Today's post is a peek at my latest historical book set in Texas Co. Mo. You can buy a signed paperback copy of the book on this site. Check out my online bookstore for all my books. If you don't have paypal find this book at Amazon and ebooks in the Kindle and Nook stores.
Sibby Monroe swiped a brown curl out of her bright blue eyes. She was just plain bored. She didn’t like staying in bed nine days after birthing. She’d done it before with her other three children, because Granny Pinkney always told her that was the rule. For the life of her, she couldn’t figure out why she bothered to mind Granny. She wanted to get out of bed and go to the parlor to sit with her children. She heard the child like laughter. Some rough housing, too, until Granny Pinkney scolded the children to be quiet so they wouldn’t wake up their ma and the new baby.
Sibby smiled at the baby girl beside her as she ran her finger around the tiny face and over the downy, yellow fuzz on top her perfect little head. She whispered, "You are so lucky you weren’t a boy, Dandelion Abigail. Your daddy would have named you Jefferson Davis for sure. Oh, I understand mind you, that it’s a way to honor his hero. After all, the man was President for all of us that were on the side of the Confederacy.
Matter a fact, that’s how your brother got the name Robert Lee. Having that name tacked on him by his daddy don’t mean a thing to Bobby Lee. He don’t know who Robert E. Lee is, and he don’t care one lick that your daddy served in the Confederate Army. That won’t stop your daddy. Next boy I have will be Jefferson Davis. I can just about guarantee that."
Even with all the quilts heaped on her, Sibby shivered, causing goose bumps to pop out on her arms and legs. The bedroom was getting colder by the minute. She snuggled deeper under the covers, but even that didn't help warm her up much.
The few flakes of snow she’d seen speckle the window earlier had turned to a whiteout. The flakes fell fast and furiously. The wind howled mournfully as it whipped the snow against the house and plastered the window pane white.
The intensity of the storm gave Sibby cause to worry. Right after dinner, Brice left for the post office in Houston, Missouri. He’d been gone a good long while. She hoped he made it home before dark. It must be hard to see where he was going right now. In the dark, he'd get lost for sure.
With a blizzard going on outside it was no wonder the room was so cold. She didn't see why she should stay put in this frigid room when the parlor was toasty warm. She'd get up and sit by the heating stove. That's what she'd do. Before she brought the baby back to bed for the night, she’d have Brice start a fire in the bedroom fireplace to take the edge off.
She slipped out of bed, took a step forward on the cold wood floor and wobbled backward. Her head was fuzzy, and her feet felt like they were full of nettles. She straightened up and took a deep breath, waiting for the weakness to pass. When she felt ready, she walked slowly over to the wall, pulled a dress and petticoat off a peg and quickly tossed the garments over her head.
She ran the tortoiseshell brush that laid on the dresser through her flighty hair. With the baby in her arms, she peeked into the parlor. The time was right. Bobby Lee and Estelle had their noses stuck to the parlor window, watching the snow. Sibby tiptoed over by the heating stove and sat down in the rocker. The baby woke up and mewed like a newborn kitten. Bobby Lee and Estelle turned around.
"Mama!" Eight years old Estelle said in alarm. "What are you doing up?"
"Hi, Mama," Six years old Bobby Lee greeted. He saw nothing at all wrong with her joining them.
Mildred, ten years old, looked up from the book she was reading and smiled.
Sibby put a finger to her lips and hissed for them to hush up but too late the elderly midwife, Granny Pinkney, appeared in the kitchen door. "Serbina Ellen Monroe, you get right back in yer bed," ordered the wizen woman. She wore her gray hair in a heavy braid looped around and penned on top her head. Her blue cotton dress, dotted with small red roses, was made from the latest print on the flour sacks at the general store.
"It’s too cold in there, Granny. Besides, I was lonesome," pleaded Sibby as she unbuttoned her dress top so the baby could suckle. "It sounded like the younguns were having too much fun out here without me."
With her hands on her hips, Granny marched over to stand beside Sibby, looking as if she wasn't used to being disobeyed. "I'll have no sass. You know better than this. It’s just been a scant three days since I ketched that baby. You could be doing yerself a world of hurt getting up like this."
"I won’t stay up long. Promise. Sit and visit with me a spell," invited Sibby. "Bobby Lee, go in the bedroom and bring the cradle out by the stove so the covers will warm up. Estelle, bring Granny a chair."
As the children scattered, Granny shook her head and grumbled, "I ain't helpless. I could get my own chair if there were a need."
"Much obliged, Estelle." Sibby winked at her daughter. "Now sit with me, Granny. As soon as Brice gets home, he can start a fire in the bedroom fireplace to warm the room up. I’ll go back to bed when it's tolerable in that room for the baby. I promise."
