In November, I entered the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Write Month) Contest and wrote over fifty thousand words before the end of the month. Now I am about ready to release my historical book The Cavorter. The ebook is on preorder at Smashwords.com and due out February 9th https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/601141 Chapter 1 Cordelia Cobb Germundson looked down at her scrapbook and ran a finger over a black and white family picture, looking for inspiration. All ten children were gathered on either side of her parents. They had to squeeze together to get in the picture. “You can see Mama and Daddy weren't helping much. They had a good size space between them. You've heard it said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Just look at my folks trying not to touch each other. They hated to be close, and that picture says it all. This picture was taken when I'd just turned fifteen right after we moved to Northern Iowa in 1900.” Cordie gave a long sigh as she looked at her granddaughter. “Before I get into what happened in my family, you should know there were moments way back in the family history that any of my great grandchildren would be proud to know and brag about. If they should need to make a family tree for school that would be the relatives to tell about. The Cobb family started out in Germany. If you look the name up on the computer, the Cobb lineage goes way back.” “Cobb doesn't sound German,” Jane commented. “Emigrants, when they got off the ships, sometimes changed their names at Ellis Island when they signed in. They varied the spelling of their names to please the British colonies. In 1747, the first Cobbs, Adolph, and his son, Job, decided to come over to America. Adolph was a widower and Job was a single, young man. When they landed, they were broke after paying their passages on the ship. They needed money to buy land. The only way to get the homes they wanted was to join the British army to fight in the French and Indian war. The British army was fighting the French who had some help from the native Indians. The British Army won that war after seven years. Once their service was over, the soldiers were given deeds to land as payment for being in the army. The two Cobb men served under General George Washington.” “No kidding! I am impressed,” Jane marveled. “When the war was over, Adolph and Job Cobb were given deeds to land in Virginia. Course that was a wilderness to be conquered if they expected to make farms out of their land. At first sight, people mistook the Cobb men for brothers, but they realized differently when they came closer and saw the gray strands threaded through Adolph's black hair. Both men weren't quite six feet tall and broad at the shoulders, stocky and muscular which was a sign they were used to hard work. Adolph and Job had adjoining farms with Little River rambling along one side their farms. Job married petite, fair haired Sara Bitterman, just before he left Maryland for Virginia and brought her with him. In the spring of 1766, the two men worked hard, clearing farm land and plowing the rocky ground to put in crops. They worked from daylight to dark. Sara tried to keep up her end of the marriage duties as she saw them. She raised food in a garden that deer continually grazed and rabbits gnawed off. She kept the house as clean as she could considering she lived in a log cabin with a dirt floor. It was easy to get homesick when she thought about her family. She missed so much she left behind in the four years she'd been away from Maryland. Things like her parents, her three siblings which were a brother and two sisters, going to church and a social life with her friends. She was lonely living in that wilderness after growing up in a bustling city. The mail was so sporadic, and her husband only went to the village a couple times a year for supplies. That's when he picked up the mail that was old news by the time Sara got her family's letters. Neighbors were far a part. Other women were in the same predicament as Sara. They had too much work to do at home to spend time visiting. Most of their earlier lives were spent giving birth to one baby after another which tied them down. Right after the birth of Job and Sara's first baby Job taught his wife how to shoot a powder gun. Cherokee Indian raiding parties were in the area, and he knew she needed to protect herself when he was in the field all day. One day when he was hunting, Job ran into Horrace Simmers, a thin, tall man of few words, out in the timber. The man was searching for his wife, Jessel. They had only been married two months when the Indians kidnapped her. Looked like the tracks headed south. Horrace had walked fifty miles, tracking the Indians. Finally, he turned around and came home. Horrace told Job he flat out gave up. He reasoned his wife would be dead by the time he caught up with the thieving Indians. They had too much of a head start. If he ran into the Indians, he most likely would be the one dead since he'd be outnumbered. The Indians headed south to North Carolina. They made dark haired, brown eyed Jessel Simmers walk the whole way through the wilderness. When the Indian raiding party reached their village, the braves gave their captive to their chief as a gift. What a time she had of it trying to survive the jealous squaws and the advances of the chief. It was May of the next year by the time, Sara Cobb had her second baby. At the same time, Jessel escaped her captors late one night in North Carolina. Jessel walked toward home, determined to live long enough to make it. She lived on bird eggs, berries and plants. With so many wild animals prowling in the timbers, she slept in trees and caves. The worst fear in her mind was the Indians must be tracking her. To prevent getting caught again, Jessel walked in cold stream water or brushed her prints out with a branch while she walked backward. After five months of walking in the dangerous wilderness, she arrived home. Enough time had gone by that Jessel knew her husband would have cause not to be real happy to see her when he took a good look at her. Jessel stumbled into her