The Brown Woolen Scarf
Bess Bishop Thompson drove her car as close as she could get to the rubble. She climbed out, leaning heavily on her can. She had to pick her way carefully through the shaggy grass and waist high weeds.
Ahead of her was a termit infested wood pile that used to be the Bishop family log cabin. The rock fireplace, covered with wild honeysuckle and moss, stood in the middle of the rubble, a monument to long gone days and memories. Bess plopped down on a tree stump, the remains of the yard’s mulberry shade tree.
She shivered when the northernly breeze hit her. She pulled her shawl thighter around herself and rubbed away the goosebumps on her arms. She should get back in the car where it was warmer, but a melancholy urge tugged at her to stay put longer. She hadn’t come all this way to leave so quickly.
The trees, in full dress on the ridge, were vibrant colors of red, oranges and yellows. Bess remembered that vivid sight so well. Just one of the reasons she loved living on that ridge. Moments, memories and sounds flickered through her mind like the reel of film at a movie threater.
She could hear the laughter of her brothers and sisters coming from within the cabin heap. Her mother calling loud and clear for the younguns to behave. Her father’s baritone voice, reading a story to them by the fireplace.
It was just as well in 1903 that she and her family didn’t know how the year was going to play out. Not that every moment of the twelve months were that bad, but the way January started out should have been a warning to the Bishops if they had been paying attention to bad omens.
Sitting by what was left of her childhood home near Riner, Virgina in the Blue Ride Mountains, Bess closed her eyes to see the mental picture of days gone by. She listened to the sounds of that long ago January blizzard in her head. It was a winter morning. Bess shivered as she listened to the north wind’s mighty roar. With a sound akin to the wail of a prowling panther, the wind announced a snowstorm’s approach to the hollow before it pounced on the log cabin.
By noon, a constant tapping of sleet mixed with wet snow drumed on the cabin’s tin roof. By lunch time, Jacob and Nannie Bishop and the other ten children realized as Bess did that the blizzard had arrived on their portion of the ridge. Six years old Dillard gulped down the last bite from a stewed rabbit leg, and tossed the bone on his blue and white enameled plate. He slid off the handmade, wooden, ladder back chair and ran to the only window in the combination kitchen and living room. Standing on tiptoes, he flattened his nose against the pane. His blonde hair, curled like tightly coiled springs, created Os on the frosty glass where he pressed his forehead to peek through a clear slit near the top of the window.
He stared beyond the ripples of drifting snow banked on the porch. The white mounds grew larger each time he looked. Antsy to get out of the cabin, Dillard daydreamed of playing in the snow. His imagination saw fierce snowball fights and making snowmen in the front yard with his brothers and sisters when the storm finally ceased. Bored, he declared, "Still snowen." Glumly, he watched the haze of snowflakes swirl across the yard.
"We know that without ya tellen us, Dillard," Veder snapped at him, ready for a fight. She didn’t like being housebound in the winter anymore than he did.
"Cass, Bess, and Alma, stack the dishes, and I’ll heet the water," ordered Nannie, leaning her wide hips against the kitchen counter for a moment.
Ten year old Bess, who resembled her mother in many ways, studied Nannie. She noted the fact that her mother paused to rest at the counter. Nannie looked tired, and that worried Bess. She wondered if any of the other children had noticed their mother didn’t look well. With all the work Nannie did for her large family, it was no wonder she’d be tired. It appeared to be too much for her of late. Bess meant to say something to Cass when they were alone. Born in between the older boys, Cass, twenty years old, worked along side her mother. Mama told her things so Cass would know if Mama wasn’t feeling well. Picking up the blue and white granite plates, Bess scraped the rabbit bones and scraps of food all on one plate for the coon hounds to chew on later and stacked the rest.
Alma did her part by walking around the table to gather up all the silverware then carried it to the work counter.
Holding the long handled, aluminum dipper to one side with her thumb, Nannie tipped the wooden bucket to pour water into a large, tin dishpan. Carrying the pan carefully so she wouldn’t spill the water, she placed it on one of the circle lids on the wood cookstove’s hot, black surface.