Trip by Hamlin Garland
"And in winter the winds sweep the snows across it."
The night was in windy November, and the blast, threatening rain,
roared around the poor little shanty of "Uncle Ripley," set like a
chicken trap on the vast Iowa prairie. Uncle Ethan was mending his
old violin, with many York State "dums!" and "I gal darns!" totally
oblivious of his tireless old wife, who, having "finished the supper
dishes," sat knitting a stocking, evidently for the little grandson
who lay before the stove like a cat. Neither of the old people wore
glasses, and their light was a tallow candle; they couldn't afford
"none o' them newfangled lamps." The room was small, the chairs
wooden, and the walls bare-a home where poverty was a never-absent
guest. The old lady looked pathetically little, wizened, and hopeless
in her ill-fitting garments (whose original color had long since
vanished), intent as she was on the stocking in her knotted, stiffened
fingers, but there was a peculiar sparkle in her little black eyes,
and an unusual resolution in the straight line of her withered and
shapeless lips. Suddenly she paused, stuck a needle in the spare knob
of hair at the back of her head, and looking at Ripley, said
decisively: "Ethan Ripley, you'll haff to do your own cooking from now
on to New Year's; I'm goin' back to Yaark State."
The old man's leather-brown face stiffened into a look of quizzical
surprise for a moment; then he cackled in-credulously: "Ho! Ho! har!
Sho! be y', now? I want to know if y' be."
"Well, you'll find out."
"Goin' to start tomorrow, Mother?"
"No, sir, I ain't; but I am on Thursday. I want to get to Sally's
by Sunday, sure, an' to Silas's on Thanksgivin'."
There was a note in the old woman's voice that brought genuine
stupefaction into the face of Uncle Ripley. Of course, in this case,
as in all others, the money consideration was uppermost.
"Howgy 'xpect to get the money, Mother? Anybody died an' left yeh
"Never you mind where I get the mony so 's 't tiy don't haff to
bear it. The land knows, if I'd a-waited for you to pay my way-"
"You needn't twit me of bein' poor, old woman," said Ripley,
flaming up after the manner of many old people. "I've done my part t'
get along. I've worked day in and day out-"
"Oh! I ain't done no work, have I?" snapped she, laying down the
stocking and leveling a needle at him, and putting a frightful
emphasis on "I."
"I didn't say you hadn't done no work."
"Yes, you did!"
"I didn't, neither. I said
"I know what you said."
"I said I'd done my part!" roared the husband, dominating her as
usual by superior lung power. "I didn't say you hadn't done your
part," he added with an unfortunate touch of emphasis on "say."
"I know y' didn't say it, but y' meant it. I don't know what y'
call doin' my part, Ethan Ripley; but if cookin' for a drove of
harvest hands and thrashin' hands, takin' care o' the eggs and butter,
'n' diggin' taters an' milkin' ain't my part, I don't never expect to
do my part, 'n' you might as well know it fust 's last. I'm sixty
years old," she went on with a little break in her harsh voice,
dominating him now by woman's logic, "an' I've never had a day to
my-self, not even Fourth o' July. If I've went a-visitin' 'r to a
picnic, I've had to come home an' milk 'n' get supper for you
menfolks. I ain't been away t' stay overnight for thirteen years in
this house, 'n' it was just so in Davis County for ten more. For
twenty-three years, Ethan Ripley, I've stuck right to the stove an'
churn without a day or a night off." Her voice choked again, but she
rarned and continued impressively, "And now I'm a-goin' back to Yaark
Ethan was vanquished. He stared at her in speechless surprise, his
jaw hanging. It was incredible.
"For twenty-three years," she went on musingly, "I've just about
promised myself every year I'd go back an' see my folks." She was
distinctly talking to herself now, and her voice had a touching,
wistful cadence. "I've wanted to go back an' see the old folks, an'
the hills where we played, an' eat apples off the old tree down by
the old well. I've had them trees an' hills in my mind days and
days-nights, too-an' the girls I used to know, an' my own folks-"
She fell into a silent muse, which lasted so long that the ticking
of the clock grew loud as the gong in the man's ears, and the wind
outside seemed to sound drearier than usual. He returned to the money
problem, kindly, though.
"But how y' goin' t' raise the money? I ain't got no extra cash
this time. Agin Roach is paid an' the mortgage interest paid we ain't
got no hundred dollars to spare, Jane, not by a jugful."
"Waal, don't you lay awake nights studyin' on where I'm a-goin' to
get the money," said the old woman, taking delight in mystifying him.
She had him now, and he couldn't escape. He strove to show his
indifference, however, by playing a tune or two on the violin.
