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“FARMED it” two summers, when chus; the wide, open fields, with their
I was eleven and twelve years old. I “industrial regiments” on active service, had been brought up within a paved city ; in undress uniform ; the twisting and was lean, white, slender, school-worn, writhing trout-brooks; the quiet and combookish. Analyzing now the phases of posed rivers; the steep hills, and deep, interior life which I only experienced still ponds, of each of which the neighthen, I seem to have been impregnated bors aver with pride that the bottom has with city associations; or rather the boy's never been found—a fact, perhaps, to be soul in me was paved over with brick and accounted for by its never having been stone, like the walls whose hot reflections considered worth looking after ;-all were smote my eyes in summer, and girded me new, all overflowing with light, and life. in always. I can remember how I shed a shrunken epidermis, as it were, like a I was startled at being vanquished by moulting crab, as if I really grew inward- my companion in a strife, with whose wea. ly by the fresh fulness of the country. I pons I had presumed him unacquainted. found that, besides the side of human life I began to "tell stories," and at first acon which I had theretofore been gazing; quitted myself to my satisfaction ; but dry and scaly with brick and stone, dead soon I found that I had met my match. and still on Sundays, dinning and resound- Mr. N.'s talents as a raconteur were ining all the week with the clash of pave- finitely above my own. Not only were ments under armed heel and hoof, with his stories funnier than mine, but whenrattle and groan of wheels—the unrelent- ever I boggled, he kindly suggested the ing and desperate onwardness of the great missing matter; and when I did not bogYankee dollar-chase ;-that, besides this, gle, he invariably furnished an improved there was another-infinite, calm, peace- catastrophe. ful, sun-lighted, dewy, free, full of life, We stopped to dine at the house of a unconstrained, fresh, vigorous—the world farmer. And then and there—with shame of God; as the city is the world of men, I tell it-did I first feel the excitement of and of devils.
the intoxicating cup. That excitement, I was to enter upon my agricultural however, did not in the present instance novitiate under the tutorship of an uncle,
exhibit itself in the gorgeous colors poetia farmer near the south shore of Connec- cally supposed to clothe it. The flowing ticut. I departed for my destination early bowl was represented, upon the pine one morning in the end of Spring, from my "mahogany ” of our Connecticut Amphicity home in the interior of the State, rid- tryon, by a broken-nosed earthen pitcher: ing in the wagon of a certain landholder and the mighty wine, by equally mighty from my uncle's vicinity, who had come cider, of so hard a texture that our host thither on business in his private convey- stated that it could only with great diffiance. All the day I rode southward, culty be bitten off by the partaker, at the through town and village, wood and field, end of his draught. Of this seductiro in the absorbing trance of deep delight fluid I drank two tumblers-full; and to which a child enjoys in any discursive or me, unconscious and verdant, it tasted adventurous enterprise, however humble. good, as sour things are wont to do to Every thing was enjoyable. The steady, children. But a quick retribution came binary progression of the old farm-horse's
The puckery stuff began to persistent trot; the rattling of the bones bite like a serpent, and sting like an adof the hard-seated and springless wagon; der, with a promptitude not adverted to the boundless woods, full of new forms by Solomon. and colors, on rocks, branches and leaves; We came safe to our journey's end ; arsprinkled on surface, and permeated riving, as the evening fell, at the farmthrough unfathomable depths, with spark- stead, my summer home. Darkness ling specks of sunlight; the occasional was already gathering among the thick chip squirrel
, provincially called “chip- shadowing of great elms and prim locusts munk," jerking or gliding along the fenc- in the wide dooryard. Piles of saw-mill es; sometimes a “very magniticent three- slabs fortified the woodpile, which, paved tailed bashaw”-a red or gray compeer with chips, the mangled remains of slaughof the rodent tribe-a beast which I was tered King Log, spread before the “stoop"; almost as much surprised to see, at least façade of lofty barns — the “old" outside of a rotatory tin gymnasium, as if barn and the
were ranged he had been a giraffe or an ornithorhyn- across the background in the north, shel
