The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge


By Katherine Wardlaw © 1992

Issue: July-August-September, 1992

Gerta Geshal glanced at Lester Franklin. He seemed oblivious to the fact that the other pupils in her schoolroom had left. The day had been hot and long. Lester's body was halfway out the window as though reaching for a breath of air. The immaturity of his twelve years showed in his litheness and sense of balance. Gerta picked up the folder of papers to be taken home for review and grading.

"Les, it's time to lock up," she said.

All of him reentered the room revealing a head of black wavy hair tossed by the mountain breeze. His hands were full with a tiny nest containing two brown baby birds.

"What on earth are you going to do with those and where did you get them?" Gerta asked.

"Didn't you hear them peeping? They were crying all during school," Les admonished.

With twenty-six pupils, she hadn't heard a sound. "No, I'm afraid not," she apologized. "But what are you going to do with them?"

"Take them home and make a place for them." He held the nest like it contained a treasure.

"What kind of place?" Gerta asked.

"Oh, I'll get some reeds beside the river and make a basket and raise them on worms until they can fly!" His countenance lit up. "That's what I'll do!" Gerta started to protest. Then, like a sharp point of light, she remembered:

"Gerta, what have you there?" her mother asked, arms folded inside her apron. Gerta recognized the sign of suppressed anger.

"And where is the basket?"

"The eggs, mother." She offered a paper bag.

"You mean you have the eggs in there and did not sell them? Where is the basket?"

"Yes ma'm. Mr. Grayley didn't need any eggs today. But I sold him the basket!" Gerta's smile pleaded for acceptance.

"Well, young lady, what do you think you'll carry the eggs in to market next week? And how much did you get for the basket?"

"Ten cents, mother. Wasn't that great?"

The dark cloud on her mother's face contained no silver lining behind it. "Ten cents, you say! At that rate, we'll never save enough to pay for your books to become a teacher!"

An ache took over Gerta's body. "Mother, I can get some tall grass from the big pond and weave them into a basket and next week sell both the basket and the eggs!"

Katine Geshal regarded her daughter with awe. Their thrifty and productive ancestry was evident in her daughter. The cloud disappeared as she folded Gerta against her large bosom.

"Some day you'll be that teacher, ah, I can see that! Now let's prepare the biscuits before your father comes in as hungry as a lion with four cubs!"

Gerta's thoughts returned to the schoolroom. She smiled at Les. "Ah, I can see that you will become the doctor that you want to be some day! Go and make your basket and tell me how your birds get along, please."