"Come, Tukey, you better climb the wooden hill," Mrs. Ripley said
a half hour later to the little chap on the floor, who was beginning
to get drowsy under the influence of his grandpa's fiddling. "Pa, you
had orta 'a put that string in the clock today-on the 'larm side the
string is broke," she said upon returning from the boy's bedroom. "I
orta get up extry early tomorrow to get some sewin' done. Land knows,
I can't fix up much, but they is a leetle I c'n do. I want to look
They were alone now, and they both sat expectantly. "You 'pear to
think, Mother, that I'm agin yer goin'." "Waal, it would kinder seem
as if y' hadn't hustled yerself any t' help me git off."
He was smarting under the sense of being wronged. "Waal, I'm jest
as willin' you should go as I am for myself; but if I ain't got no
money, I don't see how I'm goin' to send-"
"I don't want ye to send; nobody ast ye to, Ethan Ripley. I guess
if I had what I've earnt since we came on this farm, I'd have enough
to go to Jericho with."
"You've got as much out of it as I have. You talk about your gom'
back. Ain't I been wantin' to go back myself? And ain't I kep' still
'cause I see it wa'n't no use? I guess I've worked jest as long and as
hard as you, an' in storms an' mud an' heat, ef it comes t' that."
The woman was staggered, but she wouldn't give up; she must get m
one more thrust.
"Waal, if you'd 'a managed as well as I have, you'd have some
money to go with." And she rose, and went to mix her bread, and set
it "raisin'." He sat by the fire twanging his fiddle softly. He was
plainly thrown into gloomy retrospectlon, something quite unusual for
him. But his fingers picking out the bars of a familiar tune set him
to smiling, and, whipping his bow across the strings, he forgot all
about his wife's resolutions and his own hardships. Trouble always
slid off his back like "punkins off a haystack" anyway.
The old man still sat fiddling softly after his wife disappeared in
the hot and stuffy little bedroom off the kitchen. His shaggy head
bent lower over his violin. He heard her shoes drop-one, two. Pretty
soon she called:
"Come, put up that squeakin' old fiddle and go to bed. Seems as if
you orta have sense enough not to set there keepin' everybody in the
"You hush up," retorted he. "I'll come when I git ready, not till.
I'll be glad when you're gone-"
"Yes, I warrant that."
With which arniable good nlght they went off to sleep, or at least
she did, while he lay awake, pondering on "where under the sun she
was goin' t' raise that money."
The next day she was up bright and early, working away on her own
affairs, ignoring Ripley totally, the fixed look of resolutlon still
on her little old wrinkled face. She killed a hen and dressed and
baked it She fried up a pan of doughnuts and made a cake. She was
engaged on the doughnuts when a neighbor came in, one of those women
who take it as a personal affront when anyone in the neighborhood does
anything without asking their advice. She was fat, and could talk a
man blind in three minutes by the watch.
"What's this I hear, Mis' Ripley?"
"I dun know. I expect you hear about all they is goin' on in this
neighborhood," replied Mrs. Ripley with crushing bluntness; but the
gossip did not flinch.
"Well, Sett Turner told me that her husband told her that Ripley
told him that you was goin' back East on a visit."
"Waal, what of it?"
"Well, air yeh?"
"The Lord willin' an' the weather permitin', I expect to be."
"Good land, I want to know! Well, well! I never was so astonished
in my life. I said, says I, 'It can't be.' 'Well,' ses 'e, 'tha's what
she told me,' ses 'e. 'But,' ses I, 'she is the last woman in the
world to go gallivantin' off East,' ses I. An' ses he, 'But it comes
from good authority,' ses he. 'Well, then, it must be so,' ses I. But,
land sakes! do tell me all about it. How come you to make up y'r mind?
Ail these years you've been kind a-talkin' it over, an' now y'r
actshelly goin'-Waal, I never! 'I s'pose Ripley furnishes the money,'
ses I to him. 'Well, no,' ses 'e. 'Ripley says he'll be blowed if he
sees where the money's comin' from,' ses 'e; and ses I, 'But maybe
she's jest jokin',' ses I. 'Not much,' he says. S' 'e: 'Ripley
believes she's goin' fast enough. He's jest as anxious to find out as
Here Mrs. Doudney paused for breath; she had walked so fast and
had rested so little that her interminable flow of "ses I's" and "ses
he's" ceased necessarily. She had reached, moreover, the point of
most vital interest-the money.
"An' you'll find out jest 'bout as soon as he does," was the dry
response from the figure hovering over the stove, and with all her
maneuvering that was all she got.
All day Ripley went about his work exceedingly thoughtful for him.
