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By Dorene J. Stamper
Copyright: October 31, 2012
Jeanetta Lynn Parker
The Birth of a Nation
It was a crisp spring morning in 1868, as Jeanetta Lynn heard the clanking of pans coming from the kitchen below. Snuggling deeper under her bed-covers, she held a pillow tightly over her head. Finding it didn't stop the noise, she allowed it to fall upon the floor in despair.
“Jeanetta Lynn, are you up yet?” her mother called from the foot of the massive staircase. “If you still want a ride into town to meet Serenity, then you had best get down here. Father has supplies to pick up, and he’ll be leaving right after breakfast. Furthermore, Lucy needs you to collect eggs for breakfast. So, please hurry!”
“Yes, Mother,” she replied, while longing for more sleep.
Stepping out of bed, she headed for her wardrobe, yanked out a dress, and then tossed it onto her bed. While dressing, she noticed a picture sitting on her vanity. It was one of a beautiful lady she had torn out of a magazine a while back. Her hair was just right and not a blemish could be found on her face.
Once dressed, Jeanetta Lynn sat down at her vanity and compared her own refection to that of the picture.
“If I style my hair just like hers, maybe I too could be beautiful,” she whispered. Picking up her brush, she ran it through her long brown curls. “Admit it, I’ll never look like her,” she muttered. Giving up, she brushed her hair back and tied it with a black ribbon. As she was doing this, a brass box with medieval symbols appeared upon her vanity. When she went to touch it, it disappeared.
“What was that all about?” she asked herself, while moving everything about and searching for it.
“Jeanetta Lynn, we need you down here at once!” her father ordered.
Hearing her father’s voice, and especially in that tone, caused her to stop the search and to scramble down the staircase. After swinging herself around the newel post, she slid to a stop just inside the kitchen.
“Good morning, Father, Mother, and Lucy. You said you needed eggs?”
“Yes,” said Lucy, a free black woman, who was skillfully swinging a pan of hot biscuits out of the oven and onto the counter. “If you can take your jolly self out to the hen coop, I’d be oblige’en to have a dozen or so.”
Grabbing an apron from off the back of a chair, Jeanetta Lynn slid it over her head and tied the sashes. “I’ll have them here in a jiffy,” she said as she went out the back door and hurried toward the chicken coop. With Serenity, her cousin, visiting their auntie for an entire week, Jeanetta Lynn longed to hear all about it.
When rounding a corner, Jeanetta Lynn remembered to be cautious of a rooster aptly named Crazy Bill. He was a small black and tan banty that recently wandered into their yard. His disposition was aggressive and as sour as lemons. He caused trouble for anyone with the misfortune of coming near. Just the thought of him
caused her to become chilled with fear.
Opening the shed door, she got out a metal pail of grain and a basket for collecting the eggs. After closing the door, she looked about knowing Crazy Bill had to be watching from somewhere. Carefully she ventured toward the coop and went in, leaving the grain sitting just outside. She proceeded to collect the eggs, and it didn't take long before her basket was nearly overflowing.
“Look at all these eggs,” praised Jeanetta Lynn. “You've truly earned this meal!”
Exchanging the filled egg basket for the grain, Jeanetta Lynn tossed handfuls out to the waiting hens. She enjoyed watching them scramble in every direction trying to grab the most. They settled down peacefully as soon as the bucket was empty and started pecking at the stray specks lying about. Stepping out, she locked the coop door and picked up the basket of eggs. After dropping off the empty grain bucket, she headed toward the house. “One, two, three,” she counted aloud. “There has to be almost three dozen!”
Without warning, Jeanetta Lynn felt a sharp pain in her left leg. The shock caused her to toss the basket high into the air, while glancing down to see what caused it. There stood Crazy Bill ready to attack with vengeance. Frantically, she kicked at him as she leaped up for the basket that by now was suspended in midair. When returning to her feet, he was only a couple yardsticks away from her. As he advanced, she managed to get in a few blows. One of her kicks sent him flying into the air and landing several feet away. He rose unfazed, ruffled his feathers, and then headed in for another try. Jeanetta Lynn put down the basket and looked about for something to defend herself. Seeing an old broom leaning against the shed, she snatched it up, and kept it between her and the rooster’s advances. Then with a swoop of the broom she sent him head over cock-spurs into the air. With a loud squawking, he landed about ten feet from where she was standing. Unlike before, he staggered around in a daze, knocking into fences, walls, and machinery. Seeing her chance, Jeanetta Lynn ran toward him screaming, “I’ll teach you to attack me!” Grabbing him by the neck, she plunged him deep into a watering trough. “One, two, three,” she counted slowly. On the count of five, she brought him out and flung him to the ground. “Get out of here and go back to where you came from!” she screeched while stomping her feet. Crazy Bill got up and wobbled around the corner and out of her sight.
