Editor's Note: This is an ongoing series which runs each Thursday morning titled the Richland Chronicles Volume 4, by author Paul Lintern. It is set in the 1830s and tells the story of Richland County through the eyes of young people. This is the fourth in a series. Volume 1 was Amelia Changes Her Tune. Volume II was Isaac and Wolf Paw Find Their Home. Volume III was Autumn Keeps Her Secret.
“Time for event number six,” Autumn said, as she gathered the students on their benches.
“Geography and history, with the same rules as with arithmetic. Fifteen questions anyone can answer, then questions for individuals until one team has 20 points.
The students looked tired, like they had been through a lot already, which, of course, they had.
“First question, our sixth president.”
“John Quincy Adams,” Natalie said.
“Jeﬀerson,” all yelled, but Mr. Gamble heard Philip ﬁrst.
“Oh, Delaware,” Esther said when the others realized they had jumped too soon on their answer.
“Tell the year, Battle of New Orleans.”
“1814,” Tom said.
“1781,” Sammy said.
“Constitution.” “1787,” all three boys shouted.
“Second War for Independence.”
“1812,” Natalie smiled.
On it went, and after 15 questions, the girls were ahead eight to seven.
Then came the individual questions.
“This time, if a person cannot answer the question, then next person on the other team may guess, and back and forth until someone gets it right,” Mr. Gamble said.
Back and forth it went.
“Ohio is which numbered state?”
“Year of admission?”
“General Wayne’s nickname?”
Autumn was impressed. They may not have their numbers nailed down, but they sure do well with their history and geography, she thought.
“Okay, the score is 19-19. The next correct question wins,” she said.
“Philip, what is the newest state to enter the Union?”
“I know this, it’s Arkan….”
His eyes got big.
I know this. Come on. Arkan,what? he thought.
“Oo, so close, but no. How about you, Georgette?”
“Arkansaw, although it looks like Arkansas,” she said.
“That’s it, and the girls win. We are tied at three. Oh, my,” Autumn said.
That brought up the ﬁnal event, swimming.
“I had hoped we wouldn’t have to resort to this one,” Autumn said to Mr. Gamble. “I don’t know how to make it fair for both sides. I mean, they can’t swim the way they swim best..”
“With nothing on,” Mr. Gamble said, smiling at the dilemma, then chuckled.
“Let them both wear the same thing, shirt and pants.”
“I can swim in my clothes,” Jacob said, overhearing the conversation.
“Give me trousers, I’ll wear them,” said Esther, who had been picked as the best girl swimmer.
“Well then, there’s our solution,” Autumn said. “That’s how we’ll do it.”
Esther snuck away and put on a pair of trousers that Tom had brought, in case they won the contest. When she emerged, she looked enough like her brother that Sammy thought Estel had stepped in.
“It comes to this. The two will step into the river, and at the drop of the handkerchief, go upstream to the bridge, where Mr. Gamble is watching.
“Swimmers to your place.”
Jacob and Esther climbed in.
“Why even try, Esther? This is why I was put on this earth. To swim to victory!” Jacob said.
Autumn dropped the handkerchief and oﬀ they went with a splash. The Black Fork was not high — it was the end of the summer — and parts of it was rather shallow, so shallow that at one point, Esther stood up and started running, about knee deep, against the current.
Jacob, being the dedicated swimmer that he was, determinedly pushed and ﬂailed against the water’s current. By the time he realized that it was quicker to stand and run, Esther was well ahead, and although the progress was slow, compared to running on dry ground, it was more than Jacob could do to catch up.
In a motion that appeared that time had slowed down, Esther pushed under the bridge a few steps ahead of Jacob. The contest was over.
“It’s really not that bad,” Tom said to the other two, a bit later. “I mean, skirts are not that uncomfortable, as long as you don’t have to run, and the bonnets actually aren’t bad, although they don’t block the sun.
“And it’s only a week.”
Jacob and Philip just shook their heads and said nothing. The girls were too busy admiring their new “sisters,” for them to say anything.
Autumn looked over her class. Her teaching career was two days old, and already her grand contest was the talk of the new little settlement. Only one question haunted her. What do I do to top this?