The Bench


The next day saw them nearing Kherson. Already a variety of roadside attractions tempted them. Among them were horse dealers and used equipment sellers. Nicholai stopped to talk to them, feeling comfortable asking questions and judging the quality of the items for sale. Finally he reached a horse handler he knew. Some fine wagons and horses were presented, and Nicholai was ready to make a deal. He settled on six horses and one exceptionally fine wagon, which he planned to use for Sundays only. Two of his new purchases were tied to the back of his wagon while two more pulled the new wagon with Gerhard in charge. The final two were tied to the back of Gerhard’s conveyance in preparation for the trip home. By sunset they were back on the road, on their way home to Lindenau.

The entourage slowly made its way, with each Janzen lost in his own thoughts. A full moon and clear sky made traveling all night easy. Eventually they stopped for breakfast under the famous old oak tree claimed to be over 700 years old. Their all-nighter had gone very well and they were near home.

“Why didn’t you haggle over the price of the horses?” asked Gerhard. “I saw others spend a long time beating the old man’s prices down.”

“Gerhard, I know the man. He’s been to our village. He’s as honest as a horse dealer can be. If I beat him down on the price of the first horse all he has to do is start higher on the next one. What’s the point? I always accept his price. That way I know he’s doing the best he can.”

Gerhard was quiet. He respected his father’s superior logic and experience in handling purchases. He would remember his father’s principle.

Nicholai made more trips to the seacoast cities and in so doing, eventually delivered the first steam engine to Lindenau. Soon the neighbours began to depend on Nicholai to bring exotic and new-fangled farm equipment into the area. Always, he sold them at cost, since he considered this activity a hobby.

It also provided him with the opportunity to travel and get away from Helena.

On one of these trips, Isaak was asked to come along. Again the topic of conversation turned to the success of the Revival Meeting. In contrast, however, Isaak prattled on about his grand spiritual experience. His self-righteous declarations soon became annoying to the point of nausea. Nicholai didn’t ask him again to be his trip companion.

The orchard grew rapidly and become a wonder to behold. Nicholai personally took interest in every detail and had the farm hands pay special attention to the care and feeding of the trees and shrubs. Here he would sit on his favourite bench to ponder life’s mysteries.

MORE pages to follow: click the page numbers below!
Ed Janzen is the editor and publisher of CANADIAN STORIES, a literary folk magazine that publishes short stories and poems from Canadian writers of every province of Canada. Story Quilt is an electronic magazine similar in content. Ed has written four memoirs. He also writes for the old car hobby and has a column in OLD AUTOS - a biweekly newspaper featuring mostly Canadians events and automotive history.
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