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.

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.

two-women-standing-on-a-log-ca-1900.jpg

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.

It’s Here! Fat and Sassy!

Fat and Sassy_Cover

It’s Here!

Fat and Sassy

Arkansas moonshine and California citrus.

A stone church and an ironing board.

Post-Depression woes.

World War II.

Mix it all up. Add six children into the mix, three of each, and you’ve got a unique product – Bea Jones. A lady, when asked how she was, liked to retort, “I’m fat and sassy.”

Bea’s tale takes you on the ride from California to Arkansas – to Missouri – and back to California in the early forties. The family finally settles down in a small California town, Glendora, nestled at the base of the foothills. While they viewed Mt. Baldy every day, life also threw its own mountains in the Jones’ family path. Come along and join the family as Bea and Casey struggle to keep their family fed and clothed, with just a bit of Arkie sass.

Order your copy direct from Trisha Faye and save!

Only $11.99 by July 30th! (Plus $2.75 shipping)

 

HERE’S A STORY SNIPPET FROM FAT AND SASSY…

The last day on the road seemed the longest. The children were cranky and restless after being cooped up in the car for six days. The food was about gone. Only saltine crackers and two tins of Vienna sausages remained from what they’d left California with. Casey had counted the last few dollars in his wallet, hoping it was enough to buy gasoline to get them to their destination. Bea was tired of refereeing the children, keeping them from fussing and fighting with each other.

When Casey pulled off the main road and slowed down to navigate the dirt road ahead, the children gave a cheer.

Mae recognized what the moment meant first. “Goody, goody! We’re almost at Papa’s house!”

The car jostled and bounced down the road. A plume of dust followed, swirling around the car and choking the passengers. “Roll up the windows!” Bea hollered as she cranked the front window as fast as she could.

Mae got one window up in the back while Bill still struggled with the other. Mae climbed over Helen and started turning the window knob.

“Me do it!” Bill insisted.

Mae kept turning. “You’re not going it fast enough.”

Bea turned and asked her husband. “You remember where?”

“Oh yes. I can make this trip with my eyes closed. Seems like just yesterday I was makin’ this trip, pickin’ up a load of ‘shine from yore Papa. Yes, siree, I know the layout of this land back here.” He chuckled with the memories of an earlier, more footloose time. “Made the trip several times in the dark with no headlights on neither.”

The prim set of Bea’s mouth showed what she thought of her father’s backyard business. “I’m surely glad you ‘aint running his liquor back up into Missouri anymore. Don’t want you gettin’ picked up for running shine and thrown in jail. Not while you have a family to provide for now.”

“No reason to anymore. ‘Cept the money sure was good. I wouldn’t mind a pocketful of cash like that again.”

“No! Don’t even think it. The Good Lord will provide for us. You don’t need to go back to that.”

“I can leave it behind. Besides, I got the best end of the deal. I got me the purtiest little gal out of it. Comin’ down here that first trip and seein’ Sam Goss’s daughter for the first time…why…that’s the onliest thing that kept me comin’ back.” He glanced across the seat at Bea and winked.

“That was on Valentine’s Day, too. 1935. And six months later, we were getting’ hitched.” A blush rose across her cheeks. “My stars, Evan Lewis Jones! Four children later and you can still get a girl all worked up.”

FS_wedding day.jpg

Evan ‘Casey’ Jones and Beatrice Goss on their wedding day, August 4, 1935

He chuckled and patted her knee. “I know when you call me by name, and not Casey, you’re serious ‘bout what you say.”

“Truth be told…” Bea paused and turned her head to watch his reaction. “…there may be child number five on the way.”

Casey braked the car and it slid to a stop in the middle of the road. “Truly?”

“Far as I know. I don’t recollect having my monthly visitor. I was feelin’ kinda peaked there for a few weeks. I was a thinkin’ it was nerves. Ya know, worrying about the bills and the move and all. But now I’m a wonderin’ if’n I’m not in the family way again.”

A broad smile broke across Casey’s face. “Well, I’ll give a hoot and a holler. I’m gonna be a daddy again.”

Grinning, he straightened up behind the wheel and gave the car some gas. “Guess we’d better git the little mother on home to her Papa’s house a’fore the cows come home.”

Bea sat back in the seat and shifted Tom to her other knee. She was relieved how well he’d taken the news. What with money being so tight and food and necessities so hard to come by, she hadn’t wanted to worry him anymore than he already was. He was a good man and she was proud to be his wife. He was a good father and he loved his children. He was fun to be around and she was still as taken with him as she’d been since she met him. It wasn’t his fault that times were so tough and jobs were so far and few between.

They pulled up in front of a small wooden structure that was little more than a shack in other more affluent areas. Rough, unpainted planks formed walls. A tin roof covered the home and a small porch area off the front side of the building. The back doorway led inside, the threshold slightly tilted as if sinking on one side. The door stood open, the cook room visible to everyone in the yard. Chickens ran loose around the dirt yard and when the car pulled in they ran off in a flurry, clucking with all their might.

A slight frown settled on Bea’s countenance.  “It sure looks a lot smaller and older than what I remember.”

A figure appeared in the doorway, sporting a well-worn, faded pair of overalls.

Bea fumbled with the door before Casey had the sedan in park. She scurried out of the car, hefted Tom up on her hip and hurried towards the house. “Sam!”

Sam stepped out, one slow step after another, in no apparent hurry. Bea enveloped him in a bear hug. “I’m so glad to see you. I’ve missed you, Brother.”

“Missed you too, Sis. Glad y’all got here in one piece.” He tousled the little heads that had followed their mother and were now hugging his knees. “Looky here, how big y’all have gotten.”

“Where’s Papa at?” Bea was anxious to see the familiar face of her daddy.

“He’s down in the holler, checkin’ on the mash.”

“I thought he gave all that up when Mama died. I thought he wasn’t gonna cook ‘shine no more.”

“I don’t know ‘bout that. He didn’t cook any up through the winter. This is the first batch he’s got going. ‘Course, that’s cuz it was so cold and he didn’t want to fuss with the mash that much.”

“Ayup.” Casey joined the brother-sister reunion. “I recollect one winter when it took him a whole month to run one pot of ‘shine. We had some antsy customers that year. Takes too much work in the winter. Once it’s below fifty degrees, the yeast just won’t ferment and then the alcohol content is too low. Not worth the bother.”

Sam tipped his head back and laughed. “And then we really have some unhappy customers!”

Bill tugged on his father’s pants leg. “What’s ‘shine, Daddy?”

 

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