Helping Dad feed the calves in the warm coziness of the barn, helping mother take a biddy off the nest with her new chicks, their eyes eager, their tongues busy with questions; pitching down hay for the cows all by their "lonesome"; learning the worth of expert workmanship in no matter how small a task; to me such lessons in kindness, in care of something beside themselves that are available every hour of every day on a farm are invaluable.
When they will play there is the most helpful play. Picking wild flowers, playing school on the grey rocks, building dams in the brook, making maple syrup and trying to sell it! They made a raft, too, from which Bud slipped into the pond. He can not swim, but he caught hold of the edge of the raft and pulled himself to safety.
Then the bag swing! I stood watching my oldest boy fasten it to the highest peak in the barn. He stood on a ladder that stood on a plank supported by his father's shoulder and a six by six, the top of it braced against a rafter. It looked so precarious.
"Mercy!" I protested. "What if it should slip!"
"Then it's good-bye me, he laughed, yanking a knot in the rope.
Yet somehow it's not scars to their bodies I have ever feared, if only I can keep their minds clear!
As I finished up the kitchen work that night I could see them, through the wide door of the lighted barn, swinging. Their happy voices came to me through the warm night. They swept me back to the days when I myself had leaped from the leafy branches of a tree to such a swing. Stuffing the dishpan out of sight I went out to them.
"Let me try once."
They looked quite shocked for a moment; then quickly grew eager.
"Yes, let mother swing. Get off and let mother try. F'r gosh sakes, Bud, get off the swing, I said."
I stood on the ladder a long time, bag in hand.
"Go on mother, go on."