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Kentucky Sky: Whispers on the Win  on Kindle E-books

Kentucky Sky: Whispers on the Wind

Chapter One

A brisk autumn wind rustled through the trees, blowing leaves across my backyard. I love Kentucky this time of year when the trees change color with the fall season. The woods near my house glimmered in the late afternoon sunshine.

A weekend storm was in the forecast, and dark clouds moved in from the south.

This house has weathered many a bad storm. In my 68 years, I have also weathered a few. I was alone in the house now. My husband of 43 years passed away last June. I would weather this storm alone.

I made myself a cup of hot tea and sat at the dining room table. My dog Muffin, a golden retriever, snuggled at my feet. She is my constant companion, I feel safe with her by my side. But I know that Muffin is afraid of thunder, and the storm is getting close. The lights flickered.

Every few seconds there was a flash of lightening  and the windows were shaking from the thunder. Muffin whined and snuggled closer to my feet.  I looked out the window at the trees bending back and forth in the strong winds. I was fearful that one might fall on my house.

I heard a horse outside. It sounded frightened, and was crying out in loud panic-stricken shrieks. The horse galloped up the gravel lane towards the house, then ran into my back yard. There was a bright lightening flash as the brown male quarter horse reared up on its hind legs and once again let out a loud piercing cry. Muffin ran for the back bedroom in fear.

I ran out the back door, hoping to somehow corral the horse at the barn yard. It continued to romp back on its hind legs, ranting.

I gently spoke to the to the frightened horse. “It’s okay, don’t be afraid. I’m here to help you.”

The beautiful horse looked at me for a moment. I walked slowly towards him.

“Don’t be afraid, boy. I am here.”

There was another flash of lightening, and the horse bolted towards the woods. I watched as he ran at full speed through some low brush in a field.

He was gone. I blinked my eyes in disbelief. The horse had just vanished! I shook my head. It was as though the horse had not been there.

Heavy sheets of rain began to fall, so I retreated back to the house. I dried off, then poured myself some more hot tea and sat down. Muffin came out of hiding and stayed by my side.

The lights flickered on and off again. I got up and pulled some candles and a pocket flashlight from a drawer. I was going to be ready in case the power went out.

I could not get the terrified horse out of my mind. I was trying to remember if any of my neighbors had horses. I had not seen this horse before; he may have been from a farm from the Mint Spring area.

The storm was worsening. Winds were whipping the trees into a frenzy, and lightening followed with deafening bursts of thunder. This would make it worse for the poor frightened horse. A spooked horse cold run for miles and quickly become lost.

Then again, the horse seemed to vanish. That was very strange. Perhaps my vision was getting worse. Time to have my eyes checked.

I looked out the window; it was now pouring down in sheets. Daylight had faded away completely. The winds were howling around the house in a relentless tempest. The lights flickered on and off again, then they went our completely. The house was now in pitch darkness.

A burst of wind blew open the back door. A strong gust swished through the living room, knocking off some books from a wall shelf. I rushed over and closed the door and locked it. Then I grabbed the flashlight and picked up the mess on the floor. That’s when I saw a familiar book that I had not seen in many years. It was Ginny’s journal.

I had shelved the journal thirty years earlier and forgotten where it was. I was happy to have discovered it again.

I returned to the dining table and put the journal there, lit a candle, and sat down. Muffin came back to snuggle at my feet.

The storm continued to rage outside, and winds whipped and howled around the house like some kind of demon. The flicker of the candle brought a warm glow to the room.

I picked up the journal and blew the dust from the worn, brown cover. A yellowed sheet of paper fell out onto the table. I recognized what it was immediately. It was a family tree that I had drawn up a long time ago, when I had traced my lineage back to Ginny Chamberlain’s time; my great great step grandmother.