tering the lane, into which we had driven, næuvres having been accompanied with and which, leaving woodpile and stoop to dexterous intonations of the four aforesaid the east, led northward to the abutting sounds, together with "go 'lang!” “what front of the two barnyards. A wood- are ye 'ba-a-a-ut ?" and other interjections shed, opening to the south, ran out from hortatory, mandatory, and sometimes, I the house, displaying, within, a vast and grieve to say, imprecatory, all developed miscellaneous concourse of firewood, lum- by skilful teamsters into many wonderful, ber, tools, and all the mechanico-agricul- intricate, and imaginative variations exetural apparatus of a farmer's tinkering cuted through the nose, the intelligent shop. Entering the house, after greeting beast gradually learns to do, at the sound due, and a proper refection for my inner alone, what he did at first, at the sound boy, I was speedily asleep; and, next accompanied with action. Some imagine morning early, was enrolled in the ranks that herein is the true solution of the of industry, and detailed for skirmishing myth of Amphion's song, viz.: He played and outpost service: in other words, I -a Greek prototype of the great Italian was promoted to the captaincy over a fiddler-a pagan Paganini—upon a oneplatoon of " milky mothers,” whose daily stringed Textpov, plectrum, or whip march to and from near and distant pas- (comp. plago, plagare, to scourge), which tures I was to guard and guide. By ap- he accompanied with the voice, probaby in propriate degrees, I was led deeper and the Lydian mode; and as he worked deeper within the agricultural mysteries powerfully upon the feelings of his cattle, of planting and hoeing, and the aftercom- by his vigorous instrumental performance, ing work of haying and harvest.
executed fortissimo, forestissimo, sforPerhaps descriptions of a few separate zando, and confuoco molto, so, when he days' experience will best portray what . performed as vocal solos these impassioned manner of life I led.
variations upon one string, the vivid recollections of his masterly instrumentation
induced his cattle to manoeuvre with such THE FRESH MEADOW.
remakable agility, as to give rise to the With empty cart and full dinner-pails, present slightly varied account, that he we set out early for the assault upon the played to the beasts, instead of on them. June grass. The “fresh meadow
This, however, is a digression, for which, level intervale, the road to which ran now that I have followed it out to my satthrough a large upland mowing lot, de- isfaction, I ask pardon. scended through a secret chasm in a ledge Theory such as I have adverted to was of rocks crowned with trees, and led us imparted to me; and very soon 1 flourished out into the open sunny meadow behind, the pliant hickory, and bawled out the like the downward paths by which princes scientific monosyllables with a nasality as in fairy tales descend into realms of un- easy and workmanlike as that of any Bill derground loveliness, ruled by expectant or Joe, to the manner born. queens.
The meadow is entered; the cart left in In such expeditions I took my first les- a corner, resting on its wheels and long sons in the ox-compelling art. The mys- nose, like that Australian bird who locates teries of “haw" and " gee,” of “hwo"
himself, for his case, tripodwise upon his and “hwish" — the last an outlandish two legs and his bill; the dinner-pails are Vermontese barbarism, signifying " back," sheltered in its shadow ; scythes are hung were duly explained. The cartwhip exer- and whetted, and “forward four.” The cise was demonstrated; whose adaptation best man goes foremost; and the strongto the intellectual capacities of the bovine backed scythemen, each with “rifle” race is marked by the simplicity of genius. whetstone in his red right hand, girded For the single lesson taught the ox appeals low and tight, stepping wide and bending with metaphysical truth to the desire of forward, seem to gesture the falling grass happiness common to beasts with men; into the long straight swaths which grow and with practical wisdom developes in a close under and after the left hand of utilitarian direction his natural instinct to each. get away from what hurts him. If, there
" And forward, and forward, fore, I wish him to go forward. I " flick"
Resistlessly they go; him à posteriori ; if I would have him re- For strong arms wave the long keen glaivo trogress, I pound his nose with the whip
That vibrates down below." stock; if he should come towards me, I Is any thing more inspiriting than the touch him up on the further side with the " rhythmic sweep" of a platoon of mowlash, and if he should go from me, I prod ers? They seem to beat the time to some his hither ribs with the butt. These ma- mysterious marching music. Strength is
magnificently shown; no labor will better test the thews and sinews of a man. The same indescribable joy arises from the simultaneous steady movement that pulsates out from the heavy tread of marching men, and the symmetrical involutions of a hall of dancers. And there is rapid and continual progress. Abundant conditions of excitement are in the operations of a band of mowers. If strength, action, rhythm, simultaneity, and success, in concrete and vivid presentation, will not stir pulses of deep pleasure in a man's soul, he should be kicked out of decent society as an undoubted treasoner and incendiary, or sent to the School for the Training and Teaching of Idiots, as a pitiable instance of that anticlimax of mental negation whose two higher degrees are (see Dr. S. G. Howe's Reports) simpleton and foolas a fully undeveloped idiot.
