The next day, Mom’s Cochin chicks arrived at the post office. I heard the phone ringing in the truck and ran out to answer it.
“Hello . . . ” said a voice, “We have a crate full of very noisy little chicks here waiting for you. Come and get them as soon as possible, please. They’re driving us crazy.”
I went with Will to the post office and we returned with a box that had holes in the sides so the chicks could get air. When I opened the top, two dozen little faces looked up at me and they all started cheeping. They were packed in side by side on a mat that had some kind of moisture-rich food on it to keep them alive during the trip. They were only three days old.
Mostly, our chicks are hatched from eggs on our farm but we didn’t have any Cochins yet and Mom wanted to see if they would raise more chicks than the Barred Rocks and Orpingtons. When we got back to the house, Daniel, Jake, Susanna and Anna came inside to see the chicks.
“Hold one! Hold one!” Anna begged, cupping her hands together desperately.
“Oh my gosh! They’re so cute! Look at those fluffy little butts!” Daniel cried, gently stroking the back of a little white chick with his index finger.
Jake turned a look of dismay and disgust at Daniel. I put a tiny chick in Daniel’s hands and he kept exclaiming and rubbing the downy feathers of the chick against his face and letting it peck his cheek.
“Look! She’s kissing me! Can I name this one?” he said.
“Holy crap,” Jake sighed, shaking his head in disappointment over Daniel’s sudden weakness.
“Come on, tough guy,” Will said to Jake from the front door. “Come help me put together a quick brooder in the barn.” Jake gladly turned to follow Will, muttering under his breath as he went.
After a few minutes, I picked up the box of chicks and we all went out to the barn. Will had put four straw bales end to end to form a square. A 2X4 board with a heat lamp clamped to it lay over the top. It was plugged into a battery pack that sat in a corner of the barn. (We have this battery recharger thing that refreshes our batteries whenever they run low.) Will was lowering a waterer for the chicks into the straw bale brooder and Jake was putting chick feed in a feeder.
“Major might get them,” Susanna said, worriedly surveying the open top of the brooder.
“I’ll cover it with a piece of plywood or chicken wire,” Will told her. “You guys can put the chicks in now.”
I put the box down, took the lid off and lifted a chick out carefully. Then I lowered it into the little pen and dipped its beak into the water so it would know where to get a drink. Then I turned the chick loose. It immediately ran over and sat right under the lamp where it the temperature was warm. Daniel and Susanna followed my example with the rest of the chicks. I thought Daniel would ask why I was dipping their beaks but he didn’t. I guess he was finally used to farm life and could guess why.
We sat out there and watched the chicks until it was time to milk. Daniel could milk now but he wasn’t very fast, so usually Jake, Will, Susanna and I milked while Daniel fed and watered the calves.
He really loves baby animals, I thought, watching him put his face down near Squirt so the calf could lick his cheek.
“Hey baby,” Daniel said, “how you doing, little fella? You sure are a cutie.”
I heard Jake snort and Daniel stopped talking to the calf. We carried the buckets of milk inside and found Mom had put dinner on the table already.
After we had eaten and cleaned up, Will got out the Pente board and the others gathered around the table, sitting on pillows. I went outside and sat on the steps, watching the darkness fall around the farm like a warm, dark blanket.
In the distance, I saw someone walking down the road toward our house. It was Dad. I didn’t call out to him, I just waited quietly. Although he seemed tired and thin, he was at peace and smiled at me as he climbed the porch steps.
“Hey,” he said quietly, putting his arm around my waist and giving me a sideways hug. “Where is everybody?”
“Inside. They’re playing pente,” I replied.
“Why aren’t you with them?” he asked.
“I was waiting for you. I thought you might come back before bedtime,” I said, smiling.
“Dad!” Jake and Susanna exclaimed when we stepped through the door together.
“Dad!” Anna shouted and ran across the room to grab him around the legs. Mom was sitting in the corner near a lamp, spinning wool at her spinning wheel. She rose and came over to Dad.
“Jon,” she said, giving him a kiss, “you’re back early this time. I’m glad. Would you like something to eat and drink?”
“That would be great,” Dad said, sitting down on the couch. Susanna sat close beside him and Anna climbed into his lap. Will, Jake and Daniel had stopped playing pente and turned around to look at Dad. Mom went into the kitchen.
“How’s everything here?” Dad asked Will.
“Fine,” Will nodded. “No problems. The Cochins arrived today. They’re in a brooder in the barn. The herd is good, corn’s forming up good ears and we got quite a few strawberries today.”
Mom returned with a tall glass of water. Dad drank it all and handed her back the glass. “Ah, thanks!” he said.
“Well,” asked Jake. “Did you—hear anything while you were up there?”
“Did you have a vision?” Daniel asked.
Dad smiled and shook his head. “No, but I have peace that we’re doing the right thing. And—that we need to stop buying new clothing unless it’s made out of organic non-GMO cotton.”
Will nodded. “That’s what I was thinking too. Change the market demands, change the market.”
Mom came back with a bowl of soup and a chunk of bread from our meal earlier and put it on a small table beside Dad.
“So do you mean it’s okay to buy used clothing?” she asked. Dad nodded slowly.
“I think so. Because buying it won’t change the cotton industry, just the landfills. But, what do you think?”
“Yes . . . it’s not optimal. Buying organic cotton would be better . . . but we probably can’t afford a complete change right away.”
“That’s what I thought,” Dad agreed. “But let’s aim for that. If we need something new, let’s buy only organic cotton. Or make it from the wool cloth that you weave.”
Daniel was listening to all of this with a lot of interest but he hadn’t said anything yet.
“How will that help the farmers in India?” he asked.
“It won’t help them much,” Dad admitted. “But at least we won’t have their blood on our hands—or on our backs. When a man does evil, you need to get as far away from him as possible. Because when justice is served, you might get served along with him if you’re standing too close.”
“Well, Daniel,” Mom said, with a teasing glance, “I guess you’re in for a trip to the second-hand store tomorrow. We still need to get you some jeans and shirts.”
Daniel grimaced but he nodded his head and sighed. “Yeah. I’m in. It’s cool.” Then he bobbed his head to a rhythm only he could hear and sang in a deep voice,
“I look incredible, I wear yo‘ granddad’s clothes . . . from the thrift sto’ down the road . . . ” He paused and chuckled. “I guess you guys don’t know that one. It’s an oldie-but-goodie.”
“I’m seeing you in a red flannel loin cloth,” Jake said, wiggling his eyebrows.
“Don’t forget the suit coat, jewelry and cowboy hat,” Daniel replied, loftily.
We went to bed early because Dad was tired. I don’t think he sleeps much when he’s at the cave praying. I stayed awake thinking about fabric and textiles and what might work for us long term, as a clothing alternative.
I finally realized that we wouldn’t just need a different fabric, we’d have to change the very style of our clothing. It would need to be simpler and yet functional. I fell asleep designing a new look.