How Obadiah Brought About a Thanksgiving
by Emily Hewitt Leland
The Waddle family had very bad luck on their farm in the West.
And they certainly were homesick! But Obadiah and his uncle,
between them, found means to mend matters.
THAT an innocent and helpless baby should be
named Obadiah Waddle was an outrage which
the infant unceasingly resented from the time he got
old enough to realize the awful gulf that lay between
his name and those of his more fortunate mates. The
experiences of his first day at school were branded into
his soul; and although he made friends by his bright
face and kind and honest nature, scarcely a day passed
during his six years of village schooling without his
absurd name flying out at him from some unsuspected
ambush and making him wince.
It was bad enough when the guying came from a boy,
but when a girl took to punning, jeering, or giggling at
him it seemed as if his burden was greater than he
could bear. Then he would go home through the woods
and fields to avoid human beings, so hurt and unhappy
that nothing but his mother's greeting and the smell
of a good supper could cheer him.
At home he had no trouble. His mother and his
baby sister called him Obie, and sweet was his name on
their lips. His father, who had objected to "Obadiah"
from the first, called him Bub or Bubby; but one can
bear almost any name when it comes with a loving smile
or a pat on the shoulder, which was Mr. Waddle's
way of addressing his only son.
Very early in life it had been explained to Obadiah
that he was named for his mother's favourite brother,
who went to California to live, after hanging a silver
dollar on a black silk cord round the neck of his little
Obadiah often looked at this dollar, which was kept
in a little box with a broken earring, a hair chain, a
glass breastpin, and an ancient "copper"; and sometimes
on circus days or on the Fourth of July he wished
there was no hole in it that he might expend it on sideshows
and lemonade or on monstrous firecrackers.
But he knew that his mother valued it highly because
Uncle Obie gave it to him and because there were little
dents in it made by his vigorous first teeth; so he always
returned it to the box with a sigh of resignation, and
made the most of the twenty-five cents given him by
his father on the great days of the year.
When he was eleven years old the Waddle family
moved West, and the last thing Obadiah heard as the
train pulled away from the little station of his native
town was this verse, lustily shouted from a group of
schoolmates assembled to bid him good-bye:
"Oh, Obadiah, you're going West,
Where the prairie winds don't have no rest,
You'll have to waddle your level best.
Good-bye, my lover, good-bye!"
Ill-fortune attended the Waddles in their western
home. To be sure, they had their rich, broad acres,
with never a stone or a stump to hinder the smooth
cutting plow, but a frightful midsummer storm in the
second year literally wiped out crops and cattle, and
left them with their bare lives in their lowly sod house.
"Drought first year, tornado second. If next year's
a failure, we'll go back—if we can raise money enough
to go with. Three times and then out!" said Mr.
Mrs. Waddle broke down and wept. It scared the
children to learn that their mother could cry—their
mother, who was always so bright and cheerful and who
always laughed away their griefs!
Mr. Waddle was scared, too. He bent down and patted
her shoulder—his favourite way of soothing beast
or human being.
"Now, Mary, Mary! Don't you go back on us.
We can stand everything as long as you are all right.
Don't feel bad! We'll pick up again. There's time
enough yet to grow turnips and fodder corn."
"But what will we fodder it to?" wailed Mrs. Waddle.
Mr. Waddle could not answer, thinking of his splendid
horses, and of his pure Jersey cows that would
never answer to his call again.
"Well, I am ashamed of myself!" said Mrs. Waddle,
after a few moments, bravely drying her eyes. "And
I'm wicked, too! I've just wished that something
would happen so we'd have to go back East, and it's
happened; and we might have all been killed. And
I'm going to stop just where I am. I don't care where
we live—or how we live—so long as we are all together—and
well—and there's a crust in the house and water
Rising, she seized the broom and began vigorously
to sweep together the leaves and grass which the cyclone
had cast in through the open door.
"I declare, Mary!" said Mr. Waddle. "Do you
mean to say you've been homesick all this time?"