I studied the sheet of paper. I recalled how Ginny and Pelina had been best friends, growing up in rural Jefferson County near Harrods Creek.  Pelina had two daughters, Kate and Sarah. Ginny had raised the two girls after Pelina had died from a long illness in 1885. Kate was my great grandmother, and her daughter, Clara, my grandmother. Here is the family tree that I traced:

My Family Tree: 1850 Ginny Chamberlain born on a farm outside Louisville. Kentucky

                            1876 Kate born (Pelina’s daughter, Ginny’s stepdaughter

                            1898 Clara born (daughter of Kate)

                            1922 My Mother born (daughter of Clara)

                            1950 I am born

The journal had been in my possession for a year or so when I drew up this lineage in 1971. That was forty-seven years ago..  I had found it in 1970, forty-eight years ago. My Grandmother Beason (Clara) died that year.

It had been many years since I had read Ginny’s journal. I opened the front cover. On the first page written in neat cursive lettering with blue ink from a fountain pen was my great great step grandmother’s name. The page was yellowed and brittle, smelled dirty, yet the lettering of the name was exceptionally clear.

I turned the page. The candle was not sufficient light to read with my poor vision. I needed a better light source. There was a battery-operated hurricane lamp somewhere up in the cabinet above the refrigerator. I grabbed a foot stool and looked for it with my flashlight. I found the light almost towards the rear of the cabinet. I could barely reach it. I got it down and flicked the switch to the “on” position. The batteries were dead. Fortunately, I had new batteries in a utensil drawer. I replaced the batteries and turned it on. A soft glow radiated throughout the room. It was now possible to read by this light. I could read the journal for as long as the batteries lasted in the hurricane lamp.

 I always called it a journal, but there were over one hundred hand written pages within the tattered covers. It was actually a memoir, containing many details of Ginny’s recollections.

I had found the journal in 1970. I can remember that day clearly. I was 20 years old, and my Grandmother Beason (Clara) had died that spring. Her house, near Story Avenue in Louisville, had been locked up and unoccupied for over a month. My Mother had decided to sell off everything in an estate sale and prepare the house to be shown by a realtor.

We arrived at the house by mid-morning on a Saturday, the second week of June. Mother had problems opening the door. Her key turned the lock but the door was jammed. She threw her body weight against the door and put out her shoulder. An old man from the house next door came and helped us to get in with a crow bar. The police came and my Mother had to explain to them what we were doing there.

The house smelled musty inside and was dark. All the utilities were off. We took inventory of the items that were going to be in the estate sale, noting the things we would keep. Then we went up to the attic where grandmother had many things in storage.

There were some windows in the attic so it was possible to see all the clutter on the floor. Boxes of toys, magazines, and clothing were strewn about. I bumped against something, then a large doll fell onto the floor in front of me as I walked by. Its eyes seemed to be fixed on mine. My Mother sensed my anxiety and she placed the doll back onto a box of toys.

There were two large wooden trunks in front of us with curved tops and ornate metallic framework. Neither chest was locked. Mother pulled the latch up on one of the trunks and opened a squeaky lid. There were all sorts of items stuffed inside, and the contents appeared to be ancient. The second trunk was also crammed with old stuff.

Mother sorted through one trunk and I rummaged through the other. Mother found a wedding dress and some ladies hats and shoes. There was a beautiful hand stitched quilt in the trunk I was going through. Mother let out a long “aaahhhh” when she saw it.

Under the quilt there were some games and children’s clothing, old books, and to my surprise, an old revolver in a holster belt. Mother gasped when she saw it.

“There’s a gun!” I exclaimed.

“Let me see that!” Mother exclaimed with a look of disbelief in her eyes. She examined it closely.

“I think that this is over one hundred years old!”

I watched Mother as she pulled the gun from the holster and looked at it from every angle.

“I hope it’s not loaded,” she said with a very worried look. “Stand back!”

She pointed the gun up at a rafter and pulled the hammer slowly back and pressed the trigger. The firearm clicked. No bullets in the gun.

