Pearl goes down the mountain Part 8
Pearl pulled the bright yellow dress over her young thirteen year old body and smiled as her mother buttoned her up. It was beautiful her momma had been working on it for weeks as a surprise.
There was going to be a barn raising at one of the farms further on down the mountain and a big pot luck dinner with lots of wonderful food and a dance. It would be her first dance and she was so excited she thought she might faint from the excitement. Her mother had told her last week that they were going to go and she had been bouncing around the cabin ever since.
“Pearl come sit on the bed so I can brush your hair” Pearl sat down but could hardly sit still as her mother brushed and brushed till her chestnut brown hair shown and brought out the red highlights. Then she tied it back with a piece of matching yellow satin ribbon. “There you look beautiful Pearl you are growing up so fast, now go show your Papa your pretty new dress”
Pearl spun around once to see the skirt flair out in a big circle. Her mamma hadn’t spared any material in the making of her dress. She smiled big and kissed her mamma on the cheek and thanked her, then ran to the living room to show her papa. She didn’t see her momma brushing the teas away from her eyes as she turned to go.
Papa’s eyes lit up as he saw her come through the door that separated the living area from his wife and his bedroom. Then his smiled turned into a frown as she walked toward him. “What’s wrong Papa don’t you like my new dress?” Papa held out his arms and said” Come here baby girl, I love your dress and you look beautiful in it” “Then what’s the matter papa?” “I’m just afraid there are going to be a bunch of young bucks there that are going to love it too! “ and he smiled once again. Pearl blushed “Oh papa” and then they both busted out laughing. Mamma came out of the bedroom dabbing at her eyes with the corner of her apron and said ”What’s all the whoop la going on in here?’’ and then she joined in of the laughter.
Pearl helped her momma box up the big kettle of chicken and dumplin’s and the blackberry cobbler she had made with the blackberries Pearl had picked, while her papa hitched up the wagon to the old mule. Pearl took a couple of quilts out and spread them in the back for her to sit on so as not to get her new dress dirty before they ever got there.
It was around nine in the morning when they were finally loaded up and ready for the long ride down the mountain. Pearl settled back and watched the sun sparkle through the leaves on the trees. The air was sweet with the smell of pine needles, damp moss and mountain laurel and she smiled at the thought of the music and dancing that would go on tonight. Dad had packed momma’s dulcimer in a wood box he had made special for it and they would play it tonight also along with the fiddler and banjo players. Pearl wondered if anyone would ask her to dance and if she would have the nerve to say yes.
She listened to the bird calls as the wagon bumped along the rutted out path and hummed to herself a happy little tune as they went on their way. Soon she dozed off in the warm sunshine.
Pearl sat bolt upright. The wagon was stopped and her mamma was standing at the back while papa was unloading the kettle of chicken and dumplins. Mamma smiled and told her to wipe the drool off her face then grab one of the cobblers and follow her over to the tent that was set up for the woman folks and the food tables.
There was a buzz of noise as soon as they got close of woman talking, kids playing and men laughing. Papa put down the food and headed back to the wagon to grab his hammer and tool belt.
The foundation for the barn and the floor were already in place. Several of the men had started early this morning right after sunup and had gotten all that done. Now papa jumped in as they started framing up the walls. Mamma went straight to work helping to get the food organized for lunch that would be around one o’clock. Pearl helped out getting the plates and silverware out and slicing the pies and cakes. There was so much food. She had never seen so much food all in one place before.
There was fried chicken, country ham, chicken and dumplins, corn on the cob, green beans and a big bowl of wild poke greens along with big pans of cornbread and loaves of fresh homemade bread. Then there was the desert table full of apple pie, blackberry cobbler, banana pudding, lemon meringue, and pecan pie. Pearl stomach did a little rumble at the smell that filled the air.
Pearls mamma told her she had helped enough till time to serve up lunch which would be in another hour or so. She told her to go on and have some fun talking with the other young girls for a while. Pearl started over to where she saw Maggie one of the girls that had been in school with her in the little one room school house half way up the mountain, where most of the kids went all grades in the same room with one teacher.
Maggie wasn’t in school anymore she now stayed home and helped her momma who was a seamstress. She was a sweet girl that Pearl had taken an instant liking to when they had first met when they were six and old enough to start school.
Maggie saw Pearl coming up and ran to meet her and both girls giggled and laughed as they hugged each other. A couple of the other girls came up and started talking with them also. Pearl told Maggie how pretty her dress was and Maggie told her she had made it all herself. She was learning a lot from her mother and said one day she wanted to open up a store front with her mamma. They were getting a lot of work from the town folk.
Pearl told her that her mamma had made her dress and Maggie admired the small stitching and the tatted collar that Pearls mamma had made for it. Soon though the conversation turned to boys as some of the young men walked by and smiled there way, the girls all turned away and giggled. Pearl felt foolish and turned back just in time to see the tall lanky boy with tosseled hair smile at her and tip his hat her way. Pearl could feel her face heat up and she blushed from head to toe. He then walked backward and did an exaggerated bow just before tripping over a stack of two by fours laid out for the framing. The girls all busted out laughing. Pearl had tried not to but to no avail. The other young guys helped him up and ribbed him for being a show off. Maggie told her his name was Zeb and he was seventeen and worked down at the saw mill. Pearls heart skipped a beat as she watched him dust off his britches shrug his shoulders and let out a loud laugh as he turned and went back to work.
