Tag Archives: family drama

Burly Chapter Fifteen

(Previously in the book: For his fifth birthday Herman received a home-made bear, which magically came to life when Herman’s tear fell on him. As Herman grew up, life was happy–he liked school and his brother Tad was nicer. But mama then one night mama died. Papa decided sister Callie should go live with relatives.)
Christmas came that year without much fanfare in Herman’s house. In fact they didn’t talk about it at all, except one night when they had all gone to bed and Herman said something to Tad.
“Don’t you think it would be nice if you and I made something for papa?” Herman whispered from across the room.
“What? Are you stupid?” Tad scolded with a hiss. “That would just make papa feel worse. I think we should just pretend Christmas doesn’t exist.”
By not saying anything in reply, Herman agreed that Tad was right. And he tried to ignore Christmas but when December twenty-fifth arrived Herman felt as though he would burst if he didn’t do something for his papa. His problem was Tad. If he made anything real big Tad would see it and get mad. And Herman didn’t know if he could make anything that papa would use in the first place. So finally, on Christmas Eve, he decided to make papa a Christmas card. He pulled out some paper from school and drew a Christmas tree with his crayons. He folded the paper and on the inside he wrote, “Merry Christmas. I love you, papa.”
He looked down from the loft to see papa sitting at the kitchen table drinking his cup of coffee, the room lit only by a single kerosene lamp. The little scene was pretty, the solitary figure in the glow of the lamp, Herman thought. But it was sad too, so lonely.
Herman scampered down the ladder, ran over to his papa, tossed the card on the table and turned to run back to the loft. Papa grabbed his arm while he looked at the card. It was not an angry grab, like he had done in the past, but a gentle restraint. Herman was afraid to look at papa, but finally he managed to glance into the face awash in the kerosene lamp glow. At first he couldn’t tell if the expression papa’s face was changing or not. Then he spotted a small tear brimming on the eyelid.
Papa pulled Herman to him, hugged him and kissed him on the neck. “I’m sorry, son. I’m so relieved you still love me. And I love you. I wish I could show you more often, but I can’t. Just take my word for it. I do love you.”
Christmas morning was like any other morning. Papa, Tad and Herman ate a silent breakfast before heading for the barn to do their chores. Suddenly there was the sound of a car pulling up outside. Herman didn’t think anything about it until he heard the front door open.
“Merry Christmas, everybody!” Callie roared, her face beaming and her arms filled with presents. Aunt Joyce and Uncle Calvin were standing behind her.
Herman jumped to his feet and ran to his sister. She put the packages down so she could hug her brother.
“What are you doing here?” papa asked without showing any surprise or happiness or, for that matter, anger.
Aunt Joyce laughed a little and put her hands on her hips. “Why, Woody, what a thing to say to your little girl! It’s Christmas!”
Papa looked down. “Oh, I had forgotten.”
Herman knew that wasn’t so, but he forgave his father for lying.
“We were going to work in the barn today,” Tad said, trying to sound as though the visitors were intruding, but Herman noticed Tad couldn’t keep his eyes off the packages on the floor.
“There’s time enough for that tomorrow,” Uncle Calvin replied. “Today’s Christmas.”
Callie walked across the room and put her arms around Tad. “I know you won’t hug me, so I’ll hug you.”
Then she looked at her father, her head down. “Hello, papa.”
Herman could have sworn the next moment lasted all day. Callie stood there, with her head down, her shoulders beginning to shake a little like she was about to cry because papa wouldn’t hug her. Tad pretended he was interested in eating the pancakes on his plate, but Herman knew that wasn’t true because they were cold already. Uncle Calvin shuffled his feet and acted like he’d really rather be somewhere else. Aunt Joyce kept her hands on her hips and stared at papa. And papa continued to stare into space, his eyes so blank he might as well be as dead as mama was. Finally papa’s face changed, but Herman could see the eyes take on a sorrow of the whole house. His cheeks scrunched up and his lips pursed as his eyes closed tight, as though they were trying to keep the tears from getting out. He thrust his arms out to Callie who ran into them. Papa cried softly and kissed Callie on her cheeks and mumbled words like “I love you” and I’m so glad you’re home.” Even Tad got up from his chair, forgetting his cold pancakes, and patted Callie on the back. Uncle Calvin stopped shuffling, and Aunt Joyce smiled.
“Now that’s better,” she announced. “I didn’t think you menfolk were going to make a fuss over Christmas so we brought Christmas dinner and all the trimmings to you.”
“I’ll go to the car and get it,” Uncle Calvin said and disappeared out the door.
Herman could tell his uncle was glad he had something to do other than stand around and shuffle his feet. Aunt Joyce cleared the breakfast dishes and cleaned around the kitchen, fussing to herself that it takes a woman to keep a house really clean. Callie presented each of her Christmas gifts. Herman’s was the biggest, and he stole glances at Tad to see if he were jealous.
“Oh boy, Herman! Hurry and open it!” Tad said, sounding happier than he had in a long time.
Relieved that his brother wasn’t jealous, Herman ripped the paper off to see a brightly painted wooden car, just right for Burly to ride on. Herman hugged it, but not too tightly because he didn’t want to break it. “Callie, this is beautiful! Thank you!”
“Uncle Calvin actually made it,” Callie said, looking at her uncle with an appreciative grin.
He turned around from his unpacking of food to smile shyly. “Aww, it wasn’t hard to do. Callie did the hard part. She painted it.”
Herman’s hand glided across the smooth, red surface. “Burly’s going to love it.”
Tad poked at him. “Burly’s going to love it? Why, he’s nothing but burlap and stuffing. How can he love anything?”
Callie looked at him straight, like she was annoyed. “Herman can use his imagination, can’t he? That’s more than you ever do.” She paused and then poked at Tad. “Go ahead and open your present.”
“I’m getting too old for toys,” Tad said gruffly but his voice sounded too excited to be all grown up.
“Who said it was a toy?” Callie replied.
By that time Tad had the wrapping torn away and was awed by a hunting knife. “Gosh,” was all he could say.
Aunt Joyce looked over her shoulder as she scrubbed the kitchen sink. “Now you take good care of that knife, Tad. It was my papa’s.”
Tad smiled. “Oh, I’ll take real good care of it.”
“Thank you,” Joyce,” papa said with difficulty. “That’s mighty kind of you.”
Aunt Joyce reached over to pat papa on the shoulder. “Think nothing of it, Woody.”
Callie handed papa a small, flat square package. “Merry Christmas, papa,” she whispered.
Papa kissed her on the cheek and then carefully removed the paper. His eyes began to fill with tears as he looked at a small framed picture of his daughter.
“It’s so you won’t forget what I look like.”
Papa hugged her. “I’d never do that, baby. Never.”
Callie pulled away, her eyes now filled with a bit of hope. “Well, then do you think—“
Papa gently put his fingertips to her mouth. “Don’t ask, please. Just believe it’s all for the best, all right?”
Callie nodded and stood. “I guess I better help Aunt Joyce with the dinner.”
Herman had the biggest urge to jump up and run over to papa and Callie and pull them back together and yell, “No! It’s not for the best! Please, papa, let Callie come home!” But he remembered what Burly said. Callie looked too much like mama for papa to let her stay. That wasn’t for the best, but there was nothing Herman could do to change papa’s mind. He remained silent.
Callie looked around at Herman and smiled. “Herman, guess who I have out in the car?”
Herman’s eyes brightened. “Pearly Bear!”
“Yes!” Callie replied. “Why don’t you go out and get her and play bear family while we’re cooking dinner?”
“Play bear family?” Tad said with a sneer, then stopped to clear his throat. “That sounds like fun.”
Papa reached over and patted Tad on the back. Herman went out to Uncle Calvin’s car for Pearly and took her and the toy car up the ladder to the loft.
He gathered Burly and Burly Senior on his bed.
“Pearly!” Burly Senior exclaimed. “I knew we would be together again!”
The bear parents exchanged a burlap embrace. “I’m so happy to see you again,” Pearly said. She looked at Burly Junior in his new car. “How do you like it, Burly?”
Burly made car engine sounds. “It’s great.”
Herman sighed. “I wish papa would let Callie come home.”
Burly stopped his pretend driving and looked at his friend. “I know you do. You love your sister very much. And you can see how happy she makes your father if he will let her.” Burly paused to pat Herman’s arm. “But you know, down deep, that he will never let her make him happy.”
Herman nodded and was about to cry.
“Now this is silly,” Pearly Bear announced. “You should be happy and laughing because this is a wonderful day.”
“Yes,” Burly Senior added. “Don’t make it sad by wishing for things you know can’t be.”
Herman hugged all three and looked over the edge of the loft. Papa and Tad were sitting close together looking at his brother’s new knife. Uncle Calvin hugged Callie.
“They really seem to like Callie,” Herman said.
“Of course they do,” Burly replied.
“It would be hard not to like Callie,” Pearly added.
Herman hugged all three bears again. “Merry Christmas, bear family.”

