Springtime... the snow had vanished. Sunshine, spring showers, the house becoming the center of a veritable paradise of soft green foliage, early flowers and singing birds. But pioneers, though deeply appreciating beauties, had little time to enjoy them, for they were occupied with the problems of planting and cultivating.
Horses were, of course, needed for plowing. This made it necessary for Adolph to work for two days for some neighbor, in exchange for each day's work done with a team on his farm. Alfred was the first with whom this arrangement was made, but it soon became evident that someone else must be found to plow the "new" land.
This work was difficult, particularly for a novice, because of the tough roots of the stumps, which continually caught the plowshare. After spending a whole day in toilsome effort, during which he succeeded in plowing only three furrows around a one-acre field, Adolph abandoned the task, which was finished some time later in one day by a more experienced man.
Meanwhile Adolph, assisted by Emma and Ernest, planted potatoes and beans. On May 15 the balmy weather was suddenly displaced by snow and frost, which destroyed the beans and clover, and nipped the early fruit blossoms. A frost so late and severe as this is an uncommon occurrence, even in Northern Michigan, but this was the first of many disasters that befell the Ecklunds, as we shall see later.
Needing money with which to provide necessities for himself and family, Adolph accepted work offered by a Scots neighbor named John Smith. So, for a few weeks he peeled hemlock bark, to be used in a process of tanning hides, for which service he received a daily wage of seventy-five cents. He worked four days of this time in exchange for two suckling pigs...such was the struggle to increase the stock in the stable.
This was the beginning of a relationship of neighborly helpfulness between the Scotsman and the Swede, which lasted through many years that they lived near each other. Mr. Smith served as veterinarian and butcher on the Ecklunds' farm, while Adolph always filed John's saws and knives. Indeed, John became Adolph's closest friend.
Other kind neighbors instructed Adolph in the techniques of sowing rye and wheat and of harnessing a horse. In August, the Ecklunds' cow died as the result of falling and breaking her neck whle grazing on a hillside. Soon afterward one of the young pigs became ill and died. However, Emma inherited fifty dollars from a relative, and this was invested in two heifers. One of these was somewhat disfigured in appearance by a crooked horn, and this became an object of merriment among the neighbors. Nevertheless, Adolph was satisfied with the bargain, saying that he should not worry over a lack of beauty in the cow, so long as she gave good milk.
Thus the summer passed, and autumn came bringing a fair harvest. Our friends from the city were comforted with the thought that their hardest days... those of initiation and misfortune were over. As they started the winter with an adequate supply of food and clothing, the future seemed bright and promising, and they were thankful.
Then suddenly, in the middle of February, immediately after the happy celebration of their seventh wedding anniversary, the severest calamity overtook them. They were awakened at midnight by the smell of smoke, and, starting up saw the whole attic engulfed in flames. There was only time to snatch the precious children out of their sound slumber in warm beds and carry themn out under the stars, where the temperature was 10 below zero. They placed them on a mattress and covered them with a few blankets, which were hurriedly saved from the fire. The wind, blowing from the north, carried the sparks over the spot where the children were, igniting the blankets around them, so that the parents were occupied in extinguishing the flames and were prevented from removing the valuables. Many of the sparks carried by the north wind traveled south to the barn, creating the danger that the barn might also be burned. Emma related afterward how she noticed this, and having great faith in God, prayed that the barn might be spared. As if by miracle, the direction of the wind changed to the west, and the barn was unharmed. In later years this story was used as an object lesson of faith to the chldren, who could plainly see the brown marks where the sparks had scorched the rough boards.
In their haste, the parents had failed to find their clothing, and had to wait, half-dressed, in the snow for three and a half hours before help reached them. One of Emma's feet was bare and became frozen, and the suffering, both mental and physical, was intense during these hours, when moments seemed like days, as they saw all that meant home and comfort to them swallowed up in the great conflagration. Meanwhile, Adolph revived Emma's foot by rubbing it briskly with snow.
All that remained of the household furniture was the sewing machine, the flour bin, and the rolling pin. At last Alfred, aroused by the neighbors who had seen the glow on the sky, came and took Emma and the children to his home. Adolph remained the rest of the night, to watch the fire and prevent its spread, and to care for the cattle. In the morning he walked through the drifted snow to the home of Augusta and Alfred. His feet were covered with only felt boots, which were made to be worn inside rubber boots, and the latter had been destroyed with the other valuables. The reunited family gratefully accepted the haven of warmth and comfort as kindly proffered, in the midst of their trouble.
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