The Restless Journey by Sandra Dailey-Mendenhall © 2011 / Chapters I & II
I am an aspiring author of a children's book and the historical romance genre. I finally accomplished publishing my first children's book in April 2011, and my novel followed soon thereafter.
I am interested if anyone out there will enjoy reading some of my first novel. I am "testing the waters," so to speak. So, after reading this hub if you will please leave comments, (good or bad as long as it is an honest opinion), I will appreciate it.
If readers want to see more of the novel, you can purchase it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. It is entitled "The Restless Journey," by Sandra Dailey-Mendenhall.
I hope you enjoy reading this novel as much as I have writing it. This first post will include the disclaimer and dedication pages along with Chapters one and two, and I hope it doesn't bore you to death. :)
Please let me know what you think, and please feel free to be perfectly honest when commenting.
The Civil War was an era in our American History that has been visited and revisited over the years; however, this is not a history book, nor do I intend it to be an exact historical account. I am not an authority on the subject matter, and it is not my intention to appear so. I am not responsible for any information that is not historically correct as the facts are intertwined with fiction. Furthermore, I am unaware of any plagiarisms in this book; therefore, I cannot be held responsible for any that may be questioned. I sincerely hope I do not offend nor make anyone think the history is presented incorrectly as this is a work of both fiction and fact. Other than the historical facts and references, all characters in this book are fictitious; any similarities to actual persons past or present are entirely coincidental and not intentional. It is my desire for each reader simply to enjoy reading it knowing it is purely an “historical romance” written for entertainment purposes only. I sincerely hope the book is enjoyed with the enthusiasm it was written.
A Special Dedication
This dedication goes to a wonderful friend, David. Thank you for your friendship. Regardless of where life takes us, you will always remain in my heart. The past 17 years you have touched my life and my heart more than you will ever know. Even in the beginning through the rough times, we still loved, and forgave, and grew together as true friends should. You have a very special place in my heart, and there you will always stay.
I want to thank my family and friends for their love and encouragement; it means so much to me. Thank you, ALL, for being sosupportive and listening to me talk about this book, for months!
* * *
And, to my Hero, (you know who you are)…I thank you for your love, support and friendship the past few years. Thank you for your words of wisdom, and for your encouragement, I am deeply grateful. You have no idea how much you are loved and appreciated. I want to say “thank you” for being there for me and always listening to me and being my friend. You left footprints in my heart and there you will always be…I will forever love and remember you, my Hero.
This book is dedicated to my late husband, Marvin, who encouraged me to publish my works. Thirteen years after his death I am publishing my first novel. Marv always believed in me, and this book is for him. Even though he is in heaven, he continues to be my inspiration, and he will always remain in my heart.
The War Ends
The long, dusty road stretched endlessly to the horizon before him. From the left, the sweet scent of honeysuckle filled the air as a soft breeze blew his long, sandy blonde hair across his tattered face. Hands, scarred and dirty, swept back the hair from the lifeless blue eyes that slowly closed as he tilted his head skyward and drank in the fresh, sweet air. With his eyes still shut, he stood silently for several minutes not looking around him as if swept away by the smells, the sounds, and splendor that surrounded him.
This countryside is just plain breathtakin’. I ain’t believin’ it’s perfect and unscarred he pondered, as he opened his eyes and slowly turned his head looking at all the sights that encircled him.
He couldn’t believe what he saw. He hadn’t seen such undamaged, unaffected countryside in months. The meadow was filled with fragrant, blossoming, multicolored wildflowers. The trees were just beginning to come alive with their leaves as emerald as the grassland meadows, and the wind rustling through them made them dance to the beat of the crackling sounds they made. The land seemed untouched by the devastation he had seen thus far on his long trek from Georgia.
He had to stop and convince himself what he saw was real. He had to take the time to touch the flowers and sit on the brilliant, velvety green pasture to prove it was as soft and delicate as it looked.
I ain’t believin’ this is real. He contemplated to himself as he dropped to the ground and rolled on his side exploring the scenery about him.
Looking up, his eyes were now lit with the vibrant beauty that surrounded him. In breathless anticipation, he watched as the sky displayed a glittering, soft mix of pinks and blues. The sun peeked over the evergreen mountaintops, and in a great ball of flaming crimson it slowly set in the western hills.
It’s just like when I’s a kid. This is real, and this is where I belong. He mulled over in his mind sighing, contemplating to himself in the hushed, peaceful calm of the moment.
With twilight settling in over the valley countless memories of his journey thus far echoed in his mind. Recollections of his past plagued him by day and made his nights equally sleepless and restless. As the sunset gave way to nightfall, he decided to make camp and rest until daybreak. Yet again, his weary soul was tired as he tried ridding himself of all the memories of the past three years. While sitting by the campfire gazing into the flickering, golden flames his thoughts were drawn back to still an earlier time in his life when as a boy, he imagined his future and the hopes and dreams it held for him.
My dreams at last are comin’ true for me. He contemplated hopefully.
Slumbering down into a more restful place he finally drifted off to sleep with contented, painless thoughts.
Sleep was short. Nightmares once more ended his rest, but with the morning, a new day had arrived for him to continue his push westward. He soon commenced his unrelenting and steady walk. By midday, he knew he would not be camping again, which was a soul-stirring thought. Knowing he could reach his destination in a couple of hours made him pick up his pace giving him a new found strength in his stride.
Crossing a small stream he stepped on all shapes and sizes of stones, and at times waded purposely in the cool water resting his tired, aching feet.
