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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “All that Glitters is Not Gold” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/24/08)

TITLE: Settlers
By Dee Yoder


The trees put their arms together over our heads and kept the rain off’n us, but they blocked the sun, too, so the coverin’ had a sting of dark coldness in it. I pulled my sacks along beside me ‘til I thought my arms would melt clean off the bones, but I warn’t complainin’. Pa was leadin’ and Ma was havin’ her own hard time, carryin’ my baby brother and totin’ things, too. Laney was draggin’ along behind me.

I couldn’t tell what time it was no more; the woods was that deep and dark. No trails was visible to us neither; we was scratchin’ our way through a bunch of wild blackberry patches and stumblin’ over roots the size of my arm. Little midges was bitin’ and pesterin’ ‘til I thought I’d just as soon knock my head off than have to keep swattin’ those ornery critters.

“Seth, we got to stop a minute,” Ma called. “I cain’t go on with this child pullin’ and tuggin’ at my shirt this way. He needs fed.”

Ma plopped down on a ol’ stump and put my baby brother to nurse. She looked bone tired, her eyes distant and foggy-like. I knew she’d about had it with Pa’s dream. It warn’t no problem ridin’ the waves of a dream when it meant gettin’ in a wagon and bumpin’ along a Indian trail. Warn’t no trouble pilin’ everythin’ on a raft and floatin’ down the Ohio River. But this here-this wanderin’ around in the dark woods-lookin’ for the Good Lord knew what- it was mighty bad. It woudn’t take nothin’ for a body to get lost and die with these here ‘ol oaks an’ hickories watchin’ him go.

My sister, Laney, was singin’ a song to herself, strokin’ the trees as she meandered around. Ma took note of that and grabbed up a switch right away. Before I could blink, Ma was on her like a flash, whippin’ and a hollarin’ about not wandererin’ off.

Pa jumped up and run Ma down. He grabbed Laney and told her to,“Git on over there with David and don’t move no more!” He looked at Ma and she hung her head down and started whimperin’.

“I cain’t do it no more, Seth. I cain’t. I just got to have me a home an’ a hearth an’ a warm bed to sleep in. I got to…I got to…”

Her voice stopped on a cough and she set down right on the ground, the whole time baby Fernie was just clingin’ on to her like a little bitty ‘possum. She hadn’t bothered to put her arms around him; they was hangin’ limp as noodles at her sides.

Pa reached down and scratched the top of her head, like he was pettin’ her, and sighed. He looked around at the clearin’ and reckoned we’d stop for the night.

“We got to get some rest, sure enough, Katie. Go on an’ set there a while. David an’ me can get the camp put to rights.”

That night I heard some critter sneakin’ around our campfire. I knowed Ma and Pa heard it too, but they never moved and went on talkin’. Ma had a powerful fear of them mean ‘ol bobcats, and I knowed she was thinkin’ about that.

“Seth, I don’t see how in the world we coulda ever thought this wild country could make a home. I been doin’ my best to keep on goin’, but I cain’t go another step.”

Pa stared into the fire. “Yep. I’m thinkin’ it might be best to settle in here for a time. Winter’s comin’ on and it don’t mean nothin’ to me to get a good piece a land if I ain’t got no family left to live on it with me.” He threw a stick into the fire and nodded as he looked through the deep, murky woods.

“Gonna make this clearin’ our home for now, Katie. It ain’t what I thought it would be, but the Good Lord done let us get this far and I ain’t a man to press the Lord’s hand more’n this.”

Ma bent her head and a tear come rollin’ down her cheek. I saw it hangin’ there, just on the edge of her chin, shinin’ in the firelight like a jewel. She looked up at Pa and her face finally had some peace in it.

“It ain’t what we was hopin’ for, Seth, but it’s good enough.”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 02/01/08
Enjoyed these characters - you did a good job of that. I found the dialect a little "off," somehow - some of the language seemed too sophisticated for the dialect near it - but it could just be my stereotypes. I love your last line - works just right.
Charla Diehl 02/02/08
Good job. I could empathize with the mother and how weary she must have been. Loved that she was accomodating to her husband's dreams, and that he understood her needs as well. Fit the topic and was an enjoyable read.
Laury Hubrich 02/04/08
I liked this story. I felt like I was there with them. That would be me dragging along behind even the slowest child:) This kept my interest up. Good writing!
Leigh MacKelvey02/04/08
Very creative and well written. I liked the whole "settler thang!" Reminded me of Little House in the Prairie.
Tammy Bovee02/04/08
Your piece is engaging from the beginning. The dialogue is genuine. The details bring pictures to mind. This piece has the makings of a classic. Keep writing! God Bless.
Pat Guy 02/04/08
I tell you what ... you did a fantastic job of taking a risk ... of having some fun ... of experimenting.

I thoroughly enjoyed this and had no trouble with the dialog - and I loved the atmosphere you created.

I never cared for 'Little House on the Prarie' but yours seems like a true slice of life during those difficult early years of our country.

Shirley McClay 02/04/08
I love the story! I enjoyed the language and it seemed very realistic to me. I want to read more :-) I love pioneer stories and this sounds like one I would pick up to buy!
Beth LaBuff 02/04/08
I love your story! I know the struggles were great for the pioneer families and you made this so real. The "tear...shining in the firelight/jewel" was perfect at the end.
Joy Faire Stewart02/05/08
Excellent descriptive writing, especially the 8th paragraph. Very enjoyable read.
Jan Ackerson 02/05/08
Excellent details--the dark coldness of the trees, the tear on her chin--and many, many more. A wonderful sense of time and place.
Sara Harricharan 02/06/08
This reads like a real scene from a historical/western novel. Nice job, Dee! I sort of slipped into the sort and fumbled around through the shadows with them! This was great! ^_^
Holly Westefeld02/06/08
Definitely an excellent portrayal of scene, characters, and emotion.
Loren T. Lowery02/06/08
You are so good at mood, atomosphere, dialogue (think Harper Lee) and story telling that it's hard not to get so involved with your story that you simply want to know more. The jewel in the tear wraps this story up so beautifully...which means you are good at allegory, too.
Debbie Wistrom02/06/08
what an image--"these here ‘ol oaks an’ hickories watchin’ him go." I loved the depiction of her giving up when she wouldn't even hold the baby. The possum line was perfect as well. Keep it up!
Verna Cole Mitchell 02/06/08
This is a perfect historical story. Your descriptions are absolutely vivid. The hard days of the settlers is presented very clearly. I loved the voice. He's just a young boy having to grow up way too fast.
william price02/06/08
Excellent first line and the rest didn't dissappoint. Great job, Dee. God bless.
James Dixon02/07/08
I loved the image of the tree arms and the other poetic descriptions too.

I found the dialect difficult too, probably because I am not familiar with it.