Robert T. Rhode

Robert T. Rhode
Robert T. Rhode

Saturday, June 23, 2018

23. The Battle of Tippecanoe ... THE FARM IN PINE VILLAGE

Robert, Charles, and their parents were seated around the dinner table when Ida asked Joe, a student of history, to tell the boys about the Battle of Tippecanoe.

“The battle took place in the early morning hours of November 7th in 1811,” Joe began. “The town of Battle Ground north of Lafayette is named for it. The Shawnee leader, who was named Tecumseh, had been gathering many tribes between where the Tippecanoe River flows into the Wabash River and where Wildcat Creek meets the Wabash River. Tecumseh wanted to block American settlers from expanding further into Indian territories. The Governor of the Indiana Territory was William Henry Harrison. He learned that Tecumseh had gone to the southern states to recruit more tribes, and he marched his troops northward from the territorial capital at Vincennes to fight a pitched battle against the Indians. He wanted to break up the confederation that Tecumseh had been forming. You remember the historical marker that we stopped to read near the Andersons’ place about four miles from here. That marker designates where Harrison’s army marched. Harrison had about a thousand men. When Harrison arrived at the Indian village on the 6th, Tecumseh’s brother met him. Tecumseh’s brother was called ‘the Prophet.’ Harrison accepted the Prophet’s offer to camp on a stretch of wooded, narrow, triangular ground between two ravines.”

Ida had percolated coffee, and she poured a cup for Joe. He dipped a teaspoon into the coffee and blew on it to cool it before sipping the coffee from the teaspoon. Robert and Charles waited expectantly.

Joe continued, “That night, representatives of the tribes discussed what to do. The Prophet wanted to negotiate with Harrison to buy time for Tecumseh to return, but most of the other leaders wanted to attack. The Prophet felt outnumbered. He agreed to attack the soldiers just before dawn the next morning. A half mile southwest of Battle Ground, there's a rocky cliff high above the low land where the rivers and creeks flow together. The Prophet, who was a spiritual leader, said he would stand there and offer holy chants to protect the Indians from the soldiers’ bullets. Today, the cliff is called ‘Prophet’s Rock.’ It is said that Indians crawled unseen through the underbrush to within a few feet of the sleeping soldiers and that some of the Indians silently climbed the trees at the perimeter of the army’s campground. Just before daybreak, the firing began almost simultaneously at the northern and southern ends of the triangular point of land. The fighting soon spread throughout the soldiers’ encampment. Many lives were lost on both sides. After about two hours, the Indians withdrew because they were running low on ammunition. Harrison regrouped and buried the dead soldiers on the spot. The Indians had dispersed because they expected Harrison to come after them. Harrison ordered his men to burn the empty Indian village, which he referred to as Prophetstown. On the return march to Vincennes, Harrison buried a few more soldiers who died of their wounds along the way.”

“How many were killed?” Charles asked.

“Some sixty soldiers were killed and well over a hundred wounded. The Indians carried off their dead, so no one knows how many were killed. Harrison’s first estimate was that about forty Indians had been killed. The country decided to blame the British for inciting the Indians, and the Battle of Tippecanoe was one of the factors that led to the War of 1812. After the battle, the Indians rebuilt Prophetstown, and Tecumseh managed to keep the confederation together, but Harrison called the Battle of Tippecanoe a decisive victory. It may be true that the Indian confederation had been weakened somewhat by the battle. Many years later, when he was in his late sixties, Harrison ran for President, and his having supposedly won a victory over the Indians helped him win the election of 1840. He died of pneumonia in the spring of 1841 only a month after taking office.”

Ida told Robert and Charles, “We’re going to see the reenactment of the battle.”

“What’s a reenactment?” Robert asked.

“People in costume,” Joe explained, “will fight the battle again—but without bullets—so that visitors can watch what took place back in 1811. This year is the sesquicentennial.”

Robert found the word “sesquicentennial” surprising.

“It means that a hundred and fifty years have passed,” his father said.

On the afternoon of the 19th of August—when the reenactment was to occur—the boys and their parents drove to Lafayette. Joe and Ida had not been prepared for the massive turnout. Over ten thousand people attended. Traffic was snarled on the highways leading to Battle Ground. As the family’s Chevrolet inched its way forward in the bumper-to-bumper procession, the reenactment began. The sound of guns popping in the distance told them that they were missing the battle. When they finally were within sight of the battlefield, which was surrounded by a tall iron fence, they saw Indians walking along the road who had obviously already done their part toward replicating the fight and were conversing casually with one another.

