Authors: Diane Greenwood Muir
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication / use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.
Cover Design Photography: Maxim M. Muir
Copyright © 201
3 Diane Greenwood Muir
All rights reserved.
Don’t miss the books in
Diane Greenwood Muir’s
All Roads Lead Home – Bellingwood #1
A Big Life in a Small Town – Bellingwood #2
Treasure Uncovered – Bellingwood #3
Right when I was in the middle of writing the fourth book, my mind decided it needed a break and came up with the idea of writing a story with Andrew Donovan from the Bellingwood series as the main character.
Before I knew it, this story had been spun and I sent it off to my editors / proofreaders for cleanup so that I could get it in the hands of my readers before the fourth book was finished.
A very special thank you to Rebecca Bauman, Tracy Kesterson Simpson, Linda Watson, Carol Greenwood, Alice Stewart, Edna Fleming, Fran Neff and Max Muir for continuing to encourage me as I tell more of the stories that come from the fictional folks in Bellingwood, Iowa. It is an amazing experience to know that such brilliant people are supportive while uncovering my mistakes and helping me find ways to make things better.
"Andrew James Donovan, this is the last time I am calling you. Get out of bed now!"
The little boy scooted further down into the warm feather tick and pulled the quilt over his head. He didn't want to wake up, but knew that if he didn't, his mother would come up the ladder to the room he shared with his brother and wake him in an awful manner. She once lifted the blanket off his feet and dribbled cold water on his toes, shocking him up and out of bed.
His older brother, Jason, was already outside working. Andrew had come awake long enough to hear him leave the room, but since the sky was still dark, he didn’t follow. They had purchased two new horses for this spring’s planting and Jason loved spending time with those big animals. Since he had taken on that new responsibility, it meant that Andrew now had to milk the cows and feed the chickens.
Andrew moaned and finally threw back the quilt and grabbed his pants, pulling them on as he looked for his boots. He remembered that his mother had made him leave them in front of the door so he wouldn't track mud through the house.
"It's about time, sleepy head," Sylvie Donovan said to her youngest son when he stepped off the last rung of the ladder. She tousled his hair and gave him a gentle push toward the table. It was a sturdy table their friend Henry had made for the room and served as the dining table during the day, and when the sun set, both Andrew and Jason used it to do their homework. There was very little furniture in the small home their father had built when he first moved to Bellingwood. The rocking chair that Sylvie's mother had given her when Jason was born sat near the wood stove and a long wooden bench was across from the stove. Sylvie had made a cushion stuffed with chicken feathers to fit over the bench. Many an evening passed with the boys spread out on the bench or the floor in front of the fire as they listened to their mother read stories to them from their favorite books.
"After you finish your chores this morning, I want you to run to the General Store before school. Mr. Ivins should have a package for us from Uncle Robbie."
Andrew grinned at his mother. A package from Uncle Robbie always contained a book for him. It had been more than two months since the last time he had gotten something new to read and he couldn't wait to see what his uncle had sent.
With renewed energy, he quickly finished his breakfast and pulled his boots on. His coat was hanging by the door and he slipped it over his shoulders and went outside. Spring had arrived, but the mornings were still chilly. Andrew couldn't wait until the warm summer sun shone from early in the morning until late in the evening.
He pulled the pails off their hooks and began speaking to the two cows in the barn as he approached them.
"Good morning girls. I'm not late yet. I know you don't like it when you have to wait."
He continued to talk to them as he squeezed their milk into the pails, enjoying the warmth of their teats on his hands. He finished and set the buckets just inside the barn door and let first one cow and then the other outside into the pasture, making sure there was water and hay for them before running to the chicken coop. He had to gather eggs and get them fed each day. Some mornings it felt as if it took forever. This was one of those mornings.
He took the eggs up to the house and went back for the milk, carrying it carefully in to his mother. She was going to make butter today and if he was lucky, there would be a pie for dessert. She had canned apples last fall and there were still quite a few jars in the root cellar. Whenever she made butter, she chilled the first batch and then used it to make a few of her famous pies. Everyone in town talked about Sylvie Donovan's pie crust and when it came time for the fair in the summer, she took first place every year.
His mother transferred a dozen eggs into a smaller pail and handed it to Andrew. "Would you stop by Mrs. Watson's with these?"
Once a week, he went to see Mrs. Watson with a pail of eggs. She gave him a dime for the eggs and the empty pail from the previous week. She was a painter and lived above the bank downtown. When he had time, she would tell him stories of cities she had visited around the world. She told him of Paris and London, Madrid and Athens. He shut his eyes and imagined the places she had been as she described them. She had beautiful books of art that she let him look at and his favorites were paintings of those fascinating locations.
He took the pail from his mother and she gave him a dollar and a piece of paper. "I've made a list of things I need. Please give this to Mr. Ivins and then wait. Take your cart, it will be a great deal for you to try to carry home."
"I will," he responded.
