Andrew and Molly Part 13

Molly felt a change in the air when she went into the post with Aggie with trade goods.  A pretty woman attracted a lot of attention where men vastly outnumbered women.  From time to time, a ship arrived bearing women convicts involuntarily indentured.  As often as not, they were offered marriage.  Should they go to a house without a wife and not be offered marriage, their future was unsure.  Rape was an ever present concern for a bondswoman with punishment for pregnancy out of wedlock a surety.  Molly felt the men looking at her differently, now Andrew was gone.  One or two who’d been eyeing her tried to buy her bond from Wharton, though thankfully, so far he’d declined.  Molly knew with the spring work looming ahead, he’d have to engage help.  She kept as close to home as possible, hoping not to attract attention.

In her grief, she wasn’t thriving, going about her tasks by rote.  Aggie treated her much more warmly, initiating conversations and sharing tales of her girlhood, courtship and early marriage.  Without her to take her mind off her troubles, Molly had little else to think of except her fear and grief.

After a few weeks, Molly’s fears eased a bit when Master Wharton made no move to change their situation.  She worked hard, trying to make his home comfortable and Aggie made sure she knew just how he liked his favorite dishes and how he liked things done.  When her appetite returned, she thought it was because she took pride in her cooking.  When she started throwing up and her breasts got tender she feared it was something else.  Molly had confided to a friend at chapel, she was sleeping in the barn again to guard against the appearance of evil.  While Bartles and Aggie were glad she was protecting her reputation, they were fearful her confidence might attract unwelcome company.  Master Wharton insisted she keep the door barred and Jackie at her side when she was abed.  Between them, Wharton and Bartles resolved to keep her safe.  Sure enough, it wasn’t long before Jackie woke her lunging at the door and barking.  Master Wharton fired shots at a man fleeing in the woods.

Aggie noted Molly going about her labors with her collar button opened when she came over with some baking.  “Why is your collar button undone?  It’s a cool morning?  When I was in the family way, the first thing I noticed was a tight collar button.  How long since you had your courses?”

Molly stammered.  “I’m not sure.  I think it was a week or so before Andrew was lost.”

“I thought you had the look of breeding.  Have you been sick in the mornings?”  Aggie went on.  “Do you have cravings?  How long since you had your tea every day?”

Molly looked devastated.  “I never thought of it since the trouble, till I got sick in the mornings and my breasts felt tender, but Aggie, I can’t give this child up, no matter what.  It’s the last of Andrew.  What if he comes back?  I know I could punished for breeding, but there has to be a way.  Anyone can count back and know when this babe was conceived.  It would be too cruel to take it from me when I’ve nothing else.  What am I going to do?  Is there any way you and Bartles could buy my bond?  I’ll work for you as long as you ask me to if you’ll just help me save my baby!”

“Oh Molly, we have just a few coins after equipping our cabin.  It’s not possible for us to buy a bushel of corn, much less your contract.  Of course, you and the child could stay with us, but the master has already lost two bondsman.  It’s doubtful he could give you your freedom, even if you stayed with us.  We’ll have to talk to Bartles about all this.  It puts you in a terrible place.  A woman in the family way with no man is in terrible danger in this place.”

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Two Roads Part 11

img_1685Image pulled from the internet

Eddie made a good crop that year. Neeley canned and dried all her garden produced. The children cheeks filled out with the good food and all the milk they wanted. Once the crop was put by that fall, Neeley’s brothers Albert and Willie, and Eddie’s cousins came over to help with the well-digging. They’d dug down about twenty feet and were just starting to see water seep in, when Eddie broke his shovel handle and called out for a replacement. As one of the men was lowering it, he lost control and dropped it, hitting Eddie in the head. They dragged Eddie out of the well unconscious and hauled him ten miles to town in the back of a wagon.  He was transferred to Charity Hospital forty miles away by ambulance.  He awoke after a couple of days later, to their great relief, though he was never quite the same. He suffered from debilitating headaches and frequent seizures that left him confused. Worst of all, he raged and had little impulse control. He would have beaten the children if Neeley hadn’t gotten between him and them. Fortunately, she was larger than Eddie and able to control him.

Despite his problems, he was determined to take care of his family.  He’d work till a headache or seizure disabled him, then go to bed and get up and try again the next day.  Neeley’s brothers helped him get his crops in the next spring, hoping he’d rally with time.  Neeley and the children worked beside him, the baby toddling right along behind.  When it came time to pick the cotton, they all picked with the baby either riding along on their cotton sacks or playing between the rows.  Despite their best efforts, they barely made enough to pay the rent for the next year.  They’d be able to eat what Neeley canned or dried from the garden, but there was only enough money for shoes for the the oldest kids, the ones in school.  The others were resoled, reheeled, and passed down.  Neeley always bought brown lace-up oxfords, so they could be worn by boys and girls.  They had fattened six shoats to put in the smokehouse, but decided they’d best sell three for supplies and next spring’s seed.

