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Tales of Mandy, the 1800s
This is the beginning of my novel. A tale of a young girl who leaves Georgia on the Trail of Tears and along the way finds a life in Texas. I hope you enjoy it I will post it here as a series.
This is dedicated to all of those that have been an inspiration and have stood behind me and encouraged me.
My children: Phillip Clifton, Diana Maria and Rushena Desirea.
My extended family
To my ancestors and all those who stand in the web with me.
"This I must do or know not what to do."
“This warrior woman knows when to fight like a lion . . .
The courage of her convictions is her shield,
her soul is her spear, and her will is her cauldron.”
"Man_ndee! Man_deeee! Amanda Carolina MCCarty! Where are you girl? Answer me!"
Will that woman never shut up and leave me alone. Mandy skillfully walked the log across the creek and wished she were as free as the fish that swam below her. "Coming, Mistress Riley!" She picked up her skirts a little higher and ran to the front yard of the log cabin. Since the first frost last fall she had lived with Mistress Riley, a plump rather pleasing woman in her mid forties.
Mistress Riley had outlived 2 husbands and had buried her only daughter as an infant. She had taken Mandy in last year when her good for nothing stepfather, Aaron Tucker had taken off for parts unknown and left the 12 year old to fend for herself."Mandy, you know that I was wanting to go to the social at the meeting house, tomorrow. We simply have to get the baking done!"
Lord, she does rattle on, Mandy thought to herself as she picked up the basket of walnuts from the porch. "I'll finish shelling the walnuts for the nut bread. You are making some of your wonderful nut bread, aren't you?" Mandy knew a compliment on her cooking would make her forget the annoyance she felt at her for being late.
"Yes, I thought I might. Do you really think it is that good?" Mistress Riley was never quite sure of herself,
"Oh, yes, mam! It's the best! Why I don't see why Mr. Thomas don't marry you for just that alone."
"Girl! I am not marrying another man to have to bury. I'm pass my child bearing years, so why do I want to be saddled with another man to tell me what to do? I own my place and I make a living farming and selling my eggs and sewing for the ladies in town. No, I don't think there is any reason for me to even want to let another man put his shoes under my bed!" Mandy looked up at her and for the first time realized that this woman was free. She answered to no one but herself. Yes, she wanted to be like her, free! No man or anyone else to hold her back and tell her what to do.
Amanda Carolina McCarty had spent her short life in the hills of northern Georgia, at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her mother, Ann Little Deer was Cherokee and her father, Daniel McCarty had been an Irish tinker, a traveling salesman going among the tribes in the hills of Georgia & the Carolinas.
Mandy was the only child born of their marriage; he had named her after his mother Amanda and the prettiest country he had ever seen, the Carolinas. Then when she was less than 6 months old he had gotten into a brawl at one of the taverns on his way home and been killed. Her mother had taken her back to live with her people and by the time she was 2 had met and married Aaron Tucker. He was not a big man but could charm the birds out of the trees. Ann Little Deer thought he was the Buck of her dreams. She soon found that he was not all that fond of just her. There were other women in every village and on every ridge that knew him, intimately. Ann died of a broken heart and the measles.
Mandy was eleven when her mother died.
She had watched the once beautiful woman become little more than a shell of what she had once been. Then the measles had come to the ridge where they lived. Ann was not strong enough to survive. A lot of the Cherokee died that spring, mostly the old ones and very young.
For a year, Tucker had stayed on in the small cabin and occasionally he would bring home something to eat. Mostly he brought home whiskey. Mandy survived as best she could. She was a good trapper and managed to catch enough fish and small game to eat, along with the roots she dug and berries she picked
The winter had been especially hard on her that first year without her mother. She had found a small cave in the hills behind the cabin and when Tucker came home drinking she would slip out and go there to spend the night. She had even managed to secret some food away there, so she didn't have to go hungry on those nights. It was cozy as could be until an old sow bear came by one day and found the food. Then ever 3 weeks or so when her circle was complete she would be at the cave for a day or so. Black bears don't hibernate in Georgia, not unless there is snow on the ground. When spring came, the old sow had her twins in Mandy's cave. She and the cubs were there until early July. Mandy had begun to think they would never leave. It was getting harder and harder to stay out of Tucker's sight. And Mandy did not like the looks he gave her; they made her skin crawl.
