1831 Oakland Inn

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 the 1800s and tells the story of Richland County through the eyes of young people. The books are available from Lintern for $25 a set, tax and shipping included. Each book is about 120 pages written for intermediate readers (4th grade) with local illustrations. Volume I is Amelia Changes Her Tune. Volume II is Isaac and Wolf Paw Find Their Home. Volume III is Autumn Keeps Her Secret. Volume IV is Mr. Gamble Starts a School. Volume V is Jacob Blows his Horn. Volume VI is Cassie Fights the WarVolume VII is Emilene Adopts Her Family. Volume VIII is David Dances the Bases.

Right after school, with Mother’s permission, Natalie rode Chestnut into town, to the Zimmerman House on West Fourth Street. Autumn and Levi had moved to a large brick house a few years earlier, a sign of Levi’s business ventures doing well.

The house on Third Street, two blocks east and one block south, which had raised their children — all eight of them — was now occupied by Levi, the oldest brother, with his wife Angela, and their son, Levi Jacob, who was eight.

“Levi is named after his father Levi, not his grandfather Levi, also his father Levi is named after his grandfather Levi, and he is named Jacob after his great grandfather Jacob, but not after his uncle Jacob, who is named after his grandfather Jacob,” Levi, the father and son, liked to say.

As Natalie walked into Mama and Papa’s house, she told Mama about Miss Osbun’s challenge at school, to involve the schoolchildren of Mansfield in whatever they do for the Central Park improvement.

“So, what should I do?” she asked Mama.

“I don’t know what to tell you, but I have an idea who might,” Mama replied, and she glanced down the hall to Uncle Lucas’ room.

“Smartest man in the family,” she said.

Natalie considered her words, shrugged her shoulders and walked down the hall. He invited her in as she knocked and told her what a treat it was to see her.

“Uncle Lucas, Mama says you are smart.”

“About time your Grandmother figured that out, Natalie.”

Natalie smiled.

“Maybe she’s known that awhile. But I meant she said you might be able to help me do something for school.”

“I’ve already completed fourth grade, Little One, several times.”

“Ahh, Uncle Lucas, I just meant you might have some ideas that my friends and I can use for a project Miss Osbun, my teacher, came up with.”

“Well, I think I could use a good project to pass my days, what are you thinking?”

“Well, I told Miss Osbun that the Central Park is getting a fix-up. Mama and Papa are involved.”

“And they are very excited about it.”

“I am, too. And I told the Vasbinders and Mama and Papa that I want to be a part of it. That I want the children to help.”

“Even the out in the country children?”

“Well, sure, Uncle Lucas. They belong to Mansfield, too.”

“Indeed they do. So, what are you thinking?”

“She thinks we should do something that would involve all the schoolchildren in Mansfield, but she is leaving the what up to me, to us. Actually, to you.”

“Is this a project, such as building a monument? Or is it a presentation, like giving a speech or singing a song? It is a poetry contest, or a recitation?”

“Well, yes, Uncle Lucas. Yes to any of it. Yes to all of it.”

“I see, and you want to involve all the school children, even the young ones who can’t read, or the old ones who don’t want to sing a children’s song? Even the ones whom God has not talented with a golden tongue or golden pen?”

“Yes.”

Uncle Lucas sighed.

“Fine, young lady. Let me think this through; I will talk with my Dear Sister and find out what she has gotten me into, and then I will develop a plan.

“We will develop a plan.”

Natalie smiled.

“Thank you Uncle Lucas.”

She turned, but then paused, and turned back.

“Uncle Lucas, why did you come back?”

“This is home, My Girl. I was raised in the Oakland Inn, where you live, but in the old building. Same barn, though. Same field, same creek.”

He smiled.

“Same oak tree.”

Natalie stared at him, and blushed.

“Did Mama…”

“Yes she did,” he laughed. “The whole thing. That must have been quite an experience, in many ways, and something you will never forget.”

You can say that again.

He laughed again.

“When Uncle Samuel and I were young, about your age, and before your grandmother was born, we ran around the farm all the time with nothing on, at least when there were no guests.

“One day we were running around in the woods when Sammy accidentally stirred up a hornets’ nest. They came after us with a real fury, and I’m sure all they could see was a feast of clean, white meat.”

“How horrible.”

“Well, yes, actually, but we ran fast and we ran well, and we ran out of the woods and into the Inn, where Father was hosting a church meeting with all the men and women of the church.”

Natalie snorted a laugh.

“Everybody would still remember that, if they were there. Samuel and I certainly do.”

“At least none of your friends were there.”

“Ah, well, except for the eight girls that were there getting ready for confirmation and their first communion!”

Natalie snorted louder.

“All right, you win, Uncle Lucas. Your story is worse!”

“I will come up with a project for you to do, Little Great Niece!”

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