Editor's Note: This is an ongoing series which runs each Thursday morning titled the Richland Chronicles by author Paul Lintern. It is set in 1831 and tells the story of Richland County through the eyes of a young girl.
As Peggy brought out breakfast, Autumn walked up from the barn, and Amelia was surprised, because she had thought Autumn was still sleeping.
“When did you get up,” Amelia asked.
“About dawn. Father needed me to do the chores, so he could help Uncle John.”
“I could have helped you,” Amelia said.
“You’re our guest.”
“I’d rather be your sister.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Autumn said, and she smiled at her mother.
“Wonderful, you’ll be fighting over hair ribbons and boys in no time,” Peggy said.
“Hair ribbons, maybe,” Autumn laughed.
“Speaking of boys, here come a couple of handsome ones now,” said Elizabeth.
Isaac, and his friend, Wolf Paw, emerged from a path in the woods, walking toward the fire.
“I smell breakfast,” Isaac said.
“You smell fabric dye,” said Katherine. “But thankfully, we also have some breakfast.”
Isaac sat down next to the fire and grabbed a plate for the ham and potatoes Peggy had fixed. Wolf Paw waited to be invited, but then did the same.
Amelia looked at Wolf Paw. He was the first Indian she had ever seen up close, at least the first one her age. He had long black hair, dark eyes, and a smooth deep complexion. He looked very serious. His moccasins, breechcloth pants and vest were not the least disheveled, whereas Isaac's pants and shirt looked like he had been through a briar patch.
“Isaac, you remember Amelia; how did you like her violin playing?” Katherine asked.
He shrugged his shoulders, “Fine, I suppose.”
Then, apparently remembering his manners, he said, “Amelia, this is my friend, Wolf Paw. Wolf, this is Amelia.”
“Nice to meet you,” Amelia said.
Wolf Paw nodded to her, as he placed a biscuit full of potatoes into his mouth.
“Does he understand what I am saying,” Amelia asked Isaac. “I don’t know, do you,” Isaac asked Wolf Paw.
Wolf Paw paused, looked at Isaac, swallowed, then looked at Amelia. “I am adequate at white man’s language.”
Isaac tried to stifle a chuckle.
Amelia blushed, but knew she had to recover quickly.
“I suppose they call you Wolf Paw because of the way you wolf down food.”
Isaac and his friend stopped chewing, looked at each other, then burst out laughing. Everyone else joined in.
“Amelia knows you already, Wolfie,” Katherine said.
Wolf Paw gave her a look.
“I’m the only one allowed to call him Wolfie,” she added. “Right, Wolfie?”
Wolf Paw grunted his agreement, but at the next swallow, said, “This is very good, thank you for breakfast. Where is the girl from?”
“The girl is from Boston,” Amelia said.
“Boston? Where Uncle Jacob is from?”
“Is he everybody’s uncle?” Amelia asked.
“No, some of us call him father,” Autumn smiled.
“Hey, why don’t we show you around after breakfast?” Isaac said.
“Would you take us to the grape vines at Brubaker Creek?” Autumn asked.
“Is that all right, mother?” Isaac asked.
“As long as you bring them both back,” Katherine said.
After a hasty completion to the meal, the four set off through the woods, along paths that Isaac and Wolf Paw knew, as though they had made them. Autumn knew her way, as well, but Amelia was astounded by the thickness of the forest.
The forests she had been in around Boston were plenty, but mostly thinned out, so that a person could walk through it as though it were a park or a person’s farm. These woods were dark, almost menacing at times, with sounds and smells Amelia did not know.
While the others bounded along the paths gracefully and almost silently, Amelia felt as though she were pounding a big drum, announcing her arrival to any wild beast or unsavory character within miles around.
Isaac seemed more patient than Wolf Paw in waiting for Amelia to keep up. The woods were damp and chilly from a rainfall the night before and the sun had not yet warmed the paths. Amelia felt a shiver or two as she brushed against wet stems and leaves of nearby grasses.
Isaac played tour guide along the way -- pointing out the best bee trees, biggest hollow logs, the bear skeleton, even a buckeye tree -- for which Ohio was nicknamed, but which was already becoming noticeably rare.
Finally, they arrived at Brubaker Creek, which was swollen from recent rains, but still well within its banks. The four walked upstream a hundred yards or so, to a place where the stream had created a depression, and so was deep enough for swimming. Wolf Paw took off his vest and moccasins, set his knife beside them, and started up a tree, to a grape vine several feet up.
“Are we going swimming?” Amelia asked.
“Looks like a good day for it,” Isaac said, taking off his shirt and trousers, leaving only his breech.
Wolf Paw gave a yelp and swung over the water, letting go at just the right time to make a big splash as he landed.
Isaac jumped in from the bank. Same yelp. Same splash.
Amelia wasn’t sure what to do. She had gone swimming before, but her mother had a suit for her, and only women were at the bathing area. She didn’t know how much of her three layers of clothing she should remove or jump in wearing.
Autumn had already placed her shawl over a branch, removed her vest and skirt and had pulled her bloomers off from under her shift, her simple muslin wrap that covered her from shoulders to ankles. She took the bottom of the shift and tied them around her legs to make a sort of suit, then dashed along the shore and leaped into the water with a squeal and a splash.
These boys are her cousin and his best friend, Amelia thought. They obviously have swum together since soon after they could walk. Apparently, Autumn doesn’t think twice about it. Amelia did think twice about it, though. She just stood at the side.
“Are you coming in? It’s only cold for a moment,” Isaac said.
“I don’t think I should swim with boys,” Amelia said.
“We’re not going to bite you,” Isaac said, almost sounding hurt.
“Well,” Amelia pondered.
She knew her mother wouldn’t approved of her removing her dress, but she knew her father wanted her to get along with the people in Ohio, so... Splash!
Later on, as they were walking home, Isaac was saying, “The reason you are so cold and miserable, right now, Amelia, is because you jumped in with all your clothes on, which means you weigh a ton, you are shivering and every step hurts because of the wet fabric rubbing against your skin, and the sun can dry you through all these trees. But I guess you know that now.”
Amelia’s teeth just chattered in rhythmic agreement.