"I'd give more for the north side of one of those old
Vermont hills than I would for the whole prairie!" was
the emphatic reply. "But I'm not going to say another
Mr. Waddle felt a thrill of comfort in knowing he
was not alone in his yearning for the old home. It
was singular that these two, who loved each other so
truly, could so hide their inmost feelings. Each had
feared to appear weak to the other.
Mr. Waddle looked at his wife with almost a radiant
smile. "Well, Mary, we'll go back in the fall—if we
can sell. I guess we can hire the Deacon Elbridge place
I see by last week's paper it's still for sale or rent, and
carpenter work in old Hartbridge is about as profitable
for me as farming out West."
"I'm glad you wouldn't mind going back, Homer,"
said Mrs. Waddle, and they looked at each other as in
the days of their courtship.
But selling the farm was not easy, and October found
the Waddles in painful straits.
"What will we have for Thanksgiving, Ma?" asked
"Oh, a pair of nice prairie chickens, mashed turnips,
hot biscuits, and melted sugar," cheerfully replied
"That sounds pretty good," said Obadiah; but when
he got out of doors he said to himself that you could
not shoot prairie chickens without ammunition, and
that he had no bait even if he tried to use his quail
traps. He also reflected that his mother looked thin
and pale, that sister Ellie needed shoes, and that plum
pudding and mince pie used to be on Thanksgiving
tables. But this was the day for his story paper—post-office
day—which seemed to cheer things up somehow.
When he went to town for the mail he would see if
his father, who was at work carpentering on a barn,
could not spare a dime for a little powder and shot.
So the boy trudged away on his long walk, with his
empty gun on his shoulder and the hope of youth in
His father, busy at work, greeted him cheerily, but
had no dime for powder and shot. Pay for the work
was not to be had until the first of December, and
meanwhile every penny must be saved—for coal and for
"It leaves Thanksgiving out in the cold, doesn't
it, Bub? But we'll make it up at Christmas, maybe,"
said Mr. Waddle, as Obadiah turned to go. "Here's
three cents for a bite of candy for Sis, and take good
care of mother. I'll be home day after to-morrow,
Obadiah jingled the three pennies in his pocket as
he walked to the combined store and post-office.
Three cents! They would buy a charge or two of powder
and shot, and he still had a few caps. And candy
was not good for people anyhow! He wished he had
asked his father if he might buy ammunition instead.
"But I'll not bother him again," he decided, "and
Sis will be glad enough of the candy."
He would not buy rashly. He looked over the jars
of striped sticks, peppermint drops, chocolate mice, and
mixed varieties. Then he sat down on a nail keg to
await the distribution of the mail. He watched the
people standing by for the opening of the delivery
window. It was a rare thing for his family to get a
letter, but then they seldom sent one.
Once in a while a newspaper came from Uncle Obadiah,
but only one letter in two years. Perhaps if he
knew what hard luck they were having he would write
oftener. The boy had heard his mother say only the
week before that she wanted to write to Brother Obie,
but was no hand at letters, especially when there was
no good news to write.
A thought now came to young Obadiah. He would
write to his Uncle to-morrow, and his brain began fairly
to hum with what he would say. When his time came
he invested one cent in a clean white stick of candy and
the remaining two in a postage stamp. "I'll pay two
cents back to pa as soon as I get the answer," he said
confidently to his questioning conscience.
His walk home abounded in exasperations. Never
had game appeared so plentiful. Three separate flocks
of prairie chickens flew directly over his head, a rabbit
scurried across his path, and in the stubble of the
ruined grainfields rose and fell little clouds of quail.
"They just know it ain't loaded!" grumbled Obadiah,
trudging with his empty gun.
