This is the thirty-fourth part of a fiction serial, in 816 words.
When she was six, Sophia started at the new school. The old church school run by the Reverend’s wife wasn’t big enough to cope, so the city built a new one, and we signed little Sophia up for it. There were two teachers; a lady from Wisconsin, and a man from Rochester, New York. His name was Joseph White, and he had come west to start a new life with his family. I got Susan a small buggy and a nice trotting horse, so she could do the trip in and out to the school each day. Sophia called the horse Victor, and she really loved that animal.
Work was doing good. I employed two brothers who were excellent wood-workers. They were called the Karimov twins, and had come all the way from Russia to find work. They stayed at the homestead, taking over Walter’s old cabin, and I paid them a fair wage. They looked after themselves pretty much; cooked their own food, and kept to themselves. They spoke in their own language most of the time too, but understood enough to know what to do at work.
Life with Susan was different then. We had to be careful that she didn’t have no babies, so things changed a lot between us. Not that we didn’t still love each other of course, but it couldn’t be like before. To help with the animals and the crops, we took in a stray woman. Her name was Angela, and she was originally from Ireland. She had been a bond servant at one time, and when her boss had died, she had been put out to fend for herself. Susan found her hanging around near the school, looking for work or charity. I made her a bed in the main room, and we used to stand it against the wall during the day. Angela was a hard worker, and so grateful for our help that we could trust her with anything.
The summer of eighteen-eighty, daddy said it was time to think about making my house bigger. He drew up some ideas on scrap paper, and reckoned we should build another floor on top. With the twins there to help, it seemed like a good idea, and we started the work before the weather turned. That year the city also took over Delano, and Derby was almost on the edge of town now. People said that there were twenty thousand living in the area, and it sure felt busy every time we went into the centre.
Though Daddy was slowing up some, Henry was as strong as ever, and still worked as hard as he ever had. I turned twenty-seven that fall, and seemed to have the respect of a lot of prominent men in town. Recommendations were still coming in, and once again I was turning down work. Daddy suggested I open a yard in Wichita, maybe take on some more men. But I liked being around the homestead still, and travelling around on the jobs. I didn’t just want to be some boss worrying about workmen and premises.
The upper floor was on the house by the time it turned cold. It had been a lot of disruption, and some considerable expense in wood and materials, but it sure looked impressive. Angela got her own room too, and cried like a baby when she saw it was just for her. Susan started a garden, just for the pleasure of looking at the flowers and plants. She ran the planting down along the approach to our house, and I told her it looked mighty grand.
Daddy got real sick that winter. He wasn’t breathing too good, and could no longer tolerate smoking his pipe. Doctor Frazer rode out to see him, and did what he could. Old Henry nursed my daddy real good, waiting on him whenever Susan was too busy with the chores or fields. When she got home from school, Sophia would sit next to daddy’s bed, and show him how her reading was coming on. He sure loved my little girl, said she reminded him of my ma.
Three days after Sophia’s eighth birthday, Henry found daddy dead in bed. He came up to the house to tell me, and we sent the twins out to work in the wagon, telling them we were staying home. The ground was real hard in the cold weather, but we set to with picks and shovels, and dug daddy a nice grave right next to Walter’s. Susan gave me an embroidered cloth to wrap him in, and I made a simple coffin from some wood in the barn. Me and Henry put daddy in the ground, and Susan read something from Walter’s Bible as we filled in the grave.
I said I would paint the stones and make the marker once better weather came in the spring.