James Fenimore Cooper.

Oak openings, or, The bee-hunter online

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dially welcomed by General Boden, and all of his fine de
scendants. The head of this family is approaching seventy,
but is still hale and hearty. His head is as white as
snow, and his face as red as a cherry. A finer old man
one seldom sees. Temperance, activity, the open air, and
a good conscience, have left him a noble ruin; if ruin he
can yet be called. He owes the last blessing, as he told us
himself, to the fact that he kept clear of the whirlwind of
speculation that passed over this region some ten or fifteen
years since. His means are ample; and the harvest being
about to commence, he invited me to the field.

The peculiar ingenuity of the American has supplied the
want of laborers, in a country where agriculture is carried on
by wholesale, especially in the cereals, by an instrument of
the most singular and elaborate construction. This machine
is drawn by sixteen or eighteen horses, attached to it later
ally, so as to work clear of the standing grain, and who
move the whole fabric on a moderate but steady walk. A
path is first cut with the cradle on one side of the field,
when the machine is dragged into the open place. Here it
enters the standing grain, cutting off its heads with the ut
most accuracy as it moves. Forks beneath prepare the way,
and a rapid vibratory motion of a great number of two-edged
knives effect the object. The stalks of the grain can be cut
as low or as high as one pleases, but it is usually thought
best to take only the heads. Afterward the standing straw
is burned, or fed off, upright.

The impelling power which causes the great fabric to ad
vance also sets in motion the machinery within it. As
soon as the heads of the grain are severed from the stalks,
they pass into a receptacle, where, by a very quick and sim
ple process, the kernels are separated from the husks.
Thence all goes into a fanning machine, where the chaff is


blown away. The clean grain falls into a small bin,
whence it is raised by a screw elevator to a height that en
ables it to pass out at an opening to which a bag is at
tached. Wagons follow the slow march of the machine, and
the proper number of men are in attendance. Bag after bag
is renewed, until a wagon is loaded, when it at once proceeds
to the mill, where the grain is soon converted into flour.
Generally the husbandman sells to the miller, but occasion
ally he pays for making the flour, and sends the latter off,
by railroad, to Detroit, whence it finds its way to
Europe, possibly, to help feed the millions of the old
world. Such, at least, was the course of trade the past sea
son. As respects this ingenious machine, it remains only
to say that it harvests, cleans, and bags from twenty to
thirty acres of heavy wheat, in the course of a single sum
mer s day! Altogether it is a gigantic invention, well
adapted to meet the necessities of a gigantic country.

Old Peter went afield with us that day. There he stood,
like a striking monument of a past that was still so recent
and wonderful. On that very prairie, which was now teem
ing with the appliances of civilization, he had hunted and
held his savage councils. On that prairie had he meditated,
or consented to the deaths of the young couple, whose de
scendants were now dwelling there, amid abundance, and
happy. Nothing but the prayers of the dying missionary,
in behalf of his destroyers, had prevented the dire consum

We were still in the field, when General Boden s attention
was drawn toward the person of another guest. This, too,
was an Indian, old like himself, but not clad like Peter,
in the vestments of the whites. The attire of this sinewy
old man was a mixture of that of the two races. He wore
a hunting-shirt, moccasins, and a belt; but he also wore
trousers, and otherwise had brought himself within the
habits of conventional decency. It was Pigeonswing, the
Chippewa, come to pay his annual visit to his friend,


the bee-hunter. The meeting was cordial, and we afterward
ascertained that when the old man departed, he went away
loaded with gifts that would render him comfortable for a

But Peter, after all, was the great centre of interest with
us. We could admire the General s bee-hives, which were
numerous and ingenious; could admire his still handsome
Margery, and all their blooming descendants; and were
glad when we discovered that our old friend made so by
means of a knowledge of his character, if not by actual ac
quaintance was much improved in mind, was a sincere
Christian, and had been a Senator of his own State; re
spected and esteemed by all who knew him. Such a career,
however, has nothing peculiar in America; it is one of
every-day occurrence, and shows the power of man when left
free to make his own exertions; while that of the Scalping
Peter indicated the power of God. There he was, living in
the midst of the hated race, loving and beloved; wishing
naught but blessings on all colors alike; looking back upon
his traditions and superstitions with a sort of melancholy
interest, as we all portray in our memories the scenes,
legends, and feelings of an erring childhood.

We were walking in the garden, after dinner, and looking
at the hives. There were the general, Margery, Peter, and
ourselves. The first was loud in praise of his buzzing
friends, for whom it was plain he still entertained a lively
regard. The old Indian, at first, was sad. Then he
smiled, and, turning to us, he spoke earnestly and with
some of his ancient fire and eloquence.

" Tell me you make a book," he said. " In dat book tell
trut . You see me poor old Injin. My f adder was chief
1 was great chief, but we was children. Knowed nuttin .
Like little child, dough great chief. Believe tradition.
T ink dis arth flat t ink Injin could scalp all pale-face
t ink tomahawk, and war-path, and rifle, bess t ings in whole
world. In dat day, my heart was stone. Afraid of Great


Spirit, but didn t love him. In dat time I t ink General
could^talk wid bee. Yes; was very foolish den. Now, all
dem cloud blow away, and I see my Fadder dat is in
heaven. His face shine on me, day and night, and I never
get tired of looking at it. I see him smile, I see him
lookin at poor ole Injin, as if he want him to come
nearer; sometime I see him frown and dat scare me. Den
I pray, and his frown go away.

"Stranger, love God. B lieve his blessed Son, who pray
for dem dat kill him. Injin don t do that. Injin not
strong enough to do so good t ing. It want de Holy Spirit
to strengthen de heart, afore man can do so great t ing.
When he got de force of de Holy Spirit, de heart of stone
is changed to de heart of woman, and we all be ready to
bless our enemy and die. I have spoken. Let dem dat
read your book understand."



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Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperOak openings, or, The bee-hunter → online text (page 41 of 41)