Burly Chapter Fourteen


(Previously in the book: For his fifth birthday Herman received a home-made bear, which magically came to life when Herman’s tear fell on him. As Herman grew up, life was happy–he liked school and his brother Tad was nicer. A black family moved into the barn to help them pick the cotton. Mama continued to have dizzy spells. And then one night, when a turtledove got into the rafters, mama died. Papa decided sister Callie should go live with relatives.)
The next day after Callie left, papa got up extra early, roused the boys and took them fishing. Herman couldn’t believe it. Papa mostly took them fishing so they wouldn’t go hungry that night. Maybe Papa was going to make up for the way he’d been acting since mama died, Herman hoped. He and his brother fixed a picnic lunch and jumped into the cab of the pick-up.
Tad eyed Herman closely. “You didn’t bring that stupid bear, did you?”
Herman pushed Burly behind him. “No,” he lied but not very well.
Tad smirked and reached around and pulled out Burly. “Oh yes you did. Don’t try to lie to me, Herman. I know you too well.”
Herman looked down. “I don’t know what it’d hurt, for Burly to come along.”
“Nothing, I guess.” Tad sighed. “Just don’t let papa see it.”
“Don’t let papa see what?” their father bellowed out, glancing over at the two boys.
“Uh oh,” Tad murmured.
“It’s just Burly,” Herman replied bravely, holding up his teddy bear.
“Oh that,” he said with a snort. “I thought it was something you shouldn’t have.”
Herman felt happy—no, that wasn’t the word for it, Herman corrected himself. No one could be happy having just lost their mama and sister in the same week, but Herman did feel peaceful, perhaps hopeful that this new life thrust upon him would not be as bad as he feared.
Papa sat on the bank of the Sulphur River under a tree for hours staring at the water flowing by, not caring if any fish pulled on his line or not. Tad tried very hard to be the good fisherman and catch something for their dinner that night, but he couldn’t keep the bait on the hook long enough. Herman just ran up and down the bank with Burly playing make-believe battles and other wonderful adventures.
It was a happy—no, peaceful and hopeful—day for Herman, but one, as he thought back on it, that was not entirely real because no one spoke. Papa didn’t look at the boys. Tad mumbled to himself about his fishing bad luck, and Herman whispered excitedly to Burly. When they returned home, Herman volunteered to cook supper, which ended up being burnt bacon and eggs, but papa didn’t complain. For once Tad didn’t pick on him. He offered to help him learn how to watch the food on the stove. Finally papa got up from the table with a sigh and went to his room. Herman jumped up, ran over and wrapped his arms about his father’s waist.
“Oh, papa, I love you.” Herman surprised himself because he almost cried before he got the sentence out.
When papa didn’t return the hug but just stood there looking off in the distance, the tears and the reason for them seemed to leave him as the dew disappeared from the grass on a hot summer morning. Herman turned to climb the ladder to the loft. As he was about to undress for bed he heard papa call Tad into his room. Leaning over the edge of the loft Herman could barely make out what papa was saying.
“I’m going to have to rely on you, son,” papa whispered. “You’re beginning to grow up, and all this means you’re going to have to grow up even faster. I’m sorry about that.”
Once again Herman felt a tinge of jealousy because papa loved Tad more than him. His father spoke some more and Tad spoke, but their words were so soft Herman couldn’t understand. A sad pain shot through his body when he saw papa give Tad a long, tight hug. Flinging himself on his bed Herman tried to hold back the tears, but he couldn’t. He held Burly close to him.
“Why doesn’t papa love me anymore?” he asked between the sobs.
“He loves you very much,” Burly replied.
“You keep saying that, but I heard him say that he loved Tad the most. And—and now he won’t even look at me.”
“Do you know why?” Burly asked.
Herman stuck his bottom lip out. “Because he doesn’t love me anymore.”
Burly waited for Herman to blow his nose. “Do you remember why your father said he loved Tad the most?”
Herman thought back. “Because he said Tad looked like him.”
“Have you ever stopped to look at yourself in the mirror real hard?”
“Why no.” Herman wrinkled his brow. He didn’t know what Burly was aiming at.
“Then you don’t know. You’ve never seen it,” Burly said, smiling a little. “You look just like your mother. So does Callie.”
Herman’s eyes widened. “Really?”
“That’s why he sent Callie away. That’s why he’s not looking at you now,” Burly explained. “You and your sister remind him too much of your mother. And he loved her very much.”
“Never think too little of a man’s love for his wife,” Burly Senior said from across the room. “Your father’s love for your mother almost killed him in the last few days. I’d say he’s having a tough time talking himself into living.”
“Gosh, I didn’t know he felt that way,” Herman confessed.
“I feel the same about Pearly,” Burly Senior continued. The only thing that keeps me from being as sad as your father is the fact that I will get to see Pearly again someday. We might even get to live together again.”
“So don’t be jealous,” Burly said. “Times are going to be hard enough as it is without you causing trouble with Tad because you’re jealous.”
So for the next few weeks and months Herman held his tongue and tried to look the other way when papa spoke to Tad and gave him an extra pat on the back. One reward for Herman’s behavior was that Tad seemed nicer. Maybe he knew he was getting special treatment from papa.
“You’re becoming a pretty good cook for a nine-year-old,” Tad said at supper one night near Christmas.
Herman smiled. “Thanks.”
He quickly glanced at papa who was concentrating on his food. Herman could have sworn papa had been looking at him. Sometimes as they worked in the field or as he helped in the barn Herman had the odd sensation papa was staring at him. When he told Burly about it, his little bear smiled.
“He’s coming out of his sadness a little,” Burly said. “Give him more time.”

