One of Ours

Willa Cather
One of Ours

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Title: One of Ours
Author: Willa Cather
Release Date: November 20, 2004 [eBook #2369] [Date last updated:
April 11, 2006]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

One of Ours
by Willa Cather

Book One: On Lovely Creek

Claude Wheeler opened his eyes before the sun was up and vigorously
shook his younger brother, who lay in the other half of the same bed.
"Ralph, Ralph, get awake! Come down and help me wash the car."
"What for?"
"Why, aren't we going to the circus today?"
"Car's all right. Let me alone." The boy turned over and pulled the sheet
up to his face, to shut out the light which was beginning to come
through the curtainless windows.
Claude rose and dressed,--a simple operation which took very little
time. He crept down two flights of stairs, feeling his way in the dusk,
his red hair standing up in peaks, like a cock's comb. He went through
the kitchen into the adjoining washroom, which held two porcelain
stands with running water. Everybody had washed before going to bed,
apparently, and the bowls were ringed with a dark sediment which the
hard, alkaline water had not dissolved. Shutting the door on this
disorder, he turned back to the kitchen, took Mahailey's tin basin,
doused his face and head in cold water, and began to plaster down his
wet hair.
Old Mahailey herself came in from the yard, with her apron full of
corn-cobs to start a fire in the kitchen stove. She smiled at him in the
foolish fond way she often had with him when they were alone.
"What air you gittin' up for a-ready, boy? You goin' to the circus before
breakfast? Don't you make no noise, else you'll have 'em all down here
before I git my fire a-goin'."
"All right, Mahailey." Claude caught up his cap and ran out of doors,
down the hillside toward the barn. The sun popped up over the edge of
the prairie like a broad, smiling face; the light poured across the
close-cropped August pastures and the hilly, timbered windings of

Lovely Creek, a clear little stream with a sand bottom, that curled and
twisted playfully about through the south section of the big Wheeler
ranch. It was a fine day to go to the circus at Frankfort, a fine day to do
anything; the sort of day that must, somehow, turn out well.
Claude backed the little Ford car out of its shed, ran it up to the
horse-tank, and began to throw water on the mud-crusted wheels and
windshield. While he was at work the two hired men, Dan and Jerry,
came shambling down the hill to feed the stock. Jerry was grumbling
and swearing about something, but Claude wrung out his wet rags and,
beyond a nod, paid no attention to them. Somehow his father always
managed to have the roughest and dirtiest hired men in the country
working for him. Claude had a grievance against Jerry just now,
because of his treatment of one of the horses.
Molly was a faithful old mare, the mother of many colts; Claude and
his younger brother had learned to ride on her. This man Jerry, taking
her out to work one morning, let her step on a board with a nail sticking
up in it. He pulled the nail out of her foot, said nothing to anybody, and
drove her to the cultivator all day. Now she had been standing in her
stall for weeks, patiently suffering, her body wretchedly thin, and her
leg swollen until it looked like an elephant's. She would have to stand
there, the veterinary said, until her hoof came off and she grew a new
one, and she would always be stiff. Jerry had not been discharged, and
he exhibited the poor animal as if she were a credit to him.
Mahailey came out on the hilltop and rang the breakfast bell. After the
hired men went up to the house, Claude slipped into the barn to see that
Molly had got her share of oats. She was eating quietly, her head
hanging, and her scaly, dead-looking foot lifted just a little from the
ground. When he stroked her neck and talked to her she stopped
grinding and gazed at him mournfully. She knew him, and wrinkled her
nose and drew her upper lip back from her worn teeth,
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