Winter in the Great Smoky Mountains
It was 1911 in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, outside the icy winds
howled as they blew through Backers Creek Hollow, sending chilled puffs of air
between the tiny cracks of the old wood church.
The only warmth was an old wood stove that acted as a heater, which furnished
warmth for all the mothers with babies who sat on the front rows. Blankets were
spread on the wood benches, to make it more comfortable for all.
After the congregation sang its last song, Preacher Miles called for any
announcements, and Brother Sampson stood up. However, he did not speak until
Preacher Miles knotted his approval to do so.
Then Brother Sampson told them what the preacher in Sandy Hill Gap had
informed him about yesterday. He said that a train was bringing two children
from New York for adoption; and the two little girls were six years old. And
Brother Sampson said that the children would be brought to the choir practice on
Wednesday, to Backers Creek Hollow.
“Mama,” asked Little Billy Sands, “Adoption—is that something bad?” His mama
said for him to be quiet in church. So, he would wait for his answer later.
Well, that was the best news Becky Sue had heard since forever, now maybe she
would have a sister. And, she was sure her daddy would get her anything she
wanted; after all she was eight years old, and almost a full-grown lady. Mimi said so
herself, and her Mimi was always right.
Everyone, was buzzing about this for sure, and was wondering who would want
more children, or better yet, who could afford more children. Now, this
conversation went on for the next few days, wherever, any two women met to
talk. All up and down the hollows it was carried, to all the neighbors, friends or
foes in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Why bring more children to the poorest of people, the mountain people, no one
knew the answer, only God knew—that was the only answer.
By Wednesday, the weather was not accommodating to the people of Backers
Creek Hollow’s plans, as the icy wind sent the swirling snowflakes and snow
flurries throughout the mountainsides. Sometimes, it was difficult to see the
way around the Hollow. The snowy weather was not omitting any Gap or Hollow,
everyone, was being blessed the same.
As the snow piled higher than normal, outside the humble homes, their occupants
had prepared as best they could. Papers and old rags were stuck into the cracks
and card-boards were nailed over them, as their fireplaces blazed with Hickory,
Oak and White Ash, which was plentiful in the mountains.
Yes, inside the homes an abundance of warmth from the fireplaces
and from their hearts. These were good people, and since being poor was not a
sin, they were also, very proud.
The congregation finally all arrived at five o’clock in the afternoon, the darkness
was coming too fast because of the bad stormy weather, so the church women lit
candles at the altar and put lit candles in the crude wooden sconces on the walls
around the inside of the church.
Everyone, was talking quietly, until the big double doors opened, and the wind
blew in the flurries of snow in front of the guest and behind them.
The two children looked frozen and scared to death, but not the man
with them. Who was introduced to everyone, as Mr. Finworth, secretary to
the Tennessee Adoption Agency.
The man apparently felt very important as he walked into the church. Strutting like
a banny rooster with his chest stuck out, so full of himself. He thought he was doing
a great service for these poor backwoods people.
He was a small shrimp of a man, and his manner was borderline rude. He
went straight to the front of the church and shoved the little girls ahead of him.
He stopped and turned around and proceeded to give his little speech, as he told
the little girls to--stand up straight and look ahead---so the people could see
The little girls had on ill-fitting shoes, and hand me downs that were too big for
them. Their coats had holes in the elbows, and both coats had missing
buttons and pockets. And, their red hair was long and uncombed. However, through
all the rags and dirt one could see they were very beautiful children.
Well, now this did not sit well with Becky Sue, but she listens quietly for a while,
literally biting her tongue so she would not speak out. She kept inching her body
to the edge of her seat really to bounce at a second’s notice.
Mr. Finworth said, “These children are here for adoption purposes, and as you can
see they are twins. Do you people know what the word twins mean?”
Well, he continued, “They were born the same time, one after the other. (No one
in the congregation said anything) Fine, I will carry on.”
