those fancy shoes just to look good. If I give in for Josephine, then Sadie and Ida will want a pair and then you—”
“Me?” I asked sarcastically. “Oh, trust me, Byron, I would love to have a pair of nice-looking shoes, perhaps with buttons up the side, like Jenna Miller’s or Clara Barnstrom’s. I would feel much more like a lady. But mostly I would just love for there to be no reason for people to say those things, sing those silly songs. It hurts them; I know it does.”
I was quiet for a moment and could almost sense that Byron was holding his tongue. Then I added softly, “Must you be so insensitive, Byron?”
Byron’s eyes seemed to take on a hot hue. “I am sensitive about it! That’s why I want to pro- tect them.”
“Byron . . .”
“I will not debate the point, Phoebe. You know how I feel about it. Am I understood?”
“Yes, Byron, you are understood,” I said softly. Then with a surge of courage, I added, “You talk about those scars on your feet to prove of your pain. But, Byron . . . please remember that sometimes scars are not caused by blood or blister.”
two weeks later I was shopping in Broadbent’s Mercantile. I was looking for fabric and trims because my girls were in need of new Sunday dresses. The girls had grown so fast, and it was well past the time of hand-me-downs. I had even added extra lace to Josephine’s hem to make her Sunday dress last just a little longer.
I was looking at some silk patterns when Mrs. Loveridge entered the store, carrying a basket full of delicate handmade lace. Mr. Broadbent’s attention was quickly drawn to her. “Well, Mrs. Loveridge, by the looks of all that lace, you have definitely been busy tatting,” he said.
“You know what the good book says,” she said, beaming. “Lazy hands make a man poor, but dili- gent hands bring wealth.”
“You definitely are gifted,” he said, stretching the lace before his face.
“You make the lace for Broadbent’s?” I asked. “I love that lace.” I held up a width of it in my hands. “In fact, your lace is the best part of all my dresses.”
Mrs. Loveridge smiled and nodded with appre- ciation. “Yes, for years now I’ve been making it. Being a widow, I need to make a living. I make lace and trade with Mr. Broadbent. That’s how I pay my bills.”
Then, like a flash of lightning, I felt a surge of inspiration. I could almost touch the hopeful pos- sibilities. With an enlightened thought, I inquired, “Sam—Mr. Broadbent—I also have a crafter’s touch. I make heavenly lavender scented soap and homemade honey butter, and I have an orchard full of crisp Jonathan apples. I also have chickens that lay far more eggs than we can eat. Could I make a trade as well?”
“What would you be needing, Phoebe?” he asked.
Without hesitation I blurted, “I would love to trade for shoes!” I gulped in amazed wonder.
“Shoes?” he said with surprise in his voice. “You need new shoes?”
I nodded. “Yes! I’m tired of my girls being made fun of. The children are making songs about their boots. I wish they had pretty shoes, not those expensive, never-wear-out boots.”
“That’s true. Your husband always orders those special Hibbard boots all the way from Virginia. I believe they are the strongest boots made in America. I can’t imagine those boots ever wearing out,” he said, grinning.
“Neither can I,” I said. “I’m sure they are guaranteed to outlive the owner. But I’m trying to raise young ladies, not an infantry. I will just have to figure a way to help Byron see that it’s more of a need than a want. I would love my girls to have new shoes. Like I said, I can pro- vide many items for you to sell. It’s a ways off, I know, but maybe I could even have them for Christmas giving.”
Mr. Broadbent looked at the calendar on the wall. “That should give you enough time, I think,” he said. “And Christmas, yes, I’ll be needing things to sell for sure.”
“I can tie a ribbon and a sprig of dried laven- der around each bar of soap,” I said as I described it with my hands. “What do you think?” I asked enthusiastically.
“I hope you can keep up with the orders. We haven’t ever had lavender soap.” His reassuring smile sent my imagination racing.
“New shoes it is!” he said. “Lets get looking in the catalog.”
I was delighted. He seemed to sport the same excitement I did.
Opening a drawer under the counter, Sam drew out the Pryce-Jones Catalog. He opened it and flipped through the pages to a section of shoes and boots.
“Here they are—girls shoes. I think you’ll find what you’re needing here. There are several styles to choose from. We shall talk of the trade needed after we see the price,” he said.
Looking through the pages, I paused in wonder. “There’s so many. I’ve never ordered anything before. It’s always Byron who does.” I was sure I sounded a little nervous. Reading the descriptions I pointed out to him what I wanted. “I like the black shiny buttons on the side. You know, Byron calls them ‘paper shoes’ because they’re made so thin.”
“Well, they probably seem like paper compared to your sturdy Hibbards,” he said, looking at the shoes in the catalog.
“Or maybe these. They look a little more lady- like and are made of leather. I think this style is perfect. Not the prettiest ones, but far more styl- ish. I would like to get them in black. Black kid leather. I need three pairs, please.”
For a second I felt a twinge of fear, mixed with an equal amount of courage and confidence. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and I’ll pray hard that Byron will understand.”
Sam nodded his head. “Your Byron is a good man, a good provider, and a thoughtful husband and father. I’m sure he’ll come around eventually.”
“Eventually,” I agreed. “Yes, yes, these are the shoes I would like!” I said pointing them out. “It says they are called Bally Boots.”
“Bally Boots it is!” said Mr. Broadbent. “Three pairs.”
While waiting for Sam to write up the order, I noticed a bundle of dried dandelions hanging from the rafter. “Sam, if you want, I can make some dandelion vinegar for you to sell.” My mind was percolating with ideas. “With my roses I could make—”
“Phoebe, let’s start with the bars of lavender soap, honey butter, and eggs. We’ll see the demand, and with all your ideas, I’m sure you’ll have your three pairs of shoes in time for Christmas. I’ll put your order in today.”
I was almost giddy just thinking about the sur- prise my girls would enjoy. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine my three daughters dancing in their new shoes.
I drew in a long, deep breath and looked Sam squarely in the eyes. “You need to keep this a secret. Byron can’t have any idea about this.”
“Oh, I can only imagine his surprise, Phoebe. Believe me, I’ve heard him talk about . . .” Sam stopped midsentence and evaluated me. He took a breath. “Well, if you’re sure about this, nothing shall fall from my lips. I don’t know how long it will take to get the shoes, but it should give you enough time to make plenty of soap and gather your eggs,” he said with a smile.
I was almost ready to leave the store when I remembered why I had been there in the first place. “Oh, material!” I squealed. “I forgot to get the fabric for my girls’ dresses. I was just so excited! I’ll come back tomorrow.” I felt a little flustered. “I need a plan, then I need to get busy.”
Mrs. Loveridge smiled at me as I left the store. The brass bell jangled against the door as I closed it. Instantly, my thoughts took me to Christmas. “It will be perfect,” I whispered. “It will be a Christ- mas the girls will never forget.”
eacH day wHile the girls were away at school and Byron at work, I set to crafting. I tied bunches of lavender and hung them upside down to dry. Though the smell permeated the house, I con- vinced the girls and Byron I was making soap for a few friends and family for Christmas gifts. I reviewed and checked off the items I prepared to deliver to Broadbent’s:
1 large container of freshly made honey butter
10 bottles of dandelion vinegar
30 bars of Sweet Lavender soap
10 rose sachets made from rose pedals and leftover scraps of material