Two weeks later, on June 1, 1899, Roy’s Aunt Susan woke the boys early. Three days ago she’d come to help his mother until the baby came.
“Your new brother or sister is on its way. Your Dad left to fetch the midwife. You boys dress quick while I put breakfast on the table.”
Roy pulled on a cotton checked shirt and over all’s. He had just sat down to eat when his dad sat down to eat returned with the midwife.
Seeing Roy and his brothers eating, she said, “They should be outside.” Then she went over to the bed where his mother laid.
The last of his tinned peaches had barely slid down his throat when his aunt scooped up his bowl, “Out!”
She herded him, his brothers and father over to the door. “Let us women do our work. I’ll call you after the baby arrives until then stay outside.”
Out in the barn, they started their morning chores. Richard scooped up oats for the horses, “How long do you reckon it will be until the baby gets here?”
Over the whiz of milk, hitting a bucket, his father said, ” It can take quite a while. Reckon it could be suppertime before we get the call.”
Finished with the milking his father said, “Richard and Roy, you finish up the barn chores. Joe, I want you to ride over and help Milo with the fence mending. I won’t be going today.”
He picked up the two pails of milk and headed to the house. A few minutes later he came out into the yard and began to pace.
Roy knew little about the birthing of babies, he knew it could be dangerous. He remembered hearing the whispers of the womenfolk when Mrs. Manning had died. Mr. Manning hadn’t been able to care for the baby or their other children. He’d heard the kids were now living in Kansas with their grandparents.
No, he refused to think that way. Hadn’t his mother already born six of them without a problem. Why should this time be different? What would become of him and his brothers without his mother? His father at 54 found keeping up with the ranch chores increasingly difficult, he’d never manage without his mother’s help, especially now that they didn’t have Sammy’s help anymore. How would any of them manage? He’d probably have to quit school and work full time around the ranch.
Last week, his dad and uncle had ridden off to Guymon to make the final proof on their claim since the required 5 years had passed. Soon the land would be theirs. When he returned, he began talking of selling the place and moving elsewhere.
“Too many sad memories, here now that Sammy’s gone.” He hitched his leg over his other knee, “seems like now would be a good time to sell.”
To Roy’s surprise, his mother nodded. “Maybe you are right. Once this baby gets here and has some time to grow, I’d love to move back near my kin in Missouri. I know they’d welcome us and help you start a new teamster business. We could buy us a little farm for our personal needs.”
When his pitchfork shoveling the hay hit the creaking barn floor Roy set it in the corner and sent over to went over to his horse’s stall.” Hey, Tango, how’s it going?”
The horse stuck his head over the gate. His nuzzled his nose checking Roy’s shirt pocket for carrots. Finding nothing, he rested his chin on Roy’s shoulder.
“Sorry, I have nothing for you. Maybe later,” he told the horse. He picked up a brush and combed the course dry hair of her mane.
Roy winced when heard muffled groans coming from the house.
“Guess you know the baby’s on its way. Sure, takes a long time, don’t it?”
He nodded toward the doorway where Roy’s father paced. “Reckon he’s going to dig a trench if he keeps going back and forth like that. Richard’s weeding Mother’s garden, so it’s just me and you.”
He pulled the brush through the tangles of the horse’s mane.” I think father’s worried. Heck, I’m worried, sure wish Sammy were here. He always could take my mind off bad things.”
His stomach growled. “I had little time to eat breakfast this morning. Don’t suppose it would do me much good to complain. Too bad it isn’t later in the year. I could pluck us a carrot out of the garden or an apple from the tree.”
A voice pierced the air. “Sam!”
Roy hurried out of the barn in time to see his father enter the house. He crossed his fingers. Please let him reappear with good news.
His brother Richard left the garden where he’d been weeding. “Is the baby here, is it here now,” he yelled into Roy’s ear. “Should we go in and see.”
Roy looked at his brother’s dirt crusted hands and then his own. “I reckon we should wait a bit. Let’s go wash up at the pump. I don’t expect they’d let us in with these filthy hands.”
Richard stared at his hands and laughed. “You’re right, mother would never let me in with muddy paws like this.”
They went back inside the barn after they washed and practiced spinning circles with their ropes. Roy was practicing his lasso when their father entered the barn smiling from ear to ear. Roy sighed in relief. A smile that big could only mean good news.
“It’s a girl. Mother and baby are doing just fine. Go on inside and meet your new sister, she’s a beauty.”
He grabbed the saddle for his horse. “I’m riding out to let Milo and Joe know. Let your mother I’ll be right back.”
Roy and Richard left the barn. In the doorway of their soddy stood the midwife. When she saw them, she called, “If it isn’t the two big brothers, come meet your new sister.”
Roy slipped into the Soddy; his mother still laid in the bed over in the corner. She looked asleep as he and Richard tiptoed her side.
His Mother’s eyes fluttered open. They looked tired, but the sad worn look of the past two weeks had disappeared.
“Boys,” she motioned them to the swaddled bundle next to her, “meet your new sister. We’ve named her Lida Lenora. Isn’t she the most beautiful thing you’ve ever saw?”
Roy looked at the tiny red, scrunched-up face above which sat a shock of dark hair. A beauty wasn’t the words he’d used to describe her, but he knew better than to say that. So he just stared at her. The baby opened her eyes. She turned her head and gazed into his, as if to say welcome. It was instant love; he knew he’d do anything to protect her as she grew up.