The big dinner bell rang out and Maggie grabbed Pearls hand and they skipped back to the tent to help serve the men folk that were gathering at the pump to wash up before sitting down to eat. The men would eat first because they had been working so hard and the woman would spread out quilts on the ground for the young children and give them a plate to keep them busy. The younger girls like Maggie and Pearl would walk around and make sure plates were full and glasses were filled with ice tea and lemonade or water, then after the men folk were taken care of the women would eat.
At first all that could be heard was the clatter of silverware on the plates as the men ate and there hunger was satisfied. Then they began to talk amongst themselves about how everything was coming along well with the barn. The framing was almost done and when they went back to work they would start raising the walls then adding the boxing.
Most of the day had gone without incident until Big John one of the boys that Pearl had seen with Zeb earlier had hit his thumb with a hammer and had let out a stream of cuss words that would make a sailor blush before he looked up and remembered where he was. But it was too late, his momma was close by and heard and headed his way. There was no escape. John blanched when he saw her. Big John’s mom was almost as big as Big John and was the mother of eight more boys all just as big. Burta headed for John like a woman on a mission and when she got to him she grabbed him by the ear and twisted as hard as she could bringing him to his knees and tears to his eyes the whole time giving him a piece of her mind on the subject of cussin’. She made it clear to him and all around she didn’t raise no heathens and made Big John apologize to everyone with in ear shot. She then smacked him on the back of the head hard enough to make his teeth rattle before turning around and making her way back to the cook tent. The whole table rattled with the men’s laughter as the story was told for the benefit of the one not present to witness it.
Big John sat in his seat quite as a mouse, a mouse with a still throbbing big purple ear to match his big throbbing purple thumb. Zeb was sitting beside Big John and slapped him on the back and Big John grinned then looked up sheepishly to the rest of the table till he laid eyes on his momma who was still frowning.
Pearls mamma told her and the other girls to go around and collect dirty plates and asked what the men wanted for desert, while she got the coffee ready. As she went around the table asking she looked down and she was standing behind Zeb. She smiled and blushed dang she wished she could stop doing that. Her face just kept getting hotter. Zeb said hello and she stuttered something back that she didn’t even understand. Then when she found her voice again she asked what he would like for desert? He in turn asked her if she had made a desert. She told him she and her mother had made blackberry cobbler with blackberries she had picked. Zeb told her he would have a big piece of blackberry cobbler.
Pearl took deserts around to the men and then as she was taking the cobbler to Zeb she tripped on one of the men’s tool belts laying behind a chair and the blackberry cobbler landed right on the side of Zebs head and down his shoulder. Pearl was mortified and started to tear up but Zeb reached up and got a big gob of the cobbler and stuck it in his mouth and ate it. Then he told her how good it was and smiled a beautiful big smile. Pearls mamma ran over with a wet towel and began wiping the rest of the cobbler off Zeb and told him to come out of his shirt and she would wash it out and have it back to him before the dance this evening. Then her mamma told her to take Zeb over to the pump and help him wash the cobbler out of his hair.
Zeb got up, gave the shirt to Pearls mamma and followed her over to the pump where she began to pump up water as he held his head under the spiket. He washed his head in the cold water stood up and shook it like a dog shaking after a bath, getting her wet in the process. Pearl laughed and Zeb smiled. She didn’t know what to say. Zeb said well I guess we have something in common, we are both clumsy. Yes I guess we do at that she said. As they were walking back to the table Zeb asked her to save him a dance tonight. Then he took her by the hand as they were walking squeezing it tight. Pearl looked up and saw her papa looking hard in their direction and like Big John’s mamma he wasn’t smiling. Pearl let loose of Zebs hand and ran off to the tent where her mamma was as Zeb picked up his tool belt and whistled as he went back to work.
Pearl could hardly breathe as she told her mamma about Zeb asking her to dance tonight. Mamma smiled as she washed up the dishes and told Pearl to go on out and visit with her friends while she had the chance. Pearl didn’t have to be told twice and took off to find Maggie and tell her. She could not wait till the barn was done so the dance could begin. She just hoped she wasn’t going to make a habit of tripping over her own feet.
When the dishes were done and everything put away Pearls mamma and the other woman put the younger children down for a nap under a big shade tree then sat back to rest themselves. Most had been up way before daybreak cooking and getting ready for the day. It would be a long night also with the dance. Papa had said they wouldn’t be able to stay very late because of the long ride back up the mountain but thanks to Maggie she had asked her mamma if they could stay with them the night and leave in the morning. She had said yes and Pearls parents had accepted. The girls were tickled because now they could stay late at the dance and get to spend the night together. It wasn’t often that Pearl got to sleep over at someone’s house.
Mamma told Pearl her and Maggie might want to take a little nap also before the dance so they would not be worn out before the dance got started. They hated to miss out on anything but all that was going on was the work on the barn anyway. So the girls took a quilt and found another shade tree and laid down to take a nap. They watched the sunlight make patterns on the quilt as the lay there till finally both drifted off to the music of the robins singing over head in the tree.