It began with that Ole Benson showing up every day in the field where I was herding and trying to help with the cattle. I didn’t need his help, really, but I didn’t know what else to do. I suppose that I could have told him to leave me alone with a bit of force or asked someone to help me shake him off. But I kind of liked the attention. And from that point on, I just kept getting more and more.
The women of the settlement got me all dressed up and made me go to church after that. Everyone stared at me when I walked in, but I didn’t really mind. And then after church when Ole lifted me onto my horse and then settlement exploded in upset, all over me, I couldn’t help but love it. I certainly didn’t love Ole, or even like him all that much, but people were paying attention to me because he was paying attention to me. I was the talk of the town. And I wasn’t even doing anything, really. And yet all anyone could do was be all concerned over me.
So when his wife, Mary, came running after me that day after church, saying all those horrible things, I couldn’t care less. I sat above all of the after church crowd on my horse and I looked back at Mary, but what caught my attention was crowd of women behind her. All those women were so incredibly uncomfortable, and it all because of me. I couldn’t help but laugh a bit as I rode off.
But then that horrible crazy woman started chasing me. I would run through the Shimerda’s cornfields, all the time wondering if maybe this time crazy Mary would catch me. I can still remember the sound of her voice, cawing at me, signaling my take off. If I think about it hard enough, I can still almost feel that slamming feeling where my stomach would drop and the whole world would seem to freeze as every muscle in my body would tense.
One afternoon Mary was so close to catching me that I ran straight into the Shimerda’s house, not knowing what else to do. I lay in Antonia’s feather bed, shaking like I was cold but feeling like I would suffocate from the heat. I heard Mary threatening me outside. And worse, once I caught my breath, I heard Mrs. Shimerda chuckling from the other side of the house as she listened to Mary describe how she intended to maim me.
I became so angry then. I was a joke to that woman, and I didn’t like it one bit. Finally Tony came to the rescue and sent the crazy lady away. The anger had counteracted my terror and I came out from the bed feeling not much of anything anymore. That was, until I remembered I needed to return to the cattle. I begged Jim and Tony to go with me. I’m not sure how a kid and girl no older than I could have helped me if the mad woman returned, but it was better than being alone. And they could at least help me find them all from wherever they surely wandered off to.
But then that Mrs. Shimerda pestered me about my nonexistent relationship with Ole, the fear and worry again disappeared. I looked back at that woman who was so wrapped up in the gossip surrounding me, for something that was no fault of my own. I didn’t feel like I joke then. I felt kind of powerful. I smiled at her and told her the truth. I hadn’t done nothing wrong.