cabin, feeling relief that her long ordeal with the Indians was at last over. She really didn't expect just how harsh her husband would be after Horrace's initial surprise at seeing his wife wore off. He pulled Jessel into his arms before he took a close look at her. He felt before he saw his wife's swollen belly. He shoved her away from him. “Leave this house and never come back. I'm not about to raise an Indian bastard.” Jessel pleaded for his understanding as tears ran down her face. “How can you say such a thing, Horrace? None of what happened to me was my fault. What was I supposed to do? When those savages busted into the cabin, I was outnumbered. They surrounded me. One big buck picked me up and carried me off. I hit him and screamed your name, but you weren't close enough to help me.” Horrace turned his back on her and stared into the fireplace flames. She had the feeling when his back stiffened her words weren't going to make a difference to him. “I didn't ask to be taken captive by Indians and accosted repeatedly by the chief. Husband, did you think I went with them willingly?” Jessel asked bleakly. Horrace shook his head. “I knew what happened was none of your doing. I took out after you, but the Indians had too big a head start on me. Maybe you should have stayed with the Indians at least until after that bastard was born. No one here would have to know about your condition. They would think you were brave for escaping and praise you. I could have taken you back then.” “You're not thinking clearly. I couldn't stay with the chief much longer. He'd kill me after the baby came. Maybe his five wives would have beat him to it out of jealousy. They threw rocks and clubbed me with branches as it was. I wanted to escape. Anyone in my place would have. I knew it would take me months to walk home. If I was to make it here before winter, I had to start when I did. Once I'd been there for a spell, they let me have some freedom. I slipped out of the tent one night like I was going to relieve myself in the bushes and kept walking. When I was far enough away the Indians wouldn't hear me, I ran for my life.” Horrace wheeled around to face her. His face had turned flinty cold. His voice sparked with anger. “You might have been better off if the Indians had killed you rather than come back here in that condition. Didn't you realize you're not going to be any better received by the other settlers here when they find out you're carrying an Indian baby than you are by me? Now go!” “Where am I to go?” Jessel cried. “That's your problem,” Horrace's voice, cold as the night would be for her, stalked across the room and opened the door. “Could you at least spare me a warm blanket to put around my shoulders during the day and cover up with at night,” Jessel pleaded. Horrace stalked over to his rocker by the fireplace. He snatched up the brown blanket he put around his shoulders at night while he sat by the fire. Pulling the blanket tight around her to block the chill, Jessel walked away from the cabin, wishing she'd been able to convince her husband to let her stay. The trees were showing their fall colors. The days were fairly warm, but nights held a chill. Jessel spent the first night back home curled up in a cold, damp cave by Little River. The next morning, she headed for the trading post. It was late afternoon before she arrived. The owners of the trading post, Hiram and Mildred Holmes looked surprised to see her. At first, they appeared glad she had survived. When the blanket gaped open, they had a good look at her. The couple changed their minds and attitude. Jessel said, “I can see by your faces you know what a problem I have. I'll tell you the truth. Horrace threw me out of the cabin when I came home yesterday. I need a job and a place to live. Is there anything I can do here?” Gray haired Mildred, sixty years old and wide at the hips, shook her head in sympathy. Her three chins jiggled as she said, “We're right sorry for your troubles. Why, we was for sure you had been killed by those savages.” “I would have been if I stayed with them much longer, Mildred. It was just luck I was able to escape in the night,” Jessel explained. “Yes, yes, but we don't have work for you. We can't let you stay here and work for us. In your condition, it would be bad for business. Public opinion of the Indians is so low no one would want you around as a reminder of what the Indian raiding parties did to their folks and property. Especially with you expecting a savage's baby.” With her hands over her face, Jessel sobbed. “How could people treat me so mean? It wasn't my fault what happened to me.” Mildred responded, “I understand, but there's not anything I can do about it. Hiram, do you agree with me?” Through tear filled eyes, Jessel looked hopefully at the old, hen pecked, skinny man. Hiram looked away from her and agreed with his wife. “Quite right you are, Mildred.” Jessel walked out on the porch. She shivered as the cold air hit her. She eased herself down on the top step and wrapped the blanket tighter around herself. She hid her face in her lap, feeling as low as an ant. She hoped maybe someone would come by that would take pity on her. How could there be so many hard hearted people in the area? Surely someone could lend her a helping hand. She hated the thought of going back to the cave to spend the night. It would be after dark before she reached it. She'd be willing to work to repay any kind person that helped her. All she could do was wait and see. Maybe Horrace and the trading post couple were wrong. A blacksmith was working across the street in the blacksmith shop. The smithy was a tall, muscular black by the name of Moses Washington. He looked up from his hot forge and took notice of the woman shaking as she sobbed. From where he was, he could see she was very distraught. Finally, his curiosity got the better of him. He stopped working, tossed his sledge hammer down and walked across the road to see what was wrong. Jessel heard the heavy thud of footsteps coming toward her. She raised the tail of her ragged dress and wiped her eyes. Her hope rose in her. “Ya don't look none too happy, little lady. Is there