[Table of Contents]
They were arguing again. I could hear the voices below in the kitchen,
but not the words, until I crept to the heat register. Then I listened
to them argue about Gene. The boy was still a child. Old enough to dance,
old enough to pay the fiddler. He was driving their son away. How dare
she say that in his own house?
And so on.
I dressed quickly in my warmest clothes,
quiet not to wake the others, then sneaked down the stairs and outside
and ran through the snow to the river.
Later that day Father blamed Gene for a snowshovel that was left outside
and lost. Gene might not have lost it. Maybe I did. Maybe Joey or Charles
left it near the road, where the snowplow hooked it and carried it away.
But Father said Gene was responsible because he was the oldest, he was
nearly a man, and it was time he started pulling his weight.
"I don't know where the goddamned
snowshovel is," Gene said.
"Don't talk like that in this house."
"I'll leave then."
"Maybe you'd better."
Mother said, "Gene, do what your father
"He's not my father."
"Just please do what he asks."
"Well, he's not my father."
"I'm not your father, but you're sure
as hell sleeping under the roof of my house and eating the food I put
on the table."
Gene slammed the door behind him, banging
the glass in all the windows. Charles and Joey and I were left to face
Father ourselves. But he looked at us and said, "Don't you have chores?"
and we were out the door, running for the river.
"Who lost the goddamned shovel?"
"Probably Pissant here."
"Not me," I said. But I wasn't
It had been a cold winter, the coldest
we had ever known, and for the first time in our memories the river had
frozen from bank to bank. The river was not fast, but it was large and
deep and powerful enough to resist freezing. In summer, when the wind
turned the surface to chop, it was difficult to notice current at all
until you looked closely and saw the deep reach of it, the way it rose
from the depths into silent swirls and upswells that disrupted the patterns
of order imposed by the wind. Most winters ice formed only along the edges
and in the sloughs and bays the current did not enter. We never imagined
it would freeze entirely across.
That winter, on the hill below the house,
we built a long, winding bobsled run. We worked on it for days, packing
the snow in shape with the flats of shovels, then sprinkling it with buckets
of water we carried up from a hole Gene cut for us at the edge of the
river. The finished track began beside the house and ended near the river
in the space between the boathouses. We rode down on our bellies on runner
sleds, skidding on the turns, going so fast our eyes ran with tears. Just
before vaulting over the bank onto the ice, we spilled off into the loose
snow and stopped. Charles said, "You ride out on that ice, you'll
cut through, sink, be drowned in about a minute."
Once I fell off my sled and it kept going
and skittered onto the ice.
Joey ran up to the garage for a rope. Charles
found a long stick, but it was not long enough to reach the sled. We tried
to lasso it with the rope but it fell short, so Charles and Joey tied
the rope around my waist and I walked out on the ice. I could feel the
water flowing beneath it, like fingers dragging on the underside. It was
twenty feet deep there. I imagined I was walking across the roof of a
"Jump up and down."
The ice did not break. "It's strong,"
Charles and Joey came out a foot at a time
and we stood together.
Frozen, the river had changed entirely.
It seemed more like a lake than a river, tapered at each end, wide across
the middle to the far shore where the hills and the woods rose away. We
imagined what was beneath the ice, the water darker and the current heavier
and more dangerous than in summer, imagined the horror of breaking through
and being sucked underneath. We retrieved the sled and hurried to shore.
Winter was something to be endured, like school. In winter Father had
no work and spent much of each day in the kitchen, in Mother's way. Idleness
was difficult for him. The house became very small in winter, and we learned
to become very small and quiet ourselves.
In the summer, though there were many chores,
we could swim, fish, and explore the river. Father was busy repairing
outboard motors and renting boats to fishermen who followed the signs
from the highway and parked in the dirt lot next to the house. Gene had
jobs in town, but on his days off he helped Father or was hired by fishermen
to guide them on the river. He knew where the biggest bass were, knew
the holes where you could find schools of walleye. Charles and Joey kept
the boats bailed and clean, and when there were customers, delivered live
bait from the old refrigerator in the boathouse. If they were not working
they cut and stacked firewood or mowed the lawn or slashed the brush that
grew up every year along the riverbank. I helped Mother in the garden
or played quietly by myself.