I remember when I’s just a boy…he mused, as he continued enjoying his ramble in the water.
It was reminiscent of a lifetime ago when as a boy he played in the creeks and streams near his cabin. Home was a place that seemed like only a dream to a young man barely twenty years old, but finally for the first time in three years reaching home seemed to be within his grasp. He couldn’t wait to get there, and being so close to home; he eagerly increased his pace. All of a sudden, he found himself slipping on a smooth, slick rock, and before he knew it, he was soaked to the bone from head to toe with the cool, refreshing mountain water. Grinning to almost an outburst of laughter, he breathlessly splashed about in the water like a youngster.
“This is foolish. Enough of this playin’ and actin’ like a kid half my age,” he complained in a muffled voice, pulling himself up out of the creek.
He chuckled at his lumbering fall accepting it as a long needed bath. He believed getting wet would at least make him smell considerably better for his homecoming with his folks.
It was late spring 1865. He was coming home. The North and the South had finally ceased fighting, and the Civil War was over. Bart Clarey – a young, freed prisoner of war – had earned the wisdom of a man twice his age. On April 7, 1865, General Lee’s troops were surrounded. General Grant called upon Lee to surrender. The two commanders met on April 9, 1865, and agreed on the terms of surrender. The war was finally over. Bart’s long hell on earth had at last come to an end, and he had anxiously begun his long journey home.
“War takes a boy and makes a man out of him quick,” his sergeant once told him.
Those words echoed in Bart’s mind as he continued walking contemplating coming home with the knowledge he would have to give the unpleasant details of the past three years of his life to his folks he had left behind.
Don’t know what, or how, I’ll tell my folks ’bout my life these past few years Bart meditated, as he pushed on westward.
His mind drifted back to three years earlier when he had enlisted with the Union Army. The North needed strong, healthy young men. Bart felt it was his duty to fight for his country and the things he believed in. Above all, he believed in the freedom for anyone, regardless of the color of their skin, to be able to choose for them the life they wanted to live. Bart believed slavery had no place in America nor anywhere else, for that matter. No one should own another person. Even though slavery was everywhere about him, Bart knew it was wrong. Without a doubt Bart knew which side he would join. However, unaware of the trials that awaited him as a Union soldier, he left his home a young boy scarcely seventeen years old. Now he was returning home with the memories and burdens of a war torn nation. Bart wanted desperately to leave his army years behind him.
Gradually slowing his speed for just a bit as his recollections and thoughts of time spent with the Union Army kept crowding his mind, he again considered how he would yet be able to speak to his folks of his time in battle, and of his survival in one of the worst prisoner of war camps the Confederacy had built.
Bart had been captured by confederate soldiers in the spring of 1863. He remained a prisoner for two long years. Part of his time was spent near Richmond, Virginia, but in June 1864, they moved him to Andersonville, Georgia; or Camp Sumter as it was officially known. Camp Sumter located in Southern Georgia was one of the largest prisoner of war camps the Confederacy had. Of the nearly forty-five thousand Union prisoners who came to the Andersonville camp the fourteen months the camp existed, Bart was one of its survivors.
In January 1864, slaves from local farms were forced to cut trees and dig ditches for the construction of the prison stockade in Sumter County in Andersonville. Only about twenty people, or maybe less, lived in the little community, so it was impossible for them to resist the building of such an unpopular place. Rectangular in shape, Andersonville prison camp had a small, slow moving stream called the Stockade Branch running through the middle of the prison, which supplied water for most of the prison. The walls of the stockade were constructed of pine logs cut on the site and hewn square. They were set vertically in a wall-trench, and it was dug roughly five feet deep. The walls stood fifteen to twenty feet high.
In the beginning, the stockade space measured about one thousand ten feet long, and seven hundred eighty feet wide. Eight small earthen forts located around the outside of the prison stood by with artillery to put down disorder and defend against the feared Union Calvary attacks. There were two entrances to the prison camp. The North Gate and South Gate were on the west side of the compound. They were small stockade pens about thirty feet square. These gates were built of massive timbers with heavy doors opening into the prison on one side, and they opened to the outside on the other. Each gate also had wickets, which were door-sized entryways.
A light wooden railing fence was built about nineteen to twenty-five feet inside the stockade wall. It was known as The Dead Line. It consisted of a line of small wooden posts about three feet high. A wood plank was on top of them making it look much like a hitching post for horses. This wooden-post fence separated the prison from the stockade wall. This area was what the prisoners called a no-man’s land. It kept the prisoners away from the stockade wall. The prison guards, composed mostly of older men and boys watched from sentry boxes called pigeon roosts by the prisoners. The guards perched on top these roosts were posted thirty yards apart around the stockade wall. Anyone crossing The Dead Line was immediately shot. Consequently, escaping from the prison was not an option for Bart.
The prison pen initially covered sixteen and a half acres, but just before Bart’s arrival in June 1864 it was enlarged. The prison walls were extended six hundred and ten feet to the north, which included an area of roughly ten acres, and it brought the total prison area to twenty-six and a half acres. The extension was built by a crew of Union prisoners consisting of one hundred white and thirty black Americans. It took about fourteen days to complete. On July 1, 1864 the northern extension was opened to the prisoners. The prisoners tore down the original north stockade wall and used the timbers for fuel and building materials.
