Authors: Katie Crabapple
By Katie Crabapple
Copyright 2012 by Katie Crabapple
Cover Design by Jack Martin at Gossamer Publishing, LLC
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each reader. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to
the website it came from and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Patience is a schoolteacher on the Minnesota Prairie in 1893. She loves her job, but when she has to confront the single father of one of her students about his lack of interest in learning, she’s left feeling angry. When the two are stuck together in a freak snowstorm in the schoolhouse with Patience’s students, they each learn there’s a lot more to the other than meets the eye.
Patience forced her gaze away from the schoolhouse window. She was worse than her students
sometimes. She had a bad case of spring fever and wanted nothing more than to walk home through the fields of flowers. Minnesota winters were harsh and difficult, but now she was on the far side of winter, she knew it was all worth it, because Minnesota in the spring was one of the most beautiful places on God’s Earth.
Patience was twenty, and it was her third year teaching school in the small schoolhouse where she’d attended school from the age of nine on
. Five of her sixteen students were her younger brothers and sisters. Her two oldest brothers had finished school and were helping their papa on the farm until they had enough money saved to be able to buy farms of their own.
Seven of her other students were children of close family friends. Only four students weren’t people she had dinner with at least once per month, and three of them she’d known their entire lives. Charlie was the odd man out, having only moved to their community a few months before.
They were too far from town to be able to go to the town school easily, so the farmers in the area had gotten together eleven years before and built their own schoolhouse. Because the school was so small, the pay was low, and the different families had taken turns boarding the teacher. When Patience had been old enough, and had passed the teacher’s exam, the families were thrilled to have her. It made things simpler than having to find a new teacher each time someone got tired of the remote location.
“Charlie, you need to sit still and study your spelling.” She sighed. Charlie had been a problem since the first day he’d come to school there. He didn’t have a mother, and Patience was sure that was why he was always getting into mischief. Just yesterday he had thrown mud at several of the girls during recess. He was only seven, but she
was worried he was going to be a real troublemaker as he got older.
Charlie sighed heavily. “My pa says spelling don’t help none with farmin’. He said the cows and wheat don’t care how you spell.”
Patience counted to ten, trying to live up to her name, not letting herself worry about his grammar as she was trying to correct his behavior. “Maybe the cows and wheat don’t care how you spell, but when you have to write a letter about the cows and wheat, I guarantee whomever the letter is for will care. Now, please sit quietly and study your spelling.”
Frank, her youngest brother at seven
, who was in his first year of school raised his hand. “Patience? I mean, Miss Stevens? May I please get a drink of water?” Frank was dark haired like their mama, and he fought to be good during school. He’d rather be out running around or even helping their papa in the fields.
Patience nodded. It had been a fight since day one to get her younger siblings to remember to call her Miss Stevens at school. Grace was doing well, but she was
fifteen, and almost finished with school. The twins, Danny and Faith, were twelve, and Eddie was ten. There were eight children in her family and her mama had always handled everything with a smile. In Patience’s mind her mother was a saint.
She glanced at the clock on her desk. Only thirty minutes to go and then she had the weekend ahead of her. She was working on a dress for the
upcoming church social, and would spend most of the weekend on it when she wasn’t helping her mama with the household chores.
She called the first spelling class to the front of the room for recitations. The first class consisted of only two students, Frank and Charlie. As usual, Frank had diligently learned every word from his lesson, and Charlie misspelled all but three. “Charlie, you know you need to learn these words or I have to punish you. Go to the board and write each of the words you missed five times.”
She hated punishing the children in her class, but Charlie had not learned even half of his words once this week.
Charlie dragged his feet as he went to the front. He wasn’t a bad child, just boisterous, and he hated having to learn anything. He thought he should be able to stay home with his father all day and do whatever he wanted. She knew she needed to have a talk with his father when he walked over to get him that afternoon. The
schoolhouse was on the border of the Walkers’ land, and Mr. Walker made sure to walk over to get Charlie every afternoon.
The Walkers had only lived in their community for a couple of months, and Patience hadn’t had time to get to know them well. Sure, she saw them at church every Sunday, but she did her best to just be another member of the congregation and not the schoolteacher at church.
It would have been much easier to use the socialization time before and after church to talk to the parents of her students, but she felt the need to keep her job and her worship separate.
She dismissed school right on time, and saw Charlie dash toward the door. “Charlie! You’re not finished. You may stay after school until you’ve finished copying all of your words.”
Although she worded it as a request, he knew it was a command.
Charlie glared at her, but did as he was told. Patience waited at the door hoping to see Mr. Walker so she could talk to him about the situation with his son. She realized then she’d never had a conversation with the man, but she really needed to.
Charlie’s dark haired father stood off to the side while all the children ran toward their homes and watched for his son. “Mr. Walker? May I have a word with you, please?” She did her best to use her calm schoolteacher voice, but it was obvious by the way his face changed he knew there was a problem with Charlie.