He and Jason talked about taking care of their mother when they lay in bed at night. Their father had left them two years ago, hoping to make his fortune in the west. Sylvie Donovan hadn't waited for him to return or send them any money, but began cooking and baking and selling milk, cream, butter and eggs to keep the family afloat. A hired hand, Ellis Anderson, had worked the fields with their father and stayed on to help Sylvie keep the farm. Jason began working with him right away and this morning they were planting wheat. A patch of corn and another of oats would be planted soon.
Sylvie told her boys over and over how fortunate they were that their father had prepared ground for them to plant crops. The boys knew better. They knew Ellis had done most of the work while their father read newspaper articles about gold in California. His thirst for easy money finally drew him away from his family and he headed west.
Andrew waved at his brother in the field as he walked toward town pulling his cart, followed by their dog, Homer. Jason smiled and waved back.
Their little town was growing. The school year was nearly over and fourteen new students had come into the school in the last month. Four new families had moved into town and one of the fathers was going to be the new blacksmith. Old Mr. Danvers had gotten kicked in the head by a horse when he was shoeing it and he had died a few days later. Everyone talked about how he was smarter than that, but there were stories that he had turned to drinking in the last few years and didn't always have his wits about him.
The new blacksmith had four daughters. The twins, who were Andrew's age, giggled and whispered all the time. He thought they must be quite dim-witted. One sister was in Jason's class, but Jason hadn't met her yet because he hadn't been to school since he started planting. The oldest sister sat up front by the teacher and talked about how she wanted to be a school teacher as well. She had interesting books and one time caught Andrew staring at the pile of books on her desk. He wanted to open each of them and flip through the pages to see what kind of interesting things a girl her age might be reading, but when she scowled at him, he ducked back to his own desk.
Andrew pulled his cart up to the bank and ran up the stairs beside the front door to the rooms where Mrs. Watson lived. He only had to knock once and she answered the door.
"Good morning, Andrew! I'm so glad to see that you have my eggs! I had guests over yesterday and ran out, so I didn't have anything for breakfast this morning."
He stared at her. Her long brown hair, which was usually pulled back and tied up on top of her head was down and flowing around her neck and shoulders. She was dressed in a brightly colored silky robe, tied at the waist. Underneath, she was wearing loose fitting men's pants and an oversized shirt that was splattered with paint.
"I'm sorry that I look so funny this morning," she said. "I was up late last night painting. Do you want to see what I was working on?"
Andrew nodded and followed her into the front room. She took him over to the easel which was standing in front of the main window. He knew that she often painted here because late at night she could still see by the light of the street lamps.
Mrs. Watson pulled back the cover and he saw the beginning of two horses and a plow. It looked like their horses and plow.
"What do you think?" she asked.
"It looks like our new horses," he responded.
"You're right. It is a painting of your horses. Today I am going to take a walk to your house and spend some time painting your brother in the field. Don't you think it is beautiful?"
He didn’t think so. To him, beautiful pictures were painted in places far away from Bellingwood, Iowa, but he nodded.
"Sometimes beauty is in your own back yard, Andrew. You like to read stories and your mother tells me that sometimes you write your own stories, too. You should never forget that some of the very best stories you read are because people see the beauty in what surrounds them."
"Yes ma'am." He wasn't quite sure what she meant, but he did think about what she said. Maybe there were interesting stories in Bellingwood. He'd have to pay more attention.
He left her and went on to the General Store. Mr. Ivins was cutting some fabric from a bolt of cloth for Mrs. Lantham, so Andrew wandered around, looking at the section of school supplies. He ran his hand over a leather covered journal. Someday he wanted one of these. For now he was content to write his stories on paper and tuck them into a box he had, but this was what he dreamed about.
"Good morning, Andrew. Are you here to pick up the parcel from your uncle?"
"Yes sir. My mother sent this list, too," Andrew replied, handing over the list and the dollar coin.
"Here's the package," Mr. Ivins said, pulling a large brown wrapped box out from behind the counter. "If you wait, I will gather these items for you. Do you have your cart? The flour and sugar will be heavy and this box is pretty big."
"It's right outside, sir. May I take the box out with me now?"
"That would be fine, son. I'll come out in a few minutes with these things."
Andrew gathered up the box and went outside. He set it down inside the cart and it nearly killed him to not unwrap it right there. One corner of the brown wrapping paper had been ripped and he knew that if he tugged on it just a little bit, he might be able to tell his mother that it wasn't his fault. But, she would know better and he would be in trouble. He sat down on the edge of the cart with his hand rubbing the top of the package and wondered what kind of book his uncle had sent to him. The last two books had been by Mark Twain and Andrew had found himself caught up with Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn in their adventures.
The door to the General Store opened and Mr. Ivins came out carrying a white, cotton sack of flour and a smaller one filled with sugar. Another small sack was placed into the cart and Mr. Ivins held his hand out. He dropped five cents back into Andrew's hand and said, "Tell your mother that we could sell some more of her bread and pies. Whenever she brings them in to us, we sell out in a day or two."
"I'll tell her, Mr. Ivins," Andrew said. "Thank you!"
He was excited to get home. If he didn't hurry, his mother would send him to school before she opened the box and he didn't want to miss it. He pulled the little cart down the road as quickly as possible, calling for Homer to hurry.