Peonies and Peppermint

It’s November, time of the frantic NANO 30 day sprint. If you can call it a sprint. By the end of the 30-days, trying to write 50,000 words during the month, it hardly feels like a sprint. More like a long distance endurance challenge.

But for many writers, including this procrastinator, sometimes a challenge of this nature is what pushes us forward, urging us to hit a huge goal. And since the past two months I barely completed writing 10,000 each month, I’m looking forward to hitting some larger marks this month.

Because it’s NANO, I’m taking a break from the story I’ve been (slowly) working on the past few months, Manifesting Love Club. This month is a new tale, a historical fiction called Peonies and Peppermint. It’s set in northwest Arkansas in the late 1800’s.

Jennie Lee Barnes, her husband David, grown daughter Eliza Jane and her husband Luke, moved to this part of Arkansas three years prior, following the Civil War. Being ‘Northerners’, from Missouri, the neighbors are slow to accept these newcomers. Molly, a young girl from a neighboring farm comes to fetch Jennie’s help in birthing a baby for her mother. When Mr. Rider arrives home, he’s not so pleased to see the women there, despite his wife needing assistance.

Join us as we take a step back in time and peek in on the life of these families from the past. Then return to TUESDAY TALES to read more story snippets. Each week Tuesday Tales authors write to a word prompt, except for one week a month when we write to a picture prompt. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘island.’

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“We don’t need you Northerner’s here meddling in our business.”

Jennie hesitated before answering, trying to remain polite, despite the man’s rudeness. “Molly came to fetch me. Your wife needed assistance.”

“Oh, fiddle-cock she did. Now…skedaddle. Git on out a’ here.”

Eliza looked on anxiously as she gathered her mother’s supplies and tucked them back in the basket.

“Now…John…” Martha protested weakly from the bed where she lay nursing the baby. “Mrs. Barnes only…”

“Hush, woman,” the angry husband commanded. He tightened his shoulders and banged his fist on the table shaking the pail of water remaining from birthing the baby. Water sloshed over the sides and ran down the crude hewn legs, leaving a damp circle of wetness in the packed dirt floor. “They did enough damaged here during the war. She needs to just git on home. Better still…” His face turned a bright shade of scarlet as he continued his rant. “Git on back to Missouri. We don’t need you and yore likes here.”

Mr. Rider took a step closer to the bedside and Eliza scurried to her mother’s side, clutching her mom’s basket tightly in her hands, as if the woven basket could protect them from the wrath of an angry, six foot tall man.

Jennie started to open her mouth – then thought better and clamped it shut. Grabbing her daughter’s hand, the two fled the tiny abode, unsure how far Mr. Rider’s temper would flare.

The two women hurried back to their own property, arm in arm, not saying a word until they were clear of the Rider’s rickety cabin. Their stride was harried and purposeful, making the return journey almost as quickly as when they’d rushed to their neighbor’s aide.

Jennie was the first to break their silence. “Doesn’t he know the old saying about ‘no man is an island’?” she muttered, more to herself than to her daughter.

“Probably not, since I don’t know what you mean by that. I’ve heard you say those words before though. Just never gave it no mind to what you meant by it.”

“Simple enough. Merely that no one is self-sufficient. Everyone relies on others. Even if its neighbors you don’t like ‘cuz they’re from the north.”

“You make them fancy words up yourself?”

“Not a chance.” Jenny laughed and the stress lines around her mouth eased a little. “My granddaddy used to say it quite a bit. Came from one of his treasured devotion books. The one he read most often, after his Bible. Think it was an English author. Way back before his time even.”

log-cabin-inside“Surprised you even remember the saying. You must have been a small tyke.”

“Indeed I was. Barely knee-high to a grasshopper. I loved that old man to pieces.” A gentle smile appeared as Jennie seemed to step back in time, fondly recalling memories of her younger years. “Used to sit on the floor by Granddad while he read scriptures and devotions to us in the evening.”

The women didn’t tarry and kept on walking. Each seemed lost in their own thoughts. As they rounded the final bend before their property, Jennie burst out suddenly. “I remember! ‘No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main.’ It came back to me…just as if Granddad were reading aloud to me.”

“And that is what being neighborly is all about,” Eliza replied.

“It surely is, daughter.”

David stood in the open doorway of their log structure, watching his wife and daughter return. “I was worried. You’ve been gone quite a while since Eliza fetched your remedy basket. He stepped back and let the women enter. “Everything alright at the Rider’s?”