It was cold, blustering weather. The wind rustled among the cornstalks
with a wild and mournful sound, the geese and ducks went sprawling
down the wind, and horses' coats were ruffled and backs raised.
The old man was husking corn alone in the field, his spare form
rigged out in two or three ragged coats, his hands inserted in a pair
of gloves minus nearly all the fingers, his thumbs done up in
"stalls," and his feet thrust into huge coarse boots. During the
middle of the day the frozen ground thawed, and the mud stuck to his
boots, and the "down ears" wet and chapped his hands, already worn to
the quick. Toward night it grew colder and threatened snow. In spite
of all these attacks he kept his cheerfulness, and though he was very
tired, he was softened in temper.
Having plenty of time to think matters over, he had come to the
conclusion "that the old woman needed a play spell. I ain't likely to
be no richer next year than I am this one; if I wait till I'm able to
send her she won't never go. I calc'late I c'n git enough out o' them
shoats to send her. I'd kind a 'lotted on eat'n' them pigs done up mto
sassengers, but if the ol' woman goes East, Tukey an' me'll kind a
haff to pull through without 'em. We'll. have a turkey f'r
Thanksgivin', an' a chicken once 'n a while. Lord! But we'll miss the
gravy on the flapjacks. Amen!" (He smacked his lips over the thought
of the lost dainty.) "But let 'er rip! We can stand it. Then there is
my buffalo overcoat. I'd kind a calc'lated on havin' a buffalo-but
that's gone up the spout along with them sassengers."
These heroic sacrifices having been determined upon, he put them
into effect at once.
This he was able to do, for his corn rows ran alongside the road
leading to Cedarville, and his neighbors were passing almost all
hours of the day.
It would have softened Jane Ripley's heart could she have seen his
bent and stiffened form amid the corn rows, the cold wind piercing to
the bone through his threadbare and insufficient clothing. The rising
wind sent the snow rattling among the moaning stalks at intervals. The
cold made his poor dim eyes water, and he had to stop now and then to
swing his arms about his chest to warm them. His voice was hoarse with
shouting at the shivering team.
That night, as Mrs. Ripley was clearing the dishes away, she got to
thinking about the departure of the next day, and she began to
soften. She gave way to a few tears when little Tewksbury Gilchrist,
her grandson, came up and stood beside her.
"Gran'ma, you ain't goin' to stay away always, are yeh?"
"Why, course not, Tukey. What made y' think that?"
"Well, y' ain't told us nawfliln' 'tall about it. An' yeb kind o'
look 'sif yeh was mad."
"Well, Lain't mad; I'm jest a-thinkin', Tukey. Y'see, I come away
from them hills when I was a little glrl a'most; before I married y'r
grandad. And I ain't never been back. 'Most all my folks is there,
souny, an' we've been s' poor all these years I couldn't seem t' never
get started. Now, when I'm 'most ready t' go, I feel kind a queer-'sif
And cry she did, while little Tewksbury stood patting her
trembling hands. Hearing Ripley's step on the porch, she rose hastily
and, drying her eyes, plunged at the work again. Ripley came in with a
big armful of wood, which he rolled into the woodbox with a thundering
crash. Then he pulled off his mittens, slapped them together to knock
off the ice and snow, and laid them side by side under the stove. He
then removed cap, coat, blouse, and boots, which last he laid upon the
woodbox, the soles turned toward the stovepipe.
As he sat down without speaking, he opened the front doors of the
stove and held the palms of his stiffened hands to the blaze. The
light brought out a thoughtful look on his large, uncouth, yet kindly
visage. Life had laid hard lines on his brown skin, but it had not
entirely soured a naturally kind and simple nature. It had made him
penurious and dull and iron-muscled; had stifled all the slender
flowers of his nature; yet there was warm soil somewhere hid in his
"It's snowin' like all p'sessed," he remarked finally. "I guess
we'll have a sleigh ride tomorrow. I calc'late t' drive y' daown in
scrumptious style. If yeh must leave, why, we'll give yeh a whoopin'
old send-off-won't we, Tukey?
"I've ben a4hinkin' things over kind o' t'day, Mother, an' I've
come t' the conclusion that we have been kind a hard on yeh, without
knowin' it, y' see. Y' see, I'm kind a easygoin, 'an' little Tuke he's
only a child, an' we ain't c'nsidered how you felt."
She didn't appear to be listening, but she was, and he didn't
appear, on his part, to be talking to her, and he kept his voice as
hard and dry as he could.
