I leaned on my hoe to rest for a moment. Our crops were coming in, and so were the weeds. But I relished this toil after all I had been through. I looked around to see Adolphus and Andrew doing the same thing. I had to smile at the prospect of Adolphus doing manual labor probably for the first time in his life, but he went at it with determination. Hiram scooped the weeds into a basket and dumped them in the woods where they would be eaten by animals. He did this remarkably well, considering he only had one arm. And Clinton had joined us shortly after we came home in April. He had been separated from us in the battles since February. It goes without saying that we were glad to see him. He had gone to town for supplies, but I expected him back shortly.
As I was thinking about that happy month, I was reminded of the sadness we felt with the news of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Although he led the other side, I still thought him to be an honorable and honest man who did his duty. I also thought of that day I met him on the ball field close to the White House. He was generous and kind to a rebel prisoner, and I had not forgotten that.
We were shocked, as were many others, at the idea of an actor shooting him during a play. Ford’s Theater was not far from our ball fields, and although I never went there, I knew where it was. Subsequent reports in the papers of the progress of his funeral train and burial gave us pause. He was one of the last of the soldiers to die in that destructive, divisive war. I had little hope of healing those wounds with that I had read about Andrew Johnson. But that world of politics and division lay far from our little home, and we had plenty to attend to.
Laurel came to the edge of the garden. “It’s time to eat, boys! Come on and get it!
We did not need second invitation but lay down our hoes and basket and made our way to house where Laurel had laid out a spread worthy of a small wedding. “You’ve fixed so much!” I exclaimed.
She gave me a hug. “You’re worked so much!”
“Don’t you get tired of fixing so much food?”
“I’m so happy we’re together that I scarcely notice.”
“I’m happy about that too,” I said, and kissed her.
We all went in and sat at the table when Clinton came in with the supplies. “Clinton!” called Andrew. “You’re just in time to eat, as usual. You’ll do anything to avoid work!”
Clinton wiped his brow. “If walking to town in this humidity and then walking back carrying several bags isn’t work, I have no idea what is.”
“Aw, Clint, I was just joshing you.”
Clinton smiled. “I know. I know what you’re like.” He put his bags down and sat at the table. Laurel looked around. “Whose turn is it to say grace? Hiram? I believe it’s you.”
I knew Hiram felt that he was not as eloquent as Adolphus or as plain-spoken as Andrew. He also had no particular religious belief, so he had a number of reasons he disliked praying. Nonetheless, he bowed his head and we followed.
“Lord, you know I don’t believe in you, but I can’t help who I am. I didn’t have no parents and didn’t go to church. I’m not even sure who I’m talking to, but these good people know You, and I’ll take that for a guarantee. I thank you for having them take me in, for keeping me safe during the war, and for making sure I had a nice home with people who love me and plenty of good meals like this. This is me, Hiram, saying this to you. Amen.”
Andrew and Clinton looked at each other when Hiram’s prayer was done and burst into laughter. Hiram hung his head.
“Boys, that was very rude. You apologize to Hiram.”
Andrew blushed. “M’am, we wasn’t laughing at him. It just struck us as funny that he says he doesn’t like to pray and then he goes and lasts as long at it as Alphonso.”
“You didn’t upset me by laughing,” Hiram said. “I knew why you did it.”
Laurel looked around at them. “I’m glad I understand, but you boys forgot something.”
All three of them blushed this time. “I think Hiram prayed pretty good,” said Andrew. “He didn’t leave nothin’ out.”
“You just did it again. “It’s ‘nothing,’ not ‘nothin’. And you said, ‘I think Hiram prayed pretty good,’ when I’m sure you meant, ‘Hiram prayed very well’.”
“Oh,” said Andrew.
She turned to Hiram. “And you said, ‘I didn’t have no parents’ when you know you should have said, ‘I didn’t have any parents.’”
“That’s my excuse,” Hiram said. “I didn’t have no parents to teach me right!”
“There you go—” Laurel started to call him down but smiled instead. “Of course you didn’t dear boy, and I should remember that. Still, it’s important to speak correctly. I know you will try.”
“Yes’m,” they mumbled, but I remembered how poorly I spoke and wrote at the beginning of the war and how patiently Adolphus taught me better.
We started eating, and once again I was struck how fortunate I was to have such a loving family and, now that the conflict was ended, such a wonderful life.