Mother returned the gun to its holster and we continued to rummage through the trunks. At the bottom of my trunk I found some old documents, land deeds, letters, and Ginny’s journal.

I opened the journal and we skimmed through some of the pages. The earliest entries were made in 1870, and many of the events described took place around the time of the Civil War.

We returned all the items back to the trunks and then carried them down to our Ford van. Believe me that was a lot of work carrying those heavy trunks down the stairs and lifting them into the van.

We finished up our work at the house just in time for lunch. Everything was ready for the estate sale next weekend.

Once we arrived at our house in Prospect, we carried the trunks to the garage. I pulled out Ginny’s journal right away. I was excited to read it to learn more about my great great step grandmother.

I took the journal to my room and read it many times during the summer of 1970. I was not enrolled in any classes at the University over the summer, so I had plenty of time to comb through the pages.

I slipped backwards in time as I read; to events that had happened in the mid-19th century. Now I was immersed in the day to day life of my great great grandmother.

Here are Ginny’s writings which I have pieced together from her journal and letters which we found in the trunk from my grandmother’s house on Story Avenue. Here is her story.

Chapter Two Ginny’s Journal

Journal Entry 1870

My Early Memories

I was born and raised on a farm near Louisville, Kentucky in 1850. My father knew how to breed horses, so when he came to Kentucky, he bought some land and began a horse farm. We had some of the best thoroughbreds in the area, and our horses were in high demand regionally.

My full name was Virginia, but everyone always called me Ginny.

A winding dirt lane went from the main pike up to our house. We would travel up and down the dusty lane in our horse drawn carriage. The carriage even had a canopy cover. There was a stone bridge that spanned a creek near a bend in the road. Beyond this, there were wide open green pastures interspersed with wooded areas. A strong wood rail fence went all the way up towards our house, which was surrounded by some tall oak trees.

We lived in a two-story log farm house. I think that the house was there before we purchased the land, because it was probably built several years earlier. It was built of squared timbers, with a long front porch. There were three rooms on the first floor: a kitchen, a combined dining - living room with an enormous fire place made of roughhewn stone, and a simple parlor.

Up on the second floor there was just one long room, with stairs in the middle and two windows on either end. It was an attic room, the shape of the roof defined the inner spaces. There was a wooden railing where the stairs came up, but otherwise the room was wide open, and we all slept up there. The space was partitioned with tall chest-of-drawers. The beds were good. It was comfortable even on cold winter nights, snuggled in a quilt and bed sheets, the fire sending its warmth upwards from below through the wide floor boards.

In the evenings father would come in from the fields with his brothers and farm hands, and they would sit down at a long wooden table that was in the center of the main room. The fire was roaring, and mother was cooking a rabbit stew and biscuits. She wore a long ankle length dress; grey, straps over the shoulders, and a bonnet.

 She stirred the stew. I brought the bowls and she filled them, then I took them and served the men. Mother also had warm bread from the brick oven. The men talked and laughed as they downed the hearty meal. After the men were served, I sat down in my chair and ate my portion and listened to the men talk.

My Mother was a hard-working woman, very serious, with an occasional smile. She had emigrated to this country from Germany as a little girl. Father was a strong self-made individual whom never tired of his constant labors, and he had made our farm the envy of the county.

August was a busy time on our farm. I was out of school in the summer time so I had many chores to do. I was expected to rise early in the morning, and Mama woke me up on this particular morning rattling her pans down in the kitchen. I laid back in my bed waiting for her to call me. Soon I could smell breakfast cooking.

“Ginny! It’s time to get up!” Mother shouted from the bottom of the stairs.

“Yes, Mama!” I got up and put on a flowery purple blouse, then a cream-colored smock.

My wardrobe was very simple. I usually wore long dresses with a bonnet. My fancy dresses were made of a very silky material, and I usually wore these only when I went to a special occasion; like church, or to town. My everyday dresses were plaid or floral patterns. I had one favorite dress that was green plaid, and I wore a white bonnet with it.   