Burly Chapter Thirteen


(Previously in the book: For his fifth birthday Herman received a home-made bear, which magically came to life when Herman’s tear fell on him. As Herman grew up, life was happy–he liked school and his brother Tad was nicer. A black family moved into the barn to help them pick the cotton. Mama continued to have dizzy spells. And then one night, when a turtledove got into the rafters, mama died.)
When he awoke the next morning he heard a woman’s voice in the kitchen. It sounded like his mother’s voice. Herman looked across the loft to see Tad in his bed, and he heard a soft moan from behind the sheet where Callie slept. Did he dream his mother died last night? Was it all just a terrible nightmare? Herman hoped it was and crawled to the edge of the loft to peek over. His heart sunk when he saw his Aunt Joyce—his mother’s sister—in the kitchen and her husband, Uncle Calvin, sitting at the kitchen table sipping coffee.
Aunt Joyce looked up and saw Herman. She smiled and said, “Hello, little boy. Come on down, and I’ll fix you some breakfast.”
Aunt Joyce looked very much like mama except she was heavier and had rosier cheeks. Her hair was streaked with gray and there were deep lines by her eyes and mouth.
“Have a good night’s sleep?” she asked softly, putting a bowl of oatmeal in front of him.
Herman took a couple of bites then looked up. “It’s real, isn’t it?”
Aunt Joyce looked at her husband and then directly into Herman’s eyes. “Yes, little boy. Your mama’s dead. Your papa’s still asleep in there. The doc gave him quite a shot last night to put him out, I understand. Your Uncle Calvin and I drove in from Texarkana when the sheriff called last night. We’ll stay to help out until after the funeral.”
Uncle Calvin cleared his throat. “And, of course, I’ll help the coloreds and you kids with bringing in the cotton. I don’t think your papa will be able to work the field, according to what the sheriff said. The last think he needs now is to lose the cotton crop.”
So it was work as usual for Herman, Tad and Callie that day, with Uncle Calvin and the Johnsons out in the field picking cotton. At lunch Mrs. Johnson told no stories and sang no songs. Even Tad kept quiet. Every now and then Callie would come over and give Herman a hug. When they came in for supper, papa’s bedroom door was still shut. The children had just finished eating when papa came out wearing his Sunday suit. Herman would have ordinarily smiled and told his papa how handsome he looked, but tonight he said nothing. Papa’s eyes told him to say nothing.
“Do you want to eat anything, Woody?” Aunt Joyce asked softly.
“No.”
“Are you sure? It’s been since yesterday you put anything on your stomach.”
“Maybe later.” Then he left the house.
“Your papa’s going into town to the funeral parlor to pick out a coffin,” she announced as she cleared away the dishes.
The children were in bed when papa returned that night. He dropped into a chair by the kitchen table while Aunt Joyce fixed him a bowl of soup. Herman looked down at him and felt sorry for his papa. He was about to cry again.
“Go down and tell him how much you love him,” Burly whispered.
And Herman did. Without a word he crawled into his father’s lap and hugged him. “I love you, papa,” he said in a tiny, tear-choked voice. He waited a moment, hoping for those long, stringy, strong arms to enfold around him, but they didn’t.
“Joyce, get him to bed,” papa ordered, not looking at Herman.
Aunt Joyce rushed around the chair and guided Herman back to the ladder. “I think it would best to leave your papa alone for the next few days,” she whispered.
She hugged him and kissed him. While it felt nice, Herman decided it wasn’t the same as one of papa’s strong embraces.
The long day in the field, the hot sun and the aching back from leaning over the cotton plants were almost a relief for Herman, because the work took his mind off how his world was changing. The funeral—Aunt Joyce told him—would be the next day. Herman wished it was already over.
In the small church all their friends and neighbors gathered. The family approached the coffin to view mama for the last time. Papa completely collapsed, screaming and crying. Herman wished he hadn’t taken on so. Callie wept as she gripped Herman in her arms. Tad simply stood there, without a tear or showing any emotion. Herman thought that was strange until he realized he was doing the same thing. He wondered if Tad were thinking the same about him. Finally the day was over, and the next was life as usual, picking cotton with the hired hands. Except instead of papa, Uncle Calvin was the boss.
Uncle Calvin was a nice man who seemed to take life easier than papa. When Callie was whispering more than she was picking, Uncle Calvin simply said, “Let’s pick that cotton before it rots.” Papa would have barked an order while glaring at her. Instead Uncle Calvin just smiled and winked.
By the end of the week the crop was picked, and the Johnsons were in their wagon, which was pulled by a pair of gray mules. Before they left, Mrs. Johnson gave Herman one last hug.
“Believe in the Lord,” she whispered. “He will make all things right.” She paused to add, “Now don’t you trouble your little head about that turtledove. That little thing didn’t kill your mama.”
Herman decided life was returning to normal when Tad walked up and scolded, “Didn’t I tell you not to let that woman touch you?”
“Now, Tad,” Uncle Calvin said, patting him on the shoulder, “she didn’t do any harm.”
Tad knocked his hand away. “You’re not my papa.”
Uncle Calvin backed off and looked down. “No, I guess I’m not.” Then he walked to the barn.
Callie looked Tad in the face. “You didn’t have to be mean to him. He’s been good to us. Aunt Joyce too.”
Tad glared at his sister as though he was going to say something nasty, but instead he ran as hard as he could through the field and into the woods. Callie smiled at Herman and hugged him.
“Don’t worry about Tad. He’s taking it hard now, but he’ll get over it. No, don’t you worry. We’ll make it just fine. We’ll make it because we’re a family and we love each other. Down deep we really do.”
Herman smiled a moment and then frowned when he remembered why Tad had yelled at him in the first place. “Is it wrong to let Mrs. Johnson touch me?”
Callie shook her head. “Of course not.”
Herman was confused. “Then why does she want to touch me?”
Callie hugged him again. “Why do I want to touch you?”
“Because you love me.” Herman paused. “Does Mrs. Johnson love me?”
Callie looked down the road at the wagon as it disappeared on the horizon. “I think she has enough love in her for every child she meets.”
Feelings of motherly love began to flow from Callie to Herman. Yes, Herman told himself, Callie was growing up right before his eyes and was going to help take the place of mama. His hopes didn’t last long. When he and Callie walked into the house he saw papa and Aunt Joyce sitting at the kitchen table in deep conversation. She was telling him something, and he was shaking his head. When they saw the children, they stopped. Aunt Joyce smiled, but papa just stared off into space.
“You better tell her now,” papa said.
Aunt Joyce extended her arm. “Come here, Callie dear.” She hugged Callie, pulled her away to stare into her eyes. “Your papa’s decided it would be best for you to come live with your Uncle Calvin and me.”
“For how long?” Callie asked cautiously.
Aunt Joyce glanced at papa and then back at Callie. “Well, until you grow up. You see, your papa doesn’t think he can do a good job of raising a girl as she’s becoming, well, a young woman, so he wants me to do it.”
Callie took a step toward her father. “Papa?”
He looked away. Finally Callie turned to go to the loft. She looked back. “When do we leave?”
Aunt Joyce smiled. “Today. As soon as you pack.”
Callie slowly climbed the ladder, followed by Herman. Once at the top Herman grabbed her around the waist and whispered, “I don’t want you to go.”
She hugged him back. “I don’t want to go, but once papa makes up his mind there’s no arguing with him.”
Tears began to fill Herman’s eyes. “It was bad enough to lose mama, but to lose you too….” His little voice just went away.
“It’s not like we’ll never see each other again,” Callie said, trying to be cheerful. She piled her clothes and belongings in the middle of her sheet and tied the four corners. Callie headed for the ladder, but Herman stopped her.
“You forgot Pearly,” Herman said, holding the bear out to her.
Callie smiled. “You can keep her if you want.”
Herman almost agreed but thought better of it. “Don’t you want her?”
“Of course, I want Pearly,” Callie replied. “I love Pearly.”
He stuck the burlap bear in her hands. “Then you take her. I’ve still got Burly.”
Callie hugged him and kissed him on the cheek. “I love you, Herman.”
Herman couldn’t stand to go downstairs to see his sister off. He was afraid he would really cry then. Instead he went to the window by his bed and looked out. He saw Uncle Calvin put their bags into his black Ford sedan. Aunt Joyce tried to hug Tad but he stiffened and pulled away. Callie was not going to be put off, and she grabbed her brother and kissed him on the cheek as he squirmed. Herman saw Callie look up at the window and waved. He couldn’t help it; he cried anyway.
In a few minutes Tad came up the ladder and stormed toward Herman who was drying his tears in the pillow. “You stupid little dummy! Don’t you have any more sense than not to come down stairs to say goodbye to your own sister?” he demanded.
Herman looked up from his pillow, his cheeks still wet from the tears and his eyes puffy and red.
Tad stopped short in his tirade. Sighing, he patted Herman on the shoulder and headed back to the ladder. “You and I will have to take turns cooking now,” he said. “I’ll start tonight.”
Herman rubbed his head in the pillow to finish drying his tears. He felt a scratchy paw on his arm.
“Herman,” Burly said, “now I know how you felt to lose your mother because now I’ve lost mine.”
Hugging his bear, Herman cried, ”Oh Burly, what are we going to do?”
“Keep on loving each other,” Burly replied.
“And keep on loving your father and Tad,” Burly Senior said from across the room. “They’re going to need your love more than ever. And they’ll fight it more than ever too, which is going to make it even harder on you.”
Burly snuggled close to Herman. “But Herman can do it. I know he can.”

