Welcome, Jennie. I’m so glad you could join us today for an interview.
Jennie: The pleasure’s all mine. Granny sakes alive, I’m glad to be taking a break from a hot day of weeding in the garden, snapping beans, and watering my azaleas and buttercups. There’s always a slew of chores awaiting, but I love it. The kids and I dug up dandelion roots for coffee. We wash and peel them, then roast and grind them. We’re fixing to scrub sassafras bark, then peel and boil it for tea. And add a right heap of sugar, of course.
Sounds like you keep quite busy.
Jennie: As busy as a one-armed wallpaper hanger with the seven-year itch. If not the garden, it’s the cooking and cleaning and other chores around the farm. Today I’ve a hankering for pork stew, beans with bacon, and hushpuppies—my husband Drew’s favorite meal. And I reckon I should practice our clogging routine for the town’s Fourth of July Festival.
I’ve heard that you favor doing things the traditional way.
Jennie: Perhaps to my detriment. I’ll blame my mother for that. She says I do her proud because I still cling to the old ways, the home remedies, and spring tonic that cures whatever ails you. I take it over to the neighbors, too, every week. The kids and I string beans for leather breeches, and I fancy an old fashioned potato hole for winter storage. I still plant by the signs, too. And in 1968, that’s saying something.
Seems like Nick and Tina help out a lot, too.
Jennie: Nick’s eleven, and he’s a right smart helper when he’s not wearing out his arm trying to master the fastball with his friend Todd. And Tina, well, she’s ten and not given to much hard work yet. She preferslollygagging. But kids need a lavish of play time. As her Uncle Ross says, he does more work by accident than Tina ever does on purpose. Sometimes she claims she doesn’t hear us at chore time. Things rose to such a pitch last week, her daddy took her to the doctor to have her ears checked. That cured her.
No doubt it did.
Jennie: Truth be told, I kinda hope she’s deaf to all the goings-on around here. I mean all the talk about the proposed theme park. Folks are buzzing like bees in a tar tub about Phil Kepler and his new-fangled ideas.
Who’s Phil Kepler?
Jennie: He’s a northerner, from New York City, the getting-aroundest man I know. He’s been living down here for a spell but has all those connections up north. The trouble is, Phil Kepler could talk a fellow into buying a heater for the desert. Why, last year he convinced me to ignore the signs and plant my beans on the new of the moon. The few beans that did grow plumb rotted and specked. Did you ever hear tell of that? That’s the last time I’ll abide such an addlepated notion.
Why, there’s Tina now, traipsing in the back door. Two hours late for chores like usual, and probably wants a molasses cookie to boot. Tina, come on over and talk to the nice lady while I check on those squawking chickens. I’ll be right back.
Hello, Tina. You seem out of breath. Where are you coming from in such a hurry?
Tina: I just rode my bike home from the sandlot, down the road apiece. I’m the only girl on the team ’cause they were one short. The boys tease me, especially that bully Stan Randall.
Sounds rough, all that teasing. What do like about being on the team?
Tina: I love baseball, and I’m a good hitter. And not everybody’s mean. Todd’s gonna owe Nick an ice cream sundae at Simpson’s Ice Cream Parlor come autumn if Denny McLean gets thirty wins this season. He’s a Detroit Tiger, in case you don’t know. Oh, man, I gotta sit down. I’m all tuckered out.
Baseball and bicycling will do that to a body.
Tina: It’s not just the bicycling . . . it’s . . . well, since Mom left the room, I’ll tell you. Don’t go telling nobody, but Nick and I, we’re all wore out from visiting Ole Joe yonder on the mountain. We got up in the middle of the night to swipe the neighbor’s vegetables and deliver them to Ole Joe in a wheelbarrow. It’s our secret, and we’ll be in big trouble if anyone finds out. We didn’t get home till six in the morning.
Why do you do that?
Tina: We don’t rightly have a choice. No telling what Ole Joe will do if we refuse. He’s good to us, though. He tells us stories and he’s gonna—never mind. I can’t tell you that part. Nick and I swore not to tell anybody. But we have mighty fine visits with him.
