What My Heart Wants to Tell
by Verna Mae Slone
Chapter Index | Chapter II

Chapter I

It was so cold that February morning in 1863, the wind almost bounced off the sides of the hills as it roared its way up Caney Creek and up the mouth of Trace, whirling the icy snow around the log cabin. It was an angry wind that bent its fury against the sturdy logs, trying to find a crack or hole between the wood so as to get to the woman and little even - year - old boy inside. But the cabin had withstood many such winds. It was built in 1809 by Shady Slone, and was now owned by his grandson Jim Slone. Jim's wife Frankie and ElCaney were safe and warm inside.

Frankie had listened to the winds last night. She had not slept very much. The cabin seemed so empty with only the two of them., She was used to all three beds being full. Her older boys had gone to Walker Town (now Hazard) to swap her hand-tied lace to some salt and coffee.

She laughed to herself when she remembered the coffee and how she had cooked the first batch she had ever seen. The peddler had said, "It's good with fresh meat." And so she had used it as a spice. Of course the meat had to be given to the dogs and they did not like it either.

The wind whistled through the "noise maker," which Jim's great-grandfather had once helped him to make. They had clipped the hairs from a horse's tail and fastened them tightly between the logs, where they were pinned together at the corners of the cabin. The hairs were placed in groups of one, two, and three, and were so arranged that the wind blowing through them made a musical sound. Frankie did not like to listen to the whining, sad, musical tones. It reminded her of death and the scary stories Jim's great-grandmother had told of the "wee folks in Ireland."

Frankie reminded herself she must get up. ElCaney would soon be awake. He had been a little sick all winter, a bad cold that just would not go away. She had made catnip tea several times and ginger tea, adding a little whiskey to the tea, and had rubbed his chest and feet with the juice of a roasted onion. Nothing seemed to help. The boy said the onion made him stink.

Frankie got up slowly and put her dress on. Going to the hearth with her shoes in her hand, she took the poker and pushed at the "fore log" that was now very near burned in two. By raising the first one end and then the other, using the poker as a lever, she pushed the half-burned log back against the "back log" and then placed a fresh log across in front. She counted the logs left in the pile. Only three, but that would be enough; the boys would be home this evening or tomorrow anyway.

She picked up the water bucket and saw that the water had frozen solid.

"Well, it will take too long to melt that," she thought. She slipped her feet into her shoes and reached for an empty bucket. It was her milk bucket, but the cow was dry now, so she could take it and go to the spring for water.

As she raised up, a pain struck her in the back and moved on around in front, down low. She clasped her hands against her body and said, "Oh, no, it can't be that; the baby han't due till April or the first of May. Jest an upset stomach; we've been eating too much of the same thing."

All the "sass" had been gone since just after Christmas and there was no more hog meat, just a few more shucky beans. She wouldn't dare eat any more of the "taters"; they had to be kept for seed.

There was one more shoat to kill. That was why the boys had gone after the salt. She would have killed it in January. "Everybody knowed a hog did not mend any during February," but she had wanted to keep this one until Jim came home. But it did not look like he would come home soon, and if she did not kill the hog now there would not be enough of the cold weather left to cure the meat.

"Well, a good mess of fresh meat shore would taste good, Jim or no Jim."

As she lifted the heavy latch to open the door, she saw a long hickory stick leaning against the side of the house. Nick had cut that the other day for ElCaney to ride as a horse. She took the hickory stick in one hand and the bucket in the other, and using the "horse" as a cane, she braced herself against the wind and started to the spring.

As she looked up she saw a beautiful red bird sitting in a low branch of the "weepin' willer"; she hurriedly repeated, almost without thinking, "I wish the war would soon be over and Jim would be back home." Then she thought, "I wonder how many red birds I have made that same wish on. Well, a red bird shore is a purty thing. I have heard of some people eatin' them. I'd starve 'fore I would."

