Thursday, March 17, 2011

Gathering Morels

Sarah and Granny Rose were walking on a soft worn deer trail deep in the Appalachians. Spring had come over the past few weeks, and Sarah deeply breathed the magical potion of new life.


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

30 comments:

A Rural Journal said...

I love this! We hunt morels on our place in spring and I can imagine this tale unfolding as you described it. :)

singedwingangel said...

OH man I love this. Simply because there are still Granny Roses here in Kentucky. All of my aunts and uncles were home deliveries. This is a wonderful piece that I could completely envision..

JDaniel4's Mom said...

I so hope the baby will be okay!

cat said...

I want to know the rest of the story. Does the baby survive?
lovemom

Snapper II said...

I love the story. You are so very talented.

Peace be with you.

texwisgirl said...

Another great one. Loved the descriptions and names and tiny details that made it spring into view. Like the spittle. And mouse's ears. And the "might could". :)

Dawn said...

Love it. Creative and great writing....can't wait to hear what happens....

Kristi said...

You did a fantastic job of placing in me somewhere that I'm not familiar with...and making me feel at home. I want to walk the path with Sarah and Granny Rose! You got me hooked!
Thanks for sharing!

Valerie said...

I love this! What a wonderful reason for a detour-new life in the midst of spring. And your writing really blows me away!

Sonya Heilmann said...

Great detour - I enjoyed this piece! It made me feel like I was right there with them, looking for morels; I could almost smell that earthy smell of the forest in your writing! I've never eaten morels before, but now I'd like to try them!

And I wonder if the mother and baby end up okay?!

Jane said...

Great begining,I will read the rest that is in the link.Blessings jane

blueviolet said...

That was really good. I was all caught up in it, and now I need to know how it came out!

Patrice said...

Okay. Good writing. What happens next?? I'm ready to turn the page and find out:)

Canyon Girl said...

I have never been to Appalachia, but I have romantic notions of a place and a time. You did such a great job of bringing us both the spirit of the woods and the sometimes cold reality of life in the woods and hollows of the mountains there. Great job, what a good writer you are.--Inger

Home In The Hollow said...

I love these Granny Rose tales!...:)JP

Chatty Crone said...

So what is going to happen? WIll the mother and baby be okay?

sandie

tracy said...

I need to know what happens! Wonderfully written.

Galit Breen said...

Well, I definitely need to know what happens next!

I love the details that you sprinkled throughout, like the morels and the hat tip.

9 years old- yowsers!

Ratz said...

Interesting story. I enjoy people who are reassuring. Their airs is just warm about... Granny Rose is an interesting character.

Stacey said...

I love a good midwife story! Your details are wonderful and I really want to know what happens next! I was a little confused when Granny Rose said, “Child, you want to head on home this time?." Her next statement seemed to conflict and it seemed she was inviting her to come which was made clear in the next part. Very good story though!

Sara said...

This story was full of wisdom to me. The way you described this little girl learning the wisdom of nature's timing -- when the morels are ready for picking and what not to pick. I could easily see Sarah and her Granny walking the mountain.

I also loved how Granny's wisdom and that she knew when it was time to begin to pass it onto Sarah. You reminded me of the importance of being in tune with nature.

Your dialogue was also very good and fit the story. I enjoyed story very much:~)

warren said...

Yup...morels are fun...the rest...not super excited to discover!

warren said...

But cool story!

Jennifer said...

I love the details which really made this and easy read, '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.' is exactly what I imagine someone really living with the land would notice.

'even a tincture of powdered rhubarb in white whiskey couldn’t ease the pain. '

The word tincture so enriched the vintage feel of that sentence.

and 'pushing the brim of his felt hat down a bit' the felt hat also anchors this story.

Although as I'm writing this I realize I have been reading it like it a vintage piece where it could also be about the Amish or another such community.

Nicely done.

Shorty said...

I enjoyed this so much. I'm pregnant and working with a midwife, and i adore midwife stories! This was beautifully written. thanks for sharing.

Karen Peterson said...

I really like the description of the scene and what they're doing, and I enjoyed the dialog when Harley showed up.

One thing that was a bit confusing to me was when Granny Rose said to Sarah, "Do you want to head on home?" I reread it several times because I couldn't figure out why Sarah going home meant she got to help Granny Rose. I think if she said something like, "Sarah, you should come with me this time," or "Guess there won't be any morels today," or something like that, it would be a little more clear.

The mad woman behind the blog said...

You've got some grammatical errors throughout (and I'm not referring to the dialogue.) BUT I love the slow deliberate pace of Granny and the nervous concern of the child. Also you've done a beautiful job of bringing this part of the country with it's rich culture to life. (And made me quite homesick for my granny's home there.)

Well done.

amybethinverness.com said...

Your word choice really gives it an Appalacian feel. I especially like the leaves "The size of mouse ears"!

Nicole said...

Alright woman... are you finishing any of these stories? You really should! You write so well, I am always wanting to know what is going to happen next!

beautiful because said...

fantastic!!!