Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Purple (11/05/09)
TITLE: Sunset In The Smokeys
By Richard Adams
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Skitter Hollow cuts through the deeply rutted landscape of The Great Smokey Mountains a little North of Banner Elk, North Carolina. In the last days of the colorful autumn sunshine, when the first light of the sun breaks over the mountain tops near-to ten in the morning, the golden-reds of the hardwoods glisten with early morning dew. That’s about the time a day you can hear Momma May, with Little Jack, making her way through the Lolly Pine Forest and down a narrow trail to draw the day’s water at Dribble Creek Spring. May’s high singing voice raises though the swaying pines like feathers on an updraft, a lonely tune so simple and sweet that the Red-Bird’s sing her back a bright little wake up song. It’s early in May’s long day, just a tiny piece of her hard life in the Smokey’s, with the pungent sent of musty leaves and smoke from the cook stove filling the air down Skitter Hollow.
Little Jack turned three years back in June with a little family party at Festus Barker’s homestead place. All May’s youngsters were there including Tilly, bless her little heart. The long and fancy parlor table was over crowded with them Skitters’ that day. If all May’s babies had survived there wasn’t room enough, even in the big room, for her kids; thirteen was May’s lucky number. Birthdays are a highly celebrated in Skitter Hollow; right up there with weddings.
So Little Jack has past the three and a half mark by now and has a question about everything under heaven. He seems to be excitedly attentive to the natural beauty of things around the hollow as he shadows his Momma, May, along the rugged trails.
After bringing so many babies into the world May walks with ease and wisdom through the glamorous hills and hollows of her home place. She knows every bush and flower by name and what they heal ‘if yer feelin poorly’. May never wondered past Fowler’s Creek to the North or ventured deeper into cities bigger than Boone. She was invited once to drive with Festus all the way to Ashville but the thought of it frightened her to the bone; she hid like a kid rabbit near Tewe’s General Store until Festus couldn’t wait any longer; he finally left without her. May knew herself better than anyone could. She was at home in the hollow with her babies and that’s were she needs to be.
Each of May’s babies were raised up pretty much the same way, with the exception of Tilly of course….bless her little heart. May taught each one to read and live from the stories in the family Bible. She passed down the traditional stories and culture of her family and Daddy, Big Jack’s too. It’s a rich history of “blood thicker than water” and a self sufficient life in the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina. The folk art and traditional music of her home was May’s specialty and her babies were all talented that way. All of May’s girl babies grew up spinning wool and creating the prettiest patchwork quilts in the county. They gardened and cooked, canned and preserved all manner of food and herbs. Mothers in the primitive Smokey Mountains are the workers and the nurturers of every family. Her boys generally grew up resourceful and productive, keeping food on the table and babies…lots of babies.
Then there is Little Jack, “Daddy Big Jack’s spittin image” May says. Little Jack gleefully totters down the path hungrily soaking up the sights and sounds of the hollow, youthfully sinking his tiny toes into the Carolina clay. He’s never lacking a question about something he sees or hears and May loves that.
Today Little Jack had been learning about colors, falling leaves and mountain flowers under Mays tutorage. As the sunlight grew dimmer far above them Little Jack’s curiosity bloomed. May could see it in his beaming face; a question was forming in his thoughts as his tiny finger raised high above pointing to the darkening strip of sky.
May gasped at the marvel of colors on sunset display; deep blue and rumbling reds that mixed in shear clouds between the daylight and the darkness. Little Jack was in a trance, without words, in wonder………..pointing, asking.
May wrapped Little Jack in her arms and whispered gently in his ear, pointing with the palm of her hand to the sky,……”THAT, she sighed, is Heaven’s PURPLE”.
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