This is the most recent addition to our family’s story, as told through “The Flowering Vine” series. If you haven’t already, please be sure to read:
The Flowering Vine: A Family Story
The Flowering Vine: Mother Speaks
Today’s story, written by Ron, is about our Great-Great Grandmother Mary, our Great-Grandmother Lula, and our Grandfather Leroy (Mother’s husband).
Let other bards of angels sing,
Bright suns without a spot;
But thou art no such perfect thing:
Rejoice that thou art not!
The year is 1910, but 1910 is not where the story began, but it is where the story is; like an old, sepia-colored photograph that has somehow rumbled magically to life and has shaken off its sepia suit to don a cloak of many colors; a multi-colored cloak rivaling the one which inspired so much treachery and envy amongst Joseph’s brothers; a cloak in “living color”.
At one of the countless crossroads in time, an old buckboard wagon; drawn by two tired, black mules, rolled bumpily down the dusty, winding way, which went from the “big house”—where old Marse Hatfield lived and where he sold goods from the plantation’s “store”—down the gently sloping hill towards the patchwork of parcels on Hatfield’s ample acreage; down to the battered barns on failing farms, occupied by the down-trodden denizens who sharecropped there.
The wagon, heavily laden with sundry dry goods and various vitals, purchased at the “store”, carried an even more precious cargo than the farm life fundamentals. It also toted life on board, for the black mules were driven to tow the toddling wagon, by the firm brown hands and booming voice of the formidable “head-of-household”, Miss Mary!
Heed not tho’ none should call thee fair;
So, Mary, let it be
If nought in loveliness compare
With what thou art to me.
Riding shotgun for Miss Mary, was her good friend and widowed sister-in-law, Ella; while sitting, squatting, laying, dangling, and napping, on the rear of the wagon, were six of the seven children of the immutable matron and her sister-friend Ella. Mary’s oldest son, Jim, had stayed home on the farm, for there was always a mountain of work to be done for a sharecropper and he, by default, was the man of the house.
Mary’s second oldest—her golden skinned, mulatto daughter Lula—sat with her back to the others and her shapely, cream-colored legs, dangling from the open-ended back of the wagon and her pretty, bare-feet, barely brushing along the top of the dirt road passing slowly beneath her. A light trail of dust marked her passing, as it lifted from the road then whirled briefly, before becoming intermingled with the larger cloud, whipped up by the weighty wagon’s wooden wheels.
She had been charged by Mary to; “Keep an eye on the little ones Lula!” but the cool feel of the dust beneath her toes and the wiggling and giggling of the ten-month-old boy sitting in her lap, with his head full of straight, jet-black hair blowing in the gentle breeze, demanded all of her attention. His name was Leroy, and he was simultaneously; sweet, irresistible, and a whole, big handful, for he was a bundle of energy; always moving, grabbing, pulling, and trying to escape his young mother’s loving arms.
Also on the back of the wagon was Mary’s youngest son, the quiet, and sometimes sullen eight-year-old, Coley, and Ella’s rambunctious crew consisting of: seven-year-old Eddie, five-year-old Jesse, three-year-old Willie, and Ella’s baby boy; bad-assed little Pleas, at a squirming, one and a half, but going on twenty-years-old!
These four boys were Ella’s love—and Ella’s curse! A constant reminder that their father had been killed, while serving in the post-Civil War Army. However, he didn’t die in battle, for no battle had been fought during his lifetime. The army sent Ella a letter—along with his body which was contained within a pine box marked in bold, black letters, “PROPERTY OF US ARMY: FRAGILE” and that was it.
However, many—who swam regularly in “Rumor Mill Pond”—circulated a different story. They said that Ella’s husband had been killed by grown-assed White men dressed as “ghosts”, who variably called themselves; “Ghost Riders”, “Night Riders”, or “Knight Riders”, but knights, in the true sense of the word, they most certainly were not!
True beauty dwells in deep retreats,
Whose veil is unremoved
Till heart with heart in concord beats,
And the lover is beloved.
…to be continued