The Shiloh Legacy series covers the lives of four young soldiers and their families through these great events: the end of World War I in France, the return of the soldiers to America, the Roaring Twenties, the stock-market crash, the resulting Great Depression, and the rebuilding of lives that must follow. Yet with all the racial, social, and cultural intolerance that marked the day—seemingly immovable mountains in the lives of these characters—God works through the tragedy, the laughter, the pain, the joy, the dramatic, and the ordinary to create a yearning in their hearts for a faith that moves mountains. Tyndale House Publishers
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Say to This Mountain
By Bodie Thoene Brock Thoene
TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC.Copyright © 2006 Bodie Thoene
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTrouble Comin'
The storm arrived in the late evening. A slow drizzle erupted into a torrent that drenched the carpet of fallen leaves beneath the old hickory tree in the yard. Raindrops drummed a rhythm against roofs and windowpanes. A steady stream gushed from the waterspout into an enormous oak rain barrel. Single drops joined company to become rivulets in search of the low places on the rutted roads of Shiloh. The James Fork swelled and tugged at the roots of water oaks. Leaping up, the flood buried the fording place beneath two feet of rushing water.
In the hills, deer took cover in thickets. In pastures, mules and cattle clustered together and stood with drooping heads as water dripped from hides and ears and tails. In farmhouses, families gathered around kitchen tables and looked out from silver windows at the darkness that hid the storm from view. Woodstoves crackled and cast-iron kettles rattled on the burners, while outside the downpour rumbled on.
And then it was over. As suddenly as it had begun, the roar abated and the world became a melody of single sounds again. Water dripping from the eaves. The distant rushing of the James Fork. The bellow of a cow answered by the indignant croak of a bullfrogturned out of his burrow. Voices dropped to a whisper.
Jefferson Canfield stepped from the warmth of the Tucker farmhouse into the cold night. He breathed in the sweet scent of rain-washed air and raised his face toward the sky. The moon was full and bright behind the clouds, yet not a glimmer of silver light showed through. The storm was not yet spent. Soon enough rain would begin again.
Jefferson frowned up toward where the moon should have been and hoped that Birch Tucker would make it back with Doc Brown before then. He thought of the waters of the James Fork streaming across the road down at the ford. Birch had ridden toward Hartford four hours ago, before the full force of the storm hit, and even then the creek had been high. The young mule Birch rode was strong enough to handle the current, but there was no way Doc Brown's old Model T could cross over now.
It was a bad night to need a doctor. A bad night to be out. And Jefferson had seen it coming. He blamed the full moon for all of this.
"Afraid t'show your face," he muttered at the unseen orb. "Done cause all this trouble whilst you stay outta sight. Don't even have the manners t'share a little light with us poor folk down here."
He sighed. There was nothing to be done about it now-and it was going to be a long, cold night. The cookstove and the parlor stove needed a heap more wood, and Jefferson welcomed the chance to get out of the house and feel useful for a while.
Placing the lantern on the top step, he retrieved the ax and half a dozen dry oak rounds from beneath the porch. He took his time with the chore. Breaking each round with a slow, deliberate rhythm, he tried not to think of what was happening inside the house. He set his mind on praying-holding back the storm and breaking up the clouds until Birch and Doc Brown could get through. What with chopping stove wood and such earnest prayers, he raised a sweat in spite of the cold. Somehow it felt better than sitting around, waiting for something to happen.
Truth to tell, he sensed that Trudy Tucker wanted him out of the house. All evening she had been coming in and out of the kitchen, where he was playing checkers with the young'uns. She walked around him and never said a word unless Jeff asked. And her answer was always the same, until finally she glared at him and told him to go on outside and make himself useful.
This was useful. Well, at least it was something. Overzealous in his work, Jeff chopped the wood into thin slivers that grew in a heap beside the door. A few drops of rain fell to mingle with beads of perspiration and course down the ravines and crevasses of Jeff's battered face. When would the rain start again?
He imagined Birch and Doc Brown stuck on the far side of the crossing. If the creek rose any higher, there would be no hope of fording, no matter how good that mule was. And it was dark. Had Birch or Doc thought to bring a lantern?
This question stopped the ax midswing. Jefferson peered at the block, then at the pile that was more kindling than stove wood. It was enough wood for ten cold nights and several hungry stoves.
Tossing the ax back under the porch, he took the steps in one stride and stuck his head into the house. He almost called out for Trudy but then remembered what was going on and lowered his voice to a loud whisper directed at the closed bedroom door. "Miz Trudy?"
Silence. The door remained shut.
No answer. He heard the creak of the rocking chair; then Trudy opened the bedroom door and glared at him.
"You are half in and half out, Jeff. Come in or stay out, but close that front door before you let the night air in."
Jeff stepped into the house and closed the door quickly behind him. Womenfolk had a way of making a man feel like a schoolboy sometimes. Miz Trudy was a pretty woman, tall and chestnut-haired and elegant like a city gal. She was mostly soft-spoken, but when her brown eyes flashed like this, her husband and her young'uns and Jefferson all snapped to attention.