The prison poles, hewn to a thickness of eight to twelve inches matched so well on the inner line of the wall it made the wall solid, which made it impossible to get a glimpse of the outside world. These logs pointed or sharpened at the top made it hopeless to climb over; hence, Bart only knew of his world consisting simply of merely twenty-six acres. It seemed to get smaller with each passing moment as new prisoners arrived daily by the hundreds. By August 1864 a prison built to house ten thousand prisoners swelled to hold over thirty-two thousand.
Inside the camp, no barracks were ever constructed for the prisoners. The available shelters were only basic with huts made of scrap wood, tent fragments, or just simple holes dug in the ground. Many prisoners had no shelter of any kind against the elements of rain, heat, and cold. Summers were generally hot and humid, especially in July and August. Winters were mild, but at times very chilly. Sometimes it would get very cold and drop below freezing at night. Many of the prisoners only had rags, or nothing at all to shield them from the weather. With no clothing or bed linens provided for them the prisoners had no choice but to endure the cold.
The daily food ration for the prisoners was the same as for the guards. They only had a fourth pound of cornmeal and either one pound of beef or a third pound of bacon. This sparse diet was only occasionally supplemented with beans, peas, rice, or molasses. With these unspeakably grief-stricken, overcrowded conditions thousands of prisoners died during Bart’s stay in the compound. The sickening, brutal, unbearable things he witnessed during his long stay at Andersonville would be forever etched in his mind.
A long road of emotional healing and mending awaited Bart; however, he wasn’t aware it would get a great deal worse before it would get better.
Bart endured the gruesome ordeal surviving only because of his will to live and return home to his folks and his childhood sweetheart, Laurie, who awaited his return to begin their lives together. He anxiously pushed on toward home, and looked forward to a joyous reunion with the ones he loved so dearly.
As the thin, exhausted Bart walked anxiously toward his childhood home, he reflected on memories of a simpler time, a time of youthful securities and contentment.
I ain’t believin’ I’m home. Didn’t think I’d ever see my folks again…but I am home…and I am gonna see’em…and be with’em…and my sweet Laurie Bart thought almost whispering out loud as his heart throbbed with anticipation.
The tender years of innocence and bliss were gone. He was coming home a man. The boy who left his family to fight a war would never return. In his place, was a man broken and ladened with the dilemma of rebuilding his life after a war that shattered his youth. Bart was home at last, but he knew he’d never be the same. The Civil War had forever tainted him and his country. With his homecoming and plans to build a new life with his sweetheart, he at least had a renewed purpose in the dreams and promises he had made with his sweet Laurie.
The farm wasn’t much. The creek-bottom land, meadows and timber covered only a couple hundred acres or so, but to Bart the harrowed fields looked like heaven as he turned around the bend toward home. Weeping wasn’t in his plans, but he couldn’t holdback his feelings nor his tears. Aching to hold the ones he loved close to him once more, Bart knew he would soon begin his life anew with the hopes and dreams that had kept him going and kept him focused on surviving his time spent in battle and the prison camps. The relief of being home again overwhelmed him, and he wept like a little child knowing he was soon to embrace his Ma and Pa for the first time in over three years.
From a distance Bart suddenly caught a glimpse of his mother and father running up from the old home place to greet him. His tears now flowed uncontrollably as if everything inside him would explode if they didn’t surface.
I can’t let’em see me cry. This homecomin’ is so special, and I don’t wanta mess this up with tears he thought seriously with a mixture of excitement and distress.
Bart didn’t want his Ma and Pa to see his tears, at least not now. Knowing it was the first time in years they had seen one another, he wanted their reunion to be joyful, without the tears. Many tears had flowed while he was imprisoned, but none with the pleasure he felt at that moment. He hadn’t realized happiness could bring the same tears his sorrow had brought to him while he was imprisoned for two long years. Fighting and wiping his tears, he ran down the hillside toward the old homestead to meet them. Bart’s heart was throbbing. His body was trembling and overwhelmed by emotions.
“Oh my gosh; my precious, dearest Bartholomew! I’ve missed you somethin’ awful!” Ma squealed, pressing his lean face between her tiny, unsteady hands.
Kissing and hugging him ever so tightly, she sobbed uncontrollably along with her son. She couldn’t let him go. She held him close cuddling him like she did when he was a boy. His Pa stepped in forcing her arms from around Bart, so he could give him the huge, bear hug he had been waiting to give him for three long years.
“It’s real good to have you back home, son!” Pa echoed over and over, his arms clasped and lingering around Bart.
Pa’s tears flowed down his face in a never-ending stream. He reached for Ma as he wiped his face trying to calm himself.
Looking into Bart’s eyes Pa said, “Son, I’ve missed you somethin’ fierce. I…we, prayed for you three long years, and thank the good Lord, my prayers was answered. Standin’ here lookin’ at you, son, I gotta tell you, and I gotta let you know how very proud I am of you, and how very much I love you…..”
“Come here Ma,” Bart said, reaching for her, and pulling her close.
“I love you too Pa; and Ma, I love you. I love you both more than you’ll ever know,” he replied, trembling in a sentimental, loving tone.
They squeezed one another affectionately. For those first few moments of his homecoming Bart simply took pleasure in their long embrace hoping it would never end. Nevertheless, it did end. About five minutes later their embrace little by little slacked as they began walking together toward home. It was an extremely satisfying walk for Bart. He talked, laughed and cried with his folks all the way to their cabin. The half-mile stroll ended too soon for Bart. He was soaking in all the pure pleasures of being home once again. When they arrived at the cabin Bart’s eyes wandered here and there looking at everything with the wonderment of a child. It was as though he was seeing the farm for the very first time. It felt like home and he was so glad to be back, and he smiled with contentment glancing at his folks tenderly.