If Charles and Joey had the morning free, we tied ourselves into bulky
life jackets and took one of the boats upriver, running against the current
with the old Johnson outboard Father had taken in trade. We motored upstream
to the abandoned docks at Pine Island, tied the boat to the pilings, and
swam or fished. Sometimes we explored the island, but it was a frightening
place, spoiled by blackberry thickets too dense to enter and piles of
rotting lumber spiked with nails. Duck hunters had built wooden blinds
along the shore. We sat in them, hidden from passing boats, and frightened
ourselves with stories of ghosts and murders. Sometimes we talked about
Gene's father, a sawmill laborer from Grand Ledge our mother had married
long before we were born. They had lived in a small white house near the
mill, and Gene had learned to ride a bicycle on the cracked narrow sidewalks
of the neighborhood, had made friendships he continued to honor long after
Mother remarried and she and Gene moved to Father's house, our house,
in the country. Even after hearing the story all my life, I could not
imagine Mother married to someone else. With effort I visualized a tall,
faceless man, taller and leaner than our own father. He was killed when
a ripping blade at the sawmill exploded and fired shanks of steel through
the building. A piece struck his skull and shattered it, we imagined,
The day the ice moved I followed Father and Charles down to the shore
and watched the ice creeping along the bank. The river was high. A week
of thaw at the beginning of March had brought the snowmelt down from the
tributaries. Now the wind had turned cold again, but the river continued
to rise. It moaned and coughed like a room filled with sick people. Across
the ice black lines had appeared, jagged and monumental as the boundaries
"She'll be moving good by morning,"
Father said. "Wind's coming up."
That evening Father's friends came to the house and stayed late talking.
My brothers and I sat in the shadows of the living room, forgotten, listening
to the men. They smoked cigars and drank whiskey from glasses. Sometimes
I heard what was said, sometimes the words blended into pure sound and
I began to doze.
"You sleeping, Buzzard?" Gene
asked. I sat up and listened.
The talk was of hunting, the kind of talk
that fills you with the scents and rustlings of the woods. The men were
experienced and accomplished hunters, but were modest in their knowledge.
They bragged only by suggestion. If Father asked one of them what success
he had hunting in the Upper Peninsula that fall, the friend would say,
"Fair luck," which meant he had killed a large buck, possibly
two, and perhaps had killed an illegal doe for camp meals. They never
admitted their successes, unless prodded, and it was understood that one
of the obligations of friendship was to do the prodding.
Mother came into the room with ice in a
bowl and put it on the table by the whiskey bottle. She wore her bathrobe
and a pair of Father's socks. I stayed as still as possible, but Gene
smoked a cigarette and made remarks while the men talked. Mother turned
and looked at Charles and Joey and me, so I knew our time was up, and
then she came over and took the cigarette from Gene's mouth and put it
out in an ashtray. Gene looked so ashamed and sad that I felt terrible.
Father turned slowly and focused on us.
"I told you boys to get off to bed."
Gene said, "No you didn't."
"Get your ass upstairs."
Gene stood and walked to the closet. He
put on his coat.
"Where do you think you're going?"
Father demanded. But the door had already closed.
Mother took my hand, and I let her lead
me upstairs to the bedroom. When she wanted to let go I would not release
her. I held tightly with both my hands until she looked at me.
"I'm never going to smoke, Mama,"
She smiled. She removed her hand and folded
back the blanket and comforter.
"I'm not," I said.
"I know, Honey." She tucked the
blankets to my chin and kissed me. "Go to sleep."
She left and I waited alone in the dark,
listening to the voices downstairs and the clinking of ice in the glasses,
and looking away into the darkness at the vague moving lights that come
and go in your eyes at night. Charles and Joey came in and got in their
beds. In a few minutes they were sleeping. Then I was alone again. I waited
as long as I could for Gene, but he did not come home.
In the night Father threw open the door. The light switched on so suddenly
it was like a loud noise, blaring, causing us to sit upright. "Get
up," he said.
"What time is it?" Charles asked.
We assumed it was time for school.
"Just get up."
It was cold. We struggled against the pull
of sleep and warmth and dressed in our sweaters and jeans and double pairs
Then we could hear the wind and could feel
the house groaning and creaking against it. The world was black through
the windows, and only gradually did we realize it was the middle of the
night. Branches beat against the glass.
Mother waited in the kitchen in her bathrobe,
her hair down, gray and long. When she saw us she said, "He's out
Joey said, "Can't we have breakfast
"No. Better go help him."
