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In My Minds Eye
By Betty Burden Wood
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Betty Burden Wood
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Mighty Polk County Storm
The Morris Family had just finished eating their evening meal, when a mighty gust of wind and rain pounded on the windows and doors, causing all the curtains and papers and everything that was loose to fly around in the house.
"What in the world is that and what is going on?? Jean Morris asked her husband in a very shaky voice. Everyone was scared. "It must be a cyclone. Let's close all the windows and doors", her husband answered.
All the family rushed about trying to close the windows and doors, as rain came pouring down. The wind was so strong they could hardly close the doors. It kept pushing Phil Morris backward as the tried to shut the door. The strong wind was howling and the rain was so dense, they could hardly see the barn or the chicken house.
Phil Morris ushered his family away from the front window where they were watching the hypnotizing forces outside. They could hear trees falling and parts of the house roof flying around. It sounded like the roar of a freight train coming through. Only thing they could do now was huddle together and pray until it was all over and everything was calm again. It seemed as though time had stood still until the awful agonizing storm began to quite down a little.
Phil Morris opened the door to peep outside. "Get your slicker, Jess. We need to check on the stock. He grabbed his raincoat and hat from a nail by the door. He and his oldest son ran to the barn.
As the two hustled across the back yard, they saw that trash and all kind of debris was scattered over the yard and the big black wash pot was full of water, leaves and branches. The ripe and bucket from the well were both gone, nowhere to be seen.
Jack, the family dog, had herded the mules and cows into the barn before the storm hit and then had taken shelter underneath the front porch to avoid the storm.
Night fall was rapidly approaching. The three Morris children were hurriedly running around gathering as much of what was left of their outdoor possessions as they could. Their father went in the house to get the milk bucket and rushed to the barn to milk the cow.
Jean Morris was busy in the kitchen, clearing the table, putting away the leftovers and getting the dishes ready to wash.
As she moved a round the kitchen, she was humming Amazing Grace. It was an old song she, her mother and grandmother had hummed or sang while doing their housework.
"Guess I came from a ling line of hummers", she thought to herself, feeling relieved and thankful the quick and furious storm had blown over and left them all safe.
Suddenly, Annie, the youngest of her children came running in the back door. "Ma, Ma, come quick! Look what we found in the front yard! Hurry, Ma, I think the storm blowed it in."
Jean Morris could not help but to laugh as she looked at her little girl. Her long red hair was rumpled and wet with sweat, and her big blue eyes shone with excitement as she urged her mother to hurry.
Jean grabbed a dish towel and dried her hands as she hurriedly walked through the house, behind the child that kept prodding her toward the front door.
"A new hatching of chicks or guineas", she thought. It didn't take much to excite Annie. The hens and guineas they owned had nests strewn all over the farm and many of them were full of eggs.
As she and Annie went through the front door, Jean saw her two sons and Jake the dog across the yard and near the road. As she made her way toward them, she marveled at the amount of limbs and leaves that covered the ground, making her aware of how strong the storm as been. Much of the split rail fence that had she separated the yard from the road was now lying flat along with their rusty old mailbox. Many of her flowers she had planted and pampered were on the ground and the blossoms were scattered across the yard. A lot of the trash and debris she couldn't recognize in the faltering evening light, but the light green shingles from the roof, she did.
"Phil will have to be on top of the house tomorrow", she thought to herself. "I hope it's not a hot day."
Annie's tight clutch on her hand urged her on as she looked again toward her two sons. They were crouching over what looked to be an old cotton sack and their youngest son, Luke, had his hand jammed inside. Just as Jean walked up behind him, he pulled his arm out and Jean wiped her eyes to believe what she was seeing. She looked at her oldest son and said, "Jess, go get your Pa and tell him to hurry."
As the tall lanky boy jumped up and started running to the barn, Jean looked again at what her unbelieving eyes could not imagine.
There, clutched in her son's fist, was the biggest wad of money she had every seen. She looked past his hand into what indeed was an old cotton sack and saw it was crammed full of green currency. Jean made a small gasp and fell backwards, making a soft sloshing sound as her butt landed in the rain soaked grass.
"Pa, Pa," Jess yelled as he ran into the barn where his Dad had just finished milking the cow.
"Come on Pa. Luke just found something and Ma wants you to come see it. Hurry." Phil sat the milk bucket down near the barn door and they ran from the bars. As they rounded the house, they saw Jean Morris lying on the ground. She was staring at the sky as if she were day dreaming. She was thinking, "We are rich. I'm gonna buy me a new wood stove. I'm gonna buy the children new shoes and clothes and Phil can buy that new plow he's always wanted and-and". All kind of good things were running through her mind.
Phil and Jess bent over her and Phil patted her cheek. "Jean, Jean, Are you alright?" Phil asked her.