"An' I was tellin' Tukey t'day that it was a dum shame our crops
hadn't, turned out better. An' when I saw ol' Hatfield go by, I hailed
him an' asked him what he'd gimme for two o' m' shoats. Waal, the
upshot is, I sent t' town for some things I calc'lated ye'd heed. An'
here's a tlcket to Georgetown, and ten dollars. Why, Ma, what's up?"
Mrs. Ripley broke down, and with her hands all wet with dishwater,
as they were, covered her face and sobbed. She felt like kissing him,
but she didn't. Tewksbury began to whimper, too; but the old man was
astonished. His wife had not wept for years (before him). He rose and
walked clumsily up to her and timidly touching her hair-
"Why, Mother! What's the matter? What 'v' I done now? I was
calc'latln' to sell them pigs anyway. Hatfield jest advanced the
money on' em."
She hopped up and dashed into the bedroom,and in a few minutes
returned with a yarn mitten, tied around the wrist, which she laid on
the table with a thump, saying:
"I don't want yer money. There's money enough to take me where I
want to go."
"Whee-w! Thunder and jimson root! Wher'd ye git that? Didn't dig
it out of a hole?"
"No. I jest saved it-a dime at a time-see?"
Here she turned it out on the table-some bills, but mostly silver
dimes and quarters.
"Thunder and scissors! Must be two er three hundred dollars
there," stared he.
"They's jest seventy-five dollars and thirty cents; jest about
enough to go back on. Tickets is fifty-five dollars, goin' an' comin'.
That leaves twenty dollars for other expenses, not countin' what I've
already spent, which is six-fifty," said she, recovering her
self-possession. "It's plenty."
"But y' ain't calc'lated on no sleepers nor hotel bills."
"I ain't goin' on no sleeper. Mis' Doudney says it's jest
scandalous the way things is managed on them cars. I'm goin' on the
old-fashioned cars, where they ain't no half-dressed men runain'
"But you needn't be afraid of them, Mother; at your age-"
"There! you needn't throw my age an' homeliness into my face,
Ethan Ripley. If I hadn't waited an' tended on you so long, I'd look
a little more's I did when I married yeh."
Ripley gave it up in despair. He didn't realize fully enough how
the proposed trip had unsettled his wife's nerves. She didn't realize
"As for the hotel bills, they won't be none. I a-goin' to pay them
pirates as much for a day's board as we'd charge for a week's, an'
have nawthin' to eat but dishes. I'm goin' to take a chicken an' some
hard-boiled eggs, an' I'm goin' right through to Georgetown."
"Well, all right; but here's the ticket I got."
"I don't want yer ticket."
"But you've got to take it."
"Wall, I hain't."
"Why, yes, ye have. It's bought, an' they won't take it back."
"Won't they?" She was staggered again.
"Not much they won't. I ast 'em. A ticket sold is sold."
"Waal, if they won't-"
"You bet they won't."
"I s'pose I'll haff to use it"; and that ended iti -They were a
familiar sight as they rode down the road toward town next day. As
usual, Mrs. Ripley sat up straight and stiff as "a half-drove wedge in
a white-oak log." The day was cold and raw. There was some snow on
the ground, but not enough to warrant the use of sleighs. It was
"neither sleddin' nor wheelin'." The old people sat on a board laid
across the box, and had an old quilt or two drawn up over their
knees. Tewksbury lay in the back part of the box (which was filled
with hay), where he jounced up and down, in company with a queer old
trunk and a brand-new imitation-leather handbag, There is no ride
quite so desolate and uncomfortable as a ride in a lumber wagon on a
cold day in autumn, when the ground is frozen and the wind is strong
and raw with threatening snow. The wagon wheels grind along in the
snow, the cold gets in under the seat at the calves of one's legs, and
the ceaseless bumping of the bottom of the box on the feet is
There was not much talk on the way down, and what little there was
related mainly to certain domestic regulations to be strictly followed
regarding churning, pickles, pancakes, etc. Mrs. Ripley wore a shawl
over her head and carried her queer little black bonnet in her hand.
Tewksbury was also wrapped in a shawl. The boy's teeth were pounding
together like castanets by the time they reached Cedarville, and every
muscle ached with the fatigue of shaking. After a few purchases they
drove down to the railway station, a frightful little den (common in
the West) which was always too hot or too cold. It happened to be hot
just now-a fact which rejoiced little Tewksbury.
"Now git my trunk stamped 'r fixed, 'r whatever they call it," she
said to Ripley in a commanding tone, which gave great delight to the
inevitable crowd of loafers begliming to assemble. "Now remember,
Tukey, have Granddad kill that biggest turkey night before
Thanksgiving, an' then you run right over to Mis' Doudney's-she's got
a nawful tongue, but she can bake a turkey first-rate-an' she'll fix
up some squash pies for yeh. You can warm up one s' them mince pies. I
wish ye could be with me, but ye can't, so do the best ye can."
