I wanted to offer my readers a treat for Thanksgiving so I sat down and wrote the first full short story since my Third Stroke. I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
For those that have read all my books and the books By Sophie Dawson that have Nate and Penny in them this story takes place immediately after the events of Giving Love by Sophie Dawson which you can get Here
It isn’t necessary to have read Giving Love to enjoy this story it just provides some backstory. Any way enjoy part one.
NUGGET NATE SAVES THANKSGIVING
by George McVey
Moya Campbell sat at her kitchen table trying not to cry with her sons in the room. She had just gone out to the root cellar to see what was left food wise. All she found was three ears of corn, a couple of pounds of dried apples and two cups of cornmeal. If only Niall hadn’t died then they would have plenty of corn and some meat in the smokehouse. One rotten tree and one freak windstorm three months ago left her without a husband and her three young’uns without a Da!
Tears started to flow as she felt the ache in her heart where the safety and love that was Niall had once been. She didn’t know how she was going to feed her kids let alone provide them with the meal at Thanksgiving they were used to or any kind of a Christmas. She’d be lucky if Mr. Ainsworth did show up any day and tell her that Mr. Ryder needed her to leave. Even if she could convince them to let her stay this year’s crop had mostly rotted into the ground and she had only half of what she was supposed to give the owner’s lawyer to sell with none left for next year’s planting and feed the children and herself. At least Róisín wouldn’t starve yet. As long as her body kept producing milk the infant would be fed. But she couldn’t imagine that her milk would continue to produce when she herself was starving. Let alone what would she feed Ronan and Colm. She could give them corn, fritters and apples tonight but after that, there was nothing left. Ronan was too young to hunt alone. He had been a few times last year with his father but a six year old didn’t need to be stalking game on his own. It was just too dangerous. She couldn’t go because she couldn’t leave Róisín and Colm for Ronan to watch. If that tree hadn’t killed her husband and their donkey, she would hitch the wagon and take the children to town. As it was now they might have no choice but to walk out in the morning. The ten miles would be nearly impossible for the boys to walk and close to that for her carrying the baby. If she could make it to town she didn’t have money to stay. She might be able to scrape up just enough to send a cable to her parents in Ireland but then she would have to find a way to survive the month it would take for them to come and get her and the children. She laid her head down on the table and wept knowing that her boys would wake soon and hear her and become worried. She couldn’t stop, she just wept all the harder as she wailed out “Jesus, please, please help me.”
Still crying but more under control Moya was startled to hear a female voice outside. “Hello in the house.”
She hadn’t been expecting company. She swallowed her worry and tears, quickly wiped her face with a dishcloth, and ran her fingers through her hair. Not expecting anyone, she pulled Niall’s Henry rifle off the mantle and ratcheted a round in case this was trouble. She exited the house to see an older woman in a velvet riding skirt and jacket leading a horse close to the well. “Oh, hello dear. My name is Penelope. My horse threw a shoe a few miles back and my husband and grandson went back to town to get a new one. Would you mind if I wait for them here?”
Moya took in the woman’s auburn hair streaked with grey underneath the cream-colored hat that was pinned to her head with a gold pin that looked like a jewel incrusted peacock feather. Her hazel colored eyes were full of kindness and though it was obvious she was society and not from the mountains, she seemed friendly enough. “Certainly, Ma’am, you can put your horse in the coral if you want and I’ll draw him some water for the trough.”
“Thank you very much. As much as I like the mountains, waiting alone on a trail was not my idea of a good time.”
The two women worked together in silence as the woman removed the sidesaddle she had been riding from the horse and placed it and the saddle blanket on the fence rail of the small corral. Then she led the mare into the paddock and shut the gate behind her. In the meantime, Moya drew several buckets of water, carried them over and dumped them in the feed trough, which was dry and empty.
As they finished, Moya turned to the woman and asked, “Would you like to come in and rest ‘til your husband and grandson return?”
“Why thank you dear, that sounds wonderful. Your husband won’t mind having strangers in your house?”
“My husband passed away a few months ago during a storm.”
“Oh, my dear, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what I’d do if my Nate was taken from me unexpected like.”
“It has been hard. He died right at the start of harvest season. My sons and I tried but we only got about half the harvest in that we needed and that isn’t even enough to cover our sharecrop payment. Now I don’t have anything left for us or to plant next year.”
Darlin’, that sounds horrible. I would expect if you told the owner that he would waive this year’s payment to make sure that he got one next year. If not, then he will lose more than one year’s, crop. By the way, I don’t know your name dear.”
Moya was fighting back tears knowing that the children would be up from their nap soon. “Oh pardon me, I’m Moya Campbell. As for the landlord, I’ve never met him. My Niall only met him once. His Name is David Nathaniel Ryder but we’ve always dealt with his lawyer in town, Mr. Jonathan Ainsworth. He has made it plain that Mr. Ryder expects a good return on his investment every season. I haven’t seen him since he arrived last month to pick up the crop and he wasn’t too happy when he left. He told me he needed to contact Mr. Ryder and see what he wanted done about our failure. I tried to explain that me and my two sons just couldn’t pick any more than we had. He told me that excuses were a poor answer for laziness and that I should have either made sure the crop got in before it rotted or hired someone to do it. I don’t even have an animal to pull my wagon or plow. I couldn’t get to town to hire anyone if I had the money to hire them anyway.”
