A novel about my maternal forbears, pioneering women from Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri, and Texas
Ailcy stood behind her mothers rocker, gently brushing her hair. The younger boys sat on the floor, close to her feet, eager to hear another story, while Bob, the oldest of the boys, had taken their fathers chair by the fire. Little Fanny slept quietly in her cradle.
It was late fall, 1816. Wed crossed
Ailcy frowned a little, and held back a sigh. Mas stories were always like this; she started talking and her words just went wherever her head took them. She never understood why the boys liked them so. She glanced over at Bob and his eyes met hers. Here we go, they twinkled. He had turned nine, two years younger than she was, and acting like the man of the house while Pa was gone. But he really still liked hearing Ma talk as much as little Adrian and John Paul, sitting at her feet. But she got that her mother was trying to keep anyone from worrying, so she gently steered her mothers familiar story. Was that when Uncle Andy rode up?
Why, yes, Ailcy, it was
My brother Anderson rode up to the wagon, pulling another horse with him. Betty! he called in to me, Betty, you just have to see! His calling woke the babies and Ma got so exasperated she sighed and said Oh, go with your brother Elizabeth.
The Gap, I barely whispered it.
You bet, Andy said back. Right where Boone found it.
Actually Andy, Daniel Boone was a long way from the first. Our Uncle Samuel, had ridden up behind us and wed been riding so hard we barely noticed. It was Uncle Sams second trip to
An animal trail? I asked.
It began that way, a familiar voice said behind her. In fact, practically our whole trip, from the
Our pa, your Grampa Anglin, had ridden up beside Uncle Sam, and smiled at me. So, Betty, he then asked me, What do you think of
This is it? I looked down at the wild valley below. Its beautiful, Pa! Why dont we stay here with the Hannahs and our other families?
You havent seen
Is it much farther? I asked.
Andy laughed. I would say so, Little Sister. Its as far from here to
Pa? I urned to my father, hoping my brother was joking, but he wasnt.
Dont worry, Betty. Youll be out of that wagon for a few days. Theres a settlement not far, along the
Then Ill be heading with Pa and Uncle Sam on down to Bedford County, to help get the cabin built, while you stay with Ma and Alice and the others in Nashville til Spring, bragged Andy.
Well, I wasnt at all happy about that, and Andy had to rub it in. I would be stuck in a strange town with Ma and Alice and the babies all winter. Crossing the Gap lost some of its wonder, then. I can tell you that.
He has to be the tallest man Ive ever seen, Ailcy added, and the first time I saw him, I thought he was an Indian, the way he was dressed.
I suppose he was, then.
Everyone got quiet then, and looked into the fire. Little
Far enough that your Pa may not have got my letter yet. Men lose track of time, I think, when they have a war to fight. Dont worry,
Ailcy and Bob looked at each other. They had managed to get the conversation going just where they wished they hadnt. Ailcy knew she would have to do pennance, so she brightened her voice and asked her mother, Tell us again about the first time you met
But your Aunt Alice was different. She took just one look at Nate Brown and knew she wanted to be his wife and have his children. And she knew a good part of the trick to that was to convince our Pa it was a good idea.
Well, we were just getting in to the growing up stages, and at that time, I can tell you, one or two years makes a big difference. Alice was a year older than me, and Nate older by a year or so than that. And Billy Foster wasnt quite as old as me, since Id had my 13th birthday and his wasnt to come for a few more months. He still had some growing to do before anybody could see the fine man he would turn out to be
HELLO, THE HOUSE! they heard from a distance outside in the dark, but Ailcy knew at once whose voice she was hearing.
PA! she shouted back. Her mother was already out of the chair and waddling toward the front door. WILLIAM?
The horses rode up quickly to the gate, and Ailcy could see by the moonlight two riders dismounting and running for the house. One of them bolting the porch steps two at a time, grabbing her mother and planting her with an embarrassingly long kiss. She looked at the other man, coming up more slowly. Welcome home, Uncle Nate! How was