One Man's Fortune
Seizing The Day
Abel Carter usually rose early, liked to be up long before the sun peeked through the long leaf pines surrounding the neat farmhouse and outbuildings on his 100 acre farm. This was the time of day he enjoyed most, a quiet and peaceful time in which he had his thoughts all to himself.
He quietly built a fire in the baked clay fireplace and swung a small pot of water near the flames. He threw in a handful of freshly ground coffee, then sat back smoking his pipe, savoring the aroma from the pungent brew. It would still be dark for another hour or so, but this was okay too as he liked the darkness right before the dawn gave life to his own small world.
Love And War
The year was 1870 in the month of March, still a bit cool in this lower part of Georgia. It would soon warm up however, with the ground ready for planting his well plowed fields with corn and cotton.
The small patch of tobacco he'd plant would furnish him a bit of pocket money and his pipe fodder for the coming year. His 100 acre farm was everything he had ever wanted and dreamed of. Until he met Judith Baker, that is.
As always, his mind drifted back 5 years ago, went back to the time when he was fighting the Yankees further north, and dreaming of being right here in this very spot. At times he never expected to be here, never thought when the bullets were whizzing by his head, the cannons blasting in his ears, and the smoke so thick and burning his eyes, that he would make it another day. But here he was now, just as he’d dreamed.
In the next room his wife Judith lay, her eyes closed with her arm around the child she had carried for the last 9 months, cradled tenderly as she’d always imagined. He had quietly kissed her this morning, brushing back the fine blond hair and touching his lips gently to her brow. He remembered when she first told him she was expecting the child. “Thuh doctuh said it wuz gonna be a girl,” she said teasing him, her gray eyes glowing, knowing how badly he wanted a son to help him on their thriving little farm.
Where The Heart Is
But then she would laugh, the sound which he never tired of, a musical sound which drew him to her from the very first, and she would say “Of coh-wus, he jest wanted me tuh tell you that tuh pull yoah leg. I surely don‘t know why men are so mean tuh each othuh like that” More of her musical laughter would follow, so he would love her even more than he thought possible.
Abel smiled to himself at how lucky he was to return from the terrible war in one piece. Many of the men he had served with had returned with arms and legs missing, with horrible scars and parts of their faces burned beyond recognition, with minds numbed to former dreams of home and family.
Some came home to families with wounds still unhealed, still too infirm to ever tend the many small farms most earned a living from before the war. He sometimes felt guilty, felt he had somehow cheated his brothers-in-arms in some manner for returning as a whole man to such a beautiful piece of land, as well as a beautiful wife waiting patiently for him.
A Charmed Life
It had always seemed to Abel as if he had been the luckiest guy he knew among his many male friends, and if the truth be known, they did too. His life had been a series of small victories, a plethora of lucky chances with him coming out on top, which even he himself sometimes wondered about.
Abel's good luck continued even when he was fighting in the war, fighting in battles so terrible it seemed as if everyone around him was either wounded or dying. Others fell dead quickly, or continued to fight while dying, bleeding to death right in front of his eyes, ending their own dreams of returning home to their loved ones.
But not him, not Abel Carter. He seemed immune to the mortal damage others suffered in the same struggles he took part in. It was almost as if he were personally chosen to survive the horrible battles. Yes, he had certainly lived a charmed life.
Sticking to Routines
The sky began to lighten a bit after he finished his coffee and his pipe was finally extinguished. The first cock crowed as Abel walked outside towards the barn to tend the animals as he always did each morning. He first milked old Daisy the cow then threw a dozen or so ears of corn to the mules. The geese as usual came honking for their morning meal, nipping at his hands impatiently as he shelled the corn for their breakfast.
Abel had developed a morning routine and today was no different. He had gotten into the habit of working on a project before he had his breakfast, which Judith always had ready for him when he finished his morning chores. He had made most of the furniture for their house, was always surprising Judith with something special which made her smile her special smile.
Just a few months ago he had made her a quilting frame on several of his morning pre-breakfast efforts. Her delight even surprised him, and so did her tears of joy. "Now I can make thuh quilts I'll leave to our children," she said "thuh same one's they'll give to their own someday. A legacy of love from us both to those we leave behind when we're gone." He loved how she planned far ahead, planned both of their lives long into the future. And love was surely given.
He grabbed his hammer, saw, and along with a handful of nails, set to work on his latest project. Using some beautiful pieces of heart cypress wood he had stored in an old wagon to season well, he sawed the pieces carefully, planed them smooth, and then formed them into the shape he had envisioned earlier as he sat in the pre-dawn darkness.
Another Kiss 'Neath A Shroud Of Spanish Moss
He finished the project in just over an hour and carried it back to the house with him. Going back into the bedroom where Judith lay, he gently picked her and the child up and placed them both into the coffin he had just finished putting the final touches on.
Taking the quilt Judith had been so fond of, the quilt in the Rose O’ Sharon pattern Judith had patiently sewn by hand on the very frame he had built months earlier, he tucked it snugly around both of them as gently as he could ever do.
Once again he brushed back Judith’s hair, once again he kissed her tenderly, this time on her ruby lips, and once again he cried his heart out for his only true love. Once again he lost control of his emotions, as he'd done yesterday after Judith had given birth to the stillborn child they had so longed for. And then she had quietly given up her own life as she had looked upon the face of her dead child.
Ends Of Fortunes
This kind of loss was alien to him, was something he had rarely experienced in his life, was something he was not prepared for with his record of all things good happening to him. Abel gazed upon his wife and son, cried his tears down upon their faces and sobbed his heartaches away, but not for the last time, not until his own life was ended would his own heartbreak cease.
His tears exhausted, he placed the lid upon his handiwork and sat waiting upon his and Judith’s kin to arrive for the burial of his one true love. He would place Judith and his son close by, place them under a huge Spanish moss shrouded oak on the edge of the farm. He would gaze toward them often in the coming years, more often than he ever suspected.
Yes, he had always been lucky, had been fortunate to have had it all. Now he had lost everything, had lost everything and more. For the last time he had looked upon their faces, gazed upon his greatest possessions, wonderful treasures he'd never expected to obtain, never thinking about his great luck again for the rest of his days.
More Deep South Tales by Randy Godwin
- Came A Carpetbagger
The Deep South was taken advantage of after the Civil War ended. Reconstruction it was called, a noble if somewhat inapt name for the true experience. It affected both rich and poor alike.
- A Certain Place In The World
Boys grow into men. Not all of them learn the lessons of life correctly. But some cannot help but see life differently than others. The Deep South in the 60's.
- Spirit Of Old Savannah
Savannah Georgia has always been a place of mystery and beauty. What better place for a tale of restless spirits and magic. Music is timeless and rife with memories, as you will soon see.
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