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Children's Story Garden  >  The Plow

Girl standing in wild undergrowth, casting milkwood seeds to the breeze.

The Children's Story Garden

The Plow


As John Comly jogged along behind his old horse, Frank, on the Red Lion road, he was not enjoying the prosperous Byberry fields on either side, the glossy red-winged blackbirds chuckling over the meadow, or the delicate freshness of the May morning. Instead, he was turning over in his mind a problem which greatly troubled him, and as was his habit with any perplexity, he was appealing direct to his Heavenly Father for aid.

Some time ago one of his neighbors, Jesse Tate, had borrowed a plow from Eli Powell. As Jesse was hauling it off, Eli's son had called, "Thee need not bring it back, because Father will want to use it next week in the ten-acre lot below the lane, and it will be handier in thy shed than in ours. Father will bring the horse over there and hitch up."

Of course Jesse should not have trusted the memory of Eli's boy, but he did. Ten days later while Jesse was trying to corner his old pig as it tore up and down over the garden truck, Eli's hired man handed him a curt little note from Eli, reading,

"If thee is through with my plow, I would be glad to have it back." And Jesse answered with equal curtness, "Tell Eli his plow is waiting for him in my shed — just as I was told it should."

From that beginning a month ago all manner of dissension and trouble had arisen. The children of both families attended John Comly's school at Pleasant Hill, and to the dismay of the peace-loving schoolmaster, he heard even the little Tates and Powells calling each other such fearful names as 'liar' and 'thief.' To John Comly the query, "Is love and unity maintained amongst you?" was a deep and living concern and he was not satisfied alone to live on good terms with his neighbors, he must help others to do likewise. In vain had he gone from Jesse Tate to Eli Powell and back again. Both men loved and respected John Comly; but Eli, after listening in silence, had replied firmly, "Thee may talk about love and unity, John, but I'll have naught to do with Jesse Tate or his family till I see him drive in here with my plow." And Jesse had cut John Comly off with, "I'm sorry to grieve thee, Friend, but Eli should know that I'm not trying to steal his tools — and I'll not humor him."

On this glorious spring day it seemed intolerable to John Comly that two neighbors should thus cultivate hatred toward one another. All at once he thought that the Voice of God, which he so often heard, spoke within him. A weight was lifted from his heart. He knew now what to do. Jesse Tate's lane turned off just ahead. He slapped the reins on Frank's back, drove rapidly to Jesse's barn and had unhitched the horse from the buggy when Jesse appeared.

"Good morning, John. What may I do for thee?"

"I have come to haul Eli's plow over to him, Jesse," John Comly replied mildly. "I'm afraid he will want it for corn planting."

"Well, now, I don't know that it's worth while for thee to take the trouble, John. Of course, if he really needs it, I could take it over myself."

"Suppose thee steps across with me, Jesse," replied John Comly, "then I'll come back with thee after my buggy."

An hour later, when Eli's hired man hastened up the road to the Powell house in answer to the dinner bell, he met John Comly jogging along behind Frank, and then a little nearer the house, he was startled to see, leaning comfortably on the top rail of the fence, Jesse Tate and Eli Powell, chatting as though they were the best friends in the world. As the man hurried past he heard Eli say, " If I had known what my boy had said to thee, I would have been less hasty. I hope thee can forgive an old friend."

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In The Children's Story Garden. Stories collected by a committee of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting — Anna Pettit Broomell, Emily Cooper Johnson, Elizabeth W. Collins, Alice Hall Paxson, Annie Hillborn, and Anna D. White. Illustrated by Katharine Richardson Wireman and Eugénie M. Wireman. Published in 1920 by J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia.

Notes and links

The Plow
Based on an anecdote told in John Comly's Journal. The names of Jesse Tate and Eli Powell, and minor details are imaginary. (Historical Notes.)
John Comly's Journal
Journal of the life and religious labours of John Comly: late of Byberry, Pennsylvania - published in 1853, online at the Earlham School of Religion's Digital Quaker Collection. (A database search of the journal does not find the word "plow.")