"Oh! Yes, I'm alright." She practically screamed. "Just look in the sack. Oh, Phillip, we are rich! We're rich!"
As Phil look into the sack, he was surprised at all the money.
"Where did it come from? Whose is it? Am I dreaming? This can't be true. I must behaving a dream," he thought, as he looked at his children pulling all the green stuff out of the sack.
"No, boys, keep it in the sack and put what you took out, back into the sack. We'll count it later." Phil said. Phillip loaded the sack onto his shoulder and made his was to the kitchen. With the dim light from the kerosene lamp that was sitting on the middle of the table. He was thinking all this time what he was going to buy with the money. He placed it on the table and said, "We must find out who this belongs to. Who around here has this much money?" They all began to think who it could belong to.
Luke said, "Some of it belongs to me. I found it."
Maybe I oughta go to town and see the sheriff." Phil said.
I don't think that's a good idee." Jean said. "It might belong to the moffie."
"Just what do you suppose we ortta do with it?" Phil asked.
"I think we ortta put some in the bank and keep some of it." Jean replied.
"Ok" he said. "That's what we will do. But first, we need to count it." He emptied the sack out on the kitchen table and sat sown in a chair because he thought he was going to faint. There were hundreds of dollar bills, twenty and fifty dollar bills all wadded together.
So many bright and happy thoughts were running through is mind, he could hardly speak. Finally he caught his breath and managed to call the children in to help sort it out. He tossed the old wet sack in the corner of the kitchen and began to straighten the bills.
Luke, being nosy, picked up the sack and a white piece of paper fell to the floor. As he picked it up, he said to his dad, "Pa, here are some papers still in the sack and they have some writing on them."
"Let me see them, son." Phillip replied. As Luke handed the papers to his dad, he asked, "Pa, do you think this is money, too?" "No, son, let me read it."
Jean came over to where Phillip was reading and bent over his shoulder so she could see the words better. As she began to read, her face had a frown on it. The happy and excited look on her face was gone.
"What does it say, Pa?" Luke asked noting the frown on his dad's face.
"Yeah, Pa, read it to us." Jess said. He was so excited with all the commotion that was going on.
After Jean had finished reading, she sat across the table from Phil and buried her face in her hands. "What an awful disappointment. All our dreams of what we could buy are all gone. I'll never get my new stove now." She was thinking.
"This money belongs to Mr. and Mrs. James Morton. They live over on the other side of the river. I will take it to them in the morning. I know they must be worried to death about all their money gone. You boys put all the money back in the sack." Phillip said. Pouting and disappointed, they crammed it all back into the sack.
"Can I have some, Pa?" Luke asked. "I was the one that found it."
"No, son, it's not ours. It would be wrong to keep any of it." Pa said.
No one in the Morris family could sleep that night they were all thinking of the money and what they could do with it, if it belonged to them.
Returning The Money
As the sun was peeking its head above the horizon the next morning, it was like a ball of fire in the east. Phillip was hoping it would be a nice day. He had to fix the roof on the house, chicken house. He had so much work to do. He worked all day with the money on his mind. He did have a goodnights sleep for he was so exhausted from the hard day at work. Next morning bright and early he hitched the mules to the wagon at the crack of dawn and waited to see if the weather was going to be good for him to go to the other side of the river. He kissed Jean and the children, then he stuffed the sack of money underneath the wagon seat so it would be out of sight, waved to his family and with the reigns, he popped the mules on their rumps and said, "Gitty-up, gitty-up." Down the road they ran with the wagon rattling and the mules huffing and a-puffing.
As he neared the old gravel road, he slowed the team down. It was too dangerous to go at full speed. The sky in the west was a pearly blue with the sun on his back he was glad he was going west to avoid the bright rising sun.
As he approached the river bridge, the mules slowed and balked on him, afraid to cross the river. "Get up, you ornery critters," he yelled as he slapped the reins across their backs. No amount of urging would make the mules go forward. Instead, they stood their ground only raising and lowering their strong legs and fidgeting back and forth. "I don't have time for this", Phillip thought as his mind reminded him of all the work that had to be done on his damaged farm and house. He looked ahead at the long bridge that crossed over the wide river and saw what his mules had already seen. There, coming from the other side of the bridge, were two dark black horses pulling a black shiny hearse.
The two strong stallions were charging forward. Tall black feathery plumes attached to their head gear were swept back in the wind as the death wagon crossed the bridge.
Sitting high on the seat of the hearse, all dressed in black, was the town's one and only undertaker, old man Floyd. As he neared, Phillip could see him plainly. He was a tall man, well over six feet, but thin as a rail. His cheeks were hollowed and his dark eyes sank back into his head making him resemble a living, breathing skull. Atop his head was his ever-present all stove pipe hat.