"No telling when Brice will be getting home. The snow is mounting up in deep drifts. Most likely hard going for a horse and sled to travel through which is bound to slow him down. You cain't wait up that long," Granny fretted. The way her forehead wrinkled up Sibby knew she was worried about Brice, too.
"Brice will make it. He always does," Sibby said. Her voice filled with confident pride when she spoke about her husband, but she had a fluttery feeling she best wait and see. "Good thing you wasn’t planning on going home for a few days yet. Got any other babies to ketch right away?"
"Not for a couple weeks. Mrs. Newcome is due about then."
"Thank goodness, Granny, that you're able to help all of us. I don’t know what women around here would do without you at birthing time," confided Sibby as she tugged a wrinkle out of the baby's belly band.
"Nonsense. I ain’t the only one that does it. Some women have their mamas to take care of them," Granny sputtered.
"Maybe so, but then there’s women like me that moved away from their mamas. Times like this I wished we lived in Tennessee close to my folks when I'm ready to have a baby." Sibby gave a homesick sigh. "Never thought of that when Brice said we should move to Missouri to start farming on free homesteaded land."
"Same reason Most folks moved here away from their kin I reckon," agreed Granny. "Reckon you miss that big house of yer folks and all them colored servants some, too."
"Nah, not anymore. When we were traveling in a covered wagon pulled by that team of oxen in rain and heat, I sure thought about my folks and what I left behind to marry Brice. Now I'm settled in a home of my own, and it's my folks I worry about. They have lost everything they had to the Yankees, including the plantation house and servants. If the bunch of us had known that war was going to tear this country in two like a rotted pitch fork handle snapping under a heavy load, maybe those politicians in Washington would have done something different," declared Sibby.
"Don't reckon it was any easier during the war in Tennessee than it was here. I figure folks there had a rough time staying alive. Maybe a lot worse than we did. That’s all almost behind us now. We’re going to be all right as soon as this war is over. It may take a few years, but we’ll put this land right again. You wait and see," vowed Granny.
"It sure don’t stop me from thinking about how close I came to losing Brice. That musket ball he took in the shoulder could have killed him. Thousand wonders he didn’t get blood poisoning in that wound before he made it home."
"Thank the Lord, he didn’t. Now stop borrowing trouble," scolded Granny.
"I’m just thankful Brice didn’t want to turn around and go right back into the fighting again like some men did. My brother, Talford, is still out there somewhere. Not a word from him in months. I don’t know if he’s alive or ----." She bit her lower lip. She couldn’t bring herself to say the word as she looked at her sleeping baby. She buttoned her dress top with one hand while she slowly rose from the rocker. Sibby laid the baby back into the cradle near the pot bellied stove and pulled the little blankets up over her.
Ignoring Granny's tongue clicking, Sibby walked over and peered out the parlor window at the three feet drift banked around the house. The snow had stopped now. A brisk wind whipped over the drifts, picking up a swirl of flakes and scattering the snow through the air which caused a thick haze. It was early December 1864. Dark came quickly this time of year and was almost upon them. How close to home was Brice? That's what Sibby wished she knew.
Disturbed by the children’s loud voices, the baby whimpered. Bobby Lee and Estelle were arguing. Those two needed something to do to keep them from fighting. Otherwise, the baby wouldn’t stay asleep. She walked slowly across the room and eased back into the rocker, frowning from her older two children to her baby.
"I’ve sit long enough. If I ain't going to change yer mind about getting in bed, I ought to get busy. Got work to do in the kitchen," Granny said, patting Sibby’s arm.
"Much obliged for the talk. Bobby Lee, watch out that window for your father, and let me know when he comes,"Sibby ordered, hoping that kept her feisty son busy for a few minutes.
"Yes, Mama," the boy said. With his shock of black hair and dark eyes, it pleased Sibby that he looked like a miniature version of his father. The argument forgotten, Bobby Lee skipped across the room to stand at the window.
"Estelle, would you please rock the cradle for me. The baby is having trouble getting back to sleep." Sibby considered this daughter a combination of her and Brice with her brown hair and dark eyes. She was a pretty child. Heaven help the boys whose hearts she broke when she grew up.
A glance at Mildred, the very likeness of herself, brought a smile to Sibby’s face. That brown haired, blue eyed child was curled up on the settee, reading. Sibby never had to worry about doling out a chore to keep her busy. Give her one of her father’s books and like her father, that girl stayed with it until she finished reading it.
"Mildred, maybe you should lay that book aside and see if Granny Pinkney could use some help in the kitchen."
"Sure, Mama," Mildred replied with a frown at being interrupted.