Away go the mowers, halfway round the field, and now they stand erect, and the ringing reduplicating clash of the whetstones comes back upon their steps. But I too must perform my office. With ardor I inquire, like the revolutionary orator, “Why stand we here idle ?” and with a "peaked stick” I descend in fury upon the slain. The red-top and daisies are tossed abroad upon the four winds; and with an ennobling consciousness of power, and working out certain dim conceptions of a grand military march, by brandishing my stick in unison with the alternation of advancing steps, I sweep up and down the field in a centrifugacious halo of scattered gramineæ, feeling, as nearly as I can judge, very much like a cyclone.
But over what tremendous volcanoes of thinly covered agonies and horrid throes of pain are all hollow human exultations enacted! In the midst of my stormful march, a frightful dart of Eblis, a sharp sudden stroke, precipitated as by diabolical propulsion from some far distant sphere of malignant wrath, smites me full upon the forehead. A shrieking diphthongal OU! and a lofty entrechat are the involuntary introductories of my debut as “Le danseur malgré lui.” Several millions of minute yellow devils, with black stripes and a " voice and hideous hum," stimulate me into an inconceivably rapid and intricate war-dance, accompanied by a solo obligato upon the human voice. I have, in short, trodden upon a yellow hornets' nest. The Briarean evolutions of my hands knock off my hat. An enterprising “bird” forth with ensconces himself among my locks, and proceeds to harpoon me at his leisure. I seem to scrub out every hair, such is the promptitude and velocity
of the friction which I apply. But I despair of maintaining my position, the enemy having made a lodgment within the citadel. I run as nobody ever ran before, and suddenly turn and flee at a sharp angle to my first course, in order that the momentum of my foes may throw them off my track. But they turn as quickly as I, sticking much closer than either a friend or a brother would do. I see the brook before me,
ge headforemost, splash! into a deep hole, where I stumble, fall, choke, and am picked out by the mowers, who are nearly helpless with laughter. I have swallowed several quarts of warm brookwater, screeched until I cannot whisper, expended more strength and breath than it seems possible that I should ever recover; have endured and am enduring more pain than ten hydrophobiacs; and with one eye fast shut and swelled into a hard red lump of agony, and sundry ab
organs” extemporizing cranial evidence of a most unsymmetrical character, I lie helpless, blind, sopping, and soba bing in a swath of fresh, cool, green grass, until time, salt, and plantain leaves assuage most of the pain. I know what hornets are, at least in their foreign relations; but the single item of knowledge is no equivalent for the difficulties under which it was pursued. What fiends they are! Did the Inquisition ever try hornets on any particularly refractory captive?
Soon comes the dinner time, indicated to the observant farmers, by the proportions of shadow and sunlight, upon the roof of a certain barn. We made a nest in bushes and long grass, within the shadow of great trees, and squatted Turk-like around a service of tin crockery, brown paper and bark, whereon were displayed salt beef, cold boiled potatoes, bread and butter, and a specimen of rye gingerbread, which, for weight and tenacity, might be a mass of native copper, from Lake Superior. The food disappears rapidly, under the direction of jack-knives and one-pronged forks, whittled from sticks. The jug clucks and chuckles to the affectionate kisses of the thirsty workmen, and much refreshed, they take a short “nooning” to tell stories, gossip or sleep, and go to work again.
