Cover

pdf iconDownload PDF
 

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. i-vi

Contents

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. vii-viii

read more

Foreword

Mary Alice Monroe

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. ix-xii

With her bright wit and positive energy, Bren McClain is as much a force of nature as she is a fellow advocate for our natural world. I first met Bren ten years ago at the South Carolina Writers Workshop. I signed a book for her, a fellow writer, and later struck up a conversation. We bonded immediately, sharing a kindred spirit in our love of animals and nature. Our paths have crossed many times over the ensuing years, and each time I became more aware of the novel she was writing. I heard tidbits...Mama Red, 1950s era, hardscrabble farm life...and I waited anxiously...

Mothers

read more

June 22, 1944

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 3-6

One night, deep into it, when sounds are prone to carry, a baby boy lies crying on Sarah Creamer’s kitchen table. He is minutes old, still wet with his mother’s blood, and hungry for his mother’s milk.

But she does not hear his cries. She is no longer there.

Only Sarah. Only Sarah remains. Her body bent over his, her hands rummaging the wooden planks for a towel still white enough to wrap him in. Blood is everywhere, puddled up as if there had been a hard rain. The smell of it saturates the eighty-one-degree...

read more

November 8, 1950

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 7-10

The mother cow left the herd under a ceiling of darkness, as dots of white, even twinkling white, sprinkled above her and around her in patterns of order and beauty. She headed across the pasture. The light from the full moon lit her way, but she did not need it to see. She knew where she was going. She had made the trip a dozen times before over this familiar land. The other cows did not follow, although it was customary for them to do so when one decided to move. But this early morning, for this mother, none of the...

Meet

read more

March 12, 1951

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 13-23

On her knees against the linoleum floor, Sarah Creamer ran her flat hand over the two shelves in her kitchen cupboard, patting every inch of the whitewashed wood as if she was searching for something lost.

She was searching for food to feed their boy.

This was in the early morning, just before the sun showed itself. She would like to have pulled on the light over the table to help her see, but electricity cost good money, and she and Harold were already two months behind on their light bill. She thought about burning...

read more

March 13, 1951

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 24-34

Sarah stood by Emerson Bridge’s bed and watched for his rise and fall. When it came, his tiny breath, she drew it in. His papa was alive when he had closed his eyes the night before. But as soon as she woke him, he would be in a world where his papa was no more. And left only with her. How could she bring him and his dimples into that?

She lowered her head, crossed her arms longways down the front of her body and squeezed in her shoulders. She thought of the smallest place she could tuck herself. The flour bin that no longer...

read more

March 14, 1951

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 35-38

When the sun came up, Sarah rose from the steps and went inside the house, wet a rag, and washed her face, under her arms, and feet. From the kitchen counter, she took her empty lard can and ran her fingers around its insides, hoping to coat them with any remnant of the white grease. She brought her fingers to her blisters and dabbed. Then, from a drawer, she took two dish towels and went to her bedroom, wrapped one towel around each foot and stepped into Harold’s boots, still by the bed. On her body, she put a fresh housedress, green...

read more

March 16, 1951

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 39-49

The earth lay ready to receive Harold Creamer’s body.

A mound of dirt, as red as it was brown, lay heaped up on one side of a hole and on the other, a pine box, the cheapest Sarah could buy. She and Emerson Bridge stood at the foot of the hole, while the preacher from New Prospect Baptist stood at the head. They were in the church cemetery, after having moved through and past plots filled with a century’s worth of dead to an area in the back, where the hill crested and began a gentle slope downwards. There, people whose church membership...

read more

March 17, 1951

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 50-67

LC lay under his bed that early morning in darkness, save for the light from his horse lamp on his night table. He lay with his arms tucked tight beneath him, his legs pressed together. He thought if he could fold up into himself, he might disappear.

“Get your hard clothes on, boy, not that baby git-up your mama lets you wear.” It was his father, shouting up the stairs.

