|Robert Andrew rocked the porch swing back and forth gently as be put an arm around his wife Sarah. The evening's shadows seemed to glow in the delicate late April air; the budding leaves on the trees shown like translucent, lambent emeralds.|
Robert Andrew leaned his bead toward Sarah's, but he felt his wife tense.
"Do you hear him a comin', husband?" Miss Sarah asked in a hushed voice.
The startled man sat back, shaken out of his intention. After a moment, be heard the electrifying pulse of a large diesel pul-ling the grade of the long ridge west of the Steele homestead.
"Kinda difficult not to," he grunted. Putting his foot down, he stopped the swing's gentle forward and backward motion. As the porch began to shake from the roar, it seemed, somehow, sacrilegious to keep swinging.
The diesel's resonance suddenly thundered clearly across the valley and over Miss Sarah and Robert Andrew as the semi shot over the ridge. As the rig raced past the Steele homestead, the throbbing peaked and swiftly ebbed away. A moment later it vanished as the truck disap-peared over another ridge.
"Bombilation!" Miss Sarah said excit-edly, "Pure bombilation. Those five hun-dred horses in that in-line six under Cousin William's hood just echo out across the land like it was the fourth of July."
"Yep," said her husband as he sat back in the swing. Pushing with his foot, he began the swing's gentle motion again.
"But what I am a wonderin' is, what in the world is that long handkerchief a blowin' from the radio antenna for? I don't remember seein' anything like that on Cousin William's cab afore this. And I am downright amazed at seein' somethin' like that on a rig piloted by a Steele! What would Papa have said to that?"
"Now husband," Sarah said, "I seem to remember your Grandpa a' paintin' his wagon up all new and shiny when he startin' courtin' Wider Hawkins."
Robert Andrew shook his head and grimaced. "Don't go remindin' me of that knot hole in the family tree, wife," he said. "The Wider Hawkins was just after his money, is all..."
"I declare, husband!" Miss Sarah said looking at her spouse, "You done learned that from your Daddy. I for one just know that the Wider Hawkins was merely expe-riencin' those lonely pangs of a heart that is long sundered from its true love. She would've made your Papa right happy hadn't the rest of your people done gone and got all fussed. Why, the Steeles still haven't lived down the burnin' of the Wil-son's boardin' house and all."
"Miss Sarah," Robert Andrew said stiffly, "that was back in 1922! Besides, it is a well-known fact that the Wider used some of old Nelanie Wilson's potions on Papa."
"Still and all," his wife retorted, "that was not a neighborly thing to go and do to decent folks -- 'specially as it went and ruined that fine cherry orchard the Wilsons were famous for. Burned up all them trees just when they were a blos-somin' in the Spring."
"What you gettin' at woman? But here! You are goin' and gettin' me di-gressed. I was a' askin' to begin with, what in tarnation is that handkerchief thing floatin' from Cousin William's rig for?"
Miss Sarah shook her head slowly. "Love, husband, love."
Robert Andrew stopped the swing again. "Love! Cousin William?"
"But who in the world...?"
"Why, if you paid any attention to the goin's on in the nation about us, you'd know it was Miss April Sue Stewart that Cousin William is in love with."
Robert Andrew stared at his wife. "April Sue is done spoken for by Billy Tarnton!"
Miss Sarah looked away from her hus-band. "Humph! So he says. Well, if'n you knew aught about love..."
Robert Andrew slumped forward slightly. "Love! Billy Tarnton is six foot three and three hundred pound if he's anythin'!"
"You've a good eye for market weight, Robert Andrew; that there is no denyin'! Why, that poor Miss April Sue is as sweet and delicate as a daisy and that Tarnton boy as haughty as a Guernsey bull. Just the thought of her bein' hitched to the likes of that..."
"Wife, April Sue is the champion pole climber in the entire Hockhocking Valley Telephone Company, not to mention the county's best shot. I seen her shoot a squirrel out of a tree when she was 12 or so and she was on her daddy's porch and the squirrel over on the other side of that forty acre patch in front of their homestead. But glory, woman, all them Tarnton's are meaner than boar hogs that's been eatin' their tails! This might actually mean a serious feud the likes a which Somerset County hadn't seen since, since..."
"Since the Steele and Wilson-Hawkin-Bowdoin-Smith Feud of 1922?"
Robert Andrew put a band to his brow.
"Look, honey," Miss Sarah said as she turned toward her husband. "Look here. This is Spring, after all. Love is in the air, as the poets say." She turned her head slightly away and looked at her husband. "I, in fact, am down and out surprised that you haven't noticed that yourself, Robert Andrew."
"I have, dearest," he said sadly, "but them five hundred horses just hauled all that far, far away."