On The High Plains Ch. 04bytechsan©
It is amazing how quickly time passes when you are busy. In the following weeks, I plowed, harrowed, and planted most of the various vegetables that we'd use for food as well as a relatively small plot where we'd raise a variety of herbs for seasonings and a few for medicines. I took a partial day off here and there to run the last of my traps before hanging them from the barn rafters for the season.
Just as I got finished with the planting, instead of having time for a breather I started harvesting the winter wheat. It was another long arduous task, cutting and collecting the stalks into shocks, tying them together for drying and later moving the shocks back to the barn for the final drying, threshing and milling. As soon as that was completed, I prepared the same land for planting field corn.
However that would imply that the events ran smoothly along from one task to another and that is not how it went. Smack dab in the middle of the wheat harvest, one night Moxie groaned and grabbed at her stomach. With my vast world of experience, I still had no idea that she had just gone into labor. I guess it did shortly occur to me that it was not completely unlike one of the animals about to give birth but with her in obvious pain every time one of the contractions hit, I felt a very physical shock of pain myself. Usually that was a sympathy pain but some of it was because, as I sat close to hold her or wipe her brow with a cool cloth, her hand would suddenly clamp into my wrist like a vise being tightened far too firmly.
To say that I was apprehensive would be like saying that the sun occasionally shines in west Texas! I'd heard stories about boiling water and clean rags and ... damn! My mind went blank. How would you use boiling water? Would you scald the baby? No, that didn't sound right. And you wouldn't use it on the mother either. Maybe it was just to keep the father busy so he didn't get in the way.
Moxie had already prepared what she needed. She had taken one of the blankets she bought in Fort Worth and cut it into quarters, sewing neat hems around the cuts. She had taken some of my old flannel shirts and cut into usable sized rags ready for use to clean up the baby.
Diapers were not part of her culture; children were often allowed to go naked until they were several years old, except when the weather was too cold. Even then clothes were designed for ease of flushing bodily wastes. However Moxie has spotted a mother with a baby in diapers on our visit to town and she was determined to try that, at least in the beginning so one of my few sheets was sacrificed for that purpose.
Mostly I spent about 12 hours wiping Moxie's forehead with a damp cloth, holding her hands, giving her little sips of water now and then, and worrying enough for the both of us. For the most part, she spent the time half-sitting, half-laying against the cool earth wall of the bedroom with her legs spread and knees drawn up near her buttocks. The pains came more and more frequently and seemed to be ever-increasing in intensity. I wished over and over that I could take some of the pain away from her but all I could do was let her squeeze my arms -- even my sun-browned arms began to take on a bluish tinge as she bruised me and we would later laugh about it many times.
Finally she rocked up into a squatting position above our shuck mattress, covered with a little nest of fresh blankets and newly prepared soft cloths; it looked like Moxie was going to pee. Instead the head of a baby oozed from between her legs, quickly followed by shoulders arms, body and legs, all covered with blood and goo mixture. She had already prepared me for tying off the cord and while I was fumbling with that, she stuck a finger into the baby's mouth and cleared it of mucus, smacked it on the backside and listen to its first cry. When I got the cord tied and cut at her direction, I noticed for the first time that the baby had an "outie" - not its belly button but between its legs. It was a he, a son!
He was wrinkled beyond belief and had a full head of black hair. The way his forehead was pushed back at a steep slant, I figured something must have gone wrong during the birthing process but Moxie said that was normal and he'd be fine. No matter what, I couldn't help but have a feeling of intense pride when I looked at him -- and at her.
By the time Moxie took a basin of warm water and lovingly cleaned him up, he looked more like a normal baby. He had a healthy set of lungs and used them freely in his first hours. Moxie's tits had rounded out quite noticeably in the last weeks of her pregnancy so that they filled my hands completely by the time he was born. As soon as she had him cleaned up, she put him at her left tit and he greedily began to suck. It would take two days before her milk came in but he seemed perfectly content if he could just keep her nipple in his mouth; I guess maybe he got that from me 'cause I'm about the same way.