"Yes'm." Jeff lowered his eyes to the floor and hooked his thumb in the strap of his bib overalls. His six-foot-five-inch frame made the parlor seem small. Compared to outside, the house felt like a furnace. He wiped his forehead on his sleeve. "Sure is hot in here. I done chopped enough wood t'get the Rock Island engine all the way t'Kansas City an' back." He thought it would have been all right to keep the front door open awhile longer. Cool the place off a bit.
"Well, don't leave the door hanging wide open when you carry wood in."
"Yes'm." He frowned. "I was thinkin' ... don't know if Birch took a lantern. Him and Doc Brown most likely goin' t'need a light down at the crossin' the way things is t'night. Figger if y'all don't need me, I'll go down there ... since Tommy and Bobby and baby Joe is all tucked in now."
Trudy managed a smile. "You have filled the hot-water reservoir twice and chopped more wood than we'll use all winter." She nodded, and her expression became gentle. Sympathetic. "Men are mostly of no use at a time like this."
"My mama used t'say the same thing. Me an' my pa used t'go on down t'the barn an' wait it out. But seein' as how y'all got no barn after that twister ..." He shrugged. "Ain't gonna need me while I'm gone, are you?"
"Wear your coat, Jeff. You'll take a chill and give Doc Brown more than he bargained for."
"Lily all right in there?" He shuddered and looked past Trudy toward the soft light of the kerosene lamp on the bureau.
"We'll all be better when Doc Brown gets here. Pray the rain holds off awhile."
He nodded and took his heavy brown-canvas coat from the hook. "I'll take me a rope, too. In case the crossin' is overflooded. You tell Lily I'll get the doc here quick as I can do it."
The weary voice of Lily floated out from the room. "Miz True don't need t'tell me nothin'. I ain't gone deaf. Jus' git on now. Make me nervous t'have you pacin' an' choppin' an' frettin'."
Trudy shrugged and grinned and gave Jefferson a small wave as he scurried out of the house, careful not to open the door too wide.
* * * The bedroom was lit by a kerosene lamp placed in front of the mirror on top of the chest of drawers. The reflection gave a single flame the brightness of two lamps with half the use of kerosene. The shade was pulled, and new blue-checked curtains had been drawn over the tall, narrow window as insulation against the cold. The wainscoting was freshly painted white, and all but one of the walls were covered by wallpaper displaying bunches of tiny blue flowers.
The fourth wall was only half finished. Lines of white plaster covered the exposed surface like a road map. Rolls of unused wallpaper lay in a heap beside a stepladder, buckets, brushes, and tools.
The white-iron bed in which Lily lay was shoved against the opposite wall, and she was covered by the flower-garden quilt that Jefferson had given to her. Curled up on her side, Lily seemed as small as a child to Trudy, who placed a hot towel against her back as another contraction gripped, tightened, clamped, and eased away.
"There now," Trudy soothed. She glanced at the large face of the alarm clock beside the lamp. The pains were fewer than three minutes apart and strong. Where was Birch? the doctor? Jefferson? It was now six hours since Birch rode out for Hartford. Two hours since Jefferson left. Why were they not back?
Lily drew a deep breath of relief at the momentary reprieve from pain. "You shore is good t'me, Miz True," she whispered. "Ain't no woman ever had a young'un in such a perty room as this. I keep lookin' at them flowers on this here wall. Pertiest walls I ever seen. Too bad we didn't finish that there wall afore this young'un figgered it be time t'come out."
The very thing Trudy had been feeling guilty about. She had let Lily do the washing and then asked her to help hang the paper. They had been almost done when Lily's water broke. "I let you work too hard, Lily."
"Ain't nothin' ... washin' ... hangin' paper ain't nothin'. Y'all treats me like a queen, Miz True. Last baby I borned done got borned in a tent on the side of a cotton field. I done picked me a sack of cotton on that day. Poor lil' thing look at this hard ol' worl' an' jus' go on back t'Jesus, I reckon. Now this young'un-" the vise of a contraction began again and she gave a small gasp-"this ... gonna ... see blue posies ... Jeff's mama's quilt ... gonna want t'live."
Trudy grimaced in empathy as Lily's words gave way to the quick panting breath of labor. She replaced the towel on Lily's back with a hot one from the kettle and put her hand on the rock-hard abdomen. It would not be long now. What was keeping those men? She was at once angry at their delay, worried that there had been an accident, and terrified that she would be left to deliver this baby alone.
Lily made no sound, although this was the strongest contraction yet.
It was Trudy who made a little moan and then said in a pained voice, "Oh, Lily, you deserve better."
Seconds passed like hours as the rain ticked against the window and the clock clanked like a bird pecking against a tin can. Then there came a big sigh of relief from Lily and from Trudy, too.
"Won' be long, Miz True," Lily croaked.
"The doctor will be here soon."
"If he ain't here-"
"Hold on, Lily. They cannot be much longer."
"Young'uns comes when they wants. Don't be scared none. Ain't so much t'birthin' a young'un, Miz True."
