Christy Huddleston's dream was to teach the poor mountain children. In Cutter Gap, she meets the doctor who needs her help to save a life, and the handsome minister who helps her face the challenges of teachingand lovingthe mountain people. But she never imagined that her first journey into the heart of the Smoky Mountains would bring danger into the lives of one mountain family.
About the Author
Catherine Marshall, New York Times best-selling author of thirty books, is best known for her novel Christy. Based on the life of her mother, a teacher of mountain children in poverty-stricken Tennessee, Christy captured the hearts of millions and became apopular CBS television series. As her mother reminisced around the kitchen table at Evergreen Farm, Catherine probed for details and insights into the rugged lives of these Appalachian highlanders.A beloved inspirational writer and speaker, Catherine's enduring career spanned four decades and six continents, and reached over 30 million readers.
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It was her worst nightmare come true. She couldn't cross. She couldn't cross the bridge, not if her very life depended on it.
Christy Huddleston managed a grim smile. Bridge? It was not a bridge at all, just two huge, uneven logs with a few thin boards nailed across them here and there. A deadly layer of ice coated the logs and boards. Far below, frigid water swirled past and around and over jagged chunks of ice and razor-sharp rocks.
Christy took a step closer to the bridge. The whole contraption swayed in the biting wind. Her stomach swirled and bucked. She had never liked heights, but this ... this was impossible.
She looked across to her guide, Ben Pentland, on the other side of the swollen creek. The mailman gazed at her doubtfully. He'd told her she wouldn't be able to make this seven-mile journey through rough, snowy terrain. "Too hard a walk for a city gal," he'd said. And now she wondered if he'd been right.
"Stomp your feet," Mr. Pentland called. "Get 'em warm. Then come on — but first scrape your boots, then hike up your skirts."
Christy hesitated. She could no longer feel her toes inside her rubber boots. Her long skirts, wet almost to her knees, were half frozen.
Mr. Pentland shook his head. "Can't get to where you're goin' without crossin' this bridge."
His words hung in the brittle air. Not for the first time that day, Christy wondered if she'd made a terrible mistake coming to this place. What was she doing here, deep in the Tennessee mountains in the middle of winter, heading off to a world she'd never seen before? Teaching school to poor mountain children had seemed like a fine idea in the cozy warmth of her home back in Asheville, North Carolina. But now ...
She fingered the locket her father had given her before she'd left Asheville. Inside was a little picture of her parents and one of Christy and her brother, George. No one in her family had understood why she'd felt she had to come to this wild and lonely place to teach at a mission school.
And now, she wasn't so sure herself.
"Guess you ain't crossed a bridge like this before," said Mr. Pentland.
"No," Christy agreed, forcing an unsteady smile.
She took a deep breath, then put one foot on a log. It swayed a little. Her boot sent a piece of bark flying. She watched as it twirled down, falling a dozen feet to the water. The water snatched at the bit of wood and sped it away.
Another step and she was on the bridge. The sound of the water became a roar in her ears. There was no turning back now.
"You're doin' fine," came Mr. Pentland's soothing voice. "Keep a- comin'. Not far now."
Not far now? It seemed he was a hundred miles away, safe on the far side.
The logs swayed and tilted. Christy stared at her feet as she struggled with her heavy, wet dress. Another step. Another. With great effort, she forced herself to look at Mr. Pentland.
She was halfway there. She was going to make it.
Another step, and another. The far side was —
Her boot slid on a crosspiece. She clutched at empty air for support that was not there, slipped, and landed hard on her knees. She clung as best she could to the icy log.
Mr. Pentland was shouting something and coming out to her. She crawled another few inches toward him.
Why am I here, risking my life to get to a place I've never seen? some sensible part of herself kept asking. Why is teaching so important to me? Had it only been yesterday that she'd stepped aboard the train to Tennessee, so confident and full of hope? Christy's mind raced as she slowly crawled toward Mr. Pentland.
Her right knee hit a slick spot on the log, and her weight shifted. Slowly — terrifyingly slowly — she slid over the side of the bridge.