On LC’s pajamas, little brown horses ran sprinkled about and free. He pictured the one on his pocket over his heart. He looked like...

read more

March 18, 1951

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 68-72

Sarah woke in the early morning light to a pin-dropping quiet.

The steer’s sounds were no more. Had it died? Or broken free of the rope and run away?

She rushed to her window, threw it open, and held herself.

But she heard nothing.

She ran through the house and out the door, running barefoot, the ground cold and hard.

With the sun rising at her back and her eyes straining toward the tree,...

read more

March 18, 1951

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 73-80

Luther did not enter the church sanctuary that Sunday morning in his usual fashion, from the hall that led into the front near the pulpit and choir loft. He would have to face people that way, men from the Cattleman’s Supper the night before who saw another father and son crowned winner and people in general, good people. He entered on the opposite end, through the outside door and walked the center aisle, stretching twenty five rows of pews, putting the congregation’s backs to him....

Teach

read more

September 21–22, 1951

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 83-97

“You only have one job to do with your steer, boys,” the county agent, a Mr. Merritt, said to the room of nine 4-H boys, including Emerson Bridge, who sat on the outside row. This was the third Friday in September and the first 4-H meeting of the school year. It was also the official kick-off for the 1952 Fat Cattle Show coming up in March.

The man held up one finger in the schoolroom air, still full of flecks of chalk dust, floating from the lessons of the day. “And that is to finish...

read more

October 18–19, 1951

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 98-113

Sarah went to her room, to her chifforobe, and took from the baby-blue blanket a rock. It was one of several she had seen her boy play with. She’d been practicing with it. So far, she had managed to toss it as high as three inches and still catch it. But she would risk more this time. She tossed it twice as high, and with her hands cupped like a bowl, she caught it and giggled, so much that she fell onto her bed and kicked her feet like a schoolgirl. At that moment, Sarah was young again and watching other children on the playground tossing a ball at recess. She had no ball...

read more

November 16–18, 1951

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 114-135

The mother cow’s calf no longer sneaked his head between the wires to drink from her. Nor did he place his head near hers to eat from the earth. He made sounds that made her keep her head high and not leave the barbed wires between them.

As soon as school was dismissed that Friday, LC ran to the back of the schoolhouse. Overgrown shrubs, much taller than he, lined the back wall and gave teachers switches to use on disobedient children like himself. He reached inside the second shrub and retrieved a paper sack...

read more

November 18–19, 1951

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 136-155

The envelope was pink and lay on top of the light bill in Sarah’s mailbox. She’d not taken the time the day before to check her mail, since she and her boy had stayed with Lucky, who was still on his feet and alive, but his whistle had not returned. Sarah’s eyes were tired, so she couldn’t be sure, but it looked to be a personal letter with a large “S” that started off the first name. Could it be Sarah? Or Sister? Mattie’s favorite color was pink. Sarah felt a surge rise to her head.

She reached for it. There was her name, the “C” of Creamer standing tall like the “S” and both taking...

read more

November 24–26, 1951

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 156-166

This was a momentous day, Luther was thinking at breakfast that Saturday. “Hammer-mill time. Just me and you, boy. Gave Uncle the day off.”

Mildred’s hand came his way. “He’s got a cold, Big LC. Maybe he needs to stay in and rest.”

On the tip of Luther’s tongue were words that reflected the old Luther, words like, “Was I talking to you?” but he did not let them unfurl. He took a deep breath and in a voice that he hoped was pleasant said, “Us Dobbins men have Dobbins work...

read more

December 21–22, 1951

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 167-183

Mr. Merritt wrote the words to the 4-H Pledge in a large hand across the blackboard. He had never done that before. LC felt a rush shoot up his body.

“In case any of you boys don’t know it by heart,” he said and asked them all to stand.