I had always been an admirer of a former leader of the state of Texas, Sam Houston, so I talked Moxie into naming him Sam -- for her, it usually came out sounding like "sum" but he would learn to respond.
I attempted to cook and do things for Moxie, assuming that she would need some recovery time; in fact, I had no idea how much time she might need. Instead she got up almost immediately and resumed her usual chores, in addition to caring for Sam. I didn't know if that was typical, just the nature of her culture, or my own ignorance. After putzing around for a couple of days and being chastised for being in her way, I went back to my work in the fields.
Moxie had taken a buckskin and formed a sort of pouch held to her chest by a pair of straps crossed over her shoulders and under her arms. When she got up in the morning, as soon as Sam woke up, she'd shrug her dress off her shoulders and let it hang from her waist. Then she'd put Sam into the pouch, hang it from her shoulders and go about whatever tasks she planned for that day. Sam would nurse until he fell asleep. Conveniently his food was there waiting for him every time he woke up. The only time she took him out of the pouch was to change his cloth diaper or to put him to bed at night.
For most of three weeks, I slept cuddled behind Moxie as we both watched our little boy sleeping on the mat in front of us. Of course I had a constant hard-on, snuggled up to her butt that way, but I didn't try to enter her; I didn't have any idea how much time she would need to recover after being spread wide enough to give birth to a child. I will admit that on several mornings, I started my day by masturbating in the barn before going to the field.
Late in the third week, Moxie reached behind her one night and wrapped her fingers around my shaft. After a few moments of fondling me, she tugged me toward her pussy. I found her opening very wet and slick and I slipped inside her easily. Moxie sighed loudly and I think I did too. She was still a bit sore so we took it easy but when she shuddered with an orgasm, I knew she appreciated it. A few moments later, I had a magnificent explosion, shooting a load into her for the first time since the baby was born. Afterwards I covered her face, neck, shoulders, and tits with kisses, tasting her sweet milk for the first time. It wouldn't be the last, by any means!
With the crops finally stabilized for a while, I turned my attention back to the new barn. I had a renewed vigor to my step as I worked so the progress seemed to go faster than ever. I got all of the side walls up to their maximum height, then turned to closing in the extra parts of the ends in preparation for hanging doors, which would not be solid but rather a pole frame with pole rails hung with leather straps for hinges. However that would come after the roof, which would consist of poles laid closely together, covered by a layer of sod like the roof of the house. That would make it as near to weatherproof as I could make it and would also provide some insulation from the burning sun.
I thought that with all the additional work Moxie had taking care of Sam might impact our sex life but as it turned out, about six weeks after Sam was born we were back to the every other night and sometimes two out of three. If anything it seemed to me like we were closer together than ever before, more loving, more considerate of each other.
One night after a long and particularly passionate session, I undertook to convey the idea of love to Moxie, particularly how much I loved her. I'm not sure how successful I was but I think she understood that my heart felt something special for her. Whether or not she really understood, she used her hand on my cock to get me hard again, then climbed on top, rode me hard, and put me up wet -- satisfied, totally.
The vegetables began to mature to the point of harvesting. Moxie was familiar with techniques for drying foods as a way of preserving them but was not knowledgeable of the white man's ways of preserving foods. I wouldn't classify myself as an expert in current day canning but I did have some skills. Over the years, I had collected a supply of glass jars, the tin lids and sealing wax used to make the jars airtight.
We started off blanching and canning tomatoes, since they were among the first to ripen. Onions, big bulbous white onions and an even larger red variety, came in about the same time. They were tied in bundles and hung on poles under the loft of the new barn to dry. Okra cut into bites and sweet corn cut from the ear was blanched with stewed tomatoes and chopped onions into a soup base and stored in wax-sealed jars; during the winter, any kind of meat added to the soup base made a very nutritious meal.
