Wednesday, July 18, 2012

THE GREEN RANCH IN THE DESERT, part 4 of 4; by Thoda Cocroft (1919)

Betty met me at the door in a dainty gingham. "How do you like it?" she asked.

It was a radiant home, spotlessly clean, bright, comfortable. When dinner was served on radiant linen with bright silver and the boys came in clean and shaven, and told me the story of how the miracle came about, I was speechless with wonder and admiration for the splendid Saxon woman, their sister.

It was long before I learned of the struggle in all its detail. There had been so much that was strange and new and difficult for this woman-rancher to put up with, lack of comforts and facilities, and exasperating difficulties to be adjusted. Then there were the ever-present crawling things! "How did you ever endure them?" I asked. I was lounging on the comfortable couch in the living room staring up at the ceiling and suddenly I exclaimed, "Why, Betty, look at the cocoons on your ceiling! There are millions of them!"

"They're empty now," she replied quietly.

"How in the world did they get there?"

"Oh, that was the caterpillar pest," she replied nonchalantly. "It only lasted two weeks. We had just moved in but the roof wasn't finished. There were cracks about that wide." And she indicated a half inch with her fingers. "We were still waiting for the shingles."

"Tell me about it!" I insisted.

"Oh, they dropped through the cracks," she calmly replied. "You see the cottonwood trees near the house were covered with them. They hatched in the spring and crawled everywhere, dropped from the trees to the roof and through the cracks. The boys were used to centipedes and didn't mind common caterpillars! Sometimes they would drop into the food. I drew the line when they dropped inside of my clothes. I was so nervous I thought I couldn't stand it but they started to spin cocoons and in a little while they were all gone."

She laughed at my gasp of terror. "Oh, it never could happen again," she said. "The roof is thoroughly shingled and every inch of the house is screened."

"The rattle snakes used to bother me a little in the beginning," she continued. "But I got over that as soon as I learned their habits."

This stoicism was incredible to me. I had never dreamed of these "minor annoyances" as Betty called them, coupled with the other obstacles she had to conquer.

"Why you're simply wonderful, Betty!" I cried. But Betty refused to take ever so little credit for the making of the glorious Rancho Verde.

Some weeks ago before Peace was declared a few words came from this courageous Saxon woman then in France. A caretaker had been employed for the ranch. The three brothers and herself were all in the service. Irv, in the artillery, Sid, in the engineers, and Art already cited in the newspapers for "conspicuous bravery" in bringing down enemy planes. Betty was serving in the operating room of a hospital near the front, working sometimes forty eight hours at a stretch without relief, sleeping in almost air-tight boxes to keep out the poison gas and waking with blue lips and a throbbing head to go back eagerly to duty.

"I don't mind the fatigue," she wrote, "but when they bring in the poor boys, many of whom will never walk again, and many of them blind for life--a cold terror creeps up into my heart and chokes me. What if I should find one of my boys--one of my "three musketeers," among the dead and wounded? I long for the deep quiet and sunshine of Arizona but I can't go back again without my boys."

Peace came and in time there was a jubilant fiesta in the low green house on Rancho Verde for the "three musketeers" and their wonderful sister are at home again in the oasis they brought to pass on the shifting sands of the Arizona desert.

The end.