We put on our coats, hats, and mittens
and stepped outside.
Charles was first. He turned back immediately
from the wind. Then he put his head down and pushed into the darkness.
Joey and I followed.
I clung to Charles's coat. Already I was
shivering. It was bitter cold, colder than any night that winter. Hard
pellets of snow stung my face. The wind was so powerful it pulled my lips
away from my teeth. I could see nothing but glimpses of tree trunks and
the sudden, furiously whipping branches. Objects flew past.
Below us patches of snow moved vaguely
on the river. We found shelter behind one of the boathouses.
"Where is he?" Charles called.
Joey held my arm. We stepped around the building, into the wind again,
and saw Father silhouetted against the river. He raised an ax into the
air and drove it down into the ice. He raised it again and drove it down
again but it made no sound. The ice was pale. We could see it dimly, through
the corners of our eyes, shelving against the shore and rising as ponderously
We had never seen the ice like that. Our
property was on a bend in the river, but the river was so wide and the
bend so long that the current was not driven into our shore. Most years,
floes of ice were dislodged from the sloughs upstream and drifted harmlessly
past. Sometimes boys from town would ride the floes until they were far
from shore and had to be rescued by men in boats. Sometimes they were
not rescued. Always the water and everything in it proceeded downstream,
out of sight.
But now the wind and high water drove the
river straight at us. The ice veered to our shore, and once it struck
land the momentum of the wind and the current kept it coming and there
seemed no way to stop it.
We went to Father, and he gave us wrecking
bars and the heavy iron spuds we used to cut fishing holes in the small
lake across the road. He pulled us apart, to separate positions along
the shore, and demonstrated how we must use the tools to stop the ice.
He did it in pantomime. In the wind we could not understand his words
even when he shouted at us.
The ice came slowly, pushed by a hundred
miles of moving water. It butted against the raw bank, plowed slowly through
it, cleaving the topsoil, then rose beyond the ground until it seemed
to come straight at us.
If it burrowed too deeply into the ground
it stopped, but after a moment it would fold slowly, hinging on itself,
until it cracked open and the new leading edge rode over the back of the
old. Sometimes the shifting ice opened the river, exposing for a few minutes
water black as oil, then closing it again as more ice was pushed down
by the current. I raised my spud and beat at the ice, but I could not
break it. When I pried beneath it, the insistent dumb weight tried to
pull the tool from my hands.
I knew the boathouses would not stop the
ice. If it reached the buildings they would be crushed. The boats and
drums of gasoline and the workbenches and tools and the boxes filled with
propellers and recoils and motor housings would be dumped over and taken
by the river. The ice and the river would claim everything, would leave
the beach scoured clean as bones.
The wind did not diminish and the ice came
on, endlessly. As we worked, the darkness dissolved so gradually we did
not notice it. In gray light the river seemed alive, the ice moving, black
streaks opening for a moment then closing. Charles beat at the ice, took
a step back, beat at it, took another step back. Joey stood against the
boathouse, jabbing with an iron bar. He dropped the bar finally and turned
away from the wind, holding his hands over his ears.
I pretended an adult fury of effort and
allowed the spud to slip from my hands onto the ice. It slid downward,
increasing in speed, and disappeared without noise into the black water.
Father did not notice. He swung his ax over and over into the ice, standing
on top of it as if to slow its progress with his weight. It carried him
slowly forward. The closer it carried him to the boathouse the more frantic
he became, until he and his slashing ax threatened to fly apart.
The board-and-batten siding of the boathouse
warped gradually inward. It seemed for a moment to stop the ice. The entire
building shuddered, then lifted from the ground the way a man does on
the back of a crowd. It tilted away and rolled over, roof down. A wooden
rowboat emerged from the door and was carried off over the top of the
The second building stood in place and
would not let itself be carried. Soundlessly, in slow motion, it folded
beneath the ice.Father swung his ax. The ice came on. The stacked boats
tumbled slowly up the hill. One of them settled in the rut of our bobsled
Down the shore, emerging in the dim light,
came Gene. Charles and Joey and I watched, huddled together now, numb
with cold. He walked purposefully, like a man on his way to work, wearing
his jacket and leather boots but no hat, picking his way around piles
of ice. The wind blew his hair back from his face.
