Carolyn Reeder is an avid history buff with a longtime interest in the civil war. Her other historical novels for young people include Grandpa's Mountain, Moonshiner's Son, Across the Lines, and the award-winning Shades of Gray, which was an ALA Notable Book and winner of the 1990 Scott O'Dell Award, the Child Study Association Award, and the Jefferson Cup Award, among other honors.
Read an Excerpt
From the back seat of Grandpa's old Dodge, Carrie watched the green folds of the mountain ridges come closer and Closer, until she was almost caught up in them. Pressing her face against the window, she watched eagerly for the summer's first glimpse of her grandparents' home. She held her breath as the car rounded the last hairpin curve and the white, two-story farmhouse came into sight.
It was just as she'd remembered it, with pots of red geraniums lining the wide front porch and hollyhocks blooming along the picket fence. And off to the right stood Grandpa's small general store with two gasoline pumps in front and Grandma's lunchroom beside it.
As soon as the car stopped, Carrie hurried to the yard, where Sport raced along the fence, wagging his long plume of a tail and barking frantically. Inside the gate she dropped to her knees and hugged the big black dog. "You didn't forget me, did you, boy?" she said, scratching his floppy ears while he tried to lick her face.
"I do believe that old dog's almost as glad to see you as we are!" Grandpa declared as he carried her suitcase to the house. Carrie's eyes followed his stocky figure, lingering on his thick shock of white hair.
Grandma paused to smile at Carrie on her way inside, and Carrie inhaled the faint lilac scent that always seemed to surround her grandmother's compact form. "We'll have an early supper," Grandma said, brushing back a strand of graying brown hair. "I know you're hungry after your train ride from the city."
Carrie gave Sport one last pat and got to her feet. "I'll help you," she said.
Grandma shook her head. "Go unpack and get yourself settled. You can help with the clearing upafter supper. "
Helping Grandma and Grandpa was one of the things Carrie liked best about summers in the mountains-it made her feel important and grown-up. When she tried to help at home, Mama always said, "Go on and play, Carrie. You'll have more than enough work in your lifetime." Her friends envied her because she didn't have chores to do, but Carrie felt useless and a little bit embarrassed.
Carrie followed Grandma inside. It was pleasantly cool; tall trees shaded the house, and a breeze stirred the white lace curtains. She climbed the stairs to her room and buried her face in the pink peonies on the bureau, breathing in their delicate fragrance. Glancing at her reflection as she turned away, Carrie hoped the summer sun would soon lighten her "dishwater blond" hair and give her pale skin a touch of color.
Quickly, she unpacked and took off her shoes. The wide boards of the floor were cool under her feet, their polished surface a contrast to the roughness of the rag rug. Pulling aside the curtain at the back window, she let her eyes rove from the weathered buildings behind the house to the garden with its neat green rows and then to the orchard beyond it. She couldn't see the pasture a neighbor rented from Grandpa, but she could hear the cattle lowing there.
It was just the way Carrie always thought of it when she lost herself in summer memories to escape the topsyturvy changes in her life at home. Nothing ever seemed to change here in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. She loved the way summers with her grandparents were always the same--carefree days divided between helping Grandma and visiting with Kate and Luanne, her friends who lived up the road. And Sunday afternoons spent with her cousin Amanda. She could hardly wait to see Amanda again!
"I wish I could live here in the country all year," Carrie said, buttering one of Grandma's freshly baked biscuits.
"Oh, now, Carrie! Think how much you'd miss your Mama and Daddy!" Grandma said. Her gray eyes looked shocked.
But Grandpa agreed. "Right here on this mountain is the best possible place to live," he said emphatically. "I was born here and I intend to die here," he continued, accepting a second serving of fried chicken. "We work hard, and we don't owe anything. No matter what happens in this Depression, we'll be fine."
"Now, Claude, I'm sure Carrie doesn't want to talk about the Depression," Grandma said.
Carrie stared down at her plate. She didn't even want to think about it. She wanted to forget the months and months her father had been out Of work, and how quickly the hopeful took left Mama's face each evening when he came home and sank listlessly into his chair, mumbling, "Nothing today, either." She wanted to forget how they'd had to move to an even smaller apartment, and how hard it had been to change schools in the middle of the year and to make friends in the new neighborhood. She even wanted to forget what life at home was like now that Daddy finally had found a job. He worked at night and needed to sleep during the day, so she had to remember to tiptoe and whisper, and her friends couldn't visit anymore. Worst of all, she saw Daddy only at suppertime, and the evenings alone with Mama seemed so long and dreary....
Grandpa's voice brought her back to the present. "No, Sarah, I think it's important for Carrie to know that we're safe from the Depression here. We can't lose our house or the store, because there's no mortgage on either one of them. And we'll always have plenty to eat because of the garden and your flock of chickens. The future looks pretty good to me."
"To me, too," Carrie said, thinking of the long, peaceful summer stretching before her.
The next morning Carrie woke to the sound of Grandma's roosters crowing and the smell of bacon frying. She rolled out of bed, slipped into her clothes, and ran a comb through her short curls before hurrying down to the kitchen.
"Good morning, Sunshine!" Grandma said, flipping a pancake. "And what are you going to do today?"
"Everything!" Carrie said, beaming with pleasure at the sound of the pet name her grandparents had given her years before. "I'm going to do everything I always do here. First, I'll help you bake pies for the lunchroom, and then...
Grandpa's Mountain. Copyright © by Carolyn Reeder. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.