“That hard headed, obstinate man!” Jenny spit out. “You’d think we gone done and killed his favorite hog, the way he was going on. Why, just remembering what all he said has me all worked up like a wet hen again.” She moved to the wash basin sitting on the table and started scrubbing her hands as if she could wash the angry words from her mind. “Wantin’ us to go on back to where we came from. And with us just there to help his wife,” she sputtered.

—Thanks for stopping by! Join us next week for another excerpt from Peonies & Peppermint. For more reading pleasure, return to Tuesday Tales here.

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Peonies and Peppermint – bread

It’s November, time of the frantic NANO 30 day sprint. If you can call it a sprint. By the end of the 30-days, trying to write 50,000 words during the month, it hardly feels like a sprint. More like a long distance endurance challenge.

But for many writers, including this procrastinator, sometimes a challenge of this nature is what pushes us forward, urging us to hit a huge goal. And since the past two months I barely completed writing 10,000 each month, I’m looking forward to hitting some larger marks this month.

Because it’s NANO, I’m taking a break from the story I’ve been (slowly) working on the past few months, Manifesting Love Club. This month is a new tale, a historical fiction called Peonies and Peppermint. It’s set in northwest Arkansas in the late 1800’s.

Jennie Lee Barnes, her husband David, grown daughter Eliza Jane and her husband Luke, moved to this part of Arkansas three years prior, following the Civil War. Being ‘Northerners’, from Missouri, the neighbors are slow to accept these newcomers. But Jennie Lee finds that her herbal remedies and midwifery skills go a long ways towards gaining their acceptance.

Join us as we take a step back in time and peek in on the life of these families from the past. Then return to TUESDAY TALES to read more story snippets. Each week Tuesday Tales authors write to a word prompt, except for one week a month when we write to a picture prompt. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘bread.’

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“Over here!” Eliza called out first. “Coltsfoot. A huge patch coming up.”

Jennie stepped over to Eliza’s side of the hollow and kneeled next to Eliza who was already plucking the fresh greenery sprouting from the earth. The women spent several minutes, tugging the emerald stalks that poked their way through the mulch of oak and sassafras leaves. Jennie added a handful to Eliza’s basket. “Better to keep it all together and not have to sort it out later.”

When they’d cleared a good portion of the patch, leaving some to grow and propagate, Jenny stood and wiped her brow. Looking over at her daughter, she squinted, as if sizing her up to see how she was holding up. Not even a bead of sweat glistened on Eliza’s brow. Jennie decided that they were good to keep going a bit longer.

They hadn’t wandered far from their first treasure trove when Jennie found the next. “Over here. There’s some nettles on this side.”

tt-picking-herbsThe women plucked gingerly on this crop. Even so, Eliza still muttered an occasional, “Ouch!”

Jennie laughed softly under her breath. “I see you don’t have as much experience at picking nettles.”

“No, I don’t, Mother. Honestly. I don’t know how you’ve done this for all these years.”

“It’s not so bad really. Look for the youngest ones. They’re not as prickly.”

“My fingers are starting to burn.” Eliza stuck a finger in her mouth and sucked on it to try to ease the sting.

“I’d say rub it with parsley when we get back, so you don’t get a nettle rash. But, I don’t think the parsley has come up yet. I’ll put a salve on it instead.”

“You and your herbs. Leave it to my mother to know what to do.” She stopped and looked at her mother with a quizzical expression on her face. “How’d you learn all of this?”

“Why, from my mother, of course. And her mother, too. Mostly from Granny, I suppose. She kept all the knowledge in her head. Walking through the woods with her was like having a talking book with you.” She smiled and paused, reflecting on her memories before she continued. “She knew more about plant medicine than anyone around. I don’t know but a small piece of what all she knew.”

Eliza sat on a large rock and let her mother finish pulling what she wanted.

Jennie glanced up and saw that her daughter looked paler than when they’d set out. Moving slowly and carefully up the hill towards where Eliza sat, Jennie plucked a folded dishtowel from her apron pocket. She unfolded the towel to reveal two slices of bread nestled inside the towel. “Here, dear. Have a bite to eat. I brought us each a slice. Then, let’s head back. We’ve got enough. Once your father digs the sassafras for me, I’ll be set for a good bit.”

About half way back to their cabins, Eliza looked up by a rock over cropping. She squinted and held her hand up over her eyes. “Look at all the brambles up there. It looks like berry vines. Maybe blackberries. Don’t you use blackberry leaves for something?”

“I make a tea with the dried leaves. They’re probably not leafed out enough yet. I usually harvest those around May or June.”