It would be a hard winter, but they’d squeak by.  Neeley was exhausted from picking up Eddie’s extra load as well as keeping up her own work.  She was relieved to anticipate things easing up till she started throwing up in the mornings and realized she hadn’t had a visit from “her friend” in a couple of months.

Hard Time Marrying Part 25

 

big-wildflowerThey got home well before dark.  While Joe and Little Joe milked and tended the stock, Anya put Sally in her sling and walked across the meadow down to the creek.  The cow and calf grazed near the willows, the calf didn’t have to be kept up to protect the milk, though all it enjoyed was its mother’s company since she’d gone dry.  Joe hadn’t bothered to scythe down the weeds since he didn’t have to worry about the coming calf.  The stand of Queen Anne’s lace waved its graceful heads, its regal beauty given no hint of its hidden use.  Anya had often gathered wildflowers on her walk, bringing back an apron full of Black-Eyed Susan’s, bright Indian Blanket, and Texas Bluebonnets, loving the way their colors brightened the cabin.  She’d never been especially fond of white, but today, filled her apron with the lacy white flowers and nothing else.

Emma had sent home enough chicken and dumplings for another meal.  With biscuits from breakfast and Emma’s conserve, it made a festive supper.  Little Joe licked his plate and Sally kept squealing and reaching for the conserve, long after she plastered herself with hers.  They laughed as they cleaned the little ones up.  The children were reluctant to settle in bed after their exciting day and the hilarity at supper.  Joe lay on the cot with his little namesake was still while Anya rocked Sally.

He came back to the table and took Anya’s hand.  Looking pointedly at the pot of white flowers, he said, “You want to be careful with those.  You know they made the cow lose her calf.  I don’t want nothin’ happenin’ to you.  A baby is just a baby.”

Anya started crying.  “Joe, I don’t even know if I want this baby.  I was hopin’ things could go on the way they were.  You have already taken in your dead wife’s little ones and now this.  This baby was forced on me.  I don’t know if I can do right by it, let alone love it.  I think it might be better if you let me do what I need to do and after, if you want, we can figure somethin’ out.  We can make a clean start or I can leave once I am back on my feet if you want. We ain’t married and you done took care of me a long time.  You don’t owe me nothin’.  You could always look for a woman to come stay and help out till she’s bigger.  The West is full of women who need somebody to do for an’ a place to stay.”

Joe was a man of few words.  “Anya, I know what it is to be alone.  I never knew my pa, these younguns don’t know their pa.  You done without a ma. The world don’t have to be such a cold place. You’re are a good woman an’ I seen how you love these little fellers.  I want you, and that little feller you’re a’carrying if that’s the way you see it.”  He picked up his hat to go to the barn.

Anya looked from Sally to Joe as a tear dropped on Sally’s blonde head.  She reached out, putting a hand on Joe’s shoulder.  “Stay, Joe.  It’s time Sally started sleepin’ in with Little Joe.”

Tenderly, Joe tucked Sally in on the far side of the cot with Little Joe, then put out the light.

Hard Time Marrying Part 23

sod-house-2

Anya just drank up Emma’s house as Emma showed her through.  A bright oilcloth covered the kitchen table.  Gingham curtains fluttered in the window.  A cast-iron cook stove filled one corner of the kitchen and a few dish-lined shelves covered the walls over the cook table.  A dishpan hung on one side of the stove and a few pots on the other.  A can of flour and a bread board set on the cook table.   Doors opened off either side of the kitchen and rough stairs climbed to the attic opposite the stove.  An apron hung on a nail, next to an embroidered drying towel.  A water bucket and dipper stood on a shelf next to the back door.  A cracked mirror in a frame hung there also, along with a comb on a string, concession to vanity.

“We got bedrooms opening off both sides of the kitchen.  When Melvin got old enough, he slept in the attic.  He moved downstairs after Marthy married.  He’s courtin’ Jenny Parker, now, so I reckon they could be a weddin’ before too long.  I always hoped we’d have to build more rooms fer a passel of younguns, but I guess the Good Lord thought two was a’plenty.  We ain’t always had it so nice.  Twenty-four years ago we started digging out a sod house when I was first a’carrying Martha.  We ain’t been married long an’ didn’t have nothin’ but a start of seed, Rufus’s old gun, the clothes we stood up in, a few quilts, some old pots and crockery my ma spared me, an ax, shovel, plow and a mule and wagon Joe’s pa set him up with. Our folks was mighty good to help us like that.  They ain’t had much neither.  We slept in the wagon fer a few weeks while we planted and Joe dug sod.  By July, it had dried out enough so we could frame up with poles Joe cut down by the creek.  By the time Rufus had a good-sized hole dug, the sod had dried enough to stack.  We set corner poles and got to stacking them soddy bricks.  After we got high as I could reach on the north side, Rufus stacked the rest of the way up and I started the next wall.  We took the wagon apart to frame up the door and build a tight door.  Joe sodded up a lean-to for the mule off the back wall of our soddy. I sure hated to see that old wagon go, but there weren’t no timber.  We sodded the roof, and it was good enough to get us through a winter or two. 

