DAY of EXCITEMENT
Everyone gathered in the front yard as Mama came out the door carrying a chocolate birthday cake with exactly ten candles. I was sitting at the end of the table my Pa and brother Frank made with several boards placed on top of two large, wooden barrels. Everyone started singing happy birthday to me as she placed the cake on the table. I was anxious to receive the biggest piece of cake and some of the ice cream Granny made with the help of my older sisters Clara and Jane.
"David Lee, these nine candles in a circle is yer age and the one in the middle is fer you to grow on. Close your eyes and make a wish and blow your candles out."
There were many things I wanted to wish for, but I knew I had to wish for only one so it would come true. I closed my eyes and made my wish. I wanted Pa's permission to keep one of the puppies for my very own when ole Lucy had them. I opened my eyes and inhaled as much air into my lungs as possible and with one try blew all ten candles out.
"I sure hope your wish comes true fer you son."
"I know what David wished for Mama, he's wantin' Pa to let him keep one of Lucy's babies," boasted Clara.
"You big tattle tale, now my wish prob'ly won't come true!"
Granny hit the table with her big wooden spoon. "You children behave yerselfs if y'all want cake and ice cream."
Mama walked over and placed her arms around Pa's neck. "Bruce, the clouds sure are lookin' awful dark. Do you think it's fixin' to storm?"
"The storms a little ways off Rebecca but March sure can be a strange month fer weather."
We just finished eating our cake and ice cream when the first rain drops fell. Streaks of lightning flashed across the sky like cracks in a shattered mirror and the booming thunder was loud enough to wake the dead.
Mama yelled, "Everyone grab somethin' and get in the house!"
"Mama, I'm a gettin the rest of my cake," I announced.
Granny shouted, "You girls git them plates and forks and take 'em in. That sure is a mean lookin' sky. Hurry girls and get along!" Granny gathered up the glasses and the empty milk pitcher.
We made a dash for the house except for Pa. He raced to the barn and closed the heavy doors and locked them. Once we were inside our home the sky opened up and sheets of rain with marble size hail begin pelting our roof with unrelenting fury.
Jane exclaimed, "We just barely made it inside."
Looking out the front room window I stood frozen in fear and excitement as I watched the fury of the storm sweeping across our valley. The strong winds were bending trees in different directions. Pa stood behind me with his hands on my shoulders and we watched part of the ominous sky plunge downward and touched the ground. Suddenly a roar louder than a freight train filled the house. Pa's fingers pressed hard into my shoulders as he shouted in a booming voice I had never heard before.
"EVERYONE IN THE KITCHEN, NOW!"
We rushed out of the front room through the dining room and into the kitchen. Clare begin crying and Granny praying. Pa kicked the oval rug into the corner of the room and lifted the trap door which led down into the root cellar.
"Hurry Ma, you go down first and I'll hand you Clara." Granny carefully went down the small steps and turned around. Pa picked Clara up by her arms and lowered her down the hole into Granny's arms.
"Rebecca take Jane by the hand and git down them steps."
"What about David Lee?"
"I'll bring him with me. Now hurry!"
Mama and Jane rushed down the steps.
Pa shouted, "Frank git down in that cellar." Frank followed Mama and Jane.
Pa held me in his arms and started down the steps. "No Pa, we have to get Lucy and take her with us!" Mama had made a bed for Lucy in a wooden crate and placed it behind the cook stove.
"Frank catch your brother."
Pa lowered me down the hole and Frank grabbed me around the waist and placed me on the floor. Pa picked up the box with Lucy in it and followed.
"Here David Lee take the dog." Pa reached up and pulled the trap door down and latched it. We were in complete darkness.
"Bruce, I can't find the matches." Mama said.
"I have some in my shirt pocket."
Pa retrieved a match from his pocket and with one flip of his wrist the match made contact with the rock floor. Sparks flew as the match caught fire and illuminated light through the root cellar and cast eerie shadows on the walls. He lifted the lamp globe with one hand and lighted the wick and then replaced the globe. The yellow orange glow of the lamp made the darkness vanish.