One night in late September, he came home in a big hurry. Jumping off his horse he ran into the cabin and shoved his extra pair of trousers and shirt into a saddle bag and then took off out the door like the very devil or at least 50 mad on the war path warriors were after him. Tucker didn't even nod to the girl standing under the old oak tree beside the front porch.
"Where you going, paw?" Mandy had asked out of curiosity.
"East, girl, east! When them gents get here and ask you where I am. Tell them I went east, had business in the east. Tell them that now, you hear?" He swung up on the big bay and headed west.
"Yes, suh! shore will!" Tell them you headed west, Mandy thought to herself, wonder what he's gotten into now? She watched him ride off and then turned and looked at the cabin. Well I guess its just me now.
The sound of hoofs, a lot, in a hurry, made her dart back into the shadows of the trees. There were at least ten men on horseback and they didn't look any to sociable. Mandy decided to stay hidden and let them find out which way he went for themselves. The men dismounted and entered the cabin.
"Nope! He ain't here! Bastard must have already been here and picked up his kid and left." It was a big red headed boy, barely old enough
"Well, lets make sure he don't come back! Burn his cabin, boys! Then let's go find the murdering bastard!" One of them went in to the cabin with a lit torch and set the bedding on fire. Then they rode hard after Tucker, to the west.
You stupid, man! First you kill my mama with your lies and women and then you go and kill somebody; probably caught you with their wife, and now my home is burned! Stupid! I hope they catch you! The tears fell not because Tucker was gone and she was alone but because the only home she had ever known good or bad was burning before her eyes.
That night she slept under a tree not too far from where her mother was buried. The next morning as she was picking through the ashes of the cabin, she looked up to see a plump little woman in a homespun dress shaking her head and looking at her with a warmth she had not felt since her mother had died.
"Oh, Child, I just knew I had to come and see about you. When I saw the smoke yesterday and then this morning at the store I heard what Tucker did and that they were after him. I really feared you might have been caught up in it all. Are you all right?" Does this woman never let up? How can I even get a word in?
"You are all right? Aren't you?" She came over and reached out to turn the girl this way and that to inspect her.
"Yes, Mamma, I'm all right. I hid when those men came. But why were they after him?" Mandy felt like she ought to at least find out why this had happened.
"Oh, something, not real sure what. Just that Jed Watkins called him out and he shot Jed to death and now Jed's folk are out to get him." Probably because he was seeing one of Jed's girls, I bet. Mandy thought it best to keep the fact that she knew about Aaron Tucker's love for the women to herself. There were folk that would say she was far too young to know of such things. Yet, here in the hills, there were girls not much older than she was with babies on the way, married to boys not old enough to shave and old men twice their age too. Not me, not Amanda Carolina McCarty!
"Well child, since he's gone and your home is gone, you are welcome to come and live with me. That is unless you want to go live with your mother's people up in Carolina?"
"No, mam. I don't know my mother's people. Don't remember them. I reckon if you don't mind, I'll stay with you, for awhile." So she had come to live with Mistress Riley.
Kathryn Mary Morgan O'Conner Riley, twice a widow she refused to be called Widow Riley, so everyone called her Mistress Riley. She owned her own farm and had a small herd of cattle that her first husband Alex O'Conner had brought with him from Ireland. He had lived only 3 weeks longer than their baby girl, Mary Elizabeth. Typhoid fever had killed them both. Her second husband, William Riley had been killed on a scouting party into the Florida Glades.
Mandy bounced up the hill beside Mistress Riley. The morning was alive with birds singing to herald the first day of May. In all of her 13 years she didn’t think that she had ever seen such a beautiful spring morning. “Mistress Riley, do you think that everyone will be here today? I mean it is May Day and all the planting is done.”
