» Download Audio
Now the Special English program American Stories.
Our story today is called "No Place to Hang the Lantern". It was written by John Wotarua. It is about a young farmer Nate and his wife Olive who is soon to become a mother. And their cow Maudie who is also going to be a mother. It is a story about the beauty of birth, the wonder of new life. Here is Shep O'Neal with our story.
Olive Bowen made some hot coffee to bring to her husband Nate who was over in the barn. He was helping their cow Maudie to give birth. Olive herself was expecting a baby very soon. She felt heavy and moved around slowly.
The coffee boiled on the stove and Olive poured some into a pot and carried it to the barn. It was black inside the barn. The darkness made Olive nervous and she stood at the door not sure what to do. Should she call Nateor go slowly and carefully through the darkness. Then she saw a light at the far end. Olive called out to Nate and was happy to see the light come toward her. Nate held his lantern high as he came up to Olive and said: "Where is your lamp? You shouldn't have some out when it's too cold."
"I brought you some hot coffee."
Nate was happy that she did. But he did not want her to say. He took the thingsOlive carried and asked her to sit down. "Maybe for a minute to get warm," she said.
Olive kept looking into the darkness of the barn to see where Maudie was. Maudie was ready to have her calf any minute now.
"I don't want you to stay," her husband said.
"Oh, no, Nate, I don't want to. If it begins to happen, I'll go back to the house."
They walked slowly to the back of the barn to look at Maudie. Nate looked around for something Olive could sit on.
"Would this be all right?"
He helped Olive sit down on a small stool. He made the oil stove hotter so she could get warm. Then he told her again that he did not want her to stay when Maudie's calf came. It wasn't something a young wife should see, especially a young wife who would soon be a mother herself.
Nate sat down on the floor near Olive. The cow lay quietly, chewing some hay. Husband and wife did not say much as they waited; words did not seem to some easily to them.
But, after some time, Olive said she was sorry that she could not help Nate with the cow. Nate smiles and told her not to worry about him--after all, he said, Maudie was having the calf-not he. And Maudie would know what to do when the time came.
There was something else that was worrying Oive, and she did not know just how to begin to talk about it--At last, she spoke out, not sure what Nate's answer would be. "Momma says--I mean Momma thinks--maybe I should go to her house to have the baby ... After all, the doctor lives in town. If you couldn't get him here in time, I don't know what I would do."
She had said it, and was glad that at last she got the word out. Nate was a quiet, thoughtful and gentle man. He knew that Olive was afraid and he wanted to calm her fears.
"Of course," he answered. "That's a good idea. It would be much easier for you in your mother's house."
Time seemed to be moving slowly--too slowly for Olive. She looked nervously at the cow. She asked Nate when the cow would begin. Nate answered that birth had already stared--Maudie had pain a short time ago. Then Nate began to rub the cow's head ...the cow turned its head away from his hands...and then Suddenly it came... a frightening bellow that gave Olive a violent. Olive could see it clearly--part of the head of the young calf stowly, painfully coming out.
Olive felt shaky. Her hands nervously touched her own body. She could feel the shape of her baby. Nate was worried, he told Olive to leave. But Olive could not go....she just could not pull herself away. She kept looking at Maudie as the cow made her great noises and struggled to push out the calf. Nate saw that the cow was in trouble. He knew she needed
help. He looked for a nail in the wall where he could hang his lamp. There was none. He was angry, but did not know what to do. He had to have light. Olive said he should have asked another farmer to help him. This made Nate even more angry. He ordered Olive out of the barn.
Suddenly, Olive saw that Nate was also afraid--fearful that the cow's struggle would be too much for him alone. And at that moment she decided that nothing could drive her from the barn. She demanded that Nate give her the lamp to hold so that he could have all the light he needed to help Maudie.
Nate said,"no," the birth would make her sick... "Please go," he said. Olive laughed and answered: "Nate, I think it is you who is going to be sick. Give me lamp!"
The emergency strangely changed Olive. She no longer felt fearful. There was a sudden new strength in her...it surprised her. Nate looked at his wife. As she took the lamp from him,
he smiled. He softly touched Olive's face with his hand. Olive had never before felt so close her husband. It was a wonderful moment.
Now, Nate could see, and could work. He put fresh hay around Maudie and went to look for some old cloth. He needed the cloth, he said to hold the calf's wet head as he pulled it out.
Nate and Olive joked and laughed as they waited. But soon they stopped. For the cow was now in violent pain, and they could see the calf's whole head. Olive held the lamp.
Nate told her not to look. But she had to look. As she watched, Olive was afraid, but not for the cow or even for herself. She was fearful for the baby-for the little creature that was coming into the world. At last, it was done.
Maudie was quiet. In the hay, lay a 1ittle wet calf. It tried to stand up, but could not.
Nate gently helped the calf to its feet. He brought it to Maudie. He opened the calf's mouth so that it could take milk from its mother. But Maudie made an angry noise and kicked the calf away. Nate Spoke to Maudie at though she could understand him: "Here now! A mother shouldn't do that to her baby!" Olive asked, "Doesn't she love her bably?" Nate
said, "She still remembers her pain. But she'll love her calf in the morning."
Olive and Nate were both tired. Olive remembered the coffee she had brought to the barn. She put it on the hot stove. Nate dried the calf with the cloth. As he worked, Olive looked through the barn window. She saw the apple trees with snow on them and the light in her kitchen and the frist grace of the morning sun. It made her feel warm and happy. She was part of her husband's life.
Suddenly, Olive heard the sound of the boiling coffee. She turned from the window. She laughed as she saw Nate trying to cover the long, kicking legs of the baby calf. And he laughed, too.
Now, the calf was covered and quiet, sleeping near its mother. Nate and Olive sat in the hay. They held hands as they drank the hot coffee. They felt no need to speak as they looked at the beauty of the first baby in their lives.
You have been listening to the Special English program American Stories. Our story today is called "No Place to Hang the Lantern". It was written by John Wotarua, and was published by Yankee Magazine. Your storyteller was Shep O'Neal. The producer was Wang Daives. The Voice of America invites you to listen again next week at the same time to another American story told in Special English. This is Shirley Griffith.