By now the screen door flew open and everyone within the kitchen rushed out.
“What in the world is going on here?” Mother cried hysterically.
“Mother, when I forgot to watch out for Crazy Bill, he attacked me.”
“I know that ol’ rooster; he’s nothing but trouble,” Lucy grumbled.
“That does it!” Father exclaimed. “I should have done this long ago!”
Excusing himself Father took off to apprehend the rooster. Meanwhile, Lucy held open the kitchen screen door for the others to pass through.
“Those hens of yours are truly doing a fine job, Jeanetta Lynn,” Lucy said while placing the basket on the counter. “Why, look at all these eggs, and with what you went through, there’s not near as many broken as I had expected.”
“They all would have been fine if it weren't for that crotchety rooster!”
“I hear you, Child. He’s not even fit for the pot, being he’s such a tough ol’ bird!”
“We might as well call him a Rebel!”
“Are you still complaining about the past wars?” Lucy sighed. “And now you’re going to add that ol’ rooster into it. Child, when are you going to realize what a wonderful country this is?”
Shrugging her shoulders, Jeanetta Lynn replied, “I just think it’s all crazy. What good did it do when we broke away from England, or even the Civil War? We would have this land regardless.”
Now frustrated, Lucy replied, “Ever since I've come to work here, all you ever do is grumble about everything pertaining to our government. Jeanetta Lynn, look here, you are free to do whatever you please.”
“Yes, but that had nothing to do with the wars, not even this one,” snapped Jeanetta Lynn.
While wiping her hands on her apron, Lucy admonished, “It mattered to me and to those like me, and in fact, it should matter to you, too!”
Hearing the conversation from the parlor, Jeanetta Lynn’s mother was most interested in what her daughter was going to say next. Walking into the dining room she quietly sat down.
“Wars and the government are what keep us from progressing in life,” insisted Jeanetta Lynn. “Look at my father; he wanted nothing to do with the Civil War, so he hired another to take his place so he could stay home.”
“Jeanetta Lynn!” Mother shouted. “Where did you ever come up with that?”
“Well, isn't it true?” Jeanetta Lynn asked from within the kitchen.
“Stop it now, because it’s not true!” Mother demanded. “You come in here right now and sit yourself down! I’m shocked that you would ever believe this of him.”
Taking a seat at the table, Jeanetta Lynn stared across the room at a vase of flowers, making sure not to make eye contact with her mother.
“Jeanetta Lynn, listen to me. I was born and raised in Virginia; this makes me a Rebel. Your father was born here in Pennsylvania, and his family leaned toward the North. When seeing that our families would be fighting against each other and with your Uncles Ernest, Frank, and Don fighting for the South, I begged your father not to go. I didn't want to think of him shooting at my brothers. Your father fretted about it for days. His own older brother, Bob, was fighting for the North, so he too wanted to enlist. However, knowing how I felt, he found a solution that would satisfy us both. He hired a replacement to go in his stead and then he wouldn't be shooting at my brothers. It cost him plenty, but knowing I would be able to sleep at night, he was willing to do this. When he got word that Bob was killed it almost tore your father apart. He felt that if he had enlisted, then he might have been able to protect him. So, don’t you ever call your father a coward again! You think you know everything, but you don’t!” Wiping away her tears she continued, “Maybe one day you’ll be as wise as you think you already are.”
“But what was the harm if we had stayed with England?” Jeanetta Lynn asked.
“You’re impossible,” whispered Mother.
Once Father had the rooster securely tied into a burlap bag, he came inside. When looking about he could see that all wasn't well with his family. “What’s going on?”
“It’s our daughter and she’s at it again,” Mother complained.