“I suspect most of the folks will be here, if they’re able. This is one of the biggest social affairs of the year in these parts.” As they went to the tables under the grove of oaks, Mandy noticed that there were quite a few more people than she had seen at the last social.
Mistress Riley stopped at one of the tables and started emptying her basket of food on to it. “Mandy, bring your basket here. Then you can run off and talk to your friends, but mind that you don’t get out of sight. It is not seemly.” Mandy set her basket down on the bench next to Mistress Riley’s and started to place the bread and jars of pear preserves on the table.
“Mistress Riley, are there not a lot more here today?”
“ Yes, yes. You may be right. There is talk of the state opening up more IndianLand for settlement. I don’t know how, some foolish nonsense about moving the Cherokee west. Doesn’t sound right to me, no, just not right.” That woman will rattle on about anything, anything at all. “Now, Mandy. You are getting to be a young lady and you have lived with me a winter now. I think it is high time you called me something besides Mistress. Makes it sound like you are a slave. No, I think you should call me. Let me see. Yes. That will do! How about Aunt Kathryn or aunt Kat? What do you think, Mandy?”
Mandy jerked her head up at this. She had grown fond of the plump little woman and owed her a lot for taking her in. She had never even thought about considering her as anything other than her benefactor. ”Well. Yes.. That’s right good of you. I mean to concern yourself with me. Yes, Mam. Thank you.” A sly grin crossed her face as she looked up. “Aunt Kat.” Kathryn Riley laid a hand on the shoulder of girl and turned to face her. “There are people here bouts talking of sending the Cherokee to the west, don’t let onto anyone that you are anything other than my niece. All right?” There was a serious tone in her voice that told Mandy this was important.
“Yes, Mam. But people hereabouts know who my mother was.”
“Not the new comers. And most of the ones that do will keep their mouths shut. Anyway, its time to find you a husband and then we won’t have to worry about it. What do you think of the Lawley boys?”
Mandy’s mouth flew open at this turn of events. “Mis..I mean, Aunt Kat. I don’t ever intend to marry. I don’t want no man, owning me and telling me what I can and can’t do! No! Not me!” Mandy could feel the blood rising in her face. “No, Mamma! I have the land the cabin was on, I guess since paw left, its mine. And when you want to get shed of me, I’ll just go back there. I can live off the land pretty good. No, I don’t need no man! Thank you!”
Kathryn fought hard to hold back the laughter as she answered. “Woo, I take that to mean you don’t think a lot of the Lawley boys, then? I guess growing up with the likes of Aaron Tucker didn’t help your opinion of men. Can’t say I wouldn’t have been the same at your age, if I had been through what you have. No, can’t say, I wouldn’t.” She gave the girl a big hug. “and you are welcome to stay with me as long as you like. I just worry that someone might give you trouble. But then you don’t look like your mother’s people.” She took a good long look at the girl standing in front of her. Mandy stood about 5 1/2 foot tall, her hair was a soft brown with reddish highlights dancing through it and her eyes were dark, warm brown like a trusting little puppy’s. Mandy’s skin was fair as the cream on top of the milk. No, no one should take her for an Indian, only her high check bones gave a hint of that blood. “Now go play, child.” Kathryn hoped the rumors she had heard were not true, that all Cherokee were to be rounded up and taken to holding areas and then taken west to the IndianTerritories. And they had said all even mixed bloods or breeds. No one of Cherokee was to be left. Already she had heard of some going into the mountains to hide, all because of the land. Surely there was enough for everyone. That worried her, Mandy’s land, it was recorded in Aaron Tucker’s name and as his legal heir she could claim it, but if she did and had to give her mother’s name, then she would lose it and her rights. No from this day, Mandy would be her niece.
