Love Is Enough
By Mabel Harmer
Synopsis: Geniel Whitworth, from Denver, Colorado, becomes a schoolteacher at Blayney, Idaho, and lives at Mrs. Willett’s boarding house. She meets Christine Lacy and Marva Eberhart, fellow schoolteachers, Mrs. Willett’s nephew, Jeff Burrows, a rancher, and Johnny Linford, who is working for the forest service. Geniel finds these new friends quite different from Ernest Wood, her longtime friend who has a shoe store in Denver.
Geniel soon discovered that, while her students were better behaved than the average, there were still many problems. Christine gave her the answer to some of them while walking home from school one crisp November day.
“I can’t understand Tommy Evans,” said Geniel. “He seems to want to do his work, but he can’t resist playing every chance he gets.”
“I can explain that one,” said Christine with a wry smile. “His grandmother lives with the family, and she thinks that children should be kept busy all of the time. He has to practice the piano for two hours a day, and if there is any time left over he helps around the house. She told me that he even hems dishtowels if there is nothing else for him to do. Now, do you blame him for wanting to play in school?”
“I certainly don’t. Maybe I’ll have to give him an extra recess. Jean Margetts is another one. She seems to be so listless all the time. I’m wondering if she has enough to do to keep her interested. I do wish that we had a library here. The few books we have, have been read to pieces.”
“I’ve had that same longing for years – as you may imagine. I’ve tried every once in a while to interest the school board or the mayor in the project, but I guess that I haven’t been persistent enough. Anyway, roads and plumbing always come first. Any more problem children?”
“Yes, the worst of all.” Geniel’s forehead etched a frown. “It’s little Connie Roberts. My heart aches for her. She is so shy and so shabby and she can’t read without stammering. Then someone is bound to snicker. How can children be so cruel? I hate to call on her, but I can’t just let her sit there. What can I do?”
“I know the family,” Christine replied. “They’ve had a lot of bad luck and are really quite poor. It’s probably Connie’s feeling of inferiority that is at the root of her stammering. If you could do something to give her more confidence, you might overcome the speech defect.”
“I’ll try. I know where I can start. My sister has a little girl just older. She’s always outgrowing her dresses. I’ll see if she doesn’t have some dresses she can pass on.”
Geniel sent off a letter that very night, and within a week three pretty dresses, a skirt, and two sweaters had arrived. “You caught me just as I was getting these ready to give away,” wrote Marcie. “So I’m glad that you can use them.”
Geniel figured that her next problem would be to give them to Mrs. Roberts without hurting her feelings, but she found that she needn’t have worried. The mother was more than grateful for the clothes.
The next day Connie came to school in the plaid skirt with the soft green sweater. Her hair had been curled, and she seemed to feel much more at ease. She even smiled at her schoolmates once in a while.
The day before thanksgiving Mrs. Willet announced, “We get a holiday all the way around tomorrow. My sister Nina has invited us all out to the ranch for dinner.”
“How much of a family is there besides Jeff?” asked Geniel.
“Just his mother and father at the ranch. But Nina will find someone else to bring in. She wouldn’t think of cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for just six or seven people. Their home is down in Southern Utah and Nina would certainly like to get back there again. They just came up here to keep house for Jeff after he graduated from that agricultural school back in Iowa, and had to get himself a ranch to try out what he’d learned. The rest of the family are all married.”
“It sounds like fun,” said Marva. “Maybe we’d better take some riding clothes along. Does he have riding horses?”
“A couple. But it will more than likely be too cold for riding. You’ll have to leave that until next spring. Jeff goes mostly in for raising cattle. Those black and white ones, you know.”
“That doesn’t sound very thrilling,” Marva declared. “When I get my ranch I shall raise Palomino horses and Merino sheep.”
“I thought that you were going to have a mushroom farm,” Christine reminded her with a smile.
“That was last week,” replied Marva airily.
Mrs. Willett insisted that they go rather early the next day, so that she could help her sister prepare the dinner. “I’m going to take out the pumpkins pies,” she said, “and stuffing for the turkey. Nina never did learn how to make good stuffing.”
They left shortly after ten, driving out in Mrs. Willett’s ancient Chevrolet. The weather was fairly mild, but the day was gray and it looked as if they might have either rain or snow before evening. Geniel was glad to get away from the boarding house for the day. She still had twinges of homesickness on gray days, and this was her first Thanksgiving away from home. She was thinking nostalgically of her own mother’s dinners, and was grateful that Mrs. Burrows liked to cook for a big crowd.
“We may have to borrow a sleigh to come back in,” announced Mrs. Willett cheerfully. “I don’t have my snow tires on Bertha here.”