It’s just as I remember when I left for the war three years ago. It’s what I pictured in my mind durin’ my darkest hours in that wretched place. This is what I knew I’d come home to Bart calmly thought, and he repeated those words to his folks with almost a sadness in his voice.
With a mixture of joy and heartache, a strange calm overcame him. Bart sat down on the porch still looking around with excitement. He recalled the times he spent as a boy roaming the hills and hollows of the old farm he called home. A bluebird sat on the fence chirping, and a pair of crows flew overhead adding clamor to its soft melody. The redbirds and mockingbirds joined in and sang their familiar songs as he watched the animals graze in the thick, green pasture where he played as a child. Farm life wasn’t easy, but he recalled how secure and simple life was as a young boy growing up in his west Tennessee home.
Sitting quietly on the porch leaned up against the little cabin, Bart propped his head against the wall and stretching, he kicked off his shoes crossing his legs settling into the calm around him. The sights, sounds, and smells of a beautiful spring day once again saturated the air. With his mind flooding with fond memories, Bart’s mind began churning and racing to the past. It was a time he considered being the best time of his life. Reminiscing, he drifted back to an uncomplicated and simpler time.
Walkinghome from school Bart shoved his books inside his shirt wrapping his old wool coat as tightly around him as he could. He pulled the collar up tight about his neck scrunching his head inside to block the numbing, cold north wind. With his hands in his pockets and sighing, he trudged on toward home. Home was only two miles away. Usually, it was an adventurous walk from school, but today all the thirteen year old boy wanted, was to get home and warm himself by the fire. Being mid October, the first snow of the season had begun. Last winter’s snow came early, and it was a startling sixteen inch blizzard, and Bart wanted to get home before the snowstorm.
Bart knew it would snow. He could feel and smell it in the air. The whitish-gray clouds hovered lower than usual. His Pa always told him if the clouds looked clumpy and thick like the buttermilk his Ma used to make biscuits, there would be a good snow. A promising blizzard made Bart a little uneasy. He knew how quickly he could lose his way in a snowstorm. Bart didn’t like the jittery feeling he had in the pit of his stomach. Being so cold, he just wanted to be home warm and safe.
I don’t know how Pa knows when it’s gonna snow, but I’m real glad he taught me to look at the sky and notice all the stuff ’round me; he pondered hurrying onward home.
“If I hadn’t gone to school today I would’ve been home helpin’ Pa with the chores and be
a lot warmer than what I am now,” Bart said out loud, scolding his folks mentally.
“I don’t know why Ma and Pa makes me go to school,” he mumbled to himself, as he irritably kicked the frozen rocks in his path.
Bart hated school. He felt he was too old to go. Most kids his age, especially the boys, were staying home helping their families on their farms. He had told his folks how he felt, but they insisted he needed to go to school. He had to attend school and keep up his grades, or he knew he’d be in for it. He understood the trouble he could have from his folks if he skipped school. He also knew he’d have to do his chores plus more would be added to his already time-consuming, dreaded list if he didn’t do as his ma and pa wanted.
Despite his dislike of school Bart’s grades were above average. He enjoyed math and history, but he hated English. Studying wasn’t so bad, especially when Laurie helped him. The only thing at school he looked forward to each day was seeing Laurie. Her home was three miles from the school. She, Bart, and three other friends from school, Leah, Joy, and Patrick would meet at the crossroads and walk together to school each day.
It’s so cold. I sure do wish I’s home, and I bet I ain’t gonna make it home before the snow gets deep and my nose gets frostbit he brooded shivering and disgusted.
Thoughts continued racing through his head as he walked on toward home trying to get his mind off the impossible chore of reasoning with his folks about going to school.
At least I got to see my sweet Laurie today he warmly smiled while thinking and reminiscing over his day and how much time he had let slip by which he could have spent with her.
Laurie wasn’t much younger than Bart. He had known her most all of his life. Even though she had just turned twelve on the seventeenth of June, she seemed a lot older to him. She was a beauty, and not only to him, but everyone thought so. Everyone seemed to like her, and Bart knew why.
Laurie’s outward beauty only deepened her inner beauty. She was kind to everyone and willing to help and do anything for others. She loved people as much as she loved life. Her gentle spirit and attitude won everyone’s heart who met her. Even at the tender young age of twelve, she was a God-fearing girl who believed in talking to God daily. She also held herself to the highest standards of living a good, clean, pure life before God and man. She attended church about once a month when the circuit preacher came to the schoolhouse; however, her beliefs in her creator were deeper than any sermon she could ever hear. God had been engraved in her heart through her folks’ teaching and by reading her Bible. She also talked to the Lord about everything in her life each day. Everyone noticed her dedication to Him and mankind.
Laurie had thick, long golden hair with streaks of copper colored strands that sparkled like a new penny in the sunlight. There also were strands of flaming red speckled throughout her hair, which were almost as brilliant and shimmering even without the aid of bright light. When she wore it down, her long tresses flowed softly down her back and touched her waist, which made the three shades of Laurie’s hair still more eye-catching. Everyone noticed and remarked how beautiful her hair was. Bart often wondered if it would shine as pretty in the firelight as in the sunlit days when they walked side by side. He hoped one day he would know the answer to that question. Bart spent a good deal of time daydreaming about the night he would sit by the fire with her.