“Not another debate over the Revolution and Civil War. Jeanetta Lynn, what is it that gets into you at times? Please believe me when I tell you that if it weren't for these wars, our government would be very different. Freedom wasn't fought for the rich alone, but for all Americans,” he said.
“How do you know,” insisted Jeanetta Lynn, “being you weren't there?”
As if death itself cast a spell into the room, it grew uncomfortably quiet.
“I may not have fought in these wars, but I know their history and I’m aware of this recent one from firsthand experience. Jeanetta Lynn, we fought so we could govern ourselves without an outside power lording over us,” said father before leaving the room.
“Jeanetta Lynn, how could you have hurt your father so?” asked Mother.
Jeanetta Lynn struggled for words, “Father may feel that way, but I don’t. Maybe it’s good that I’ll be spending the night at Serenity’s.”
“If you can’t bridle your tongue, then maybe it is,” Mother replied as she headed upstairs to console her husband.
After breakfast, Jeanetta Lynn excused herself from the table and hastened to her bedroom. She stuffed her carpetbag full for spending the night, while father got things ready outside. Minutes later they were stepping into the buggy, she saw a grain sack at her feet. “Father, is that Crazy Bill?” she asked.
About halfway to town, Father pulled to the side of the road and climbed down. Standing next to the buggy, he lifted out the grain sack and carried it to an area lush with green foliage surrounded by tall trees and a brook running through it. Taking his knife, he cut the cords keeping the sack closed. Crazy Bill peeked out from inside the sack and then staggered into the sunlight. At first, the bird seemed stunned by the brightness. Though after tottering about for a few minutes, he seemed fine. Feeling confident that the rooster would do well, Father headed back to the buggy. However, unbeknownst to him, Crazy Bill was heading right for his leg with all the fury of a tornado. With spurs bared, Crazy Bill viciously attacked with rage, tearing through Father’s Sunday trousers. Kicking wildly at the rooster, Father leaped back into the buggy. Grabbing the reins, he slapped them hard on Misty’s back, causing the mare to take off at a full run and not slowing until reaching town. “Whoa,” he called out while gently pulling on the reins, “settle down, girl, we’re okay now.”
Nostrils flared red and breathing hard, Misty was dripping with sweat when she came to a full stop.
Hurrying out of Father’s store was Jake, his hired storekeeper. “Mr. Parker, what happened to you?”
Pulling up a section of his trousers that was flapping about, he replied, “I decided not to kill that rogue rooster, but instead I turned him loose in a beautiful grove. And this is how he repaid me for my kindness!” Handing the reins over to Jake, Mr. Parker headed toward the store. “I’ll change into another pair of trousers before heading out. Jeanetta Lynn, when Uncle Erwin arrives, please tell him I need to speak to him.”
Following her father inside, Jeanetta Lynn spotted decanters filled with candies and headed for them. There was the usual; however, there toward the end of the row was a new one. She carefully lifted the lid and removed a long, pink candy stick.
“What type is this one?” she asked Jake.
“I’m unsure being it’s a new one. Does it taste good?”
“It tastes like strawberries and cream and is really good. You should give one a try,” she suggested.
“I’m not all that interested in eating candies, Miss Parker. I’ll go on what you've told me if anyone should ask.”
Soon Mr. Parker returned looking very much like a gentleman. “Jeanetta Lynn, isn't that Serenity’s stage pulling up in front of the hotel?” he asked.
“Yes it is, Father,” she said, while removing another candy stick for Serenity. “When Uncle Erwin arrives I’ll let him know that you want to see him.”
“I want to make sure that it’s still okay for you to spend the night,” he replied, while reading over an inventory list.
Serenity spotted her immediately as the stage slowed to a stop. A box was placed under the opened coach door for the passengers to step onto as they headed toward the hotel. The girls were soon embracing as the stage driver tipped his hat and walked past.
“Here, I brought this for you,” said Jeanetta Lynn, holding out the pink candy stick. “It’s a new item Father put into the store. I think you’ll like it.”
“Thank you, I've missed these treats,” said Serenity as she savored the first lick. “Auntie thinks we’re much too grown up for such confections. However, little does she know,” she giggled. “Oh yes, before I forget, she gave us a gift to share. It’s in my trunk, so we’ll have to wait until we’re in my bedroom to see what it is. Her instructions were that we must be together when it’s opened.”