Burly Chapter Eleven


(Previously in the book: For his fifth birthday Herman received a home-made bear, which magically came to life when Herman’s tear fell on him. As Herman grew up, life was happy–he liked school and his brother Tad was nicer. A black family moved into the barn to help them pick the cotton. Mama continued to have dizzy spells.)
“Mrs. Johnson says she knows all kinds of medicine to make you feel better,” Herman offered. He became nervous when his parents talked about how they couldn’t afford to go to the doctor when they felt sick.
Mama laughed. “I’m sure she does.”
“Don’t call her Mrs. Johnson,” Papa instructed.
“Why? What do I call her?”
“Call her Josie. That’s her name,” Mama replied. Her attention now was on the potatoes.
“Or the Johnson woman,” Papa instructed.
“Why? Isn’t she Mrs. Johnson?” Herman pushed.
Papa raised his eyebrows. “We don’t know if they’re married or not.”
“But they have children.”
“Oh, that doesn’t mean anything.” Mama laughed again.
“But—“
Papa interrupted sternly. “Now that’s enough of that. Stay out of the barn. Don’t call her Mrs. Johnson. Don’t ask why. Just do it.”
Mama shook her head. “Herman’s always full of questions.”
Herman stared at the floor. “Yes, Papa.” Then he went up to the loft so he could be alone with his bear family.
“I don’t think Mama and Papa are very nice about the Johnsons,” he confided to Burly and his parents.
“But your mama and papa are very nice to you,” Burly reminded him. “Don’t ever forget that.”
“Burly’s right,” Pearly Bear added. “Their love for all three of you children fills this house and makes it warm.”
“But that doesn’t mean you should pretend they’re nice to the Johnsons,” Burly Senior interjected. “Sometimes even parents can be wrong.”
“Even you?” Burly asked.
Burly Senior shuffled his burlap body a bit and cleared his throat. “Well, I haven’t been around long enough to make any mistakes. But I imagine I will, some day.”
Pearly giggled at her husband, and soon all four of them were having a good laugh.
The next day out in the field Herman sat next to Mrs. Johnson during lunch even though Tad gave him an angry look. Herman ignored his brother and looked at a nearby tree.
“Those birds sure are singing pretty,” he said, munching on a sandwich.
Mrs. Johnson quickly swallowed a mouthful of food and waved her hand at the tree. “Oh, those are turtledoves. They’ve got a beautiful song to sing all right, but you better not let one get in your house.”
“Why not?” Herman asked.
“Lord sakes alive, baby,” Mrs. Johnson exclaimed. “You let a turtledove in your house, and it starts to cooing and such, and sure enough somebody in your family will wind up dead.”
Tad snorted in disbelief. Herman couldn’t help but notice the three Johnson boys glowering at Tad. He also noticed they put their hands up to their face as they whispered to each other. One of them laughed but the other two hit him on his shoulder.
“Now, Josie,” her husband said in a reproving tone, “you know you shouldn’t be telling your stories to those boys.”
Before she could reply, Herman’s father walked up and announced, “Time to get back to work.”
Herman and Tad picked cotton side by side.
“You don’t believe that malarkey about turtledoves, do you?” Tad asked.
“N-no, I guess not,” Herman stammered. He really didn’t know what to believe but he thought it would be safer to say no to Tad.
“That’s why you shouldn’t talk to coloreds.” Tad used his I-told-you-so voice.
“You kids! Get to work!” Papa shouted, and that was the end of that.
When they were finished for the day and had emptied their sacks into a big wagon with tall chicken wire walls, Tad pulled Herman over to the side.
“Come on with me,” he whispered. “We’re going to have some fun.”
Herman smiled and ran along with him. It wasn’t often that Tad included him in his fun. Tad grabbed a burlap bag from the side of the barn and towed Herman down the road to the tree where the turtledoves were singing at noon. They carefully climbed the branches until they came to a nest. Tad threw his bag over the nest, capturing a turtledove.
“What are you going to do with it?” Herman asked.
Tad winked. “You’ll see.”
When they climbed down the tree there stood their father with his arms folded across his chest.
“And what do you boys think you’re up to?” Herman recognized that voice. That was the voice Papa used before the spanking began.
“I don’t know; just having fun,” Herman whispered.
“How about you, Tad?”
Tad tried to hide the sack behind him. “Aww, Papa, it was just a little joke. We were going to put the turtledove in the barn to scare the Johnsons.”
“Drop it! Right now! Herman, you go into the house. Tad! You follow me!”
Tad and his father marched around to the far side of the barn. When Herman got in the house he looked out the window to see what was going on. He could hear the whacks all the way to the house. Just then, the youngest of the Johnson boys ran out of the barn and into the woods. He turned to his mother and Callie who were cutting up vegetables for a stew.
“Papa’s beating Tad again.”
“What on earth for?” She dried her wet hands on her apron.
Herman explained how Mrs. Johnson told them about the turtledove curse and about how Tad was going to catch a turtledove and put it in the barn to scare the Johnsons. They had one in a sack when Papa came up and stopped the whole thing.
“Woody’s going to kill that boy before he makes it to manhood. Well, I could use that turtledove in the stew. Where is it?”
“In the woods,” Herman replied.
“Come take me to it.”
“Oh, I want to go with you too!” Callie pleaded. “This is the most fun I’ve had in a long time!”
When they arrive at the tree where the turtledove nest was, they found the burlap bag but it was empty.
“It must have worked its way out. Oh well, we tried.” Mama took a step but stopped to bend over. “There’s that dizziness again.” She lifted her head to smile at Herman. “Did anything else happen today?”
“After Papa took Tad out behind the barn, one of the Johnson boys ran into the woods,” Herman replied.
“Maybe he went to get the turtledove,” Callie offered.
“Why on earth would he do that? And how did he know there was a turtledove in a bag out there?”
“Maybe he overheard Papa and Tad talking out behind the barn.” Callie wringed her hands, looking down.
“No, they wouldn’t do that,” Mama said, shaking her head.
“Why not?” Herman asked.
“You ask too many questions, Herman. Stop it,” she ordered. “Let’s get back to the house. Woody and Tad must be there by now.”
When they entered the house, Tad and his father were looking up in the rafters. A turtle dove was cooing.
“What on earth is that noise?” Callie asked.
“Oh, somehow a turtledove got in the house,” their father said. “Don’t worry. I’ll get it. Maybe your mama can put it in the stew.”
“Tad!” His mother glared at him. “Did you bring that bird into my house?”
“No!” Tad looked frustrated. “I didn’t. Honest.”
The bird continued cooing, flitting away every time their father got near.
“The cooing is pretty, but it’s getting on my nerves,” Callie said.
“You’re not the only one,” her mother murmured.
Herman watched mama closely. It looked to him like she must be getting dizzy again. “Mama, are you all right?”
“Of course, I am, baby. It’s just that….” Their mother’s voice trailed off as she fell to the floor.
“Papa! Mama’s fainted!” Herman yelled.
His father jumped down from the rafters, swooped his wife up into his arms and rushed her into their bedroom. Callie ran in after them and closed the door. Herman and Tad stared at each other for what seemed like hours. In a few minutes Callie came out crying. She slumped into one of the kitchen table chairs and sobbed uncontrollably. Her brothers approached her slowly, as though they were treading on holy ground.
“What’s wrong?” Tad whispered.
Callie looked up, tears streaming down her cheeks and her eyes puffy and red. She could hardly get the words out.
“Mama’s dead.”
Herman and Tad were stunned. They couldn’t move. They couldn’t speak. They couldn’t think. Slowly Herman’s eyes focused on the shadows of the rafters. The turtledove was gently cooing.