Potatoes, both sweet and Irish varieties, were bagged and stored in the pantry, an adjunct to the house that was dug a few feet lower for the additional cooling insulation of the ground. During the coldest of the winter, I had cut blocks of ice from the creeks and hauled them into the pantry. Covered by layers of hay, they would last well into the year, adding to the coolness of the pantry and even occasionally providing bits of ice for cooling drinks, though that was a very special treat.
When the cabbage came in, Moxie and I worked together to run it through the chopper, cutting it down into shredded strips, put into large crock pots, coated it with salt and covered it for aging. In time the salt would draw out the water from the cabbage and ferment, making sauerkraut which would last for as long as we needed it.
We snapped green beans, cooked them, and packed them in their cook water in wax-topped jars. Because that was not always a foolproof way to keep the food from spoiling, we packed some jars with beans, added a few spices, and covered them with vinegar and a bit of salt. That made a sort of pickled bean that I didn't like as much as the regular ones but it was a surer method of preservation and beggars can't be choosers.
We picked cucumbers at a variety of sizes. When cleaned, we filled other large crock pots with them, added vinegar or sugar water and spices, depending on the type of pickles we wanted and stored them away to allow the spices to permeate the cucumbers. We made more of the sweet variety but I liked dill and Moxie was beginning to acquire a taste for them as well. We added leaves of wild grape vines for color and sprigs of dill from our spice plot for flavor.
There were other things too. Some of them were dried, some were canned, some were pickled, and all provided meals every day. I taught Moxie ways of cooking foods that she was not familiar with while she surprised me with many of her own methods. I knew how to roast ears of corn. Moxie had been surprised at making butter from the cows' milk but then putting butter on hot roasted corn made her react like she'd just eaten candy.
Funny how different things can impact different people so much. The way she cooked Irish potatoes in a cocoon of hot coals and then filled them with some chopped wild onions and natural herbs she picked from the woods not far from the house was fantastic.
With fresh vegetables available all through the summer and early fall, we ate well, supplementing them with a goodly supply of venison, some beef that we used sparingly from one cow killed each fall, and a miscellaneous supply of small game. Still I think the thing that impacted my diet the most was that every night after Sam was fed and tucked away in bed for the night, I suckled an ounce or two of warm sweet milk from Moxie's swollen tits; Sam never completely drained them.
Sometimes Moxie even came to me to suck her if he had not drunk enough to relieve the pressure sufficiently. It was either suck some of the milk out or squeeze her tits and watch the milk squirt out, only to be wasted. Being a basically frugal man, I couldn't stand to see that happen. So I sacrificed, and sucked those precious globes!
Funny too how my sucking her tits seemed to make her squirm and fidget, often leading to her fondling my cock until I slipped it inside her and fucked her to a climax. Every time that happened, we went to sleep cuddled into the smallest space two people could occupy.
By the time the fall began to gradually impact our weather, I had pretty much finished the new barn; I guess it would always be a work-in-progress but at least it was usable. I moved the milking buckets and stools into the new barn close to the milking stalls. The critters -- at least the domesticated ones -- had places for their food either inside or very close by the back entrance. I installed pegs for hanging tack I used with the animals, particularly the horses and mules, but left space for expansion for whenever we were able to add to our little community.
I was planning to build a workbench when I got time, a place where I could work on projects indoors; I had plans to add on to the house and build new furniture as Sam got bigger and needed new accommodations. When I began to cut the new crop of hay, once it had dried, I moved it into the new barn into piles as high as I could pitch it. It kind of felt like a working man's mansion!
One of the things that needed to be done even sooner than the workshop, however, was the building of a stone hearth and chimney - a forge - so that I could improve my metal handling ability. Blacksmithing was an important part of farming: keeping shoes on the horses and mules to keep their hooves from wearing down; building, straightening, and sharpening plows and other earth-working implements; and keeping metal tires on wagon wheels for durability.
When I hit a little bit of a slow spot in the harvesting process, I hitched the team to my skidder sled and walked the team out about three-quarters of a mile where there was a rough outcropping of rock, an area that I had avoided in the farming process. However it was not without value, because I found many pieces of crumbled limestone small enough for me to maneuver onto the sled. There were other pieces far too large for me and team to move but I got all I needed and didn't even leave a dent in the terrain.
