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Kaye stood against the white board fence looking across the acreage that belonged to her grandparents. The meadow was thick with bluegrass and more perfect than most people's lawns. It rolled down to a bubbly little brook, full of pebbles and stones worn smooth from the passing of water and time.
The big bay mare and Grandma Katie's prize Tennessee Walker came slowly out of the wooded area beyond the brook. They lowered their heads and drank. To Kaye it seemed like watching a movie with no sound. She whistled and the horses lifted their heads. Kaye whistled again and both horses waded the brook and walked slowly in her direction.
Like so many other things on the old homestead, Lady Red and Sugar had seen better days. Now they were old and stately, like her grandparents. They could still perform their duties, just not with as much bounce and vigor as when she was a small child visiting the farm.
The Mason farm was a good place where much of the history of the family had taken place. It was also a quiet place, nice to come to for some soul searching.
The Mason family had shared so many things on this farm. Besides the hard work, there were all the things that so many families face, all the hard times and the good times, the successes and the failures. There had been many shared years of love, patience, understanding, frustrations, and a lot of caring for each other. They had been a family that had supported each other through it all, the good and the bad.
Kaye had come here to try and find her roots, to get her feet back on the ground, and to restore the values she had always kept so faithfully. Life seemed so simple here. Was it really a simple life, or did these people have a quality for running things smoothly that she did not possess?
Here there were chores, almost on a timed schedule. These were daily demands that had to be met or else the livestock died and the crops were sparse. Though simple, it was a really demanding life—yet no one seemed to mind. It went on day-to-day and the people went on day-to-day, but not a thing or anyone seemed any different any day. All was smooth and rhythmic.
Life was loved here. Love was life here. Love of the livestock, the crops, the house, love for each other was the job of these people, and it came naturally to them. They didn't have to take classes to learn to communicate. This was what they wanted to do and to be and there were no questions to be asked, nothing to accept.
The horses were snorting while waiting for Kaye to open the gate releasing them from the meadow. They walked lazily through, and waited for Kaye as she slid the heavy board into the worn wooded slot on the gatepost.
"Never leave a gate open," her grandfather always warned. "It can mean a loss of a lot of time, and animals can find so much mischief when they know they are in a place where they aren't supposed to be."
When Kaye turned around, the two horses were watching her as if expecting something Kaye had not given. "I can remember when turning you two loose from the meadow was followed by a romp to the barn. It's oat time, or corn time, or something. Don't you care? Well, we are expected back at the barn, ladies, let's get a move on." The two old mares followed Kaye slowly back to the barn.
"What kept you, Kaye? All the other animals are fed and Grandma's waiting supper on us."
"These two dears have four legs, Grandpa, and I only have two. It just takes them a little longer to get all theirs moving."
Roth Mason smiled. He'd always found it hard to be upset with this little grandchild of his. She was no longer a child, though, and she was so different, this young lady who was spending a week of her time with them.
He was worried but was never a man to pry. "If Kaye has something to say, she will, in her own good time, say it." He had told Katie. Oddly enough his wife agreed not to question Kaye about the sad eyes and the sighs. Outside of Roth, Katie's children and grandchildren were the deepest concerns in her life. The fact that Katie and Roth were bound together in this silent situation over Kaye seemed to draw them even more closely to one another.
"You go on and wash up, Kaye. Keep Katie company 'til I finish with Sugar and Lady Red."
Kaye turned and started for the big house. She suddenly had an urge to skip. Grandpa will think I am crazy if he sees me, she thought. She turned and looked back at the barn. Roth Mason had disappeared inside to put the horses in their stalls. Kaye looked at the rest of the path to the house. It was well worn, flat and smooth, clear of anything that might cause her to fall. All at once, she gave in, and started at a fast skip toward the dignified old home.
"Well, for goodness sakes, Kaye." Grandma Katie was talking more to herself than to Kaye, for Kaye was only halfway to the house when she saw her skipping. She wondered what Kaye's reaction would be to the letter the tenant hand had brought for her when he brought the mail back from the box earlier. Grandma Katie decided to put it away until after dinner.
She opened the farmhouse door for Kaye. Kaye looked at her and broke into a laugh.
"Oh, Grandma! You were watching me!"
"I had been more accustomed to you wearing braids when you skipped, but maybe I'll adjust."
"Adjust, that's a big word isn't it, Grandma?"
"Well, it can be, Kaye. Maybe if you tell me what you mean by that, I could answer your question a bit better."
"Oh, nothing, Grandma. I guess I am just rattling on. Is supper ready yet?"
"Yes. It's waiting on you and Roth."
"Well, he'll be here as soon as he finishes with Lady Red and Sugar. Is there anything I can help you with?"
"As a matter of fact, you could stop all this gibber and wash up. You can help with dishes later. Tom Scott is coming by to talk to your Grandfather about trading out some crops and equipment, and I don't want to be doing dishes when he comes."
Kaye went into the dining room and noticed the table was set, but not for dinner, more for coffee. She went on into the kitchen where the washroom, as it was called, was located. The kitchen table was set and laden with food and some glorious aroma was seeping from the oven.