 I laced up an old pair of high top shoes, affixed a white ribbon in my hair, then ran downstairs to the kitchen.

The sweet aroma of cinnamon pastries filled the kitchen. Mama was using her new wood stove to bake. My little brother Andrew raced down the stairs wearing faded overalls, blue shirt and suspenders.

Pastries were a treat, and that made this a very special morning. My mouth was watering as Mama took them out of the oven. Andrew’s eyes nearly popped out of his head as she placed the pastries on the table. Mama put some butter in a crockery dish and set it on the table.

Papa came in with a pail of milk, and he poured it into a                  porcelain milk pitcher. Then he sat at the head of the table as Mama gave him some hot coffee.

“Going to the fields after breakfast to look at the corn,” Papa said.

Mama nodded. “Bring some for the table, it will go good with dinner.”

“The pastries are delicious,” Papa said.

“My recipe is from the Old World,” Mama smiled.

Papa ate two pastries and slurped down his coffee.

There was a knock at the back door. “Come in!” Papa shouted.

Uncle Jed came in.

“Sit down, Jed. Have some coffee and pastries,” Papa said.

Jed sat down and Mama poured him some hot coffee as he took a pastry from the plate.

“Gonna’ hunt tonight and break in a new hound,” Jed said.

Papa chuckled. “You gettin’ anything on those hunts?”

“Not much. Coon, rabbit, and ran into a skunk the other night.”

Papa laughed. “That right? They can make a stink worse than an outhouse. Think I’ll pass this time.”

Papa and Uncle Jed finished breakfast and went down to the stables to harness the draft horses.

I helped Mama clear the table.

“The slop bucket is full,” Mama said. “Go and slop the pigs.”

I went out to the back porch to get the slop bucket. It was running over with food waste. I picked it up and headed for the pig sty. I threw the slop into the feeding trough. The pigs scurried over and ate ravenously.

I saw my goats and lambs in the barnyard. I had to go see Miss Muffin, my favorite goat.

I climbed over the wood rail fence and as soon as I was inside the barnyard the goats walked towards me, Miss Muffin leading the pack. I hugged Miss Muffin around her soft muzzle as she licked my ear.

“Oh, Miss Muffin, you look so lovely today! Are you glad to see me?”

I picked some leaves from a nearby maple tree and watched as she chomped them in her mouth. I patted her back as she ate.

I could hear voices coming from the back of the barn. Father and Uncle Jed were hitching up the draft horses. I went into the barn and Thunder, Breeze and Missy were in their stalls. I gave them each a handful of hay. They neighed softly and scraped their front hoofs on the ground. I gave them more hay and hugged their muzzles.

Papa came into the barn to get something. He grabbed some reins.

“Ginny, you makin’ over those horses again?

You should be in the kitchen helpin’ your Ma!”

“Papa, is it okay if I go with you and Uncle Jed to the corn fields?”

“Hmm...well…” he stammered. “Go ask your Ma. If she says yes you can go.”

I ran excitedly back to the house. Ma had her wash pan out and she was washing dishes.

“Ginny! What in heavens’ name took you so long to slop those pigs? And where’s my slop bucket!”

“Sorry, Mama. I’ll go fetch it right now.”

I ran back to the pig sty and grabbed the slop bucket, then ran back to the house at full steam and put the bucket where it belonged on the porch. I looked towards the barn. It looked like Papa and Uncle Jed were about to go. I ran back into the kitchen.

“Mama, may I go with Papa and Uncle Jed to the corn field?”

“You have house chores to do, Ginny. You’ll just get all dirty and I’ll have more dirt to clean up.”

“Please, Mama. I promise that I’ll do all my house chores when I get back.”

Mama was silent. “You dry these dishes, then I might think about it.”

I dried the dishes quickly and put them away. Then I grabbed a broom and swept the kitchen floor for good measure, hoping that would persuade Mama to let me go.

