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 War. Volume VII is Emilene Adopts Her Family. Volume VIII is David Dances the Bases.
It had been more challenging than Natalie had thought it would be, herding cats, as Papa liked to say to describe anything involving people and projects.
While her classmates were excited about the scavenger hunt, it was hard for Natalie to explain things in ways she knew they understood.
I can see why Miss Osbun often has that funny look on her face. How many ways can I explain something?
Natalie noticed that Miss Osbun was letting her do this very much on her own, and she suspected her teacher was taking this time as an opportunity to write to her new fiancé Oliver, living in some far-off exotic place she called Minnesota.
Still, they were making progress, and the journey into town to gather information was set for the next day. Teams were going to compete with each other to learn as much as possible that would be useful.
Natalie was glad some of the secondary students wanted to help, because some of her primary classmates were too young to be of much help, and there was too much ground to cover with the ones she had left.
Still, it was a little scarier directing the older students.
“Remember, it needs to be things that will be here through all of June, so check with store owners and people who would know. A sign that directs us to a business is good, but a note that says ‘Meeting on May 28’ is not.
“We can count the number of hitching posts in front of the Courthouse, but not the number of dandelions.
“It’s good to find the name of the proprietor at the opera house, but not the name of next week’s show.”
Natalie had Louis and Oscar and Daniel in charge of visiting the Sheriff to ask about what parts of downtown to avoid, and Edna was to go with Viola and Harriet to ask Mr. Glessner if he would print the handbills that promote the contest, or the questions that students would get.
Archie and Maurice volunteered to go to the other newspapers, at North Main and Fourth, to inform all the newspapers, but Natalie knew to send Walter with them, because she suspected they just wanted to sneak into a saloon and play billiards.
Walter will stick to the task.
The other teams would each canvass an area for ideas, questions and donations.
“Beatrice and Bertha, take the north and east sides of the Square, Albert and Leo, the south and west.
“Warren, you and Edward canvass East Diamond to Fourth, and Ethel, take Lillian to cover North Main, to Fourth.
“Ella and Mayme, cover West Market Street wherever there are businesses, and Clara and Mary, you canvass Third and Fourth Streets between Diamond and Main.”
“What about me?”
Oh, no, I forgot about Roscoe!
Was it a simple oversight, or did Natalie secretly neglect to assign the one boy that she had a special crush on, the one boy that everyone knew was sweet on Natalie, even though no one was allowed to be “sweet” on anyone in school.
Everybody’s watching. They want to know if I will team him up with me.
“Oh, Roscoe. I, well, supposed we could…”
What am I saying?
“…send you with Louis to the Sheriff, and Oscar and Daniel could check in with Mr. Gilkison, the marshall. Yes, that is what I planned all along.”
I hope they bought it.
Roscoe looked a little disappointed, and Natalie thought she saw some of the girls, especially Clara and Beatrice, giggle a little as they passed comments back and forth, but for now, it looked as though she had worked it through.
“And there we have it,” Natalie said, sounding as much as she could like Father when he concludes a meeting at the Grange Hall or at church.
“Miss Osbun, these cats, I mean children, are all yours.”
Just sit down, Nat.
The next day was another perfect May day, and the traveling to Mansfield, along the Olivesburg Road, was easy for the entourage, which included two wagons of students and a handful of individual riders, whose parents allowed them to ride their steeds into town.
Both of the bridges washed-out by winter ice had been restored so nothing hindered their way. As they passed the acreage that was planned for a new prison, Natalie asked Miss Osbun why it was coming to Mansfield.
“Do we have more bad men than other places?” she asked.
“Senator Sherman and General Brinkerhoff have been trying for years to build it here, and it looks like construction may start soon. They say it will be a way for men who have never before been in prison to be reformed, able to go back into society and do good again. We’ll see,” Miss Osbun said.
“But I never want to see any one my boys end up there,” she said, raising her voice.
“No, Miss Osbun,” the boys mumbled in agreement.
One of them pointed.
“I do want to end up there,” and several boys nodded.
It was the Aultman and Taylor manufactory, not far from the Union train depot at the bottom of the hill, in an area called the flats.
“They make the best reapers. My father says there is no other make for him.”
“And that starving rooster that is painted on each machine. He never gets to eat because there is nothing left on the ground.”
“I want to work there.”
“After you are done with school,” came a familiar voice.
“Yes, Miss Osbun,” the boys all recited.