When the Sugarbush Blooms

 

by Linda Hayes

When The Sugarbush Blooms is an epic tale of two young lovers from Africa, cruelly ripped from their home and unwittingly thrust into the American Slave trade during the final days of the Civil War. A period when the road to Freedom was a mere breath away and the long sought after dream was about to become a reality.

Beaten and near death, Abraham is found by a poor, white, family. They nurse his physical wounds, but it is a spirited mountain girl who holds the key to unlocking Abraham’s secrets. When he discovers that his beloved Matteau is caught up in the Slave trade, his rush to rescue her sparks a chain of disastrous events.

When The Sugarbush Blooms is a dramatic account of their journey of survival, triumphs and tribulations. When their childhood love bloomed, the taste was as sweet as the golden nectar from the flowers of the legendary African Sugrabush. It infused their existence with a fire that consumed the heart and mind. Time and distance fueled a burning flame that was stronger than any shackles of iron.


Excerpt

Chapter One

 

The harsh demands of Appalachian winters impose isolation onto the people that live within the restricted borders of its geography. Lack of human contact from friends and the outside world is a condition dictated by the weather. The long, lonely days gave birth to the desolate feelings associated with “cabin fever”. It is an emotional assault on the mental well-being that attacks the mind with restlessness and boredom. The yearning for mental stimulation creates a powerful sense of abandonment, especially in the young.

Corky Burton was one of the young children in Wolf Creek, Kentucky that had been touched with the dreaded cabin fever this particular winter. The weather had been cold and blustery since Thanksgiving. She already had her fill of staying home from school. She found herself restricted to daily chores that consisted of carrying firewood from the front porch to fuel the fire in the stone fireplace or helping her mother with the daily meals. She may have been nine years old and skinny as a stick, but she could work like an adult.

She was glad for the return of morning walks down the hill to the one room schoolhouse on Sparks Run and the interaction with other children her own age where companionship and laughter with friends awaited.

Extreme cold or snow past the ankles were factors that determined whether Miss Baker, the schoolteacher would fire up the cast iron wood stove and open the school for business.

The schoolhouse was located in a centralized area of Sparks Run and built with red clay bricks. It had two windows on opposing sides of the building that saturated the room with natural sunlight. The one large classroom housed all children of school age and the same teacher taught different lessons that were appropriate for their age group. It was a respected place of learning and the hub of social activity for the children of the two communities on the mountain.

It was well past bedtime and Corky found her stomach tied in knots. She was so excited about going back to school tomorrow that the anticipation had made her restless. It was to be only the second day she had attended school since right before Christmas. She refused to attribute her edgy state of mind with the possibility of seeing Gary Eugene again. He was the new boy that had started school yesterday.

He had the most beautiful blond hair that ever so slightly touched his shoulder. His deep blue eyes seemed to be watching her whenever she would throw a sideway glance in his direction. He even sat behind her and tugged at her braids during a reading assignment!

She decided to push thoughts of him aside and instead, focus on the day’s events as she began to write down her thoughts.

February 2, 1865

 

From Me to Me

Miss Baker gave me an extra paper book and told me to start a journal. She said to write down my thoughts. So that’s what I’m a doing. She told me I had a good imagination and that some day I might become a good writer. Since I’m the only one will see it, I can put any old thing I want to in it.”

“At school, she showed us a map of our great state of Kentucky. When it was my turn to look at it, I asked her where was it that I lived? She pointed to a little green hump. I looked and it didn’t say Wolf Creek. I live in Wolf Creek. I asked her again where it was. She pointed to the same green hump and said, “Right there next to Green River.” I told her that I saw Green River, but I didn’t see Wolf Creek. Heck, Sparks Run wasn’t even on the dumb old map either. So I asked her how it could be a map of the great State of Kentucky if the danged thing didn’t even have Sparks Run or Wolf Creek on it? Everyone I know lives in Wolf Creek or Sparks Run. She said, “CORKY! You watch what you say. Remember, the good Lord hears everything.” I told her I hope he does hear everything and don’t look at that old map. If he does, he won’t be able to find me cause Wolf Creek ain’t on the danged thing!”

“Miss Baker got mad at me and made me write fifty times on the black board, “I will not say the word danged.”

“Well, I wrote ‘em all and gave her 2 more for good measure cause I don’t want the Lord a being mad at me. Now I got sore fingers and with all that chalk dust I got on me, I probably have some kind of chalk poisoning too. Heck, Miss Baker wouldn’t care if I died from chalk poisoning. She’d just say, “Corky Burton, you shouldn’t of said the word danged.” And I’d be a lying there a breathing my last breath and all she’d be worried about is some old dumb word. The same old dumb word my daddy says all the time. Mama never makes him write fifty times “I will not say the word danged.” Why is it any different for me? I would think they’d be a little easier on me cause I ain’t been in this here world as long as Daddy has. I’ll bet he just doesn’t know the rules yet! Well, I’ll have to tell him the next time he says it so he’ll know.

