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  • Writer's pictureMj Pettengill

The Making of a Boy

Pauper Children (Public Domain)
What does it mean to come down from the tree?  The answers lie in the heart of it. For a child, a safe and secret world is essential. Life-giving power and healthy growth and development dwell in the roots—the bones of the land. Self-trust and the freedom to explore, even in the harshest of conditions, may provide much-needed stability and relief.

Perhaps a child accompanied by the lowest members of society, afflicted by dire poverty—devastation, death, physical, mental, and emotional impairment, war, sin, and more—would not want to come down at all. 


Poverty is not limited to one’s socioeconomic status; it is often a predicament of the soul as well. A child inmate at the County Farm would have done well to have such a tree. It is a way up, an attempt to restore what was lost, possibly the making or unmaking of a boy. It is imperative to pause and assess whether the needs of today’s children are being met or, depending on the current political climate, remaining an endless burden. 


One of the most frequently asked questions by my readers is about the fate of this little boy: “What becomes of Samuel?” It is time for Samuel to share his youthful journey. We learn of the unfortunate circumstances leading to his birth, and we meet him briefly at the end of both Etched in Granite, Book One, and The Angels’ Lament, Book Two. He shows up at the train station, where, for the first time, he meets his Aunt Sarah, who had been away working in a textile mill. We encounter him as a child at the stone garden, and we endure the loss of his beloved mother.

In this part of the story, Samuel’s father, Silas, has an opportunity to claim his son, to right the grievous wrongs that plagued them all for so long. Will he succeed?

For many, this will be a reunion as we revisit Abigail, Silas, Nellie, Moses, and the others that we came to know so well in the first book.

Samuel, the sole narrator in Down from the Tree, fills in the missing years and provides a fresh outlook of life on the County Farm. His bold innocence reminds us of that which is basic. Since Samuel never went "beyond the fence," his comprehension of what most might find harrowing is often enlightening. He evokes what many elders in our society may consider long-forgotten, fundamental values. For instance, while gruel and bone pickin’s may repulse one, it could well be another’s feast. 

His vision—oftentimes expressed from the heart of the tree—is startling, offering an alternative perspective of that which has been hard-wired into the human psyche. From childhood to adulthood, we create and incorporate a vast array of filters, born of multiple experiences, altering the perception of nearly everything in our path. By nature, our personal history is viewed through these complex lenses as they continue to evolve and change. 

Excerpt from the preface of Down from the Tree Book Three in the Etched in Granite Historical Fiction Series

Mj Pettengill


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