Laurie’s large deep violet eyes frequently glanced in Bart’s direction, but he was, more often than not, unable to return her glance. He was shy and generally quiet when she was near him. Even though he had known her, since they were kids, he at times with his nervous and timid ways couldn’t seem to be himself when she was next to him.
Laurie’s smile was stunning and her beauty dazzled Bart. Laurie always brightened his day with her beautiful smile and sweet nature. Even though Leah and Joy, along with other girls in his class showed interest in him, Bart at the tender age of thirteen, knew he loved Laurie. He was afraid to let anyone know how he felt. He kept his secret. Even Laurie wasn’t yet aware how deep his feelings were.
I wish I could talk to Laurie calm like, and be myself when she’s near me Bart sadly contemplated at last turning the bend toward home.
Bart kept trudging onward and his steps became lighter knowing he would soon be warm and safe again. In the distance, he saw the wisps of smoke from the chimney of the little cabin he called home as it swept across the tall evergreen trees. It smelled so good and the scent lingered in the crisp, blustery air as the smoke seemed to whisper through the hills and hollows, welcome home Bart.
When Bart at last reached home the snow covered the yard. It had blown onto the edge of the porch covering it with a thin, powdery layer of white. The snow, little by little had crept its way up toward the wood pile stacked against the cabin wall. Stepping on the porch, he opened the door and found Ma cooking supper and Pa stacking logs near the fireplace to keep them from getting drenched by the wet snow. Bart turned and without being told went back out on the porch and brought more wood into the cabin to keep it dry. Pa thanked him. He told him how cold the night would be, and how they would burn every stick of the dried out logs just to keep them warm the rest of the night.
The cabin had only three rooms, but when the fire was kept going it was warm and cozy. Ma was blessed to have a wood-burning cook stove which heated the cabin as well. Not many people in their neck of the woods owned one. It helped keep the little cabin pleasantly warm. So this night felt as comfortable as an old shoe to Bart as he walked in the door and felt the warmth of Ma’s cooking. They would stay very snug with all the heat coming from her stove, and he knew they would be warm and cozy for at least half the night. It would be so good to sleep in a warm, cozy bed. As tired as he was from his walk home, he looked forward to crawling under the thick stack of quilts and blankets that covered his bed.
Sitting down to supper Pa bowed his head praying, “Our dear gracious heavenly Father, we thank you for your blessins’, and for the food you’ve set before us, we’re most beholden, and we ask for your lastin’ graces, Amen.”
They began eating their mouthwatering, tasty meal Ma had prepared. Bart took pleasure in Ma and Pa’s conversation about their day. He loved the suppertime meal. At the end of each day, Bart looked forward to the good conversation they had at the supper table. While Pa and Ma caught up on the day’s events, the thought crossed Bart’s mind about how Pa always said the blessing at mealtime and how Pa and Ma had unfailingly taught him how to pray. It wasn’t just a ritual and empty words for this family, but actually talking to God.
Beginning each day with prayer asking God to bless and help their family always started their day encouraged. Their daily routine was typical of most farmers. Farming was hard at times, but it was a life Pa and his little family loved.They arose at dawn and Ma always made breakfast. Most of the time breakfast included biscuits and gravy, eggs, along with either bacon, sausage or ham, and of course their choice of jam or honey with Ma’s fresh churned butter.
Ma always had a feast for them at breakfast. She knew they had a long day of hard work ahead of them. She wanted to make sure her two men had the energy to do everything that needed to be done around the farm. Devotedly aware breakfast had to carry them through their chores until the mid-day meal, Ma always made sure she had a big breakfast for them.
After breakfast Pa always went to the fields, and he stayed until almost dark. There was so much work to do. He had to make sure all he planted was free of weeds, bugs and other vermin, which meant he also had to keep all the critters, especially the crows, out of the corn. He took his double-barreled shot gun to the fields with him everyday. Occasionally, a bear would wander through, and it was good to have it close, but mostly he took the gun for the crows. If they got too close to the corn field, Pa would scare them off by emptying both barrels as near to them as possible, and there were few times he missed his target.
Furthermore, Pa worked endlessly at clearing more land with their two work mules.He took them to the fields each day. It was difficult, hot work, but it was worth it because he knew he was making room for more crops to be planted for the next year. There were always a lot of chores to be done. He had to water the crops when it didn’t rain enough, so there would be plenty of corn for the animals to eat and have as much as necessary to take to the grist mill and grind into meal for Ma’s cooking needs. He didn’t grow a lot of wheat, but he did manage to harvest enough for grinding into flour to last them all year. The straw left after the wheat harvest also had to be stored for the animals’ bedding. Pa and Bart had to cut and gather the hay as well. The hay left on the ground, usually was trampled under foot and the animals wouldn’t eat it. This hay too, was gathered to add with the straw from the wheat harvest. Storing it for use as bedding in the stables was tough work, but at least it helped the animals stay somewhat warmer during the cold, freezing, winter months ahead.
The only break Pa took from his labor was to get a drink of water from the creek and eat his midday meal which Ma took to him everyday. At midday, she stopped everything she was doing, and packed his dinner in a basket. She would climb on their old horse, Jake, and with the basket in hand, she would ride to the fields. She tied Jake at an oak tree from time to time, and walked the rest of the way to find Pa hard at work. Oftentimes, Pa wouldn’t notice her coming from across the field.
