The Bobbsey Twins at Meadow Brook by Laura Lee Hope
Chapter VII. The Picnic
The man who had brought the news about the runaway ram, stood on the gravel drive near the porch, breathing hard, for he had run very fast to give the warning. He caught his breath, and then said again:
"The old ram is loose! He butted down the fence and got out. He's headed this way. What'll we do?"
"Children! Into the house with you--quick!" cried Mrs. Bobbsey.
"Oh! Oh!" cried Flossie. "Let me hide! Let me hide!"
"Pooh! I'm not afraid of a ram!" declared Freddie. "If I had my fire engine unpacked, I'd squirt water on him!"
"Better not try that, little fat fireman," said his father with a laugh. "Into the house with you, son. Your mother will look after you."
Nan had already started from the porch, leading Flossie, who kept looking back over her shoulder. From behind the hedge came a cry that sounded like:
"Baa! Baa! Baa!"
"There he comes!" exclaimed Nan. "Come on in, Bert and Harry," she begged the two boy cousins, who were peering eagerly down the road.
"I'm going to watch 'em catch him," said Bert.
"Better not let him see you," advised Harry, the country cousin. "That old ram is a hard hitter."
"Is there really any danger?" asked Mr. Bobbsey of his farmer-brother.
"Well, the old ram is pretty rough, I must say," answered Uncle Daniel, "and most of the men on the farm are afraid of him."
"He's coming right this way, I tell you!" exclaimed the hired man who had brought the news.
"Why should he head this way?" asked Mr. Bobbsey.
"Come along and I'll tell you," his brother promised. "You children had better go into the house," he advised. "Yes, you too, Bert and Harry," he went on, as he saw his own son and Bert following him and Mr. Bobbsey. "No telling what notions old Upsetter will take."
"Is his name Upsetter?" asked Bert.
"It is," replied his uncle. "I call him that because he upsets so many things. He used to be a pet when he was little," he continued, "and that's what makes him come to the house now, whenever he gets loose. My wife got in the habit of feeding him salt, which all sheep like very much. I guess he must remember that. But Aunt Sarah wouldn't dare salt him now. Go back into the house, boys, and we men folks will look after the ram."
The sounds were nearer now:
"Baa! Baa! Baa!"
"Oh, he's coming!" cried Flossie, who stood with her nose pressed flat against a window near the porch.
"Had we better go in?" asked Bert of Harry.
"We really had," answered his cousin.
Uncle Daniel, Mr. Bobbsey and the hired man found some heavy sticks with which to scare the ram if he came too close. The big sheep was not yet in sight, though he could be heard bleating.
"Up this way," directed Uncle Daniel. "We can head him off and drive him into the barnyard, perhaps. Then I can shut him up until I have the fence mended that he knocked down."
"Why not get some salt for him?" suggested Mr. Bobbsey. "If he gets some to eat it may make him gentle, and then you could slip a rope around him and tie him up."
"That's a good idea!" cried the farmer. "Sam, please go to the house and get some salt," he directed.
Before the hired man returned, the ram had run into the driveway leading to the barn. Just as Uncle Daniel had said, the ram was headed for the house, which he must have remembered as a pleasant place ever since the days when he was a baby lamb. But now the ram was big and strong, and not very good-natured.
He stood for a moment, looking at Uncle Daniel, Mr. Bobbsey and the hired man. Then, pawing the ground with his fore feet, and lowering and shaking his head with its big horns, the ram started forward again.
"Oh, he's going to butt papa!" cried Flossie, who could see, from the window, what was going on.
"Papa will get out of the way, dear," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "Don't worry."
On came the ram, and then Uncle Daniel, taking the salt from the hired man, scattered some of it on the ground in front of the big sheep."
"That will stop him, I think," said the farmer. And indeed it did. Sheep, and all cattle, are very fond of licking up salt from the ground, and they will go a long way to find it. It keeps cattle healthy. The old ram, as soon as he smelled the salt, began licking it up with his tongue.
He paid no more attention to the men standing in front of him, though if the salt had not been there he probably would have run at them, and knocked them down with his big curved horns.
"Now's our chance!" whispered Mr. Bobbsey, as if the ram could understand what was said. "Get a rope and we can tie him up."
"I'll get one," offered the hired man, and when he came back with the clothes line Uncle Daniel made a loop in one end, such as the cowboys on the Western plains make when they lasso cattle.
And while the ram was busy licking up the salt, Uncle Daniel tossed the noose of the rope around the sheep's head, and, in another second, he and Mr. Bobbsey pulled it tight.
"Oh, they've caught him! They've caught him!" cried Nan, who stood near Flossie at the window.
"Come on out and look at him!" said Bert.
"No, no!" objected his mother, as the two boy cousins started from the room.
"Oh, I guess there's no danger now, if they have a rope on him," said Aunt Sarah.
"I'll go 'long with you," offered Freddie, "and I'd squirt water on that ram from my fire engine--if I had it unpacked."
"You stay right here with me," advised his mother, putting her arms around him.
Bert and Harry went out to look at the captured ram. The animal was not ugly now. Perhaps the salt made him good-natured. And he was soon led away, and tied up in a stable until his pasture fence could be mended.
"My! What a lot of excitement!" exclaimed Nan, when it was all over. "Nothing like this happened when we were on the houseboat."
"You forget the make-believe ghost," said Harry, with a laugh, for he had helped solve that mystery.