“Or we could just stay on at the ranch,” commented Marva, “and all become champion milkmaids.”
“Right now I’m doing my best to learn how to balance two pumpkin pies,” said Christine. “It looks to me as if we were carrying enough to feed the entire county.”
“Oh, there’s just ten or twelve,” said Mrs. Willett, swinging around to avoid a chuck hole in the road. “I thought I might as well bake a couple of extras to put in their freezer.”
“You’d better make this a mighty smooth ride, then,” said Geniel, “or the pies will end up in our laps instead. We wouldn’t look too well if we all went in decorated with pumpkin pie.”
The ride was far from being smooth, especially over the last half mile, which was the private road up to the ranch house, but the girls managed to keep the pies on their laps and not in them.
Geniel had been very much interested in seeing Jeff’s home. She had pictured a low rambling house in the first-class ranch tradition. Instead it was a two-story house of the style built in the early part of the century with a one story addition to the south that had obviously been only recently added.
If she had been somewhat disappointed in the outside of the house, she was pleasantly surprised with the interior. The new part was all living room with dining area at one end. At the other end was an enormous fireplace, filled now with a great log.
Crisp, white ruffled curtains at the windows, hooked rugs, and a fine maple highboy had created an early American room that could have come out of a top magazine.
Geniel would have loved to sink down into one of the chintz cushioned rockers in front of the fireplace and simply luxuriate in the warmth and comfort, but Marva had other ideas. On learning that Jeff was out working in the yard, she said, “Let’s go out. Maybe we can pitch hay or get corn out of the silo.”
“It sounds too utterly fascinating,” said Christine, “but I’m declining, just the same. Maybe they’ll give me a job in the kitchen instead. That’s more my type.”
Geniel had exactly the same sentiments, but she didn’t say so. She wasn’t going to let Jeff – or anyone else, think that she couldn’t match Marva in youthful enthusiasm.
“You’ll need galoshes,” said Mrs. Burrows. “I’ll get mine for one of you.”
“And mine are out in the car,” said Mrs. Willett. “I always keep them on hand. I never know when I’ll have to get out and hoist Bertha from a mud hole.”
Marva slipped into Mrs. Burrows’ galoshes, and they happened to fit fairly well. Geniel put on her wraps and went out to the car. The boots were far too large, but at least they offered protection. Marva was already out to the corral railing by the time she had put them on. She followed without taking time to snap the fasteners.
“Hi, there, dudes!” called Jeff. “come on over and help me mend this fence. That is, if you know a saw from a hammer.”
“Anything you can do, we can do better,” sang Marva. “We can do anything better than you.”
“No, you can’t,” came a bass reply.
“Yes, we can, yes, we can, yes, we can.”
“All right, Annie Oakley. Let’s see you get on the business end of this hammer. Or maybe you’d rather just hand me the nails.”
Geniel had been stepping with more and more difficulty across the corral where a combination of recent rains and the hooves of cattle had made a sticky mud. Now she found, to her horror, that her boots were stuck fast. If she pulled out of them she would be ankle deep in mire. She stood there absolutely helpless.
When Jeff finally noticed her plight, he grinned. She knew that nobody under the sun could have helped seeing it as funny, but she was furious just the same.
“Hold it,” he called, most unnecessarily. “I’ll come over and rescue you.”
He strode over and lifted her up in his arms. Then he carried her over to the fence and set her down on the dry ground. “Now, lady,” he said seriously, “let that be a lesson to you. Never try to squeeze your number six shoes into number ten boots. Or, if you do, rivet them on.”
“Or stay out of mud holes,” she added.
Jeff went back and pulled the boots free. “I’ll turn the hose on these,” he said. “You walk around the fence. It’s longer but much drier.”
Geniel would have much preferred going back into the house at once, but she wasn’t going to retreat in disgrace. Assuming a nonchalance that she was far from feeling, she walked around and joined Marva at the far side of the corral.
A few minutes later when Mrs. Burrows called from the porch, “Jeff, where are those carrots you were going to bring me?” Geniel said, “Let me take them up.”
“Sure,” he replied easily and went into the barn for a small bag of carrots.
She took them and hurried back, leaving Marva to hand out nails, banter, and whatever else seemed best suited to the occasion.
Another automobile load of guests had arrived, and there were introductions to the Robertson family, much chatter and gaiety.
Geniel glanced into the kitchen to see if she might be of any help there, but it was already overcrowded, so she went back to the living room. She sank down onto the divan which commanded a view both of the blazing hearth and the snow-capped mountains in the distance.
She loved the nearness of these Idaho mountains. In Denver they had seemed somewhat out of reach. Soon her glance caught another view – Jeff and Marva coming back into the house, laughing hugely at some shared joke. For an anguished moment she wondered if she were the central character in that joke. What a ridiculous figure she must have cut! No wonder they were laughing at her.
