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IX Arne’s Fourth of July Battle
Arne drove the white horse, Christopher, into Danville every morning to take the milk to the creamery. He started from the farm as soon as the milk was in the cans, just as Lyman or Leslie—whichever it might happen to be—took the cows to the wood pasture. It was a long drive over the Prairie Road into Danville Creamery. Most usually it was uneventful. And every day, now that the last of June had come, grew warmer and warmer. Some days it was decidedly hot on the Prairie Road, even though Arne and Christopher started so early of a morning.

There were almost always errands to do in Danville, after having been to the creamery. Afterwards, Arne and Christopher had to hurry back to the farm because there was[Pg 116] work to do there, too. The men needed Christopher in the fields, and Arne, too. There never was any time to idle along the road. It seemed to Arne that work never ended. He wanted some fun—that’s what he wanted. The other boys didn’t have to work all the time in summer—but then, it wasn’t all of them that owned thrift cards. Arne did. He already had earned ten stamps. When he thought of that, then he was rather glad he had the work to do for his father. His father gave him a thrift stamp every week that work was well and satisfactorily done—and without shirking. So far, Arne had only missed getting his stamp once. That was when he slipped off one day to go to the swimming-hole with Jimmy Smith when he was supposed to be working in the hay-field, raking. That was last week.

As Arne reflected upon these things and Christopher jogged into Danville that day that was the very last day of June, he slapped the reins and decided that he would lose no more thrift stamps. He wore his knot of red, white and blue ribbon pinned on his blue shirt[Pg 117] and he was “doing his bit” quite as much as anybody, even though the other boys did have more chance to have fun. Then he looked up and saw—the circus poster!

Right then and there, he stopped Christopher and sat gazing at it. The circus was coming to Danville on the Fourth of July—twenty-five cents admission. The picture showed all manner of lovely ladies dancing on the backs of black horses. It showed elephants that played hoop; it pictured funny clowns and monkeys riding dogs—in short, everything that a circus ought to be seemed suggested by the big circus poster. “I’m a-goin’,” Arne resolved aloud. “Sure, I’m a-goin’ to it, somehow!” Then he clucked to Christopher and the wagon rattled onward toward the creamery. Just that one afternoon was the circus coming. It was a splendid kind of Fourth of July treat. “I guess my father’ll let me go,” he mused. “I guess so.”

When he reached Danville, all the lads who were waiting for cans to be emptied had gathered in a knot near the creamery door. Everybody was talking about the circus. Everybody was going.

[Pg 118]Harold Sniffin’s cans were ready first. He and Arne came the same road so he waited to go home with him. They tied Christopher to the back of Harold’s cart and the two sat together and talked as they rode home over the Prairie Road. Harold’s father let him buy his own thrift stamps. Harold was going without his weekly stamp and was going to buy his circus ticket with the twenty-five cents. As Arne had no money, Harold suggested this method of getting a ticket. Fourth of July did not always bring a circus. This year there had been no spring circus at all. Circuses couldn’t travel well on account of the railroads needing the cars now. This circus, it seemed, had gone from town to town upon its own feet and in its own circus wagons.

They had decided to go together and start early when the road of Harold’s turning came. Then they unhitched Christopher and Arne whipped up and came clattering into the red barn at home. “There’s a circus coming to Danville on the Fourth,” he laughed. “Guess that’s a fine way to celebrate a Safe an’ Sane day!”

[Pg 119]Only four more days to wait! Hooray! All that afternoon, Arne sang happily as he ran around the farm doing chores. He reflected, as he hoed his patch late in the afternoon, that farm work was really patriotic work and that he, right there hoeing, was doing his bit as much as if he were buying a thrift stamp. Of course he was!

That night when he was coming from the barn, after having fed the calves their bran mixture, he met his father. He explained about the circus. He wanted the money instead of the stamp, he said.

“All right,” said father. There the matter dropped. He did not ask about the circus at all.

But Arne talked a great deal about it to his mother. He talked about it to Lyman and Leslie, who were helpers at the farm. When it was dark and chores were done, he sat on the flat stone at the doorstep and watched the stars come out while he thought about it some more—only four more days!

The morning of the first of July, Christopher trotted into Danville at a pretty rapid pace. Indeed, he was rather white around the[Pg 120] collar when they at last reached the circus poster on the road to Danville. But he earned his rest, for there Arne stopped and gazed at all the wonderful things. The circus poster promised many, many more than were pictured there. It said a thousand thrills would be felt by everyone who witnessed the daring tight-rope walking. It spoke of the Wild West and Indians that were a feature of the performance. It was only a big poster but one felt after looking at it, that one could hardly wait three days more before the Fourth should come! And going home from Danville, Arne again sat beside Harold while Christopher jogged behind. Again they talked. Again they planned. Again they undid Christopher from the rear of Harold’s cart. Again at the crossroads, they parted till the morrow. And again on the morrow, the very same thing occurred.

Only one day more before the Fourth! In the country few have firecrackers. Arne was thinking chiefly about that circus. He and Harold planned to go in time to see the parade in the morning. Only one day more—

Then the next day............
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