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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: DOWN-HOME

City girl leaves home to help care for her aged aunt on her farm. She meets a boy on an adjacent farm and they fall in love. However, her aunt gets better, so she leaves for home. In the ensuing
years the boy and girl remain somewhat linked, but briefly each time. When the aunt dies, she wills the farm to the girl now a grown woman. The woman moves from the city and reconnects with her old
love, a move that changes their lives forever.

Submitted: August 04, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: August 04, 2018




Oil Painting & Story by: Virgil Dube’ - Copyright 2017

Kimberly Ann Frechette visited Aunt Eva-Marie Martin almost yearly from early childhood. Aunt Eva lived north of Murphy, North Carolina near the Bluebird Mountains.

Most often, her mother Harriet accompanied her. Kim’s father, Andre, who met Harriet in 1909 while stationed in the Navy in Baltimore, Maryland, usually stayed home because his job better suited the family’s income during the summer months.

The Frechette family of three had moved south from Auburn, Maine, Andre’s hometown, after Kim’s birth in 1911. Harriet had tired of the intense cold during winter. Andre working in Belarus Shoe Factory, admitted he desired new horizons, especially warmer climate. After preparation and arrangements, the couple and their daughter moved south and settled in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Andre worked initially as a carpenter, a struggle from the beginning. After a couple of years of hard work, his skills recognized, he was hired to more and better jobs, so much he aspired to become a general contractor once he had developed solid footing in the home building trade.

Age 11 in 1922, Kim who loved the hilly country, began visiting Harriet’s elderly Aunt Eva May La-Poole’s’ at her home near Murphy. When Aunt Eva became ill and needed long-term care, Kim’s parent’s and her struck an agreement between them that she move in to stay with Aunt Eva at least a year, maybe two or three years as her situation warranted.

During weekdays, Kim attended Mount Zion Community School just down the clay road from Aunt Eva’s modest farm. Visible from Aunt Eva’s front porch, the multi-classroom single-room building had a central wood-burning stove. No plumbing installed yet, it was equipped primitively with an outside water pump and outhouse in easy reach of one in desperation. Margaret Jane Plummer, the schoolmaster of traditional allure, was strict but also fair and thorough in her teachings: reading, writing, arithmetic, and dwelled on good manners, family loyalty, and respect for parent, friend, especially the elderly.

After school and during the weekends Kim tended to Aunt Eva’s needs, and helped her with her many house and yard chores, among them, cooking for which she mastered, thanks to Aunt Eva’s guidance. Every June during this charitable phase of her life, the family hired an in-house caregiver to allow her a week’s vacation back home in Charlotte.

*  *  *

Handsome Johnny Mueller lived on the adjacent farm. He had liked Kim instantly, even from distance when he had spotted her that first day she arrived at Eva La-Poole’s place while he plowed his father’s fields. Kim likewise later when she met him, was attracted to Johnny. However, her duties never encouraged more than childhood interest, a casual friendship for which the two exercised regularly since they were close neighbors and identical in age, both born April 20, and attended the same school where they sat beside each other.

By March 1925, Aunt Eva was on the mend. She attained additional help, bartering her canned goods for major chores farmhand-for-hire Alex Bridger performed around her small farm. June arrived, and the last morning of school rolled around the third year of the family arrangement. Kim would spend two additional weeks with Aunt Eva, since her regained health meant Kim was returning to Charlotte, maybe permanently.

Time arrived the school year was coming to an end.

Excitement hung in the air. Children skipped merrily along the clay roads toward school to hear Mrs. Plummer ring the bell a last time for three months. They would take their assigned seats and mostly play games the final day, as six hours plodded by before 3:00 p.m. and Mrs. Plummer wished them a good vacation, and to not forget to be safe, enjoy summer play, be good and obedient, and do chores timely and orderly. At her command, they would dash in loud celebration from the old schoolhouse the summer reprieve finally upon them.

At the start of that welcomed day with her pet beagle Tipsy, elderly Aunt Eva walked spryly down the path from her ancient wood-frame farmhouse to get her mail. She voluntarily accompanied Kim part way on her way to school, this day one of the last of her arranged visit she had so cherished and felt sad it was soon concluding.

Johnny had sauntered down the clay road to intercept Kim. Along the way, he straddled the roadside ditch to lean into weedy fence brush and pick flowers. He whistled Dixie merrily as he saw her say goodbye to Aunt Eva, then start toward the school. He hastened his pace, realizing she hadn’t spotted him. Hearing the wagon approach behind him, Johnny veered to the far side allowing Willie Henderson to pass, the old farmer driving his mull-drawn hay wagon toward his dairy farm in the distant valley.

Kim a fast walker was quickly separating distance from him. Not wanting her to move farther away and he seeking privacy, paused, and called aloud, “Kim, ya got a moment?”

Kim stopped, wondered why Johnny called her. Turning, she noted he was clad in his usual overalls, also that he looked fidgety, was acting a bit odd despite the big smile extended across his freckled face. Apprehensive but cheerful, he double-timed his steps toward her, as her Aunt Eva too became curious, remained close to her mailbox wondering what this young man’s intent was.

“Kim, mind if I have a word with ya?”

“Certainly not, Johnny. What’s up?” she answered.

“Honey,” Aunt Eva injected, spotting the bundle behind his back. “Johnny has good intentions; better hold up and see what he’s up to.”

“Sure, Aunt Eva,” Kim replied, smiling, giving her kindly aunt a scant wink. The elderly woman didn’t move away but remained put to see what might transpire, to admire young love blooming.

