TAMMY ‘N JEB
Tammy stands over the old red and white enameled pot set on the old boards she had found and put together as her table, her hands in the steaming water washin up fast as she can. The ache in her back is hurtin something fierce and she knows it’s time for the baby, lawd she’s scared.
Jebs daddy let her stay here in this ol shack since her pa kicked her out, but he ain’t been back since he showed her where it was at. Said that was all he could do fer her since he dinna know for sure if’n the babe was Jebs, but he knew, her and Jeb been together since they was the size of newborn pups. Their momas had been best friends here in these hills all their lives, Jebs moma passed from that lung disease and her moma not allowed by pa to see her if she even knew where she was a stayin.
Oh the aches getting bad need to hurry, she had the bed all sterile and clean, her knife ready to cut the cord, old rags and blankets, plenty of hot water. Sure wish moma was here Lord, sure I do, she wrung out the rag dried her hands on the apron stretched taut across her belly, turning to eyeball her surroundings and making sure she had all she needed. The thaw had come and there was a leak or two in the tarpaper roof so she had moved the bed closer to the wood stove, which also made it easier to keep the fire going from the bed. Ohhhh, time to lay down the pressure getting heavier, the ache was sharper pains now and had been for a while but she had to make sure all was ready. She moved the small wash basin closer to the bed and sat down on the side of the shuck mattress she had made. Lying back she tried to remember how she had seen the animals do when it was their time, so she slowed her breathing and began to relax.
Time passed and the pain became more intense, like the water lapping up on the dirt at the fishing hole when they all jumped in rushing up then fading back again and again. Tammy soon began to writhe with the pain drawing her legs up and twisting back and forth. She began to dream of a cool cloth and soft hands on her face and forehead, someone making shooshing sounds as she cried out.
“Jeb, Jeb where are you?” she heard not realizing it was she crying out for him. Day became night as told by the oil cloth covered window with a half- moon shining through, the cool hand on her brow again “shhh, child shhh, soon a piece of cloth was placed in her mouth and she was told to bite down and push. Push hard she did as somewhere in the recesses of her mind she knew the pain would end soon if she did. Minutes later the soft mew of a babes cry was heard and Tammy fell off to sleep without knowing boy or girl or who the angel was that helped her.
Three months had passed and Glorianna Tamara Logan lay in the basket her Moma had weaved and built for her, Tammy tended her small garden planted and grown from seed gathered last fall. Tammy had a rabbit she had caught that morning for their supper cooking on the wood stove and a few fresh vegetables was all it needed. She gathered up the few carrots she had pulled, reaching for Glory in her basket she felt someone watching her. She turned quickly to the tree line and back around to the shack, looking but seeing no one, nothing, only the wreath of wildflowers hung on the door and the two old chickens she had traded wood for. Gathering up her slingshot, the babe and her vegetable bag she felt a shiver run down her spine and the hair on the back of her neck and arms stand up. Scurrying as fast as her bare feet would allow with her burdens she raced to the shack she called home now and slammed the door dropping the old fence post as her makeshift lock to keep critters out mostly across the door. Going to the window she dropped the oil cloth then pulled back the corner to peek out, still not seeing anything she backed up to get her slingshot and knife when she bumped into someone, screaming as strong arms wrapped around her and held her, Glory joining in with her cries.
“Tammy hush, hush, it’s me Jeb, ah my girl hush tis alright.” With that Tammy turned and fell in closer crying out “Jeb, Jeb oh my Lord it is you.”
Later after settling and feeding Glorianna, they began to talk about all that had happened, with Jeb telling her of the Kansas prairie and the thousand acres he had claimed for them planted it with wheat as golden as the sun. He had built a log house just three rooms but it would be home. He had worked day and night at any he could find and now he was here to get his family and take them home.
Their journey from the hills of Alabama to the flatlands of Kansas began the next day in the year of 1930.
“Glory, Beth ya’ll get in here an git your pa’s lunch.”
Beth my four year old sister and me, I’m six, ran from under the shade tree in the front yard into the kitchen where momma had us to fetch lunch.
We came from Alabama in 1930 to the golden state of Kansas for some prairie land that Pa said would keep us for life. He showed us pictures on a paper that the railroad had brought, it had grapes as big as watermelons and tomatoes like the sun and far as an eye could see fields of wheat all gold like momma said Jesus’ crown was like, it sparkled pretty.