It was one of the rare times that Ida had not been first in line, and she was not happy that the reenactment had come and gone long before Joe could park the car. The delay could not have been avoided, though. Who would have thought that so many people would assemble for such an event?

Rather than stay for the barbeque dinner on Main Street in Battle Ground, Joe and Ida decided to return home.

Even though the family had missed the reenactment, Robert felt he had experienced a significant event. He had seen Indians wielding guns, and, even though they were “out of character,” so to speak, they were symbolic of conflict. Robert had watched many a Western, but he had not given much thought to the nature of warfare, for which he felt a deeply instinctual revulsion.

“Why would Indians and soldier have to fight each other?” Robert asked his father later that evening. Joe was sipping coffee, and Robert was sitting cross-legged on the davenport. Joe’s eyebrows drew downward, and he pursed his lips as he tried to think how best to answer Robert’s question.

Joe began, “History is full of wars. They seem inevitable.” Joe thought longer about what to say. “Your ancestors were Quakers. Many of them are buried in Quaker Cemetery near the Independence Road. We’ve taken you there on Memorial Day. The Quakers believed in peace. They would not fight. For that reason, they were generally trusted by Indians. Even though our family has attended the Methodist Church for the past four generations, some of the Quaker beliefs may have been passed down to us. I’ve given considerable thought to whether or not Quaker teachings may have persisted into the Methodist years, and I’ve concluded that there could well be Quaker attitudes among us. If you’re thinking that people lost their lives unnecessarily at the Battle of Tippecanoe, you might be getting that feeling from bits and pieces of Quaker philosophy. It's also true that, customarily, nations respect the nobility and honor of those who fight for them.”

While Robert felt satisfied with the answer, he continued to ponder why two groups of people would try to kill one another.  


Saturday, June 16, 2018


In April of 1961, Grandpa Rhode died.

Seymour Alfred Rhode had been born in 1884. After growing up on his father’s farm on the road to Independence, Seymour had graduated from Attica High School. Briefly, he had taught school. The remains of the one-room schoolhouse, nicknamed “Rock College,” stood in a gloomy tangle of weeds across the road from College Rock. Joe and Ida had taken Charles and Robert past Rock College on Sunday afternoon drives. The boards of the building were gray with age. For a time, Seymour had sold musical instruments in Lafayette. A few years after his marriage to Kosie Ruby Cobb in 1909, he had served on the Board of Directors of Standard Live Stock Insurance Company of Indianapolis.

Rue J. Alexander, born as James Ruevelle, had had a direct influence on Robert’s life because, before World War II, he had helped nudge Seymour into political posts in Indianapolis. Beginning in the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Seymour had later become an examiner for the Indiana Department of Insurance. He had been named Chief Examiner after fifteen years in the department. When he had begun accepting what were largely political appointments, he had become much more successful than he had been previously.

The family of Grandpa Rhode’s beloved sister, Bertha, and her husband, John Claypool—who lived in New York—mourned the passing of Seymour and sent condolences to Joe. Over the years, they had made several excursions to visit the Rhode clan in Indiana, and they now planned another to keep the far-flung family as close together as possible.

Grandpa Rhode was to be buried in the Pine Village Cemetery after services at Shipps Funeral Home in Oxford. As Grandpa Rhode had been a Mason, he was to be given Masonic rites.

It was the first time Robert had seen the members of the Masonic Lodge wearing their aprons, and it was the first time that he had heard his father give the funeral oration.

Joe had memorized the entire oration, and he was nearly always the one who spoke it at a funeral for a Mason from Pine Village. In the years preceding Grandpa Rhode’s death, Robert had often heard Fred Holdcraft and Robert’s father conversing quietly in the living room. Fred and his wife, Glynalee, were members of the Euchre Club that Joe and Ida played in and the parents of Joy and Jenny, two of Robert’s friends. Fred was a Masonic Past Master and member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Indianapolis. The purpose of his talking in low tones with Joe was to make arrangements for Joe to present the funeral oration for a fellow Mason. For the next few evenings, Robert’s father was not to be bothered, so that he could practice, ensuring that his memory of the speech was perfect.