So long as Mom and Dad don’t find out, we’ll be okay. It beats getting caught after that egg pitching contest in the chicken coop last summer. That was Nick’s idea, not mine. Oh—never mind. Mom’s back. I’m going outside now.
Jennie: I’m back! And off she goes. That girl . . . she’s always flitting about, like she knows I’m gonna get after her for missing chores.
Glad you could return, Jennie. Are you worried about the proposed theme park?
Jennie: Just a smidgeon. Drew’s on town council, and he’s given out to be the best one for talking sense into folks. Some say Phil doesn’t have a chance, like a bug arguing with a chicken.
How would this park affect the small town of Currie Hill?
Jennie: The park would swallow us up, like a fox after chickens. Phil says the experts studied on the situation and found this area to be best suited for such a park. Plus, good for the economy and all. Providing much-needed jobs. But that would be the end of Currie Hill as we know it. And most folks don’t want such drastic change. Fortunately, Drew’s been serving this town for twelve years now. Folks listen to him.
Twelve years? That’s about as long as he’s been back from New York, right? What do folks think about his time up north?
Jennie: Nowadays, nary a soul makes mention of it anymore. But back then, folks didn’t know what in the Sam Hill to make of him. It took a powerful long time to win back their trust. Nobody here confidences someone who’s spent time in the big city, and he was gone a coon’s age. Fifteen years, to be exact. Four years serving in the Army, then eleven more attending school and working as an architect.
What did people say when he got back home?
Jennie: Everything you can think of. Speculations and assumptions flung all over the place, most of it slack talk for certain. Some say Drew was surely living high on the hog, or living a life of crime. Y’all know how the city corrupts.
My parents cautioned me about courting him. “As fickle as the wind,” they said. “Taking up city ways and coming back here. Those who succeed in the city don’t belong to the mountains anymore. Those who fail don’t belong to either them or us.”
But I latched onto Drew like a cocklebur in sheep’s wool. With no regrets. Loving him is as easy as falling off a log.
Folks aren’t bothered anymore by his previous absence?
Jennie: He’s proven he’s one of us. But—well, I have to admit . . . I fear there are folks on both sides of the fence. And sometimes his mother shakes her finger at him about those mysterious years of his as if he were still a little boy, as if it were as simple a matter as returning stolen cookies from the cookie jar.
The thing is, he won’t talk about his time away, never did. It’s behind him now. That’s how it is. . . . We can only look forward. One day at a time.
It’ll be a relief for certain after the town council votes in a few weeks. Then I reckon Phil Kepler and that park will hightail it out of town. For good.
Laura DeNooyer thrives on creativity and encouraging it in others. She spotlights creatives of all kinds on her blog, Journey To Imagination, and highlights authors and their novels in her Standout Stories blog. A Calvin College graduate, Laura taught middle school and high school for nine years in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and currently teaches writing to home schooled students. Between those two jobs, she and her husband raised four children as she penned her first novel, All That Is Hidden. An award-winning author of heart-warming historical and contemporary fiction, she is president of her American Christian Fiction Writers chapter. When not writing, you’ll find her reading, walking, drinking tea with friends, or taking a road trip. Visit Laura at https://lauradenooyer-author.com or on Facebook, BookBub, and GoodReads.
Are secrets worth the price they cost to keep?
Ten-year-old Tina Hamilton finds out the hard way.
She always knew her father had a secret. But all of God’s earth to Tina are the streams for fishing, the fields for romping, a world snugly enclosed by the blue-misted Smokies. Nothing ever changed.
Until the summer of 1968. Trouble erupts when northern exploitation threatens her tiny southern Appalachian town. Some folks blame the trouble on progress, some blame the space race and men meddling with the moon’s cycles, and some blame Tina’s father.
A past he has hidden catches up to him as his secret settles in like an unwelcome guest. The clash of progressive ideas and small town values escalates the collision of a father’s past and present.
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