Hugh Walker folded his arms across his chest and looked down his nose at the young schoolteacher. He really didn’t want to hear whatever it was she had to say. He’d had plenty of complaints about the way his son behaved in other situations, and had been waiting to hear what the prissy young schoolmarm would say about his boy. “Yeah?”
Patience looked over her shoulder to make sure Charlie was still working on writing his spelling words on the blackboard, and then stepped outside with Mr. Walker. “I’m having some trouble with Charlie. He seems to think he shouldn’t have to learn to spell or really to learn anything, because he’s going to be a farmer like you.” Her voice was earnest as she sought help from the boy’s father. They needed to work together as a team to get Charlie to see how he should be behaving in class.
“You got something against farmers?” Mr. Walker’s deep voice was little more than a rumble from his chest. He was clearly annoyed with her, and she had no idea what she’d done to upset him.
“Of course not! My father and brothers are farmers. I’ve grown up in a farming community and have a great respect for farmers. But Charlie needs to understand farmers need to have an education just like everyone else.”
“How does book
learnin’ help a farmer? I don’t sit and read to my cows.”
Now it was obvious where Charlie got his bad attitude about school from. “But you need to know math to know how many bushels of wheat you’re selling. You need to be able to figure a budget to know how much you can spend on corn seed. You need to know how much food your animals will eat through a long winter. When you sell your crop, you need to be able to read to know what you’re signing when you sign a contract.”
He simply shrugged. “What exactly is the problem?”
His brown eyes stared into her blue as if he was daring her to complain about his son.
“Charlie is refusing to learn to spell. He says the cows don’t care whether or not he can spell, so it doesn’t matter if he knows how. He says the only thing that really matters is whether or not he’s strong enough to do the work, so he shouldn’t be sitting in a classroom all day.”
She took a deep breath, doing her best to remain calm. “I would appreciate it if you would speak to him about how important an education is.”
“Is my boy causing problems?”
“Other than fidgeting and distracting the other students and not knowing his answers when called to recite, no, but he is a distraction with his attitude.” She wasn’t worried about the pranks in the schoolyard. They were just for fun and all the boys went through a phase where they tormented the girls.
“I guess that’s your problem then,
Patience closed her eyes and mentally recited the fruits of the spirit from Galati
ans chapter five. She found it better than counting to ten, and emphasized temperance in her mind. “I was hoping we could work together to get him to apply himself more to his schoolwork.” She paused for a moment. “I know he doesn’t have a mother, and that’s probably making it harder for him.”
“The boy’s mother is no business of yours.”
Mr. Walker’s voice had been challenging and slightly amused up until that point. It turned icy at the mention of Charlie’s mother.
“What happened to her?” Patience asked the question softly. She’d lost her own mother at six, and knew how hard it was. Thankfully, her father had married Millie, her mama
, when she was seven, and she hadn’t had to grow up without a mother. She couldn’t imagine where she’d be now, without her sweet mother’s influence.
“She’s gone. You don’t need to know anything more.” He looked around. “Where is my boy anyway?”
It was plain to Patience he was through listening and was ready to take his boy home.
She looked at the ground, sad that he’d responded so poorly to her questions about Charlie’s m
other. “He’s copying the spelling words he missed onto the blackboard as punishment for not studying.” Her voice was weary by this point because it was obvious there was nothing she could do to get through to this belligerent man.
Mr. Walker’s eyes widened with rage. “You have no right to punish my boy. You’re his teacher. Nothing more.” He strode into the schoolhouse calling Charlie. “Let’s go, boy.”
Patience clenched her fists in fury. How could any man care so little for his son’s education? What was wrong with him? She was so angry she wished she had something at hand to throw at his head. She bit back the retort she’d wanted to make, and softly said, “I’ll pray for you.”
Mr. Walker laughed harshly. “You’ll pray I get kicked by a mule, maybe.” He took his son’s hand in his, and they walked toward their farm. Patience watched them until they disappeared from sight.
She kicked the step on the schoolhouse, wishing it was Mr. Walker’s backside, but only succeeded in hurting her toe.
She bowed her head and prayed for patience in dealing with Mr. Walker.
She went back into the schoolhouse and noted Charlie hadn’t written another word since she’d stepped outside to talk to his father. She erased the board and picked up her lunch pail. Usually her younger siblings waited to walk home with her, but it was Friday and she’d had to stay late, so they’d obviously gone on without her.
Her enjoyment of the beautiful spring day was quenched by the anger she’d seen on Mr. Walker’s face. Why couldn’t he see she only wanted what was best for his son? Through the entire mile walk back to her parents’ farm,
she grumbled under her breath, ignoring the beauty around her she’d been so anxious to see just a short time before as she stared out the window of the schoolhouse.