The big river served as an important backdrop for all events taking place in the little house under the willow trees in a clearing far from the main farmhouse. Most of the time there was no one for the lonely child to play with or talk to. Her mom spent a lot of time inside, napping with the baby that the little girl had been told was her new sister. Where had that come from anyway? Playing alone in the yard she could see the river on one side of her home. On the opposite side she could see the roof-top and chimneys of the farmhouse that belonged to her grandparents. She could just barely see that place above the corn that grew in the field on the northern side of the weedy yard. It seemed so far away. In reality, it was about a half-mile across the field to the farm yard.
The early corn, in that year of 1944, was only knee-high to a grasshopper, and Jean wasn’t much bigger. She was just tall enough for her mother to watch her progress as she made her stubborn, solitary way to the farm one day. Up and down, up and down, went that little pigtailed head, over and over the corn-row furrows that seemed to go on forever.
Mom had been very angry when she found her daughter stuffing bread into the back of the Philco radio that stood in the big back room that served as kitchen, utility room and back porch. She hadn’t understood that Jean only wanted to feed the people who talked inside the radio. Surely they were hungry! Mom hollered at her and then plopped down in exhausted frustration. The little girl decided to run away from home. She headed to the comfort of her grandmother’s big house. Besides the riverbanks, the farm was the only other place she had ever gone. When she finally got to the farm she was dirty and tired and a bit tear-stained. “Grammy” gave her a big soft hug, a glass of lemonade, a cooling bath, and a nap in her own comfy bed.
Grammy and Pop’s bedroom was the quietest room in the farmhouse. A tall grandfather clock stood in one corner, quietly tick-tocking all day and night, grandly chiming out the hours. That tick-todk sound reassured the little girl, like the soft, quiet beating she heard when she sat in her grandmother’s lap and rested her head on Grammy’s chest. It was easy to go to sleep in that room in Grammy and Pop’s big old wooden bed. Things seemed simpler there.