Penny placed her arm around the young woman and seethed inside. Just wait ‘til Nate got here and heard this woman’s tale. This lawyer was gonna get a piece of Ryder justice and if Nate wouldn’t hand it out then Penny would take his hatchet and Bowie knife and dish it out herself. No gentleman should ever treat a woman like this Lawyer Ainsworth had treated Moya, let alone no Christian should ever treat a window the way she was treated. If he had been so worried about Nate’s crop getting harvested then he should have come and helped harvest it himself. She knew that Nate had not been informed of the Campbell’s misfortune; he would have been here himself to see to the crop. No, he’d only received one of his Callin’s a week ago after they had left Cottonwood. They had been taking Nathan home to be with his family for the holidays when Nate suddenly asked to be uncoupled at the next station. He had them hooked to a southern bound train for Lexington where they had left their Pullman and the three of them had been riding for Harlan, Kentucky. Once they got there, they checked into the hotel and Nate let her and Nathan know that they’d be heading up Catron’s Mountain in the morning. “Don’t know why yet but feel like we need to go check in on them Campbells that’s a running the old home place. That Callin’s screamin’ at me about them folks. Reckon they might be in a bit of trouble or bout to be.”
Now that she knew what was a going on she would see to it that Nate helped this young widow out either by hiring her some hands to work the next season or help set her up somewhere else if she wished it.
As they entered into the cabin there came a cry from the bedroom and Moya indicated that Penny should make herself at home as she headed for the bedroom. Penny looked around and seated herself by the fire that had burned down to just embers. She placed a log on the embers and stirred ‘til she had the flame going. When she stood and turned to find a seat she saw two little boys standing behind her. The younger one was half-hidden behind his brother with his thumb in his mouth. The older one stood with his arm out like he was protecting his brother. “Who are you and where is my Mama?”
Penny knelt down and smiled at the little blonde haired boy. “I’m Penny and your Mama is in the bedroom. She invited me in to wait for my husband to come and get me. I hope that is alright with you.”
“If my Mama invited you in then that’s okay.
“Good then. Now what are your names?”
“I’m Ronan and this is my brother, Colm. He don’t like strangers though.”
“Well, that’s smart. I don’t like strangers either, that’s why I introduced myself to you so we wouldn’t be strangers.”
Just then Moya came out of the room carrying little Róisín in her arms. “Ronan, you and Colm leave Mrs. Penny alone. Go and bring in some more firewood so we can think about fixing dinner in a bit.
“Okay, Mama, but there ain’t much wood left out there.”
“Well you go bring in what is out there and we’ll figure out something about more later.”
The two boys shuffled out the door. As they left Moya swallowed the sob that threatened to escape. Penny wasn’t fooled one little bit. She stood and walked over to the poor and took the infant from her. “Here now come sit and I’ll look after this little one. You go ahead and get it out but if you want to stop the tears just think about these three lovely children the Good Lord blessed you with.”
“Yes Niall and I were blessed Ronan and Colm were the pride of Niall he kept saying they would grow up to be strong and godly men. He always was calling Róisín his wild Irish rose. I think he thought the sun rose and set on her.
“ I’m sure he did, good fathers are like that. How bad is it, Moya? If your firewood’s running that low, what else is low?”
The young woman shook her head.
“Now don’t you go lying to me young lady. I’ve been around long enough to know that a widow of three months with no man around and three young mouths has got to be at just about the last of everything. So now how much food do you have left?”
Moya couldn’t hold it back any longer; the tears started to flow and with them she began to weep. “There’s nothing. I can make the boys some corn fritters and apples for dinner and then there’s nothing.”
“Hasn’t anyone even been by to check on you?”
“Only person that’s been here since the funeral is Mr. Ainsworth and he only came to collect the harvest. I expect he’ll be back soon to tell me we have to leave since we didn’t meet the crop quota this year.”
“Well when my boys get back we will see what we can do to fix some of your short term needs. They can cut wood and do some hunting and once they get my horse shod, if you will let me, I’ll take your wagon and see if we can’t get you some staples from the Mercantile I saw in Harlan.”
“Oh, Penny, I can’t let you do that. I could never repay you.”
“Honey, you don’t have to repay us. The good book says that it is our duty to care for widows and orphans and that’s what you and these three precious children are. We will do it and be blessed by blessing you. But if it makes you uncomfortable then I say we leave it up to my Nate. If he suggests any or all of what I proposed when he meets you then we’ll figure God must want us to bless you. If not, then I won’t mention it again.”
Moya agreed to Penny’s proposal. Deep inside she didn’t know if she wanted Penny’s husband to suggest those things Penny had mentioned or not. On one hand, food would help keep her children fed for a few more days, but on the other, she would feel like a charity case. But she had agreed so now it was up to God, or fate, or pure blind luck.
*********** To Be Continued Tomorrow*******
Leave me a comment on what you liked or didn’t like or how you think it’s going to go. And from the McVey clan to you and yours Happy Thanksgiving.