The social was the event of the year. The planting was done and most would not see each other again until the harvest festival. Mandy wondered aimlessly around the town square. There were the Lawley brothers standing around watching all of the young girls in the crowd. All 3 of them were of marrying age and 2 even had their own farms. She knew for a fact that one of them was actively shopping for a wife. He was boasting now even as she noticed them that he was in the market for a good breeding woman. He needed children to help with the farming in a few years. He spied Mandy watching them and walked her way. She turned to walk away but his hand caught her arm. “Miss Amanda, I surely am glad to see you. Are you here with someone?”
Mandy wanted to run and hide or to loose her breakfast on his brand new moccasins. They were of the finest quality hide and the bead work was magnificent. “I………I………..I” God why was she stammering like a simple minded idiot! “I was just on my way to help Aunt Kat. She is…..” Mandy tripped and fell right into Aaron Lawley’s arms. Flustered, she pulled away and stammered an apology. “I really am sorry, Master Lawley, I don’t know what is wrong with me.” She turned and rushed off in the direction of Aunt Kat and safety. The rest of the day went off without a hitch. Mandy managed to avoid Aaron, even though a few times she had to seek shelter in the midst of the local gaggle of female gossips. She did hear news there though that started her to worrying about her own future. There was all the talk of the Cherokees being sent west and their farms being given to settlers. This bothered her. Her farm had been in her mother’s family for as long as anyone could remember. She did not want to lose it. It was her’s by right. On the way home she puzzled over a way to keep it.
“Mandy? Why are you so quite, child?” Kat walked a little less quickly this afternoon as they made their way home.
“I was just trying to figure out a way to keep my farm. Do you really think that they will try and take it? I mean everyone around here knows that I am Cherokee. I don’t want to leave my home and I don’t want anyone else on my farm. Is there no way that I can, stop it?”
“ The only way that I can see, Child, is like I have been trying to tell you. You will have to marry, a nice upstanding young man, like one of the Lawley boys. That way the farm would become his property and no one could touch it. And no one would question your right to be here either.”
Mandy looked at her hard. “I’ve not had 14 winters yet! I don’t want to have to answer to any man! Not yet anyway!” the fire in her voice was tinged with terror, because she knew that Kat was right, there was no other way.
“Mandy, I wish I could say that you have a choice, but you don’t child. There is no time to waste if we are to save you or your land. The government is sending in troops this fall to round up all Indians and when they do, you must be married to a man of property. They will not touch you or the farm then. We can when you marry make a contract that says that the farm can never be sold and must go to your children on your death. That way your farm will stay in your family. Most any man will sign a contract such as that as it is giving to his children. Now we must decide who will make you the best husband and let it be known that you are ready to wed.”
Mandy sighed resignation. She did not want to become a wife and all of this talk of children scared her. She was still a child herself. Only this past winter had the “curse” as Aunt Kat called it come on her. She had not even felt the passion of first love yet. Even so if she was to stay in her beloved mountains and keep her small farm, she must become a woman. She would do what she had to do.
Courtship of Mandy
There were days when Mandy knew that she did not want to get out of bed and today was one of them. Aunt Kat had told her last night that today she would have visitors. Not just one but several, all men looking for wives. Women in these parts were hard to come by and young, good looking girls with property were even rarer. Most would not hold it against her that she was a half-breed. She passed for white and that was all that mattered, that and the land. Of course the fact that she was young and comely was not a hindrance at all. There were plenty of good work years in her and child bearing years as well. Mandy somehow felt like a brood sow as she dressed in her best dress and combed her long reddish hair. Well if it had to be it had to be. At least she had the right to say which one she would saddle herself with. God help me she thought. I hope at least that he has a sense of humor; I hate the thought of spending my life with a dry old bear.
“Mandy, child I want you to know that you don’t have to take just any man, pick the one that seems most pleasing to you. You should not feel pressured by anyone of them….you….” Aunt Kat was rattling on and on about what she should and should not look for in a husband..
“Aunt Kat?” Mandy cut into her rattling. “Do you think that the Lawley boys will come? I mean they are still looking for wives aren’t they?”