Kaye washed her hands and face, and brushed her hair. She hadn't worn make-up for days, so to keep in practice, she put on eyeliner and a touch of mascara. She didn't bother with a liquid base or powder. She hated them anyway and seldom used any. Her complexion was nice and she saw no reason to cover it with anything artificial. A light trace of lilac lipstick gave her green eyes a deep glow, and was the right color to accent her ash blond hair.
"Kaye, better not take all night in there or Katie will string us from the rafter."
Grandpa had lost no time in caring for the horses. Dinnertime was a strict ritual, as were all the meals at the Mason farm. Tonight's supper being late was a pressure. Tom Scott's visit could mean relief from the work that Roth had found was becoming increasingly harder each spring. Also, there would be little loss of profits since Tom was planning to maintain a larger acreage than Roth had found himself and his tenant hand able to do.
"Yes, Kaye. What is it?"
"That wouldn't be one of those marvelously fattening desserts I smell, would it?"
"It would, and don't you save room for it at supper. We're having it with Tom when he comes. It's a blueberry, and it's got to have time to cool. You need to eat some good food. I've never seen you so thin. You are going to blow away with the wind."
"Grandma, I think you've made it your mission in life to have an over-weight family."
"This Tom Scott must be highly in your favor. If I remember, your homemade blueberries are only made for special people. The apple crisps are for special occasions."
"So, Scott is favored enough to get the blueberry? I have to watch her and Tom Scott every second they are near each other," interrupted Roth.
"Roth, how dare you," Katie said defensively.
"Why, Scott threatens to carry her off ever time he comes around."
"Now you're really teasing," Katie defended.
"You know what's the worse thing, Kaye? I believe she'd go and he wouldn't have to carry her, if he'd just ask."
"Roth Mason, if I hear another word from you, so help me, I'll cut you a piece of pie so thin you'll have trouble seeing it!" Katie threatened.
"Blackmail," accused Roth, with a broad grin.
"Why, you'll have me where I can't look the young man in the face."
"Don't worry, Grandma, your secret's safe with me." Katie's attempt at assuring her Grandmother drew the conversation on Tom Scott to a close. But Katie couldn't help thinking about how much her grandparents must be impressed with this man if they were willing to let him take over any part of their farm, and she knew how badly her grandfather needed relief from the strains of farm life. She began looking forward to the evening. That was something she had not done for several weeks.
Tom Scott released the water from the sink. The pump was working better since he'd worked on it. It might last until fall, and then he could afford a new one. That was if he made the deal with Roth Mason to sharecrop the farm. He would offer his services, and the work of the two men he paid to help him during the summer, in exchange for one-third of the profit he made off the land and the use of the equipment belonging to Mason.
Tom could afford his own equipment if he would use the money left him by his father. But he resented the money almost as much as he resented the memory of his father.
Virgil Scott had never wanted his son to be a farmer. He had hoped Tom would take over the small business that had been the family trade. Tom had other ideas and was devoted to agriculture. His father refused to give him the financial support he needed to get a degree in agriculture, so Tom took a job and attended night courses at the local college.
Only once had he dipped into his inheritance and that was to make the down payment on his farm. He swore then he'd make it on his own from there or not at all.
One of Tom's summer helpers was married and Tom was able to pay his wife a small sum each week for doing the cleaning and his laundry. During the winter he did his own cleaning and took what few things he wanted ironed to a local woman.
He was pretty self-sufficient, except his cooking could stand some improvement. That was another reason for sharecropping with Mason that could be considered a fringe benefit. Katie Mason was the best cook in the whole valley, and she would insist that you eat before you could leave. Not that Tom minded, it was a welcome relief not to have to eat his own cooking.
Frankie, one of Tom's hired hands, met Tom at the door as he was leaving to tell him he'd have to take off half a day tomorrow. He had to go into town and inform the unemployment office that he'd found a temporary summer job. Tom always kept Frankie until the distillery called him in late November, but Frankie had gotten laid off from the distillery in early spring and had to collect unemployment benefits until Tom could take him on. Once the corn crops were harvested, full production would be back up at the distillery and Frankie would return to work there in the fall. Frankie was a valuable hand and Tom needed to go to town for some calf feed and a few groceries. So, he told Frankie it was all right, and he'd be glad to have him ride in with him.
"Thanks, Mr. Scott. I'll do that. You on your way to see Roth Mason?"
"Yes, and I don't want to be late, so I better shove off."
"Well, good luck, Mr. Scott. I know a lot depends on tonight."
"Thanks, Frankie. I'll see you later."
"Yeah, Mr. Scott."
Tom walked over to his truck and took a quick inspection of himself in the side view mirror. He got in, started the motor, and drove away.
Frankie watched him drive off and shook his head. "He's a hell of a good farmer and works himself to death. I can't understand that when he could just live like he wants on his Dad's money."
"He don't want his Dad's money, and he is living like he wants." Frankie was startled, for he had no warning anyone else was near enough to hear him thinking out loud. He turned around and found Jude's wife had spoken to him.
"Lord-a-living, lady! Let somebody know you're around!"
"I jest did!"
"Where'd you come from anyhow?"
