Every bit of space not otherwise occupied was filled with pies and cakes. Knives and forks had been provided for everybody, and there were a few tin cups which were reserved for coffee. As plates were very scarce, palmetto leaves had to be used instead; and for those who wished to drink water, the magnolia leaves, bent so that the ends lapped, made excellent cups.
How they did enjoy that dinner! How savagely the hams were attacked! How the beans and crullers were appreciated, and how rapidly the pies and cakes disappeared! How the coffee, with plenty of “sweet’nin’” in it, was relished. In other words, what a grand feast it was to them. How much and how quickly they ate on that occasion can still be learned from any resident of Wakulla; for they talk of “de feed at de openin’ ob dat ar Elmer Mill” to this day.
Mark says it was the opening of about a hundred mills, all provided with excellent machinery for grinding.
After dinner they sang, and listened to the music of Ruth’s organ, which had been brought from the house for the occasion, and placed at one end of the booth. Then some one produced a fiddle, and they danced. Not only a few danced, but all danced—old and young; and those who stopped to rest patted time on their knees to encourage the others.
About four o’clock in the afternoon, or about “two hour by sun in the evening,” as the Wakulla people say, the last bushel of corn was ground. What remained uneaten of the dinner was distributed among those who needed it most, and the picnic was ended. With many bows and courtesies to their hosts, the happy company began to troop, or squeak along in their little ungreased carts, towards the ferry, where Frank was already on hand waiting to set them across the river.
Fighting A forest fire.
Although the day of the picnic was warm and pleasant, a strong breeze from the southward had been blowing since early morning, and during the afternoon it increased to a high wind. As the Elmers rode home after the last of the happy picnickers had departed, they noticed a heavy cloud of smoke in the southern sky, and Mr. Elmer asked Mr. March what he thought it was.
“It looks as though some of the settlers down there were burning grass, though they ought to know better than to start fires on a day like this,” answered Mr. March.
“But what do they do it for?” asked Mr. Elmer.
“So as to burn off the old dead grass, and give their cattle a chance to get at that which immediately springs up wherever the fire has passed. But the practice ought to be stopped by law, for more timber and fences, and sometimes houses, are destroyed every year than all the cattle in the country are worth.”
“Well, I hope it won’t come our way tonight,” said Mr. Elmer, “and first thing in the morning I will set the men to work clearing and ploughing a wide strip entirely around the place. Then we may have some chance of successfully fighting this new enemy.”