Talitha - Chapter 1

T a l i t h a

Chapter 1

    On December 22, 1857, the sun rose on a log cabin in north east Louisiana, situated on the bank of the Gallion. There, among the rattan, similax and giant magnolia trees, lived John Sammons, his wife Winnie Ann, and their six children: Thomas, eleven; Alexandria, nine; Nancy, eight; Jane, six; Frank, four; and Polly, two.

    The Sammonses and their two older children had migrated from Georgia in a covered wagon about the year 1848. Having homesteaded about 160 acres of land at this point, Mr. Sammons, with the help of his wife, began clearing the land, choosing only the choicest of trees from the wilderness to build their cabin. Soon they were ready to start their home, consisting of a large kitchen with a dirt chimney and two small bedrooms, one of these with a dirt chimney also.

    The Sammonses, then in their early twenties, were both ambitious and determined. Each day found them working on their cabin from sunrise to sunset. Mrs. Sammons would take time out only to prepare the meals and care for the needs of her two small children. Among her numberous jobs in helping her husband build the cabin was to make the "cats" for the chimneys. These were of mud and grass, each fashioned in long lengths to be plastered to the wooden frame of the chimney. In the making of these "cats" she became very efficient. Her husband declared her work excellent, and often neighbors for miles around sought her help in building mud chimneys. Mrs. Sammons always obliged.

    After weeks of tireless labor their house was finished. Mrs. Sammons welcomed moving day. She was glad to leave the covered wagon that had been their home since they first set foot on the homestead. She would now have a real fireplace to cook in, which was a great improvement over an outdoor fire. Moreover, the cabin provided more protection from the wild beasts that could be seen and heard near their door. There was not a night that they were not awakened by the howling of wolves and rambling bears. In spite of this, Mrs. Sammons felt secure with her young husband. Only the screams of the panther would frighten her. Now that his family was better provided for, Mr. Sammons proceeded to the clearing and fencing of acreage in preparation for the spring planting.

    It was now about nine years since the Sammonses first set foot on Louisiana soil, and with the increasing acreage down through the years, planted to cotton, corn and vegetables, and with the accumulation of a number of cows, hogs and chickens, and with Mrs. Sammons spending many hours at the spinning wheel, both she and her husband were satisfied that their growing family was well fed and clothed.

     

This December morning was a cold and brisk one. Mr. and Mrs. Sammons were seated at a long homemade table near the fireplace in the kitchen having breakfast. Mr. Sammons was at the head of the table while the children, on homemade benches, were grouped on both sides. Mrs. Sammons, who was expecting her seventh child, was seated, as usual, at the end of the table near the fireplace that she might keep the coffee warm on hot embers raked from the fire and reach for a warm biscuit when needed. Mr. Sammons was hurrying through breakfast, pausing only to pass a word or two with his wife and children. As he arose from the table he pushed back the shutters from the kitchen window, exposing a view of the sunrise. Reaching for his hat hanging on a nail near the kitchen door, he remarked to his wife, "I’ll hurry on, the sunrise promises a fair day. I should be able to make a number of posts by nightfall."

    "John." Mrs. Sammons said, "I hope you won’t be working very far from home. I’m not feeling well and I may need you sooner than you might think." "I was thinking you looked unusually well this morning," John said. "Yes," she replied. "That may---" Interrupting her he said, "I’ll be in the cutover tract nearest the house. Send Thomas for me if you should need me."

    Before ten o’clock dark clouds swiftly drifting northward were hiding the sun and a cold north wind was bearing down. Mrs. Sammons, keeping a large fire burning in the fireplace and making sure the children stayed inside, kept going to the window, opening the shutters and looking as far as she could see across the cleared acres, wondering why her husband didn’t come on home before the weather got worse. Her mind kept going back to her feelings, reminding her this must be the day to which she was looking forward. Once more at the window she caught a glimpse of her husband as he turned at the corner of the cabin, making his way to the kitchen door. Securely fastening the shutters, she heard him enter the kitchen and remark, "It’s getting rough outside." "Yes," Mrs. Sammons said, speaking in a low tone so that the children might not hear. "I hate for you to be out in this weather but I expect it would be best if you go for Aunt Mandy before it turns worse. I’m confident I’ll be needing her soon." Without hesitating John assured her he would soon be on his way.

    Aunt Mandy, a midwife and a kind old soul, lived at least three miles from the Sammons home. She was expecting Mrs. Sammons to send for her at any time, knowing the arrival of the new baby was near. At the barnyard Mr. Sammons saddled two horses, one for Aunt Mandy to ride on the return trip. His wife opened the kitchen door in time to wave a cheery good-bye. She then hastened to make a pot of coffee to put on the hearth at the fireplace that she might have it brewing on short notice; John and Aunt Mandy would welcome a cup on their return. And she made sure the sweet potatoes were roasting in the fireplace.

    In due time, Mrs. Sammons heard the voices of her husband and the midwife outside the kitchen door. She quickly raked hot embers from the fire to put the coffee brewing. Hurrying to the door, she greeted Aunt Mandy with a hug and kiss, and as she closed the door she called to John, "Put up the horses quickly and come in out of the bitter cold."

    Aunt Mandy was especially glad to see the children and greeted them affectionately. She said, "Winnie, I did think you would wait for the change of the moon." "Well," Mrs. Sammons said, "the moon had better hurry up if it is keeping tab on me."

    By nightfall the rain was coming down in sheets driven by a howling wind, causing every door and window shutter in the cabin to rattle. Each rain drop was freezing and every bush and tree was soon sheathed in ice. The storm gradually grew worse toward the early hours of the morning, but before the stroke of twelve Aunt Mandy had placed a tiny bundle in Mrs. Sammons’ arms. The following morning the new baby was introduced to the other children as Talitha Ann---to be known only as Talitha.-

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Charlotte Curlee Ramsey
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