As the undertaker pulled close to Phillip and his old wagon, he slowed the two large horses to a slow walk and finally stopped next to Phillip. He nodded slightly and said, "'Morning, Mr. Morris", and gave him a slight smile. As he did, his large teeth (whom many said came from a Sears and Roebuck catalogue) only emphasized the illusion of a skeleton all dressed in black.
"Good morning, Mr. Floyd", Phillip answered, "I sure didn't expect to see anybody out this was so early in the morning."
"Oh, you can't sleep in my business, son. If you snooze, the buzzards get fat." He half way chuckled, "Been over to the Morton's. You know their house was took away by the twister yestiddy. Nothing but the chimney left. Their neighbor, young Kenny, found Morton and his misses in his corn field, dead to the world. Funny, they was holding hands, couldn't hardly pry'em apart." and this time he did grin and Phillip realized why all the town youngins crossed the street before they got to old man Floyd's parlor. He looked at the huge old hearse with its glass sides and black lacy curtains to hide its contents within, but he could still see the covered budges that were certainly James and Janice Morton. A shutter ran down his spine. These were the very people he was on his was to see.
"Well, I gotta be on my way now, young Morris." the tall man said, nodding toward the back of the hearse. "These two don't need any more heat than they already got." With that he gave a slight tap to the reins and the two huge black stallions charged forward with their morbid load of death.
Phillip sat there wondering, "What in the world should I do now?" He turned and watched the undertaker as he drove his team and wagon down the road. The glossy black hearse trimmed in shiny silver, glimmered in the morning sun.
Phillip turned his mule around and sat there watching the big black plumes on the stallions head and the hearse. The big black plumes lay back like a huge bird and the silver on the reigns and the hearse were ever so bright as the sun shone on them. He watched until they were clean out of sight. "Poor Morton and Janice, hey never can spend any of their fortune now, but I sure can." He thought. He then looked back over at the river and the bridge. The river running ever so swiftly and the old wooden bridge with its weather beaten planks were to be something of the past to him. He was going to live a good life from now on.
The sun beaming down on him was so hot, he looked up and down the road and no one was in sight. Down the road he saw an old oak tree that must have been a hundred years old. He popped the mules with the reigns and they began to head for home. When he neared the old oak tree, he pulled back on the reigns and said, "Whoa, whoa," and they stopped suddenly causing the bag of money to roll from under the seat. He stepped down from the wagon and walked to the tree.
"Just what am I going to do with this?" Phillip thought to himself. He looked down at the ground, kicked rocks and clots of dirt, worried to death, not know just what to do. A bee was swarming around his face. He took off his hat and swatted at it. His balding head was wet with sweat as was his shirt. Looking at the trees, up in the sky and all the surrounding brush and rubble, he slowly crawled back onto the wagon and then he patted the bag of money and said, "All you big ones, you are mine now."
He had his mind made up and he knew what he would do, so he said, "Gitty-up, oh, gitty-up." The mules were on their way home now. He sat straight up and held his head high as if he were a millionaire. He was at that moment, a big millionaire.
He was looking at all the destruction and rubble from the storm as he passed each home place. The Burton home was completely gone; only the hen house was left. He saw little Jim's little red wagon in the pasture. He said to himself, "How lucky we are." Good things to buy were on his mind now. "One of these days I'ma gonna have me a big, big Tobacker farm."
When Phil was nearing home, he began to get nervous. As he turned the team into his place, he went straight to the barn. Hurriedly, pulling the bag out of the wagon he rushed to a stall in the barn, with his foot he raked some straw and manure from beneath a manger. With all the speed he could muster, he then pushed the bag of money under the manger and again with his foot he covered the bag with the same straw and manure that he had just raked out. He had to hurry because the family was all coming out to meet him. A pain, which he thought was indigestion, hit him hard in the chest. He hit himself hard in the chest with his fit, trying to make himself belch, but to no avail.
"Luke, will you take care of the mules? Please?" He asked his young son.
"Yes sir," Luke replied.
Walking back to the house, Jess, being the nosy one asked," Pa, did Mr. James "at that very moment Phillip turned to Jess and pointed his finger at him, he said," don't any of you ask any questions, that goes for you too, Ma. Do you hear me?"
"Yes, Sir," they said as they ran around the house to play ball. When Luke came into the house, he told him the same thing.
As they were walking to the house Jean said, "Did you hear that? The funeral Bell is ringing, what is going on Phil? Who's it for?"
Phil looked into her troubled face, "It's the Morton's he said, they died in the storm. I met the undertaker on my way over to their place."
"Oh, my Lord," she said, those poor people, they were the kindest old folks I know." Then she thought of her husband's trip.
Excerpted from In My Minds Eye by Betty Burden Wood Copyright © 2012 by Betty Burden Wood. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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