A Rural Saga– Chapter 1

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Violet Gets a New Home

Derek Cornfield skidded to a halt on his bicycle throwing up dust behind him. He was early for school but always looked forward to getting there early as the kids from this farming valley would be there playing football. He’d been up since 4am helping move cattle into the milking booths with the aid of their cattle dog sandy before a hasty dip in the dam and quick breakfast of damper, eggs and mushrooms under mom’s watchful eye as she attended to Derek’s two-year-old sister Debby.

As he sped along to school after breakfast. his peripheral vision caught sight of movement to his left that didn’t fit with the norm for this regular morning journey. Alighting from his battered bicycle he walked to the side of the road peering down at the creek below. He smiled; it was Violet Simpson one of the students from his school whose father owned the property he was passing on his way to school. She was a quiet girl who seldom took part in games played during recess preferring to read books, but she’d surprised them all by winning first place for their school in the annual inter school game competitions. Since that time all students had been in awe of her, but she seemed not to notice.

Derek sat next to her in class, and she excelled in studies, but Derek didn’t take classwork as seriously. He liked to play tricks on the kids, and they took it all in good humor and handed it back in kind so there was a good spirit among them all, and fights were rare. But Derek never played tricks on Violet Simpson in fact he did his best to have her notice him. He’d pick wildflowers and hide them in his pocket, so the boys didn’t see him deposit them on the table in front of her before she made it to her desk. He’d watch for her response out of the corner of his eye, and she’d smile before carefully hiding them in her bag without acknowledgement.

People in this rural community had to work hard for a living and supported each other when a calamity hit one of the families so naturally one would always stop to see all was right if they saw someone alone. Violet seemed to be washing her arm in the creek and hadn’t noticed the sound of Derek skidding to a halt on his bicycle above the creek bank.

Derek climbed down to see what was occupying Violet’s attention and noticed her red bicycle behind a lantana bush out of sight from the road.

“What are you doing Violet, aren’t you going to school today?”

Violet spun around in surprise with a look of fear in her eyes but slowly relaxed when she saw it was only her classmate Derek.

“I like to watch the yabbies but I’m going to school in a little while.”

Derek saw her arms had bruises on them. Usually, she wore a long sleeve t shirt and jeans to school which was considered unusual as the girls wore short sleeve dresses but that went along with her difference in personality and her classmates accepted her as she was. Violet’s sleeves had been rolled up as she played with the yabbies in the water, and she quickly rolled them down to cover bruises.

“How did you get those bruises?” Derek was concerned.

Violet burst into tears and Derek surprised moved from one foot to another trying to process this reaction. Finally, he moved forward and involuntarily put his arm around her.

I’m sorry you’re sad Violet. He released her and picked up her arm to inspect. Then he kissed the bruises.

“There that should make it better, that’s what my mom does for me when I get hurt.” He put her arm down again and Violet stopped crying.

“My da hits me when I irritate him, but he only does that when he’s been drinking, and he hits my mom and brothers to. Mom says not to tell anyone because he will only get angry and hit us more. So please don’t tell anyone Derek. I like the flowers you put on my desk.”

“How did you know I put flowers on your desk Violet?”

Violet smiled but didn’t answer his question. She turned to him.

“Can I ride with you to school? Please don’t tell any of the other kids what you saw, the bruises feel better where you kissed them. Your mother must be very nice to do that. Does your da beat you too?”

“My father would never hit any of us Violet and your father shouldn’t beat you either because you’re an angel.” To Derek’s surprise Violet giggled while drying her eyes with the back of her hand.

“I’m not an angel Derek. Can I ride with you to school?”

Derek nodded and went to get Violet’s red bicycle grunting as he pushed it up the hill to the road while Violet followed behind.

“Don’t tell the other kids, OK?”