“You’re right. They’re not very green yet. Looks like they’re just budding. We’ll come back later to get some.”

“That would be nice, dear. I always appreciate your help. I’m surely pleased with what we did find today.”

They neared the spring and sat their baskets and walking sticks down to wash their hands and rest for a moment.

The peace was broken by the frantic calls of a young girl. “Mrs. Barnes! Mrs. Barnes!”

Jennie looked confused. She stood and surveyed the landscape, looking for the source of the cries. She finally spotted the youngster, their neighbor’s daughter, running down from the back side of the house. “Molly?”

 

—Thanks for stopping by! Join us next week for another excerpt from Peonies & Peppermint. For more reading pleasure, return to Tuesday Tales here.

Peonies and Peppermint –

It’s November, time of the frantic NANO 30 day sprint. If you can call it a sprint. By the end of the 30-days, trying to write 50,000 words during the month, it hardly feels like a sprint. More like a long distance endurance challenge.

But for many writers, including this procrastinator, sometimes a challenge of this nature is what pushes us forward, urging us to hit a huge goal. And since the past two months I barely completed writing 10,000 each month, I’m looking forward to hitting some larger marks this month.

Because it’s NANO, I’m taking a break from the story I’ve been (slowly) working on the past few months, Manifesting Love Club. This month is a new tale, a historical fiction called Peonies and Peppermint. It’s set in northwest Arkansas in the late 1800’s.

Jennie Lee Barnes, her husband David, grown daughter Eliza Jane and her husband Luke, moved to this part of Arkansas three years prior, following the Civil War. Being ‘Northerners’, from Missouri, the neighbors are slow to accept these newcomers. But Jennie Lee finds that her herbal remedies and midwifery skills go a long ways towards gaining their acceptance.

Join us as we take a step back in time and peek in on the life of these families from the past. Then return to TUESDAY TALES to read more story snippets. Each week Tuesday Tales authors write to a word prompt, except for one week a month when we write to a picture prompt. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘town.’

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Sleep was a long time coming for Jennie. Not so for her husband, who was snoring loudly a good while before she extinguished the lantern and headed to bed. When feeble early sunlight began peeking in through the chinks around the window, Jennie was already laying there with her eyes wide open. A hoarse, groggy rooster crowed from the yard, sounding far from energetic himself.

Jenny eased out of bed, the husks in the mattress rustling with her movement. David stirred in his slumber, but she knew that he would be up not far behind her. She slipped out the door, headed towards the privy in back. Pausing, she basked in the beauty of the still, early morning. The sun barely shone over the ridge to the east. The soft call of owls followed their otherwise silent flight as they completed their final runs for the night before heading back to their nests to doze. A full moon hung in the west, soon to dip below the horizon.

full-moon-morning-sky

A crunch of dried leaves warned her of company approaching. She looked up to find her husband headed in her direction.

He wiped sleep from his eyes before he combed his fingers through locks of tousled hair. “Enjoying your solitude?”

“Aye. ‘Tis peaceful out here at daybreak.” She pointed to the western sky. “It’s the Peony Moon this month. I was so worried about Eliza last night that I nigh on didn’t notice.”

David glanced around the homestead, squinting his eyes as he peered at the small clumps of green foliage beginning to sprout around the sides of the tiny, handcrafted cabin. A puzzled look crossed his face. “There’s lots of plants and flowers that you tend to through the year. Don’t remember seeing any peonies here.”

“No. Not here.” A sad look replaced the peacefulness that had filled her face just moments before.

“You always had lots of peonies. They were your favorite bloom.”

“I lost the seeds on the move here. Remember, we lost a crate when it fell off the wagon and tumbled down the ravine?”

“I recollect that incident. I thanked the Good Lord that we didn’t lose the whole wagon on that nasty turn just outside of that small town we stopped at in southern Missouri.”

“Or our lives. The whole wagon could have gone down. Along with us. A packet full of seeds wrapped in a piece of muslin is insignificant compared to what could have happened.”

He stood and wrapped his arms around his wife. “My best hammer was in that box we lost. But it doesn’t compare to the thought of losing you. You are more precious to me than any of our possessions.”

A pleased smile replaced the earlier frown that had briefly settled on Jennie’s countenance when she’d thought of losing her beloved flower seeds. “Yes. We all four made the journey safely. Being here together as a family is more important than where we lay our heads at night. We’re still together and all healthy. Mostly. Except for Eliza right now.”

“Want to go check on her?”