LC was sitting beside Emerson Bridge. LC whispered to him, “Put your hand over your heart,” and then brought his own up, a couple of his fingers his mother had bandaged in white gauze. The continued use of his father’s ax to chop the corn to his father’s liking kept blisters...

read more

December 25, 1951

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 184-190

On Christmas day, inside the Creamer house at noon, in a room the woodstove made exceedingly warm, Sarah Creamer and her boy sat at the kitchen table, a feast before them of fried salmon patties, milk gravy she’d made from the grease, boiled white rice and green beans, seasoned with not one, but two pieces of fatback. Sarah had splurged with Mildred’s money, this she knew. But it was her boy’s first Christmas without his father.

“You want some more, hon? More beans and rice and gravy? And what about another salmon patty...

read more

December 26–31, 1951

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 191-209

Luther, dressed in his best suit of clothes, walked into the South Carolina National Bank at 8 a.m. sharp on the day after Christmas and asked the lady behind the polished counter to see the president himself, Mr. Donald Brown. “Tell him it’s Luther Dobbins.” When she told Luther that Mr. Brown wasn’t yet back from the holidays, Luther wanted to say, Fa la la, but kept his mouth shut and slid two one-dollar bills her towards her. “I need two of the shiniest silver dollars you ever thought about seeing.” The four days had given him a lot of time to think...

read more

January 2–3, 1952

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 210-220

Sarah rested her body against the kitchen table as she bent over it, pinning the thin paper pattern to the fabric beneath. This would be her second dress since she had come home from the hospital two days before. She had finished the first one by alternating between staying in bed and sewing, at first resting for two hours and then working for 15 minutes, but over the two days, she had built up to almost equal time.

A knock came on her screened door. She wasn’t expecting Ike, and her boy was at school, but he wouldn’t knock...

read more

January 7–13, 1952

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 221-239

The letter came in Monday’s mail. Sarah was at her sewing machine running a long stitch when Emerson Bridge came in from school and handed it to her. She was thinking it was the hospital, wanting its money. He was wearing his new coat. She especially liked the way its ribbing hugged his wrists. She reached over and circled his right one with her fingers.

“Look, Mama! You can fit all around me.” He giggled.

She saw his breath. Her room was cold. She’d meant to put another stick of firewood in the woodstove before...

read more

January 14, 1952

pdf iconDownload PDF

p. 240

The mother cow, alone now.

She was carried away in a sound, unfamiliar, and delivered to land she had once known, having accepted her first steps following her transport from the west, where continual winds sent her, then a four-day-old calf, and her mother east to green pastures.

These were the green pastures.

The train that brought them there let in long slats of light running the way the cows’ bodies ran, head to tail, the light becoming...

read more

March 10, 1952

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 241-243

On the night before the show and sale, LC went to the barn. It was just after supper and already dark. “LC, dear, you sure you want to go out there?” It was his mother, calling at his back. “And don’t you want a flash light?”

He did not turn around, but the answer was yes, he wanted to go. He had something special he wanted to say to his steer, something he should have said long before now. And, no, he needed no extra light, not with the moon and stars accompanying him in the yard. But when he entered the barn, he entered the way he wanted, alone and...

read more

March 11, 1952

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 244-254

Luther that early morning, standing on his back porch, shoved his hands into the pockets of his suit pants, hoping no one would notice them shaking. But then he wondered if the suit would draw attention to him, to his hands, since judges wore suits, dark ones, as if they were going to a funeral. Mr. C. V. Richbourg, too, the man who always bought Charles’s grand champion, would wear a suit. Always before, Luther had worn all-over khaki that Modern Cleaners had prepared just right with medium starch, but the show was at his place today, and he wanted...

Learn

read more

March 12, 1952

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 257-260

My boy’s ribs, they filling out some now.

I know that might be hard for you to hear, Mama Red. Because your own boy, I know you miss him. Here you are laying down out here in the grass by your lonesome. And you keep lifting your head and moaning and you got your hooves cutting up the ground.

You’ve been back a day, and I was thinking I’d just let you be with your sadness, but me and you’s got some unfinished business, and I want us to have a clear line between us. You mind if I have a seat? Rub your...

Acknowledgments

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 261-263