Trudy put a hand to her forehead in dismay. Not much? Trudy had delivered all three of her boys in a hospital and under a doctor's care. All sorts of fuss about it. And Trudy herself had been such a baby about it all. Thought she was going to die. The only thing she remembered of any use to poor Lily was the fact that it had felt good when the nurses put hot towels on her back and stomach.
Now here was Lily. No hospital. No electricity. No doctor-not even a nurse. A howling gale outside and Trudy feeling as if she wanted to howl inside. This was no good. In the modern world of 1929, was such a thing possible?
"Lily. Hold back." Trudy tried not to let her terror show in her tone of voice.
"Knowed it be comin' t'night. Big ol' moon. My mama say when the moon be full-" Again the gasp. The panting breath. Two and a half minutes since the last one!
* * *
The long, shrill wail of the locomotive whistle echoed across the moonlit hills of the countryside.
It was a lonely sound, answered only by the silence of the night as the train slipped away. Max Meyer gazed out from the unlit Pullman compartment and wondered what the passing world beyond would look like in daylight. The leaves would have turned to scarlet and gold by now. Crops would be harvested. Hay gathered into big red barns. A white church steeple would tower through the autumn colors. Narrow lanes would crisscross the hills, leading from one neighbor's home to another. Come morning, the washing would be done and hung on lines to dry and soak up the sweet smells of November. There would be stock to feed and stumps to pull and children to get off to school.
The light from a distant farmhouse caught his eye. Like a bright star, it gleamed to mark the spot that some man's heart called center of the universe. Home! A warm, familiar beacon for someone else.
But for Max tonight, the light was simply a reminder of everything he had missed.
Just as surely as if he had spent his years traveling through one long, lonely night, Max had never seen the colors of his own autumn. Never slept on sheets stiff from drying in a country breeze. Never rejoiced in hearing sons call to one another across a field. Never looked at a distant light and called that light home.
And yet he knew about all these sweet things. He brushed the open letter beside him and reached across to touch the small hand of his sleeping son. Here was his light. Here, the center of his universe! This boy-his boy-had suddenly become the beacon calling his heart home.
Max had spent his lifetime in the skyscraper canyons of Manhattan-a shadowed, sunless world of blaring horns and rattling jackhammers. All this time he had been trying to be somebody, trying to make his mark on the world. Tonight he knew that the only worthwhile thing he had ever done had something to do with this kid asleep in the berth across from him.
How different their lives might have been if he had married Irene. If he had held their baby in his arms and known all the things he knew now. Nothing in all the world was worth the heartbeat of this one sleeping child!
"David," he whispered, as though the name were a city and a street and a house with a warm fire inside and food on the table.
The boy stirred. Small fingers moved like a bird beneath the warmth of Max's big hand and then grew still. "Mama?"
"No, Davey. It's me. Dad ... Max."
Silence. A long, contented sigh, and then the boy's fist opened and grasped Max's forefinger as though to pull him along into some pleasant dream. "Where are we, Dad?"
"Will we be in Shiloh soon? With Trudy and ..."
"A while yet." Max did not want to break the spell of color and warmth that David's touch brought to him.
"Will you wake me then?"
"Yes. Go back to sleep now, Son."
Son! Speaking that one word was like suddenly understanding a new language. Max sat, unmoving, as the gentle clacking of the train on the track lulled the boy back to sleep. He did not pull his hand away but felt the pulse of David's heart beating through his fingers. A fragile thing, this heartbeat-and there were plenty of people back in New York who would like to stop it. Max knew they were far from safe even now. He had spotted what he imagined to be FBI men standing on the platforms of half a dozen train stations. Boss Quinn's gangsters could not be far behind. A New York Jew, a blond boy, and an enormous dog named Codfish would be easy quarry if the scent was ever picked up.
Max reached down to touch the head of the black Newfoundland sleeping at his feet. No one who saw Codfish failed to comment. The dog stood out like a circus bear on a leash. His huge size and great lumbering gait made heads turn to look when Max wanted only to be invisible ... to melt into the crowd. Max imagined Boss Quinn's goons asking the conductors of every train, "You seen a man and a kid with a big black dog?" Codfish would not be quickly forgotten.
Codfish raised his head at the touch of Max's hand and then, with a contented sigh, let it fall back across Max's feet.
"What am I going to do with you, you stinking mutt?" Max whispered.
Codfish licked his chops, sighed again, and thumped his tail against the compartment door. The loyal dog had been David's friend, bodyguard, and salvation. But now the animal's presence was a danger.
Max paid the porter extra to walk Codfish. Never at layovers in larger cities. Only at the smallest, most obscure whistle-stops. "If anybody asks," he had instructed the porter, "tell 'em the mutt belongs to an old lady, okay?"
Excerpted from Say to This Mountain by Bodie Thoene Brock Thoene Copyright © 2006 by Bodie Thoene. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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I first read the Shiloh Series when I was a junior in college. I read it a second time with my husband 6 years later and it is still an incredible reading experience! I would recommend all three books to every one I know. Even those who don't love to read will love these books!