As time rushed past, Genevieve found herself drawn more and more into life outside the farm. She thought it strange that she and Kelly didn’t form a friendship with another couple. Genevieve socialized with the women whose children were near Alexis’ age, but not with their husbands. Mostly they were Methodist women, who considered her sporadic attendance to the church as a victory over the Baptist, when she was seen flanked by Mae Cooper and Eileen Giffin.
There were many more dinners at her in-laws’ homes, as well as dinners at the farm for the extended family. These occasions gave Genevieve ample opportunity to observe how her mother-in-law, was able to put up with Brother Milstead’s wife, in spite of Carol’s religiosity. It was harder for her to put up with the minister. Maybe it was because Kelly disliked his uncle so much; Genevieve wasn’t able to stand the man, though she tried for Louise’s sake. Perhaps it was that Darrell’s religion seemed a pose. She felt that he was not a true believer like the devout Louise. Of course, it might well have been the minister’s over familiarity with her, as if he were her somewhat creepy uncle, rather than an in-law.
As time flowed by, Kelly and his family settled down into the day-to-day life of Misty, Texas. The farm became active again, bit by bit, as Kelly impressed his dream of what a farm should be on the Old Post farm, which in its day was known for growing pigs to the exclusion of other crops. Though Kelly’s father was never really a farmer, Kelly developed an abiding love for farming. He often took the long journey by train to visit his uncle back east. The older man’s farm was once the home to generations of Archies before the town of Misty was founded. Even during the years in New York, he often made the pilgrimage to see his uncle. The visits continued after Kelly moved back to Misty and started his traveling lecture series. Kelly’s tour manager knew that if he wanted to keep enticing Kelly out on the lecture circuit, he would have to make it enjoyable. The manager always managed to make sure that Kelly’s circuit passed near his beloved uncle’s farm. Kelly dreamed of his farm one day being like the one back east.
While Kelly poured his energy into the farm and preparing for his next circuit, Genevieve learned that many of the surrounding towns hosted markets and craft fairs where she could sell the paintings, which once were tucked away without hope of selling. She no longer bothered storing the canvases but let them accumulate in the studio until there were so many that they got in the way. When there were enough, she packed them up, and headed to whatever fair was closest, often taken Eileen, Mae, or one of the other women with her. She humorously referred to clearing out the paintings as, “Putting them up for adoption.” She enjoyed the forays to the art shows so much, that once the orphan paintings were cleared out, she began to paint a series of Americana canvasses, which appealed to her new market. Sweetly sentimental, rendered in rich colors, the paintings illustrated an idealized view of rural life. Rarely did she come back with more than a few to be propped up against the studio wall again.
With more hands working on the farm and more ladies dropping by to visit with Genevieve, a second studio was installed in a bedroom. It was once the storage room for the unsellable paintings. It was private enough for Bennie’s nude modeling. Genevieve worked on her Americana paintings below. At first Genevieve was uncomfortable working in the smaller space, but as she continued to use the room, she realized that the light was better because its windows were above the thickest of the pecan tree’s branches. The room had the added benefit of being across the hall from Alexis’ nursery, so the child was in earshot when she was playing there, and her mother was at work.
Now that Alexis was older, she was allowed the run of the farmyard inside the main fence, experiencing a type of freedom that she would have never experienced in the parks of New York, in spite of their loveliness. As she grew, Alexis became a strong and happy child. As her verbal skills grew, she recently took up the habit of informing everyone around her, what was going on in their environment.
“Daddy dig hole!” Alexis stated, matter-of-factly, standing between her mother and a blank canvas, which Genevieve was contemplating with no urge to mar its white surface, though Bennie was already carefully striking a pose, and her brush was loaded with the brownish mix of paint she liked to use to rough in the lines before she got to the serious painting. Shaken from her thoughts, Genevieve looked at her little girl’s serious expression, and decided that this didn’t seem like a reaction that Alexis would have to a normal garden hole, and she better go outside and see what was happening.
“Wait a minute Alexis, and you can show me. Bennie take a break, while I go find out what that husband of mine is up to,” Genevieve said, wiping her brush clean on the palette, and leaving it to soak in a mason jar of turpentine.
“No problem boss, I can use a rest after that fifteen minutes of hard work,” Bennie said, as he bounded up and wiggled into the jeans and tee shirt that took the place of his robe, when other people where around, before heading to the kitchen, like a moth to a flame.
Making sure there were no random smudges of paint on her hand, Genevieve stood up reaching out to take her daughter’s small hand. She allowed herself to be led down the stairs and past Bennie who was hovering around Eileen looking for samples of the pending lunch. Tugging at her mother’s hand Alexis led Genevieve out the back door, past the truck garden, which was lush with a bumper crop of more fresh vegetables and herbs than Eileen could ever want for her excellent recipes.
Alexis came to a stop and looking up at her mother pointed. Between the garden and the barn, Genevieve saw a large mound of dirt that hadn’t been there the day before. She saw the mound of dirt, but her husband was nowhere to be seen. She stood looking perplexed, still holding tightly to her daughter’s hand, until a shower of dirt was propelled out of a hole next to the large pile, onto a second smaller pile, causing her to jump tugging Alexis back from the raining clumps.
Still holding on to Alexis, she walked over to peer down into the hole. Seeing the top of her husband’s head Genevieve asked, “Have you decided to be a prairie dog, for research?” making gentle fun of some of his past participant observation projects, he conducted over the years in pursuit of proving his various social theories.
“No, dear, I am building a bomb shelter,” he responded with gusto, looking up at his wife, admiring her new hair style, which Eileen taught her to dress, to keep her long tresses out of her work and her daughter’s busy hands.
“Oh, dear,” Genevieve thought to herself. “He has been hanging around with the old men around the courthouse too much.” Out loud she asked, “Where ever did you get the idea to build one?”
“Well, you remember that when we lived in the city, we figured that should World War III start we would be in the target zone of the first strike, so there was no reason to worry about surviving. Well, I realized that now we are too far from anywhere that could be considered a strategic target, unless the Russians get some strange ideas about the salt mines in Grand Saline, so we might have a chance. I am going to give us one; a chance that is,” he stated shading his eyes from the sun, as he peered up at his wife and child.
“Okay, dear, don’t forget to drink plenty of water,” Genevieve said indulgently, hoping that this project would spur her husband into writing a book about the experience, to make the project worthwhile.