When the Old Man Got Misplaced


THE old woman, she was pretty well blowed that time, for a fact. She was all out of wind and as mad as one of them bald-faced hornets. Way it happened, she seen six or seven of Peterson’s prize Cotswolds in the clover — they gotten in through a gap in the fence somewheres — and she couldn’t find the old man right away for to chivvy them sheep off the place. And when the old woman taken the notion for to do it herself, why, sir, that there Cotswold ram, big and ugly, he chased her clean through the bob-ware, a-scratching her some.

Whilst on her way back to the farmyard, for to find the old man and give him a piece of her mind, dagnab me if she didn’t diskiver that Lulubelle gotten into the corn. Lulubelle, she was as good-natured a critter as ever you see — but the old woman just naturally couldn’t get that there cow out’n the corn patch. The old woman was fitten to tie, time she come through the last gate.

A man knows how they ar, even the best of them — they save it all up and then blame it on you. Way they tell it, a man is never around when he should be, and then when he shouldn’t be, why, a man is practically underfoot. And him and her, a-living alone away up there on the river, all them years, they was forever a-jowering and a-jawing, one at t’other, anyhow. Seemed like it kept them two from being so lonely most of the while, though he set a heap of store by her, and she by him. But a man knows how they are.

So the old woman come into the farmyard, and she looked all around, but there wasn’t hide nor hair of the old fool, as she says to herself. She was plumb tuckered out, but that didn’t lessen her spunk none, and time the old woman had her second wind, she began for to call and to call. “Yoo-hoo!” But there wasn’t no manner of answer. The echo come back from the hillside, and sad-like, and the old woman, she began for to fret and to worry. It p’intedly wasn’t like the old man not to be somewheres around. The old fool! And she began for to look and to look, akeeping right on hollering, until after a bit the old woman fairly was on the dead gallop. Her heart was a-thumping like a cock grouse on a log, and her nubbin of hair come undid, and one of her stockings come down to her heel. “Yoo-hoo!” And that there echo a-mocking her, as though it was a-going for to bust into tears.

Well, sir, as a man heerd that story many the time, the old woman she leant over the curbing and she looked far into the well, just in case. And away down there in the water was only her own puckered face a-looking up at her. But one bucket was down and one bucket was up, and the rope was all right, and she figgered that maybe the old man hadn’t come to his death by drown ding. And she taken a good look all through the barn, and into the haymow, and a wood rat run out’n the hay, and the old woman begun for to shake and to tremble. And she looked into the mangers, and she looked into the tool shed and the feed bin, and then she run and looked under the house. When she got to her feet, the old woman looked all around again, but her glasses was blurred and she couldn’t see very well — on account of the cobwebs.

Happened there hadn’t ary cross word passed between him and her that morning, so she knowed that the old man wasn’t a-sulking somewheres, and she knowed that he wouldn’t of left the place without a-telling her. That there was some comfort to her. “Dear Lord,” the old woman whispered, a-standing there in the farmyard, “if so be there’s no harm come to the old fool, I’ll never call him a old fool again. Amen.” That’s the way it is with them, as a man knows, and right then the old woman meant it. But far back in her mind, fearful-like, the old woman already was a-planning the funeral. All them years they been together, him and her, seemed mighty short to her then; mighty dear.

But after a bit the old woman taken holt of herself, like a sensible person, and tried for to figger it out. She wasn’t mad no more; she wasn’t a-shaking. “Lemme see,” she says to herself, “he’s got Blinker with him, wherever he is, and no matter what has happened to him, the old dog wouldn’t leave him. Yes, wherever he is, this very moment, he’s got Blinker with him.” So she seen that the thing for to do was to hunt all over the farm, and into the wood lot, and call Blinker whilst she hunted. The old woman had come to her senses, though her heart was cold with what she feared, and she tucked in her hair again, and made it snug with the hairpins, and yanked up her stocking, and she began for to walk, and whilst she walked she called Blinker. She’d nary a thought for Cotswold nor cow.

Turned out that was what she ought to of done in the first place, but first she was too mad, and then she was too frightened, for to think of it. “Blinker! Here, Blinker! Here, Blinker!” She never had thought to be a-calling Blinker like that, with a lump in her throat whilst she called. Lord, she never would call the old man a old fool again. So help her, Lord, she wouldn’t. “Here, Blinker! Here, Blinker!”

The old woman’s heart, it give a great leap, for of a sudden she seen Blinker far off as he jumped up from the mowing, to stand and look towards her. But he took nary step to come to her. “He’s a-standing guard,” the old woman says to herself. “Blinker is a-standing guard.” She scratched herself some more a-climbing through the bob-wire, and then she began for to run again. Running wouldn’t do no good, she knowed right well, but she had for to run.

And as she drawed nigh to the haycock she seen that Blinker was a-wagging his tail and a-grinning. But the idea she had, it was so fixed in the old woman’s mind that she didn’t realize what he meant. She run up to that haycock and looked over it — and there was the old man, full length, with his hat over his eyes. She like to gone down in a heap when she seen him. But the old man’s whiskers was a-rising and a-falling, and a-rising and a-falling, regular-like. And she distinctly heerd him snore.

The old woman was minded for to drop down on her knees, there in the mowing, and thank the good Lord for His goodness — but something flashed through her mind, bright as a bird when the clouds roll by, and she tried for to catch it. “Let’s see,” says she to herself. “There’s Peterson’s Cotswolds in the clover, and there’s Lulubelle in the corn — and here he is, the old fool, a-laying there a-snoring his head off, in his blue overalls and his blue cotton shirt.” It come to the old woman then, from away back in her childhood, whilst she smiled down on the old man — she had half a mind for to kiss him, whiskers and all — and she said that there poem out loud: —

“Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn,
The sheep’s in the medder, the cow’s in the corn;
Where’s the boy that looks arter the sheep?
He’s under the haystack, fast asleep. ”

The old man, he never stopped a-snoring. Then she taken a timothy stalk and, a-giggling like a girl, she leant over and tickled one of them fur-bearing ears of his’n. Well, sir, he woke up with a snort, and he jerked the old hat from his eyes, and he jumped to his feet, and he began for to jower and to jaw. He might just as well have fetched her a cuff. Matter of fact, the old man might just as well have cuffed a shebobcat. “You old fool!” she says. And then them two was at it again.