"No!" she cried. She clawed for support, but her fingers lost their grip. She was falling, falling, toward the icy creek below. The roar of the water and the sound of her own screams filled her ears, and as she fell she wondered why she had to die now, die here — when she was trying to do something so good.
As the icy waters rushed over her, the events of the last two days flashed across Christy's mind. Was this the way it would end?CHAPTER 2
One day earlier
"Now, you watch your step going out to the car. With all that snow last night, the walk's bound to be icy." Mrs. Huddleston fussed with the bow of her crisp white apron. Tears glistened in her eyes.
Christy took a deep breath to keep herself from crying too. The look of love and longing in her mother's eyes was hard to bear. "I'll be careful," she promised.
Slowly, Christy took in the smells and sights around her, all the things she was leaving behind for who knew how long. The smell of starch in her mother's apron, the hissing of the pine resin in the big iron stove in the kitchen, and the sleepy half smile on George's face. Her brother had stumbled out of bed just in time to see Christy off.
"We have to go," Mr. Huddleston repeated from the doorway. "The engine's running. I had a time cranking the car in this cold."
Mrs. Huddleston took Christy's hands in her own. "You're sure about this?" she whispered.
"Positive," Christy said.
"Promise me you'll take care of yourself."
"I promise. Really I do."
After a flurry of hugs and kisses, Christy settled at last into the front seat of the car. Her father drove silently, intent on navigating the icy roads. Asheville was a hilly town, and driving took all his concentration as he made his way in the predawn gloom to the railroad station.
In the gray light, the station had a ghostly look. Black smoke billowed from the engine smokestack as Mr. Huddleston parked and they climbed out. The slamming of the car doors seemed unnaturally loud and final.
Christy began the walk to the train, keeping pace beside her father. She tensed, waiting for what she knew would come. She'd battled long and hard with her parents for the chance to leave home like this. At nineteen, they considered her far too young to be going off alone on a wild adventure like teaching school in the Tennessee mountains. She'd told them that she was grown-up now. That this was, after all, 1912, and that women could take advantage of all kinds of exciting opportunities. Her life in Asheville was nothing but teas and receptions and ladies' polite talk, dance parties, and picnics in the summer. A good enough life, certainly. But she knew in her heart that there had to be more than that waiting for her somewhere. All she had to do was find it.
Her parents had argued with her, pleaded, bargained. But Christy was stubborn, like all the Huddlestons, and this time she was the one who'd gotten her way. She'd been thrilled at her victory too — that is, until now, looking at her father's worried, gentle face, and his too gray hair.
"My hand's cold," she said suddenly, sticking her fingers into the pocket of his overcoat. It was a childish gesture, but her father understood. He paused, smiling at her sadly.
"Girlie," he said, using his favorite nickname for her, "do you really think you have enough money to get you through till payday?" His breath frosted in the crisp January air.
"Twenty-five dollars a month isn't going to go far."
"It'll be good for me," Christy said lightly. "For the first time in my life, I probably won't have the chance to shop."
Reaching into his other pocket, Mr. Huddleston retrieved a small package. It was wrapped in blue paper and tied with a satin bow.
"Father!" Christy exclaimed. "For me?"
"It's nothing, really," he said, clearing his throat. "From your mother and me."
Christy fumbled with the wrapping. Inside sat a black velvet-covered box. She opened it to discover a heart-shaped silver locket.
"Great-grandmother's necklace!" Christy cried.
"Go ahead," her father said. "Open it."
With trembling fingers, Christy opened the tiny engraved heart. Inside were two pictures. One was a carefully posed photograph of her parents: her mother with a gentle smile, her father gazing sternly at the camera with just a hint of a smile in the creases of his eyes. On the other side was a picture of Christy and her brother, taken last summer at their church retreat.
"That's so you won't forget us," her father said with a wink.
"Oh, Father," Christy said, wiping away a tear, "as if I ever could!"