Jennie fought an impulse to run towards the cabin that housed her daughter and son-in-law. “No. Most likely she’ll still be sleeping. I’ll fix our breakfast first. Then I’ll dash over and check on her.” She pointed towards the weather-beaten outhouse sheltered by a towering oak and giggled. “After I stop in here first.”

“Hurry up woman, before I beat you to it.” David patted her retreating rear as she turned and moved towards the outbuilding.

 

Peonies and Peppermint – band

It’s November, time of the frantic NANO 30 day sprint. If you can call it a sprint. By the end of the 30-days, trying to write 50,000 words during the month, it hardly feels like a sprint. More like a long distance endurance challenge.

But for many writers, including this procrastinator, sometimes a challenge of this nature is what pushes us forward, urging us to hit a huge goal. And since the past two months I barely completed writing 10,000 each month, I’m looking forward to hitting some larger marks this month.

Because it’s NANO, I’m taking a break from the story I’ve been (slowly) working on the past few months, Manifesting Love Club. This month is a new tale, a historical fiction called Peonies and Peppermint. It’s set in northwest Arkansas in the late 1800’s.

Jennie Lee Barnes, her husband David, grown daughter Eliza Jane and her husband Luke, moved to this part of Arkansas three years prior, following the Civil War. Being ‘Northerners’, from Missouri, the neighbors are slow to accept these newcomers. But Jennie Lee finds that her herbal remedies and midwifery skills go a long ways towards gaining their acceptance.

Join us as we take a step back in time and peek in on the life of these families from the past. Then return to TUESDAY TALES to read more story snippets. Each week Tuesday Tales authors write to a word prompt, except for one week a month when we write to a picture prompt. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘band.’

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1881, Rogers, Arkansas

Wadding her apron into a bundle, Jennie carefully eased the cast iron skillet off the cook stove. She settled it on the sturdy metal trivet on the counter and plucked two steaming biscuits out. She dropped them on a plate that was already filled with several pieces of fried chicken and mound of mushy green beans. She handed the plate to her husband, who sat at the oilcloth covered table with knife and fork in hand as if a king waiting for his royal due.

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My inspiration for Jennie Lee and her daughter

She wiped her hands on the white cotton apron around her waist. “I’m going to run over to Eliza’s while you’re eating and check on her.”

“Something wrong with the girl?”

“No. Not that I know of. Just haven’t seen her today yet. She’s usually over her in the afternoon when she gets done with her chorin’.”

“Probably got busy. She’s a married woman now. Not a little girl tied to yore apron strings anymore.”

A soft sigh escaped Jennie’s lips. “I know. But she’s so good about stopping by every day that I worry if she doesn’t.” She wrung her hands absently, not even realizing what she was doing.

“Could have fooled me. You two…yore thick as thieves. Why, I’d almost claim you were attached at the hip. Good thing their house is on our land, nice and close. Why…Jennie Lee…whatever would you do if you had to make the trip clear into town to see your daughter? Or, heaven help us…what if they’d decided not to move south with us?” Her husband took a bite of beans and swallowed before continuing. “What if they’d stayed up in Missouri? You’d be in a mess o’ trouble then.”

“Why David Carl Barnes! How can you even utter that thought?” Color flooded her cheeks as the possibility of what could have happened flitted through her mind. “Of course she and her Luke would move with us. She is my only daughter.”

“I know that, dear.” His face softened and his eyes clouded slightly. He spoke a little softer with his next words. “I know it’s harder. Since the other losses. I’m just a’ sayin’ that you might want to give the girl a little room. She does have her own husband and house to tend to now.”

Jennie settled down in the vacant chair, her empty plate staring up at her. She spoke in a whisper. “It’s only that I worry so.”

Her husband shook his head and picked up a chicken leg. “I know you do. I’d almost think your name was ‘Jennie Worry’ instead of ‘Jenny Lee.’ Run along. Go check on the girl. Make sure everything’s all right.”

Before he finished speaking, Jennie leaped from the table and was lifting her apron over her head. She barely hung it on the hook on the wall before the door was slamming behind her as she rushed down the path towards her daughter’s abode.

The sun set long before Jennie returned home. The kerosene lamp sitting in the middle of the kitchen table cast a band of light around the one room cabin. David sat reading his Bible and held his finger on the verse to keep his place. Jennie gathered her sewing basket from beside the bed and joined him at the table.

He licked his thumb and turned a page before questioning after Eliza’s welfare. “You were gone a long while. Is the girl ill?”

—Thanks for stopping by! Join us next week for another excerpt from Peonies & Peppermint. For more reading pleasure, return to Tuesday Tales here.

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