Trail-Makers of the Middle Border

By Hamlin Garland | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
The Westward Journey

ONE evening in May, Addison came to Richard's room and said in the tone of one who is both surprised and amused, "Well, Dick, the procession is about to start! Nathaniel has decided to leave for the West on the twentyfirst. He writes, 'I've harvested my last crop of rocks.'"

In this phrase, "crop of rocks," may be found the explanation for a large part of the New England exodus which Nathaniel had joined. Returns to farmers were meagre, even for those who tilled the valleys, and for those on the hill-farms the soil was cruelly unrewarding. The oftrepeated jest, "Have to sharpen my sheep's noses sos't they can git at the grass between the stuns" carried a touch of bitter truth in its humorous description.

Nate loved his birth-place and his many friends, but he was tired of hacking a living from the flinty slopes. In the light of the reports of Wisconsin soil, rock-picking in Maine had become an intolerable drudgery. The word

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