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The Bark Covered House
Chapter 24. Light Begins to Dawn


FATHER'S farm improved with astonishing rapidity and became quite a pleasant place. Some of the stumps rotted out, some we tore out and some were burned up. In these ways many had disappeared and it began to look like old land. It was rich and productive and, in truth, it looked as level as a house floor. Some seasons it was rather wet, not being ditched sufficiently to take the water off. Yet father raised large crops of corn, potatoes, oats and wheat. Wheat grew very large but sometimes run too much to straw; some seasons, rust would strike it and then the grain would shrink, but as that land gets older, and the more the clay is worked up with the soil, the better wheat it raises. In my opinion it will be as good wheat land as the oak openings or prairies of the West for all time to come.

Father built him a good frame barn and was getting along well. He bought him a nice pair of black horses which proved to be very good and serviceable. It began to seem like home to mother. She too possessed very good conversational powers. Her conversation was always accompanied with a style of frankness and goodness, peculiar to herself, which gained many friends, who became warmly attached to her, enjoyed her hospitality, witnessed her good cheer, as they gathered around her board and enjoyed luxuries, which in some of the years past we had not been able to procure. The learned and illiterate, the rich and the poor, shared alike her hospitality. No one ever asked for bread, at her door, who was refused, if she had it, even to the poor Indian. We had many corners and goers, and I think there were but few in the town of Dearborn who had more friends than father and mother.

Several years after we planted the first thirteen apple trees, father set out a little orchard of fifty trees, west of them. Some of these proved to be very good fruit and supplied us with better apples, of our own raising, (and in fact some earlier apples) than we had been used to getting from along the Rouge. Then it could be said of us that we sat under our own vine and apple tree and ate the fruit of our hands, without any one to molest us or make us afraid. And, it could be said of father, that he made the place, where the wilderness stood, to blossom as the rose. Everything seemed to work together for our good and all nature seemed more cheerful.

The evening breeze that kissed the rose and made the morning glory (that grew by our window) unfold its robe, so that it would be ready in the morning to display its beauty, and caused the sunflower, aided by the evening dew, to change its face so that it would be ready to look toward the sun, bore away on its wings, over the fields, the fragrance of the rose and the joyful songs of civilization. In the stillness of the beautiful evenings the air, under the starry canopy of heaven was made vocal with the songs and tunes of other days, which had been learned and sung oftimes before in a native land nearly eight hundred miles away.

Now the pioneer felt himself safe. He could retire to his bed, in his log house, and quietly rest in sleep, without dreaming any more of the red man's approach, or having by his own strong arm, to defend his family. Now he need have no fear of Mr. Bruin entering his pig pen and carrying off his pig, as he did ours one night some years before. He tore the hog so badly that it died, although it was rescued by father and his dog. The bear escaped to the woods. Now how changed the scene with us. We could retire and sleep soundly; feeling as secure as if we had gone to bed way down in the State of New York. We could leave the leather string of the door latch hanging out for any one to enter, as nearly all the earls' settlers were friends. The ax was now left stuck in the wood block on the wood pile. The rifle hung in its hooks, not to be disturbed. In other nights, of our first settlement, father did not feel safe; the string of the door latch was taken in, the door was fastened and blockaded on the inside, his ax and rifle were placed with care back of the curtains, at the head of his bed. None of us knew what might happen before the light of another morning, for we were in a wilderness land and neighbors were far apart. How different a few years have made it! Now nature seems to smile upon us and the evening, when it comes in its beauty, seems to offer us quiet and repose, rest and security. Now when nature puts on her sable habiliments of night, the blue canopy was covered with stars, that glistened and shone in their glory, as they looked down upon us and seemed to witness our prosperity. How they illumined our beautiful spring nights! The beautiful feathered songsters, that had returned from the south, warbled their songs in our ears anew and seemed to exert themselves, to make their notes clear, and let us know they had come. The little grey phebe-birds, the robins and the blue birds were the first harbingers of spring. As night put on its shade their little notes were hushed in the darkness, then the whip-poor-will took up the strain. He would come, circle around and over our house and door yard and then light down. He too came to visit us, he had found our place again. In fact, he found us every spring after we settled in Michigan, and cut out a little hole in the woods. At first his song seemed to be "whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will;" then, by listening, it could be made out to say, "good-will, good-will." In later years, by the aid of imagination, his notes were interpreted, "peace and plenty, peace and plenty." But, whatever we might imagine him to say, his song was always the same. He was a welcome visitor and songster, and his appearance in spring was always hailed with joy.

