Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Write in the HISTORICAL genre (05/03/07)
TITLE: A Picture-Perfect Coincidence
By Misti Chancellor
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I reached down to ease the old war wound that always cramped when I rode long distances, and out of habit repeated the prayer I always prayed when the pain flared from that wound: “Lord, please help me find Tommy’s family and return that picture to them.” I should have given up hope of ever finding them; after all, it was 30 years after the war had ended. Still, there was that tiny flicker of hope that lingered in my heart that someday, somehow, I could get that picture back to its rightful owners. Tommy had loaned it to me one evening when I was blue about not having a girl; told me that I could pretend that his sister was my girl. Good ol’ Tommy Fountain. He was so brave, fighting against those rebels, determined not to let the finger he’d lost in a farm accident before the War Between the States began slow him down. He died in the battle at Vicksburg before I could return the picture to him. I reached into the saddle bag and pulled out the little 2” x 3” tintype and looked at it again. His sister had such a sweet face. Ahh, well, I would keep trusting the Lord to someday answer my prayer.
I pulled my horse to a stop in front of the Darden place and swung down, glad to have my boots on the ground again. Mr. Darden stabled my horse as I carried my saddlebags inside and greeted the rest of the family. Mrs. Darden told me that dinner would be on the table soon, and to make myself comfortable in the family room after I got washed up. Then, she sent her children scurrying off every which way to get the pre-dinner chores done.
I settled into a chair in the family room and looked around. It was a cozy room. A visitor got a strong sense of family, as there were several pictures of people scattered around the room. A picture across the room caught my eye, and I got up and wandered over to examine it more closely. It was a picture of a young couple on their wedding day. The woman in the picture looked familiar, which seemed strange to me, as I’d not met the Darden family before. When Mrs. Darden came into the room to fetch me for supper, I questioned her about the picture.
“That’s a picture of my parents, Martha and Jonathan Bewley,” she said.
Bewley? I’d heard that name before. There’d been that story about the minister who had been lynched in Texas at the start of the war for inciting a slave rebellion. Not long back it had come out that he’d been innocent of that charge. “Hmm…” I thought, “Interesting story, but not having met the Bewley’s, that can’t be why that face looks familiar.” Mrs. Darden continued, “My mother was a Fountain before she met and married my father.”
Fountain! That was it! “Did your mother have a brother named Thomas who fought with the North in the War Between the States?” I asked. Mrs. Darden looked startled. “Why, yes! Mother used to tell us about our uncle Tommy. He was a favorite brother of hers because one day when they were out playing on the farm, he rescued her from a rattlesnake and ended up losing one of his fingers. She said it was a sad day for the whole family when he lost his life in the war.”
My eyes widened with amazement. God was answering my 30-year prayer right before my eyes! Reaching into the saddlebags, I pulled out the little tintype and handed it to Mrs. Darden with shaking hands and tears of joy in my eyes. “Mrs. Darden, I believe this belongs to your family. I was Tommy’s friend during the war, and he loaned me this picture. After he died, I wasn’t able to return it to the family because I didn’t have the family’s address. It has been my prayer these last 30 years that God would make a way for me to return the picture to the family. Today, that prayer has been answered.”
Author’s note: Thomas Fountain loaned his sister’s picture to a friend during the Civil War. The friend was unable to find the family to return the picture to them after Thomas’s death. Years later, the friend – now a circuit riding preacher - coincidentally stayed in Thomas’s niece’s home, unaware of the connection, and a picture displayed there led to a conversation that resulted in the tintype being returned to the family. My grandmother inherited the picture and shared this story with me.
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