The Sandman: His Farm Stories  by Willliam J. Hopkins

The Oxen Story

dropcap image NCE upon a time there was a farm-house, and it was painted white and had green blinds, and it stood not far from the road. And in the fence was a wide gate to let the wagons through to the barn. And the wagons, going through, had made a track that led up past the kitchen door and past the shed and past the barn and past the orchard to the wheat-field.


Not far from the kitchen door was a well, with a bucket tied by a rope to the end of a great long pole. And when they wanted water, they let the bucket down into the well and pulled it up full of water. They used this water to drink, and to wash faces and hands, and to wash the dishes; but it wasn't good to wash clothes, because it wouldn't make good soap-suds. To get water to wash the clothes, they had a great enormous hogshead at the corner of the house. And when it rained, the rain fell on the roof, and ran down the roof to the gutter, and ran down the gutter to the spout, and ran down the spout to the hogshead. And when they wanted water to wash the clothes, they took some of the water out of the hogshead.


But when it had not rained for a long time, there was no water in the hogshead. Then they got out the drag and put a barrel on it, and the old oxen came out from the barn, and put their heads down low; and Uncle John put the yoke over their necks, and put the bows under and fastened them, and hooked the chain of the drag to the yoke. There wasn't any harness, and there weren't any reins. Then he said "Gee up there, Buck; gee up there, Star." And the old oxen started walking slowly along, dragging the drag, with the barrel on it, along the ground. And Uncle John walked along beside them, carrying a long whip or a long stick with a sharp end; and little John walked along by the drag.


And they walked slowly out of the yard into the road and along the road until they came to a big field with a stone wall around it, and a big gate in the stone wall. It wasn't a regular gate, but at each side of the open place in the wall there was a post with holes in it. And long bars went across and rested in the holes. And the old oxen stopped, and Uncle John took the bars down and laid them on the ground. Then the oxen started and walked through the gate and across the field until they came to the river. And when they came to the river, they stopped.

The little river and the field are not there now, because the people put a great enormous heap of dirt across, and the river couldn't get through. The water ran in and couldn't get out, and spread out all over the field and made a big pond. And they had some great pipes under the ground, all the way to Boston. And the water runs through the pipes to Boston, and the people use it there to drink, and wash faces and hands, and wash dishes, and wash clothes.

Well, when the old oxen stopped at the river, Uncle John took his bucket and dipped it in the river, and poured the water into the barrel until the barrel was full. Then he said "Gee up there," and the old oxen started slowly walking across the field. And the drag tilted around on the rough ground, and the water splashed about in the barrel, and slopped over the top of the barrel on to the drag, and on to the ground. And the oxen walked out of the gate into the road and stopped. And Uncle John put the bars back into the holes, and the old oxen started again and walked slowly along the road, until they came to the farm-house, and in at the big gate, and up to the kitchen door, and there they stopped. And Uncle John unhooked the chain from the yoke, and took out the bows, and took off the yoke, and the old oxen walked into the barn and went to sleep. And they left the drag with the barrel of water by the kitchen door.

And the next morning, when they wanted water to wash the clothes, there was the barrel of water, all ready.

And that's all.