When he reached us he picked up Joey's
spud and began chopping at the ice shelved above the ground. He worked
forward, breaking ice until he was nearly to the river, then stepped up
on the ice to begin chopping it from above.
Father saw him. He started to swing his ax, then stopped and looked again.
He dropped the ax and strode to Gene and struck him in the face with his
fist. Gene fell to one knee, then stood up. He was as tall as Father.
They braced their legs on the ice and faced each other. Behind them a
black streak of water opened, swelling with the deep currents. The wind
threw itself across the water, and the surface exploded into patterns.
Father leaned down and swung his fist in
a wide arc, striking Gene on the side of his head. Gene did not fall.
He raised the iron bar high in the air, holding it with both hands together,
like an ax at the top of its swing. Father looked surprised. He stumbled
backward, his feet slipping on the ice.
He was an old man in dungarees and work
cap, losing his balance, and I thought he would fall on his back, slide
down the inclined ice, and drop into the water. He would be swept beneath
the ice by the current. There would be nothing left, no waves, no hat
floating on the surface, nothing but the water swelling with current and
wind. The ice would close over the water. We would climb the hill to the
house and tell Mother what happened. We would be expected to grieve.
But he did not fall into the river. He
stumbled back a step and slipped to his knees with his arms covering his
head. Gene heaved the spud away and walked off toward the house. Father
stayed there, on his knees, trying to get his breath.
Charles and Joey and I waited. Nothing
had changed. Soon Father would stand, and everything would be as it was.
Mother would have breakfast ready in the kitchen. The stove would be warm,
the windows streaming with condensation. In time, new sheds would be built.
The boats would be repaired and rented to fishermen. Charles, Joey, and
I would take expeditions on the river, farther and farther away until
we had explored all the islands and all the communities up and down the
valley, then we would move on to other rivers and other valleys, searching
for places that were new and strange and safe.
Father remained on his knees. It was terrible
not to love him. We turned toward the house, to the windows yellow with
light and warmth. Charles went first, then Joey, then me, climbing the
frozen snow to the top of the hill, not looking back.
A Good Winter Storm
Once we would have been alerted by the throbbing of an arthritic knee
or by the restless lowing of cows in the barn, but now the first warning
of the storm comes from a fast-talking television meteorologist who can't
hide his enthusiasm. Wisconsin is getting hit hard, he says, and we're
next in line. He rubs his hands together in actual glee and rattles off
a litany of meteorological catchphrases, explaining that winds with names
like the Alberta Clipper, Saskatchewan Screamer, and Manitoba Mama are
bearing down on us because a shift in the jet stream has forced frigid
arctic air to curve south from Canada like a streamer of smoke behind
If we poke our heads outdoors we notice
signs: the way the day is held in pincers by a calm that is not quite
the calm before the storm, the sky low and shifting in general sluggishness
like a bad mood, the air heavy, the mercury in the thermometer hovering
a little below freezing and about to plunge. There's a sure sign as well
down at Mapleton Market, where people are stocking up on bread, milk,
microwave popcorn, and videocassettes, and are so talkative and friendly
they're on the brink of giddiness.
Something in us loves a good storm. It
forces our attention outside, away from the pull of televisions and computer
terminals, and makes us aware of the natural world again. We seem to be
a little hungry for it. Sometimes, of course, we get more than we want,
but a storm in moderation is a good thing. It allows us to arm wrestle
briefly with nature, and reminds us that we're Milquetoasts compared to
that muscular lady.
On the meteorologist's radar the storm looks like the shadow of a giant
bird flapping across the screen. We're told it will gain velocity as it
crosses Lake Michigan and will pick up additional moisture from the relatively
warm water. By the time the storm reaches the western shore of Michigan,
the clouds will be black with freight and driven by winds of forty miles
Late in the afternoon pellets of snow begin
to fall. They are flung by gusts and strike our front windows with a sound
like thrown rice. All the birds have disappeared from the feeders and
are hunkering for cover inside junipers and arborvitae, their stomachs
filled with all the sunflower and thistle seeds they can hold. If the
storm is prolonged, some of the birds will never leave the shrubs. We
will find their desiccated carcasses in the spring. They will weigh almost
We're as ready as we can be, snug inside
our bunkered house. The cupboards and refrigerator are full, wood is piled
beside the fireplace, candles and flashlights stand ready on the kitchen
table. Gail has a fat novel to read, and I have trout flies to tie. The
children wear sweaters over their pajamas and ask for the tenth time if
we think school will be canceled tomorrow. Yes, we think so, but we say
nothing because we want no arguments at bedtime. We want the kids asleep
at the usual time so we can sit together next to the fireplace with the
lights off. We want to listen to the wind shout and watch snowflakes the
size of bottle caps streak across the windows.
