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The Lone Sentinel Challenge

Updated on February 13, 2015
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I went back to Indiana today. It's been thirty-five years; hard knocks school is longer than you'd expect.

I wanted to walk the old home place before I met all the third and fourth and removed cousins that are waiting for me at my one surviving aunt's house.

I knew I'd end up deep in the woods and see the old house. However, all that's left is the fireplace.

My great-grandfather built the house when he came to Indiana from Philadelphia in 1880. My great-grandmother apparently didn't know if he would amount to anything, so she set him a test. If he built her a house and farmed the land for a year, then she would come to Indiana and marry him.

He did, and she did.

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I never knew him, and no one talked about him much in the family. But my great-grandmother ruled and loomed over generations of women in the family.

Just as she set a test for my great-grandfather, she expected much from her children.

My grandmother was the oldest of thirteen.

She couldn't court when it was time because my great-grandmother was pregnant with the last of the children; the twins.

Plus, my great-uncle was killed in a hunting accident and so his widow, daughter and son-in-law moved in with my grandmother along with her "brood", as my grandmother called them.

She didn't care for the daughter; young, impetuous and not inclined to do much but produce children who required tending.

My grandmother thought of her charges as an unruly herd to hear her talk. Now, with the twins, two more girls, my grandmother was busy.

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Feeding the men folk at noon when they came in from plowing, planting or thrashing meant getting started at 4 AM.

Several meats, potatoes, pies, cakes, and vegetables that she picked from the dewy garden.

She learned to cook for up to 20 people at each meal. My daughter is a chef and caterer, and I think some of my grandmother's love of preparing food passed down to her.

She also loved to get her seed catalogs.

She liked John A. Salzer, out of Wisconsin. Although she thought that they fudged on the colors; she never did have those vibrant colors of squash in her garden, but it sure did taste good.

Source

Same Indiana Memories

When she was 23, my grandfather came calling. As my grandmother told it, he would have been a catch at seventeen, but circumstances diminished him and his family. They raised sulky racehorses, and fire in the barn destroyed it all.

Now at twenty-seven, he would not be free to do as he pleased, but would have to work.

My grandmother always said that he courted her because everyone in the area knew that she could work.

She was a talented seamstress; making wedding gowns for friends and family.

She said she often cried while creating a beautiful dress wondering if she would ever wear one herself.

She laughed and said she had to be careful, not to stain the delicate materials though.

She was like that, nostalgic and sorrowful one minute, then getting it out of her system, she moved on to what she called, a happier face.

My mother and sister are both artists; I know they inherited her critical eye. Matching materials, painting, and sculpting were like my grandmother; no patterns, just an eye for detail and the talent to create.

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She used her income to put the twins through college; no small feat in Indiana at the turn of the century. They graduated in 1915.

Fearing war, they traveled to Egypt because they thought the pyramids would be destroyed or some such notion according to their later accounts.

My granddaughter worked to secure a place as an exchange student her senior year in high school.

Living abroad, to see the sights, smell the differences and immerse herself into another culture took courage and a fearless spirit. It is in her veins just like my great aunts.

I'm sitting on a rock by the stream. It still smells of my childhood. Clean close to it. Then I see the trout. Swimming for the deep holes in the heat of the day or when they sensed danger, yet this one feels free to come to the surface. This one probably does not understand capture. Or the frog on the rock; staring at me. Expanding its throat and croaking.

I sit still, breathing in my yesterdays.

The fish, frog and the maple grove all remind me of the joy I felt with these strong women.

Source

Most families had the men gather the buckets, but Aunt Louise always took me when I visited. Aunt Louise made maple sugar candy from the syrup.

I remember the first time, looking at the tree and the bucket and not understanding how this liquid made that delicious candy. But Aunt Louise took me to the sugar camp; huge cauldrons over wood fires.

There was a creamy candy; molded into a leaf shape, but that day I had snow candy. She boiled some syrup, letting it boil and bubble and then it got what she called, glassy.

She poured the hot syrup on a pile of snow that she mounded up "just right." Those lines of syrup got cold almost immediately. But it wasn't hard, it was like a taffy. I don't think I'd ever eaten anything so good.