"Oh, that's so," agreed Nan. "That was exciting for a while."
The Bobbsey twins, as well as their father and mother, to say nothing of Dinah, were so tired from their long railroad journey that they went to bed early that night. The sun was shining brightly when they awakened next morning. Harry and Bert slept in the same room, and when the country boy arose from bed he went to the window to look out.
"Oh, dear! The sun's shining!" he exclaimed.
"Well, isn't that a good thing?" Bert wanted to know.
"Maybe," admitted Harry. "But if it had been raining we might have gone fishing. As it is, I shall have to work."
"What doing?" Bert wanted to know.
"Help pick apples in the orchard. We are shipping them away this year, and they have to be picked, and packed in barrels."
"I'll help you," offered Bert, and, after breakfast, the two boys went out to the big orchard, where Uncle Daniel and some of his men already were busy.
The apples were picked by men standing on long ladders that reached up into the trees. Each filled a canvas bag with apples. These bags hung around their necks, and when one was full, the man came down the ladder with it. This was so the apples would not be bruised, for a bruised apple rots very quickly, and even one rotten apple in a barrel full, will soon make many bad ones.
"Can we pick apples on a ladder?" asked Bert.
"No, that's a little too dangerous for small boys," said Uncle Daniel. "But you and Harry may pick those you can reach from the ground. Some of the tree limbs are very low, and you won't have any trouble. Take some of the bags to put the apples in. Don't bruise them."
Harry and Bert were soon busy, picking off as many apples as they could reach. When their bags were filled, they emptied them carefully in a wooden bin, and from that bin Uncle Daniel sorted the apples into barrels, which were "headed up" ready to be taken to the city.
Nan had gone over to the home of Mabel Herold, the country girl, and Flossie and Freddie found many things to amuse them about the farm. Later on they came out to the orchard, and picked up apples from the ground.
"I'll help fill Bert's bag, and you can help Harry," said Freddie to Flossie.
"No, little fat fireman," said Harry, using the pet name his uncle called Freddie. "The apples on the ground are called 'windfalls.' The wind blows them down, and they get crushed and bruised by falling on the hard dirt, or stones. It would not do to put them in with the good hand-picked apples."
"But what do you do with all those on the ground?" asked Bert, for there were a great many of them.
"Send them to the cider-mill, or feed them to the pigs," said Harry. "The grunters and squeakers don't mind bruised apples."
The children spent nearly all day in the shady orchard, until Uncle Daniel said Bert and Harry had done enough work for the time.
"Then let's get our poles and go fishing," suggested Harry.
They did go, but got no bites. Harry said that morning was the best time to fish.
When Flossie and Freddie became tired of picking apples up from the ground, they found an old swing, and took turns in this, having lots of fun.
Snoop and Snap enjoyed their life in the country. Snoop did not go far from the house. There was another cat there, and the two soon became great friends. Snap also found other dogs with whom he could romp and play in the long meadow grass.
Mrs. Bobbsey and Aunt Sarah spent many hours talking over matters of interest to them, while Dinah, and Martha, who was Aunt Sarah's cook, spent most of their time in the kitchen, making good things to eat.
"'Cause dem chilluns suttinly does eat a turrible lot!" exclaimed Dinah, as she finished making several pies.
Picking the apples kept Uncle Daniel and his men busy for a number of days. Harry had to help, for everyone on a farm has to work, and Bert always lent his cousin a hand. But there were times when they were allowed a play-spell. Sometimes Tom Mason, another country boy, would come over, and, when the work was done, the three boys would go off to have good times together.
One or two days it rained, and then nothing could be done out of doors in the way of farm work. During one of the rainy days Bert and Harry went fishing.
"We'll be sure to get plenty of bites to-day," Harry said, as they started off with their poles and lines, well protected from the weather by rubber boots and coats.
"I hope we catch a lot of fish," said Bert.
But they caught only two little sun-fish, which Harry threw back into the creek, as they were too small to keep.
"I guess we'll have to wait for a sunny day," sighed Harry, as they started home. "I thought rain was good fishing-weather, but it doesn't seem to be."
"Never mind, we had a good time, anyhow." Bert answered.
When the two boys reached the farmhouse, they found Flossie, Freddie, Nan and Mabel Herold sitting in the dining-room, all talking at once, it seemed.
"And we'll take five baskets of lunch," Freddie was saying, "and my fire engine is unpacked now, so I can take that with us, and I'll squirt water on snakes and--and other things."
"Oh, snakes!" cried Mabel. "I hope we don't see any of the horrid things!"
"I'm not afraid!" boasted Freddie.
"Maybe there won't be any," suggested Nan.
"Well, I'm going to take my doll, anyhow," said Flossie.
"What's this all about?" asked Bert. "Are you going somewhere?"
"Picnic!" exclaimed Flossie. "We're going to have a picnic!"
"I'm going!" added Freddie, as though he was afraid of being left.
"We all are," added Nan.
"First I heard about it," Harry said, with a laugh.
"We planned it while you and Bert were off fishing," spoke his mother. "The children are going to take their lunch to the woods in a day or two, as soon as the weather clears."
A few days later the sun came out from behind the clouds, the rain ceased falling and with joyous shouts and laughter the Bobbsey twins, cousin Harry, and some country boys and girls, who had been invited, went off on a woodland picnic.