Talitha - Chapter 3

T a l i t h a

Chapter 3

    At the outbreak of the Civil War Talitha was too young to remember much about her father leaving the homestead to go to war nor could she then comprehend the sorrow and hardships a war could bring. But Mrs. Sammons, a small, frail woman, fully realized the hardships her family was to endure when she bade her soldier husband good-bye, as he went off leaving her with eight children. Mrs. Sammons was soon to learn not only of hardships but sorrow as well. Early in the war she lost her second oldest son, Alexandria, (Alex), the one her husband had said could be depended on to work the farm. She had lost her oldest son just prior to the outbreak of the war. Talitha did not remember how long her father was away; but she remembered when he returned on a furlough a very sick man, and she heard the doctor tell her mother he might be bedridden for months. Later Mr. Sammons, realizing that the field work was too much of a hardship for his wife, began making plans from his sickbed to hire a man to take over this task.

    A neighbor told him of an old Irishman who was in the community looking for work. Mr. Sammons asked that he be sent to see him. A few days later the old gentleman arrived at the Sammons home. He was possibly in his middle sixties, a very masculine type and a decided blond, partly bald, with deep blue eyes. After an introduction, Mrs. Sammons seated him near her husband's bed where he could talk over the possibilities of hiring him as a wage hand. On learning of his abilities Mr. Sammons offered him a monthly wage including room, board and laundry. With a nod of the head the Irishman accepted. Mrs. Sammons, wishing to converse with him further, said, "Mr. er---ra---rr," trying to think of his name, "Just call me Uncle Teb," he said, and Uncle Teb it was, not only to the Sammonses but to everyone he chanced to meet.

    After a few months at the Sammons home he had found his way into the hearts of Talitha and her brother John, and they into his.

    Spring arrived in its colorful array and Uncle Teb could be found under a large spreading pin oak tree. He was hammering away on plow sticks, sharpening plow points and performing numerous other jobs in preparation for the plowing and planting--- principally of corn and cotton. The winter had been a cold one and Mrs. Sammons, who had kept the smaller children indoors, now set them free to roam outdoors barefooted. There was not a foot of ground up and down the banks of the Gallion that Talitha and John had not explored, and they knew every pig trail, every rabbit hutch and every grapevine swing in a radius of miles of the stream. Now they were anxious to be roaming again.

   

    Uncle Teb started plowing a tract of land about one-half mile from the homestead, and once again Talitha and John could be found in their favorite spot---anywhere up and down the Gallion. Each evening around sundown Uncle Teb, with another day's work finished, could be seen wending his way homeward, leading his mule. As he neared the homestead he could be heard singing his favorite ballad:

When my lassie's smiles are meant for me,
I know what's in her heart.
I'll wed her in Old Ireland,
And there we'll never part.

    Upon hearing these words, Talitha and John knew Uncle Teb was coming home, and regardless of where they were they would set out to meet him. Uncle Teb never failed to give them a warm welcome. John proudly leading the mule, the three would trek homeward together.

    One day at sunset Talitha and John were, as usual, on the bank of the Gallion, each with a hickory pole, a long string, and a bent pin for a hook fashioned for them by their mother, when they heard in the distance the old familiar ballad. Forgetting their fishing, they left the poles and hurried to meet Uncle Teb. John, taking the reins, the three were once again homeward bound. Down the turn road, near the Gallion, Uncle Teb heard the call of a raincrow. Stopping in his tracks, he said, "Listen, children, do you hear that raincrow?" "What is a raincrow?" Talitha asked. "It's a bird, honey," Uncle Teb replied. Scanning the trees nearby to locate the bird, he said, "Poor fellow, if he don't get his head wet by this time tomorrow he will surely die." "I don't want him to die," Talitha replied. Uncle Teb, viewing a clear sky, said, "I don't believe it's going to rain in time to save him." The following morning and no rain, Talitha, still concerned about the bird, said, "Uncle Teb, is it going to rain today?" That evening at sundown and still no rain, Talitha and John were convinced the raincrow was dead.

    For several days up and down the Gallion they searched for the dead bird. Later, in their roaming they found a dead bird, and were sure it could be no other than the raincrow. With much ceremony they buried the bird in a well prepared grave, and were more convinced than ever that Uncle Teb was right.

    One morning, the promise of a beautiful sunrise found Mrs. Sammons making lye soap. Throughout the day Talitha and John were kept busy bringing in wood and keeping the fires burning under the boiling pot. Now with the sun going down, Mrs. Sammons was hurrying to finish her last pot of soap. Talitha and John, who long ago had learned that this position of the sun would soon be bringing Uncle Teb home, were waiting and listening for, "When my lassie's smiles are meant for me." With these words in mind Talitha said, "Ma, where is Old Ireland?" Mrs. Sammons took the soap stick from the boiling pot and drew a map of Ireland, as best she knew, on the ground in the sand, and told Talitha of a land far across the sea where grownups and little boys and girls live, that "run, skip and play as you and John do," adding, "Maybe Uncle Teb lived there when he was a little boy." This satisfied Talitha regarding "Old Ireland" and afterward she was often heard to say, "Brother John, did you know Old Ireland was far, far across the sea?"

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Charlotte Curlee Ramsey
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