That night, after Sis had gone to sleep, and his mother
had lain down beside her, cheerfully remarking that bed
was cheaper than fire, and that she was glad there was a
good wood lot on the Elbridge place, Obadiah, behind
the sheltering canvas partition that separated the
kitchen from the bedrooms, wrote the following letter:
:—Last year our crops were burned up by the
drought and this year they were swept away by a cyclone and
all the stock was killed, and father will not get his pay for carpenter
work until December. If there was no hole in the dollar
you gave me when I was a baby I would take it and buy something
for Thanksgiving. I wish you would send me a dollar
without a hole in it as soon as you can and I will send you the
one with a hole in it. I would send it now but I have not got
stamps enough. I hope you are well. We are all well, only ma
is homesick. Your sincere nephew,
P. S.—Please send your answer right to me, because I want to
surprise ma with some things for Thanksgiving.
The next morning he set off to look at his most distant
quail traps, found them empty, and circled round to
the village, where he posted his letter.
The days crept slowly by, and times grew more and
more uncomfortable in the little sod house. Often
when Obadiah was doing his "sums" his pencil would
shy off to a corner of his slate and scribble a list of items
something like this:
|2 cents to Pa
|Stamps and paper (to send the D)
|Powder and shot
|Tea and sugar for Ma
|1 lb. raisens
|1 lb. butter
Sometimes he would set down half a pound of
"raisens" and add "candy for Sis, .05," but this was in
his reckless moments. Sober second thought always
convinced him that "raisens" would bring the greatest
good to the greatest number about Thanksgiving time.
He casually asked his mother how long it took people
to go to California.
"Well, Uncle Obie's newspapers always get here
about four or five days after they are printed. Dear
me! I must write to your Uncle Obie just as soon as we
can spare the money for paper and stamps. He'll
be glad to know we are all alive and well, and that's
about all I can tell him."
Obadiah smiled broadly behind his geography and
began reckoning the days. The answer might arrive
about the 18th, but he heroically waited until the 21st
before going to ask for it. He reached the village long
before mail time, but saw so many things to consider
in the grocery and provision line that he was almost
surprised when the rattle of the "mail rig" and an ingathering
of people told that the important time had
The Waddles had given up their box, so he could not
expect to see his letter until it should be handed out to
him from the general "W" pile. He waited patiently.
The fortunate owners of lock boxes took out their letters
with a proud air while the distributing was still
going on. Others, who had mere open boxes, drew
close and tried to read inverted superscriptions with
poor success. Others who never had either letters
or papers, but who came in at this hour from force of
habit, stood near the stove or leaned on the counters
and spoke of the weather and swapped feeble jokes.
Finally the small wooden window was flung open. The
little group got its papers and letters and gradually
"Any letter for me?" cried Obadiah, his heart jumping.
"Nope; your pa got your papers last Saturday."
"But—ain't there a letter—for me?"
The man hastily ran over the half-dozen "W" missives.
Obadiah's heart was heavy as lead now. He went out
into the sleety weather and faced the long walk home.
His eyes were so blurred with tears he could hardly see
and his feet came near slipping.
A derisive shout came from across the street: "Hallo!
Pretty bad 'waddling' this weather!"
Obadiah pulled his hat over his eyes and tramped on
in scornful silence.
And now another voice called out to him, a voice
from the rear: "Oh, say! Waddle! Come back here—package
for ye!" Obadiah hastily went back, his heart
"Registered package," explained the postmaster.
"'Most forgot it. Sign your name on that line. Odd
name you've got. No danger your mail going to some
Obadiah laughed and said he guessed not, and hardly
believing his senses, again started for home, and soon
struck out upon the far-stretching road. In the privacy
of the great prairie he looked at the package again.
How heavy it was for such a small one, and how important
looked the long row of stamps; and there was
Uncle Obadiah's name in one corner, proving that it
was truly the answer!
There must be a jackknife in it, or something besides
the dollar. He cut the stout twine, removed the
wrapper, and lifted the cover of a strong paper box.
There was something wrapped in neat white paper and
feeling very solid.
Obadiah removed the paper, and a heavy, handsome
and very fat leather purse slipped into his hand. He
opened it. It had several compartments, and in each one
were three or more hard, flat, round objects wrapped in
more white paper to keep them from jingling, very likely.
