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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Chapter 5

A Dark Haired Beauty

Haywood went to work in the coal mines when he was 17 years old. He was
called a Mule Skinner. His job was to walk the mules down into the mine, stay
with the mules while the other miners filled the cart up with coal, then
walk the mules back up out of the mines. It was dangerous,hard and dirty work. He
spent long hours down in the mines. He got paid 2 dollars a week. One day
he would find a way to get out of the mining business, he told himself.

He had heard that Mr. Strickland was talking about heading out west-to Texas or Oklahoma to find work-his farm had all but dried up, he could not even get a good cotton crop anymore.
On this day -on his way home from the mine, he decided to stop by out at Mr. Strickland and aunt Lucindas' house. The wind was blustery and cold. As he neared the little white picket fence, a strong gust of wind whipped his hat up in the air, twirled it around several times, hit the ground, started rolling, and stopped right in front of two dainty black slippers. Haywood ran to pick it up, at the same time- a hand, with skin the color of dark honey, handed it to him. He took the hat, and intending to thank the person, he looked up into the brown eyes of the most beautiful girl that he had ever laid eyes on.

Who in tarnation? Who was this dark haired beauty? Had it really been that long since he had visited? Why, it had to be Adeline or Everline, one or the other of Mr. Stricklands' daughters. He tried to introduce himself, but Everline knew who he was, she had seen him several times at the Church meetings, and told him so. Why, this was his cousin! When asked, she told Haywood that she would soon be 13 years old. She was much younger than he was-and definitely showed all the signs of her indian heritage. Too bad. Most people did not cotton to white folk mixing with the indian people.

Mr. Strickland indeed was still thinking about heading out west-but he did not want to move his whole family out there. Not until he knew if he could find work and a place for them all to live. When he talked to Haywood, a light seemed to go off in his head. He asked Haywood if he would consider staying there at the farm with his family, while he went to investigate Oklahoma. He told him he would pay him 16 dollars a month, if he would take care of things around the farm until he returned. Adeline was spoken for and she would soon be getting married, that would leave aunt Loucinda and Everline there by themselves. Haywood told him that he would consider it and asked if he could give him an answer in a week.

All the way home Haywood kept thinking about Mr. Stricklands' offer. By the time he got home he knew he would take Mr. Strickland up on his deal. Heck, starting off he would make more money than he did at the mine. Mr. Strickland didn't have much in the way of crops to manage, just a small garden of cabbage,corn and potatoes, that he kept for the household use, and a thin patch of hay and corn for the animals. What Mr. Strickland really wanted was for there to be a man in the house so that the women would feel safe while he was gone.

The circuit preacher was in town so Haywood wanted to make sure and make it to the preachin' and singin'. Not to mention a certain Miss Fannie Flossie Veen that he had been keeping an eye on. This would be a chance to ask her if he could escort her home after Sunday services. She was not a real "looker"-but her family was one of the wealthiest in the county. It could serve Haywood well to pursue a future with her. She had flashed her eyes at him more than a few times.

Miss Fanny Flossie was not a striking lady-rather the opposite. Short and fat in stature,a little person, with an insignificant nose, and a skin, hair, and eyes all of one yellowish tint. Just a small amout of rouge on her cheeks and a few fluffy frills on her dress would have made her positively pretty. But she went around in a plain dress, with her hair pulled up in a small, tight knob on top.

After church services on Saturday, Miss Fanny Flossie asked Haywood if he would escort her home and enjoy a bite to eat with the family. The Veens owned a large plantation-The Southern Paradise-teeming with workers. Overseen by shrewd , skilled, wide awake german workers. The
corn fields were laid out with the neatness of a Dutch garden. There were many guests at Madame and Sir Veen's table that night.

The guests had left the supper-table, and were seated on the low porch which ran around the house, or lounged in the hammocks that swung under the huge magnolias on the lawn. There were one or two women of undoubted beauty among them. Jose the house servant had serenaded them all with a song and his guitar.

The air had grown chilly. Inside, Jose, had kindled a huge fire on the hearth. He was kneeling, fanning it with the bellows, while Miss Fanny leaned casually against the mantel, watching the flames, and now and then motioning to Jose to throw on another log. The wasteful action startled Haywood. How they wasted that wood ! All through his boy hood he used to gather every twig and chip. How often he had longed to make one big, wasteful fire, as they were doing now.

It occurred to Haywood that Miss Fanny was the very enbodiment of the lavish life of this place. He suddenly felt a strange desire to become better acquainted with her, and he did just that. He started courting her seriously.

Mr. Strickland left for Oklahoma, and Haywood moved in with Mr. Stricklands family. He was settling in-at night he would sing songs to all of them by the fireside. Sometimes he would sing or play his guitar softly way into the night after all the women had gone up to the loft to bed.

Haywood noticed that Everline seemed to be everywhere-if he was feeding the animals, he would turn around, and she would be standing there looking at him. She would dish up his plate at the supper table, before anyone else had a chance to help themselves. She would always be the one to bring him dinner while he was out in the field. She would be there to help him unhitch the mules from the plow. Everline didn't say much, like most indian women, she did have a georgeous smile, tho. Haywood found himself actually enjoying her help and her company.

Six months after Mr. Strickland went to explore Oklahoma-he was brought home in the back of a wagonbed-seriously ill. Doc came out right away, he said that Mr. Strickland had Lock Jaw, an infection affecting the neck and jaw. Eight days later Mr. Strickland was on his death bed. He requested that Haywood come and sit by him a while to talk.

Mr. Strickland told Haywood that he knew that he was dying, and that he had a favor to ask of Haywood. He wanted Haywood to give him his word that he would marry Everline and take care of her. "Haywood' he said, ' when you stand in the face of difficult decisions – and you will – do not ask yourself, ‘What will the people think … how will they judge me?’ Instead, ask what your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren will think of you. Will they understand your decisions? Will they be able to see in what you do and say the virtues of courage and goodness, of justice and wisdom? Will they clearly see in your decisions and actions-the hand of God?”

Mr. Strickland died after Haywood promised to marry Everline and take care of her the rest of his life. Haywood was a good man.


80's Beach Girl said...

I am waiting with baited breath for chapter 6 ! Thanks for sharing your family story !

Tiffany said...

More!! More!!

♥georgie♥ said...

oh wow...yes more more!!!
for the record even tho this is my mom I do not know this story so i am reading right along with everyone else!!!

♥georgie♥ said...

where is chapter 6???