“I wonder why she’d say such a thing.”
“I don’t know, only she did.”
Remembering the brass box from early this morning, Jeanetta Lynn asked, “Did anything strange happen while you were with Auntie? Like seeing something and then it wasn't there?”
“You mean vanishing? No, nothing like that took place. Why do you ask?”
“No reason, just conversation I guess. Though, are you sure nothing strange took place?”
“Jeanetta Lynn, why are you asking this?”
“I guess I’m just curious about things.”
“What things?” asked Serenity. “So far nothing has vanished that I’m aware of. Has anything strange happened in front of you?”
Not wanting to appear crazy, she quickly changed the subject. “While you were riding in that nice stage coach, I was having a battle with Crazy Bill. This time I got even with him by holding him under water until I counted slowly to five.”
“You did that to Crazy Bill?” Serenity squealed in delight. “As often as we've been attacked by him, I’m so glad you got even for the both of us. And to think I wasn't there to see it!”
“Also we won’t have to worry about being attacked again. Father captured the rooster and released him in a lush area far from our home. I felt he should have killed that bird, and after what Crazy Bill did to him, he may wish he had.”
“Why, what did he do to Uncle William, and was Aunt Virginia with him?”
“No, Mother stayed home this time. However, after Father let Crazy Bill loose, that crazy bird attacked him as he was returning to the buggy. We barely got out of there alive!”
“Poor Uncle William. I hope he’s okay?”
“He is, though I’m sure if he ever sees that rooster again, it won’t be alive for very long,” she laughed.
A buckboard came around the corner, driven by Serenity’s father, Erwin Stewart, and the best uncle Jeanetta Lynn could ever ask for.
“Serenity, my precious, it’s so good to have you back home,” greeted Uncle Erwin as he pulled up. “And Jeanetta Lynn, I’m glad to see that you’re ready to come back home with us. I see your father’s buggy, where is he?”
“He’s in the store and wants to visit with you while we put our things into the buckboard.”
“I’ll do that,” he said while tying the reins to the post. “After we speak, we’ll soon be on our way.”
“This is the trunk that has the gift in it,” said Serenity as they both hoisted it in.
“Besides the gift, what else do you have in it to make it weigh so much?”
“Would you believe I took it there empty? When Auntie and I were in town, she bought all kinds of things for us. However, the most important is the gift and it’s been on my mind all the way here.”
“Then I’m glad you resisted temptation,” chuckled Jeanetta Lynn.
Mr. Parker and Erwin Stewart walked out onto the sidewalk, laughing.
“I’ll be delighted if Lydia and I get a minute of sleep tonight. I’m sure these two will be talking all night long,” said Erwin. “We’ll be driving out to your home early. We have a lot to get caught up on.”
“Sounds good to me,” said Mr. Parker, as he gave his daughter a kiss upon the cheek. “You mind your aunt and uncle.” He smiled.
“They’ll do just fine,” assured Erwin. “Be sure to tell Virginia hello for Lydia and me.”
“I’ll do that,” said Mr. Parker as the buckboard moved away.
The girls laughed and talked during the trip to Serenity’s home. Once arriving, they ran up the steps and disappeared inside the house. After Erwin carried the luggage up to Serenity’s bedroom, he almost collided with them on the way downstairs.
“Whoa, where are you two going?” he asked.
“Papa, we were hungry, so we got some cookies. Guess what? Auntie gave us a gift with instructions that we must be together when opening it.”
“Did she tell you this or do you two just want it that way?” he questioned.
“She was most insistent that we both be together. And I assured her that we would be.”
“Then I know you’ll have fun opening it. Did she give you any clues to what it might be?” he asked.
“No, Papa, she said nothing.”
“Being it’s from Auntie, it most definitely will be a surprise,” he laughed, slowly shaking his head while walking to the kitchen.
“We will, and thank you, Papa, for bringing up our bags,” Serenity called back.
Closing the bedroom door behind them, they opened the trunk containing the gift.
“Hurry and get it out,” coaxed Jeanetta Lynn.
“It’s right here on top,” Serenity replied, as she removed the gift. Pushing the trunk to the side, she placed it in the middle of her bed. Wrapped simply enough in brown paper and tied with twine, there was nothing to indicate what could be hidden within.
