I love writing about the early 1900s and how strong these people, our ancestors, were to have families and provide for them.
It was November 21, 1915, a cold fall day in the Appalachian Mountains of Crocket Gap, in the beautiful smoky mountains of Tennessee. The leaves had hues of golden, reddish, orange, and brown, and if life had not been so hard for these people, the beauty of the Appalachians would have been a blessing.
Little Jodie Bowie and his friends are spending the day hunting for the big Thanksgiving Day feast the church has every year to help the people who have very little, which is mostly everyone. All families suffered through the winter months, some more than others. It was hard on the elderly, who lived alone, and the families without a father, who had only small amounts of food. Each family was forced to make do until the spring crops were harvested.
The three boys were only ten years old, and Charlotte Ann, the only girl in the group, was nine, but was just as strong and determined as the boys to help. All four had matured fast for their age because of the environment of the Gap, which demands one mature fast in order to help the family survive. Only yesterday, Jodie and his friends had gathered chestnuts by the bagful and carried them home to be ground into flour for the winter. They were lucky to find them, since the Chestnut Plight of 1900 killed many trees. The leaves and stems were for medicinal use, and even the shells were not wasted as they were burned in the fireplaces for warmth.
So, on this cold morning, which was getting colder as flurries of snow started whirling around their heads, Little Jodie, as everyone called him, (because his father was called Big Jodie, who had died from a logging accident last year), Little Jodie, Tommy Jo, Jim Bob, and Charlotte Ann made their way into the thick forest to look for turkeys and deer. Each had a bow with arrows, knives, and slingshots, and the boys had homemade guns.
All the boys felt they must look out for Charlotte, because she was different than most of the Gap girls, as her father was Cherokee and her mother was Scottish. Charlotte could out run them all, and she used her slingshot like they used their guns. But she was so small that it was difficult for the boys not to protect her, or try to anyway.
They were high on a mountain ridge going into the dense forest, which led into a secluded valley with an icy river running through it, where animals came to drink. This was their secret place, where they met for their little club meetings and gathered wild persimmons, grapes, cherries, and berries for their mothers to make cobblers, pies, and jellies. They were even fast and smart enough to get honey from the honeybees without being bitten or making them angry. Yes, they called themselves the "Four Vikings" and only did good things for other people throughout the Gap.
And this day was no different, because they had big plans to save the day on Thanksgiving. As they reached the river, which flowed like rapids in places, and in other places, the rocks made little waterholes for the wild animals to drink the cool water. A squirrel made a mad dash for a dry berry left on a wild cherry tree, but not fast enough as Jodie’s arrow hit his mark and another family would have meat for dinner.
Stealthfully, they made their way closer to see any animal as it came to drink. It seemed forever until a deer came to drink. It was so big, Tommy, the biggest of the boys, counted 12 points. "What a rack." They all whispered together. Tommy pointed his homemade gun at the deer’s head, and "Bang!" on the riverbank he fell. Charlotte ran ahead of the boys to make sure he was dead, and as she knelt down, a wild turkey flew over her head. Too bad for the turkey, as Charlotte's quick action sent an arrow through his head, and he fell into the river, but was saved by Jim Bob, the fastest runner of all three boys.
They were proud of their accomplishments for the day, and now had to build a rig to carry the deer and the turkey home. They got busy and built their stick rig for both animals, so all four could help carry the surprise home.
Charlotte thought it was sad that such beautiful animals had to die in order for people to eat, but she soon forgot her sad thought, because it was getting colder, and the sun would soon be going down, as they hurried along, before the scent reached a cougar’s nose.
It was almost dusk as the four tired children slowly dragged their deer and turkey into the edge of the forest to be met by the preacher and three of their fathers.
"We were concerned about you children and thought you might need our assistance," Preacher Jonas explained. He and the fathers took over from the four tired children and carried the prized gifts to the families of the Gap.
Everyone was smiling when they reached the church to hand over the turkey and deer to the cooks. The cooks would clean and cook them for the residents of Crocket Gap.
The next day, this great Thanksgiving meal would be served to the people. It would be the community feast, and then the families would attend church on the 23rd to give thanks to God for all the blessings and sing songs of praise. which could be heard all the way through the Gap and up on the mountain sides, along with the sounds of the chapel bells echoing throughout the valley.
In the distance, a wild boar stopped to drink at Nature's Cup and turned its head to listen to the sounds from the church.
Written in 2011
© 2022 Barbara Purvis Hunter