A chicken coop. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There were no clouds in the sky. The sun was boldly shining down on their already tanned bodies. No breezes coming from either direction from the world, and it was only nine in the morning.
Martha had been up since dawn. After waking her oldest child, she sent him, Luke, out to the wood pile to bring in fresh wood. With the wood she placed it in the wood stove and lit it, waiting for it to burn down to the right heat so she could start breakfast.
After getting the stove started, she and Luke went to the chicken coop and gathered enough eggs for their breakfast. Luke then continued on to the smoke house and pulled down a hanging ham, and brought it in to his mama. By the time they had performed these two activities, the stove was ready to use.
While Martha prepared breakfast, Luke went to the back of the house, and in one of the bedrooms, lie sleeping the other two children. He woke Annie and Laura up and helped them to get dressed. He brought them to the kitchen and from a heated pan of water, he took a clean towel and washed both of their faces and then ran the wet towel through each of their hair. He brushed each head and then proceeded to braid their hair and pin it with a bobby pin on top of their head.
Breakfast was ready then. They all sat together, Luke waiting for mama and the girls to sit first. He was the man of the house, after their papa had been sold two months prior. Luke had been taught respect and he knew that he needed to sit last. They all held hands and together said a morning prayer, that had become a ritual. Even Laura and Annie knew most of it by heart. After the prayer, each one was given the chance to pray for someone or to ask God for favor for others and themselves. After each Amen was said aloud, they dug in to breakfast. There was no throwing anything away afterwards, as the plates looked like they had never been used.
Luke took the girls outside, while Martha cleaned up the kitchen. She took her worn picnic basket and filled it with more ham and home-made biscuits from the previous nights supper. She tied her bonnet on, and carried two more bonnets and the picnic basket outside. She and Luke tied the bonnets on the girls to protect their eyes from the sun and also not to burn their skin.
It was a daily ritual that each morning they went to the fields to pick crops. The walk they took to get to the fields seemed long with the sun beating down on them. Martha wasn’t sure but she thought it was about a mile to the nearest crop.
Mama found a lonely shade tree near by, and placed the girls under it, and she and Luke went to work. Every once in a while, a wagon would pass by and hand them a dirty jug filled with water. Each of this family partook in quenching their thirst. After the wagon passed on, the workers would go back to work, and if they were lucky, they could sneak in a short conversation with other workers.
At lunch time, the wagon came by once again, and picked up the old jug and replaced it with a new jug of water. All workers were allowed one-half hour break for lunch. Martha walked over to where her children were playing. They entertained themselves quite well. Inside the picnic basket Martha had placed two withered cloth dolls, and this kept the girls happy. They also tried to catch bugs and butterflies. They all sat under the tree and ate the basket of goodies Martha had packed.
Tummies full, and break time over, Luke laid the girls down for their naps. Martha and Luke went back to work, and the girls slept. About mid afternoon, another wagon came by, but this was not the water wagon, this was one of the boss’s hands. He motioned to Martha to come with him. She knew what this was all about, so she told Luke to continue working and to keep an eye on his sisters.
She climbed into the wagon, and met with the owner of the plantation, and had a visit in his private quarters for a short while. When he was finished with her, he motioned for her to leave with no good-byes or any words having been spoken. She didn’t hesitate, and she turned around and walked out of the door. She knew this was part of not only hers, but many other women’s jobs here in the fields.
When she got back, Luke went to her and asked her if she was alright. Although, he was her oldest, he was still a young lad, but he knew what had happened and he knew how things worked in their lives. If you wanted to remain where you were, and keep the family together as much as possible, you followed the rules, and you ask God for forgiveness for the deeds that needed to be performed.
At five-thirty a third wagon came by letting them know that they were done for the day. Martha and Luke gathered the girls and the basket and made their way home to prepare supper and do the evening chores. This was their routine each day and by dark all were asleep, dreaming of better days.