Derek held her bicycle protectively as she climbed on and seated then sped off to school with Derek keeping pace. The kids at school paused their game to watch them approach looking at each other in surprise. Violet was a loner, and this was quite out of character for her. They were further amazed to watch them park their bicycles together then walk up the stairs to class chatting animatedly. From that day on Derek and Violet were inseparable at school and Violet even joined in sports practice at recess.

That evening after chores around the farm had been completed Derek sped to the top of the hill to play with his younger sister Debby while mom prepared the evening meal. Derek loved the view over their extensive property and delighted in the banter and jostling of the farm hands outside their quarters next to the big processing barn where fruit and vegetables were packed for transport to the big city. As he played with his sister in her highchair where both could survey the farm from their veranda outlook, he called to his mom who was setting the table nearby.

“Mom why do fathers hit their family.”

Beth Cornfield turned in surprise and went out to join her children on the veranda.

“Your father Sam would never hit any of us Derek, why on earth did you ask me that?”

“No reason, just wanted to know.”

“Derek, you wouldn’t ask me that question if you hadn’t heard about someone’s father doing that to his family. Now out with it. Whose father is hitting them?”

Derek remembered his promise to Violet and wished he’d not asked his mom that question.

“Kids at school were talking mom, I don’t know.”

Beth returned to finish preparing the evening meal thinking about Derek’s question. She often accompanied other farmer wives to town in Matt Drummond’s milk run truck to buy household items. Milk cans filled were delivered by truck or tractor to farm hub mailboxes on the main road from each cluster of farms and mail was delivered to these boxes in the evening drop on Matt’s return to his rural property.

Matt had benches in the back of his truck where housewives hitching a ride to town sat on the bumpy journey. Not strictly legal but town police winked at the infringement. The milk would be delivered to processing depot in town for later transfer to tankers heading for the city where it would be finally processed in factories producing a range of milk products.

After offloading milk cans and receiving the empties back Matt would deliver the women to the main street for their shopping and picked them up for the return journey early afternoon after collecting mail for rural distribution on the return journey. He never charged those who hitched a ride and that is probably why town police didn’t trouble him about seating arrangements.

Beth picked up a lot of gossip from the ladies on those trips and was aware there were a couple of cases of domestic violence in their rural community. She quickly recalled the families involved and settled on the Simpson family. Cindy Simpson often accompanied her to town on Matt’s truck run and it was understood in their women’s world she was an abused woman.

Her husband Jed was quite a charmer when sober, but it was understood among men Jed drank too much and was quarrelsome when he’d had too much to drink. He’d had a run in with some of the men at a rural dance and was taken behind the hall to put him in the right frame of mind as one of the men had described it. But it was reported he took it out on Cindy afterward at the dance and had been warned by the men not to do that again or he’d be given another lesson in good behavior.

 Poor woman, Beth wondered if he did the same thing to his children. The older boys were tall and strong so could keep him at bay, but little Violet was a surprise arrival when Cindy’s bearing days should have been well over. She’d have to work on her son to find out if that girl was being physically abused. But Derek kept his promise to Violet and pretended not to know.

It was on one of those trips to town with Matt Drummond Beth Cornfield probed Cindy Simpson in a round about way for confirmation of her suspicions. Cindy smiled as she saw through her neighbor’s attempts to pry into the Simpson family affairs. She assumed everyone in the community know about her husband’s abuse after that unfortunate public event at the dance months before so what was the harm in confronting the matter now. She liked Beth as the Cornfields had always helped when they needed extra hands to bring in crops or if some of their machinery broke down. Sam was a whiz with machinery and had supervised training of the two eldest Simson boys in maintaining new equipment their father Jed was not familiar with.

Cindy turned to her friend. The roar of the diesel motor would block out any conversation from Matt’s hearing and there was only both women in the truck this day.

