This opening chapter introduces the town of Preacher's Creek and its history. The real main characters tell the stories of this small rural town, based on its long history. In the 2nd chapter, the narrator (Ellen Jo) and her brother Kent are part of the 1950s, and the ties to the past are always present and part of their lives, as their interact with the 627 descendants of the Johnson family and their fellow travelers. This chapter establishes the voice and atmosphere of the setting.
The lands east of the ocean were once dense forests, where a squirrel taking off in Virginia could make all the way to the Mississippi River without every touching down on earth. But that all changed, for better or worse.
Ezekiel Johnson married Annabel Lister over her father’s objections, but the blue eyes won out. It was only a short time before Annabel discovered how dim the light in her husband’s brain shone. By then Annabel was expecting, and wouldn’t let her father, Jesse Lister, take Zeke out and shoot him. When a group from Virginia came by, Annabel signed up for the great push to the West.
The trip had been cursed from the beginning. When they loaded the wagon and hitched up the oxen, Jesse Lister fixed Ezekiel with a hard stare and then spit on the wagon. “You always been a fool, Zeke, and a lazy one. What my Annie saw in you, I’ll never know. But, you hear me now,” and Lister paused here, for effect, the way fathers do when they want to make a statement of great importance. “You listen to my girl, here. She got more sense in a single eyelash than you have in your whole good-fer-nuthin body. When Annie says to do somethin’, by heavens, do it.” And then he took out a handkerchief and blew his nose loud and long.
“I’ll never see you again, Annabel, so you ‘member what you were taught, and take care of your babies,” he blinked once or twice. “God go with you, girl.” Annabel sat up straight, and watched her pa’s back as he walked slowly to the barely thawed field to start the spring plowing.
The miles from Kentucky to the unsettled land of Illinois were seemingly endless.
Ezekiel halted their journey at a gentle creek when a rear wheel axle broke, and the back of the wagon drooped down in exhaustion. The oxen had had enough; they began to graze happily. The whole train came to a muddy stop, glaring at Zeke with disgust, as this breakdown was not the first.
With some difficulty, Annabel jumped down, and scurried to the back to assess the situation. Ezekiel heard her tsk-tsk all the way at the front of the wagon, where he slumped over and hung his head down. ‘What now?’ he wondered. ‘What now indeed?’
|This was fun! Thank you for hosting it, Kristina!|
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