At the services for Grandpa Rhode, Joe and his fellow Masons wore over their suits the white aprons trimmed in blue with the all-seeing eye symbol above and the symbol of Freemasonry below. Robert found the aprons strange. They were so out of the ordinary as to make Robert doubly conscious of the solemnity of the occasion.

Robert knew that his father wanted to make no mistake in the oration, and, indeed, Joe made none. His sentences flowed effortlessly with perfect cadences and emphases.     

Seymour’s brother Marshall C., who was born in 1888, was a 32nd Degree Mason in the Scottish Rite. Great Uncle Marshall stood near Joe during the ceremony.

The Masons had memberships in the Order of the Eastern Star, to which women could also belong. Ida was a member. Throughout the year, she attended Eastern Star meetings, which were held in lodge rooms on the second story of the Brick Block, a row of shops on the north side of Lafayette Street that had been built in 1902 and 1903.

At the funeral, Ida wore her five-pointed Eastern Star pin with its red, blue, yellow, white, and green triangles.

A few days after the funeral, Joe took his family in his GMC pickup to Indianapolis to attend to the apartment where Grandpa Rhode had lived for many years. Joe’s first cousin Jay, a son of Charles J. Rhode, Seymour’s older brother that was born in 1882, drove his own pickup so that there would be two trucks to haul furniture and boxes. Jay’s wife, Claire, who was a Cajun from New Orleans that Jay had met while he was in the Navy in World War II, remained at home.

It rained cats and dogs almost all day long!

Ida had given Charles and Robert strict instructions to be useful but not in the way. Robert stood quietly in corners of rooms until he was called upon to carry lightweight boxes to the trucks. When it was time to clear Grandpa Rhode’s desk, Ida asked Joe and Jay if the boys could have any of the small items that decorated the desktop. Jay nodded.

“You boys can pick out something for yourselves,” Joe said.

Robert took an iridescent conch shell, and Charles accepted a small metal horse that he later gave to Robert.

Robert clutched the seashell all the way home in the dark of night as the rain pelted the windshield and the tarp that had been tied down over the furniture and boxes in the bed of the pickup.

The death of Grandpa Rhode plunged Robert into a solemn frame of mind. Robert’s pensive mood lasted for a week. He overheard his mother asking his father what should be done. She said that, perhaps, Robert should not have attended the funeral. She added that, maybe, Robert should not have helped carry boxes from Grandpa Rhode’s apartment. Joe suggested giving Robert time to work out everything in his mind.

Robert held the shell in his hand. He was fascinated with the way the mother of pearl tones reflected the light. It was as if the shell were glowing while light was passing through it—as if he were holding the moving light itself in the palm of his hand. Suddenly, he felt that the shell pointed to something greater: a transcendent force just beyond what can be seen. His grandfather was still alive somewhere, sustained and protected by the same light. Were not angels portrayed as beings of light? Could the shell correspond to everlasting life in other dimensions linked to this world through light and its meaning? All at once, Robert thought he knew what was meant in First Corinthians when the Apostle Paul writes, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

Robert emerged from his contemplative week a more cheerful boy. Ida could not figure out what had brought about the change.

Sunday, June 10, 2018


That winter, there had come a spell of light snow that would melt a little before the temperature dipped below zero, producing a sheet of ice over the ground. Joe walked into the kitchen and spoke in a low voice to Ida, who promptly told the boys to put on their parkas, stocking caps, and gloves. She had to take Joe to see Dr. Scheurich.

Robert felt a wave of apprehension as he quickly followed his mother’s instructions. He had thought that only he and his brother ever had to visit the doctor, not one of his parents. When he saw his father sitting in a strange posture on one of the kitchen chairs, his face pale and gray, Robert felt his apprehension deepening into anxiety.

Ida ushered the boys toward the car. Joe came slowly from the house. She held open the passenger door for him. He ever-so-slowly sank into the seat. Ida slammed the door, ran around the car, and, with considerable agitation, put the key in the ignition. When the Chevy started, she did not wait for it to warm up. She backed fast down the driveway and out onto the state highway. In a heartbeat, she was driving to Oxford.

