He Said: Woah! Episode One.
Matt Blockqrist clicked the reins of the horses to urge them into the edge of town. He noted the sign above Kindy’s which announced, “Food, Tools, and General Merchandise.” He passed a few other storefronts, four to five on each side. He was just going past the Clothes shop when a woman dressed in sea-green calico with red hair twisted into a bun exited. Her determined stride said she didn’t want judged by her short stature. He glanced at her then turned to stare, narrowly missing Joe Robinson’s buggy.
“Hey, where you going without looking?” Joe demanded.
“What? I?” His face reddened.
Joe gazed at the dress shop and nodded. “Oh, yes. Miss Shockley. Just arrived with her folks this past week. August, Ohio is growing indeed.” He scowled. “But that doesn’t excuse your daydreaming. What if my dog had been along?”
“Sorry, Joe. Of course, I wouldn’t hit you or your dog.”
“Then what do you call what you were just doing?”
“Admiring.” The world cliqued true to Matt.
Joe shook his head. “The young.” He drove off without another word.
Matt clicked to the horses to continue. He came to Ayer’s Groceries and guided the team to the hitch post. After he climbed down, he glanced back where he’d seen Miss Shockley. She sure was pretty. Bet every fellar in town would be at her door before long. So, what kept him from going there just now? He sighed. There was no time for fun. He had a field to plow. Rows to plant. That’s where his concentration needed to be not lost on a woman. Even if she could make a grown man pine from his duties.
He hurried inside Ayer’s. At the counter, Mrs. Ayer’s barely his age of twenty-five, greeted him. Her husband also had town duties as Sheriff.
“Hello, Mrs. Ayers.”
“Good day, Mr. Blockqrist.”
He placed his order and when it was ready, carried it out to the wagon. Mrs. Ayers rushed out after him. “Mr. Blockqrist? Is Stephanie going to attend schooling in the new schoolhouse?”
“New schoolhouse?” He frowned.
“The new academy. For older students. Upper study courses.”
“Are you going to take on the duties?”
She shook her head. “My days at school mistress are over. Miss Shockley will be one of the new teachers.”
“One?” His frown grew.
“There will be a teacher for each subject. It is a further education study place.” She folded her hands. “I do help Stephanie will attend. She was by far my brightest student.”
He shrugged. “Hadn’t heard of it till now. We’ll see.”
He finished loading the wagon and flicked the reins over the horses’ backs. They set off toward the outer country of northeast Ohio. Stephanie in an high school? Should he let her? He needed her help at the farm, truth be told. He knew she did love her education though. He would think on it, he decided.
The weeks passed and he did no such thing. There would be a meeting in town about the whole new high school. Reluctantly, he made plans to attend. The church was full.
“Howdy, Matt,” Sheriff Ayers said.
“Sure, is a grand turn-out, isn’t it?”
He stood with his hat in his hands and glanced about. “Sure is.”
“There’s my wife and the mayor and my sister-in-law.” Sheriff Ayers excused himself.
Matt sat down to hear what the new teachers had to say.
“This has been many a year coming,” Mr. Drayscot started off.
The talks droned on.
“Our kids need this higher chance to continue their education. It’ll fit them for the later years of their lives and I daresay turn them into gentlemen and gentlewomen.”
The teachers were each given a nod. By the time it was over, Matt still hadn’t made up his mind. Miss Shockley met him at his wagon.
He turned at his name.
With a palm out toward him, she said, “I’m Elaine Shockley. I understand your sister was one of Mrs. Ayers top students. I’ll be teaching English at the new school. I do hope, you’ll allow Stephanie to attend.”
“I’m not certain.”
“Well, surely you must see the benefits?”
“Look, Miss Shockley. To be plain, I need Stephanie at home.”
“But it would only be for four to five hours a day.”
“Life on a farm is busy, Miss Shockley.”
She stared at him. “I know that. I’m trying to see that your sister has a future.”
“She will have a future.”
“Has she said what she’s interested in doing in life?”
“Not in so many words no.”
“Well, maybe you should ask her.”
He scratched the back of his neck. “Do you, think I’m holding her back?”
“Just ask her.”
She turned without so much as a good night.
Matt sighed. What was a man to do?