The gloomy forecast of things to come hadn’t affected Freddy and George yet as they watched their mother across the field hang clothes on the long clothesline that stretched from the farm house to the side of the chicken coop. They laughed as the pants and shirts danced in the wind and wound themselves on the clothesline looking like extra skinny scarecrows.
The cottonwood that stood on the crest of the hill kept watch over the young boys. A few early blackberry canes crept among the bracken and wild wheat that covered the hill.
In time past, fast moving water had cut a stream bed at the foot of the hill. Not only did it give cool clear water to drink and salmon to catch in the fall, it also kept the milk cows from wandering too far from the house and barn.
“Over here on this side of the stream is the perfect place for the fort,” said Freddy, being three years older, he knew everything.
Even though the boys had to share with the small herd of sheep their dad kept as meat for the winter, it was near enough, yet far enough from their home.
The cows sometimes did double duty, letting let the family know if coyotes were lurking around trying for a stray sheep. They were almost better guardians than the dogs that followed the boys.
“Let’s start building right now,” cried Freddy catching his second wind. He jumped up, from his spot by the small fir tree, picked up a board and drove it into the dry earth that they were sitting on. “We’ll build it right here,” he said, and began to pace off the size of the new fort.
George and Freddy worked the rest of the day, and slowly the fort began to take shape. George being younger was not good at hammering nails. But he could hold the other end of the board while Freddy sawed, and he ran and fetched for his older brother. He knew he was helping build too.
When they heard their mother calling them for the evening meal, they both gave a satisfied sigh of accomplishment as they dropped their tools and ran towards home.
“I’m hungry enough to eat an elephant!” laughed Freddy as they sloshed across the creek. That’s what their older bother Eric always said in earlier days when all three boys would race back to the house for supper. Eric didn’t play with them much anymore though, he was seven years older than Freddy and had chores around the farm, and besides, he said he was too old for childish play; he had grownup things to do.
Freddy and George missed him a lot.
One day when the fort was almost finished George came running pell-mell across the cow pasture and splashed his way across the stream.
“Freddy, come quick, see what’s on the road. You’re not going to believe it!”
The boys scrambled back through the field, across the stream, over the road and there in the ditch were two dead, partly eaten, sheep.
“We have to get pa right away; I think these are our sheep that the coyotes got. He’s going to be madder ‘n a wet hen! You go get him George, I’ll wait here and keep the crows away.”
* * * *