"The twins. They've disappeared, Julia. I can't find them anywhere." Rebecca gushed.
Of all the children, Julia found the twins the hardest to manage. They were happy little boys infected with rich imaginations that enabled them to craft a make believe world for themselves that could keep them busy for hours. But they were too inquisitive. They were curious about everything and they were not afraid of anything. As if that wasn't bad enough, they had this uncanny talent for disappearing from sight in the blink of an eye. "There isn't a nook or a cranny anywhere on this farm that those boys have not tried to investigate." Julia told David one night as she vented her frustration with the twins.
Julia had been especially uneasy about the twins ever since that one incident that happened the week before. So when Rebecca told her the twins had disappeared, that incident leaped into Julia's mind. At first she was weak from the adrenalin that coursed through her body. But soon she felt this boost of energy that reminded her of ice on her skin. She jumped to her feet. The Sears catalogue that had been in her lap dropped to the floor. "Quickly, Rebecca, go fetch David at the threshing machine and tell him to get to the pasture as fast as he can." She knew that David would understand.
"LOUISE." Julia shouted toward the kitchen. "Come quick and take the children." Louise hurried out of the kitchen and onto the porch. The two women exchanged a few words. "You stay here and Let ME go, Julia." Louise insisted. "No." Julia responded firmly, and she left.
Julia's heart was in her throat as she ran toward the pasture. How she wished Jacques was there. The dog seemed to know instinctively when to fill in for Julia and David and watch the twins when they could not. But shortly after that incident last week, he had taken off to be with his lady love for a while at the Boudreau farm and he had not returned yet.
Was it happening again? She asked herself. "Oh, God....please not again." She prayed. That frightening day the week before was in the forefront of Julia's mind now in vivid detail. David had gone to town that morning for supplies and had taken the oldest child with him. Rebecca was in the house with the other children except for the twins. They were outside with Julia. She herself was out in the garden hoeing a row of carrots and assuming that the twins were right behind her playing under the oak tree. All of a sudden she heard Jacques yipping incessantly in the distance.
Julia looked up and there were the twins just on the other side of the fence in the pasture and, what looked to be, only yards away from the bull. He was showing his muscled broadside to the twins which Julia knew was a sign that he would be turning any moment and charging the twins. She raced toward the pasture with the hoe still in her hands thinking she might have to use it to beat him off. As she got closer she could see that Jacques had placed himself in between the twins and the bull. He was yipping and dodging back and forth in front of the bull as if to distract him.
When she got to the twins , she quickly coaxed them under the fence to safety and then called to Jacques to come to her. The dog slipped under the fence but continued his yipping. The bull flared his nostrils and looked at Julia in a way that would haunt her dreams for years to come. She began to think he might try to bolt right through the fence. Slowly she moved the children to in back of her. She knew not to turn her back on the bull or move too quickly as this could incite him to charge. Slowly she walked the children backwards hoping to reach some kind of cover close by. But the bull's interest in Julia and her children waned suddenly and he turned and sauntered off as if nothing had ever happened.
That evening Julia and David sat on the edge of the twins' bed and talked to them. "Now I want you to promise never to go near the bull again." David said to them firmly as Julia plumped up their pillows. "But we want to ride him, Papa." They chimed in together. You would have thought that their freshly washed faces bronzed by the summer sun and exuding all their childlike glee might have inspired heaven to make the beast gentle enough for little boys to ride. You would have thought. Afterwards, as Julia and David sat at the dining room table sipping cups of coffee from what remained in the pot made that morning, Julia asked him once again to get rid of the bull. He agreed and said he would look for a buyer.
They had not had the bull that long, but from the start the bull had shown signs of aggression toward human beings. Fearing that he could hurt someone on the farm, Julia wanted David to get rid of the bull right away once they discovered this about him. He was supposed to be a good breeder though and, for that reason , David decided to keep him. "We will just have to teach the children to stay away from him." He had told Julia. But Julia knew that this was little more than wishful thinking, and she was right.
The clamor of the threshing machine had turned into a soft hum as threshing activities came to a halt. There would be no more threshing as long as the twins were unaccounted for. Threshing machines were dangerous back then with their long wide belts that could suddenly slip out of control. David had shut down the threshing machine before heading for the pasture along with some of the other men to look for the twins. It was shortly afterwards that Julia slipped, twisted her ankle, and fell to the ground.
Louise was holding the baby and watching with Marie and the other children from inside the fenced yard by the house. She saw Julia fall. "Oh, no, Marie. Look what's happened to Julia." She gasped. "I have to go to her. Here, Marie, you take little Phillip." Louise tried to hand the baby to her, but Marie backed away.
"Oh, I'm no good with children." Marie said as she backed away. This is what she always told people whenever anyone invited her to hold a baby or take care of a child. When it came to children, she kept her distance. But her reluctance was due to the pain she experienced when her only child, a boy, passed away at three years old. It was just too painful for her to hold another person's baby or play with other people's children.
"Take him." Louise responded angrily. "I have to go and help Julia. Take him." She demanded as she shoved Phillip at Marie who clumsily accepted him into her arms.
"Now you've gone and done it, Julia. You've gone and done it." Louise said as she helped Julia to her feet. "Let's get you over to this bench. And you stay here. I'll go hunt for the twins." Julia did not object. Instead she sat there in pain on the bench, while the minutes seemed to hang on forever, hoping the twins would show up by some miracle all of a sudden.
