Roxy Buzzard was smart as a whip. She and the two older boys went to school riding three on the back of one of Ox's prize horses. Saddle bags slung over the blanket-saddle held a measure of oats for the horse and the children's lunch, as well as their books.
All three learned readily, though Sim, his head full of music, was a bit dreamy at times. Nate's primary interest was arithmetic but he did well in other subjects, too. Roxy often covered two years work in one. She loved to read and borrowed books from Grandma after she had devoured all I had with me on a summer visit. Grandma, when she discovered Roxy's interest in learning, kept her supplied with books and encouraged her to study.
As the children learned, they sought to teach their parents. Clorinda took to reading readily and soon was spelling out the Bible. But Ox, though he easily learned to read and try as he would, could not master the art of the written word. Evening after evening, the three labored, turn about, to teach Paw to read and write.
One warm summer morning I walked into the Buzzard house clearing, intending to beg Roxy's company for the day, knowing Clorinda could spare her for Miz McCoy had stayed on after the twin's birth. Mz McCoy had her own room, now, and had been adopted as "Grannie" by the children. It was a happy arrangement all around.
Ox and Roxy knelt before a smooth board left over from the recent building, his huge hand clutching a charred stick. Guided by Roxy's small paw, he traced the letters of his name. As I watched, Nate came from the house with another smoking stick in his hand. At last the children had struck on a "pen" large enough for Ox to hold. After many days, Ox finally learned to form the letters of his name and even to write them with a rediculously small looking conventional instrument on paper dwarfed by his huge hand.
I know it sounds as though Ox Buzzard was dull, but that was far from true. Nate had inherited his quickness with numbers from his father and they often vied in doing long sums in their heads. Ox was a good farmer and sharp in business matters as well as honest in all his dealings. Clorinda, too, was intelligent and was soon reading Roxy's books and learning along with her. She always encouraged the children in their search for knowledge.
I visited Roxy every summer when I stayed at the Big Farm. Having a share of my family's height as I did, I still found myself able to match topknots only with much younger Buzzards. They were all tall, but well proportioned so that if you saw the group by itself, the children appeared to be normal size. It was only when ordinary mortals mixed with them that they looked gigantic. They ran faster and more lightly than I did, were agile and graceful in all they did. They were warm, fun-loving people as were my own folks and I was always welcomed as an extra daughter.
Finally the day came when Roxy had exhausted the possibilities of the local school. After much confering and discussion, it was decided by all concerned that she must come live in town with my family and go to high school. Roxy's dream was to become a teacher so she could help the young'uns also get an education.
Ox could have paid her way but he didn't believe in making it too easy for her, so she was to work for her board. Ox would have been disgusted at what Ma called "work", but Roxy herself was so wrapped up in her studies that she did the tasks assigned to her with her usual efficiency without noticing how light they were. Ma wanted Roxy to have all the fun the rest of us indulged in as well as cramming her head with all it would hold.
For the first time in her life, Roxy had a room of her own. Her Sunday dress hung under the dust-curtain on clothes pegs beside her school skirts. She had two shirtwaists which she kept washed and starched to paper crispness, and two gingham gowns for house-work. Her plain petticoats, shimmies, and drawers soon sported knitted lace as her quick fingers grew skilled under Ma's teaching. That Christmas Ma made her a warm wadded dressing-gown after discovering her studying wrapped in a quilt against the chill.
Roxy was a popular member of any group. Her coronet of massive golden-brown braids was the envy of many a girl and the mesh that entangled many a young masculine heart. She sang like a thrush, her laughter was a gay invitation to share her amusement. She was kind to everyone, old and young, and she studied with such singleness of purpose that all who knew her admired her.
Every winter for four years she lived with us. During the summer she returned to the farm and worked harder than ever to help Clorinda with the little ones and Ox with farm chores. Roxy expected to teach for a while after she left high school, as many girls and boys did in those days, but her father had a surprise for her.
On graduation day Ox and Clorinda, dressed in their best, sat stiffly in the crowded hall to watch Roxy receive her diploma and the honor of being at the head of her class. Later as we all sat in the parlour discussing the ceremony, Ox presented her with a bank book showing that she had money in her own name to pay her way through two years of Normal School. She would start her teaching career completely trained, not just a high school graduate.
So Roxy went forward on her chosen road. She taught and used her wages to help her brothers and sisters go on to school. Not only she, but each of the older ones as they were able, helped the young'uns so that all of the children finished high school and several went onto college, one became a doctor and another, to the delight of his father, became a minister.
And Sim who loved so music? I'll tell you about him next.