“Just the two younger ones, Aaron got married right after the spring social. I had thought he was going after you that day, but I guess not.”
Oh well. I guess that was my fault, falling all over him and acting a fool. Mandy wondered why she felt so disappointed.
The afternoon was a hot one but Mandy served blackberry tea made with cool spring water. Aunt Kat set and fanned herself as the men came and talked with Mandy. Some of them were nervous; a few could have been shopping for a plow horse. They were the older ones, how good are your teeth? Can you bake? Can you sew? That Mandy politely managed to avoid. There was one young boy not much older than herself that caught her eye….he seemed almost shy and yet he was not. He conversed easily with the other men that were there. Only when she asked him a question did he seem unable to speak. “Would you like some more tea, Master Rubin?”
Rubin Lawley looked up at the largest brown eyes he had ever seen. Why had he come to this? He knew that his brother, John would win her. She was so beautiful. And all John wanted was her land and the children she would give him.
He wanted to grab her hand and run away with her. To go far into the mountains and live off the land as the Indians did. To love her as no man had ever loved her, to give her the world. “Yes….yes, thank you. Mistress Amanda.” He hated himself for being so shy and unable to tell her what he thought of her. He hated that he was the youngest and must sit back and give way to his older brother. He knew that his brother Aaron had told John that he must marry her in order to protect their land from the new settlers that were coming into the valley. Her land divided the two farms that the brothers owned and if an outsider gained control of it they also controlled the springs that fed the other two farms. John had to win her hand. He was being so charming to her. Rubin paled as he thought of his brother touching the innocence flesh of this child.
“Would you do me the honor of walking to the stream with me to get some more water? I’m sure that it is far too hot for these other gentlemen to want to walk and they can watch us from here in the shade.” Mandy had made her choice; at least she thought she had. She had only to make sure. As they neared the stream and she was sure that they were out of ear shot of the others under the oak tree, she asked him. “Rubin. Why do you want a wife now? You aren’t much older than I am, and why me?”
He jerked around to face her. Half afraid of what he was about to say. “I want a wife now because you want a husband now. I have loved you since I can remember. I know that I don’t have anything to offer you. But I will take care of you and provide for you and our children if ……”.he looked at the ground and Mandy thought he blushed.” I will make you a good husband Amanda and I will treat you right.”
Mandy looked at the stammering boy and thought only for a moment. Best we both learn together about life. “Yes, I will marry you then, Rubin. Let’s go tell the rest of these vultures and get rid of them.” Amanda turned and strode back up the path with new resolve to make her own way in this world. Now she had a partner.
“I am sure that you are all ready to take your leave and go home. I have decided to marry Rubin Lawley.” She spoke matter of fact and did not even hear the gasp that went out from Aunt Kat. The muttering of the six men under the tree was enough.
“But Miss Amanda, you can’t be serious. He is only a boy and has no means.” It was the oldest of the men that spoke now, Jeptha Cross, he was 36 years old and had given her the creeps when she saw him among the suitors. He was old enough to be her grandpa.
“Mr. Cross, He is what I want. And he will have means once we are married. I think that you know that I bring a considerable size farm into this union. No slights intended, I am honored that any of you saw fit to woo me. I am simply following my heart in this matter. I am sure that all of you will understand this…..”
“But he can not marry! He can not marry you! I must!” John Lawley looked at his brother in disbelief. He was sputtering as he grabbed for Rubin.
Mandy and three of the other men stepped between the brothers. “John, he did not ask me. I asked him.” Mandy was again speaking in a voice that wasted no words or emotions. “I want someone near my own age, someone that I feel safe with, someone that loves me. In Rubin, I have all of that. Most of you just wanted my land or a brood sow. Now, I have made my choice and I hope that you will all abide by it. John, the Lawleys will still have control of the springs.” John started as if someone had shot him, how did this mere snipe of a girl know that that was the reason he had to marry her? Had Rubin told her? He must have. Well no big deal she was right about that, with Rubin married to her the Lawleys would still control the springs.
The men began to leave the yard