picnic

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.

Natalie could see that several people were becoming angry.

Somebody should have tried it out beforehand.

The crowd started buzzing, murmuring, questioning, then smiling and joking and shaking their heads.

Dr. Bushnell was talking with Mayor Bigalow, who was pointing to a man in coveralls, who was walking to a box in the ground, about 50 paces from the fountain. He was carrying a big wrench and a determined look.

She saw him open a small metal box planted in the ground, then place his wrench on something that caused the top of the fountain to chirp and gurgle louder, and then bursting from Hebes’ pitcher came the stream of water everyone had been looking for.

Soon the water was overflowing the top bowl, into the second bowl, which overflowed into the pool at the base. With each new overflow, the crowd erupted in cheers and applause.

And the Vasbinder fountain was alive with droplets and silver ribbons of water.

The band broke into a refrain that had people marching and dancing at the same time, side by side, and committee members stood at the speakers’ stand congratulating each other and letting townspeople come up to thank them. It was a festive time made even moreso as families began spreading out blankets on which they could sit and eat the picnic lunch they had brought.

I didn’t even know Mother had made a picnic for us.

Cassie and her mother had made a feast, far more than the Zimmerman and Burns families could eat by themselves, which was good because they kept inviting passersby to join them.

They all say, “Oh I couldn’t” when Mama invites them to eat, but they all sit down anyway. Guess they can.

“I’ve never seen so many people sitting down enjoying themselves in the park,” Mama said, smiling.

“That’s because it was always covered with manure before,” Levi said.

“No wonder it is such a lush, full lawn,” Uncle Lucas added, as he joined the crowd.

“I remember the first time Jane and I talked about cleaning up this place, about making improvements. I think it was at her house and, oh yes, it was at one of Cassie or Grace’s violin lessons. She had just moved here and the topic came up almost by accident, but we both were together about it from the beginning.

“I remember being so excited to see it happen,” Mama said.

“But that was a dozen years ago,” Mother replied.

“I wasn’t even born yet,” Natalie said.

“Things take time, good things. Bad things just happen, I think, but good things must be prepared for. In the meantime, life gets in the way.”

“The fire at the Inn, and building our house,” Father said.

“And a family,” Mother added.

That’s me.

“And moving down Third Street, and welcoming Lucas home,” Papa said.

“And the weddings,” said Mama

“And the funeral,” Philip said.

There was a pause of quiet on the Zimmerman blanket, while the revelry carried on around them.

“Nate would have loved this,” Mother said.

“He loved anything that involved family,” Mama said.

“And food,” Philip added, and everyone laughed.

“He’d be the first one dancing, with Natalie in his arms,” Levi said.

“And telling left-foot jokes.”

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“Anyway, that is why it took 12 years to get to this dedication,” Mama said, then she turned to Uncle Lucas.

“I saw you with Mr. Brinkerhoff. He looked like he is pleased with the day’s events.”

“Oh, much more than that,” Lucas said, then he gathered everyone close.

“I wasn’t going to say this with so many around, but the commotion will actually keep us from being overheard.”

This sounds mysterious.

“Roeliff just informed me that, officially, the money that Natalie found, never existed. Mr. Sherman saw to that back in '61 when it would have been such an embarrassment to the brigade and the war effort.

“He also said that for it to show up now could create a new embarrassment about what happened back then.”

“What are you saying, Lucas?” Mama asked.

“The money needs to be discreetly kept and can be gradually used, as long as it ‘does not bring attention to itself,’ according to Mr. Sherman, and that is the end of the conversation,” Lucas said.

Everyone was quiet.

“You mean…” Natalie said.

“It’s ours to use,” Lucas said.

Oh my. New dresses, new books, new carriage, new dresses, new goats, new dresses!

Everyone began listing things they would like, little and big things, practical, extravagant, elegant, modern.

Papa was quiet, Mama’s brow was furled.

Finally, she raised a hand and made it clear she was going to say something that everyone had better hear.