“’Fraid it ’ll come a leetle unhandy fer me,” said D’ri, with a look of embarrassment, “but I don’t never shirk a tough job ef it hes t’ be done.”
Then he stepped forward, took off his faded hat, his brow wrinkling deep, and said, in a drawling preacher tone that had no sound of D’ri in it: “O God, tek care o’ gran’ma. Help us t’ go on careful, an’ when we ‘re riled, help us t’ keep er mouths shet. O God, help the ol’ cart, an’ the ex in pertic’lar. An’ don’t be noway hard on us. Amen.”
June was half over when we came to our new home in the town of Madrid—then a home only for the foxes and the fowls of the air and their wild kin of the forest. The road ran through a little valley thick with timber and rock-bound on the north. There were four families within a mile of us, all comfortably settled in small log houses. For temporary use we built a rude bark shanty that had a partition of blankets, living in this primitive manner until my father and D’ri had felled the timber and built a log house. We brought flour from Malone,—a dozen sacks or more,—and while they were building, I had to supply my mother with fish and game and berries for the table—a thing easy enough to do in that land of plenty. When the logs were cut and hewn I went away, horseback, to Canton for a jug of rum. I was all day and half the night going and coming, and fording the Grasse took me stirrups under.
Then the neighbors came to the raising—a jolly company that shouted “Hee, oh, hee!” as they lifted each heavy log to its place, and grew noisier quaffing the odorous red rum, that had a mighty good look to me, although my father would not hear of my tasting it. When it was all over, there was nothing to pay but our gratitude.
While they were building bunks, I went off to sawmill with the oxen for boards and shingles. Then, shortly, we had a roof over us, and floors to walk on, and that luxury D’ri called a “pyaz,” although it was not more than a mere shelf with a roof over it. We chinked the logs with moss and clay at first, putting up greased paper in the window spaces. For months we knew not the luxury of the glass pane.
That summer we “changed work” with the neighbors, and after we had helped them awhile they turned to in the clearing of our farm. We felled the trees in long, bushy windrows, heaping them up with brush and small wood when the chopping was over. That done, we fired the rows, filling the deep of heaven with smoke, as it seemed to me, and lighting the night with great billows of flame.
By mid-autumn we had cleared to the stumps a strip half down the valley from our door. Then we turned to on the land of our neighbors, my time counting half, for I was sturdy and could swing the axe to a line, and felt a joy in seeing the chips fly. But my father kept an eye on me, and held me back as with a leash,