I glanced out the window. Papa and Uncle Jed were hitching up the draft horse to the hay wagon. They were about to leave without me.

“Mama! Papa and Uncle Jed are leaving! I’m gonna get left behind!”

Mama looked out the window. “Okay, Ginny, you’re excused. Remember to bring me some corn for the table tonight.”

I propped the broom into the corner and dashed out the door. I was excited to go with Papa and Uncle Jed, and to be free from my chores for once.

Jed sat up on the driver’s seat. I hopped up onto the back of the hay wagon just as he shook the reins and sounded out two rapid tongue clickers to signal the horse to go. The horse moved forward at a steady pace. Papa came from the barn with a stack of bushel baskets which he placed on the wagon. He walked to the barnyard gate and opened it wide, closing it once we had cleared the corral area.

We traversed open pasture towards the corn field. Once we reached the corn, Uncle Jed slowed the wagon to a crawl, while Papa entered the field, squeezing the green plump ears to see if the crop was ready.

About halfway up the field I jumped down from the wagon onto the dusty, rutted lane, worn by years of wagon wheel impressions in the ground. I walked behind the wagon for a way, then I ran behind Papa.

“Mama said to pick some corn for dinner!” I blurted.

“There’s some good ears in here,” Papa replied. “Let’s get the bushed baskets and pick some for the table.”

I followed Papa, holding the bushel basket. He squeezed many ears, picking the ripe ones. The basket filled quickly.

Papa showed me how to pick an ear of ripe corn. I looked for ears with dark brown silk, and then I squeezed the ear to check the plumpness of the kernels. I was proud to have picked many “ready” ears of corn for Papa. We had two bushels filled for the table.

I was about to pick another ear when Papa said, “that’s enough for now.” As I pulled away from the stalk, a corn leaf swung upwards and hit my ear. I heard a buzzing and vibration of an insect near my ear opening, then a sharp pain. I cried out in agony, holding my ear.

Papa rushed over and looked at my throbbing ear. He picked me up and walked back to the wagon.

“What’s the matter?” Uncle Jed asked.

 “She’s been stung on her ear by a yellow jacket,” Papa answered.

He put me back on the hay wagon, loaded the corn, and we headed back to the house.

My ear was still stinging when we were back in the kitchen. Mama put some soothing salve on the sting.

After the bee sting incident, I continued to help Pa out in the fields. I always liked helping him with the animals. I especially loved the horses, goats and lambs. When I was in the barnyard Miss Muffin and a pack of goats would always follow me everywhere I went.

By early September I would have apples to give as a treat. Thunder, our brown quarter horse, would rub his muzzle against my cheek and neigh softly when he knew I had an apple to give him.

Late September Mama told me that it was almost time to go back to school. She had been working on a new school dress for me all summer. It was a beautiful blue gathered dress with ruffled sleeves and border lace.

The dress was ready; and so was I.

I enjoyed going to school. My Mother encouraged me to go, as she felt it was important to learn to read and write. She was schooled at home by her Mother, so when the new school house was built over by Wolf Pen Creek, she sent me there right away. That was in 1857. It was now 1859 and my little brother was starting school. He did not want to go.

Andrew cried on the first day of school as Mother got him ready.  I had on my new dress and ribbons in my hair, ready to go. Mother marched Andrew over by my side and she demanded that I hold his hand. She handed me our lunch which was in a knapsack.

I could hear the school bell ringing as we went out the front door. The summons was being sounded out that school would be starting at nine o’clock sharp.

The shortest route to the school house was a rugged wagon road that cut through the woods. The road ended at a narrow path, which we took to the Wolf Pen Creek Road. The one room school house was a short way up the road.

As Andrew and I arrived we saw other children walking across the front yard into the wide open front door. Miss Greenly stepped outside and waved at us, greeting every child with a smile. I was very happy to see Miss Greenly. She was my favorite teacher.

