Two deaths, Joseph’s father and someone else? Who? What happened?
Joseph, what do you remember about your childhood?
Working, mostly. Helping Mother with the animals. I loved them, the cows, goats, and pigs. Came across a pig strung up one time. Slit straight down, top to bottom. Blood all over the ground. Tied up by his
front back legs. I started hollering.
Who did that to him?
Ma Tom, I suppose. Or Wells. Maybe Tippy.
Who are they?
Ma Tom was my grandmother. Wells and Tippy are my uncles. Twins.
Mother was good with the animals. Couldn’t stand killing them. No stomach for it. So Ma Tom or the men did most of the killing.
What else do you remember? Did you ever get to have fun?
Well, yeah. I was the only child around, so mostly I was outside by myself. I’d go fishing with my uncles some, dig for mushrooms in the hills. We’d play music together. And I had Poor Boy so I wouldn’t get too lonely.
Who is that?
Poor Boy? That’s my dog. She just showed up one day, came out of the trees, starving, dying. I nursed her and she never left.
Can you tell me about the river?
It’s hard to remember. There was a long while I tried not to remember, to just forget it all, but you can’t get the river out of you. You grow up around here, and you are the mountains, the trees, the rocks. The river is your blood. So, I knew there weren’t no way to escape it.
There was a fire. Not much more dangerous than fire in the hills. We were trapped. Had to run. The fire so hot and bright, blinding us, so that when we ran into the trees, the darkness was a black I never seen. Smoke in our eyes making them run with tears. The river was the only place to go. To try and cross it.
But I was scared.
And not everyone made it.