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The Kings of Oak Springs, Episode 13,They Built a Stone Fireplace at the Far End of the House

Updated on June 13, 2014
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Dr. Bill's first passion is family history. His second is a passion for creating family saga, historical fiction stories that share it.

They built a stone fireplace

A wood-burning fireplace
A wood-burning fireplace | Source

Planning had continued to finish the house

When Karl and Abner Wingfield did their initial assessment for the first half of the house on the farm, they had also made preliminary decisions regarding the second half, of course. Not only was the foundation of the house on the far end not as good as under the first half, but they also wanted to consider two more options. First, Karl really wanted to add about ten feet to the second half of the house. Second, he wanted to build a rather substantial stone fireplace at the far end of the house. In the meantime, therefore, Karl and Abner had met three times with Archie Archer, a stone mason at the quarry east of Oak Springs. Archie had established a reputation at laying stone, as well as cutting stone, starting with his work at the Town Hall, and continuing at several residences in town.

Karl was somewhat surprised at the additional time Archie and Abner determined it would take to meet Karl's two goals. However, as they talked, he became convinced it would be worth the sacrifice required. His family agreed. So, the land was cleared and leveled for the additional space needed for the stone fireplace at the end. The second half (which was now more than half, of course) would also include a partial extension of the loft. That end of the loft, overlooking the fireplace, would become the parents bedroom. As on the first half, provisions would be made for future dormers on both sides of the roof. A center stairway would be included to the loft in the new construction, as well.

Karl and Keith were able to repair the old foundation and create the new foundation required for the construction of the second half. As before, they would also build the base flooring, as they had time, and in concert with the construction of the stone fireplace under the direction of Archie Archer. In working with Archie, they came to learn that his real given name was Reginald. They all had a good chuckle and agreed that Archie would work just fine. He was a good man to work with, and both Karl and Keith enjoyed watching Archie and his occasional helpers create the stone fireplace, right before their eyes.

The first novel in "The Homeplace Saga" series of historical fiction family saga stories

They got two goats for the orchard in the summer

A young goat in a field
A young goat in a field | Source

The orchard as well as the weeds in the fields continued to command attention

Keeping the fields properly weeded remained a top priority for the men even as work on the house continued. Actually, as the men did that, the women did the same in the garden. Weeding and harvesting, as well as occasional additional planting, became daily activities surrounding the garden. It seemed some garden crops were reaching maturity every few days. Many of them demanded canning and other processing to achieve maximum benefits to the family from their efforts. 10-year-old Kent found himself asked to help in all three activities, where he could, in the garden, in the fields, and with the house construction preparations. Karl and Katherine could see that he was anxious to learn, and to contribute. So, they worked diligently to keep him involved and learning without overtaxing the growing young man.

Karl soon learned that the orchard, where he had not been able to devote as much time as desired, was one place where Kent could really contribute. Karl and Kent spent some time, together, examining the trees that were there. Karl taught Kent what he could about how he felt they wanted to proceed. This included cutting down some "volunteer" trees and encouraging others. They were marked for Kent to followup on as the days passed by. Kent was a quick learner and seemed to enjoy working with the trees. In addition, since there was still extensive brushy growth around the region where the trees were located, Karl soon decided a goat or two would be useful there. When Thurkill had said he had a couple he could spare, Karl thought little of it. He knew he didn't need or want them around the house, right now. However, the orchard was a different matter.

Therefore, Karl had obtained two goats from the Dent farm and they became Kent's responsibility. To begin, they kept the goats on long chains, either staked or attached to low tree limbs. Later, they planned to put in fencing to keep the goats separated from the fields and the homestead, but, for now, they were achieving their objectives with the chains. They knew the goats would chew ropes, but the chains seemed to work fairly well. Kent had to unwind them, from time to time. But since he checked on them four times a day, that worked out well. He was also responsible for keeping their water trough filled from the creek, once a day or as needed.

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Kent worked with the trees in the orchard

An apple tree in the orchard
An apple tree in the orchard | Source

Kent adopted the orchard as his special domain project but continued to work with the livestock as well

Following Karl's instructions, Kent also systematically worked through the orchard trimming the trees. Karl monitored what he was doing, but realized that Kent was getting very good at doing what they had planned. Kent could only work on the lower and mid-level branches, of course, even though he was tall for his age. But, that was satisfactory for now, to spur future growth in the trees. They would work on the higher branches, as needed, later on.

Meanwhile, the calf, the pigs and the chickens kept growing. They each had to be fed, watered and looked after each day. The specific work of particular animals was done by each member of the family, but Kent began to feel some responsibility for each of them. He really enjoyed checking on each animal every day. Watching their growth and changes in mannerisms fascinated him, just as did the changes in the trees in the orchard. Karl and Katherine realized that Kent was developing strong signs of having developed a farmer's mentality, as the months went by, even at his young age.

12-year-old Kate worked closely with her mother doing the chicken and garden related activities that were so critical at this time of year for a farm family. She both continued to learn and assisted her mother in the various household activities that needed to be done at particular times. One week this might be picking and canning beans, another week would be picking strawberries and making jams and jellies. There were always eggs to be gathered, and chickens to be fed and watered from the creek. 5-year-old Karla stayed close by her mother, and helped whenever she could. Katherine worked hard at keeping Karla properly occupied, with both work and play. Her time would come. Play was still an important part of her learning, at this time.

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Note from the author

This is the thirteenth episode of this short story series set in the Ozarks Mountain setting of “The Homeplace Saga” family saga of historical fiction. This story begins in 1876, following the time period (1833-1875) of the forthcoming “Founding of the Homeplace” collection of short stories. Some of these earlier stories are published on The Homeplace Saga blog, found at the link, below.

“The Homeplace Saga” historical fiction family saga stories are the creation of the author, William Leverne Smith, also known as “Dr. Bill.”

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