Haymakers cure in the afternoon what they kill in the morning. At two or three o'clock the mowing ceases, and the raking begins. In this operation, the weakest goes first, that the strongest man - may take the heaviest raking; so I am ex officio leader. I must fall smartly to, to keep ahead, or my rear-rank man will
rake my heels off; and for a while I go Haven and New London Railroad Combravely on. But the peculiar hold, and pany. sliding manipulation of the rake's-tail"
The salt grass is of a bright yellowish soon tell on my city-bred hands. The green ;-a beautiful hue in healthy veginsides of my thumbs, and the space be- etation, although elsewhere peculiarly tween them and my fingers, is first red sickly—and the black-grass, as its name and then raw; and by the time that the imports, of a very dark green.
The grass lies in winrows, I have done enough. stretches of meadow are like great patchBefore sunset the winrows are rolled into es of particolored velvet, so soft is the cocks, which are shaped conewise, and tone of color given by the fineness of the skilfully shingle-laid for shedding of rain ; grass and the delicacy of its tints. Rocks, and with a small load of new hay, hastily and patches of upland called islands by pitched upon the cart, for immediate use, the farmers, stand out here and there, we return home.
above the level line of the salt land, as Close after sunset is milking; after distinctly as any sea-island from the wamilking, supper; after supper, prayers; ter; and as into the sea, points and proand after prayers, sleep; which, indeed, montories of upland project into it. had made an irruption from its legitimate The salt haying is later than the upland domain, in the chambers above, and tak- haying, and in sundry details varies from en me at a disadvantage-when I was it. The day in the salt meadow was an "down," on my knees, as in duty bound. adventurous expedition to me; for we had The steady unmodulated evenness of my to start early and return late, living sevuncle's reading—for the family was Epis- eral miles up the country. The scene of copalian-and the full melody of the action, too, was strange and new; open to words, put me quickly asleep; and I re- the sea on one side, swept by the salt luctantly rise, retire, and undress; reluc- breezes, looked in upon by the silent ships tantly, because the motion charms away that all day long went trooping by, the drowsy god into whose embrace I haunted by queer shore-birds and odd sank so softly, and leaves me broad awake reptiles, covered and edged by grotesque to lie down in bed. But I soon forget plants; a whole new world to an up-counthat and every other trouble, and know try boy. My work was light, for the grass no more until day break.
was thin and easy to spread; and I used to spend much of the day in the desultory wanderings that children love. I strolled among the sedge and sought mus
cles; poked sticks down by the “fiddlers'” Salt is good. Men like it, and beasts. holes, and caught the odd occupant by his To cattle, however, near the sea, is often single claw, as he fled up from the supgiven an allowance of "salt hay," instead posed earthquake; chased the said fiddler of the pure condiment. Salt hay is of -a small gray one-clawed crab, who two principal sorts, called, where my in- scuttles and dodges about as jerkingly formation was obtained, “salt grass” and and nimbly as a fiddler's elbow, whence “ black-grass." There is also a sedge, his name-as he ran about the banks; which grows along the river-sides and in raked out oysters from the river-bed close ditches and marshes; a coarse, sword- by, and learned the inhuman art of eating shaped grass, used for thatching or litter. them raw ; investigated the scabby patchThe salt-grass and black-grass, are fine es of naked mud, which lie here and there short grasses, growing upon the level sur- among the grass; rheumy sore-looking faces called "salt meadows." These are places, plantless, crusted over with dry alluvial deposits of a strange unctuous scales, as if a cutaneous disease had demarine mud, stretching along the coast in stroyed the life of the surface, from an exrecesses, and up river valleys; a curious cess, perhaps, of salt, causing humors in half vegetable earth, soft, black, slippery. the ground, and exanthematous disorders. A twenty-foot pole may be often thrust Or I watched the boatmen, who occasiondown into it without finding bottom. In- ally “dropped kellick” in the river chandeed, it sometimes docs a very fair busi- nel, and plied the oyster-tongs. These are ness in the quicksand line. Somewhere a ferocious hybrid between an iron-toothunder the surface of a very smooth-faced ed rake and a pair of scissors; having salt-meadow, a little east of New Haven, the long handles, cross-head and teeth of are the duplicate and triplicate of some the former, and the pivotal interduplicafurlongs of embankment, swallowed down tion of the latter; so that at fifteen or by an unexpected abyss beneath, at the twenty feet under water, the iron teeth expense and to the chagrin of the New bite between each other, like the fingers
THE SALT MEADOW.
