After Papa died, Mama built a bronze steambot to take us to school. She said it wasn’t safe for four girls to walk there by themselves. So the steambot would set us all in the back of the wagon and trot off with it like a horse.
Our one room schoolhouse was filled to the brim with name callers, brats, braggarts, and hooligans. So’s you can guess what happened the first day he took us to school. They called us “steamies,” “bronzies” and “deevee-en’s.” That last one made no real kinda sense to us either, but that’s the one that stuck. Cad Winkle thought it up as just one more way to be a knucklehead, and my sisters and I had to deal with it.
One time Cad Winkle and his cronies set an ambush for us while Rolland (that’s what we called the steambot) was taking us to school. They set up two hay wagons at an angle so they blocked the road. As soon as we got within tossin’ distance, they popped up out of the wagons, throwin’ mud and callin’ dirty names (though they weren’t very imaginative ones).
Rolland turned to me with imploring eyes. Somehow I knew he wanted permission to fight back. I hesitated, but then Maggie, my littlest sister, took a mud pie to the face. She screamed in pain and fear. He stared into my eyes, pleadin’ like a politician on election day. When I nodded, a familiar gleam came into his alabaster colored eye. He turned to the boys and set to work. He shoved the wagon closest to him, sending the boys sprawling. The wagon went off the side of the road into a ditch. He lifted the second wagon above his head and tossed it with Cad Winkle and Leroy Price still in the bottom of it. Nobody got hurt, but they were sure surprised. You’d think that would’a ended it, but his parents were right to name him “Cad.” It was the first brawl in a war.
It did, however, teach Cad that Rolland could kick the pattarky out of ‘im. So instead of trying to take on Rolland he just made life miserable for my sisters an’ me. He made up new names and games to torture us. If my Papa hadn’t taught me some manners, he would’ve ended more’n one day with a black eye and a sack full o’ hurt.
After school Rolland would lift my sisters and I into the cart one by one. He’d set off home faster than a horse could gallop. Maggie near fell out every time. Jessie or Sara or I’d always catch her, though. Maggie’d laugh as if she’d seen Old Man Cransburry pirouetting in a tutu. Rolland’d turn his head just a little and wink.