Beyond the old camp are the stream and pond. I learned to fish there. My Aunt Hazel stocked the ponds and was a conservationist before there was a word. We could only fish a certain pond each year to let the fish multiply in the others.

I remember catching my first fish, a crappy, and my Dad putting it in the seining bucket. It got too close to the edge of the water, and it tipped over. My fish was getting away, and I started yelling. My dad dove in to try to get it for me. Indiana has rich soil, and he came up out of the water with black silt running down his face, with my fish.

Now, the pond seems smaller, yet still peaceful. I'm going to head upstream, near where my grandmother taught me to find ginseng and morel mushrooms. She laughed and said we were like some French pigs rooting. She'd read about finding something called a truffle, and she thought that was similar.

Today, the stream is flowing gently. No one fishes or finds ginseng anymore. Mushrooms are bought at the store. I don't know if I would trust myself to find the non-poisonous delicacy today. I'm sad. I'm crying. I've been away too long.

Truth or Fiction?

Which aspects of this fiction, besides the fireplace do you think are untrue?

See results

A Song Challenge Winner: I'm Coming' Home

I came from and helped create a long line of passionate, hard-working, interesting women; yet I thought my life in the big city was so much more intriguing.

The smell of exhaust, the random acts of violence, the inability to create roots in that environment.

Through my tears I also remembered Thomas Wolfe, “But why had he always felt so strongly the magnetic pull of home, why had he thought so much about it and remembered it with such blazing accuracy, if it did not matter, and if this little town, and the immortal hills around it, was not the only home he had on earth?

He did not know. All that he knew was that the years flow by like water, and that one day men come home again.”

But this wasn't some fictional piece, so I dried my tears and headed for the reunion.

There the generations smiled, hugged me and enveloped me in the love I remembered.

After dinner, one of my cousins asked me if I was ready to claim my land. I was puzzled by the question and asked him what he meant. He talked about the difficulty in finding me; I didn't stay in one place for too long, and I never got back to the solicitor or the executor of my cousin's estate.

My portion of the land had the chimney, and while all other reminders of the past were gone, none of my cousins felt right in removing what was not theirs.

I started crying. I knew I would return, rebuild and remember.

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    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good morning, Kristen; thank you for the kind words and voting up. Made my day. ~Marilyn

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Nicely done for this short story challenge. It was a beautiful story. Voted up for beautiful!

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good morning, Mr. Archer; thank you for reading and commenting. The majority of the facts in this fiction are true, so it is about my family. As one famous writer said, regardless of good or bad family, there are a source for inspiration....paraphrased, but to the point. ~Marilyn

    • Mr Archer profile image

      Mr Archer 2 years ago from Missouri

      This was like reading a historical account of one's family and I truly enjoyed it. I often wonder at our ancestors and their struggle to attain what we often take for granted. Very nice work.

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good morning, iskhoso; family stories, whether truth, half-truth or fiction resonate for many reasons. It's interesting to me what people think is truth and what is fiction in this piece. My grandmother was a seamstress and my great aunts did go to Egypt. However, I did not inherit the land, that one they've guessed right.

      Thanks for reading and your comment. ~Marilyn

    • iskhoso profile image

      Iftikhar ul Sami 2 years ago from Pakistan

      Hi MDavisatTIERS

      Great piece of truth and fiction. I love my family so naturally family stories possess importance in my life.

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good morning, Venkatachari M; thank you for making it to the end. I've always said, it doesn't matter if we have a great opening sentence, if our readers don't make it to the end. Thanks for hanging in there. ~Marilyn

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Great story. You have done it so well. Very interesting to the end.

      Voted up and awesome.

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good morning, John; thank you. Memories are a great place to start for a writer. Good, bad, indifferent - that doesn't matter. It's the beginnings that are usually hard, so we begin with what we have. I think poets, like yourself understand that emotionally. Might be wrong, just my thoughts. ~Marilyn

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Very good response to the challenge Marilyn. Wonderful memories and a great read. Thank you.

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good afternoon, always exploring; thank you for the kind words. Streams seem to prompt us to reflect - perhaps it's our image in the water - who knows?

      Thanks for reading and commenting. ~Marilyn

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I loved this story. Going back in time, remembering all the good times while sitting by the stream and returning to rebuild a home. Just lovely!