Johnny drew close then halted on the opposite roadside. A book clasped in one hand and the other tucked behind him, the grin across his face kept spreading. Johnny unmindful his error moments earlier as he picked the flowers, his back was near Horus Lambert’s property fence and close to one of his hungry and opportunistic field goats, crouched before this girl he so adored.

“Wha’cha’ got, Johnny?’ Kim asked suspiciously, moving toward him from across the road.

“Kim, place your hand over your eyes,” he instructed. “No peeping,” he added, as he lifted what he had hoped to be a surprise, the beautiful bouquet of daisies he had picked alongside the road, especially for her. However, as she opened her eyes to meet his forthcoming surprise, both he and she stared wide-eyed, and gasped, at the mass of bare stems and weed stubble in his hand.

“Bah-hah-hah,” came the ominous sound from a short distance away.

Both too stunned to speak, slowly turned their gaze to spot Lambert’s goat sticking his snout through the fence, chewing delicious flowers near the fence post Johnny had picked his bundle. Their eyes meeting again, he and she laughed hysterically.

“You’re a wonderful fella’, Johnny,” Kim said after she had recovered from giggling, finally taking the bouquet stub from him. Turning, she said, “Aunt Eva, would you mind putting what’s left in a vase of water for me to enjoy after school?”

“I’ll be glad to, honey. I believe Johnny might appreciate I add some flowers to the bundle as I walk back to the house.”

After giving the weed bundle to her aunt, Kim turned to see a misty glaze in Johnny’s eyes. “I meant for you to enjoy something truly beautiful Kim before you departed so soon.”

“Don’t be burdened, Johnny. I know in my heart when something is truly beautiful, your kindness and thought … that is very special and all that matters to me this moment. I’ll never forget it … and, I’ll always return here, especially to see you along with my Aunt Eva.” She glanced back briefly, and added, “Just think how delicious those flowers were to that old Billy goat.”

He chuckled, then suggested, “We’d better get on to school. Mrs. Plummer with hands on her hips is giving us a distant eyeball.”

They walked toward the school arm-in-arm taking their time. They heard Mrs. Plummer on the school porch ring her hand-held bell in an attempt to hasten them and other loafers. Tiny Oliver Singletary suddenly darted to the outhouse, dropped his overalls and sat on the stool with door wide open doing his business and trying to keep from falling into the rancid depths. Michael Wingate dropped to the ground from the lower limb of the giant oak beside the schoolhouse where he customarily showed off climbing two-thirds to the top, ‘a monkey in overalls’ most kids called him, as they encouraged and teased him for his tricks swinging from limb to limb.

*  *  *

The years passed with Johnny and Kim seeing less of each other intermittently, Kim living predominantly in Charlotte attending college and preparing for a nursing career, he too preoccupied seeking an agriculture degree.

Sad news arrived one day in the Frechette household, for which they had feared. Aunt Eva passed away suddenly in her sleep, probably from a stroke.

Aunt Eva had willed her ten-acre homestead to Kim, Harriet especially happy for her and feeling the gift appropriate.

At twenty-three in 1933, unmarried, free from the last of bad relationships with men, Kim visited the old place to access her options. The house and yard needed tender-loving care. Feeling privileged to resume Aunt Eva’s role she jumped headfirst into new and unexpected chores. Exhilarated at the labor and personal contact with Aunt Eva’s many things, she was also happy to have reconnected with the country and wide-open spaces. Realizing during her acquisition she had missed and sought this grand place unknowingly in her teens, she decided never to leave it again.

The fifth day after arrival, she walked down the path to get her own mail from the rickety old mailbox perched atop a fence post she refused to replace. To her right, she spotted the crumpling schoolhouse replaced by a county school constructed of brick two miles away in the lower valley.

Mail in hand, she was about to walk back when she stopped abruptly.

“Kim, if you don’t mind I have something for you,” the vaguely familiar male voice said, setting her heart into a flutter.

She swung about. Johnny Mueller stood on the far side of the clay road, his handsome face radiant. One hand was extended holding the most beautiful bouquet of flowers she had ever seen. She at once noticed Lambert’s goats stayed a safe distance, eating something on the ground that he had probably thrown before building his roadside bouquet.

“They’re eating gala apples off our farm, Kim. No goat is going to ruin this one,” he announced firmly.

*  *  *

Kim and Johnny were married six months later … in the resurrected old schoolhouse, which she and her dad purchased with funds taken from his now large construction bank account. Willie Lambert was glad to sell Andre the northern parcel of his farm, goats and all, agreeing with him it would be a historical landmark and museum to covet and secure for posterity of past times fast changing.

That wasn’t Kim’s last bouquet. Johnny kept them coming while avoiding his field goats as he plucked a variety of wild flowers up and down the road fronting their home and property.

Johnny and Kim Mueller restored Aunt Eva’s home and combined their properties into a productive farm. Kim aiding her aunt over the years had instilled in her a need to help people in need, especially suffering. She worked part-time in Murphy as a nurse until domestic needs overrode her career. When she returned from nursing she worked beside Johnny developing their farm into a prosperous business. They lived happily on the farm with children eventually to raise two boys and three girls.

The country full of its all-encompassing radiance and wonderful bouquets of flowers plucked from its productive soil forever bonded into harmony every single Mueller, the vases displayed in the old schoolhouse museum and on the Mueller dining table.


ARTIST’S NOTE: the characters I posed and painted for this picture were my daughter Kimberly Ann Dube’, Jimmy Dukes, who is my wife Sharon’s brother, and my beloved Aunt Eva Mathews of Quincy, Florida, now deceased.

© Copyright 2018 Virgil Dube. All rights reserved.

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