Gateway to the Classics: When Grandfather Was a Boy by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey
When Grandfather Was a Boy by  Carolyn Sherwin Bailey

How the Stories Began

"There's nothing but the chimney of the Old Place left, Grandfather," John said as they walked back from the orchard with their pockets full of apples.

"That's all," Grandfather answered with a twinkle in his eyes.

"Why don't you tear down the old chimney, Grandfather?" John asked, "now that you have the big, new house. It's nothing but a pile of old bricks out here in the field."

"I am keeping it because it tells me stories," Grandfather said. "Every time I go by it when the wind blows down through it, that old chimney has something interesting to say to me."

"Oh!" said John, with his eyes very big now. "Let's stop a minute by it, Grandfather, and see if it tells us a story."

So they stopped in the field by the old chimney and, suddenly, along came the wind, singing through the bricks.


Whoo-oo-oo,  went the wind.

"What does it say, Grandfather?" asked John.

"It says that one fall, when I was only five years old, something wonderful happened. Your great-grandmother went for a whole day's journey on the stage to sell some cloth she had spun and woven and when she came back she brought me, what do you suppose?"

"Oh, I don't know. Please tell me," begged John.

"A little red rocking chair!" Grandfather said. "And when it was cold and stormy, I sat and rocked and rocked in the little red rocking chair in front of the chimney, and roasted apples and chestnuts, and read about Robinson Crusoe."

"Oh, how nice!" John said.

Suddenly the wind sang again through the bricks of the old chimney.

Whoo-oo-oo,  went the wind.

"What does it say now, Grandfather?" asked John.


"It says that once, a long, long time ago when I was only six years old, there came a very cold, freezing storm quite early in the fall. We had a large, blazing fire of logs and it roared and crackled in the chimney. We were at supper, but we heard a strange noise like someone crying. And it seemed to come down the chimney. Your great-grandfather went out in the rain with a lantern, and there on the roof was a little Indian boy. He was close to the chimney, trying to keep warm. He had strayed away from the reservation, and had climbed up the logs to the low roof where the chimney was. Your great-grandfather asked him to come down and see how warm the chimney was inside the house. He stayed with me all night and his father, a big chief, followed his trail and took him home in the morning."

"Oh, how exciting!" John said.

Then the wind sang again through the bricks of the old chimney.

Whoo-oo-oo,  went the wind.

"Is it telling something now?" asked John.

"Oh, it is telling the best story of all now," Grandfather said.

"Once, when it was fall, and I was seven years old, it was cold, early, and your great-grandfather and I wanted to build a fire in the fireplace. We brought in some pine knots and some hickory logs and laid the fire. Then your great-grandmother said that we must not light the fire. We could not understand why, and she would not tell us why. So we shivered, and wondered why we couldn't light a fire. Then, one morning, when the sun shone and it was warmer, we found out."

"What was the reason?" John asked.

"Why," said Grandfather, "we found an empty swallows' nest lying on top of the wood in the fireplace. Your great-grandmother had a feeling that the swallows who nested in the chimney had not flown away yet; and she was right. When the empty nest blew down we knew that it was safe to light a fire whenever there was another cold night because the swallows were safe."

"Oh, I am so glad!" John said.

"And is that all about the old chimney?" he asked as the wind rushed off to sing in the orchard.

"Oh, no," Grandfather said. "I could tell you ever so many stories about what happened when that old chimney was new."

"Oh, goody! And will you, Grandfather?" John asked.

"Of course I will," Grandfather said.

And that is how the stories in this book began in the very first place.

Copyright (c) 2005 - 2020   Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.