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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Are You a Man, Little Eli?

I just received an email attachment with a soon to be published manuscript written by my niece Judy Yoder. It is the story of the early life of my older brother Eli (her father) and of our family during our years in eastern Kansas.

My parents, Ben and Mary Yoder, moved there with their eight children from Nowata County, Oklahoma, in late 1942 to near Garnett, Kansas, then by train to Virginia in March of 1946. I am 3 1/2 years old when this story begins, and Eli is eight.

I don't have the same vivid memories of this time my older siblings have, but this gives me such a sense of place, of home, helping me see, feel, hear and taste some of my early life in a way that makes it priceless. The book is meant for elementary age children, but it is one that I, needless to say, am reading with great interest!

Judy is also the author of the book "Vera's Journey" which has sold over 6000 hardback copies.

Here's a list of the chapters, plus a sample from the first part of chapter 1:

Are you a man, Little Eli?

1. Too Poor to go Farther......................................................... 2
2. Mrs. Snyder.......................................................................    11
3. The Button-up Shoes .......................................................... 19
4. Write it a Thousand Times.................................................. 27
5. Rats in the Attic.................................................................. 35
6. Surprise from the Junk Yard ............................................... 42
7. The Almost-end of School. ................................................ 48
8. Patsy Comes to Stay............................................................. 53
9. The Sure-enough Mad Dog................................................. 64
10. Grouchy Mr. Watkins......................................................... 67
11. The Christmas Train........................................................... 77
12. The Big Red Bull................................................................ 89
13. Herdsman for Dannie......................................................... 98
14. Buck Rake and the Bees................................................... 105
15. Weeds in the Corn............................................................. 117
16. Visit to Oklahoma............................................................. 125
17. Rabbit Hunt with Patsy..................................................... 132.
18. No Funeral for Ben........................................................... 137
19. Queen gets the Spooks.....................................................  143
20. Responsible Hired Man .................................................. 148
21. The Wonderful New Machine……………………........……... 154
22. Home Alone..................................................................... 158
23. Hail on the Oats............................................................... 166
24. Mountains of Virginia...................................................... 170
25. War's End......................................................................... 173
26. Good-bye Grossmommy.................................................. 174
27. Letter from Uncle Ed....................................................... 179
28. Rubber-tired Tractor......................................................... 188
29. "Din-nah in tha' Reah!".................................................... 193
30. Surrounded by Mist......................................................... 200
31. A Man-sized Job.............................................................. 202



Chapter 1. Too Poor to go Farther   12/15/42

It was night when Eli opened his eyes. The moon still floated high above the frozen prairie, and Dad and Mom’s voices were quick and muffled in the kitchen. The morning fire in the stove spit and popped.

Eli shoved his face out of the comforters. The air grabbed his chest but he sat up, shivering. Gritting his teeth, he slid out of bed and reached for his clothes. Sanford’s feet hit the floor at the same time. Others were waking too–Harvey, in his bed, the girls in theirs--Lovina, Esther, and Lucy. Lena and Fannie Mae. Everyone was hurrying. Mom had said that on moving day there would be no time to waste. They must grab a bite, and hustle about.

Eli slipped into the kitchen. He took the cornbread Mom handed him. Already the house where he had been born seemed like a foreign place. Boxes and barrels crowded the corners and hid the walls. The rooms of the little house seemed strange and swollen out of shape. In just a few hours they would drive away and never come back. Eli tried to swallow the last bite of cornbread but it stuck in his throat.

“Ach, your head!” Mom said. She ran a wet comb over his hair, sending a cold trickle down his neck before he pulled on his stocking cap. The wetness reached way down inside of him without warming up at all. He wrestled with the door knob, then stepped out into the night.

Tree branches made thin shadows on the ground. Somewhere a rooster crowed. A truck ground to a halt out on the road, then headlights swung in the lane. Eli jumped off the porch and stood there, shivering. The movers were here.

Lanterns bobbed. Hurry, hurry went all the feet. They must soon head down the road and go, who knows where. Eli did not know. Neither did the others. Only Dad had seen their new home.

“I found a house to rent five miles from Uncle Dannies and Grossmommy,” Dad had said. “Not as close as I wish, but close enough, I guess.” He cleared his throat, “Though the house isn’t in the best of shape.”

“What needs be, needs be,” Mom had answered. And that’s why today was moving day.

Soon Eli was too busy to think. He did not feel the cold creeping into his hands and feet. He did not feel it slipping down his coat collar, sucking at his breath. The sun was peeping over the rim of the world as Dad and Sanford loaded the stove, the beds. and the kitchen sink. It was peering in the windows as Mom and the girls hefted on the desk, the table, and the chairs.

The loads piled higher and higher. The sun climbed up, up the sky. Clothes, comforters, and food squeezed on board. Horses, pigs, and cows. And then they were on their way.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  * * *
Judy has kindly given me permission to post this sample draft, with the understanding that her manuscript will need to go through the publisher's normal editing process and has yet to be illustrated, all of which may take considerable time.  I'll be sure to let everyone know when this happens.
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