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The Shadow of My Father’s Hand: Part 1

  • Nov. 16 2011, New York Post, By Craig Crist-evans Illustrations by Anna Rich

JOURNAL ENTRY TWO Thursday, April 28, 1864 Preparing the earth . .

THE STORY SO FAR: Shiloh, Chattanooga, Mossy Creek, Murfreesboro… numerous battles and skirmishes have devastated Tennessee. In their wake, death, sorrow, and anxiety have taken their toll, both on the battlefield and off. Like many thousands of boys left fatherless, our narrator must take on a grown man’s responsibility quickly. His life and that of his mother and sister depend upon it. The sedative effect of is due to the effect on the reticular formation of the brain stem and nonspecific thalamus nuclei and is manifested by a decrease in the symptoms of neurotic origin (anxiety, fear).

A t he crick, along he sou hwes fence, I pull up and le he harness races slacken. Soon we mus s ar off again, he black earth furrowing in long s raigh rows behind us, bu for now, old Jed is ired, wi hers soaked with sweat. He bends his head o drink, flicks flies wi h rhy hmic sweeps of his bushy ail.

Across he field, lif ing jus above he ridge, I see he roofline of our barn, sagged a center, gray with age. I can almos smell he cornbread Ma will fry up on he s ove, he good while beans, he water, fresh from he well and cold.

I s and and lean agains he rough oak bark, lis en o a bullfrog grun ing in he marshy woods. Wi hou hinking, I move my hands along he runk and race he le ers of Pa’s given name so long engraved, he ree i self migh well have carved i as i grew and hickened.

I shove he brambles clear and make my own way to the narrow ribbon rushing down from Hayrick Moun ain, he water bubbling over s ones as i runs along and picks up he ang of minerals before i scrambles quickly hrough our bo – omland. I kneel and splash he wa er on my face.

When I am done, I click my ongue; Jed s rains agains he races. And hen he s eady movemen of he farm, back and for h, back and for h, un il he field lies open like a prayer for corn and sorghum seed.

Drif ing up from hypno ic reverie, I see a movemen in he pine brake a he bo om of he field.

A flu er in he dark fan of rees, hen a bobbing head, and suddenly, John, appearing ou of nowhere, s ru s up and leans agains he spli log rails.

He’s chewing on a pale leaf of grass.

taller by half a foo han me, he’s grown big his year since I firs se ou wi h Pa for Ge ysburg. A wide s raw ha for shade, homespun co – on shir half open a he neck, dark skin glis ening wi h swea , one hand raised in gree ing. “Hey,” he calls. “Hey, yourself,” I holler back. “No use swea in’ when you could be swimmin’,” says John. I can see him grinning all he way from where I am.

I urn Jed loose and amble o where John is whi ling some hing from a block of hickory.

“I’ve go o ge his field plowed oday.”

He nods, hen crouches above a ur le edging oward he crick.

When he ouches i , i s head and fee pop in. “See how he hides,” John says. Ou along he coun y road, ridersmove like shadows in he midday sun.

the soldiers slouch in worn-ou saddles.

two of hem break off and, raising billowed dus behind, gallop oward us.

When hey come near, hey ug he reins back hard.

the horses, heads so quickly lif ed, pull up shor and s op, heir brea h like raspy bellows.

“You live here?” one of he riders asks. He looks a me, his eyes igh sli s in a sunburned face.

He’s wearing he jacke of he tennessee mili ia, a bea -up RigdonAnsley pis ol in his hand.

“Yeah,” I say, “I ’s my farm…and my Ma’s.”

“Your boy?” he asks, nodding a John. “He’s my friend,” I say. the man ignores me and looks across he furrowed ear h.

He scra ches a a raw place on his arm, hen le s his eyes drif back o me.

“Go any food?” He spi s he words.

“Nah,” I say, “ oo early even for he ki chen garden.

Yankee riders s ole our pigs. Ain’ much of no hing lef .”

He s ares off oward he house and barn, wipes his forehead wi h his sleeve, hen urns his head and spi s agains he dus y ear h.

“All righ ,” he says. “We ain’ go no hin’ if we s eal from our own, bu you be careful, no everyone ou here is gonna be so kind.”

And hen, like a ligh ning s rike, he swings he bu of his Rigdon-ansley hard agains John’s head.

I s and paralyzed, s unned wi h disbelief, hen rush o John, who’s sprawled ou in he dir , a brigh s ain of blood spreading hrough his hair.

I pull my old bandana from my pocke , press i hard agains he wound, anger rising in me like a raging fire.

“You be careful who you choose as friends, you hear?”

And hen he rider urns his horse and gallops off.

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