The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Here For A Purpose

By Jess Wilbanks © 1991

Issue: May, 1991

Old Minnie sneezed, and her brother, Jimmie said, "bless you," as she poked at the fire in the small grate. She put in two lumps of coal.

"I hope that rain out there don't turn to snow." Minnie said, "I feel like I'm coming down with something."

"You sound like it too," Jimmy said. "And the man on TV is calling for freezing rain and snow tonight."

"It's this disgusting little grate. I wish we had it ripped out, and our fireplace back. Then, we could throw on a couple of good oak logs and sit back and have a fire." she said.

"Well, it was Elijah's idea to brick up the fireplace, and put in that grate; it wasn't mine," Jimmie said. "Elijah was willing to do about anything to get out of cutting firewood."

"If I remember right, you was just as much for it as he was," Minnie said. "I remember Popa always cut wood in the summertime and stacked it in the woodshed; then, no one had to get out in the cold and cut a little dab at a time all winter like you and Elijah always did."

"Well, if you hadn't of been afraid of it, we'd of had that butane gas." Jimmie said. "Then we wouldn't of had nothing to worry about; we could just light it and forget it."

"I'd rather smell coal smoke and freeze than to be blown up or die of asphyxiation while I was asleep," Minnie said. "But when I'm gone, you can do as you please, and I ain't apt to be around much longer."

"Ah, you'll live to be a hundred at least," Jimmie said.

"Well I ain't got far to go," Minnie said. "If I live to see January third, I'll be ninety years old."

"I'd better bring in another scuttle of coal before it starts to freeze," Jimmie said as he went out the door.

Minnie went to the kitchen and started supper. She had heard some preacher say that everybody was put on Earth for a purpose. She wondered if her purpose was to cook and take care of her two brothers; that was all she had ever done. Then, she wondered if taking care of them was her purpose, then what was their purpose? She was the oldest of the three; Elijah was the youngest, and he died first. She couldn't think of anything he ever did that was useful to anyone but himself, and the same went for Jimmie.

Their parents had left them everything they needed to survive; they had money, a home and a good farm, and for the past forty years, the three of them had just sat there and thought of nothing more than their own survival. Jimmie and Elijah kept a couple of cows and raised a few pigs and chickens; also they farmed a little, but they didn't produce anything to sell. Everything was for their own needs and pleasures. Everything she ever did was for herself or her brothers; she never went anyplace and Jimmie never went to town except when he had to go on business, such as to pay taxes.

No one had ever asked Minnie to marry, and as far as she knew, Jimmie or Elijah had never been interested in women at all. The three of them did nothing more than their chores, they ate, they slept and watched TV.

After supper, Minnie was still sneezing.

"You'd better take something for that," Jimmie said. "Make you up some ginger tea, and put some whiskey in it."

"I'll be all right," she said. She went to bed early.

Jimmie watched TV until late. Just before he turned it off, he heard a car pass; it seemed to be having some difficulty on the slick icy road. He looked out the window and should have seen the tail lights as it went over the hill out of sight, but he didn't ever see it top the hill. When he turned the TV off, he went out on the porch and he could see some light shining up in the trees along the road at the foot of the hill. He didn't understand at first what the light was from; then he thought he heard a woman scream from that direction. Then he thought maybe not. When he went back in the house, Minnie was up. She was still sneezing, and she was starting to cough.

"What's that matter?" Minnie asked. "Why are you standing out there with the door open?"

"I believe a car has slipped off the road out there at the foot of the hill," he said. I can see lights shining up into the trees and I thought I heard a woman scream."

"Well, do you aim to just go to bed and forget about it?" Minnie asked.

"What can I do?" Jimmie asked. "It ain't my fault if someone's stupid enough to get out on a night like this. Everything's froze over out there."

"And you heard a woman scream?" Minnie asked. "What kind of man are you?" Minnie started getting dressed.

"What are you aiming to do?" Jimmie asked.

"I aim to walk out there and see if I can help those people. They may be hurt." she said.

"All right, I'll go see about them," Jimmie said. "You ain't able to go out in this kind of weather."

Jimmie put on his raincoat and overshoes and went slipping and sliding down toward the road. In a few minutes, he was back.

"There's a car turned bottom up in the ditch out there. I think the man who was driving is dead, and there's a woman in there having a baby. I tried to talk to her but she made no sense. I think she must be hurt really bad; 'God save my baby' is all I understood," Jimmie said. "Maybe we can call someone for help."

"No, we can't. I've already tried. The phone's not working; the ice has probably broke the line somewhere. We've got to get that woman out of there." Minnie said, as she started out the door. "Bring a shovel and a crowbar or something to pry with. We'll dig her out of there someway."

When they got there Minnie crawled under the front of the car far enough that she could touch the windshield.

"With some digging, we can crawl under there and bust out the windshield; then I can crawl into the car," Minnie said. She heard no sounds of life from inside the car.

Minnie held the flashlight and Jimmie got on his knees and dug out an opening in the bottom of the ditch and broke out the windshield. Minnie crawled inside; she found the woman alive but she was unconscious. She was hurt and she was pinned in. Minnie couldn't pull her free. The baby had started to come. Minnie could tell that it was alive.

Minnie was almost ninety years old but she had never had a baby nor had she ever helped to deliver one. She faintly remembered when her mother had Jimmie and Elijah. All she could remember was holding her mother's hand. That happened almost eighty years ago; however she knew something had to be done right away, and there was no one but her to do it. Minnie knew the woman was dying from the injuries she received in the wreck, but the baby was still alive. So she just followed her instincts and did the best she could.

In a few minutes, Jimmie heard a baby cry. A little later, Minnie handed the baby out to Jimmie. He held it until she crawled out from under the car. When they were back at the house, Minnie sent Jimmie to the barn to milk some fresh warm milk for the child.

The next day the baby's grandmother came for it and the doctor said it was a healthy child. Minnie had pneumonia and was very sick. After the grandmother took the baby home, Minnie said a prayer.

"Dear Lord," she began. "You nearly messed up and waited too long, and I almost lost faith; however, if to save that beautiful baby's life was my purpose on this Earth, then the almost ninety years of waiting was well worth it and I'd like to thank you. I now have been useful and the child will grow up and I'm sure do many useful deeds which it could not have done without me. You are a strange one Lord, but I guess I'll understand it better in the sweet by and by. Amen"

During the night Minnie died with what appeared to be a bit of a smile on her face.