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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Write in the HISTORICAL genre (05/03/07)

TITLE: Berries for Stars
By Patty Wysong


Callie snatched off the towel that was wrapped around her waist and tossed it onto the plank that served as a table. As far as she was concerned the cabin could burn to the ground and it would be no great loss. Lem had been so full of dreams of land and a mansion that she’d been caught up in his dreaming when she’d agreed to move West. So far the only part of his dream to come true was the land; his mansion was barely a tiny cabin.

“Hey, Callie, where ya’ heading?” Lem called from the lean-to where he dreamed a barn would someday be.

“East!” she hollered as she marched toward the creek.

“Darlin’, I hate to tell ya’ this, but that direction is west.” She could hear the smile in his voice and it made her grind her teeth. She’d had it with his ‘Ain’t this grand’ attitude. All she wanted was to go home. Home was where there were neighbors and friends, towns and stores.

Reaching the creek, she crossed it and quickly continued on, paying little attention to where she was going or how long she’d been walking. As her feet followed the creek she silently ranted at her husband, slapping branches and brush out of her way.

“Lan’ sakes, girl, ya’ better be careful. Ya’ jest ‘bout ripped yer hand on these here brambles.” The voice came from a berry patch.

“Goodness, you scared me!” Callie peered into the brambles and saw an older lady in a stained dress, berry bucket in hand. “Where did you come from?”

The other lady laughed. “Originally from Maryland, but thet was so long ago I cain’t hardly ‘member it. You must be Lem’s wife. He said you was mighty purdy, with red hair an’ all.”

“Yes, I’m Callie Stanhope, Lem’s wife.”

“Waal, Callie, it’s a pleasure to meet ya’. I’m Ida Mae Hiller an’ I was gatherin’ these here berries fer a pie. Elmer an’ me was gonna stop by fer a visit tomorra’.” Ida Mae carefully picked her way out of the berry patch and sat down on a log. “Why don’t ya’ sit down an’ tell me what’s botherin’ ya.”

Callie didn’t even stop to think, she just opened her mouth and let all the bottled up frustration pour out. She told Ida Mae about Lem’s dreams and the tiny cabin, about having to haul water from the creek and not having a proper privy.

Callie stopped pacing and propped her fists on her hips. “But you know what’s getting me the most?”

Ida Mae, being a wise woman, merely raised an eyebrow.

“Lem thinks everything out here is just grand. ‘Heaven on earth.’ That’s what he calls it. Can you believe it?”

Ida Mae smiled. “Yep, I surely can. My Elmer’s jest like yer Lem.”

“How can you stand it? Doesn’t it drive you crazy?” Callie sat down, her energy spent.

“Waal, it used to, but it don’t anymore.” Ida Mae watched carefully, gauging Callie’s response.

“Once we lived near an old lady named Myra. I remember tellin’ her how bad things were an’ she tol’ me I had mud in my eyes while Elmer had stars in his.” Ida Mae laughed.

Callie surprised herself by snorting. “Lem’s got stars in his eyes, all right.”

“Mmmm. Sounds like he does. Myra tol’ me a lil’ story, explainin’ how I got muddy eyes.” Ida Mae looked closely at Callie. “Ya’ wanna hear it?”

Callie smiled weakly, too polite to say ‘no’ since Ida Mae had so patiently listened to her.

“Two men looked out from prison bars, one saw mud, the other saw stars.”

Callie just sat and stared at her, dumbfounded. “That’s it? That’s all there is to the story?”

“Yep. Thet’s it. Two men looked out from prison bars, one saw mud, the other saw stars.”

Callie looked at the creek and her shoulders slumped. Ida Mae could see the battle raging inside her, but turned and sat quietly watching the creek, letting Callie work it out on her own.

“Ok. I get it. If I want to see more than mud I’ve got to look at the stars, too.” Callie pushed to her feet once again. “Those sure are beautiful berries. Back home was so crowded there were no berries. Some berry preserves would be wonderful on biscuits.”

Ida Mae chuckled. “Berries for stars; thet’s good. Keep thet up and you’ll have stars in yer eyes, too.”

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This article has been read 1087 times
Member Comments
Member Date
julie wood05/10/07
I loved this story! The setting and characters came alive through both the vivid descriptions and colorful dialogue (and dialect). I felt as though I were right there and knew them and was feeling with the main character.

Great message, too--one I could relate to and learn from! The creative title also sparked my curiosity and turned out perfect for this story. Great job!
Chrissi Dunn05/10/07
Very good message. The dialogue was perfect.
Kaylee Blake 05/10/07
You did a great job with the accents! (I just love accents; they add so much to a story...)

I felt that this could have been polished up a bit, but the storyline was great. Makes me think of that verse in Titus 2 about the older women teaching the younger women to love and honor their husbands, be good keepers at home, etc. I really liked the whole berries, stars, mud anology, too!
Esther Gellert05/10/07
I loved the 'voices' in this. I could relate to Callie so well.
What a lesson! It applies to everyone, in every era throughout history.
Betty Castleberry05/10/07
This is one of the best stories I've read so far. It is entertaining, and has a great voice, too. I love the lesson that is being passed on from generation to generation. Thumbs up!
Jeffrey Snell05/11/07
Wonderful writing! I enjoyed the authentic-feeling dialogue, but more than that, you deftly built Callie's and Ida's relationship in so few words. Nicely done!
Michael Aubrecht05/11/07
GREAT story. The dialogue was outstanding and really brought the characters to life.
Joanne Sher 05/13/07
Great action and dialogue and EVERYTHING. Excellent job on the characterization.
Rita Garcia05/13/07
Wonderful, I too enjoyed the generational message! Fantastic writing all the way around!
Sara Harricharan 05/14/07
A gem indeed! I like the pace of this and Callie's interaction with Ida Mae. Very nice and a cute touch with the story of the prison bars. The last line was good though, berries for stars. Nice job!
Jan Ackerson 05/14/07
What I liked most about this is that you didn't try to tell the whole story of Callie and Lem, but just one small moment. Lovely.
LaNaye Perkins05/14/07
Very nice message and story. Well done!
Bonnie Way05/14/07
Great story! I loved the conflict and the resolution. You portrayed all the characters so well, including Callie's frustration. :)
Henry Clemmons05/14/07
Very creative writing with a nice balance of descriptive dialogue. I enjoyed this selection.
Cassie Memmer05/15/07
Great story, good message, nice dialogue. Food for thought for all times. Nice work.
Julie Arduini05/15/07
Great title, dialogue/dialect and flat out great story!
T. F. Chezum05/15/07
Great story. great dialogue. You did a very good job with this.
Jacquelyn Horne05/16/07
Good story. Well written.
Donna Powers 05/16/07
Very nice! I enjoyed reading this
Brenda Welc05/16/07
This was great. I could certainly feel the anger in her voice. We don't always get what's promised to us in relationships but we always make the best of it.
Sandra Petersen 05/16/07
Loved Ida Mae's dialect. When you mentioned the brambles and berry bucket, I thought of blackberries and how much the brambles tear at the skin. You made me hungry for blackberry pie or jam.

I got a little confused in the first paragraph, thinking that the reason Callie had a towel around her was to escape a burning cabin. Then I realized that she only wished it.

Good message at the end. I think I would have liked Ida Mae as a neighbor and a mentor.
Lynda Schultz 05/16/07
Super story and super lesson too. Well done.
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/18/07
This was a good story. I liked the growth in your character and how you showed it.