Moma hitched up the team of horses and Beth caught her dress on a nail getting in the buggy scratching her leg and tearing her dress she started cryin like a an old baby, it was just a lil blood, I’da spit on it, wiped it off and gone on but Beth just kept crying. Moma said “Glorianna, take your Pa his lunch tell him we will see him at supper.”
I was so scared I ain’t never drove the horses by myself afore, what if I go the wrong way I asked moma, she just smiled patted my leg and said “you know the way, just listen to the sounds they will guide you.” I clicked the horses and off we went I was excited but oh so scared, pretty soon I noticed how the sun was so warm and the breeze so cool. The land for acres and acres was just rich and loamy smelling, the birds overhead just sailed on singing their songs to one another, once in a while swoopin down to grab a worm or insect.
Wasn’t long I heard pa’s new International tractor and knew I was close, I heard him tell moma once he wanted one of them John Deere’s but they was a mite costly, moma said she liked it cause it was green, I ain’t never seen a green deer afore. Pa said that was okay he could plow forty-fifty acres a day with the tractor no matter what kind, beat 2-3 acres with the old team we brought from ‘bama.
I finally reached where he was a plowin, it sure was pretty that tractor so shiny red and white, turnin green into a river of liquid chocolate with each turn of the earth. Like God had said “here is the valley of hard work but rich with reward if you’re willing to do it”, pa and moma was. I sat on that buggy watchin as swirls of wind danced across the fields with little pockets of dust in the heat of the noon day.
Pretty soon pa turned and saw me sitting there waiting on him. He came chugging up fairly close but not enough to spook the horses then walked on over, I handed him a water jug he took a big swig then whipped off his hat and wet his kerchief wiping his face afore putting his hat back on, the kerchief back around his neck making his collar all wet but cool. “Where’s your moma and Beth?” I told him what happened, he just smiled taking a big bite of the ham sandwich moma had made for him. “You better head on back for the rain starts,” he told me nodding to the north and then I realized that the sun had clouded over and the wind had picked up a bit, a lil shiver ran over me and I kissed his cheek and he grabbed the water jug trekking off towards the tractor. I turned the buggy back towards the house, thinking of writing my letters when I got back. Moma made sure I studied every day she said a woman can never be too smart in case she ever has to take care of herself. I wasn’t too sure what she meant but I liked my writing time.
I heard thunder and saw a crack of lightening just as I came over the knoll, moma and Beth were taking wash down, well moma was Beth was laughing and looked tangled up in some of it. Heading for the barn with the team I could see my momas moma, my gram sittin on the porch she was a rocking kinda fast, she said storms here in Kansas made her nervous. She had been with us since I was a baby she liked to say how the night I was born she found moma alone and needing her so she delivered me. I am kinda confused on that one cause pa says he found me in a turnip patch, but why would moma leave me in the turnip patch?
Moma came to put the horses a way, I got them some feed and we both ran for the house just as the sky opened up and the rain came. Laughing we ran up the porch steps and Beth scooted off Grams lap and ran to moma so I took her place. I love my gram she is so soft and her face has lots of lines, her eyes are the prettiest green and moma says her hair used be the color of cherries now it is so long, thick and she wears it in a long rope like braid that goes to her bottom to sit on when she takes the pins out.
“Moma, tell the girls how you came to be here with us.” Moma looked at me and winked then I knew she was just trying to get Grams mind off the storm which would pass soon. Gram, started rocking me and Beth stuck her thumb in her mouth and climbed on momas lap. Moma grabbed a light quilt from the rail to toss over her little legs, she would be asleep before long.
“Well, let me see now” gram started. “I had found your moma in the Logan’s old shack and helped bring you into the world Glory and when I went back home your Grandpa was mad as that old wet hen,” she nodded toward the chickens out in the yard running for the coop or the porch to get out of the rain.
“He was sick by then with the lung disease knowing he didn’t have much time left and he was still mad at your moma too for taking up with your Pa. By the time you were a few months old Glorianna, your grandpa had passed and I was just about ready to go get your moma and bring you both home when your ma and pa pulled into the yard one morning with all the belongings they had, headed for Kansas, when your Pa asked me to come with ya’ll I couldn’t say no now could I?”
