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108 pages
Library of Alexandria
Bill Pippinger was counted to be as good a neighbor, as bountiful a provider and as kind a husband and father as was to be found in the whole of Scott County, Kentucky, according to local standards of goodness, kindness and bountifulness. He had never been known to refuse a neighbor the loan of anything that he owned, from his pocket knife to his team of mules. He was prompt with neighborly assistance whenever there was any big job to be done, such as a smokehouse to move or a hog to butcher. If he saw his neighbor's ox or his ass fallen down by the way, he heeded the Bible injunction, of which he had never heard, not to hide himself from them, but surely to help his brother to lift them up again. And if he saw his brother's ox or his sheep go astray, he brought them again unto his brother; for he was one of the few strictly honest farmers in Scott County. Unlike most of his neighbors, too, he was a man of peace. He never sought a quarrel and always avoided one if possible. He had never in his life pulled a gun on a man, an unusual record for a native of rural Kentucky, brought up from boyhood in the time-honored tradition that the pulling of guns is a manly sport. His wife had little cause for complaint against him, for he hardly ever got drunk oftener than once a month at the Georgetown Court Day. He saw to it that there was always, or at least nearly always, at least one fat hog in the pen waiting to be butchered at Thanksgiving or Christmas. He aimed every spring to raise enough corn so that there would be plenty to feed the hens, to fatten his hog or hogs and to furnish material for the daily cornmeal cakes until next season's crop came on. If Bill did not always succeed in this laudable endeavor, the blame was not laid at his door by his neighbors and certainly not by himself. If there came a dry spell that withered up the corn just as it was filling out in the ear, it wasn't Bill's fault. And if a rainy season set in and kept the ground so wet that he couldn't get into the patch with a cultivator, it was none of his doing if the weeds grew so fast that they soon overtopped the corn. Bill was not the inventor of weeds nor of their nefarious habit of growing faster than corn. Under such circumstances reflections like this gave him much peace of mind and spiritual comfort. There was considerable satisfaction in being able to shift the blame onto the Almighty; and there was still further repose of spirit in the thought that no effort of his own weak, human frame could undo the damage done by the will of that all-powerful being. If the corn crop was light, it was light, and that was all there was to it; and there would be that much less corn to shuck out and that much less fodder to haul in. There were of course other matters pertaining to the farm over which Bill could exercise more control than he did over the rain supply. On these latter his mind could not repose with the same peaceful abandon; hence he did not concentrate upon them. The fences that needed mending, the manure that ought to be hauled out, the brush that should be cut out of his pasture to give the grass a chance to grow: these things preyed more or less upon Bill's mind, but he did not allow them to annoy him too constantly. After all, he told himself, there was just so much that one man could do on a place. A man couldn't be hauling out manure and cutting brush and mending fence all at the same time; and there was no use in worrying because everything was not kept up to the top notch. Besides, a fellow had to have a little rest now and then and a chance to visit with his neighbors, or what use to be alive at all?