They came on into the house, and as soon as Marva had shed her wraps she joined Geniel on the divan.
“Jeff was just telling me the funniest story,” she began. “There’s an Irishman who lives down the road and …”
Geniel almost sighed aloud in her relief. Never in all of her life had she so enjoyed a story about an Irishman.
Marva had just finished telling how he made sweaters for his piglets, when Mrs. Burrows summoned them to dinner. There were twelve in all, and Geniel couldn’t help feeling a glow of satisfaction when Jeff took the trouble of seating her first.
The annoyance and chagrin she had felt faded in the warmth of this friendly group. The dinner was sumptuous with the traditional roast turkey, cranberries, candied yams, and Mrs. Willett’s super stuffing. They even finished off four of the pumpkin pies – much to Geniel’s surprise.
The dishes were cleared away and left – at Mrs. Burrows’ insistence – until after the guests had gone. “Pa and I can do them later,” she said. “It’s one of our best times to talk things over.” So they all gathered back in the living room where conversation and music kept up a happy theme.
Geniel couldn’t remember when she had been with a more congenial group of people. Even the Robertson family, who had been total strangers, seemed like old friends and chatted as such.
Just before dusk Jeff excused himself to go out and do the chores. “The cows and pigs just don’t realize that this is a holiday,” he complained.
“But the turkeys sure found out,” shouted little Tommy Robertson. “And we sure do.”
Jeff and his father had just gone out to do the chores when the phone rang. Much to her surprise, the call was for Geniel. “I gave central the number here,” explained Mrs. Willett. “I was pretty sure that someone would be calling.”
It was the folks at home. As she returned to the living room, smiling, Christine said, “I know who that was. You look so happy it must have been your young man in Denver.”
Geniel colored as she replied, “No, you’re quite wrong. That was my mother and dad.”
She had never for one minute expected Ernest to call – for no better reason than she was sure it would never occur to him that the day or the occasion called for it. At any rate she was glad it had been her own folks. It made just one more happy experience in a lovely day.
The men returned from doing the chores soon after dark, and all too soon it was time for them to leave. “I have only one light on the car,” announced Mrs. Willett comfortably. “But then, we don’t run into many people out this way. Especially on a holiday.”
“Just take care that you don’t run into anybody, Auntie dear,” cautioned Jeff. “You don’t want to start a schoolteacher shortage around here – not to mention a shortage of desirable boarders.”
“Other than that, it would be of no great moment,” observed Marva breezily.
“None whatever,” agreed Jeff. Just the same he insisted that they wait until he had supplied the missing light.
They said their thanks and goodbyes and went out to the old car for the ride home. “I’d like to live on a farm,” said Marva as they jolted homeward.
“Not I,” said Mrs. Willett. “You work early and late. You clear the snow off your own road out to the highway when it storms. If a crop fails you’re broke for a whole year. I’d a lot rather live in town and cook for twenty boarders.”
“Oh, but look at the fun you can have on a farm,” Marva persisted.
“What fun?” Mrs. Willett wanted to know.
“Well, maybe satisfaction is a better word. You can make things grow – you have freedom …”
“Like having to milk cows regardless of whether it’s Christmas or Thanksgiving, or if you’re almost too sick to move.”
Marva laughed. “Oh, come now. Wouldn’t you rather have been out there to dinner today than in any hotel in the country?”
“Sure. There are lots of good things, along with the bad. But I grew up on a farm, and I know what I’m talking about. You really have to love the land to be happy on one.”
“Or be with people you love,” was Christine’s comment.
“So – maybe I love the land,” Marva conceded. “How about you, Geniel? Wouldn’t you like to live on a farm?”
“I don’t know. I hadn’t really thought about it. It might be all right if I could learn to keep out of mudholes. I think that you could be happy anywhere, Marva.”
They hadn’t been home ten minutes before Johnny came dashing in, bringing some large apples, a bowl of caramel corn – and a turkey wishbone.
“I knew you’d be hungry after spending all day out in the country,” he said, “so I gathered a few items together. Or maybe you’d rather come over and hold a wake with the remains of the turkey.”
“I’d rather not even think about food,” said Christine.
“I’ll take caramel corn,” said Marva. “There’s something wonderful about popcorn. No matter how much you eat you never get filled up.”
Speak for yourself,” said Geniel. “Personally, I’ll settle for a chance at the wishbone.”
Johnny held it out and with great solemnity they made their wishes and pulled. “You won,” he said with an air of resignation.
“Yes,” replied Geniel. But to herself she said, “No, you won, Johnny. My wish was for you.”