"The clothes line. I jest finished hanging up Mr. Scott's washing and I'm on my way to get supper. If you want to eat with us, you be there in half-an-hour 'cause I want to turn in early."
"I'll be there, Miz Effie." Frankie sometimes became irritated at Miz Effie's bossiness. "Old Jude ought to 'a killed that woman years ago," he said when he was sure Miz Effie was out of earshot. He didn't have to wait long, for Miz Effie had been partially deaf for years.
When Tom Scott arrived at the Mason farm he was surprised to see a strange car there, and then he remembered someone saying the Mason's granddaughter was staying with them for a few days. Katie Mason met him at the door and took his jacket. It wasn't warm enough to go without one yet.
"Come in, come in, Tom," Roth Mason extended his hand and pointed to a chair at the same time. "It's good to see you, Tom. You doin' okay?"
"Doing fine, Roth," Tom smiled as he answered. This wasn't going to be so difficult after all. Tom had an idea that Roth Mason had already made up his mind about his competence; he just hoped his offer would be good enough.
"Well, Tom, we know why you're here. Let's get down to business, so we can eat that pie Katie made to celebrate our trade."
"Good, Roth, that's fine and tempting to me." Tom flashed Katie a smile.
"Well, let's see if I can tempt you as well as Katie can. You need equipment and I need help. How much land do you think you can handle on your own?"
"How large is your tobacco base, Roth?"
"I have 20,000 pounds. I raise as much corn as I can, 'cause I deal mostly in beef cattle now, as you know."
"Yes, sir," Tom replied, carefully watching Roth's face, trying to estimate how much he was expected to do for the use of the machinery.
"The amount of corn I've raised lately comes close to seventy acres, and it'll more than get my cattle through the winter. I generally sell a good deal of it. What say you take the half of my corn that was in the lower bottoms. There's more than thirty acres in the upper field. I usually raise tobacco in the field above the barn. If you'll raise all my tobacco, you can have half the profit and I'll pay the costs."
Tom hadn't planned on the extra work of the corn. The tobacco was what he'd expected to be offered. In fact, he never expected Mason to offer anything. He'd expected to offer and let Roth decide if the offer was satisfactory. At least this way he knew what Mason wanted.
Roth offered more of a share on the tobacco than he'd planned. The corn would be a lot of extra work, but it wouldn't be that hard with the equipment needed so handy.
Tom looked at Roth and then extended his right hand. "It's a deal, Mr. Mason."
"Good, Tom, good, but please call me Roth."
They both laughed as they rose to their feet. "Didn't I hear something about a pie a little earlier?" Tom asked.
"You sure did. Roth, you and Tom go in the dining room and have a seat and I'll see if Kaye's got the coffee ready," Katie said, passing between them in the arched door that led from living room to dining room.
"You haven't met Kaye, Tom. She's our only granddaughter," Roth said as he motioned Tom through the door, when Katie had gone.
"No, I knew she was here, someone mentioned it. I forget just who now," Tom said. "How long's she planning on staying?"
"Just as long as we can keep her."
"You enjoy your granddaughter, don't you?"
"Yes, and I have a feeling you might, too, Tom."
Katie came in with the coffee followed by Kaye bearing the biggest pie Tom felt he'd ever seen. He hadn't had homemade pie in a long time. He hadn't seen anything like Kaye Mason in a longer time either. He looked at Roth, winked and said, "You know, you might be right."
"Right about what, Roth?" asked Katie.
"Isn't that like a woman? If there's something she thinks she don't know, heaven help you 'til she finds out." Roth teased his wife with a gentle tap on her bottom.
"Now don't you get fresh with me, Roth Mason, and you still haven't answered my question," Katie returned sharply, but teasingly.
"Well now, that's Tom's and my secret. Isn't that right, Tom?"
Excerpted from Shared Years by Linda Lear Shofner. Copyright © 2013 Linda Lear Shofner. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Chapter 1.................... 3
Chapter 2.................... 9
Chapter 3.................... 12
Chapter 4.................... 16
Chapter 5.................... 22
Chapter 6.................... 41
Chapter 7.................... 46
Chapter 8.................... 55
Chapter 9.................... 59
Chapter 10.................... 61
Chapter 11.................... 64
Chapter 12.................... 71
Chapter 13.................... 75
Chapter 14.................... 76
Chapter 15.................... 78
Chapter 16.................... 79
Chapter 17.................... 80
Chapter 18.................... 82
Chapter 19.................... 89
Chapter 20.................... 93
Chapter 21.................... 98
Chapter 22.................... 102
Chapter 23.................... 105
Chapter 24.................... 107
Chapter 25.................... 111
Chapter 26.................... 115
Chapter 27.................... 117
Chapter 28.................... 120
Chapter 29.................... 124
Chapter 30.................... 127
Chapter 31.................... 135
Chapter 32.................... 144
Chapter 33.................... 152
Chapter 34.................... 163
Chapter 35.................... 176
Chapter 36.................... 178
Chapter 37.................... 188
Chapter 38.................... 192
Chapter 39.................... 204
Chapter 40.................... 214
Chapter 41.................... 220
Discussion Questions.................... 225