At the station in Syracuse Uncle Arthur and Aunt Charlotte waited for the boys. Eric had seen many pictures of his uncle and aunt, and he recognized them at once. They greeted the boys warmly, loaded their trunk into their car, drove through Syracuse, and continued another hour to their farm. Light snow fell all the way, and when they reached the farm they found it covered with a thick, soft blanket of white.
"Well, boys," Uncle Arthur said as they took off their coats and mittens in the warm kitchen, "we have thirty acres of excellent farm land here. We have pasture for our cows. We have hay land and enough room for a good garden. We keep bees too."
After giving the boys some warm soup, Aunt Charlotte put them in warm beds where they soon dropped into slumber.
At breakfast the next morning Eric noticed that Uncle Arthur had on his work clothes. Aunt Charlotte didn't seem to be dressed up either, yet he knew that it must be Sunday. Or could he have been mistaken?
"What work can you do on the farm in winter?" Hans asked.
"We haul manure to fertilize the ground for the coming year's crops. Then there is always milking to do morning and evening." Uncle Arthur smiled his slow, kind smile. "I think you boys will find it much like home. I hope so."
Eric looked at the good breakfast Aunt Charlotte had set before them--delicious canned fruit, fresh butter with home-baked bread--and judged that this house would seem much like home. He noticed that Aunt Charlotte had put a fancy dish full of candies on the living-room table. These, he had to admit, were not like home. For many years there had been no chocolate candy in Unsen. Yet he approved. Oh, yes, he approved with an enthusiasm he hoped he could control!
"You want to run the tractor, Eric?" Uncle Arthur said after they had finished breakfast.
"Of course!" Eric jumped to his feet.
"No," Uncle Arthur raised his hand. "Just wait until we read our Morning Watch." He picked up a little book that lay beside his plate. After he had read a few paragraphs and offered a short prayer, Uncle Arthur said, "All right, Eric, here we go."
Eric pulled on his warm clothing. He'd seen pictures of that tractor before he left Germany, and he'd dreamed for months of getting his hands on the wheel. Now he'd learn to drive it.
But the day didn't seem like Sunday. He sensed something different about his Uncle's home. And what could that book be that Uncle had read from that morning? He'd called it "Morning Watch." What kind of book could that be?
He helped Uncle Arthur load manure; then they pulled it with the tractor and spread it over the snow on the garden. Uncle let Eric drive the tractor back to the barn. His heart swelled with such pride that he scarcely felt the nipping cold. Imagine! He could control this big machine.
That evening Uncle Arthur introduced both boys to the cows and the milking machine. Eric thought he had never seen such an astonishing thing. The cows didn't seem to mind having a machine milk them. They appeared to enjoy it. Eric and Hans helped Uncle carry the pails of milk into the milk room.
After supper that night the boys went upstairs to their comfortable room, and Eric recalled that nothing had been said about Sunday evening church service. Could he have gotten mixed up about the days in all the excitement of their first hours in the United States? He thought about asking Hans, but Hans had already fallen asleep.
Then Eric heard the sound of voices from his Uncle and Aunt's room downstairs and directly below where he lay. He knew their bedroom door at the foot of the stairs stood open. He listened again. Now he could hear just one voice. Uncle Arthur seemed to be reading to Aunt Charlotte.
Eric recognized the book that his uncle was reading--the Bible. He heard the reading end, and then both their voices came up to him distinctly. They must be praying. He heard them mention his name and Hans's. He lay on his pillow satisfied that Uncle Arthur and Aunt Charlotte still worshiped God. He must have been mistaken about the day. Tomorrow must be Sunday.
Next morning at breakfast Eric asked his aunt, "Is today Sunday?"
"No, Eric, yesterday was Sunday."
Eric paused with his spoonful of applesauce halfway to his mouth and looked at her.
She laughed, "Oh, Eric, I know what you are thinking. Yes, Uncle Arthur and I do go to church, but we go on the Sabbath. We are Seventh-day Adventists."
"Are they Christians?"
"Yes, they are Christians who follow Christ's example. He kept the Sabbath--the seventh day of the week."
Eric thought about what Aunt Charlotte had said while he finished breakfast. Then Uncle Arthur took the same little book from beside his plate. "This is our Morning Watch book, boys. It has a Bible text for each day of the year and a few words of comment and explanation." Then, just as he had done the day before, he prayed a short prayer before the family went about their morning tasks.
One evening as the boys prepared for bed, Eric said, "I don't understand Uncle Arthur and Aunt Charlotte's religion, but they seem to be quite enthusiastic about it."
"I don't understand it either," Hans said. "But I'm going to find a place where I can continue my training as a pharmacist. I think I'll write to Uncle Werner in Michigan."
Hans burrowed under the covers, and Eric found himself, as he did so often, alone with his own thoughts.
Eric felt at home with Uncle Arthur and Aunt Charlotte. The gentle warmth that filled their farmhouse came not from the heating system alone, though the furnace in the basement seemed adequate. No, the warmth he felt came from the kind hearts of the two people who lived in this home.
Winter continued cold and blustery. Uncle Arthur worked five days a week at his trade as an electrician. He must drive the thirty-six miles to his shop in Syracuse every morning and return at night. Eric could see that having a couple of husky farm boys around the place made Uncle's work easier.
Many mornings Eric and Hans wakened early and shoveled a path to the highway so Uncle could get his car out. Although the driveway didn't look long, it seemed like a great distance when it had to be shoveled clear of the deep and heavy snow. For many days the temperature stayed below zero.
Before many weeks Hans got in touch with Uncle Werner in Michigan and left to continue his pharmaceutical training in Grand Rapids.
Eric stayed on with Uncle Arthur and Aunt Charlotte. Now he began to attend church with them. The first Sabbath he understood only one word of the sermon--Peter! The sincerity and devotion of the speaker, however, showed through his voice and the kind look on his face. Eric went again and again and began to understand more words.
Now he listened to his uncle's favorite radio program--the Voice of Prophecy. He couldn't understand the words, but again the spiritual quality of the speaker's voice he could feel and enjoy with heart and mind. He loved the beautiful music. When he discovered that he could enroll for a course of Bible lessons in the German language, he sent in his name at once.
Then Aunt Charlotte gave him a Bible. Never before had he owned a Bible, and now he could read this one with no trouble at all. It spoke his own language--German.
One evening at supper Uncle Arthur spoke to him. "Eric, spring will soon be here. I want you to have a good opportunity to work and earn money this spring and summer."
"But I like it here, Uncle Arthur, and you need me more than ever now that spring is coming."
"Yes, Eric, that is all true, and you are good help; but I wrote to a friend of mine who is a beekeeper in Wisconsin. Now I have received a letter from him." Uncle pulled an envelope from his pocket. "Mr. Conrad writes that he will be glad to give you a job."
Sharp and stinging experiences during his childhood had taught Eric something about bees. He didn't feel at all sure that he would enjoy being a beekeeper. Still the job looked like an opportunity to learn more about his new country, the United States. Also it offered the challenge of a new skill which he might learn.
In April, 1948, Eric said good-bye to
Uncle Arthur and Aunt Charlotte. He found it hard to leave them, for they
had treated him like a son. He had not been too lonesome for home, because
his uncle's home felt so much like his father's house. He had come to respect
the religion there, and he had learned a little English.
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