We wake in the morning to an unrecognizable
world. Our yard is filled with sculpted drifts, and the north side of
every tree is plastered with white. We turn on the radio and learn that
schools are closed (and the kids bound cheering through the house) but
that the storm has fallen short of the intensity and fury that makes a
storm a blizzardthat apt word borrowed from early German settlers
on the Great Plains, who after their first winters came away hollow-eyed
and muttering about the blitzartig (lightninglike) way the wind and snow
struck their homesteads. Our storm brings more holiday than hardship.
When the sun appears I dress in heavy clothes, clear our driveway with
the snowblower, and join the kids in digging tunnels through the drifts.
By noon plows have cleared the road.
Storms of this magnitude occur half a dozen
times each winter here in northern Michigan. A few a year might be considered
blizzards (meteorologists define them as storms that have low temperatures,
driving snow, and gale-force winds, thirty-nine to forty-six miles per
hour), and one or two are real beasts. Once every decade or so comes a
blizzard so notable it serves, like a death in the family or a move to
a new house, as a milestone in our lives.
None of the storms of my experience can
match the one my wife and I witnessed in 1977 when we were students at
Northern Michigan University in Marquette, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
Marquette is a compact city, built on hills that drop abruptly to the
shore of Lake Superior, and is famous for the eighteen or twenty feet
of snow it receives each winter. When the wind is up and from the north
it charges from Ontario across 150 miles of open lake, throwing enormous
plumes of spray hundreds of feet inland and laminating every surface with
ice. It is a place shaped and colored by weather.
Gail and I drove into Marquette for the
first time on a bright January day when fog had slipped in from Lake Superior
and left everything it touched covered with a furry coat of rime. Snow
stood so deep that telephone lines were within reach of pedestrians on
paths above the streets.
We rented an apartment a few blocks from
downtown in an aging house we shared with three housematesall young
men, a student and two lapsed students who quickly became friends
and shared meals, music, books, and our enthusiasm for the outdoors. The
Boys, as Gail called them, were veterans of several Marquette winters.
"Wait until it storms," they said. "You've never seen a
blizzard until you've seen a Lake Superior blizzard."
One morning we woke to find the temperature
outside had reached minus thirty-five degrees Fahrenheit. A few miles
inland it was fifty below. When I stepped outside, I saw people up and
down the street trying without success to start their cars, their hoods
in the air like arms thrown up in surrender. My ten- year- old van started
without difficulty, and I passed a neighborly hour giving jump starts.
In the few minutes it took to step outside and attach the jumper cables
to a battery, my ears, fingers, and toes would go numb and my nostrils
would swell with what felt like walnut-size cotton bolls. Most of the
neighbors were students from southern Michigan, who had never experienced
such cold. We exchanged wondering comments, watching as the breath that
hung around our heads crystallized and fell to the ground as fine snow.
The storm came a few weeks later. Clouds
moved in that morning and the temperature climbed to the upper twenties,
warmer than it had been in a month. The streets were coated with ice formed
by snow that had been packed by traffic and frozen hard as concrete. All
day the light was soft and strange, like the gloaming of twilight. On
television the weatherman grinned and said, "Get ready, folks. It
looks like we're in for a blinger."
It was cause, of course, for a party. We
telephoned friends and told them to bring food, drinks, and sleeping bags,
then laced on our ice skates and sashayed down the middle of the street
to the Red Owl supermarket, where we were met at the door by a weary manager
who put up his hands and said, "Hey, hey, this ain't Skate World."
Inside we slid around the aisles in our stocking feet, loading a grocery
cart with beer, chips, and frozen dinners, greeting everyone we met. Young
people were animated and talkative, their eyes bright. Older folks acted
the way they always acted.