“She didn't give you any clues?” Jeanetta Lynn asked, while picking it up and slowly turning it over in her hands.
“Only that we must be together.”
“Okay, which of us will be doing the honors of unwrapping it?”
“How about if you do the twine and I’ll remove the wrapping?”
With this, Jeanetta Lynn untied the twine and pulled it from under the package leaving the paper intact. Serenity then cautiously unwrapped it, thus revealing the contents of the gift. There before them lay a beautiful brass box with the finest of embellishments. It was so exquisite that it must have been owned by royalty, or at least a person of considerable wealth. The lid was embossed with depictions of a knight on horseback fighting a winged dragon. There was also a castle with trees in the background. The hinges, sides, and latch were very ornate. This was truly the most breathtaking gift they had ever received.
“Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?” Jeanetta Lynn asked as she turned it from side to side. A sudden chill hit her when remembering her earlier experience. “I've seen this brass box before.”
“How could you? Even I hadn't seen it until now,” whispered Serenity, her eyes still transfixed upon it.
“When I asked about things vanishing, I wasn't just making conversation.”
“What are you telling me?”
“Well, this very box was on my dressing table this morning. When I reached for it the box vanished.”
“Jeanetta Lynn, you’re scaring me! It’s a box and nothing more.”
“Okay, don’t believe me, but I know what I saw!”
“My sweet cousin, it’s only a box. So now, what do you think is hidden inside? I’d like for you to be the one to open it.”
“Thank you,” said Jeanetta Lynn as she studied the box before reaching for it. She was positive that it was the same one from this morning.
Unable to wait any longer, Serenity kidded her with, “In what year are you planning to open it?”
Snapped back to reality, Jeanetta Lynn chuckled, “Oh, yes, right now.” Reaching over, she raised the lid and found that it was totally empty. “I guess the box is the gift. We can both keep our treasures in it, such as notes or even jewelry, if we ever receive any.”
“One week it can be here and the next at your home. It can go back and forth between us,” suggested Serenity.
“Since it’s already here you can be the first. This is so exciting and I can hardly wait to show this box to my parents.”
“I know my parents would also like to see it,” said Serenity as she headed for the door.
“Serenity, I think you’d best not go anywhere,” Jeanetta Lynn said as she took Serenity by the arm and turned her about.
The room was flooded in a bluish-green glow that radiated from within the brass box. Soon the roar of rushing wind and water engulfed them as the glow became even brighter. Startled by this, both girls leaped backwards, hitting the wall. They stood motionless, fearing that something horrible might happen if they should move.
“Shut it! Please, shut it now,” Serenity whimpered.
Taking a quick step away from the wall, Jeanetta Lynn slammed the lid shut and then flattened herself back against the wall.
The room slowly returned to normal, however, neither girl moved away from the wall due to fear.
“What was that?” Serenity blurted.
“I don’t know. I told you this same brass box vanished from off my vanity. So, now do you believe me?”
“I have to now.”
“Serenity, we need to talk with Auntie and hopefully she’ll tell us what’s going on.”
“I agree, and the sooner the better.”
It seemed like an eternity before they left the wall for a closer look at the box.
A gentle warm breeze drifted through the open bedroom window causing the curtains to sway softly. Once again, the room took on its normal appearance. It was Jeanetta Lynn, who slowly wrapped the box back up in the original wrappings and secured it tightly with the twine.
“I’m so glad that you’re spending the night, for I couldn't sleep knowing the brass box is in my bedroom,” said Serenity, still obviously shaken.
“Even I’m a little nervous. Okay, now that it’s out of sight, where can we put it until tomorrow morning?”
“I guess we could put it inside my washing stand. I’ll put the washbowl and pitcher on top of the stand, so you can place the box inside. Then at least I won’t be able to see it.”
“Yes, that will work.”
Not wanting to stay in the bedroom, they went outside to enjoy the sunshine until called in for supper. Coming to the shade of a large oak tree, Serenity leaned up against it. Jeanetta Lynn lay in the cool grass, while resting her head on her hands. Both girls watched butterflies flutter from flower to flower as the bees buzzed about.
“It’s not going to be easy to convince your parents to allow you to visit Auntie so soon after your return,” said Jeanetta Lynn, now pulling up a handful of grass and allowing it to trickle through her fingers into the breeze.