Burly Chapter Ten


(Previously in the book: For his fifth birthday Herman received a home-made bear, which magically came to life when Herman’s tear fell on him. Herman asked his parents to make burlap bears for his brother and sister for Christmas. As Herman grew up, life was happy–he liked school, Tad was nicer and the tent show was coming to town. Herman liked it, but didn’t know why black people had to sit behind a rope.)
Burly Senior’s questions—were bears and people much different why black people were not treated honestly–bothered Herman all that summer as he worked in the cotton field alongside his father, Tad and Callie. He didn’t dare mention black people to papa for fear he would look like he smelled rotten eggs again. One day, as they hoed weeds around from the leafy green plants, Herman gathered his courage and asked Tad.
“What do you mean, why do black people have to sit in the back behind a rope?” Tad snapped. “You don’t want to sit next to some big fat old colored woman, would you? She might touch you.”
Herman’s eyes widened. “Does it rub off?
Tad spat and hoed faster. “Don’t be stupid.”
Callie, who was in the next row, glared at Tad. “Don’t call Herman stupid.”
“I’ll call him anything I want!” Tad yelled.
“You’re the stupid one!” Callie retorted.
Papa walked up with his hoe, and the argument stopped. A few minutes went by and then Callie looked round and whispered to Herman.
“What was all that about anyway?”
“Aww, I asked if the black rubs off on you if a colored person touched you.”
Callie stifled a giggle. “Of course not. That is stupid.” She paused and added quickly. “But it was wrong for Tad to call you stupid.”
They hoed side by side for about an hour before Herman had the courage to ask her the main question. “Callie, just why do black people have to sit in the back behind a rope?”
“We sat as far back as they did,” she replied without looking at her brother.
“But we came late and we didn’t have to sit behind a rope, like we were different.” When she didn’t say anything, Herman added in a whisper, “Are they different?”
Again Callie studiously kept her eyes to the ground. “Papa says they are.”
“Is—is papa right?”
First giving a quick glance to her father, Callie answered, “I don’t think so. But don’t say that to papa. He might get mad.”
Herman was confused. “Why? Doesn’t he want us to be honest? Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if we were honest?”
“Yes.” She hoed hard and fast. “But papa doesn’t think so. Maybe someday things will change.”
“But if papa thinks they’re different, maybe they are,” Herman thought aloud.
“Less talk! More work!” papa barked.
Herman didn’t ask any more questions, but he was terribly confused. He didn’t understand why Callie would believe different than papa or Tad. Maybe it was mama who believed differently, and Callie got it from her. That evening, after the hoeing was done, and Tad had gone swimming in the creek and Callie took Pearly Bear to play dolls with her friends, Herman went into the house and walked up to his mother who was chopping vegetables for a stew.
“Mama?”
His mother sighed but answered sweetly, “Yes, dear?”
“Are black people different?”
She stopped and looked down at him, her slender hands going to the nape of her neck to massage it. “What makes you ask a thing like that?”
Herman looked down. “I was just wondering.”
“Yes. Don’t worry about it,” she answered and went back to her chopping.
“But—why?” He was about to say Callie thought differently but stopped because he didn’t want to get her in trouble.
Mama laughed. “You think more than any one child I’ve ever seen.”
“But—“
Interrupting him firmly she said, “Go to the loft and play.”
Herman did as he was told, climbed the ladder and crawled into the bed to snuggle with Burly.
“Of course Callie is right,” Bear Senior announced. “People are people, no matter what color they are. Just like bears are bears, whether they’re made of burlap or some fancy material from Sears and Roebuck.”
“I even think bears and people are alike,” Burly offered.
“That’s right, son,” his Burly Senior agreed.
“But how could Callie know this and not papa, mama or Tad?” The more they talked, the more confused Herman became.
“Why do you know it?” Burly asked.
“I don’t know if I know it or not.” Herman hung his head.
“Of course you do,” Burly Senior told him.
Herman pulled them into his arms. “I guess I know because of all you.”
“No,” Burly said. “You knew before you even talked to us. You knew because it bothered you to see the black people roped off.”
“But you helped,” Herman offered.
“Of course,” Burly quipped with a smile. “That’s what we’re here for.”
Herman sighed. The whole situation was too much for him to understand. “I’m glad you talk to me.” He looked at Burly Senior. “Don’t you talk to Tad?”
“I would if he wanted me to,” the papa bear replied.
The summer continued, and Herman kept his thoughts about honesty to himself. Even though it was hard work, keeping the cotton rows clear of weeds and nice and soft for the plants to grow big and strong, he rather enjoyed it. This was the first year papa decided he was old enough to help, and Herman could feel himself grow taller every time Papa walked by, patted him on the back and said, “Good work.”
Eventually the hot, clear skies gave way to the clouds of fall, and school came back. This time Herman was not as scared. For one thing, the session had hardly begun when all the farm children were allowed to leave so they could pick cotton before bolls rotted on the branches. To pick them quickly was so important that papa actually paid a family to help pick the cotton.
The Johnsons were black, and Herman was happy papa had given them work for they looked very poor. Mr. Johnson was gray and stoop-shouldered. Mrs. Johnston was short and very stout, but also very talkative and friendly. They had three children, all boys and all older than Herman. They were distant and brooding. Herman liked to sit next to Mrs. Johnson when they stopped for lunch. She sang songs and told stories. Sometimes she would take his fingers and sing a little tune while wriggling each one.
“Don’t let her do that,” Tad scolded him as they went back to work in the rows of cotton.
“Do what?” Herman was puzzled.
“Touch you like that,” Tad replied in a hissing, whispery voice, glancing over his shoulder at the black family.
Herman laughed a little. “All she did was wiggle my fingers.”
“All she wants is to be able to touch a white person.
“Why should she want to do that?”
Tad looked at Herman with scorn. “Stupid. Don’t you know that’s what all blacks want to do?”
“Touch white people?” Herman couldn’t believe what Tad was saying.
“You just watch it.” Tad skulked away.
That night mother asked Herman to find his father quickly. She was sitting in one of the straight-backed wooden chairs with her head between her knees. That scared Herman, so he ran out to the barn, where he usually found his father. Instead he found the Johnsons bedding down in an empty stall.
“Well, hello, little fellow!” Mrs. Johnson said cheerfully.
“Have you seen my papa?” Herman’s voice was all tight from fear.
Mrs. Johnson frowned with concern. “What’s the matter, baby?”
Herman,” papa said from the barn door. “Come here.”
Herman ran to his father to tell him that mama wanted him, but before he could say anything, his father pulled him away.
“I thought I told you to stay out of the barn while we have them sleeping in there,” he lectured harshly. He emphasized the word “them” with a nastiness that made Herman uncomfortable.
“But mama, she’s not feeling good,” Herman whined. “She wanted me to find you.”
Papa straightened and stared at the house.
“Oh.”
He walked quickly to the door. Inside mama was already back at the kitchen peeling potatoes.
“Opal, are you all right?” Papa asked so sweetly than Herman didn’t feel uncomfortable anymore.
“Oh, I was just a little dizzy, that’s all.” She laughed, but it soon turned into a cough.” She turned to smile at Herman. “Thank you for getting your father so fast, Herman.”
Papa put his long, wormy arms around her. “Are you sure?”
She leaned against him. “No, I was just being silly.”
“I think I ought to take you to the doctor,” he said softly.
Mama turned to her work at the sink. “What would we pay him with?”
“We’ll have money when the cotton is sold,” papa replied.
“We need that money for more important things.” Mama was always practical.

