Waiting for Spring

March 23, 1842

The cries of a newborn come from a cold cabin in Gorham. Just delivered, we know he will leave as soon as he can, but this morning his mom nurses him and prays. She feels the loneliness even now.

Barnabas Bowne tramps in from the beginning of mud season and leaves his boots by the door. “Too cold, too long for honest men. When can I have dinner?”

“Let me put Samuel to bed. I have raccoon stew ready in the hearth.” She stokes the fire with another split log and stirs the pot.

“Any sign of spring?”

“It always comes.”

“Enough hay?”

“Yes, God gave us enough this year. When the mud sets, I can plow and harrow the potato field. The cow has been dry since 12th night. She will freshen soon. Enoch may need to help. We’ll see soon enough.”

Barnabas and Enoch have the grant of deed given to Edmund Bowne for his service in King George’s war.  The memory of colonists killed or abducted by the Wabanaki Confederacy still angers locals.  Citizens of the new state of Maine still commemorate the death of nearly one in twelve male colonists.

Barnabas’s grandfather built the Bowne house as a cabin before the turn of the century. It had log walls and a hole for smoke through the roof. Today, a proper house surrounds the eight foot square fire place at the center of a large room. Living areas fill the area south of the hearth while a single sleeping room lies behind the hearth. The cabin has a porch and four glass paned windows. This luxury sets the house apart from its windowless neighbors.

The land has a section of prime white pines for lumber sales to the Penobscot ship builders. In winter, Barnabas harvests a hundred prime trees for sale.  After trimming, he and Enoch use a yoke of oxen to drag the logs to the Little River.  They then raft the logs down to the saw mill.

In summer, gardens ring the house. The short growing season limits produce. Canned vegetables and fruit, along with potatoes and an occasional deer, allow them to live comfortably out in the woods, away from town.

“Abitha have the pains left?”

“Yes, just a bit of soreness but I can manage.”

Together Barnabas, Abitha, and Samuel prepare for the rise of spring and the planting of crops.  After the mud sets, squadrons of mosquitoes will invade like thousands of rounds of birdshot. The attacks can drive men and dogs mad.  Only generous layers of bear grease keep them at bay. As the air warms, black flies swarm to kill the mosquitoes and terrify everything else.  These small horse-fly like insects bite aggressively and leave welts the size of silver dollars. 

Eventually the flies and mosquitoes clear.  The skies turn crystal blue with the promise of good harvests.  But there remains at least a month to wait and ponder.

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