Joe had been checking on the Chester White sows that were soon to have litters. One young sow had been pushing against the wooden panels that held her captive in a small exercise area beyond the door of an individual hog house on skids that Joe had pulled into place with his Minneapolis–Moline Z tractor. Painted red, the house had a V-shaped roof, half of which consisted of hinged doors that could swing over, permitting a view of the interior. Joe bought his hog houses from the grain elevator, where they were built at the lumberyard. On this day, Joe had decided that he needed to sink one more metal post to support the panel that the sow had been abusing. He had brought a tall fence post and a sledge hammer. After looking over the situation, he had decided to put the post on the inside of the small lot, so he had climbed over the panel.

Hammering the fence post into the frozen ground was a time-consuming job. Ping–ping–ping! His hammer had sounded a short bell-like tone each time that he had struck the post. Finally, he had driven the post into the ice deep enough to prevent the sow from working on the panel.

He had brought several strands of baling wire, with which he had secured the panel to the post, being careful to push the ends of the wires to the outside so that the sow would not be scratched. With a snap of his wrist, he had used a heavy pair of pliers to give each twist of wire two additional twists, tightening the wires. Finally, he had taken his sledge hammer and had climbed back outside the panel.

That is when it had happened. His feet had become cold, even though he had been wearing boots, high-top laced shoes, and brown woolen socks. He could barely feel where he put his toes in between the boards of the panel. As the gap between the bottom two boards was narrow, he had not pushed the toe of his boot through far enough. His foot slipped and dropped down on the ice. His balance thrown off, Joe had lost his grip on the panel but not on the hammer. Meanwhile, the foot that had suddenly reached the ice skidded out from under him, pivoting him. He had fallen on his side. As bundled up as he was with long johns, a flannel undershirt, a work shirt, a lined denim coat, and a regular denim coat over the lined one, he might have withstood the fall, but he had landed on the handle of the sledge hammer. He had writhed in pain for a few minutes before he had realized that, pain or no pain, he would have to get back on his feet and go to the house.

For the first few steps, standing had felt somewhat better, but then the pain had intensified. He felt certain that he had broken a bone.

Before he was married, he had been helping the members of the threshing ring to separate his wheat, and he had fallen from the grain wagon. His left upper arm had gone between the wooden hound that supported the wagon tongue behind the doubletree, and he had broken the bone with a spiral break. On this day, he remembered that pain.

While Dr. Scheurich examined Joe, Robert and Charles sat quiet as church mice in the waiting room. Before they had entered the doctor’s office, their mother had told them to behave themselves by sitting still and not causing trouble. She had accompanied their father into the examination room. Robert’s fears were mounting. Tears were gathering in the corners of his eyes. He had never seen his father look so pale, so gray, and so unsmiling. Robert still did not know what had happened, although Charles had whispered to him something about ice.

Eventually, Joe emerged. Ida was at his side. The nurse was close behind. Ida and the nurse walked with him down the front stairs to the car. Robert and Charles followed. On this occasion, Robert had ridden in the back seat of the two-door car so his father could sit in front. Robert had managed not to have motion sickness, but, on the way home, he felt the dizziness starting. Still, he listened carefully to his parents’ conversation. Little by little, he felt his worries subside as he began to understand that his father had fallen on the ice, that he had cracked some ribs, and that there was nothing that could be done except take aspirin and wait for the bruising to heal. Dr. Scheurich had wrapped a stretchy bandage around Joe’s side and over one shoulder to keep Joe steady, as much as anything; otherwise, the bandage had no effect, as the doctor had readily admitted.

“You’ll have to milk the cows and feed and water the sows,” Joe was saying to Ida. The doctor had advised him not to move about much for the first two days and for Ida to handle the chores. “I’m sorry for you to have to do my work,” Joe said.

“It’s only for a few days,” Ida reassured him. “The boys can help me.”

After school, Robert and Charles helped their mother all they could. They threw down hay from the mow. They scooped ground feed into buckets to be carried to the sows, each sow in her own paneled lot. They mixed feed and water for the ducks. They scattered feed for the chickens and the turkeys. Robert thought it was funny to watch Ida at work. She wore four-buckle boots that made her feet seem too big for her body. She did everything differently than the boys’ father did. She positioned the stool differently when she sat beside the cows to milk them. She spoke more jokingly to the cows—as if they were people! “You like that clover, don’t you, Flossy!” Ida would say. At the end of each day, Ida had completed all the same jobs that Joe would have accomplished, even though she had done them in her own way.