These were the times Ma sneaked up behind him wrapping her arms around him saying, “Hey Mr. Clarey, thought you might be gettin’ hungry.”
Pa, startled, always turned wiping his sweaty brow with smiling, sparkling eyes he would tightly return his adoring wife’s embrace. Even though he was dirty and damp from his scorching, tiring work, Ma didn’t mind; for his hug was a welcome escape from her chores. Ma would more often than not make the hug linger by squeezing him just a bit longer and just as snugly as Pa, letting him know she wanted and needed a good, long, bear hug from him.
Bart often saw Ma take to the fields at dinnertime. He frequently helped her saddle old Jake. Knowing she would be gone at least an hour, he knew could relax a little from his chores. Many times, as a boy, he saw Ma and Pa embrace from a distance. Bart, splashing in the creek on a hot summer’s day trying to escape chores he had been given, would see them in the field greeting one another with a long, tender hug. Many times he overheard them talking. Sometimes, on purpose, he would hide near the old oak tree just to watch and listen to what they were saying. He knew he shouldn’t listen to them without them knowing it, but every now and again, he couldn’t help himself.
Ma sometimes had a difficult time getting Pa to stop working long enough to eat. He always feared he wouldn’t get everything done on time and his family might suffer. It wasn’t any different in the winter months because he spent all day chopping wood so it could dry out by the fireplace. First, he always used the wood he had chopped during the summer months, but there was never enough to last. Then, each day he piled the newly cut wood as high to the ceiling as he could reach so it could be good and dry before they used it. Keeping it stacked by the fireplace helped it to dry out quickly. It had to last the lengthy winter and every twig of the wood was burned just to stay warm those long winter nights.
Ma also worked hard. She washed and cleaned their clothes on a wash board down by the creek. Boiling water in a huge wash kettle, she soaked them first to get them cleaner. She carried them back to the clothes line Pa had strung between the smoke house and the old gray barn. He had made it for her out of pieces of rope he had knotted firmly together to keep them from slipping, and tossing Ma’s clothes in the dirt. Pa knew she wouldn’t be too happy about her clean, wet clothes falling to the ground, so he made sure the rope was strong and tight. The walk from the creek took about half an hour and carrying clothes made it seem much longer, so Pa fashioned a fetchin’ cart as he called it, for one of the goats to pull for her, so she wouldn’t get so tired carrying the clothes.
Ma worked as hard, if not harder than Pa. Her days were filled with endless tasks. Most days cooking almost constantly, Ma kept busy. Especially in the summer months it was tiring work when she had a garden, and had to preserve and store all she could for the cold and oftentimes lengthy winter. Each morning after breakfast, she would clean the dishes, and her tiny kitchen had to be spotless before she could do anything else. By the time she finished cleaning, it would be time for her to find a bite to eat for them for dinner, and supper was always about dusk; so Ma spent a lot of time in her little kitchen.
During the summer, Ma not only tended her garden, but had many chores to do. One of the chores included making candles. This was done when the honey was gathered and stored. Ma made different kinds of candles, but she used the bee’s wax candles more than any. The bee’s wax was very sticky and hard to get out of candle molds. So, much of the time Ma squeezed the melted bee’s wax around the homemade wicks shaping them into her candles. Sometimes she just dipped the wicks repeatedly in the warm bee’s wax layering them. This tedious task took a lot of time and patience to complete.
She made the wicks with homespun threads which she twisted tightly together. When she used her candle molds, she mixed tallow, which is just rendered beef fat, in with the bee’s wax, or she dipped them in the tallow, so they would come out of the candle molds easier. If she had no bee’s wax she had no choice but to make her candles out of the tallow. She dipped the wicks into it letting the tallow set a few minutes before re-dipping them until she had the size candle she wanted.
Grease lampslit her cabin as well. The grease lamps added extra light when they needed more than a candle. She also made these lamps with her homemade wicks. She would set her wicks in a bowl and put lard in the bottom. The lard came from rendered hog fat when they
slaughtered their hogs. She used everything when they butchered animals. Nothing went to waste. If they didn’t eat it, they found a use for it.
Another chore Ma had to do was making their clothes. She sewed or knitted all their clothes. She had no choice but to make them herself, for the closest town was miles away. Sewing and knitting were not hard tasks for her. It was a welcome change in her routine. She enjoyed doing every little thing for her family. Visits to town were few and far between. Money was scarce, so Ma managed to make her homespun yard goods and yarn to keep her and her two men clothed throughout the year.
Ma kept a very clean house. Pa often commented if he ever had a mind to, he could eat off the floor. He many times had kind words for her, bragging on how clean and tidy she kept things. She would smile and just keep working. She kept her house in very good order. She had a place for everything, and everything had its place.
Bart had chores that were his responsibility as well. He had to clean out the barn stalls. They always had an ample supply straw in the stalls for every animal on the farm to sleep in, on those freezing nights. It kept them quite warm, but the stalls could get very messy if not cleaned every day and fresh straw put down. It was a drab and dirty job. It wasn’t Bart’s favorite task, but he did it as cheerfully as possible. Sometimes whistling a tune made the time pass more quickly; oftentimes just daydreaming about Laurie made his chores not seem so mundane.
The hay had to be fed and rationed out to each animal, so it would last all winter. The straw wasn’t edible, if Bart made the mistake of using the hay as bedding for the animals, he would be in deep trouble because the animals would go hungry. He also milked the cow, fed and watered the chickens, geese, ducks, hogs, goats, sheep, their two work mules, and of course old Jake. It was tough work. It took a long time to get it done especially in the winter when the water froze. He had to take an ax to the creek and break the ice that had frozen overnight so the animals could drink. He also had to break the ice on the four extra watering troughs in the barn. Most winter mornings Bart had to do this.