Gram died that year of 1931, her lungs were bad and the dust, oh the dust how it got to us all.
We buried her out by the stream where the willow trees shaded her. Moma planted wildflower seed we had gathered earlier so that next spring it would be pretty for gram, Pa carved her a real pretty cross with even her name written in it, we all sang Amazing Grace, Grams favorite hymn.
We loved and played and grew, Moma and I planted sweet peas along the fence row by the chicken coop that next spring. Moma and Pa went to town one day and came back with two old sows one that was expecting moma said. “Expecting what?” I asked, Pa laughed when moma turned red and stammered “Us to eat her I guess” wasn’t long I figured out what she meant. Beth had been outside and she come running in hoopin and a hollerin that there were baby pigs…sure nuf ten of em boy they were cute but when Pa heard me say that he just laughed sayin “they’ll look cuter with a couple fried eggs and as a slice of ham”.
Life went on and the wheat came in there was a great threshing bee, men came from all over to help and seemed to me for miles all you could see was big bunches of it, Mom and Pa just smiled whenever a wagon load left the farm. It was fun watching all the men work, like watching ants scurrying about.
I especially liked visiting their camp, well the cooks wagon mostly, Cookie made the best cookies and sweets ever. Then at night we would sit out on our porch and listen to the guitar and fiddle playing, the music coming up the hill and right to us. Moma said she wished they could have brought her moms piano from Alabama, she missed being able to play, I didn’t know she could play and didn’t even know what a piano was or looked like.
The end of summer came and Pa had some of the men from the threshing stay to help him add two rooms to our house so now Mom had a proper parlor. My birthday came and I got a new dress and some new shoes but the most exciting was a book of blank paper and a new pencil so I could write all the stories in my head. Moma said I had good story sense so I should write them down.
It had been awhile since we had rain but we sure had wind it blew and blew strong, wasn’t long and pa was complainin how he would no more get the seed in and the wind blew it away. The winter wheat was coming in but it was thin and sick looking without moisture
Pretty soon men with their families loaded on wagons started coming by asking for work and telling how the wind dried up everything in Oklahoma, Colorado and even family farms right here in Kansas but a different part.
I watched as my pa’s hair started turning gray at the sides and moma had a furrow like we planted in on her forehead. And the wind kept blowing and dust was beginning to get everywhere. Moma , Beth and I would do up the wash hang it out then here come the dust so that we had to rewash again and again, finally moma just gave up and we let them dry then shook out what we could before putting on the now rough, gray colored clothing. It seemed the more the wind blew the more of the earth it exposed and the more that grit from the earth ended up in and on everything. Even in our food and our teeth, moma kept brushing our hair braiding and pinning it to the tops of our heads trying to keep as much dust out as possible. Our well dried up and the animals began to suffer, Pa had to put them down to keep them from suffering. We shared with the others Pa had allowed to stay on the farm and camp, the only fun part was moma had other women folk to talk to and we had other children to play with.
There was a lot of quilting and canning that went on that summer and fall and the men folk tended to hunt a lot and walk the fields.
Rain didn’t come and didn’t come, Pa hired a man that walked around with a stick like a ‘Y’ turned upside down, he called it a ‘divinen rod’ said it could lead to water but he couldn’t find but a trickle here and there. A traveling preacher come by a time or two he preached hell fire and brimstone saying only prayer could bring the rain one time, next time he said it didn’t rain cause we was all sinners. I just know rain didn’t come and we needed it desperately. I could hear pa and the men talk about how bad it was and pa said we may have to up and leave go back to Alabama. The other men talked about going home to.
The final straw I guess come when the wheat was up enough to cut one last time, it wasn’t much just enough to feed a small herd or make them beds but Pa was determined to get as much as he could, then one day the air just above ground level began to darken.
Everyone was shading their eyes looking at this dark cloud that seemed to be getting closer and closer, then all at once a great cacophony of noise like we had never heard before. Then we were being hit hard by grasshoppers swarms of them their hard shells bursting when they hit and their lifes blood like tobacco juice running everywhere and the noise oh my the noise. We barricaded inside but they seemed to find a crack and get in, we stomped them hit them with our hands and the more we did the more there were.
The grasshoppers left as quickly as they arrived and left pure devastation to what little we had, not a stalk of wheat nor a green living plant anywhere to be found just yards and yards of dead grasshoppers.