Eventually, Joe had begun to move about in a gingerly fashion and had resumed doing the chores himself.

“Don’t let your dad try to use his sore side,” Ida had warned the boys. “Think ahead, and help him lift things that he shouldn’t be lifting!” she ordered. Robert and Charles were good about providing as much assistance as they could to their father.

Then, one cold night, Ida set a bushel basket in front of the Norge heating stove in the kitchen. She arranged an old blanket in the bottom. Joe came through the door to the porch. The gloved hand on his good side was holding something that squirmed. He put it in the basket.

“She may have another one before I get back out there,” Joe said, as he went through the porch and out into the night, a flashlight in the hand on his sore side.

Robert peered into the basket. A pink piglet was standing on the blanket. It looked up at him with its inquisitive eyes beneath white eyelashes. Soon, Joe brought another pink piglet and deposited it in the basket.

The boys’ mother prepared a second basket. Later that night, there were nine piglets all in all.

“I think they could go back to their mother now,” Joe said.

Robert put on his coat, hat, and gloves and walked with his mother as she carried the first basket out to the hog house containing the sow that had just had her litter. It was the sow that had given so much trouble. Robert stood on a straw bale to look down through the doors that Joe opened in the roof of the house. A heat lamp cast a reddish light around the inside, which felt warm on Robert’s face. Ida was handing each piglet to Joe, who was setting them down in the fresh straw inside. When the first basket had been emptied, Ida brought out the second basket of piglets. Before long, the newborns were lined up along the belly of the sow and were having their dinner.

“We’d better close the doors now,” Joe said to Robert, who stepped down from the bale. The piglets were so cute that Robert silently questioned why his parents never kept one for a pet. Then he thought about how big the sow was and how it was not nearly as cute as a piglet, and he answered his own question.       



Sunday, June 3, 2018

20. The Cereals and the Baked Goods ... THE FARM IN PINE VILLAGE

Robert had an intense dislike for rolled oats, which his mother often served for breakfast. He despised the texture, and he found the taste repulsive. He was forced to choke down many a bowl filled to the brim with the disgusting stuff. Cream of wheat was almost as bad, but he could swallow it with less trouble. During the year when he was in Mrs. Hail’s class, Ida began to give up the fight for rolled oats and occasionally set a Kellogg’s Variety Pack in the center of the table.

Robert felt a huge relief! Even if his brother took the best cereals (Sugar Smacks, Sugar Pops, Raisin Bran, or Rice Krispies), Robert could easily eat Sugar Frosted Flakes or Special K. Robert found Corn Flakes marginally acceptable. OKs were—well—OK!

On the happy mornings when the Variety Pack made its appearance on the breakfast table, Robert emptied the cereal into a china bowl, put two heaping teaspoons of sugar on top, and poured the fresh milk straight from the cow around the mound of sugar. He was fascinated to watch the milk soak into the sugar, transforming it from white granules to gray layers that gradually slipped below the creamy surface. He spooned the cereal carefully, so that, by the end, the bottom of the bowl would have a thick layer of sugar that he could spoon out with the last of the milk. Kellogg’s had been offering variety packs as long as Robert had been alive, but Ida did not yield to their convenience until Robert was in school.

Jell-O was a different story. Ida had fallen fast for the convenience of Jell-O dishes, and she was quick to use all the recipes in the women’s magazines. Jell-O (a mixture of gelatin, fruit flavors, and sugar) was served at almost every dinner and every supper.

Orange Jell-O packed full of shredded carrots and chopped raisins was a popular item on Ida’s menu. Lime Jell-O featuring crunchy chunks of celery was another. Robert greatly preferred fruit in his Jell-O. Black cherry Jell-O harboring large bing cherries was one of Robert’s favorites. Then came lime Jell-O with crushed pineapple and heavy cream mixed together on a bed of crumbled graham crackers and topped with a layer of whipped heavy cream and chopped walnuts. The latter dish became a staple.

On special occasions, Ida made a mold of a fruity Jell-O with mandarin orange slices. A topping of whipped cream was available for most of the Jell-O dishes made with fruit.