Burly Chapter Nine

(Previously in the book: For his fifth birthday Herman received a home-made bear, which magically came to life when Herman’s tear fell on him. Herman asked his parents to make burlap bears for his brother and sister for Christmas. As Herman grew up, life was happy–he liked school, Tad was nicer and the tent show was coming to town.)
Herman and Tad ran out the front door and scrambled into the back of the pickup. Callie rode in the cab next to her father. They were well on their way down the road when Tad leaned over to Herman. “Can you keep a secret?”
Herman became scared because whenever Tad said something like that he was in trouble and going to get Herman in trouble too. “I guess.”
Tad smiled as he pulled from under his shirt Burly.
“Burly!”
“Shush,” Tad whispered. “I said keep it on the QT.”
“Thank you.”
Tad shrugged. “I thought it wouldn’t hurt anything, and, heck, you’ve been a pretty good kid, making good grades and, well, you pull your weight around the farm.”
“I love you, Tad.”
His brother stiffened. “Aww, don’t get sloppy on me.”
The rest of the ride went in silence, but it was the happiest silence Herman ever shared with Tad. When they arrived at the tent they had to take seats towards the back since it was almost filled. Herman had never seen so many people together in one place, which also made it very hot. The sides of the tent were rolled up so air could move through, and people with the show were giving out hand fans.
“Hi, Herman!” a boy called out.
Herman looked up and smiled. It was one of the nicer boys from school, Gerald Morgan.
“Who’s that?” papa asked.
“Oh, a boy from school.” Herman stopped smiling long enough to make sure Burly wasn’t showing from underneath his shirt and then gave Gerald one last wave.
They hadn’t been there long when a band marched out and sat right in front of the stage. Music began, and the curtain opened. Herman cautiously pulled Burly from under his shirt so he could watch too. Glancing over at his father, he saw a happy grin on his face. The actors came out and began talking. To be honest Herman didn’t really understand much of what they were talking about or who was who. One fellow was definitely a bad guy, who talked nasty to people and threatened all the pretty girls on stage. Another actor was the good guy. Everybody seemed to like him. Finally there was Toby. Harley Sadler didn’t look a thing like he did that afternoon. He had on a silly red wig and had freckles painted on his face, and he wore funny looking wooly chaps. When he came on stage everyone else sort of disappeared because the entire audience laughed at Toby.
Partway through the show papa leaned over to Herman, who jumped and quickly put Burly under his shirt. “Can you see all right, son?” he whispered.
“Kind of,” Herman replied.
Papa looked behind him to make sure there wasn’t anyone he would be blocking and then lifted Herman to his shoulders.
At first Herman had a few butterflies in his stomach because he was so high but he could see better. It felt good being so close to his father so the butterflies soon went away. After a while Herman asked his father if he was hurting his back.
“Not to mention, as long as you’re having a good time,” Papa replied.
The hero beat up the bad guy with the help of Toby. One of the pretty girls turned Toby down when he asked her to marry him, which didn’t seem right. But another pretty girl did marry the hero, which made the audience cheer. The curtain came down, the band played some happy-sounding music, and the audience applauded.
On the way out Herman smiled with the satisfaction of knowing exactly what a tent show was now and of feeling love flowing from his family. Then he saw something that broke the warm feeling. Off to the back left was a section roped off for black people. He hadn’t noticed it when they came in. Indeed, it was the first time Herman had ever noticed that black people were treated differently and it bothered him. As his father lifted him off his shoulders and onto the ground, Herman’s first reaction was to ask his father about it, but he decided not to say anything.
He had almost forgotten the separation of the black people when they got home. Herman was about to walk into the house when his father called him over to the shed where he was putting the pickup away for the night.
“How did Burly like the show?” Papa asked.
“What?”
Papa smiled knowingly. “You better take him out from under your shirt now. He’s going to rub your skin raw.”
Herman pulled Burly out. “How did you know? Did Tad tell?”
“Why? Did Tad know?”
“Um, no.” Herman didn’t want to get his brother into trouble.
Papa patted Herman’s back. “Don’t worry about it. Get on to bed.”
Herman was leaving when he decided to ask about the black people. His father’s serene expression changed as Herman spoke.
“Oh, the coloreds.” The last word floated up through Papa’s nostrils as though it were the stench of rotten eggs. He turned away from Herman, his way of saying a conversation was over. “Don’t worry about them.”
Now Herman wished he hadn’t brought the subject up. It put a sour ending to a wonderful evening. When he climbed the ladder to the loft he found Callie and Tad already asleep. He took his clothes off, opened his window and climbed into bed.
“How did you like the show?” he asked Burly.
“What I saw I liked. Of course, I couldn’t see much from under your shirt.”
“I’m sorry,” Herman whispered.
“Oh no. I was glad I got to go, no matter what.”
Herman smiled as he nestled into his pillow. “Wasn’t it nice of Tad to bring you?”
“Of course. I keep telling you he loves you.”
Herman sighed. “Yes. But often it comes as a surprise.”
From across the room came two other bear voices.
“How did you like the show?” Pearly Bear asked.
“Was it fun?” Burly Senior added.
“Oh yes, mama, papa,” Burley replied. “Even though I did have to sit under a shirt.”
“Sit under a shirt?” Burly Senior said with a hint of indignation. “Herman, why did you do that to Burly?”
“I—I was afraid of what Papa would say,” Herman stammered.
“But your father knew all along,” Pearly said. “You would have been better off being honest, and then Burly would have had a better view.”
Herman frowned and thought about the black people again. “Are people being dishonest about black people?
“I don’t know,” Pearly replied. “I just know about bears.”
And then Burly Senior asked, “But are bears and people much different?”