Louise went on to join Rebecca and a number of men who were combing the farm looking for the twins and calling out their names. "Leon......Leonelle." They would call. While David and some of the men were looking for the twins in the pasture, the others looked in the barn and its hay loft for them. They were looking in the carriage house, the chicken coop, the tool shed, the milk shed, the orchard, down by the creek, in the fields. They were looking for them everywhere always calling out their names. But they had not been able to find them yet.
When Julia married David and became a Catholic, she completely embraced his faith rich with all its religious symbols, its patron saints, blessed statues, holy medals, holy water. It was what she turned to in times of trouble when things seemed beyond human control. The winter before last everyone in the household had come down with the flu and she was too sick to cook and take care of them. With a raging fever, she pulled herself out of bed one day and went through the house with her vessel of holy water and sprinkled it everywhere. Everyone recovered. Was it a miracle? Who can say? What is a miracle anyway? Who can say?
Then there was the tornado. David was helping another farmer deliver a calf the day a tornado hit and cut a wide swath through the farmland in their area. It brought down trees and demolished barns and homes. Julia was home with the children by herself. When she noticed the stark stillness of the leaves on the trees that day and saw that foreboding clouds were starting to swarm in the darkening sky in the west, she grabbed the crucifix from off the wall and set it in the kitchen window. Then she gathered up the children and rushed them down into the cellar.
And so it was as Julia sat on that bench after twisting her ankle and waited for word from David who was still looking for the twins in the pasture, that she reached into her pocket and pulled out her rosary beads and began to pray. Her eyes were closed and she was just beginning the second decade of the beads when she heard that familiar wonderful sounding "yip." It was Jacques. He was standing in front of her. He had come home.
"Jacques!" She squealed as she bent over and threw her arms around him. "I'm so glad to see you, boy." With both hands, she grabbed the fur around his neck and roughed it up. "Where are the twins? Come on boy, go find the twins." She said excitedly. But Jacques already knew the whereabouts of the twins. He began to coax Julia in their direction. As she limped along behind him, he would stop now and then to let her catch up always throwing his head in the direction of the twins as if to say, "Come on, follow me." He was leading her to the ice house where Marie had parked her spring board so that it would not be in the way.
Julia was a few yards away from the spring board when she heard that familiar wonderful sounding "giggle." Then she watched as one curly dark head popped up from inside the spring board followed by the other. It was the twins. They were safe. She kissed the rosary beads still in her hand and dropped them into her pocket. Her joy was so intense that she forgot about her twisted ankle and tried to run. She could not wait to wrap her arms around her boys.
Julia reached inside the spring board for them and pulled them toward her. She started kissing their faces, first one then the other. Over and over again she kissed their faces while she gushed in French "I love you. I love you." Finally, she heaved a sigh of welcomed relief. Then some thoughts began to cross her mind. Surely, she thought to herself, they had been able to hear everyone calling for them. So, she asked herself, why had they not answered. As glad as she was to find them and know they were safe, it was time for her to start asking questions.
"Everyone has been looking for you for a long time. Where have you been?" She asked them.
"Here." They answered pointing to the inside of the wagon.
"Did you know everyone was calling for you?"
"And you didn't answer?"
"And why didn't you answer?" She folded her arms and waited for their response, but they said nothing.
"Mon enfants, je te parle (My children, I am speaking to you)."
The twins hung their heads, because they knew they should have answered when they were called. Julia put her hand over her mouth; she was fighting a grin. She tried to appear serious and shook a finger at them. Then she lifted them out of the spring board. "You march right into the house this very minute." She ordered, and she gave them a symbolic smack on their bottoms to send them off. They scampered toward the house. She rushed after them and gave them another smack on their bottoms adding, "And no pie for you today."
Before going into the house, Julia waved to Louise who was coming out of the barn at that moment. "You can call off the search, Louise." She yelled, "I found the twins and they are okay. Get word to David."
When Julia came into the house, she could hear singing in the living room. She walked through the dining room and into the living room where she found Marie down on the floor with her skirt hiked up to her knees singing and playing patty cake with little Phillip who,it was obvious, had taken to Marie. "Oh, Julia, I see you found the twins and they are safe. Thank the Lord." She said cheerfully as she rose and picked up Phillip from the floor. Her hair was mussed up. A good sum of it had come loose from her bun. It was obvious that Phillip had been interested in her hair and pursued that interest with gusto by grabbing a big handful of it.
"Julia, I was just thinking about something." Marie continued while cradling Phillip. She was indifferent to the hunk of hair that hung down on one side of her head. Julia found this indifference a refreshing departure from Marie's usual prissy self. "I was wondering.....well, would it be all right with you, Julia, if....um......I came by here maybe once a week, maybe more, and, uh ......well...um......helped you with the children? "
Julia opened her arms wide and embraced Marie warmly. "It would be a blessing, Marie." She replied.
The photo above is of Julia and David and their eleven children. My grandfather Leon is in the back row just left of center. The man with the white hair and glasses and seated in the front row is my Great-grandfather David. When I was a little girl of four or five and he came to visit, he would offer to pay me a nickel if I would sing him a song. I was more than happy to oblige him. Everyone liked David. According to my cousin Lloyd who I consider the family historian, David was a good, honest man.
One last thing. As you can readily see, no one in this photo is smiling. There must have been a law back then against smiling in photos. This photo does not reflect the happy dispositions which members of this family possessed in actuality. If the photo were to reflect that, everyone would have huge grins. This was a very affectionate, loving family too.
CREDITS: A few of the farm photos, representative of the historic Kline Creek Farm in DuPage County, Illinois, are the works of Michelle Benedicta. Also, I must give credit to my husband for taking a series of photos of Kline Creek Farm himself. I have used several of his photos too.