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It goes without saying that Father belonged to every lodge and society in town. With all his twelve or fifteen hours of work a day, our family finances were never a nickel ahead.
And yet, in all the years, I can remember my mother protesting only once.
Our whole lives were passed in fear of what that competitor was doing or might do.
Lest he should gain some advantage, it was impressed upon us that we must go the limit in being accommodating.
I think I must have sold a hundred thousand tickets to everything — from an oyster supper at the First Methodist Church to an Elks Carnival at the picnic grounds. Father could contribute nothing to the enterprise, but I had saved enough from a summer’s work to pay the fees of the first term, and I expected somehow to find work by which to pull myself through.
We were waiting for Father to come home from the store, and Mother had been thrilling us with plans for the journey we were going to take to my grandmother’s farm in Iowa — the only vacation trip we had ever dared to plan.
For months she had been saving up for it, slipping an odd bit of change into the little bank in her bureau drawer.
We were to start the following Monday — and it was Thursday night that Father came home, a little more nervous and apologetic than usual.
I was the boy who carried the heavy bag of bats home after the ball game. I brought water from the spring in the meadow, down below the ball field, carrying it up the hill under the burning sun.
When any one of the five churches was to have a special celebration, I was invariably one of the boys who stayed up most of Saturday night getting the decorations in place.
Yet he managed to own a house and have all the other comforts that we yearned for but never enjoyed.