The German Girl
The sun shone on a purple flower at the edge of the yard. Huldah Hartz’s mama liked to have pretty flowers on the table.
“I know she would like this big one!” Huldah tugged and twisted its thick stem.
Clang! Clang! Mama rang the dinner bell from the porch of their cabin. “Children! Come inside to eat.”
Sophie, Huldah’s little sister, ran toward Mama, her bare heels kicking high and her blond braids, just like Huldah’s, bouncing. Grasshoppers jumped out of her way.
“Coming!” Huldah called. As she pulled on the flower, an orange and black butterfly flitted around her head.
“It’s so pretty! I wonder where it lives.” When it flew past, she followed all the way to the tall grass next to the shadowy forest.
Huldah leaned close to watch the butterfly land on an orange flower and stick its long black curly nose right inside. Or was that a tongue? What was it eating? Did it taste good?
A hand gripped Huldah’s arm and gently pulled her away.
“Mama! See the butterfly?”
“I called and called for you,” Mama said with a frown. Blue-eyed baby Wilhelm wiggled in her arms, showing his fat tummy under his white shirt. Sophie held Mama’s blue striped apron strings like a puppy’s leash.
“You must come right away,” Mama scolded. “It is not good that you don’t listen to your mama. You must not play in the forest. You will be lost, and we will never find you.”
Wilhelm waved his chubby arms and Huldah let him grab her thumb.
Huldah wanted to obey Mama. “I am sorry, Mama. I tried to pick a beautiful flower for you. When the butterfly came, I had to follow it. What would it be like to flitter and fly?”
“Little girls do not fly. Such a head full of nonsense.” Mama patted her shoulder. “Come inside now. The food is ready.”
Huldah held Sophie’s hand and waved her other arm like a wing. They skipped on the way to the cabin. What a grand life a butterfly must have.
Huldah’s tall papa hugged her and twirled her in circles, and tickled her with his mustache kisses. She giggled and so did Papa.
“Papa.” Mama said. “Our food is getting cold.”
Papa winked and set Huldah next to Sophie. “I had a busy day today,” he said. “I bought a cow from Cousin Herman. She is pretty and brown, with long eyelashes.” He set bowls of stew Mama ladled in front of her and Sophie. Huldah breathed in the scent of cooked vegetables from their little garden: turnips, carrots, and onions.
Mama sat next to Wilhelm and fed him some broth. “The cow will make good milk to drink. Huldah, you and I can make our own butter and cheese again.”
After dinner, while Papa told a story to Sophie and Wilhelm, Huldah helped her mother clear the table.
“I haven’t seen you make butter since I was a little girl, Mama. I forgot how,” Huldah said.
“A girl who is nine years old should know how to make butter,” Mama said. “We were so busy building our cabin and preparing the farm field and garden that Papa and I decided to buy our butter and milk from Mrs. Detmering at the trading post.”
Mama patted Huldah’s hand. “But now we have land to grow crops, time to care for animals, and a nice new barn. We’ll collect the cow’s cream for a few days, and when we have enough, we will work it in the butter churn.”
Huldah walked to the old wooden barrel that was their churn. It stood in the corner waiting to be used. A round pole poked up from the middle, as high as her waist. She gripped the smooth round handle of the dasher and worked it up and down.
“When there is cream inside, you must use your strength.” Mama said. “You must also pay attention, daughter, when the lumps of butter form.”
Papa watched them with a twinkle in his eyes. “Huldah will have to put on her patience,” he said.
“Now, Papa.” Mama laughed and wiped her hands on her apron. “The chores are waiting for you outside.”
Papa held out his hand. “Come, Huldah. First I’ll introduce you to Bessie.”