of clasped hands, griping firmly whatever cock squatting on the poles, of which you is between them. Or I rambled off to one carry one end, you are pinned ; and then, of the tree-crowned "islands" afore men- of the above mixture, slaps being unationed-I always fancied that they were vailable, there remains only the anger not standing still
, but slowly gliding along and the blood; of which you monopolize the meadow, wandering off down to the the former, and the gentleman with the sea-and explored their nooks and cor- "little bill” the latter. There is another
The day waned pleasantly, under ugly insect, rarely seen, at least in Constrange influences. A vague and dreamy necticut, except upon the salt meadows. feeling of exploratory desire pervaded the It is an enormous black fly, half as large atmosphere. The level land, the level sea, again as a “bull bumble-bee," and a great the bright horizon afar over the water, the deal more troublesome. He is a. bloody wide and open views, the dancing of the villain, and a truculent. He carries in distance in the hot air, the silent motion his snout a machine compounded of a bradof the winged ships, the sighing of the awl and a pump, with which he perforates steady wind, as if it felt relief at gliding and depletes his victims; and he sings unbroken over the expanse; the notion bass. One of these rascals will make a of vastness and the dim suggestion of the horse or a yoke of oxen nearly crazy. dista spoke to all the melancholy long- They will bear tolerably well to be all ings, and questioning, yearning thoughts speckled over with mosquitoes or “greenthat sleep in children's minds—but are too heads," if they can't get rid of them; but often murdered by ungenial training be- this monster carries too many guns. They fore they wake.
cannot stand so deliberate and extensive a Then there were curious inventions of stab as his ; and unless he is forthwith husbandry. The meadow is often too soft dispatched or driven off, they may be exto bear the loaded cart. Sometimes the pected to execute antics more energetic elastic greasy crust unexpectedly lets than useful. through the wheel, or the feet of the cattle. Then the lofty load careens, and
THE WHITEFISHING. slides off; the oxen kick and plunge while the meadow holds them fast by the heels, Such was a day in the salt meadows. or sink to their bellies, and stand still un- But the pleasantest days of my farming, til unyoked, and left to crawl unimpeded were days of fishing. The sea is an inout. Sometimes all the chains in the mea- exhaustible storehouse of fertilizers to the dow are hitched to the cart-tongue, lead- farmers of the coast. Rockweed, seaweed, ing to firm ground; and half-a-dozen mud, shells and whitefish, are carted up teams united drag the distant load ashore. the country as far as eight or ten miles, But if the danger of the muddy depths and spread upon the land, or deposited in has been wisely foreseen, a “meadow sled " the barn-yard. Thus the bounty of the carries the burden safely over. This is a sea balances the sterility of the granite stout drag, consisting of two wide run- formation along the sound. ners well framed together, and so made The whitefish is a herring-like fish, as to fit under the axle-tree without lifting very bony and oily, which comes in the the wheels from the ground. It is chain- summer in shoals, called by the fishermen ed to its place, like a peddler's bull-dog ; “ schools,” from unknown regions toward and on this additional bearing, the cart goes the ever mysterious_East, out of the securely sliding about over smooth grass realms of the sea. They are caught by and slimy mud, almost as easily as over millions and sold by thousands; and are snow. If even that precaution is judged a st— smell, I mean, in the nostrils of insufficient, the hay is “poled out.” Two those who flee by railroad from the stifling stout “ hay poles are thrust beneath the city to Sachem's Head, and to the other heap, and two men, one behind and one shoreward haunts of the “upper ten.” before, carrying it, as upon a sedan, to But they make corn and potatoes grow terra firma. This is sometimes a trouble- nicely: and I found that after working a some business. Mosquitoes are terrifi- day or two among their unburied remains, cally rife in some parts of the salt mea- I was not affected either mentally, by the dows. They will rise on one's track al- ghastly appearance of the defunct, or physmost in a solid mass, and pursue with a ically, by their exhalations. wolfishly, bloodthirsty pertinacity, which They come up into harbors and coves is pretty sure to result in anger, slaps, to feed, as is supposed-for I don't know and blood. This may not be absolutely that any body has actually seen them at it unendurable, so long as the hands are free —and while they are at table, a long seine to slap; but when you have a heavy hay is dropped round them, and they are en