Burley Chapter Seven


(Previously in the book: For his fifth birthday Herman received a home-made bear, which magically came to life when Herman’s tear fell on him. Herman asked his parents to make burlap bears for his brother and sister for Christmas. His sister was happy; his brother got mad, but he admitted he liked his bear.)
Life was happier for Herman now. He had Burly who had his parents, Pearly and Burly Senior. Tad seemed friendlier although he still was mean sometimes. However, the little burlap bear explained why Tad was upset so the hurt didn’t last long. Papa almost always was nice to him now, though Herman could tell this depressions thing continued to bother him. Callie was growing up to be as pretty as she was sweet. Mama was the same, except she seemed thinner and coughed a lot.
Even Herman was changing. At seven years old he began school. He wished he could have taken Burly with him, but his little bear assured him that it was all right.
“You better get used to it,” Burly warned him. “From now on, you’ll be going many places that I can’t. That doesn’t mean you don’t love me or I don’t love you. That will be just the way things will be.”
As always, Herman found that Burly was right. There were days at school, when the teacher asked him questions he didn’t know the answer to or when a bully named Marvin Berry picked on him that he wished he had Burly there to hug right away. Instead he just waited until he got home.
“I guess that’s part of growing up,” Herman said with a sigh one afternoon.
“That’s right,” Burly agreed.
Herman frowned. “It scares me.”
“What? Growing up?” Burly asked.
“Yes. There are so many things that I haven’t done that I’ll have to do. So many experiences. So many people.”
“Isn’t it exciting?” Burly said, trying to cheer Herman.
Herman moaned. “I guess.”
Just then Tad and Callie burst through the door and scrambled up the ladder to the loft.
“Guess what!” Tad squealed. “Toby’s coming to town!”
Herman wrinkled his brow. “Toby? Who’s Toby?”
“You dummy! Don’t you know who Harley Sadler is?” Tad said with a playful laugh in his voice.
Callie hit at him. “Don’t be nasty, Tad. Herman’s too young to remember the last time the show came through town.”
“A show?” Herman asked in awe.
“Yeah! A real funny show!” Tad exclaimed.
“Harley only brings his show this way every few years,” Callie explained, quite grown up. After all, she was ten years old now. “He mostly does his shows in West Texas.”
“I wish we lived in West Texas! Then we could see Toby every year,” Tad said with a sigh.
Herman was still confused. Scratching his head he asked, “But you call him Harley and Tad calls him Toby.”
“Dummy,” Tad muttered.
“Tad,” she reproved him. “Harley plays a character called Toby.”
“A funny cowboy who always outsmarts the bad guy,” Tad added.
“You were only three when he came to town last. Mama stayed home with you and papa took Tad and me.”
“I hope papa will take us this time,” Herman said, beginning to jump up and down.
“Oh sure,” Tad replied confidently. “Papa likes Toby too.”
That night around the dinner table Tad broke the news to his father who smiled broadly.
“So old Harley’s back in town,” he said. “Well, we’ll have to scrape up enough money to see him.” He reached over to squeeze his wife’s hand. “Do you remember when we were just courting, Opal? I took you to see Harley. Remember how between acts he came out and sang in a quartet and couldn’t remember the words?”
Herman tingled with happiness to hear his father laugh and giggle. He could swear papa’s eyes twinkled. His mother smiled, threw back her fragile head and laughed.
“Yes, and I remember how you almost got trampled trying to by a box of salt water taffy.”
Papa ducked his head. “Well, I was hoping to find the one with the diamond ring in it.” He touched the simple band on her left hand. “It would’ve been the only way I could get you one.”
She patted his cheek. “I like the ring I have just fine.”
“You mean they give away prizes?” Herman asked.
Tad elbowed him. “Of course they do. Don’t you know—“ He didn’t finish the sentence because his father cleared his throat ominously. “Yeah sure. You buy a box of candy and there’s tickets for all sorts of things.” Tad finished more politely than he had begun.
Papa returned to the business of eating. “Aw, I guess we can’t go this time, with three kids and all,” he muttered.
“I remember the last time some of the kids in town talking how they got free tickets for helping set up the chairs in the tent for Toby.”
“Harley,” Callie said.
“Don’t correct your brother,” mama lectured softly. She put her thin, pale hand to her mouth to cover a cough.
Papa looked at her and wrinkled his brow. “Are you sure you’re feeling all right, Opal?”
She shook off her cough, which emanated from her chest, and laughed. “Heavens, I’m as strong as a horse.”
“Papa? Did you hear? Free tickets. Callie and me and the kid there could set up chairs and get in free.”
“Huh? Oh. I guess. We’ll see. When will the show be in town?”
“Next Wednesday,” Tad replied. “The day after school lets out for the year, so we’ll be able to watch the tent go up in the morning, help with the chairs and get free tickets.”

Burly Chapter Six

(Previously in the book: For his fifth birthday Herman received a home-made bear, which magically came to life when Herman’s tear fell on him. Herman asked his parents to make burlap bears for his brother and sister for Christmas. His sister was happy, but his brother got mad.)
After Tad and his father left, mother shook her head and sighed. “You other children go ahead to bed.”
Herman and Callie took their bears, climbed into the loft and got ready for bed.
“I really love my bear,” Callie whispered in the dark.
Herman had trouble holding back his tears. “Callie, honest, I didn’t suggest the bears to mama and papa just so they would say I’m wonderful. And I didn’t want a second bear for myself. Honest.”
“I know, Herman,” Callie said. “Good night.”
It sounded to Herman like Callie was about to cry. After a few minutes, when he was sure Callie wasn’t listening, he talked to Burly. “Why can’t Christmas be as nice as I wanted it to be?”
“The world isn’t perfect,” Herman replied. “Let’s just be happy for the things that do turn out right.”
“It was fun planning for the Christmas presents. And I liked getting a hug and kiss from Callie.”
“And I finally got my family,” Burly added.
“Yes, and I finally have my son,” a strange girl bear voice said.
“Who’s that?” Herman whispered.
“It’s me, Pearly Bear.” The voice came from across the room behind the curtain.
“Mama, is that you?” Burly asked excitedly.
“Yes, Callie just dropped a tear on my head and all of a sudden I was talking.”
“How did you know your name was Pearly?” Herman was curious.
“That’s what Callie called me just before she went off to sleep. Son, don’t you think someone should go downstairs for your father?”
Burly looked up at Herman. “Uh yes. I don’t want papa to spend Christmas Eve on the cold floor all alone.”
Herman sneaked to the edge of the loft so he could climb down the ladder to retrieve the other burlap bear when he heard papa and Tad come in the door. He pulled back so they wouldn’t see him.
“Why do you make me do things like this to you?” Papa pleaded with his older son who just hung his head sullenly. “Do you think I want to whip you?”
Tad didn’t look up. “Maybe,” he mumbled.
“Well, I don’t.” Papa paced some and breathed deeply. “Don’t you know I love you best of all?”
Tad looked up, his eyes wide in surprise. Herman felt a pang of something sad in his chest, and he was on the verge of crying.
Papa walked over to one of the straight back cane chairs and sat down. Herman could see he was bent over and on the verge of quivering all over, like he was very cold. Finally he looked up, and Herman saw papa had tears welling in his eyes.
“You’re my first born. You’re the first baby I ever held in my arms.“ He paused. “Look at yourself in the mirror. Don’t you see who you look like? You look like me.”
Again there was silence. Herman looked at Tad to see if he were about to speak, but he didn’t. He just shuffled his feet.
“I want the very best in the world for you. That means you have to be the very best you can be. And by God if I have to beat you ever day I’ll do it so you’ll be the best and have the best.”
They stared at each other a long time. Finally papa stood and walked straight to his room. Tad stood, staring at the bedroom door after papa shut it.
The silence was making Herman nervous. Tad turned, picked up papa bear and headed for the ladder. Herman scampered for his bed and pretended to be asleep. With his eyes squeezed shut, Herman waited for Tad to climb into the loft. He heard his brother’s steps as he moved across the rough floor. Suddenly Herman became aware that Tad was standing over him. Uh oh, Herman thought, maybe Tad heard him eavesdropping. Don’t let him get mad at me again tonight. Herman prayed desperately. But then he felt Tad’s hand gently touch his hair.
“Thank you for the bear, Herman.”
Herman didn’t move.
“I know you’re awake.”
Herman rolled over slowly and looked at his brother who cracked a small smile.
“He’s swell. I never had a bear before.”
Herman was afraid to say anything, but that was all right because Tad turned and went to his bed. In a few minutes he was between the covers, and Herman couldn’t believe what he heard. Tad was crying.
In a few minutes, when all was silent again, an odd mature bear voice whispered, “Pearly? Burly Junior?”
Herman jumped. Burly jiggled a bit himself.
“Papa, is that you?” Burly asked.
“Of course.”
“I’m over here, dear,” Pearly whispered. “I’m so glad you’re with us. We’re a family at last.”
Burly put his burlap arms on Herman and squeezed. “Thank you Herman. Thank you for the most wonderful Christmas present of all.”
“Yes,” Pearly added, “thank you for my family.”
“I’m so happy to have my son,” Burly Senior said. “And he looks just like me!”
Herman looked sad. “Yes, I suppose even if you had other bear children, Burly would still be your favorite.”
“Of course,” Burly Senior replied. “Just as your first child will always be your favorite. But that doesn’t mean I won’t love the others. And you will love your other children.”
“Don’t be jealous, Herman,” Pearly said. “Your father loves you.”
“I already told him that,” Burly said.
“And you’re right. Always listen to Burly, Herman,” Pearly added.
Herman forgot the pang in his heart, smiled and hugged Burly tight.
“Merry Christmas, Burly.”