Her father helped her put on the necklace, then led her to the steps of the train. She climbed aboard and gazed with interest at the brass spittoons, at the potbellied stove in the rear, at the faces of the other passengers. It was only a few hours to El Pano, the stop nearest to Christy's new job, but it felt as if she were about to embark on a journey around the world. She had taken train trips before, of course, but never alone. This time everything seemed new, perhaps because she was going away without knowing when she would return.
Christy sank down onto a scratchy red-plush seat and smiled up at her father, who had followed her on board. He placed her suitcase on the floor beside her. The whistle blew shrilly.
"Don't forget now," her father said. "Soon as you get there, write us." He gave her an awkward hug, and then he was gone. Out on the platform, Christy saw him talking to the old conductor. Mr. Huddleston pointed in her direction, and Christy sighed. She knew what he was saying: "Take good care of my girl." It was embarrassing. After all, if she was old enough to go off on this adventure, she was old enough to take care of herself on the train. And the train was going to be the easy part of this trip.
"All a-boarrrd!" the conductor called. The engine wheezed. Chuff ... chuff ... chuff. The train jerked forward, and a moment later the telephone poles outside began sliding past. Before long, the conductor was making his way down the aisle, gathering tickets.
Please, Christy thought desperately, don't humiliate me in front of the other passengers. I'm a big girl. I can take care of myself.
"Ticket, please," came the old man's voice. "You're Christy Huddleston, aren't you?"
Christy nodded, trying her best to seem like a dignified adult.
"I'm Javis MacDonald. I've known your father a long time," the conductor said as he punched her ticket. "So you're bound for El Pano, young lady. I understand you'll be teaching school there?"
"No, actually I'll be teaching in Cutter Gap," Christy corrected. "It's a few miles out of El Pano."
Mr. MacDonald rubbed his whiskers. His expression grew troubled. "That Cutter Gap is rough country," he said. "Last week during a turkey- shooting match, one man got tired of shooting turkeys. Shot another man in the back instead."
Christy felt a shiver skate down her spine, but she kept the same even smile on her face. Is Cutter Gap really such a dangerous place?
The conductor gazed at Christy with the same worried look she'd seen on her parents' faces this morning. "I suppose I shouldn't be telling you that sort of thing. But you'll be seeing it for yourself soon enough. It's a hard place, Cutter Gap."
"I'm sure I'll be fine," Christy said.
"If you were my daughter, I'd send you home on the first train back. That's no place for a girl like you."
A girl like me, Christy thought, her cheeks blazing. What did that mean anyway? What kind of girl was she? Maybe that was why she'd started on this trip: to find out who she was and where her place was in the world.
As the conductor moved on, she opened her locket. The sight of her parents brought tears to her eyes. George gazed back at her with his usual I'm-about-to-cause-trouble grin. But it was her own picture that caught her attention. The slender, almost girlish figure and the blue eyes beneath piled-up dark hair.
What was it in her eyes? A question? A glimmer of understanding? Of hope? Of searching?
That picture had been taken at the end of the church retreat last summer. By then, she'd decided that she had to go to Cutter Gap. The answers to her questions lay somewhere in the Great Smoky Mountains.
It seemed strange that she'd found a clue about where her life might go from a perfect stranger rather than from her own family or her church back in Asheville. But the elderly little man who'd spoken to the retreat group with such passion had reached her in a way no one else ever had. Dr. Ferrand was a medical doctor doing mission work in the Great Smokies. He'd spoken of the need for volunteers to help teach and care for the mountain people — or highlanders, as he'd called them. He'd talked of desperate poverty and ignorance. He'd told the story of a boy, Rob Allen, who wanted book learning so much that he walked to school barefoot through six-foot snow.
Listening to his moving words, Christy had glanced down at her pointed, buttoned shoes with their black, patent-leather tops — the shoes she'd bought just the week before. Thinking of the barefoot boy, she'd felt a shudder of guilt. She had known there was poverty in places like Africa and China, but was it possible that such awful conditions existed a train's ride away from her home town?
Dr. Ferrand went on to talk about someone who shared his passion to help the mountain people: Miss Alice Henderson, a Quaker from Ardmore, Pennsylvania, and a new breed of woman who had braved hardship and danger to serve where she saw need.