Clara still crying, "Mama, I'm scared the winds gonna blow us all away?"
"No Clara. The wind can't get to us down here. Now hush baby, everything is goin' to be alright."
The roar of the wind was deafening and the rain, hail and wind continued pounding our home. Granny, Mama, Clara and Jane were sitting on a bench next to the back wall, and I was on the floor next to Lucy softly rubbing her head. Pa and Frank were sitting on bushel baskets turned over.
Pa calmly said, "Everything is alright. We ain't in no danger down here." Pa's comforting voice made us feel safe.
I gazed around the root cellar at Mama and Granny's canned vegetables and the potatoes, apples, onions and turnips stored in bends.
"Granny, when did you dig this here cellar out?"
Granny nervously laughed, "David Lee, I helped with it but it was mainly yer Grandpa Zachary that done all the hard work. He commenced diggin' this cellar even before we were married.
"Tell us bout it Granny. I don't remember Grandpa."
Pa looked at Granny and nodded his head and she begin telling us a story.
"Listen up children, yer Grandpa bought this here land in 1894 and a day later he ask me if I would marry him. Naturally I said yes and it was the happiest day of my life. I remember like it was just yesterday. He commence to diggin' this here root cellar shortly afterwards and told me he was goin' to build me a fine house. When he finished the cellar he built the kitchen and the big front room with the fireplace made from river rock. I helped him carry every rock from the Clear Fork River and as y'all know it's a smart piece from here. In one day he had the front porch finished and less than a week we was married. A year later yer Pa was born. The good Lord didn't bless us with no more children but he sure gave us a good son. Yer Grandpa added two more rooms to the back of this here house and a few years later he built the two bedrooms upstairs where y'all sleep. I remember me and yer Grandpa sittin' on the front porch with the sun goin' over the hill and many times I'd hear him say that East Tennesse sure was God's country. Yer Grandpa died a workin' in the fields. This ole house was lomesome for me and yer Pa til he married yer Mama and Frank was born followed by Jane, Clara and then you David Lee. Y'all remember what I told ya cause it's part of yer history.
The intensity of the storm subsided during the time Granny told us her story. The roar which sounded like a train had ceased and been replaced with silence. Pa, Mama and Granny's worried expressions made me wonder what to expect when we left the confines of the root cellar.
Standing up Pa said, "Well it sounds like the worst is over. I think we can go up now and see what's a standin' and what ain't." He climbed the first step reached up and unlatched the trap door and pushed it open.
"Come on Y'all lets go and take a look." Pa went up the ladder.
Mama tood a deep breath and said, "Granny you go first and then you children."
We obeyed Mama's orders and climbed up the ladder and she followed.
Once we were in the center of the kitchen everyone breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank the good Lord, the house is still a standin'," Granny cried. We children started jumping up and down and Mama crying went into Pa's arms. Pa opened the kitchen door and we all walked out into the backyard and around the house to the front. We stood close together and for a few minutes no one spoke a word. The sky was clear and the only sound was water dripping from the house and trees.
Pa said, "Well it's not as bad as I feared. It looks like I'll have to put a new roof on the barn but I sure am glad it's still standin'. The house looks pretty good, it just needs a few shingles put back. It looks like the path of the storm was on the other side of the creek where all them trees are uprooted."
I left everyone standing in the yard and went into the house to get Lucy out of the cellar. We completely forgot about her in all the excitement and knowing we were well and still had a home. I came out of house carrying the wooden box with Lucy at my side.
"Look everybody, Lucy's done had herself three puppies!"
Everyone came running as I put the box down on the ground and Lucy jumped in with her puppies.
"Pa, you think you gonna let me keep one of the puppies?"
Pa looked down at me and smiled, "I'm goin' to let you keep all of 'em son."
I sat down next to Lucy and her pups and smiled at my family, "I reckon I won't forget this birthday!"
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