The road that led to Kate Bradshaw's door sometimes seemed the loneliest in the world. In the depths of the Depression, the young widow was struggling to hold on to the family farm and raise two small children. And she had only her faith to sustain her--until the day Hatcher Jones came walking up that long, lonely road.The handsome, mysterious drifter was clearly haunted by some terrible secret from his past. But the simple acts of kindness he showed Kate and her children spoke of a good heart and strong values. And she longed to make him see that there could be redemption for anyone, even him--and that all his wandering had brought him home at last.
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May 12, 2008
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Excerpt from The Road to Love by Linda Ford
The windmill stood tall and stately like a prairie lighthouse.
Kate Bradshaw shivered. She would sooner walk barefoot through a thistle patch than have to climb up there and grease the gears. But she had no choice. They must have water. She shuddered to think what would happen if the windmill quit and edged toward the ladder.
God willing, the drought would end soon, but the drifts of dust along the fence line reminded her how dry last year had been--and the two before that. She prayed the hint of spring green in the trees promised a better year ahead.
She'd put off the task as long as she could, hoping a friendly neighbor might happen by and offer to mount that high ladder and perform the dreaded task. None had.
The only sign she saw of another soul besides her children was a thin twist of smoke rising from inside the circle of trees across the road.
Another tramp, she suspected. One who preferred his own company to hanging about with the bunch near the tracks. Wandering men were a sign of the times. The crash and the drought had left hundreds of men unemployed. Homeless. Desperate.
"Momma, hurry up. I want to see you do it." Dougie, her son, just barely seven, seemed to think everything was an adventure. He didn't understand the meaning of the word caution.
Which gave Kate plenty of reason to worry about him. More than enough dangers lurked about the farm. Yet she smiled at her young son, loving every inch of him. He possessed her brown eyes and brown hair but looked like his father. He'd grow into a handsome man.
Mary, her blue eyes wide as dinner plates, tugged at Kate's arm. "Momma, don't. I'm scared." A tear surfaced in the corner of each eye, hung there a moment then made parallel tracks down Mary's cheeks.
Kate sighed. This child, her firstborn, a fragile nine-year-old, feared everything. The animals. The machinery. The sounds in the night. The wind. If it had been the roaring, moaning wind that shook the house, Kate could have understood. But Mary hated even the soothing, gentle wind, as much as she did the distant cry of coyotes, lonely and forlorn for sure, but never scary. Mary would never admit it to her mother, but Kate felt certain her daughter feared her own shadow. Even as she wiped the tears from Mary's face, she shoved back the impatience this child's weakness triggered in her. And wondered how such a child could be flesh of her flesh, how two such different children could have both sprung from the same union, the same loins.
She patted Mary's blond head. "I have to, unless we want the whole thing to break down."
Dougie bounced up and down, barely able to contain his excitement. "I can help you." He headed for the ladder.
More out of protective instinct than necessity Kate lurched after him. Thankfully, she knew, he was too short to reach the bottom bar.
At her brother's boldness, Mary wailed like a lost lamb.
"Dougie, stay back," Kate said. "I'll do it. It's not such a big job.Your poppa did it all the time. Don't you remember?"
"No." Dougie's smile faded. His eyes clouded momentarily.
Mary's eyes dried as she proudly recalled having seen her father climb the windmill many times. "I was never scared when Poppa did it," she added.
Kate ached for her daughter. No doubt some of Mary's fears stemmed from losing the father she adored. Her daughter's screaming night terrors pained Kate almost as much as the loss of her husband. Hiding her own fears seemed the best way to help the child see how to face difficult situations so Kate adjusted the pair of overalls she had donned and marched to the windmill, grabbed the first metal rung and pulled herself up. One bar at a time. Don't look down. Don't think how far it is to the top. Or the bottom.
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.
The metal bit into her palms.
She hated the feeling that headed for the pit of her stomach as she inched upward, and continued as though the bottom had fallen out of her insides. But she had to ignore her fear and do this task.
She paused at the platform, loathing the next part most of all. Once she stood on the narrow wooden ledge...
Now was not the time to remember how Mr. Martin fell off while greasing his windmill and killed himself. She would not imagine the sound his body made landing far below.
A crow cawed mockingly as it passed overhead.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside still waters.