Our maternal grandparents were unacquainted in Illinois. As young children their families packed up their covered wagons and headed west in the late 1800's. Grandpa's family homesteaded in southeast Nebraska, Grandma's in northeast Kansas.
Settled on the prairie, Mae took piano lessons at home from a traveling pianist. All was well until he made unwanted advances. She and her girlfriend switched two of his buggy wheels making the buggy lopsided. He left and never came back. At sixteen Mae took the teaching test and was certified as a teacher. Several of her students were older than she, typical of a farming community and the times.
LeRoy learned to play the fiddle and harmonica for himself and dances. In 1910 he joined a wheat threshers crew to work from Nebraska into northern Kansas, about 100 miles. One of the crew's favorite meals was roasted prairie chicken. Of course, they had to catch and kill it, coat it with thick mud, dig a fire pit and roast it.
Near Linn, Kansas they set up their machinery for the Simons. Mae, her mother and two other women cooked for the crew four times a day for two days. Resting in the shade of the thresher, LeRoy stopped mid-bite on his thick slices of fresh bread slathered with sweet cream butter and quince jam when a young woman crossed the farmyard carrying a pail for water. He had to meet her.
Mae was cutting cake when she noticed a man ride through the yard toward the watering tank. That was odd. The thresher was the opposite direction. He took off his hat and wiped his brow. Dark wavy hair flowed over his collar, a young man.
Music drifted up to the house at dusk. Mae peaked out through a curtain. Some thresher was playing Turkey in the Straw on a harmonica. A pleasant distraction, soothing after a long hot day. Dancing music. Toe tapping at the least. She sighed. If only. Her father was concerned no one had asked her to wed. 'Ought to be married by now,' her brothers said. Not even a promise. Two locals were interested, but she wasn't.
When the threshers finished and were packing up to move to the next farm, a man came to the house and tipped his hat. "Thank you ladies for your hospitality. We'll be going now."
Mother was surprised and pleased, a man with manners. "Do come in. Mae, come fix a sack for, what's your name?"
Mae saw him and gasped. The dark-haired yard rider had twinkly, dark eyes. Handsome. He nodded, "Afternoon Miss." It was all she could do to shut her mouth and nod. Heart pounding she gathered two loaves of fresh bread. If he could just look into her eyes, he could see if she was interested. She handed him the bread, looked up quickly and blushed. He could see her heart pounding through her high-necked blue dress. So was his. "I'd best be going. Much obliged, Miss." Breathless, she followed him to the porch. He mounted his roan, looked softly at her and said, "I'll be back." A half-smile crossed his face.
Stunned, she watched him out of sight, her heart filling with hope. Doubt crept in. He doesn't know I'm too old. It would never work. He lives in Nebraska, but if he comes back, it's meant to be. I'll keep busy with school. Her fourth year.
January of 1911 Mae was in the kitchen, as usual, when her father answered the door. A man asked for her. She frowned, wiped her hands on her apron and went to the parlor. It was him, LeRoy. She could have fainted, but Simons' women didn't. Her father saw her blush and excused himself.
When they were alone, LeRoy's eyes pierced hers. "I said I'd be back." She blushed and nodded unable to speak. A knot the size of a loaf of bread sat in her stomach. Flustered, she asked, "Would you like some feefee and tea take?"
He laughed. "I don't know about the feefee, but I'd drink some buttermilk and taste your tea take." She shut her eyes in embarrassment and tried to stifled a laugh.
Two days later they were married in her parlor. He took her back to his home in Nebraska where they loved, laughed and supported each other 58 years. This year would have been their 98th anniversary.
How does love find us? Love finds a way.
2009 Red Convertible Travel Series