We had noticed already that the people
who boasted loudest about the difficulties of winters in the Upper Peninsula
were usually recent immigrants, many of them from Detroit, a 450- mile
drive south of Marquette, where winters are cold and damp but often free
of measurable snowfall. Natives of the U.P., many of them descended from
Finns, Swedes, and Italians who moved to the region in the nineteenth
century to work in the iron and copper mines, were apparently too acclimated
to the weather to give it much thought. To them winter was not a romantic
adventure or a Currier & Ives abstraction, but a fact of life, like
unemployment, taxes, and backaches. Their stoicism could be extreme. Our
second year in Marquette I worked for six weeks repairing railroad tracks
on the Chicago-Northwestern line near Ishpeming, a town fifteen miles
inland from Marquette. The crew of three included two native Yoopers (U.P.-ers),
career railroaders who dreamed of being promoted to brakemen so they could
spend their days riding in a heated caboose. I was taking a semester off
from college to raise money and was grateful for the job, but I have never
been so uncomfortable. It was a frigid, snowy November and the wind was
relentless. In the cold the steel tracks cracked under the pressure of
cars loaded with iron-ore pellets. Our job was to cut out the broken sections
and replace them with lengths of new rail. We did this by hand, unbolting
existing track with four-foot-long wrenches, cutting broken sections away
with a gasoline-powered hacksaw, driving new spikes with sledgehammers.
One day when the wind was particularly agonizing and a harsh sleet lashed
at our faces, I groaned and muttered something like, "Man, this is
miserable." I sensed immediate disapproval from the others. Nothing
was said but it was clear that I had violated a code.
That first winter no such codes applied
and we allowed ourselves to be awed by the weather. Outside the supermarket
it had begun snowinghard pellets that sheered at angles when the
wind gusted, then dropped straight down and bounced along the street like
excited molecules. By the time we got home from the supermarket, the wind
blew with so much force that our house swayed, causing the water in the
toilet bowl to rise and fall. The plastic sheeting our landlord had nailed
over the windows bucked and snapped.
We turned up the music, made dinner, drank
beer, laughed, and danced. Our friends arrived, loaded with supplies and
talking in disbelief about the rising storm. Everyone took turns going
to the door to watch the city get erased by whiteness. Gusts lifted snow
into marauding clouds that swirled down the street and eddied into the
openings between the houses, building drifts that by morning would reach
to the eaves. Then stronger winds funneled in from the lake, carrying
snow in streamers so thick we could not see the houses across the street.
A friend came late, red-faced and huffing,
stomping his feet on the floor. He had abandoned his car in a drift blocks
away. No way, he said, is anybody going anywhere tonight. Sleeping bags
were spread, couches made into beds. We switched off the lights, and the
wind came up louder than ever. It seemed to hoot at the pleasure of meeting
In the morning all our windows were covered
with elaborate, finely patterned frost that fell in curls to the carpet
when we scraped it with our fingernails. We breathed on the glass until
face-size holes opened and we could look outside. The wind continued to
blow, sweeping loose snow down the street. Trees looked shocked and naked.
Even the telephone poles seemed bent in misery. Our neighbors' houses
appeared deserted, their driveways filled with drifts that covered cars
to their roofs. Someone turned on the radio and an announcer said in a
cheerful voice that the state police had blocked all highways out of the
city and classes at the university were canceled.
It was perfect. It was why we had come
to Marquette: to be tested by extremes of nature, to watch the world throw
tantrums. Staying warm in the midst of all that cold and wind made us
feel capable and self-reliant and mildly heroic. We turned up the music
and danced around the living room cheering for ourselves.
We were brewing coffee and scrambling eggs
when someone walked onto our porch and knocked. We opened the inner door,
then pushed hard on the storm door to break through the drift that had
built in front of it. A swirl of snow and cold came inside.
Standing before us were two middle-aged
women in bulky, snow-covered coats, headscarves knotted tightly beneath
their chins. They looked like Russian peasants dressed to go to the market.
Behind them snow roared down the street like invading panzers. The ladies
smiled shyly. "We're collecting for da United Way," one said
in the lilting Finnish accent of a native.
My friends and I were flabbergasted. "Did
you walk here?" we asked.
"Ya. Down da street. It's our day
It was unthinkable to turn them away. We
invited them inside and filled their donation envelopes with our pocket
change. We offered them breakfast, but they couldn't stay. They had many
houses to visit, they said, and because of the condition of the streets
they would have to do all their visiting on foot. They wanted to be finished
in time to have supper ready when their husbands came home from work.