The Sandman: More Farm Stories  by Willliam J. Hopkins

The Pea 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. In the fence was a wide gate, to let the wagons through to the barn. And the wagons, going through, had made a little track that led up past the kitchen door and past the shed and past the barn and past the orchard to the wheat-field.

Right in front of the kitchen door, beyond the little track, was a grass place, and beyond that was a stone wall, and the other side of the stone wall was the garden field. The stone wall went along in front of the orchard to the wheat-field, and the garden field was between the orchard and the road. It was a little field, where peas and beans and some other things grew, that the people kept for themselves.

One day, after the winter was over, and the ground was all soft, Uncle John got out the old oxen. They put their heads down low, and he put the yoke over their necks, and the bows under, and he hooked a great chain to the yoke. Then he hooked the other end of the chain to the plough and he took hold of the handles, and the oxen started walking along, slowly, across the little track and across the grass place, and Uncle John held the plough handles so that the plough wouldn't dig in. The oxen walked through the gateway into the garden field, and Uncle John held the handles of the plough so that the plough would dig in. And it dug into the dirt and turned it up and made a furrow. And the oxen walked around the field and around, until the dirt was turned up all over it. Then they walked out of the gateway, and Uncle John held the handles of the plough so that it wouldn't dig in, and the oxen walked across the track to the shed, and there they stopped.

Then Uncle John unhooked the chain from the plough and hooked it to the harrow, and he turned the harrow over on its back. And the oxen walked across the little track to the garden field again. Then Uncle John turned the harrow over so that the little teeth would dig in, and the oxen walked across the field, back and forth, until all the lumps of dirt were broken up fine, ready for things to be planted. Then Uncle John turned the harrow over on its back again, and the oxen walked back, through the gateway, across the grass place and across the little track, to the shed. And Uncle John unhooked the chain from the yoke and took off the yoke, and the oxen walked into the barn and went to sleep. And they left the garden field that way, so that the sunshine and the wind would help to make the dirt all fine and soft.

One morning, after the garden field had been lying for awhile for the sun and the wind to work on it, Uncle John went to the barn and got a bag of peas that hung on a peg in the loft. He had put the peas there the summer before, so that they should be all ready to use for seed. Then he got his hoe and walked over to the garden field, and little John went with him. They walked across the little track and across the grass place and in at the gateway, and Uncle John set the bag of peas down against the wall.

Then Uncle John went to the end of the garden that was nearest the orchard, and he walked across, dragging his hoe, but the hoe was upside down, so that the handle dragged along in the dirt, and made a little shallow trench. And little John walked along behind with the peas. He dropped peas into the little shallow trench, one at a time, and they were pretty near together, about as far apart as the wideness of his hand. And that way he dropped the peas all the way along in the little trench, to the end of it.

While little John was putting the peas in the first trench, Uncle John was making other trenches, the same way he made the first, dragging his hoe along, upside down. And when he had made twelve trenches, he went back to the first one and covered up the peas little John had dropped, pushing the dirt over with the hoe. So little John dropped peas in all the trenches, and Uncle John covered them all up with dirt. And when they were all covered up, Uncle John and little John went away and left them.

Then the rain fell and the sun shone on the ground and warmed the peas and they began to grow. And pretty soon little stems pushed through the dirt, and on each stem were two little leaves, folded together tightly. But when they got out into the sunshine, they unfolded and more leaves grew out and the stems grew higher, and after awhile they were so high that the stems weren't strong enough to stand up straight.

When Uncle John saw that the stems of the peas were leaning over, he went to the shed and got the wheelbarrow. In the corner of the shed was a pile of what looked like little stiff bushes. They were the ends of the branches of trees, all full of stiff twigs, and they were about as tall as little John. These ends of branches they call pea-brush. Uncle John put into the wheelbarrow all the pea-brush it would hold, and he wheeled the wheelbarrow across the little track and across the grass place to the garden field. And he took the pea-brush and stuck it into the ground close beside the peas that were leaning over. And when he had used up all that load, he wheeled the wheelbarrow back to the shed and got another load, and after that another. And little John helped Uncle John put the pea-brush into the wheelbarrow and to take it out again. Then they left the peas to climb up on the brush.

At a good many places on every pea-vine, there were little slim, curly stems that stuck out and felt around like little fingers, to find something to get hold of. And they felt around until they found the twigs of the pea-brush, and they took tight hold and curled around. When they had tight hold, they pulled the vines up, so that they stood up almost straight. And the vines grew longer and more little fingers grew out and got hold of the pea-brush, so that the vines didn't fall over any more. And pretty little flowers came on the vines, all over them.

After awhile, the flowers that came first dropped off, and where they had been were little baby green pods that would have peas in them when they were big enough. And when the first flowers dropped off, new flowers came in other places, and when they dropped off, there were other little pods that had grown inside the flowers. And the pods grew bigger and bigger, and the little peas inside got fatter and fatter, until one day Aunt Deborah thought they were big enough to eat.

So Aunt Deborah got a big wooden measure and she went out to the garden field and picked all the pods that looked fat enough. Then she went back to the kitchen door and sat down, and she broke open the pods between her fingers just the way little boys break open peanuts if their fingers are strong enough. In each pod there were a lot of peas, sometimes six and sometimes more. There might be nine or ten in the biggest pods. And Aunt Deborah pushed all the peas out of each pod with her finger, into a bowl. And when they were all out of the pods, she put them into a little kettle and poured some water on them and hung them on the crane over the fire, and pretty soon the water began to boil.


When the peas were cooked, it was dinner-time, and all the people had peas for dinner. They didn't have many that first day, but they all thought the peas were very nice indeed, and after that they had more.

So every day Aunt Deborah picked some peas for dinner, but she didn't pick them all, for they wanted some of the peas to get ripe to use in the winter and to have some to plant the next year.


Every day Aunt Deborah picked some peas for dinner.

When the summer was all over, the pea-vines got all withered and yellow and the pods that were on them were very fat and the outside was crackly and stiff like paper. Then Uncle John went out to the garden field and little John went with him. And they picked all the pods off the vines and put them into the wheelbarrow, and when they were all picked the wheelbarrow was more than half full.

Then Uncle John wheeled the wheelbarrow across the grass place and across the little track to the barn. And Uncle John and little Charles and little John sat down and got all the peas out of the pods.

The peas were almost as hard as wood and they would split open in the middle into two halves, with a smooth crack between. The biggest peas Uncle John put into bags to use for seed the next year, and the rest of them he took in to Aunt Deborah. And she put them into a bag and hung them up beside the chimney where they would dry. And in the winter, when she wanted peas to make into soup, there they were, hanging in the bag.

And that's all.