After our second crop come in, Joe come up with enough lumber to build a two-room cabin.  I was sure proud.  That soddy kept us out of the cold, but when it rained mud was always fallin’ in on us….and the bugs!  We couldn’t keep them bugs out!  A cabin is sure a comfort! He built the other bedroom I was carrying the still-born baby, but we didn’t need more room till Melvin come along.

That old soddy comes in handy as a root cellar now.  Long as we keep plenty of dry straw on the floor and don’t let the taters, sweet taters, turnips, and apples from touchin’ they’ll keep till spring.  I hang my onions and herbs on the rafters so they keep good.  I make leather britches out of my green beans so we can have a taste of fresh all winter.  A few years ago, Rufus brung me in some a’them canning jars an’ I been able to put up conserves when the fruit comes in.  I was so proud, I ‘bout cried when I seen ‘em.  Here, I want you to have this wild plum conserve I put up.  It will go so good with your fine biscuits.”  Emma was justly proud of her home and housekeeping.

Tears came to Anya’s eyes.  “Oh Emma, this is the finest thing I’ve ever been given.  I’ll make sure to git your jar safe back to you.”

“Oh no you won’t.  It’s a weddin’ present.  Every woman should have something fine from a friend.  I am proud to be your first one here.”  Emma hugged Anya to her with the warmth of a mother.  “I’m sure praying you’ll carry this little one and be spared the sorrow I felt.”

“Emma, I am so worried about this baby.” Anya whispered.

 

 

Hard Time Marrying Part 21

Emma tapped on the door, explaining before she even got in. “I can’t stay.  Me and Rufus is on the way to town.  Nellie Mason told me your cow was dry, so I brung you some butter and two gallons of milk for the youguns.  If it turns before they finish it, you might have enough for a churning.  Can I bring you anything from town? ”

“Thank you, but no.  This milk and butter are sure welcome. Are you sure you cain’t set awhile?  I wouldn’t mind a cup of coffee with a friend.  It gets mighty quiet with Joe gone all day.”  Anya longed for the comfort of a woman’s company.

“No, Rufus is a’waitin’ in the wagon.  I better get on, but I sure wish you’d ride over with Joe Saturday when he comes to help Rufus fix the windmill.  I could kill a chicken an’ make some dumplings.  We could have some good woman talk.”  Emma’s eyes crinkled.  “Is Joe proud about the baby?”

“Oh, I ain’t told him yet.  I been spottin’ some and I’m afeared I may not carry it.  I don’t want him to worry if they ain’t no need.”  Anya had no idea how that spilled out.

“”I’ve sorrowed over that.  I lost two between Martha and Melvin.  I’ll pray for you.”  She gave Anya a warm hug.

Tears sprung to Anya’s eyes at her friend’s kindness.  “I thank you, Emma.  I’d be proud to see you on Saturday.”

“That will be something to look forward to.  See you then.”  Anya followed Emma into the yard and waved as the Menlo’s wagon rattled off.

 

Hard Time Marrying Part 19

img_1599Upon Emma’s reference to pregnancy, Anya was so shocked she knocked her coffee over.  It ran off the table onto little Sally’s blonde curls.  Sally howled and both women jumped to see to her.  She wailed, but fortunately her face wasn’t even pink.  The next few minutes were full of mopping her up and changing her clothes.  By the time they’d finished, Rufus had stepped to the door and called Emma to go.  Anya composed herself enough to make her goodbyes, promising to ride over with Joe in a few days.

Sick with dread, Anya settled to rock Sally to sleep and consider Emma’s observation.        She couldn’t remember the last time she’d had the curse.  She hadn’t had to wash rags since she’d been here and didn’t know how long before that.  The abuse she’d endured before escaping and her confusion from her injuries had left her disoriented. The time had all run together.  It was true she’d put on a little weight, but pregnancy had never crossed her mind.  Her hand flew to her belly when she felt an undeniable swelling and her full breasts pushed against the bodice of the dress she’d taken from the store of things in the bundle Joe’s wife had brought with her.

Would this nightmare never end?  Just when it looked as though life might work out, this horror raised its head.  And all this after she’d insisted she wasn’t a whore!  Joe had already been saddled with two children from his dead wife and had tried to pass them off to the townspeople, only to be turned away.  She’d thought she’d never want to be a wife till this terrible turn and now realized a life with Joe and the children would have been precious.  Silent tears ran down her cheeks onto Sweet Sally’s sleepy head.

Joe and came in from outdoors to the tender sight of Anya rocking the baby in the light streaming through the window.  Little Joe ran to her for a hug.  Joe’s heart swelled with love for his family.  Life was turning around for him after all his years alone.

 

 

Southern Hospitality

imageA few weeks before Kathleen’s baby was due in June, 1947, Bill made arrangements for his friend Lon’s wife Sally to take her for her doctor’s visit.  He dropped her off not long after six in the morning, picked Lon up, leaving Kathleen to spend the day with Sandy, Lon’s wife.  The couples had Continue reading