"Ma, there's a man at the door. He says he's with the ... " George said and took a long breath.
"Marshallâ€˜s office, Son. The state wants to know how many people there are here in Washington County and I'm supposed to count folks in this section. I need to find out who you all are, your names, ages and what you do for a living. And just what is your job, Son?"
George laughed and called out again for his mother.
"My name's George Mifflin Dallas Roberts and I'm six years old. I'm a farmer. Can't you tell?"
The assistant marshal smiled as he looked at the farmhouse and the barn.
"Sure I can tell. So what's your pa do? Same thing?"
"My pa is dead. My grandpa is a farmer, too. He was in the War! He got the farm, Ma says, 'cause he was a good sharpshooter."
Harriett came to the door and looked up at the man at the door.
"What tales is he telling you?"
"Well, all he's told me is that he's a farmer and his name and age," the man said politely. "That's all I need from him. I need to know everybody else in the house's name and age and what they do - and if you have any slaves or servants, theirs, too, if you please. My nameâ€™s Alexander Huston. Iâ€™m an assistant to the marshal of the state and, as I told your fine young boy, I'm supposed to find out how many people there are in this part of the county. So can you help me?"
"Come into the house. Here, now, sit down. Now there's Ma, her name is Esther and she was a Durnil before she married Pa. She was born in Pennsylvania and she's 65 years old. Pa's name is John T. Roberts and he was born in Surry County, North Carolina. He's 70 years old. George here is 6 years old and was born right here. My name is Harriett Roberts and I was born right here, too. I'm 30 years old. That enough for you?"
"Anyone else still at home?"
"Well, Mr. Huston, we can't afford servants or slaves. Lord knows, there's enough family around here, so that we help each other out. Ma's family lives down the way a piece. Her brother's children all settled around here. I expect that's come of them getting a land bounty from the war in 1812. Pa was one of Simpson's Sharpshooters in Kentucky. He and Ma came from there with 5 of the children.â€�
â€œWhat about Georgeâ€™s pa?â€� he asked quietly.
â€œHe died before George was born and he never lived here at any rate. I thought you just needed to know about people living here now,â€� she said with an icy glance at his face.
â€œYesâ€™m, thatâ€™s true. Sorry to have brought it up. That's about all I need to know. Thank you so much for your time. Iâ€™m much obliged. Good luck to you on this yearâ€™s crops, George. I hope you do a good job. And hereâ€™s a half-dime for your information. You hang on to it and it may be lucky for you, Son. Take care of your mama. Goodbye.â€�
â€œThank you, Sir!â€�
With that Mr. Huston mounted his horse and went down the road towards the rest of the county.
â€œLookit, Ma! A half dime! I never seen something so pretty! It was made the same year I was - 1844! Reckon that makes it special, donâ€˜t it?â€�
â€œI reckon it does. Letâ€™s put it away, George. Youâ€™ll want to save it. Maybe you can spend it in town. A half-dime is good for a lot of things at the general store in Salem.â€�
â€œOh, no, Ma! He said it might be lucky. Iâ€™m gonna save it and make it into a charm. Maybe Iâ€™ll have a pocket watch someday and can put it on the chain.â€�
â€œYouâ€™re a startinâ€™ to drift into those daydreams again, George. Get your head out of the clouds and letâ€™s get back to work,â€� she said with a trace of a smile.
The darkness behind the smile had nearly shown through to her son. When she got to the kitchen, she began to cry. Her son had such dreams. She just hoped he wouldnâ€™t be like his father, whoever that man had been.