some way ah can help y'all?” Moses had sympathy in his deep, soothing voice that rumbled like gentle thunder as he stared down at the distressed woman. “I sure wouldn't turn down help, but you need to know why I need it.” Jessel rushed to explain her situation. Moses felt so sorry for her he suggested, “Sure nough y'all need a roof over yer head. Y'all is welcome to stay at my cabin until ya can figure out what ya want to do. Once ya have made other arrangements ya can move on.” Moses knew what it was like to be an outcast even though he was a free man. He wasn't always treated by the whites like he was free. Jessel gave the offer serious thought as she studied the stranger towering over her. She didn't know anything about him. He looked so overpowering, and he was black. On the other hand, winter was coming soon. The fall days had a nip in the air. Last night, she'd spent a miserable night chilled to the bone in that horrible cave full of bats. She couldn't live there after the baby came. She wanted in where it was warm in the worse way. She had to think about this baby she carried. Her harmless, newborn baby didn't deserve to be mistreated. The baby needed a warm place to grow strong. “Look, Missus, make up yer mind quick like. Ah's got work to do,” Moses insisted roughly. So Jessel made her decision on instinct about this imposing hulk of a man eying her soulfully. She had to trust him and worry about later one day at a time. After all, her reputation couldn't get anymore soiled living with a black man than it already was now that she was carrying an Indian's baby. “I thank you kindly for your offer. I want to accept it,” Jessel said as she held her hand out to him. Moses took her hand and helped her up from the step. His kind voice put Jessel at ease. “Let me walk with y'all to my cabin so ya make it there all right. It's not far away. About a quarter of a mile from the trading post, but ah don't want ya to get lost.” “Moses, you understand in two months I'm going to have an Indian baby, don't you?” Asked Jessel. “Ah done seed dat myself,” Moses said as he took Jessel by the arm and held on firmly so she didn't fall on the rough potholed road. “Ya best clear dem eyes of tears good, girl, so ya can see where y'all be walkin'.” The first thing he did when they reached the cabin was build up the fire in the fireplace. “Ah ain't home all day. The cabin be mighty cold when the fire goes out. There's plenty of wood in the wood box to keep the fire burnin' until ah gets back home. Ya makes yerself at home. I seed ya this evenin'.” After he left, Jessel took a good look around at the large, one room cabin. She noted there was only one bed, and it was small at that. How on earth did a man the size of Moses fit on it? She wasn't about to take the bed of a hard working man who had just been so kind as to put a roof over her head. Jessel spread an extra blanket on the floor next to the fireplace to use for her bed and put her blanket on top for her cover. After that, she made supper. Luckily, Moses had laid in a good supply of provisions in the flour cupboard. He'd been hunting recently, too. Hanging just outside the door in a large oak tree was a fresh deer carcass that she cut steaks from and cooked in the fireplace. She noticed a good supply of acorns under the oak tree that the squirrels hadn't carried off yet. She'd pick them up first thing in the morning. If Moses loaned her a hammer, she'd make acorn flour. That evening, Moses was delighted to see Jessel's delicious supper. He ate heartily and rubbed his full belly as she stood up to go wash the dishes. “Ah gets tired of my own cookin'. It has kept me alive, but ah cain't cook good enough to out do y'all, Jessel. Ah's about to pop from what all ah ate.” When Moses built up the fire in the fireplace, he noticed the blankets spread near it. “What ya put the blankets here fer?” “That's going to be my bed,” Jessel said quietly. “Ya ain't in no condition to be layin' on the hard, cold floor. Ya kin take the bed, and ah be sleepin' on the pallet,” Mose said firmly. Jessel tried to protest. “You're doing enough for me by feeding me and letting me stay here where I'm warm. I can't take your bed away from you. You've worked hard all day, and you need your rest.” “Shucks, ah work hard, and that's the reason ah cain sleep anywhere ah lay my head. Now ya start thinking about that baby soon to be born. Ya need that bed worse than ah do.” “I just don't think it's right,” Jessel argued. “Fine,” Moses bargained. “Ah tell ya what. Ya do this my way for right now. We's gonna discuss which one of us gets the bed again after the baby be born.” Jessel realized it wouldn't do her any good to argue with him. She had to admit that bed felt much better than the branches and leaves she'd slept on for months. The last of December, early one morning during a blizzard, Jessel felt her first contractions. Before Moses realized Jessel was in labor, he looked out the door at the blinding snow and decided to stay put. Not much he could do at the blacksmith shop. He reasoned the snow would be blowing across his forge, putting the fire out. Besides, no customer would come out in this storm to get anything fixed. While Jessel was washing dishes, she doubled over and groaned. Instantly, Moses understood what was wrong. He put Jessel in bed and told her to relax if she could. What started out as a twinge turned to hard pains later in the day. She spent most of the day fighting painful labor. Jessel was grateful to have Moses help her with the delivery. He kept the fire built up so the cabin was warm even though a storm raged outside. He made sure water boiled, and saw to her needs. Late that night, the baby was born. The delivery was fairly easy for a first baby. For that, Jessel was grateful. The tanned skinned baby was a girl. Jessel named her Lucky, because she felt they both were lucky to have a roof over their heads on that stormy, winter night. Moses smiled when she told him the reason for the name she picked. Christmas is here. Have a good one and a great New Year. Fay Risner
A woman that has worn many hats in my life time. Join me here and find out about those hats.