Becky Sue stood up, and said, “Mr. Finworth, I am eight years old, and I know
what twins are, we are poor, but not illiterate.” Then she smiled her
lady like smile and returned to the edge of the bench.
Preacher Miles looked at his wife and then his daughter, and smiled—two peas in
a pod—yes, he was one lucky man. His wife and Becky Sue would keep any man
on their toes, and he was happy that he was that man; he loved his
strong outspoken ladies.
Then Mr. Finworth made a grave mistake, he bellowed out, “Well, I am standing
here waiting for someone who wants to adopt these girls to say something.”
And the twins started crying.
That was all she wrote, the man had dug his grave right there in church.
Before anyone could say a word, Becky Sue had kicked Mr. Finworth in the
shins of both legs, one for each twin she later said to her friends in the Hollow.
“Daddy, this Mr. Finworth has not told us anything about the twins, he has only
made them cry and made me mad here in church.” The twins had
stopped crying, as four big blue eyes were turned on Becky Sue, their hero.
Becky Sue rolled her big green eyes, as she put a red ribbon back in her
long black hair that had fallen out during Mr. Finworth’s introduction of her foot.
Mr. Finworth made a movement towards Becky Sue, and Preacher Miles stood in
front of his daughter, shielding her from him. He whispered low to Mr. Finworth,
“Sir, if you want to be able to walk out of this church you will conduct yourself as
a gentleman and I will be writing the Agency, about how you treat children.”
And, after saying this—Preacher Miles pocked him in the chest with his finger
several times making him back up into the coldest corner of the room.
Mr. Finworth backed down as the Preacher was a tall man with muscle to back up
Preacher Miles asked Mr. Finworth if he could tell them anything about the twins
and their background. Then, Mr. Finworth said in a superior tone, “Their names are
biblical, because one is named Ruth and the other one is named Esther and their
last name is not known to us, and the twins do not know it, either.
They were brought to the orphanage by their grandmother who was very ill-when
they were two years old. Their parents died in an accident, and that is all we know.
So, if anyone will come forth to adopt them I will be able to signed the papers with
Becky Sue stood up with her hands-on her hips and said, “Nobody had better
raise their hand, or stand up---because Daddy, I want them---these are my
sisters.” Even before the word sisters were completely out of her mouth—the
twins ran to their new older sister and hugged her and would not let go.
So the three children stood in front of the altar, with arms wrapped around each
other, and Preacher Miles and his wife Margaret joined them.
Yes, in a matter of minutes their family had grown from a miracle, which had spread
its love over the Miles family, and the congregation.
All the children of the congregation went up front to welcome Becky Sue’s new
sisters. Becky Sue was already planning on what clothes she was giving them
because unlike so many of the children of the Hollow, she was blessed with her
Mimi, who gave her lots of clothes; toys and games.
She always shared with the other children. She believed in sharing if you can
because her Papa said in his sermons that it is better to give than receive, and
truthfully Becky Sue liked both.
And, that was the same logic she used when she kicked Mr. Finworth in his shins.
She felt he deserved her gifts of those kicks, to make him a better person, and if
that didn’t do it, well; she left those lessons to a higher teacher.
Becky Sue would teach her new sisters about being strong ladies. She would
especially teach them how not to let rude people intimidate them. She would make
sure her sisters were educated, also be blessed with a good life. Yes, she now had
responsibilities above and beyond herself, not aware that she would become a
better person herself, by giving of herself.
Little Billy Sands asked his mother as they walked out of church, “Mama,
adoption--is that something bad?”
“No, that is something good. Becky Sue’s parents chose the twins to love, and
that is very special. Tonight, Billy, I believe Jesus is smiling down on our
little church in our Hollow because he is pleased about the adoption.”
“Mama, it was Becky Sue who really adopted them, right?”
His mama smiled and put her arm around him as they went out the door in the
© 2021 Barbara Purvis Hunter