Andrew and I climbed up the wide steps and crossed the narrow porch and entered the school through a wide-open door. We came into a small entryway that had two closets on either side, and the long rope which hung from the bell tower on the roof. We entered the long classroom and Andrew stopped to look around. There were four rows of student desks, ten in each row. Towards the front were two rows of benches. That’s where the youngest children sat. Miss Greenly’s desk was just beyond the benches, and behind her desk, on the back wall, was a wide blackboard.

High windows were on both walls to our left and right. A wood stove sat snugly in the center aisle unlit. It was too warm on the last day of September to fire it up.

Miss Greenly gathered the first-year students up front. She saw my brother holding onto my hand. He was trembling, and looked terrified. She walked up to us and smiled.

“Ginny. I am glad to see you back for the start of the new school session. Is this your brother?”

“Yes.” I replied. “This is Andrew.”

“Andrew! I like that name. How old are you, Andrew?”

Miss Greenly placed her hand on Andrew’s shoulders. “Well, you need to come and join our first-year students. I will show you, Andrew. Follow me.”

Andrew went with Miss Greenly to the front and joined the other students his age. I went to my desk near the wood stove and sat down.

The day’s lessons for each level were written on the board. There were several Math problems written in chalk for the upper level students. Multiplication and division. I started working the problems on my slate board. Miss Greenly’s helper, an older boy, checked our answers and recorded our progress in the teacher’s grade book. I had them all correct. I knew that Miss Greenly would call me up front to work some of the problems after she finished teaching the younger children.

I sat next to Pelina, my best friend, and we often compared answers. Pelina was very precocious and at times down right daring. Last year she got me in trouble by insisting we take a short cut across the creek. We both ended up covered in mud and my Mother was furious when I got home.

Miss Greenly was reading a story to the younger children. I glanced up to see how Andrew was doing. He seemed to be feeling better about school now. An eighth-grade girl took over instruction of the primers while Miss Greenly started teaching the upper grades.

She called the middle grade students one at a time to go up to the black board to solve the math problems. Then she put some fractions on the board and I was the first to be called up to give oral responses as she tapped each fraction with her long pointer stick. I had to quickly reduce each fraction to lowest terms in the mental exercise. I made some miscalculations and I turned red in the face. I started to hesitate; it seemed like my mind just went blank as I started to panic. I was excused to sit down. I was not ready for drills on fractions on the first day! What made it worse was when Jimmy Skinner stuck out his tongue and let out a low laugh. Emma Taylor suppressed laughter and shook her head.

Miss Greenly called Jimmy to go to the board next. He made many of the same mistakes that I had made. Miss Greenly shook her head and said that we were “rusty” after the long summer break, so we practiced reducing fractions until lunch time.

Andrew and I ate our lunch in the play yard in the shade of an old oak. Mother had packed us some rolls and cheese slices and juicy apples.

After lunch we practiced penmanship and then we read from our McGuffey Readers. At times, when I finished the story, my imagination allowed me to pull Emma Taylor’s blonde hair and kick Jimmy Skinner in the seat of his pants. Pelina could think of some prank to pull on them later.

It was a good school year. My reading and writing had blossomed. Miss Greenly was a good teacher.

We learned in April 1860 that Miss Greenly was getting married. Women teachers were not allowed to be married. This would therefore be Miss Greenly’s last year at our school. I was very upset when I found out, what would I do without Miss Greenly?

School was never the same again. We had Mr. Bowles in the next school term. He was a terrible teacher. He did not care about teaching, he was doing it until he got a better job as an accountant.

Mr. Bowles was a mean teacher. He had a leather strap hanging on the wall next to his desk and he did not hesitate to use it. He kept the bigger boys in line with it, even some of the girls. He showed no favorites. After a hard thrashing from Mr. Bowles, it was difficult to sit still.

Kentucky Sky: Whispers on the Wind now on Kindle E-books