Ripley returning now, she said: "Waal, now, I've fixed things up
the best I could. I've baked bread enough to last a week, an' Mis'
Doudney has promised to bake for yeh."
"I don't like her bakin'."
"Waal, you'll haff to stand it till I get back, 'n' you'll find a
jar o' sweet pickles an' some crabapple sauce down suller, 'n' you'd
better melt up brown sugar for 'lasses, 'n' for goodness' sake don't
eat all them mince pies up the fust week, 'n' see that Tukey ain't
froze goin' to school. An' now you'd better get out for home.
Good-bye, an' remember them pies.
As they were riding home, Ripley roused up after a long silence.
"Did she-a-kiss you goodbye, Tukey?"
"No, sir," piped Tewksbury.
"Thunder! didn't she?" After a silence. "She didn't me, neither. I
guess she kind of sort a forgot it, bein' so frustrated, y' know."
One cold, windy, intensely bright day, Mrs. Stacey, who lives
about two miles from Cedarville, looking out of the window, saw a
queer little figure struggling along the road, which was blocked here
and there with drifts. It was an old woman laden with a good
half-dozen parcels, any one of which was a load, which the wind
seemed determined to wrench from her. She was dressed in black, with
a full skirt, and her cloak being short, the wind had excellent
opportunity. to inflate her garments ind sail her off occasionally
into the deep snow outside the track, but she held on bravely till
she reached the gate. As she turned in, Mrs. Stacey cried:
"Why! it's Gran'ma Ripley, just getting back from her trip. Why!
how do you do? Come in. Why! you must be nearly frozen. Let me take
off your hat and veil."
"No, thank ye kindly, but I can't stop. I must be glttin' back to
Ripley. I expec' that man has jest let ev'rything go six ways f'r
"Oh, you must sit down just a minute and warm."
"Waal, I will, but I've got to git home by sundown. Sure I don't
s'pose they's a thing in the house to eat."
"Oh dear! I wish Stacey was here, so he could take you home. An'
the boys at school."
"Don't need any help, if 'twa'n't for these bundles an' things. I
guess I'll jest leave some of 'em here an'- Here! take one of these
apples. I brought 'em from Lizy Jane's suller, back to Yaark State."
"Oh! they're delicious! You must have had a lovely time."
"Pretty good. But I kep' thinkin' o' Ripley an' Tukey all the time.
I s'pose they have had a gay time of it" (she meant the opposite of
gay). "Waal, as I told Lizy Jane, I've had my spree, an' now I've got
to git back to work. They ain't no rest for such as we are. As I told
Lizy Jane, them folks in the big houses have Thanksgivin' dinners
every day uv their lives, and men an' women in splendid do's to wait
on 'em, so't Thanksgivin' don't mean anything to 'em; but we poor
critters, we make a great to-do if we have a good dinner oncet a year.
I've saw a pile o' this world, Mrs. Stacey-a pile of it! I didn't
think they was so many big houses in the world as I saw b'tween here
an' Chicago. Waal, I can't set here gabbin'; I must get home to
Ripley. Jest kinder stow them bags away. I'll take two an' leave them
three others. Goodbye. I must be gittin' home to Ripley. He'll want
his supper on time." And off up the road the indomitable little figure
trudged, head held down to the cutting blast. Little snow fly, a speck
on a measureless expanse, crawling along with painful breathing and
slipping, sliding steps- "Gittin' home to Ripley an' the boy."
Ripley was out to the barn when she entered, but Tewksbury was
building a fire in the old cookstove. He sprang up with a cry of joy
and ran to her. She seized him and kissed him, and it did her so much
good she hugged him close and kissed him again and again, crying
"Oh, gran'ma, I'm so glad to see you! We've had an awful time
since you've been gone."
She released him and looked around. A lot of dirty dishes were on
the table, the tablecloth was a "sight to behold," and so was the
stove-kettle marks all over the tablecloth, splotches of pancake
batter all over the stove.
"Waal, I sh'd say as much," she dryly vouchsafed, untying her
When Ripley came in she had on her regimentals, the stove was
brushed, the room swept, and she was elbow-deep in the dishpan.
"Hullo, Mother! Got back, hev yeh?"
"I sh'd say it was about time," she replied briefly with-out
looking up or ceasing work. "Has ol' 'Cruuipy' dried up yit?" This was
Her trip was a fact now; no chance could rob her of it. She had
looked forward twenty-three years toward it, and now she could look
back at it accomplished. She took up her burden again, never more
thinking to lay it down.