Sometimes I would rise early in the morning and go out of the door just at daylight. I could hear the notes of the little songsters, just waking, singing their first songs of the morning. I would listen to see If I could hear the gobbling of the wild turkeys. I hardly ever failed to hear them, sometimes in different directions. I frequently could hear two or three at once. The old gobblers commonly selected the largest trees, in the thickest woods, with limbs high up, for their roosts and as soon as it came daylight, in the east, they would be up strutting and gobbling.

They could be heard, in a still morning, for a mile or two. The gobbling of the turkey, the drumming of the partridge upon his log, the crowing of our and the neighbors' roosters and the noise of woodpeckers pounding the tops of old trees, were the principal sounds I could hear when I set out with my ride in hand. I made my way through the prickly ash brush, sometimes getting my clothes torn and my hands and face scratched, when going into the dark woods in the early morning. I went for the nearest turkey that I heard, often wading through the water knee deep, the woods being nearly always wet in the spring.

The turkey did not happen to be too far off and I got near it, before it was light, and got my eye on it, before it saw me and flew away, I would crawl up, and get behind some tree that came in range between me and it so that it could not see me. I had to be careful not to step on a stick, as the breaking of a stick or any noise that I was liable to make would scare the turkey away. If I had the good luck to get up to that tree without his discovering me, I would sit or stand by it and look with one eye at the old turkey as he gobbled, strutted, spread his wings then drew them on the limb where he stood and turned himself around to listen and see if there was anything new for him to gobble at. If he heard the distant woodpecker, pounding away with his beak, on the old hollow top, he would stretch up his neck and gobble again as cheerfully as before. Then I would put my rifle up aside the tree to see if it was light enough for me to see the sights on it. If it was not I would have to take it down and wait a few minutes for it to get lighter.

I felt very uneasy and impatient, while waiting, and wanted to take that turkey, by the legs, and carry him home over my shoulder. When it was light enough so I thought it was dangerous to wait, as the turkey might discover me or fly off his perch then I would draw up my rifle, by the side of the tree, and shoot at him. Sometimes the old turkey would retain all his feathers, fly away and leave me, to wade back to the house, thinking to myself I had had a hard job for nothing. The great trouble in shooting wild turkeys on the roosts, in the spring of the ear and in the early morning, is in not being able to see the sights on the rifle plain enough. Of course, I was sometimes rewarded, for my earls' rising and wet feet, by a nice turkey to take home to father and mother for dinner.

This style of hunting for the wild turkeys was known by the settlers in an early day. Another way I had of capturing the turkeys by shooting them, was by the use of a small instrument that I almost always carried in ins' vest pocket when in the woods. It was made from the hollow bone of a turkey's wing. I called it a turkey call. By holding the end of my hand and sucking it right, it would make a noise, or squeak, very similar to the turkey's voice. Sometimes, when I heard one gobbling in the woods, I would go as near as I could, and not let him see me, and hide myself behind an old log, or root, where a tree had been blown down, take the hollow bone out of my pocket and call. I have seen them come up on the run, sometimes one, at other times more. While lying in ambush once I shot two, at the same time, with one rifle bullet and got them both.

I have often shot at a flock, in the woods. They would scatter and fly in all directions. I would run ahead, near where I thought they lighted, hide and call. If a lone turkey heard the shrill note, he would answer and was easily decoyed up to me. In this way I was very sure to get him.

Father made one of the luckiest shots at wild turkeys of which I ever knew. They had a notion of coming into his buckwheat field and filling their crops with buckwheat, sometimes two or three times a day. Father discovered them in the field; he vent away round and approached them from the woods, on the back side of the field, where they came in. The turkeys discovered him through the brush and fence and huddled up, with their heads together. He said they were just getting ready to fly. He shot amongst them, with a shot gun, and killed four at once. There are at the present time, 1875, scattering wild turkeys in the town of Dearborn, but they have mostly disappeared. Tame turkeys, in abundance, have long since taken their place.


 


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