“Come on, Maggie MacGuire, I’ll walk along with you awhile and carry that. It’s a pretty hefty load for a granny like yourself to haul around.” Donald picked up the sack she’d rested against a sign post.
“I’d be right thankful if ye’d do that, lad. Aye, it’s a heavy load for an old woman like me, but it’s the way I must earn my daily bread.”
“And you’ve been doing this for years. Seems I remember you coming around peddling kitchen things when I was still a bairn.” Donald hoisted a sack of kitchen utensils onto each shoulder and started off.
Feeling their weight, he resolved to accompany Maggie for as long a time as he could spare. It wasn’t much of a load for a stout fellow like himself, but little Maggie MacGuire must grow weary toting these sacks up and down among these hills day after day.
“Been sixteen years now that Tom left me, God rest his soul, and I’ve been wanderin’ these roads ever since. With him gone on, peddlin’s the only thing what keeps me from starving. Folks are good, though; they buy a knife or somethin’ whenever they can.”
Then her tone turned sharp. “But don’t ye be takin’ me for no duckling now. I’m a tough old bird.” And she stepped along right lively to prove it.
Donald looked down at her and smiled. Not an ounce of self-pity in those old bones. “So who keeps you supplied with all the tools you sell?”
“Most of it comes through a merchant in Glasgow; the butcher knives are made by a local smithy not far from me home. He does a great job.”
As they marched along, Maggie entertained Donald with stories of her childhood on a windswept highland croft and her married life with Tom. Before long they came to a crossroads and she stopped to consider the roads.
“Now which way will you be taking, Mrs. MacGuire?”
“Good question. I’ll have to ask the Lord.” Maggie opened her satchel and took out a long straw. This she tossed in the air, as high as she could. “I’ve been lettin’ Him make these tough decisions for me. He always knows what’s best.”
The straw landed pointing to the road west. “And so that’s the way I’ll be goin’, if you want to hand here me bag, Donald lad.”
“The harvest is in and I’ve the time this morning; let me walk with you a little longer, maybe up to the next crossing. It’s a bonny day to be out and about.”
“Aye. I’m so thankful for days like this. Beats trampin’ through the mud gettin’ soaked to the skin. Hush now, old woman! I’ll not be complainin’; just thankin’ the Lord I’ve the strength to do it.”
After awhile they came to another crossroads. Maggie eyed the one road, rough and rutted, that led up a steep hill. Then she studied the other, a smoother path down to the valley.
“I’ll be interested to see which way the Lord will send you this time, Mrs. MacGuire.” Donald did his best to look baffled, but his eyes twinkled as he watched her. Would this “tough old bird” ever give in to creature comfort and take the easy way?
Again Maggie took the straw from her satchel and tossed it in the air. The light breeze tossed it onto the upward road. She took a good long look at the road again, then picked up the straw and threw it high in the air. Again it landed on the upward road.
Once more she picked it up and, turning slightly, she tossed it heavenward. The breeze gave an odd little puff right then and the straw landed on the downward road.
“Now, Maggie MacGuire, you have me puzzled. How come you had to do that three times?”
“Well…” Maggie paused a moment, then answered on a perky note. “I was just givin’ the Lord a chance to reconsider.”
She reached for the sacks “I know ye’ll have to be off home, Donald; there’s work for us all. So I’ll be takin’ me bags now. Thank ye much for yer help.”
“Well, you be taking care of yourself and bide a wee in the shade from time to time. Tis a heavy load you’re hefting.” He handed over the sacks.
She shouldered them and headed down toward the valley. Donald watched her a few minutes, then chuckled as he started for home. He didn’t blame Maggie a bit for taking the easy road and he had to appreciate her quick thinking.
“And how many times aren’t we folks like that, Lord?” he asked, turning his gaze toward the blue sky above. “Hearing Your answer, but giving You a chance to reconsider.”