“Beth, I know you mean well so will bring you up to date on Jed’s abuse. Our boys are growing up and the two eldest are taller than their father now. So, two things made a change in Jed’s behavior which I’m thankful for as I love my husband. When he’s sober, you couldn’t wish for a better husband, but a few drinks and it seems the devil enters him so that had to stop. The boys were humiliated on that dance night when Jed had too much to drink and got out of hand and the men had to beat some sense into him. Then they came to know he was beating Violet when they were not around and they’re very protective of her as their only sister. It came to a crisis when he lashed out and hit me and then Violet and was heading for the boys when the eldest told him to stop. Jeb didn’t and my son Carl flattened him with one hit. When Jed sobered up the boys sat him down and told him if he ever hit any of us again, they’d give it back to him in kind and if that didn’t work put a police complaint against him. That shocked Jed. The boys follow him around particularly to town and he’s forbidden to go the pub anymore. It’s been hard on Jed but he’s making progress and hasn’t touched Violet or me for a while now so I’m praying he’s conquered his addiction.”

Beth reached out and took her neighbor’s hand. “That’s personal I shouldn’t have pried into your family affairs Cindy and apologize.”

“Glad you have concern for me Beth and would appreciate it if what I told you is between us. One of the irritants to Jed is Violet I’m ashamed to say. She was a surprise to us at my age and for some reason in his drunken moments he’d accuse me of having an affair with someone else which is both impossible and insulting. Even though he doesn’t hit us any more he doesn’t treat her with the same respect he gives the boys. I fear that as she grows up this lack of love from her father will make her dysfunctional in life. I’ve thought of sending her to her aunt in the city to get her away from this environment, but she doesn’t want to live in the city.”

On impulse Beth spun around to face Cindy. “Give her to me, we’ll love her like one of our own and you’ll have access to her whenever you want Cindy. Derek already looks on her as a sister and is always talking about her.”

Cindy was in shock. “I’ll have to think about that Beth, the boys would miss her terribly. Anyway, we’ve reached the outskirts of town and Matt will be shutting the truck motor down soon so please no more conversation about this. I don’t want our conversation floating around the rural community.”

That evening as they were preparing for bed Beth talked with Sam reporting her conversation on the way to town. Nothing had been said on the way home that afternoon, but Beth realized she’d better level with her husband about her offer to Cindy. To her surprise Sam was quite willing for them to add another one to their developing family. They were prosperous enough to have up to five children to support so it would not be a problem as far as Sam was concerned and he felt sorry for the children in the Simpson family and wanted to help if he could. Beth kissed him for his unselfish nature.

“I’m so glad you asked me to marry you Sam. I’m the luckiest woman in the world.”

Sam laughed in embarrassment. “I think I’m the luckiest man in the world to have you accept me, Beth.”

A month later Beth looked out the window and saw someone from a vehicle opening the gate to their property. She went to the front door and waited for the vehicle to wind its way up the pathway to their house. Carl Simpson the eldest son got down from the driver’s seat and his mother Cindy exited the passenger seat. Beth moved downstairs to greet them.

“I didn’t recognize the vehicle, Cindy. Nice to see you, Carl!”

“Jed bought it for the boys to use and they’re giving it a good workout. Do you have time to talk?” Cindy smiled and Carl nodded respectfully.

“Come on upstairs and I’ll make you hot drinks and some biscuits. Always good to see you folk.” Beth sat them on the veranda and quickly prepared some treats for them to enjoy as they talked. She was back quickly, and they swapped pleasantries.

After a while Carl spoke. “Why do you want to steal our sister?”

To Be Continued

Copyright Notice

© Copyright 2023 Ian Grice, “ianscyberspace.” All rights reserved

7 thoughts on “A Rural Saga– Chapter 1

  1. Another great story in the making my sweet friend. Reading this has stirred up some memories for me as you probably knew would happen. I will be looking forward to reading more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This story was inspired by the years my father spent developing rural properties and selling them when fenced, stocked and cropped. Rural folk are wonderful people who would do anything to help but there is always the exception just as it is in the cities.

      Liked by 1 person

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