The Jacksons – for Sep. 16, 2010

Acool breeze blew a few early autumn leaves across the grass in the Jacksons’ pasture as Andrew and Rose walked side by side toward the flock of sheep grazing contentedly in the lengthening shadows. The sun sank low behind the trees in the west and a nighthawk winged its way across the sky. Rose turned to look at the farmyard behind them. Their house stood bathed in sunlight against dark clouds and towering thunderheads in the east. A rainbow arched across the sky, seeming to end in the top of the big elm tree in front of the house.

“Look at that.” Rose stopped and Andrew did likewise, turning to see what Rose was looking at.

“Wow,” he said. “I can’t believe that’s ours.” He put his arm around his wife’s shoulders and they stood for a long time, just looking.

“It’s so beautiful,” said Rose. “I never get to see it from here, I just see it from close up and then I always notice the paint peeling and the shingles letting go and the crooked eavestrough. From here none of that stuff matters.”

Andrew smiled. “I have an idea,” he said. “We could build a picturesque little cottage here in the middle of the pasture. Then whenever things got difficult in the house we could look out at the cottage and look forward to going there and getting away. And whenever we were at the cottage we could look back at the house and see only the good things, none of the bad. We’d always have the best of both worlds.” He gave Rose a squeeze. “What do you think?”

“I think if we had a little cottage of our own out here we might never want to go back to the house,” said Rose. “Going back to the house means work and responsibility and stress.”

Andrew thought about that for a second. “The kids could look after the farm,” he said, “and if people asked where we were, they could say they put us out to pasture. I like it. It’s a very sound plan with no downside that I can see.”

“The sheep would keep the grass short so you’d never have to mow the lawn,” said Rose.

“What lawn? We’d be living in a pasture.” Andrew turned back to look at the flock of sheep. “We could be like them,” he said. “Carefree and happy and dumb as a bag of hammers.”

Rose laughed. “Speak for yourself,” she said. She turned and resumed her walk as Andrew followed suit. They walked in silence toward the sheep, which paid no attention as they approached, although the guard donkey looked up and eyed them with suspicion for a moment before lowering its head to resume grazing. Andrew stopped and did a quick head count of the flock.

“All there?” asked Rose.

Andrew nodded. “Looks like it,” he said. He tapped his forehead with his knuckle. “Knock on wood,” he said. “I can’t believe how few we’ve lost.”

“It’s a great way to start a new enterprise,” said Rose. “Let’s hope the luck holds.”

“Jennifer’s been a big part of that luck,” said Andrew. “She’s been out there almost every day looking for trouble, and that’s probably why there’s been so little.”

Rose shivered a little as the breeze picked up for a second. “I’m cold,” she said. “Let’s go back home.”

They turned and headed back toward the farmyard. The sun had disappeared behind the trees but was still shining on the clouds high in the eastern sky. The scene had lost none of its beauty.

“Thanksgiving is coming,” said Rose. Andrew thought about that for a second.

“That picturesque cottage we’re going to build is going to have to be huge,” he said.

Rose gave him a quizzical look. “Why do you say that?” she wanted to know.

“Family dinners,” said Andrew. “Four years ago we were five of us, you and me and Randy and Brady and Jennifer. Then Randy brought Jackie into the picture and the next thing we knew they had Allison. And then Brady brought Amanda and next year Randy and Jackie will have a brother or sister for Allison and we’ll be up to nine. We’ve almost doubled the family in four years. If we keep that up, by the time we’re 65 we’ll have a family of 40.”

Rose took his hand. “It’s all good,” she said. “We’ll just move the house into the pasture and live in that.”

Andrew laughed. “That,” he said, “is why I leave the planning up to you.”

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