Ida bowed to convenience when it came to international cuisine, too. Italian food was Chef Boyardee from cans. Asian food was LaChoy’s Chop Suey Vegetables with chunks of pork added and with the dish poured over LaChoy Chow Mein Noodles. Mexican food was Van Camp’s Tamales with Sauce (also from a can). Ever since the Korean War, Ida had witnessed a time of a burgeoning variety of foods and ever-greater convenience—a convenience that she embraced enthusiastically (sooner or later).

Even though Ida was a skilled baker, she enjoyed buying doughnuts and bread from Graves Bakery on the State Street hill near Purdue University in West Lafayette. Almost every week, she successfully made the turn from State Street, across the oncoming traffic, over the gravelly hump just beyond the sidewalk, and down into the parking lot, where she moved her foot back and forth from the brake to the gas pedal to the brake and to the gas pedal until she felt the car was parked well enough. Once Robert’s nearly carsick vision had cleared, he waited in the Chevrolet Bel Air while Ida gained the sidewalk and hurried out of view toward the front door of the bakery. Robert looked up in fascination at the large billboard on the side of the building.

Regularly, the billboard changed, but it always announced the delights of baked goods from Graves Bakery and it always included a painting, usually a child with rosy cheeks and an endearing smile who was enjoying a jelly-filled doughnut or similar sugary treat. The painting on the huge poster always exhibited a heartwarming realism reminiscent of Norman Rockwell’s work but lacking a complete background so that the words could be prominently displayed against a plain backdrop. Robert studied the colors and the ways the artist fashioned the facial features, the clothing, the hands, the light, and the shadows.

Soon enough, Ida returned with two big bags of doughnuts and sweet rolls.

“They had a sale on cinnamon twists, and I bought extras,” Ida said with evident glee, as she carefully placed the white paper sacks in the back seat.

The bakery items usually were devoured before the next week’s trip to West Lafayette, but, when they were gone, Ida might make cinnamon toast for breakfast.

After many glum mornings staring down a bowl of rolled oats, Robert was ready to dance a jig whenever he awoke to the fragrance of cinnamon toast. Ida mixed butter, sugar, and cinnamon and lightly toasted it on slices of bread that were spread on a cookie sheet and placed in the oven. The satisfying crunch when he bit into the caramelized sugar was only part of the pleasure of eating his mother’s cinnamon toast. The sugar coating would flake slightly to reveal the hot buttery toast beneath. On especially fortunate mornings, Ida served mugs of hot cocoa. Dipping half a slice of plain buttered toast in hot chocolate was a delicious experience, but dipping half a slice of cinnamon toast in cocoa would make anyone over the moon!

Yes, Ida could bake cookies with the best of them, and her persimmon pudding was out of this world. Her forte, though, was pie. Robert could not remember a time when there was no pie cooling beside the meat grinder attached to the enameled counter of the Hoosier. Apple, peach, banana cream, cherry, blackberry, sugar cream, pumpkin, lemon meringue, chocolate, mince (but not made with meat), rhubarb, gooseberry, and even mulberry (on rare occasions) were only a few of the pies that came hot and mouth-watering from Ida’s oven. Almost every dinner was fortified with a generous slice of pie for dessert. It seemed she never missed! Ida’s pies never failed!

In addition to being baked in a pie, rhubarb took several delightful turns toward the dessert side of the dinner plates: rhubarb cobbler (sometimes mixed with strawberries), rhubarb coffee cake, rhubarb sauce (sometimes mixed with cherries) for ice cream, rhubarb crunches, and rhubarb crisps.

Ida’s gooseberry shortcake stole the show.

Quite often, Ida brought her brown cups of custard hot from the oven. Using a rasp, she grated nutmeg on top of each. Sometimes, the custard cups were filled with butterscotch pudding, chocolate pudding, or vanilla pudding.

Cakes were plentiful, too. Ida, Aunt Margaret, and Grandma Rhode all made delectable German chocolate cakes. Robert’s favorite birthday cake was a white layer cake with pink peppermint icing, but black walnut cake was also high on his list.

With the butter and cream that were fresh from Joe’s Holstein cows and with lard that was truly lard and with flour that knew how to behave, the baked goods that flowed from Ida’s oven were delicious beyond anyone’s powers of description. They more than compensated for the rolled oats and the cream of wheat that Robert had to consume at the start of the day now and then.