First Sentence Fridays – Chapter 20

the forgiving kind by Donna Everhart
Uh oh.  A little late this morning!  (I got my days mixed up.) 

My family did not farm, and the only land owned was what our houses were built on. My grandmother did have a garden she enjoyed, not too big, and so did other family members here and there. That was the extent of the Davis agricultural experience to my knowledge. You might recall from a previous post my relatives, including my Dad, were mechanics.

Which begs the question, if my family didn’t farm, why on God’s green earth would I want to write a story about a family who does – and cotton at that? I don’t know. Maybe it’s the memory of a Sally Field movie, Places of the Heart. (1984) Have you seen it? Talk about perseverance. Sally Field’s character plays a widow with two children trying to eke out a living on a small forty acre cotton farm after her husband, the local sheriff, is accidentally shot by a young black boy. It’s 1935 and it’s a segregated South. It is a horrific ending for the boy.

While I don’t remember all of the movie, I do recall there was the possibility she would lose her farm because of a bank note. There was the desire to keep it, to make ends meet no matter what. I recall a scene where the cotton is being picked at a feverish pace, and the possibility of winning one hundred dollars for the first bale brought to market. There was emphasis on the pain of picking. All farming before some of the modern technological advancements of today was brutal. Whether it was cotton, tobacco, soybean or corn, you could count on back-breaking days of endless work in the heat.

These are the types of stories I love, with all the strife, heartache, and characters facing what seem like insurmountable challenges, and there is no better place for it to play out than in the rural South. – at least for me.

Sonny Creech and her family face similar circumstances. She loses her father in a tragic accident, and she, her brothers and mother are left to manage a much bigger cotton farm. One obstacle they face, along with many others, is Mother Nature. In hindsight, I believe Mother Nature is almost as much of an antagonist as Frank Fowler.

Chapter 20

We understood what the drought did long before the cotton was picked.


COMMENTS

  • Beverly Turner

    October 19, 2018

    Reply

    Donna…My father wasn’t a farmer either. He was a carpenter/homebuilder. But both of my grandfathers and many neighbors around us were when I was growing up. One thing that struck me at a very early age was the fact that in a few minutes, Mother Nature could nullify all the hard work mere mortals had invested in the crop. In my area, that usually meant tobacco. Farming for a living requires a resiliency to keep your head down and plow straight ahead no matter what, much like a horse wearing blinders. From watching so many fight Mother Nature and lose, I knew I never wanted to farm or to marry a farmer. I certainly respect those who do.

    • donnaeve

      October 20, 2018

      Reply

      That’s exactly right. When Hurricane Florence came whipping through here – up until then – the crops I’d seen were at their best. I mean the tobacco was sky high, the corn had been wonderful, the soybean fields lush, and cotton was popping out in huge fluffy puffs, just like what you see in a plastic bag in a store. Until. Poof. Here comes Flo and these fields were decimated. Doggone it, Mother Nature! I have tremendous respect for them too. It’s a precarious job, and you’re truly at the mercy of the weather.

  • Craig

    October 19, 2018

    Reply

    Yes, the foundation of that house, which is a book, is the inciting incident. The plot and subplots are the walls and roof. The story is the paint that makes it all look pretty and of one piece. Writers are house painters, metaphysically.

    The stages of America are always interesting. They started rights after the Civil War with the industrial revolution. The biggest changes were leading up to and right after the world wars. You can see a lot of this by looking at historical aerial photography. You can also see it in the Plat books of what are now bigger cities. Before WWII housing plots were different. They were long and narrow because everyone had a truck garden in their back yard. It was necessary for survival. After WWII grocery stores and such began to populate the city streets.

    Another cool thing to look at in the reference section of your main library are the Sanborn maps. They were developed for use in fire insurance and fire prevention and map a city by then businesses in it.

    I have a garden, so I know what drought and excess rain can do. Currently we are having an absolutely brutal October. Record highs are occurring every other day. The off days only tie old records. It is killing the lettuce, carrots and broccoli. I can replant but in places that it gets cold, you can’t.

    Sorry to be rambling but my mind is muddled from the last week.

    • donnaeve

      October 20, 2018

      Reply

      No worries Craig – thanks for the tips. How did you fare through Michael? I’m assuming that’s the reason for the muddling. Hope all is well.

      • Craig

        October 20, 2018

        Reply

        Michael totally missed us; it was only a Cat 1 when it passed anyway.

        However, Kathy’s brother Bob lives up there. They are a little bit east of ground zero but live in the woods, their property backs up to the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge. The problem was the one that happens with all such catastrophes, no communications. So I loaded up the truck and headed for Medart.

        I can get into places like that because I have my first responder ticket and it is easy to bribe cops with cold water. Bob’s daughter lives south east of Tallahassee, so I went there first, stopping a lot to help clear trees off of the roads.

        Then I had to find Bob. His driveway is a mile and a quarter of dirt road and it is three miles down another dirt road. A loader had run down the main dirt road and pushed the trees into piles along the side of the road. Bob’s driveway had a downed tree about every ten feet. It took me three days to get that mile and a quarter.

        Bob and his wife are fine, the house is almost fine. A tree took out their electrical service, ripped it clean off of the house. They were getting short of potable water, bread, peanut butter and jelly. Left him my generator, five loaves of bread, two cases of water, and all of my peanut butter and jelly. Got home yesterday, bone tired and insatiably hungry.

        • donnaeve

          October 20, 2018

          Reply

          As I read this I thought – wow, what a great story it would make, but I imagine there’d need to be time and consideration for feelings of those affected. It’s absolutely horrendous what happened to the panhandle. I realize now that yeah, you’re right, your area would have been (like my friend Cindy’s who lives in/near Williston) an area that was missed, or barely skimmed.

          I’m glad you were able to get to them, and give them what you had. We’ve been in that same boat before. The electric service was disrupted during an ice storm when a tree limb tore it right off our house too. Little did we know we were going to have to get an electrical contractor to fix that connection from the house to the pole first – and then we could have power. After days without it, imagine how we felt when lights came on around us and we were still living like pioneers until a contractor could come.

          I know it’s good to be home!

  • Carol Baldwin

    October 22, 2018

    Reply

    Sounds as if the kernel for this story was perhaps in the Sally Fields film. Interesting to trace back and see what lights our fires/imaginations. Wonderful opening line to this chapter.

    • donnaeve

      October 23, 2018

      Reply

      That film certainly resonated with me, I’d watch it again – I might have to buy it. I think the only parallels are the possibility of losing a farm, and the father’s tragic ending, but yes, you are exactly right. The way we can land on a story is endless given what we might hear, see, or remember. I have an idea for my next book that’s sticking with me and it actually came from a recent book I read. A small thread in it that made me think “what if?” That’s how it always starts, right? 🙂


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