I would like to know that woman, Christy thought. I would like to live my life that way.
By the time they sang the closing hymn, "Just As I Am," Christy felt herself coming to a very important decision. Her heart welled up so full she could hardly sing the words.
When the benediction was over, she made her way down the aisle to Dr. Ferrand. "You asked for volunteers," Christy said. "You're looking at one. I can teach anywhere you want to use me." She was not the most well-educated girl in the world, but she knew she could teach children to read.
A long silence fell. The little man gazed at her doubtfully. "Are you sure, my child?"
And so it was done. There had been plenty of arguments with her parents. But for the first time in her life, Christy Rudd Huddleston had felt certain she was about to take the world by storm. Even her parents' disapproval couldn't change her mind. After all, she'd told herself, throughout history the many men and women who had accomplished great things must have had to shrug off other people's opinions too.
Suddenly the train screeched to a halt. The conductor's gruff voice broke into Christy's thoughts. "A snowdrift has flung two big rocks onto the roadbed, folks," he said. "There's a train crew comin' to clear the tracks. Shouldn't take long."
At the rear of the coach, the potbellied stove was smoking. Across the aisle, a woman was changing the diaper of her red-faced and squalling baby.
A little fresh air couldn't hurt, Christy thought. She buttoned her coat, reached for her muff, and headed outside. Snowflakes as big as goose feathers were still falling. As far as she looked, she could see nothing but mountain peak piled upon mountain peak. It was a lonely landscape — lonelier still when the wind rose suddenly, making a sad, sobbing sound. It was a wind with pain in it.
Christy shivered. Was she going to be homesick even before she reached her destination?
She returned to the coach. A long time passed before the train once again chugged slowly toward its destination. Outside, as the sun sank, the world glittered with ice, turning every bush and withered blade of grass to jewels — sapphires and turquoise, emeralds and rubies and diamonds.
Darkness came suddenly as, for what seemed like the thousandth time, Christy imagined her welcome at the train station. Someone would, of course, be sent to meet her — a welcoming committee of some kind.
"Miss Huddleston?" they would ask. "Are you the new teacher for the mission?" They would look her over, and their eyes would say, "We were expecting a young girl, but you're a grown woman!"
At last the train began to slow and Mr. MacDonald announced they were coming into El Pano. As he lighted the railroad lanterns on the floor in front of the coach, the engine's wheels ground to a stop. Christy reached for her muff and suitcase and started down the aisle. She was certain she could hear the nervous beating of her own heart.
"Let me help you with that suitcase," the conductor said. "Easy on those steps. They may be slippery."
Christy stepped down to the ground. Her eyes searched the dark. There wasn't much to see — just the tiny station and four or five houses. Where was the welcoming committee she'd imagined?
A few men came out of the little station and began to unload boxes from a baggage cart. Now and then they paused to stare at Christy, muttering and laughing under their breath.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Bridge to Cutter Gap"
Copyright © 1995 Marshall-LeSourd, LLC.
Excerpted by permission of Gilead Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Is this the original novel? I want to get it for my nook but I cant seem to find the original.
A book by author Catherine Marshall for middle grade and above, a story set in the Tennessee Mountains, a proud people, although poor, wanted an education for their children. A journey, from an upscale life to the unknown, and we see through her eyes the beauty of this area, and meet these humble people first hand, and are with her as she begins her teaching career. I love that there is a choice for a Christian read for our children, and this book is a glimpse back in history. I received this book through Net Galley and the Publisher Gilead, and was not required to give a positive review.
I love Catherine Marshall’s books. This one is based on the life of a teacher of mountain children in an impoverished community in Tennessee. In this book Christy crosses the bridge from familiar city life to the intriguing world of Cutter Gap. It is filled with the adversity and faith of the people of Cutter Gap. It is a story about determination, tenacity, adventure, emotion and romance. I want to thank Netgalley for my ARC of this book. This is my true and honest opinion.
I love the movie and book!!
Christy is the name of the original book. A man called peter was the name of the book that told about christys daughter catherine. All of catheriines books are good reads.