My Cousin

From the book “How Dear to My Heart” by Walter Kilborn Billings

My cousin Eck Kilborn, a boy of about my own age, and doubly related to me, (his mother was a first cousin of my father and his father a brother of my mother), was an only child and so for companionship was always ready to come to my house. We were great chums, and I am sorry to say we seemed to get into more trouble than any others of my family. His home was about four miles from mine, and he was always planning, when we were together, some reason for my going home with him.

One day he and his father and mother came to our house, driving a team of horses on a lumber wagon with a high box. They had a spring seat raised up and resting on the side board of the box. A heavy buffalo robe was thrown over the east, hanging down in front and behind and touching the floor of the box.

My Cousin suggested that, about the time they would be ready for home I get into the box, crawl under the seat inside the robe, and lie down on an old cushion he had put there for me. At last they were ready, and I climbed in and we started off. We had decided I should crawl out when we were well on our way and too far from my house for me to be returned. All went well, although the stone road was so rough that I got a lot of bumps on the way down. My cousin said he would kick the robe with his feet when it was time for me to appear, and I watched patiently for the signal. Finally it came. I crawled out in front of my aunt and uncle. It was too late for them to turn back and take me home, so they decided to drive on and send word to my grandfather’s that I was with them.

My family missing me, started to search the barn, down at the creek and at the neighbour’s. Finally word came to them that I had hidden in the wagon and was at my cousin’s. My parents came down that night for me and as punishment I had either to take a thrashing or agree not to go to my cousins for two months. I was just a little fellow only seven years old, so finally I took the strap, on Eck’s advice.

Buggy Shafts were the poles in front of the buggy that attached to the horse

One day my cousin came to see me, driving with his parents in their covered buggy. It was quite new, and had such high wheels that to climb in you needed a box to stand on. They had unhitched the horse, and left the buggy in front of the barn. My sister, my cousin and I were playing around it and as there was some mud on the wheels we decided to run it down to the creek, going around by the cow path and on down where it was not to steep. My sister climbed up in the seat, the back curtain of the top was rolled up and I got in and held up the shafts, my cousin pushing behind. Finally as we moved off, he climbed up on the axle and stood looking through at me in the shafts. The buggy gained speed. I tried to make the turn and keep in the track but fell. I hung on to the shafts and was dragged down almost to the high edge of the gravel pit where there was a drop of about forty feet to the boulders and water below, when the ends of the shafts started digging into the ground. I still hung on and finally we stopped…

They had to hitch the team to the back of the buggy to get the shafts out of the ground and haul it back up the hill. My sister was crying and I was muddy and scared. One shaft was splintered but they took a strap from some old harness and wound it around and put some tacks in to get home. I had already suffered my punishment as I was sore and sick for a week- but we didn’t wash the buggy!

My cousin Eck was a great one to go exploring wherever there were old machines or iron stored. On one of his visits with us we went up into our shed, that later was moved away to make room for the more modern woodshed. There were a couple of scantling nailed against the end of the building and cleats nailed on making a ladder to climb up to the little square door opening into the upper floor, It was quite a feat to go up this ladder, open the door and climb in.

We three, my cousin, my sister and I were all up there. Eck was pulling out an old piece of iron that lay on the floor. The sap buckets made of wood at that time, were piled one above the other on the floor, and as he pulled again, he tipped over the pile of buckets. Al at once there was a loud buzzing, and a cloud of bumblebees swarmed around our heads. My sister was nearest the door and she tried to get down the ladder, but got several stings before getting outside. I took off my new hard sailor hat and started fighting the bees with it. My cousin headed for the door and he got his share of stings. When I finally got down, all that was left of my new hat was the brim.

It was a warm rainy day in August. To deaden the stings, my sister said to go out and get some mud from the road, put it on the spots and let it stay there for awhile. The road at that time had been covered with red cinders from the Chemical Works, and the mud from these left a red stain on everything it touched. But we did not care! We started daubing our stings with mud so that when we were through we looked like spotted tigers. We went into the house, and didn’t we get it! “Where in the world have you been and what has happened?” my mother exclaimed.

When later I rescued the crown of my hat, Mother sewed it to the brim and I had to wear it like that all the rest of the summer.