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  • Writer's pictureLinda Odhner, with photos by Liz Kufs

Excerpted Inspirations #87


    One day I was sent over to Mrs. Pratt's to get some butter, and found it just out of the churn.  So, munching on a cookie, I sat down to wait till Mrs. Pratt should work it over, and listened to her stream of talk -- the chickens, the hailstorm the other day, had my folks begun to make currant jelly yet? and so on -- till she had finished and was shaping the butter into round pats.  "This always puts me in mind of Aunt Almera," she said, interrupting an account of how the men had chased a woodchuck up a tree -- whoever heard of such a thing?  "Whenever I begin to make the pats, I remember when I was a girl working for her.  She kept you right up to the mark, I tell you, and you ought to have seen how she lit into me when she found out some of my butter pats were just a little over a pound and some a little less.  It was when she happened to have too much cream and she was 'trading in' the butter at the store.  You'd have thought I'd stolen a fifty-cent piece to hear her go on!  "I sell those for a pound; they've got to be a pound," says she, the way she always spoke, as if that ended it.       "'But land's sakes, Mis' Canfield,' says I, all out o' patience with her, 'an ounce or two one way or the other -- it's as likely to be more as less, you know!  What difference does it make?  Nobody expects to make their pats just a pound!  How could you?'      "'How could you?  How could you?' says she.  'Why, just the way you make anything else the way it ought to be -- by keeping at it till it is right.  What other way is there?'      "I didn't think you could do it.  I knew you couldn't; but you always had to do the way Mis' Canfield said, and so I began grumbling under my breath about high-handed, fussy old women.  But she never minded what you said about her, so long as you did your work right.  So I fussed and fussed, clipping off a little, and adding on a little, and weighing it between times.  It was the awfulest bother you ever saw, because it spoiled the shape of your pat to cut at it, and you had to start over again every time.      "Well, you wouldn't believe it, how soon I got the hang of it!  She'd made me think about it so much, I got interested, and it wasn't any time at all before I could tell the heft of a pat to within a fraction of an ounce just by the feel of it in my hand.  I never forgot it.  You never do forget that kind of thing.  I brought up my whole family on that story.  'Now you do that spelling lesson just exactly right,' I'd say to my Lucy, 'just the way Aunt Almera made me do the butter pats!'"  -Dorothy Canfield, "Almera Hawley Canfield" (1921), pp. 62-63

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