Many of the animals were very good-humored and agreeable. However, the billy goat was especially mischievous, if not down right mean. As big as a mountain ram, he had horns that could put a scare into even the biggest animal. His snow-white hair blended in with the wintry, snowy background making it difficult sometimes for Bart to see him.
One morning Bart didn’t notice him sneaking up behind him while at the chicken house feeding the chickens and gathering what few eggs he could find. The chickens did not lay many eggs during the winter months; however, when he looked for eggs, he would find one or two occasionally, making him linger a little longer at the chicken house. On this particular day, the goat was being especially stubborn and getting in his way making it very difficult for him to finish his chores. He tried to ram Bart and push him around keeping him from the watering troughs. Old Bill, as Bart called him, wouldn’t let him in the barn, and chased him to the smokehouse. He often had difficulty from Old Bill.
The smokehouse was where the meats were stored and salted down to keep them from spoiling. More frequently than not, it became Bart’s refuge. The meats were smoked with hickory chips, or some other hardwood to help preserve them. For the most part, it was always full of meat, including pork, beef and wild game. There wasn’t a lot of space in the small building, especially when it was overflowing with meat, and Bart wasn’t happy about having to go in it and wait for Old Bill to calm down.
Gradually opening the door Bart decided to make a dash for the barn. The old Billy goat, in pursuit again had Bart skidding and sliding in the icy, muddy mess of the barnyard. Finally, Bart had to pick up a shovel and smack his head a time or two, so he could slip by him and run through the barn door. Old Bill was on his heels all the way into the barn, and came very close to running over Bart. He was relieved that he had carried the shovel with him. Bart turned and gave him another whack on his tough head, and it stopped him dead in his tracks. Not noticing his aim was a little lower, Bart had hit him a bit hard, and he didn’t just hit his horns this time. Old Bill was a tad bit dazed and addled by Bart’s blow. Bart almost felt pity for the animal as he watched him stagger off into his barn stall. Each time, after the ruckus, Bart would walk over to Old Bill and feeling sorry for him; he would pat him on the head trying to calm him.
While trying to console his enemy, Bart spoke in a loud, stern and oftentimes angry voice saying, “Looks like you’d learn after while that this gosh darn shovel stops you sooner or later!”
Bart didn’t really mean to hurt him, he just wanted to get his chores done and Old Bill made it near impossible for him to get finished in time for school. It was such cold and cumbersome work during the winter months. Even though some of the animals had been slaughtered for food, or sold at the beginning of fall, which made it easier by not having as many animals to care for; it was still very difficult for Bart to keep up all his chores and school too.
“Supper sure was good and flavorsome, Ma, and I’m as full as a tick on a hound dog,” Pa said with a chuckle.
“Thanks honey, glad you liked it.” Ma laughed quietly.
No matter what Ma set in front of them to eat, Pa always smiled and complimented it. Ma and Pa were very close. They did not care to show their affection in little ways. It sometimes embarrassed Bart, but as he grew older it didn’t bother him as much.
Pa’s chuckle brought Bart back from his thoughts of farm life, and he finished up his supper joining in with their laughter and lightheartedness.
Bart helped Ma clear the table and Pa put another log on the fire and sat down and lit his pipe. The aroma of the pipe filled the cabin as they sat by the fire calmly talking about their day. Bart kissed Ma and told Pa goodnight and went to bed. He couldn’t sleep. He kept thinking about Laurie and wondering when he would get to see her again.
Goodnight my sweet Laurie; rest well my darlin’, Bart whispered under his breath, as he sighed looking out his window in a daze.
The snow covered trees blew as the strong wind swept the snow down in sheets of thick white billows. Bart could scarcely see the barn, and the snow was getting deeper. He knew there would be no school for some time; which, meant no Laurie for a while, so with a new chill in the air he decided to go to bed.
Getting comfortable in his bed clothes and burrowing under heavy quilts and blankets Bart settled down and closed his eyes whispering, “Dear God, I ask you please to take care of everybody I love and keep’em warm and safe on this dreary winter’s night…”
Bart talked to God at the end of each day. Occasionally, he would fall asleep right in the middle of his prayers. He sometimes talked to Him late at night, especially when he couldn’t sleep. He particularly talked to Him about Laurie and how he knew she was so special. Bart wanted God to help him be able to talk to her the way he wanted to. He actually spoke to Him like talking to a friend. He told the Lord of his hopes and dreams, and Bart had many dreams.
…If anyone could hear me talkin’ to you Lord they’d think I’m crazy. Thank you for listenin’ and bein’ there for me, Bart thought smilingly ending his prayer and drifted off to sleep.
Bart’s dreams were always about Laurie. This night was no different. Although his dreams sometimes made no sense, he liked the fact that much of the time they were just re-living the day he had spent with Laurie at school. Few nights passed that he didn’t dream of her, which made his sleep pass very quickly. Morning came too soon, particularly in the winter when it was so cold. He hated getting up out of a warm, snug bed.
Given that Ma awoke early, Bart awakened to the smell of bacon and eggs. He always woke before Pa. Ma kindled the fire in her cook-stove and when the stove became hot enough, she began cooking and the aroma unfailingly awakened her men. Getting up was hard because it was so warm under the endless heap of quilts and blankets Ma had made for him and piled on his bed to keep him snug and cozy.