Burly Chapter Four


Burlap or future teddy bears?
(Previously in the book: Herman anticipated fifth birthday on the plains of Texas during the Depression. He was overjoyed to receive a home-made bear, which magically came to life when Herman’s tear fell on him.)
Late one night, early in December when the first blue norther was just about ready to sweep down on the East Texas prairie from the Panhandle, Burly Bear nudged little Herman who was fast sleep.
“Huh?” Herman mumbled.
“Not so loud,” Burly whispered, holding his burlap paw to his lips. “I want to tell you something, but if Callie or Tad wake up I won’t be able to.”
“All right,” Herman said as he yawned and rubbed his eyes. “What is it?”
“Well,” Burly began slowly, looking down. “I’ve really enjoyed living with you and your family this year.”
Herman gave Burly a big hug. “And I love having you, too.”
“You love your mother and father very much, don’t you?” Burly asked softly.
Herman smiled broadly. “Oh yes. Mama is wonderful and papa isn’t half as scary as I thought. You helped me see that.”
“I can tell they love you too.” Burly paused for a long moment, then sighed deeply. “I want a family to love and to love me.”
“Why, Burly Bear,” Herman exclaimed. “I’m your family.”
“Shush,” Burly went.
Tad shuffled in his nearby bed. “Herman, shut up,” he mumbled, then rolled over and went back to sleep.
“I’m sorry,” Herman whispered.
“What I mean is, I want a family, a mama and a papa bear to love me and take care of me,” Burly finally blurted out.
Herman wrinkled his little forehead. “I don’t know how we can do that. Usually parents come first, then the children.”
“But stuffed bears don’t usually talk. So usually doesn’t count here.”
“I guess,” Herman said in a dreamy sort of way, staring out of the window. He turned back to Burly. “Christmas is coming soon. I could ask for two more bears.”
Burly shook his head. “That really wouldn’t be fair, would it? I mean, you already have me, and Callie and Tad don’t have any bears at all.”
Herman’s eyes twinkled. “Oh yes. Callie would love a mama bear very much. She’s always telling me how cute you are.”
“And Tad?”
Herman frowned again. “Oh, Tad. I don’t think he would like a stuffed toy. He’s almost grown.”
“Twelve years old is not as grown up as you think,” Burly said, adding wisely, “or as grown up as Tad thinks.”
“But Tad doesn’t like anything. I still don’t think he even likes me very much.”
Burly smiled. “I think he likes you more than you know. And he might like you better if he thought you liked him.”
“Oh, I like Tad,” Herman replied.
“But does he know that?” Burly asked. “What have you done to let him know?”
“I’m just six years old. What could I do to show Tad I like him?”
“You can do more than you think,” Burly replied. “Always remember that.”
“Okay.” Herman sighed. “What do I have to do?”
Burly whispered in Herman’s ear for several minutes, and then they both went to sleep, because they had busy days ahead of them before Christmas. After breakfast the next morning when the others left, Herman tugged on his mother’s apron as she washed the dishes.
“Mama, can I—can we give Callie and Tad something special for Christmas?”
His mother looked down at him with a sad look on her face. “I’m afraid none of us are going to get anything special this Christmas. You remember why, don’t you? I explained it all to you.”
Herman nodded seriously. “Yes. You called it the depressions.”
His mother laughed lightly and patted him on the head. “No, the Depression. Only one. Thank goodness.”
“But couldn’t you make Callie and Tad bears out of burlap, like you did Burly Bear?” Herman said quickly before all his courage went away.
“Why, yes, I suppose so.” She looked at Herman and looked proud of him. “I hadn’t thought of that. Yes, that would be a good idea. You’re smart, Herman. And sweet.”
She leaned over to kiss Herman on the cheek. One part of him wanted to pull away and pretend he didn’t like it. But another part liked it and wanted to hug his mother. That part won out, and Herman wrapped his arms around his mother’s waist. For a fleeting moment he noticed how terribly thin she was.
“If you want me to, I’ll go ask papa for the burlap,” Herman offered happily.
“You don’t mind doing that?”
“Oh no, papa and me, we’ve become big pals,” Herman bragged.
“Very well. He’s out in the barn, I think.”

Burly Chapter Two


(Previously in the book: Herman anticipated fifth birthday on the plains of Texas during the Depression.)
One night after supper, mother cleared away the dishes and brought out a small chocolate cake—Herman’s favorite—with six flickering candles on it. She and Callie sang happy birthday while his father and Tad sat there and pretended to mumble the song. Herman had actually forgotten his birthday. But when he blew out the candles and tasted the sweet chocolate cake he remembered—only for a second—what his mother had said about a teddy bear. After everyone had finished the cake, his mother with a beaming smile on her face pulled out a bundle wrapped in butcher’s paper.
“I colored pictures on the wrapping paper,” Callie announced proudly.
For a nine-year-old girl with too many freckles she was very nice, Herman thought.
“What! He gets a present!” Tad exploded.
“Be quiet, son,” his father said softly but firmly.
“But he don’t do half the work around here that I do, and he don’t have to go to school!”
“Oh, shut up, Tad,” Called chided her brother.
“You shut up,” he retorted.
Tad was a big twelve-year-old but he looked like a pouting baby when he was angry, which was too often, Herman believed.
“Now both of you settle down before I take you out behind the barn,” their father warned.
“But it isn’t fair,” Tad whined.
“Shush,” his mother added, handing the gift to Herman.
“Not fair,” Tad said under his breath.
Herman was sad his brother was mad, but he put that out of his mind as he tore into the paper and what he found made him grin from ear to ear.
It was a bear made of burlap with buttons sewed on his arms and legs so that they could move. He had a sweet little smile sewn on his face. Two more buttons made the eyes.
“Ooh, how pretty!” Callie cooed, hugging Herman. “Isn’t it wonderful, Herman?”
Herman was speechless.
“Mama made it,” Callie told him.
“It was your father’s idea to use the burlap bag,” their mother said, smiling sweetly and nodding to her husband.
Herman jumped up, without thinking about the worms on his father’s arms, and ran over to hug him and kiss his rough, weather-beaten cheek. For the first time he could ever remember, he felt those long, strong arms fold gently around him and pat him softly. He stood quickly.
“Um, I’ve got to go see how the livestock’s doing,” he mumbled, rubbing his eyes with his hands and walking with long strides out the door.
Mother rubbed her eyes with a towel. “Time to clean up,” she announced crisply. “Callie, clear away the dishes.”
“Mama, can I play with my bear?” Herman asked timidly.
“Of course, dear.”
“What are you going to name him, Herman?” Callie said excitedly, leaning down to look at the bear.
“I don’t know,” he replied simply.
“Why don’t you name it after yourself,” Tad said with a nasty sound in his voice. “Baby.”
“Oh, shut up,” Callie spat, then turned back to Herman. “Since he’s made out of burlap, why don’t you call him Burly?”
Herman smiled. “Yeah. Burly Bear.”
“Mama,” Tad began to complain, “It ain’t fair Herman gets fancy toys and I—“
“It isn’t a fancy toy,” his mother interrupted. She sighed deeply, then pinched her pinched together. “And whether it’s fair or not—well, I’m just too tired to worry about it. Times are might hard, children. Things aren’t fair for just about everyone. Maybe Mr. Roosevelt can do something about it but for now, let’s just try to get along and survive.”
Herman turned for the loft ladder when Tad jumped in front of him, pointed his finger and made a silly face. “Baby, baby, baby,” he said in a cruel sing-song voice.
Callie ran over and kicked Tad in the shins and screamed, “You’re so dumb and awful! I hate you!”
Tad yanked Callie’s long, stringy hair. “Oh stay out of this!”
Tad and Callie began to fight and scream but stopped very fast when their father came through the door and bellowed, “Hey! What’s goin’ on here?”
Both of them tried to tell their side of the story but since they were talking at the same time their father couldn’t understand either one. “All right,” he announced, “I’ve had enough of this. You’re both going out behind the barn.”
With muffled protests Callie and Tad went out the door with their father. Herman was glad he kept his mouth shut because he knew what awaited them behind the barn, a paddling.
“Why does Tad always call me a baby?” Herman asked his mother.
She smiled and hugged him. “Why, you are the baby of the family. And you’ll always be my baby, even when you’re grown and as big as papa.”
“Gosh, will I be that big?”
“Yes. Now get ready for bed. Take Burly with you.”