Obadiah unwrapped one of these round, flat objects,
and even in the dull light of the drizzling and fading
November day he could see that it was a bright, clean,
shining silver dollar—and had no hole in it.
With hands fairly shaking with joy, he returned the
purse to the box and sped homeward. He ran all the
way, only slowing up for breath now and then, but
it was dark, and the poor little supper was waiting when
he reached the house. The small lamp did not shed
a very brilliant light, but a mother does not need an
electric glare in order to read her child's face.
"Well, Obie, what's happened?" asked his mother as
soon as he was inside the door. "Have you caught a
whole flock of quails?"
"Something better'n quails! Guess again, Ma!"
"Three nice fat prairie hens then."
"Something better'n prairie hens." And then Obie
could wait no longer. He pulled the package from
under his coat and tossed it down beside the poor old
teapot, which had known little but hot water these
"Why, it's from Brother Obie—to you!" exclaimed his
mother, while his father drew near and said, "Well, well!"
"And look inside! I haven't half looked yet," said
Obie, "but you look, Ma! I just want you to look!"
Ma opened the box, and then the purse, and then the
fourteen round objects wrapped in white paper. And
they made a fine glitter on the red tablecloth.
"Well, well!" repeated Mr. Waddle.
"And here's something written," said Mrs. Waddle,
taking a paper from a pocket at the back of the purse.
"Read it, Ma—out loud! I don't care," said Obie
So Ma read it in a voice that trembled a little:
My Dear Nephew
:—If I count rightly, it is thirteen years
since your good mother labelled you Obadiah. I'm not near
enough to give you thirteen slaps—I wish I were—so I send you
thirteen dollars, and one to grow on. Never mind returning the
dollar with the hole in it—keep it for your grandchildren to cut
their teeth on. Give my love to your parents and little sister;
and if you look the purse through closely, I think you will find
something of interest to your mother. It is about time she paid
our old Vermont a visit. Be a good boy.
Your affectionate uncle,
"Oh, that blessed brother!" cried Mrs. Waddle,
wiping her eyes with her apron.
Obie seized the purse and examined it on all sides.
It was a very wizard of a purse, for another little flat
pocket was found in its inmost centre, and from it
Obie drew out another bit of folded paper and opened
"Why, it's a check!" shouted Mr. Waddle. "A
check for you, Mary, for—two—hundred—dollars!
My! There's a brother for you!"
"Oh, not two hundred—it must be twenty—it can't
be——" faltered Mrs. Waddle, wiping her eyes to look
at the paper.
Then she gave a little cry and fell to hugging all her
family. "We can all go back—we can go next week!"
and she almost danced up and down on the unresponsive
"I owe you two cents, Pa, and I'll pay it back to
you just as soon as I can get a dollar changed," said
Obadiah proudly, fingering the shining coins.
"How's that, Bubby?"
Then Obadiah explained.
"I hope you didn't complain, Obie," said his mother,
her happy face clouding.
"Well, I told him about the drought and the cyclone.
I guess if I was a near relation I wouldn't call that complaining.
And then I asked him if he wouldn't swap
dollars with me, so I could have one without a hole
in it to get something for Thanks——"
Mr. Waddle broke in with a shout of laughter, and
Mrs. Waddle kissed her son once more, and laughed,
too, although her eyes were full of tears. And then
Obadiah knew everything was all right.
"We can have Thanksgiving now, can't we, Ma?"
he asked. "It's so near; and I'm going to get all the
things. We'll have chicken pie—tame chicken pie—and
plum pudding—and butter—and cream for the
coffee—and cranberries—and lump sugar—and pumpkin
"Oh, me wants supper!" exclaimed Sis. And then
they laughed again, and fell upon the cooling cornbread
and molasses and melancholy bits of fried pork
and the thin ghost of tea as if they were already engaged
in a feast of Thanksgiving. And so they were.