Continued: Written by Irene Postle, older sister to Lee, May 1995. Edited for brevity, otherwise writing is original. Part 2
I recall, also, as though it were yesterday how when I was five years old and Lee was four, I found a kitchen match our dad had accidentally left on his workbench, after repairing an innertube for our Ford, touring car.
With the match in one hand, and my little brother in the other, I went scouting for a place to strike this match. I promptly ruled out the huge, open grain field between our farm and that of our closest neighbor. Too wide open, as my thinking went then. So off we went to the barn where we proceeded to climb up recently-skinned young trees, that were leaning against the inner wall of the barn, to get to the hayloft. I chose a likely corner, and Lee and I then dragged hay from the middle of the loft to this corner. Had to be adequate, I decided, in order to get a good blaze.
It was there I struck the match and watched as the flames took hold and started climbing to the top of the pile. All of a sudden the prospect of what was happening hit my five year old ‘gray matter’ and down the skinned trees we went, running at breakneck speed to get as far away as we could, from the barn.
My first thought was to go into hiding. My mother was a firm disciplinarian. In other words, I knew I had done wrong.
Lee, on the other hand, ran into the house to tell. To tattle? What a traitor, thought I. Our mother was horror stricken! She became frantic. She ran toward the barn, trying to see me, somewhere, enroute. Irene was nowhere in sight.
Fortunately, my dad had staked the one and only cow we had, to a spot some distance from the barn. Good grazing there. I watched, from my hiding place under the front porch of the house, as my mother, with her bare hands tore away fencing so the chickens could get out of the chicken house and yard before the fire reached them in this attached area of the barn complex.
Cars began to accumulate, on the roadway, out front, as people stopped to come help put out the fire. The barn was an old, weather-beaten structure, and was consumed in what seemed to be a matter of minutes. And the “dumb chickens,” in and out of the chicken coup they ran. I well imagine how heart breaking this had to have been for our mother, who soon realized it was going to be impossible to save them all.
One of the motorists, who came to help, told my mother he had seen a little girl peeking out from under the front porch. That gave her the peace of mind, the strength, to carry on at the scene of the crime, the fire. As I recall it now, 1995, after all of the excitement was over, my mother gave me several sound swats with the butter paddle. (We made our own butter from our cow’s weekly supply of milk/cream.) I don’t recall how it felt, but I do recall it happened.
Losing Ten Years
No swats for Lee, however, she knew he was not the culprit, after all, it was he who came to report the misdeed while the offender went into hiding, causing her, our mother, to “lose ten years growth”.
My dad later told the story of how he dreaded going to tell the owner of the farm the story of how his daughter, the arsonist, had burned Rash’s barn to the ground. He was most surprised, and I’m sure most relieved, when, Mr. Rash, the landlord, said, “Oscar, you can’t know how worried I have been that that old barn would tumble down and harm a member of your family or your livestock. Don’t be too hard on your little daughter. Since no harm was done, she did all of us great favor. And so don’t spend any more time and/or energy worrying about it. We just go on from here.”
A Poem by Lee about his Youth
To be continued