It took me several trips to get enough stone to get started. I built up a base for the hearth so it wouldn't be such backbreaking work to get to the fire. I enclosed it with a rough square of limestone chunks, held in place with a mortar comprised of earth, sand and water, mixing in a little straw to help it all hold together.
Since air is essential to creating a fire hot enough to make the metal molten, I built a chimney of the same limestone and mortar up through the pole roof of the barn. I was careful to insure that sparks from the furnace of the forge could not get to things like stored wheat or hay and burn the barn down. My bellows for heating the fire was homemade by creating a couple of boards carefully split from a log, formed so that there was an air spout at one end and handles on the other, then connected with buckskin to gather air and force it through the spout into the fire.
I'd brought a well-used anvil and an old pair of blacksmithing tongs when I'd settled here and I would make my own charcoal, for now using limbs I'd trimmed from logs earlier in the year and later using new growth.
As far as the basic metal is concerned, there didn't seem to be much of it in west Texas, at least not that I was aware of so I would purchase iron bars from a merchant in Fort Worth and then make do with what I could haul back home.
As the leaves turned from green to gold and yellow and red and orange, leaving only the scattered stands of evergreens still in the summer colors, we began to plan our trip to Fort Worth. I got the old wagon fixed up, cleaned up and greased up. Moxie had been working on a supply of moccasins to trade and had also made a small number of extra buckskin dresses with beautiful bead work across the front. I had my bundles of animal pelts as well as two big crocks of extra pickles I hoped one of the merchants would accept. We had a list of things we needed to purchase, prioritized by most important first.
Wouldn't you know it? About two weeks before we planned to leave on the trip, Moxie began to be sick every morning again. When I asked whether she was pregnant, she grinned and nodded her head. Oh, boy, Sam was going to have a little playmate! I asked if she wanted to postpone the trip but she was adamant -- we WERE going!
All loaded up with trade goods and camping supplies, we set out as planned. Moxie, with Sam in the chest carrier, rode beside me on the hard wagon seat. On the third night out, we came to a rather large ranch house and asked permission to camp in a copse of trees away from the front of the rambling house. The weathered rancher was a bit wary but gave permission. However when his wife saw that Moxie was carrying Sam, she made a big to-do over them and invited us into their home.
Mr. Joshua Parker became friendlier after his wife made such a fuss over Sam. He invited me to have a seat at a huge dining table while his wife put on leftovers from their evening meal for Moxie and me. He told me how his brother Isaac had brought a group of people into the area a number of years prior and had petitioned the state to form a new county, a request that had been granted just before the end of 1855.
He had claimed the land the ranch was on, stating that it had originally been part of a grant to Stephen F. Austin, who in turn made a deal with Isaac Parker and his party to settle the area. Most of the settlers had left Dallas, Tarrant, Denton and Collin Counties as a result of a malaria outbreak in the early part of the decade. I guess I had been lucky enough to come through back then fast enough that I wasn't even aware of the problem.
Although it was after dark, Mr. Parker -- Joshua, he preferred -- showed me around the home grounds of his place. He had a very nice setup. They had even hauled sawn lumber from a rough mill just south of Fort Worth on the West Fork of the Trinity River for building the house, barns, and ice house. By my standards, these folks were rich.
Although they were raising longhorn cattle, they were experimenting with various types of feed. Longhorns generally produced a rather stringy, tough meat resulting from the animal's need to scratch out a living in semi-arid land that often produced little edible food. However the longhorn is nothing if not resourceful and they managed to subsist on foods that other creatures were not capable of digesting.
However the Parkers were finding that the longhorns also adapted well to being fed a better class of forage mixed with grains, particularly corn, and the resulting meat was tastier and not so tough. He said that many ranchers were trying different things and it might be years before they knew whether they would stay with longhorns or look for another strain of cattle.