When she got to the spring, a thin sheet of ice had frozen over the top. She took her stick and tapped lightly on the ice and dipper her bucket in. Turning, she hurried back up the path. She saw that she had forgotten to close th door behind her after she had come out. As she set the bucket of water down on the side of the table, another pain hit her, much harder than the firs. And as she grasped the edge of the table for support, she knew she had been fooling herself. It was her time, and the baby was saying, "Here I come, ready or not."

She filled the iron teakettle with water and set it before the fire, off to one side. Here it would soon be warm and out of her way, so she could bake some bread. She thought, "I will need all the strength I can muster, so I won't take the time to fix a plum out-and-out mess; I will just make a snack for me and ElCaney."

The thought never entered her mind to be afraid; it was just something that had to be done. "Women were made to bear children; children, the Good Book had said....in pain shall you bear them." Of course she did not enjoy pain, but it was something to be gotten over with. She tried to keep her mind on the great joy she would have when it was over.

She mixed a little cornmeal with a pinch of salt and soda, and mixed it with a little water, making a very thick paste. Then she took a board from behind the wood pile stacked in the corner of the room. This board was about three feet long, eight inches wide and one inch thick. One side of it had been made very smooth. She placed this board at a forty-degree angle before the fire, propping it up by placing a smaller one behind it.

She divided the corneal dough into two patties and placed them on the hot board. On the other end of the board she put two large slices of dried beef, sprinkling them with the last of the salt. Soon the cabin was filled with the smell of food, a good appetizing odor that would have brought water to anyone's mouth.

It wasn't long before ElCaney woke up. "Oh, Maw, I smell hotcakes and meat, and I shore am hungry."

"Well, jump up, son, and eat. Don't mind putting your shoes on, fer soon as you eat you have to go back to bed."

"Oh, Maw!"

"You know I mean what I say and I say what I mean."

After they had eaten, she made ElCaney go back to bed.

"Turn ye face toward the wall and don't look around till I tell ye," said Frankie.

"But, Maw, why?"

"Do as I say and no "why" to it." She wished Caney wasn't here; he was too young.

"You know I told you how the ol' Hoot Owl was goin' to bring us another little'un."

"Yeah, but, Maw, you said it would be after we had our corn all dug in, and Maw, it's still winter outside."

"Well, Caney, me or that ol' Hoot Owl, one or t'uther got mistook, fer he is bringin' that young'un now."

Although Caney was only seven, he knew far more about births than his mother realized. A mountain boy lives so close to nature that he learns many things at an early age.

Another pain came so hard and sharp that she sank to the floor, caught her breath, and murmured, "Please God, let me keep my mind, so I can take care of this little'un You're sending me." She realized the baby was being born. She could not even get to the bed, and pulling Caney's pallet before the fire, she braced herself for the coming of her child.

In less than an hour, Caney, still facing the wall, heard a small, weak cry almost like a kitten and he said, "Can I look now, Maw?"

"Now listen, Caney, and listen good. Ye take that hickory stick Nick cut fer ye a hoss and knock down some of them wearin' things hangin' on that 'are pole and ye bring me my underskirt, that whit'un, and bring me some twine from the wood box under the bed. And reach me the knife from the table."

"Shore, Maw."

"And hurry, son."

And Caney scrambled from the bed, feeling very important as he got all the things his maw had asked for. Still hearing the small whimpering voice, he could not believe it was a baby's, it was so low and weak.

It seem to him like hours before his mother called him to her side and showed him what she had wrapped in her white underskirt. And when he looked he almost gasped.

"But, Maw, it's so puny."

"Yeah, under three pounds is my guess, but ye know he had this whole big world to grow in. He is almost as small as a kitten."

And ElCaney answered, "Kitten, Maw! Why he han't as big as a kitten's eye."

And that, my dear grandchildren, is how my father became known as Kitteneye. Although the name written the Good Book was Isom B Slone, he was to be stuck with the name Kitteneye all his born days.

End of Chapter 1
Verna Mae Slone

Chapter Index | Chapter II

Top of Page

| Home | Links | Email | Feedback | Facebook | Guestbook | Rootsweb |
Go Back Copyright © Annette Potter Some Rights Reserved Go Forward