She Said, “Progress.”

western couple

She Said: Progress Ep. 1

Loleta Abi

Lena Shockley paced the floor of her bedroom. Her glance fell on the roster of children who’d signed on for a higher education. Didn’t Matt Blockquist understand? This was high school. A chance for a better life, a better future for his sister. Time was moving on. And social circles. A girl didn’t belong at home any longer. And if she did want to be there, what would be the harm in ensuring that she could encourage her children to seek more education for their benefit? She fisted her hands. She had to find a way to convince Mr. Blockquist to let Sharon go on with her life, better prepared. But how?

Maybe she should speak with Mrs. Ayers about him. After all, she’d taught Sharon previously. Maybe she knew how to deal with Mr. Blockquist. Yes, she’d do that. She gathered her things.

“Where you off to, Lena?” her father asked from the table set for four.

Her mother shook her head and folded her hands. “Not now, Lena. Supper’s ready.”

“But I’ve got to speak with Mrs. Ayers.”

“Cal can run you over when dinner’s done. And mind you don’t interfere with their dinner.”

“Momma—”

“Take a seat, young lady. I’m sure it’s something you say to your students often.”

 She sighed and sat in the hardback chair. “Yes, Momma.”

The biscuits and gravy were passed along with a slab of lamb loaded with potatoes, carrots, and celery. As soon as her family finished dinner, she reminded her father of the promised ride. They set off. The horses picked their way down dirt roads. They passed the Blockquist’s farm on the way. In the distance, they could see him plowing the fields.

“Hard worker,” her father said.

She glanced at the man and his team of horses. “Yes, but he’s got to see his sister needs education.”

“Why?” her father asked.

“For progress’s sake.”

He shook his head. “Seems to me things were simpler when I was a lad.”

“The worlds come so far.”

“Has a way to go still. When people can’t accept other people for what they believe.”

“Are you saying I’m wrong father?”

“Just move gently. A man doesn’t like someone all up in his business.”

“But that was the old way. Surely, they see education can improve their farm, their business?”

“Some cling to the old ways.”

“Not if I can help it.”

He frowned. “I’d rather not make an enemy of our neighbors, Lena.”

“I’ll try not to. I just want what’s right for his sister.”

“And if she’s of another mind?”

“I can’t see that she would be. She loved her education, I’m told.”

Soon the Ayers home/store came into view. Several people came out with groceries and a few more stood before the storefront talking. Lena didn’t feel bothered in the slightest that others were nearby. Maybe if enough people put pressure on Mr. Blockquist, he’d listen. She climbed down from the wagon and smiled at her father.

“Now, Lena. Best be charitable toward others.”

“Oh, I will be, father. I will be.”

Inside the store, she found Mrs. Ayers and brought her up to date on Mr. Blockquist’s position.

“He won’t see fit to send her?” Mrs. Ayers said, frowning.

“More like he’s doing it to keep her pinned to his farm the rest of her life.”

Mrs. Ayers drew back. “Surely, he wouldn’t.”

“I think he needs a talking to.”

“What’s this?” Mr. Sawyer asked. “Women fixing to get into man’s business?

Lena shook her head. “Women tending to the next generation of women for the benefit of all.”

“But why’s it so important to have Sharon join the school?” he asked.

“She’d be more prepared for the future.”

“Seems to me that life does that.”

“Life sure, but a better quality of life with education.”

Mrs. Ayers set a bag of flour on the counter for a customer. The woman pointed to a glass container with licorice bites in it. She smiled at Lena. “Children should be in school as long as they can. It helps build character.” Her five children scowled about her.

“Yes, but we can’t make Mr. Blockquist’s decision for him,” Mrs. Ayers said.

“True.” Lena nodded. “But he’s making the decision for Sharon.”

Mr. Sawyer grasped some oats. “Because he’s her family.”

“Don’t you think it’s the least bit controlling?”

“No, I don’t.”

Lena stared at him.

“Doesn’t your father make decisions for you?”

“Well, yes, of course. But he consults me first.”

“Maybe Blockquist does things differently.” Mr. Sawyer lifted the bag of oats over his shoulder.

“But he should at least talk to his sister.”

“Have you talked to Sharon about what she wants?”

Lena backed a step. “Well, no. Mr. Blockquist hasn’t allowed me access to her.”

“Maybe he thinks that’s for the best. Look at you, here in town. Getting everyone stirred up about his decision.”

Lena hung her head. “You’re right. I should talk to him. And Sharon.”

“Now there’s some sense.”

Mrs. Ayers took Lena aside. “You want me to go with you?”

“I don’t know. He might think we’re teaming up on him.”

“Don’t feel bad for wanting Sharon to have a better education.”

“I do. But it’s not that.” Lena stepped aside for another customer at the counter. “I just want her to have the advantages I’ve had. Like all children should. The world is changing fast, and we need to be prepared. If that means pushing Mr. Blockquist to allowing Sharon the opportunity to better, herself then I’m willing to do so.”

“You’ve got to look at it from his point of view as well. He needs help on his farm. There’s only Sharon and him. Perhaps if you could find someone willing to fill in for her—”

Lena clapped. “That’s genius, Mrs. Ayers. If I find him help, he should allow Sharon to attend.”

“You two are forgetting something,” Mr. Sawyer said.

“What’s that?”

“Maybe she doesn’t want to go.”

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