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good morning, Jaxter; thank you for your comment. I appreciate you taking the time to leave one. ~Marilyn

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      I like to respond if someone bothers to answer my queries and always like to keep the conversation going!

      Ann

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good afternoon, dahoglund; we were fortunate in our family. WWI, some farmers were not drafted, so many of my great uncles were not called up.

      WWII, my dad enlisted right after college and gave up a professional baseball career - another story of the dedication of everyday people. He spent 6 years in the Pacific, but he came home. My cousin lied and enlisted at 14, also in the Navy. He, too came home.

      I know what you mean about years going by. Is it just age, or are the days, months and years shorter now? ~Marilyn

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good afternoon, Audrey; kind words and exclamation marks....like them. She smiles. I consider them encouraging; so thanks for the encouragement. ~Marilyn

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good afternoon, Ann; so glad you came back. I try to answer questions in my comments, but am not always sure that the originator of the question sees the answers. Still it gives me time to expand a little on the original piece. Thanks for that. ~Marilyn

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 2 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      In my own family I saw those who never left home and those who never hardly came back. WWII had a lot to do with it, I think.

      Things have changed so much in my lifetime that a few years go by and little looks the same, at least in the big cities.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 2 years ago from California

      This was beautifully told! --sitting there drinking in your yesterdays--really well done!

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      That's really interesting. Yes toffee is normally hard and not at all good for teeth!

      They had such ingenuity in the old days and such products were usually better than you can get now I think.

      Thanks for all the info. I love that much of this story is true; in fact, you make it all sound true anyway!

      Ann

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good morning, Jackie; your reading sounds interesting. I am amazed at the strength of men and women of that period. I remember my grandmother continuing to cook for field hands during harvesting and the amount of food she cooked daily was astounding. In her sixties, she didn't stop. I need a nap after a family dinner over the holidays and that's only one day. Ah, well.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. ~Marilyn

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good morning, annart; sitting together at the pond again, I'll tell you about taffy - it's soft and pulls and you can make loops with it. Toffee is hard and my grandmother puts butter in it, so there is a richer taste. (she stays with the theme.....) I imagine since you are from England, you could teach me about toffee as well.

      A seine is a net; sometimes on a pole. My uncle is the one who taught me to fish with my dad, not my aunt...there's a clue to the fiction and fact. However, he made his seining bucket with this net inside. He fashioned it with an insert; the mesh was between two pieces of metal that he welded that fit down in the larger bucket.

      Larger fish went in the bottom of the pail and then smaller fish went in the net. They stayed alive and he could decide later if he would keep or throw back the smaller ones and they were conveniently in one place.

      I don't know if there are seining buckets like his, but the concept of nets to fish is not new; maybe it's just that I combined seine and bucket that makes it new.

      Thanks for commenting, Ann. I appreciate it. ~Marilyn

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Very interesting; sounds so much like the books I have been reading about Laura Ingalls' ancestors from that same time period. Seems your great grandmother was smarter than most to have that home built and ready "before" she took off with the man.

      Thanks for an enjoyable read! Up and sharing.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      What a fantastic story! You've told this so well and we are there with you, sitting by the pond. Is 'a taffy' similar to 'toffee' because it looks and sounds like it? And what is 'seining'? I love to look at new words.

      Up +++ & shared. Great!

      Ann

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good afternoon, Ann; then lets do that. Will touch base on one of your Hubs tonight. Have two deadlines that I have to meet today. ~Marilyn

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good evening, Bill; great, mission accomplished. I am so glad you liked it. These challenges are starting to be fun. I've only done two, but enjoyed them both. Seems there's a different muse inside writing them. And I love visual prompts. Then I got caught up finding other photos, so keep 'em coming, Bill. ~Marilyn

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image
      Author

      Marilyn L Davis 2 years ago from Georgia

      Good evening, Homeplace Series; I know you wrote one, too. I'll get to it later tonight. I loved how Bill's other challenge brought out the creative writer in others and I look forward to reading yours. With you Hub name, I hope I can safely assume that many of your articles are about the home-place. It's always a good topic. ~Marilyn

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      What a beautiful story, Marilyn! You had me from the first paragraph, and it only got better as the story unfolded. Thank you for a wonderful effort and product.

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      I love family stories... thank you, so much, for sharing yours... truth or fiction! ;-)