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Inspired by one of the most loved folk ballads of all time, Come All Ye Fair and Tender Maidens, the novel builds on the eternal theme of women scorned by the men they love. Set in the Appalachian Mountains, a mother and her daughter learn that men appear, then they’re gone. A chilling look at love gone wrong.
Looking out the front door, as she had since her earliest childhood memories, she could not fully understand why her parents, or anyone, chose to live in an isolated cabin far from towns or people. Looking down the dirt road, she shut her eyes and thought of how the bumpy, muddy road led nowhere. It did lead to a town if one considered it such. A general store, saloon, post office and a gathering of ne’r-do-well misfits was hardly a town, and no place for any of a decent kind. It had a name, Pinewood, and she guessed that said it all. The few buildings were made from wood, and they sat amongst the pines. Not much more could be said for Pinewood or those who dwelled there. It was a long journey, even with their cart and mule, and the road had perils. A young woman, alone, could be preyed upon by beasts, or worse by the toothless miscreants waiting to seize a woman and drag her to their holler to make her slave to their sick needs.
Carrying her father’s ancient old musket rifle, it was loaded and ready to be cocked and fired when she ventured to Pinewood. Holding tight the rifle, though not the reins as the mule knew the way. It was the only road the poor beast had ever gone down, and sadly, she knew the same could be said for her.
Looking up at the sky, she hoped no rain was coming. Her mother needed supplies, so she had to face the journey and its sadness that day. Rain meant mud, and with the cart in poor repair, the mule quite old, she knew any number of ways rain could cause peril. Muddy, the road could break a wheel from sliding into a deep rut or let the wagon — and mule — slide off the road down into a holler. Having no wish to be stranded only to be found by some crazed hermit who would tie her up as his pet for perversions of all manner, she knew better than to head down if there was a cloud in the sky. She wanted the journey finished; there and back home before the sun went down. A prayer was the only help she would have apart from her stout hunting knife, a bag of powder and lead balls she had rolled into cartridges for the relic of a rifle she would have at the ready. She only recently learned why her dad prized a weapon used since the colonial days. Loading was slow. Against a modern repeating rifle, she knew to make the first shot count if used. Her father had taught her to load and reload it and keep it in repair, but it still only good for one shot in a crisis. A rifle or shotgun with a load of shells was on her wishlist for hunting, and protection.
Knowing how many things could go wrong with the musket, she spent a good deal of time making paper cartridges and testing it before she went on her hunt for animals. It wasn’t of use with small critters like rabbits. The shot was a good size and the small animals would turn to a mist from the power of the shot. It was needed for mountain cats or larger predator types such as a racoon. She now was the one getting furs to trade for more supplies and largely used traps for skins and meat to make a stew.
Going inside, she saw her mother was awake and attempting to raise herself up a bit in her bed. Her mother wasn’t old, just having turned 38. She was strong, healthy and a beauty. As she was getting stronger, she decided to raise herself up to get out of bed, she saw her daughter was standing in wait but wished no help.
“I know you are here for me if I be needin’ you. I know it be hard to watch me such. I am feeling strong today. Thought maybe I could make us some eats. That I can do, Anne, just give me time.”
Listening to her mother’s beautiful Irish brogue, she couldn’t help but smile. Even with her mother feeling down, her sing-song accent made her feel good.
Going to the stove, Anne put some split logs in along with kindling to start it going. It was an old thing, but it never let them down. It was stronger than the mule and would last far longer. Such chores kept her mind off woes and there were plenty of worries along with chores — she had the burden of them all. More than anything they kept her from thinking of her loneliness and the shape her mother was in. Wandering, her mind started to think of what happened to her mom, and she shook her head to make such thoughts fly away. With the trip to town that day, she only needed thoughts of the road and what could happen on it.
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