Through the years, she had placed a new, heavy cover on each bed to help keep them warm on the long winter nights.She made them herself. Sometimes she stitched on quilts all summer, but other times she worked on blankets. Both were an added blessing to their beds each winter. The air in the bedrooms was so nippy, particularly early in the morning when the fire had died down. In the wee hours of the morning, the fireplace lost its heat. There were just a few red embers left of the fire, so the added quilts and blankets made each bed much warmer through those chilly hours.
Bart fumbled clumsily in the dusk and lit the candle at the side of his bed and reached for his pants. Finally fastening them, he grabbed his shirt and walked to the stove where Ma stood cooking and kissed her cheek and said, “Mornin’, Ma.”
Ma smiled and caressed his face and replied, “Good mornin’ to you, son.”
Bart smiled with a blush and went outside. He stepped on the icy porch. The snow blanketed the countryside. He took a deep breath, and the frosty, refreshing air gave him a shiver. Cringing, he knew what he had to do. He prepared himself for the trip to the outhouse by pulling on his freezing boots and coat. He had forgotten to bring them inside and set them by the fire before he went to bed. Bart hated the added wintriness he felt when he put them on. He hastily ran through the snow toward the little building hoping the run would make him warmer. By the time he began his chores the cold, freezing air of the outdoors didn’t seem as bad. Ma had to have the milk for her breakfast gravy, so he milked the cow first. Afterwards, he tended the rest of the chores. By the time he finished, breakfast was almost ready to set on the table. They all sat down, and as always, it tasted great, especially after working so hard.
“Bart, I need you to help me cut wood today,” Pa said.
“Sure, Pa, there ain’t no school today anyway.”Bart replied.
“How’s school?”Ma asked.
“I still don’t see why I can’t quit and help you ’round here.” Bart said disgusted.
“We ain’t gonna have words ’bout that again, Bart. You know why, and it’s settled. You gotta go to school.” Pa spoke sternly.
Well, at least I get to see my sweet Laurie. Maybe Pa’s right, maybe I do need schoolin’. He thought, passing the bacon to Pa.
“Bart, you didn’t answer my question and tell me how school’s goin’?” Ma insisted.
“I’m doin’ fine, Ma,”…
* * *
Bart felt a hand on his shoulder, looking up into Ma’s face with a faraway look in his eyes he thoughtfully said, “I’m sorry, Ma. I’s just thinkin’ back ’bout our life here. It seems such a long time ago Laurie and me, were carefree, and life was so simple.”
“I know son. It’s been a long time. Too long a time and we’re so glad to have you back home with us,” Ma said tearfully.
“It’s good to be home, Ma. I’m so tired. Can we go in? I want to see my old bed. I need to rest for just a little while.”He asked wearily.
Ma and Pa took Bart by the hand and helped him get up on his feet. He had sat on the porch for at least a couple of hours, and he didn’t realize how exhausted he was. Time had stood still for him as he remembered his childhood and the warmth he felt being home again. With arms wrapped around him, they went inside and sat him down in Ma’s favorite chair while she prepared his bed. He was dog-tired whenthey told him goodnight, and tucked him in bed lovingly, as though he was still a little child.
“We’ll talk more tomorrow,” they both said quietly.
“Yeah, we can talk tomorrow, please go and tell Laurie to be here in the mornin’ as soon as she can,” he told them sleepily.
Bart hadn’t slept in a bed in weeks, not since he slept at the boarding house on his way back home. To sleep in his old bed was a delight. Bart fell asleep in no time. He collapsed and slept soundly for a few hours.
It wasn’t long before his blissful sleep was interrupted. The horrible memories of the war began to crowd his mind. Thus, again this set in motion the never-ending nightmares he was plagued with as a Union soldier and a prisoner of war survivor.
Bart could not get the recollections of the war out of his mind. He was tortured during his waking hours and haunted in his sleep. He knew he needed to tell Laurie and his folks about it, but it was so agonizing for him to talk about. It was tough thinking about the unspeakable, nightmarish events he had witnessed. He questioned himself how he would be able to put into words his suffering. No one had any idea what he had endured. He knew his folks wanted and needed to know. He also knew he must tell his folks.
Is this the right time to tell them? Bart doubted seriously as he tossed and turned pondering how he was going to talk about the past three years of his life.
He had to gather his thoughts and his emotions, so he could tell his story. Remembering his ordeal was something he really did not want to do, and talking about it was something he looked forward to even less. Nevertheless, his folks and Laurie needed to understand him better in the coming days, so he would tell them of all his woes once he felt comfortable enough to relive his horrible recollections.
Bart’s thoughts calmed as he lay awake in his bed listening to the rooster crow and thinking how wonderful it felt to be home again. Bart couldn’t wait to get back into the daily farm tasks and have a normal life again. Getting his war days behind him would help him get back the life he had left behind.
Bart finally dosed off to sleep once more as the rooster’s morning song faded in a background of the crickets soft chirp.
The Restless Journey...A Civil War Saga
- Amazon.com :The Restless Journey by Sandra Dailey-Mendenhall
The Restless Journey, contains graphic, heartfelt details of the battles and prison camps a young Civil War soldier must cope with, but when he returns home to his childhood sweetheart, he finds his misery has only just begun.
A children's book written illustrated by Sandra Dailey-Mendenhall available in paperback and Kindle @ Amazon.com
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