Sibby leaned her head back against the rocker, suddenly feeling done in. She sat up and tried to look perky when she caught Granny standing in the kitchen doorway staring at her.
"You a sight! That's for certain, Missy. You get yourself back in your bed before we have to carry you there," scolded Granny, shaking an arthritic finger at her.
"I reckon it wouldn't hurt to lay down until Brice comes home, but I'm leaving the baby in here where it's warm," said Sibby as she rose from the rocker.
The bed was icy cold when she slid between the covers. She'd just warmed up her hole in the feather tick when Granny called, "Sibby, company's coming."
"Is it Brice?"
Granny stuck her head in the doorway. "No, it's Abby and Shelton Harris on their sled. Just wanted to let you know. Now you let them say their howdies and shoo them for home. You hear? You ain't spry enough for long winded company."
"Yes, ma'am," Sibby said obediently. "Go open the door for them, will you please?"
Granny gave a loud harrumph as she disappeared.
Sibby's cousin and best friend, Abigail Harris, was a delight with her chirpy voice and flitting movements. She reminded Sibby of a happy, brown wren, making a nest in the spring.
Shelton Harris was just Shelt, a happy go lucky fellow known to be a little on the irresponsible side. The total opposite of her dependable Brice, but Abby thought the world of her husband. That was all Sibby cared about. Abigail was happy with Shelt.
As soon as Sibby heard the elderly woman walk away, she climbed out of bed and slipped into the parlor. Granny let the Harrises in and turned around to show them to the bedroom. The old woman froze in her tracks when she saw Sibby in her rocker. With a frown, she said, "This is the hardest woman to keep down I ever did see. I'd swear she was in her bed resting."
"Hey, Abby and Shelt, come over by the fire and warm up," Sibby greeted. "I'd have thought everybody would be home where it's safe. What brings you out on such a terrible day?"
Shelt grinned. "We hear tell we have a new neighbor on the ridge. Figured to come introduce ourselves."
"How did you hear that?" Sibby asked.
"Brice stopped by on his way to town," Abby explained as she hovered over the cradle. "Can I hold her?"
"You can," Sibby said proudly.
Shelt looked over Abby's shoulder as she unwrapped the blanket. "Say ain't she a dandy. What did you name her?"
"We're going to call her just what you said. Dandy. Her real name is Dandelion, and I gave her the middle name Abigail for you, Abby," Sibby said softly.
"Oh my. I'm right proud," Abby said, tearing up.
Shelt scratched his head, looking serious. "I'd a never figured to give a baby such a name."
Abby looked at him crossly. "You don't like that this baby has my name?"
"Oh no, I know better than to say such a thing in my wife's present. That would get me in big trouble. I've always reckoned Abigail is a fine name but ain't dandelion a weed?"
Sibby laughed heartedly. "A weed that makes a pretty yellow flower. Look at that babe's topknot. See all that bright yellow hair the color of a dandelion."
"Shelt, when Sibby's right, she's right. Welcome to the neighborhood, Dandy," Abby said softly.
Granny edged up beside Abby. "This woman needs to be in bed." Once, she'd had her say she marched back to the kitchen.
"Why are you out here?" Abby asked. "We could have come in the bedroom to visit."
"That room is so cold I was getting chill blaines. I brought the baby out here by the fire. I want Brice to light a fire in the fireplace for me when he gets home to warm the room up. After that, I'll feel better about being in there," Sibby excused.
"Granny is blowed up like a toad. I best make that fire while I'm here, before she has a real fit. Won't take long and Abby can help you back into bed. Don't do to get Granny's dander up if she's going to be around for awhile," Shelt warned. He said softly behind his hand, "I hear she can be right mean when she's mad."
Sibby and Abby giggles ceased when they saw the old woman standing in the kitchen doorway, listening to them. Fiery sparks lit up Granny's faded brown eyes.
After the old woman was out of sight, Sibby brightened up and whispered, "Are you two going to be here for Christmas this year?"
"What about Granny?" Shelt asked, nodding toward the kitchen.
"Don't worry. I'll ask her to come," Sibby said innocently.
"You know what Shelt meant," Abby said in a hushed voice. "You just had a baby. Ain't Christmas too soon to be having company?"
"Sibby said. "The children will be disappointed if we don't have our Christmas party. Speaking of which, where are your kids?"
"Our younguns had a fit when we told them they had to stay home, but it was such nasty weather, we didn't think they needed to be out," Abby said. "If you have your mind set on asking everyone for Christmas again this year, I'm coming over early to help out."
"I'd love that," Sibby said. "Now, Shelt, before you take off on me if you'd like to built that fire for me in the bedroom I'd just let you so I can get back in bed after Brice gets home."
"Yes, ma'am. I'm going to do that very thing right now," Shelt replied.