“I’m unsure how to go about asking, without them wanting to know why.”
“You could tell them that I’m going to visit her and you want to tag along.”
“I don’t know if that will work. However, I do want to go.”
“Good, for I don’t want to go alone,” Jeanetta Lynn said while tossing the grass high into the air and watching it fall.
“I’m unsure how to ask, but I’m thinking about it,” she replied.
“Well, you had better hurry up because your papa is almost here,” said Jeanetta Lynn, looking over at Uncle Erwin.
“Your mother asked me to come and get you both for supper,” said Uncle Erwin.
“Serenity, wasn't there something you wanted to ask him?” Jeanetta Lynn prodded.
“What is it?” he asked as they walked along.
“Jeanetta Lynn wants to drive to Auntie’s for a visit, to thank her for the gift. Papa, may I please join her?”
“You’re hardly unpacked and now you want to return? Surely, your mother would want to voice her thoughts before I say anything. When we’re at the table, we can discuss it,” he answered as he put his arms around them both and pulled them close to him. “I’ll give it some thought before I bring it up in conversation.”
Walking silently, they climbed the steps and went into the kitchen. Supper was on the table and the aroma filled the house causing Jeanetta Lynn to become very hungry. “Oh my, does that ever smell good," she said.
“Thank you, and there’s plenty to go around,” assured Aunt Lydia.
“Lydia, dear, Serenity has something to ask,” said Papa.
“Serenity, what is it?” said Aunt Lydia.
“May I please ride with Jeanetta Lynn as she goes to visit Auntie?” she said quickly.
Turning toward Erwin, “Did you know about this?”
“They told me just before coming to the house. I said we would talk it over before deciding whether she can or not,” Erwin said, bringing a forkful of potatoes up to his mouth.
“Why are you returning so soon?” Lydia asked in bewilderment. “It makes no sense to turn around and go back.”
“We wish to thank her for the gift,” said Serenity.
“What gift?” Lydia inquired. “And couldn't you have thanked her before returning home?”
“She couldn't because Auntie sent it for the both of us. After opening it, we decided that we wanted to ask her about it and to thank her as well,” explained Jeanetta Lynn.
“Erwin, should Serenity be returning so soon?”
“I feel if Jeanetta Lynn’s going, then Serenity should join her. There are still soldiers out there with chips on their shoulders about how the war turned out. And being together they will be much safer.”
“Soldiers? We’re going to allow them to be in harm’s way with angry soldiers?” Lydia gasped, looking wide-eyed at her husband and then at the girls.
“Do you girls feel confident enough to face such perils as this?” Erwin asked.
Before answering, Jeanetta Lynn looked at Serenity. “We’ll ask Heavenly Father to protect us. Then we’ll know what to do when the time comes.”
Lydia couldn't question Jeanetta Lynn’s faith and she knew what her niece was saying was true. However, this still didn't put her fears to rest. “What would you do if a soldier should venture up to your buggy?” she asked.
“I’d ask him what he wanted,” Jeanetta Lynn said.
“That may not be a wise choice,” Lydia replied.
“How can they know unless they are confronted with it?” Erwin responded. “Even I couldn't tell you what I would do.”
“You’re right, for even I couldn't answer this myself,” she said hopelessly. “Erwin, I just pray that we won’t regret this decision.”
“I’m sure we’re making the right choice. If they leave early in the morning, they’ll arrive while it’s still light,” he explained. When looking down at his empty plate, he reached over to refill it with more meat and gravy before continuing. “And on their return, if they depart in the early hours, they’ll arrive home before evening. That way, we won’t have to worry, nor will Virginia and William.”
“You truly feel this way?” Lydia questioned. “If so, then I guess they can go with our blessings.”
“Papa, can we be excused so we can start packing right away?” Serenity asked, hoping her parents would agree.
“You do need to have your things ready in case your Uncle William says Jeanetta Lynn can go,” he replied. Then turning to Jeanetta Lynn, he added, “Hopefully they will and tomorrow you both will be on your way.”
When realizing how badly they both wanted to start their packing, he said, “Off with you both and be sure to pack enough for your full visit.”
As the girls flew out of the kitchen, Erwin helped himself to a third serving saying, “Youth, they’re always in a hurry and never stop to enjoy the finer things in life, like your cooking.”
Lydia only smiled.