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  • Writer's pictureMj Pettengill

Her Tree

Abigail's Tree, CCO
Abigail's Tree, CCO

We just stood and watched. There were no more possible words. It seemed they had all been said, prayed, or sung.

I turned to Silas. “How come Aunt Sarah didn’t come to give her respects?” I asked. “There wasn’t time, son. It all happened so fast. We ain’t always equipped to handle it.” “Are you takin’ me back to the Farm? I want to go home.” “Just come with me, just to see what could be yours. I promise we won’t be gone too long.” “You’ll bring me right back home? You won’t make me stay? Just a look?” I asked. “Ayuh, you’ll see. You’ll want to stay,” he said. “But it’s up to you. You can’t rightly make up your mind if you ain’t never seen it.” He reached out his big, rough hand. I stared at it, wantin’ nothin’ more than to flee, but somethin’ made me take it. In one swift motion, he pulled me up onto the cart. With ears pointed back and tail swishin’, Prince—the best horse on the farm—was ready.

“Haw!” Silas lifted the reins, and we rolled out from between the long rows and headed down the hill, beyond the fence.

When we passed by the stones, the smell of fresh dirt filled me up, almost causin’ a stir. With the crow flyin’ above, almost close enough to feel the brush of its wings, I still wanted to jump off the cart and run home. Silas just looked straight ahead. Even when I gasped for air, he had no words, no concern, nothin’. He only cared if he was disturbed and paid me no mind.

As we turned onto the road, the world began to swirl. Ready to jump, I grabbed the side of the cart but stopped when I looked up. I wasn’t alone. One by one, other crows joined the watcher until there were too many to count. Together, they rushed over my head like a river in springtime.

And then, they flew way up high, disappearin’ over the ridge, leavin’ it up to Nellie to stay with me when, for the first time ever, I would truly go beyond the fence.


Mamma told me about her house, the fire, and Tibbets’ store. Other than that, I had no reason to try to imagine anything else out there. I saw the world from the tree, and for me, it was enough. “There ain’t nothin’ to be scared of, son,” he said. Even though I knew that they had flown off into the edge of the night, I closed my eyes in hopes of hearin’ the rush of their wings. There was always hope, and I would cling to it. “Did ya hear me, son?” “If there’s nothin’ to fear, then why do you talk about it?” I opened my eyes. It was his turn to be silent. He pulled angrily on the reins, causin’ a bit of a stir and for the horse to pick up its pace. “You’re a lot like your mamma,” he said. “Thank you.” If he thought that nice talk would make me agree to leave home, he was wrong. I would not forget that he went against my wishes, that he didn’t hear me. “Ayuh, you’re welcome, but I was talkin’ ‘bout your stubborn pride,” he said. “Thank you again.” We rode a bit longer, gently rockin’ from side to side. I no longer felt as if I would throw up. I had become very tired. He cleared his throat and pointed ahead. “That’s where your mamma lived. You know, before the big fire.” My stomach rumbled, and I straightened up in the seat. He slowed the carriage as we approached the ruins of Mamma’s home. Beyond a rusted gate, was a large pile of boards and blackened bricks, crumbled and scattered, further broken by time. And then there was part of a wall leanin’ into what looked like a water pump. I spun around when I heard a flutter. There was the watcher, perched on a rock by a small, tricklin’ brook. He had not left me after all! “Wait! Can we stop?” “It’s gettin’ dark,” he said. “The hour is late, but it isn’t dark yet. I just want to get a closer look. Please?” “Well, okay. But we ain’t stayin’ too long. Ya hear?” We hadn’t come to a full stop, when I jumped off the cart, ran around the gate, and into the yard. It was hard to believe that my feet were on the same earth where Mamma’s feet once were. I wondered if the earth would have known that, if it remembered Mamma, and if it did, it had to have known me. We shared our roots. I raced towards the pump. The watcher fluttered away from the rock and brook and hid within the leafy limbs of a grand tree. I then dashed over to it. The lower branches were higher than those on my tree. Findin’ and reachin’ the heart of it would require a plan. Surely, Mamma had to have climbed it many times. I wondered how the world would look from there. “Samuel, we can’t stay. We can come back, but it’s time to go.” “Did Mamma climb this tree?” “I’m sure she did,” he said. “She liked trees.” “I know, but she must have climbed this very tree.” I circled it, runnin’ my hand over the bark. “It was her tree. It was.” I couldn’t take my hand away. “Ahyuh, now let’s go,” he said. I closed my eyes and listened to the brook. She told me about that and the sittin’ rock. I imagined she and Aunt Sarah playin’ there. Then, the crow flapped its strong wings and cawed quite ferociously as Silas lifted me off the ground and flung me over his shoulder. I wanted to kick and scream, but I couldn’t move. Somethin’ had a hold on me, and I feared that if he had put me down, at that moment, Death would have come and taken me. Is that what I wanted? Did I want to go find Mamma and the angels? Or wherever she may have gone with Dolly May? When I squirmed, he tightened his grip, and I craned my neck back, lookin’ for the crow. This time I knew, he had finally left for the night. I was on my own. It did no good to fight, not then. Leavin’ me in a sad state, he dropped me onto the cart and went around to the other side. “You ain’t never thankful,” he said. “You should be thankful.” With my eyes fixed on the grand tree, I crossed my arms. We lunged forward, and I buttoned my lips. If nothin’ else good came of that day, I could remember walkin’ on the same ground that she did, and I saw and touched her tree. It was another way of bein’ with her. ~Samuel Hodgdon II, July 1, 1878 ~ Excerpt: Down from the Tree Etched in Granite Historical Fiction Series, Book Three

The Crow's Path, Book Four, is in the making... MjP

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