Lost in a Storm
Grace Olson tilted back on her heels to give her knees a rest. She wiped the sweat from her forehead and looked around at the barren land. “Mama, why do we have to work so hard?” she whined.
“You will appreciate it soon enough. When the plants start to grow, we will have good food to eat, just the way God intended. instead of spending money at the grocery store.”
Now that her dad was gone, Grace and her mother, Mary, had to be careful with their money. When they sold their house, they moved far away to the land that Mary had inherited.
Grace remembered how her mother’s eyes glistened when she told stories about growing up in Minnesota.
“This is God’s country,” she would say. “The piles of snow, the acres of crops, the beautiful sunsets and the ancestors who settled here.”
So, Grace grumbled to herself and started sifting the clumps of dirt to prepare the garden. They would grow vegetables and spices. They only needed enough for mother, herself, and her dog, Buck.
As she worked, she daydreamed about her old house back in Ohio. The house was in a neighborhood with sidewalks, where she could ride her bicycle to her friend Cate’s house. She and Cate loved to play with their dolls. Cate’s mother taught them how to sew and make clothes for the dolls. The girls made doll clothes and other small items to sell and give money to the church they both attended.
“Soon it will be time for our beautiful sunset,” Mother said, interrupting Grace’s daydreaming. “Please, break up a few more scoops of soil and then we’ll be done for the night.”
Grace thrust the shovel into the earth. One scoop. Two scoops. Then the shovel hit something. Grace dropped to her knees and used her hands to sweep some of the loose soil out of the way. A scrap of soiled fabric peeked through the surface. She grabbed it and pulled so hard that she fell backwards. And there on the surface rested a tattered doll. The dolls legs, head and arms were made of carved hard wood, barely decomposed. Much of the clothing was gone except for a few shreds.
She carefully cradled the doll in her arms, as if it was alive.
“Mother, look what I found in the dirt,” she called. “I wonder where it came from?”
Mother gasped. “Oh my! It looks very old.”
Grace nodded. “I was digging, and I felt it under the ground. Is it really very old?”
“Oh yes, it must be. The legs and arms are wooden and well made. The clothes she wore must have dissolved or fell apart because it was out in the rain and snow over the years.”
“How can we find out more about her?” Grace asked.
“Let’s go to the library in town tomorrow. I’m anxious to find out about the doll, too. What will you name her?”
“I’m going to call her Cate. Just like my friend,” Grace said. “I can make some clothes for her. Just like Cate’s mother taught me.”
“That’s a wonderful idea!” Mother said as they walked into the house.
Grace used a clean cloth to gently wipe the dust and dirt from the wooden parts of the doll. Then she found a shoe box and some pieces of fabric and made a bed for the doll.
Before bedtime, she knelt by her bed to pray, “Thank you God for this day. I found an old doll in the dirt. I named her Cate, like my best friend. Please keep me and my mother safe, and my friend, Cate, too…”
The next morning, they headed to the Easton Library. The librarian, Ruth, was a plump lady with curly gray hair and a pleasant face.
“Hello, Grace. How are you doing. dear?” she asked.
“I’m good. Look what I found!”
Mother added, “We came in to do a little detective work about the doll. Grace found her in the field where she was preparing the soil for our garden.”
“Oh, that sounds like fun. I can help you if you would like.”
Grace told Ruth about how she dug up the doll while they looked through encyclopedias to find information and photos about old-fashioned dolls.
“The doll is really worn out, but this picture looks like it,” Grace pointed to a blurry black and white photo.
“It says it’s from the late 1800’s,” added Ruth.
“But why would it be in the middle of the field?” Grace asked.
Ruth thought for a moment. “I have lived here all my life and I remember folks talking about a horrible tornado that came through here back in 1892. Let’s look it up”
They found old news articles, under clear protective coverings. The devastation was horrible. It was an F5 tornado, the most severe. Houses and barns destroyed, and twelve people died. One was a nine-year-old girl. A map showed the path of destruction.
“Look! It went right over your property!” Ruth said, pointing to Mother. "That must be how the doll got there. Maybe folks were running from the storm, or it was in a house that was destroyed!”
Mother added, “Can we find out who lived there when the tornado came through?”
Ruth found the property records. “Says here it was the Olsons who lived here. And look there’s a newspaper clipping tucked in here. Three of the fatalities were Olsons. One was nine-year-old, Mary Grace Olson”
Grace gasped and sunk into the closest chair. She looked up at Ruth and her mother, “That doll must have belonged to Mary Grace Olson. And my name is Grace Olson.”
A tear slid down her cheek.
“I know you have been lonely for your old home and your best friend. This might help you feel better,” Mother hinted.
Ruth crouched down to eye-level with Grace. “You may think I’m a silly old woman, but I believe that God placed this doll in the field for you to find. He wants you to be happy here.”
“Now I know that I am here for a reason! I will start to make more doll clothes to give to the poor children in town. Maybe I can get the kids at church to start a sewing club to spread happiness!” Grace clapped her hands.
“I can’t wait to write a letter to my friend Cate to tell her all about it!”