By G. M. Allen © 1984
Issue: July, 1984
The baby was yelling, and none of Tressie's efforts were enough to quiet him. He was furious.
"This youngun's hungry!" she told Lutie, her ten year old sister. "Ma shouldn't of weaned him with the cow nearly dry! What'll we do for milk for him then?"
Then to Lutie she said, "Go down to the spring box and get the bucket; we have about a quart in that we got this morning."
Lutie left to carry out the order, and Tressie continued to grumble, "Ma's plum out o' hearing. She said she'd be in 'fore dinner time, and she better, or I might not be here when she comes!"
When Lutie returned with the milk, Tressie poured some in a tin cup, sat down with the baby on her lap and coaxed him to drink some. "Lutie, put some more wood in the stove," she directed. "The corn bread's nearly done, but it takes forever for shell beans to git done! Then take the milk back. 'Twon't do to let it get warm - hit'll sour on us."
When the baby had finished, Tressie stood him in the round beehive box that served as a pen to keep him safe. She gave him a spoon and the cup to enter- tain him, and he banged the box vigorously with the cup. "No, you'll bruise it", she told him, showing him how to use the cup as a drum and the spoon as a drumstick. But that only entertained him for a moment; he began fretting again - "tunin' up", as Pa always called it.
"Less, you and Joe do play peepeye with him a few minutes," she directed the two little brothers who were on the porch playing "hull-gull" with Ma's seed beans. Obediently they started the game first by peering around the door and jumping back, then chasing each other across the floor, on all fours, barking and growling. The baby watched, fascinated, and when the game changed to include him, he began laughing.
Tressie went into the bedroom, a "shed room" she shared with Dovie, the sister next to her who was now helping her mother stick peas. Tressie proceeded to pack her entire wardrobe into a flour sack - all that she was not already wearing.
"Lutie, go tell Ma to come to the house," she directed, "whether or not she had finished stickin' the peas! I got something I got to tell her."
Lutie was well chosen as messenger. In less than ten minutes she was back with Ma behind her, wiping her sweat streaked face with her apron.
"What's this mean, that you got somethin' to tell me?" she asked irritably. Ma liked to finish what she had started before having to stop.
"Ma", Tressie began, "Ma--Ma--"
"Ma what?" Ma demanded.
"Ma, Nick is comin' by today, 'bout the middle of the day, he said. I done promised him I'd go cross the mountain with him to his Uncle Mart's and me and him are goin' to git married!"
"Married! You got to have a license fer that fer it to be any good." Ma exclaimed.
"Nick said he'd have the license, was goin' to Rocky Mount fer it yesterday."
Ma began to cry. "How am I goin' to make out with your Pa gone on the road and the crops needin' tendin', without you?" she said.
"Dovie's big enough to help," Tressie pointed out. "She's twelve already."
"Dovie ain't you, though", Ma sobbed.
"And I'm feared Nick won't be good to you neither. He was raised in a moon, shinin' family!"
"Nick won't do that," Tressie declared. "He knows what I think of it and I won't let him git into that business!"
Dovie began singing, "Single girl, single girl, goes to the store and buys; married girl, married girl, she rocks the cradle and cries."
Tressie turned on her with flashing eyes. "Shut up!" she commanded. "What single girl that we know goes to the store and buys?"
"Your Pa does his best," Ma protested tearfully, "And I do too."
Tressie started to make a quick retort, but glancing at Les and Joe, she only shook her head. Ma knew they were better off if Pa had tended to the farm, even if it was on the side of the hill, and stayed out of the moonshine business either to make or to sell the blame stuff.
Lutie darted into the room. "I see somebody coming; looks like Nick!"
"Tressie, you're not but sixteen, Ma protested. "You'd be putting your best years behind you if you go off now and get married!"
"You were fifteen Ma, or so I've been told, when you were wed! Nick loves me too, I'm mighty sure of that!"
Little Joe met Nick at the door. "Do you, Nick, do you?" he asked.
Nick said, "Hey young feller, what you talkie' bout?"
"Do you love Tressie? Are you both goin' to get married?"
"That's in our plans," Nick admitted. "Are you ready, Tress?"