They were headed down the hollow to the spot where morel mushrooms thrived. They knew it was morel gathering time because the dark violets were in bloom in the forest, and the oak leaves were the size of mouse ears. Morels were decadent little spongy, pine tree shaped fungi that came out for two weeks every April. They would forage as much of the bounty as they could find, and take them home to dip in cornmeal and fry in the big cast iron skillet. Then they’d stuff their bellies until they were so full that they couldn’t barely see to their quilting.
Granny Rose paused briefly, leaning heavily on her cane, her breathing slow and steady. Her gnarled hands were riddled deeply with arthritis, so debilitating that even a tincture of powdered rhubarb in white whiskey couldn’t ease the pain. She pointed to the right, and nestled in the mossy hillside Sarah bent down to examine a Lady’s Slipper, elegant in its elusiveness, bulbous pink petals dripping gracefully towards the ground.
Suddenly Granny Rose lifted her head and gazed down the trail, and Sarah heard the sound of hoof beats approaching. It wasn’t often that others tread this path, and Sarah hoped that it wasn’t the mournful Preacher Robbins, who always managed to put Granny Rose in a foul mood for days.
When Inky the black mail mule came around the bend, full of purpose with his chest stuck out, Sarah was relieved to see Harley Thompson in the saddle. His eyes were wide, though, and Sarah could read the fear in his expression. A vein throbbed angrily, right in the middle of his weathered forehead.
“Granny Rose! It’s Amelia! She’s got the birthing pains bad. Been going on two days now. Please come!” he said emphatically, spittle launching into the air.
“Harley, it’s too early.” She paused briefly then continued, “Okay. Okay, let me just get up to the cabin to grab my birthing bag,” Granny Rose was reasonable, deliberate in her answer. Reassuring.
“Please, Granny Rose. There ain’t no time. Please just come,” he pleaded, tears welling up.
“Look, Harley, I got to have my herbs. Can you go get my bag and I’ll start heading down? It’s sitting right on the table.”
Sarah could tell Harley was torn as he glanced back down the mountain in dismay. But he realized he didn’t have much of a choice.
“Alright then,” he said, pushing the brim of his felt hat down a bit as he kicked Inky onward.
Granny Rose turned to Sarah, “Child, you want to head on home this time? I might could use your help on this one, and you’re nine now. ‘Bout time for you to learn the ways.”
Sarah was surprised, as Granny Rose had always sheltered her from much of her midwifery knowledge. For a moment she felt very small and frightened. Without time to really think it over, Sarah quickly nodded, and fell into step behind Granny Rose. They passed by the land of the morels as they began the two mile hike to the Thompson homestead, and continued on, descending deep into the valley as fast as they could manage.
This post was written in response to the prompt from The Red Dress Club. This week's Red Writing Hood assignment is to write - fiction or non-fiction - about a time when you took a detour. Where had you intended to go and where did you end up?
Critique is welcomed and encouraged. Also, if you're interested in reading a little more on Granny Rose and Sarah, there is this piece.