“Corky Bell Burton”

She laid her pencil down as she closed the pages of her diary. Her writing stick was now only two inches long. Months of daily use had whittled away at its original size. “I’ll have to use it till Daddy gets paid next week. I hope he will have enough to buy me two new bright yellow pencils. I will keep my fingers crossed.” She thought to herself carefully placing her pencil stub in her wooden pencil box.

Somewhere up on the ridge, she heard old man Farley’s dog howling. She stood up and being very careful, walked tippy-toe across the hand-hewed boards that made up the old floor. She stepped over the big knothole on the floor by the corner of the stone fireplace to avoid the creaking sound the boards always made in that spot as she made her way to the window.

She slowly wiped the moisture away from the pane of glass that made up the only window in the front of the cabin. As she looked up into the clear, dark sky, she could see thousands of twinkling stars. Each one seemed to take a turn winking at her as if they knew some huge secret they were keeping to themselves.

She wondered how far Heaven was? What was the secret the stars were keeping? Then she thought about the beauty of it all. “The good Lord sure knows how to paint a pretty picture,” she said.

At just that moment, she saw a streak of sparkles in the sky! It looked like some huge glowing ash, had jumped out of the fireplace and made its way into the depths of the night. Her mouth dropped open in amazement as her feet were frozen in place on the smooth wooden floor. She couldn’t take her eyes off of the beautiful blazing streak that seemed so bright; it lit up the hills in the distance.

WOW, a shooting star! It was a real shooting star! she thought excitedly to herself. Mama had told me about shooting stars and how Angels ride them around the heavens just for fun. Oh, how I wish I could be a little closer to that star so I could see what that Angel looked like. Ain’t never seen a real Angel before, she thought as she watched the trail of glittering sparks begin to fade and disappear, blending into the darkness.

Two blinks of an eye and it was gone. In the excitement, Corky had forgotten to make a wish. Mama had said that if you wish upon a shooting star, the Angel will hear you and take your wish straight to God. What if it was a runaway star and the Angel was lost? I sure hope that Angel don’t get a map and try to find its way home cause he wouldn’t find Wolf Creek on it. Heck, he won’t even know he passed right by my house. If I’d only made a wish, I could have told him I was Corky Burton and I was talking to him from Wolf Creek, Kentucky. It’s too late now, she thought disappointedly, as her mouth opened with a big yawn signaling her brain that it was time for bed.

The next morning was a colder than the usual winter morning in Wolf Creek. The conditions were deteriorating so quickly with the fast dropping temperatures and the blowing wind, that Jack Frost himself would seek shelter from the frigid weather. The red clouds in the distant eastern sky gave an ominous warning and the wind carried the message for all to see.

Her mother was a pretty woman. Her name was Annie. She had a heart shaped face that surrounded bright green cat eyes. Her olive complexion gave Annie an exotic look that seemed out of place in this back woods community of light skinned, Scottish descendants. She was a small built woman with dark brown hair that she always wore wound tightly in a bun pinned to the crown of her head. At night, she would undo her bun and let it fall to its full length that hung down her back and extended to the bend in her knee. She would braid it in a pigtail and tie it with a piece of twine before climbing into bed each night.

The wind outside had picked up and started blowing so hard that it made a low howling sound as it found its way through the cracks and crevices of the small wooden structure. Mother Nature seemed to be mounting a battle against Wolf Creek, Kentucky and the Burton’s cabin was stuck in the middle of it.

Not wanting to alarm Corky with her fears of the approaching storm, Annie said, “It does look like some weathers a moving in. It’s best if you stay home from school today, Corky.”

As much as Corky liked school, she was not about to argue with her Mother’s decision. “Yes, Mama.” Corky answered as she picked up the two pieces of firewood and placed them into the fireplace and watched as the fire began to pop and crackle as if a rebellion had begun between the wood and the flames.

“Mama, when will Daddy be home?” Corky asked worriedly as she dusted the wood chips off her hands.

“Daddy went to deliver a load of Mr. Johnston’s lumber up to Harvey’s Crossing. He’ll surely be back soon. How about you and me bake him a stack cake today?” Annie asked cheerfully.

“I think he’d like that right fine,” Corky said with a grin. “He’ll be bragging to Brother Clancy this Sunday at church and telling him about how good every swallow was! He likes doing that to him cause Brother Clancy’s wife can’t cook worth a lick. Daddy says he likes to watch the slobber drip down his chin every time he tells him about your stack cake!” Corky giggled.

 

"When the Sugarbush Blooms" by Linda Hayes

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Historical Fiction

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