Thursday, November 30, 2023

Bridle Path - Chapter 3 - Reflections

 Hello Everyone,

Here is chapter three in my Packhorse Librarian story, which is late getting posted.  Life has a way of getting in the way with trips to Quilt Market, my Sew'n Wild Oaks retreat, and Thanksgiving. It's been a very busy six weeks.

Remember this is a journal that my fictional packhorse librarian is writing to her daughter.  Month #1 is posted HERE.  Month #2 is posted HERE.

Chapter #3 Month #3

November 1935

Dear Grace,

Twenty miles a day in a saddle gives a woman a long time to think. I’m heading back to Cob Hill as it was my first day delivering books, literacy, and dreams packed in my pillowcases to families and individuals living out in the hollers of Cob Hill. My first day on the job was successful yet taxing.

As I was getting ready to leave the cabin very early this morning, I caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror.  I looked a bit distraught since I had been rushing around the cabin getting myself and you, ready to leave for the day and stay with your Grandma Millie.  I stopped in my tracks when I saw myself in the mirror and I wondered just how many times your daddy looked at himself in this same mirror while using the shaving mug I gave him for our first Christmas together.  I just wish that mirror kept a record of reflections.  Maybe if I could look deep enough and hard enough in the mirror, I could see your daddy’s handsome face hiding somewhere in the depths of reflection. 

He would have been so proud of me as I’m trying to become independent and help us survive during these hard economic times.  I wouldn’t say that we are thriving as I haven’t received my first paycheck for $28.00 yet.  The check will arrive in December, just in time for Christmas.

The book drive at the annual Fall Festival was very successful thanks to the organizer, Mrs. Jerome Reginald Steiniger, president of the Ladies Aid Society and the pearl-sucking prude.  Many books, several old Sears & Roebuck catalogues and magazines were donated for all age groups.  I’ve been told by other packhorse librarians that the catalogs are very popular. To me, the catalogues seem very cruel to hand out as the items for sale are well beyond the monetary reach of most of the people in Cob Hill, including me.

I’ve also been told to be careful who I hand out the catalogues to.  Some of the folks like to tear out the pages and use them for chinking every nook and cranny in their cabins.  Maybe that was the origin of the phrase, ‘if walls could talk’.  The cabin walls would be talking up a storm in some of the cabins.  Unfortunately, over time, the mice shred the catalog pages for their nests.  We have the most educated mice in our county as they feast on words.

I headed over to the packhorse librarian room at the back of the library right after I dropped you off with grandma. I started selecting some items I would like to distribute, but I also had to keep in mind the names on my route which ranged in age from 2 to 92.  I only have two pillowcases to carry the items and soon as I get enough money, I plan on buying a used set of saddlebags for Starkey which will make our travels so much easier.

My first stop was at Nellie Welch’s cabin.  Nellie is a widow and has been living alone for the past few years.  Nellie has snowy white hair parted in the middle then wound around into a bun on the top of her head.  The bun is held in place by a tortoise shell comb, which I found out is one of her most prized possessions given to her by her husband.  I was so surprised when I saw Nellie all dressed up in her Sunday finest.  Nellie is 92 and she said she expected to leave this world any day now and she wanted to be all dressed and ready for her laying out. 

Nellie’s husband was an accountant for one of the largest mines in the area.  His accounting may have been a bit creative which allows Nellie to live in relative comfort after his passing.  They came to Cob Hill from Lexington where Nellie was a seamstress and made clothing for men. She told me she always wanted children but that was not meant to be as she had miscarriage after miscarriage. I felt that her body had healed but the trauma of a lost child was still visible in her deep-set eyes.  It was evident that age and misery had settled on her shoulders like a worn-out coat.

When I walked inside her cabin, I was overcome by the excessive heat.  She had shades on every window which were yellow with age and cast an earie yellow pall in her home.  As I sat on her horsehair couch, I watched the dust motes travel slowly before my eyes in a dance that only the dust knows each choreographed step. I’m sure the shades were drawn to keep her comfortable and safe inside her little cocoon of memories.  A Seth Thomas clock was in the corner with an excessively loud tick.  I imagined the clock was ticking away the seconds of her life like a metronome, while she waited for her end to come.  While she spoke, her lips kept perfect time with the ticking clock along with the clicking of her ill-fitting dentures.  She worked her tongue around her lips in part to keep the dentures in place, and as a habit while she spoke. She wore a large, elegant broach at her neck which I could only catch an occasional glimpse of when she moved her neck and her double chin wagged out of the way.  

Luckily Nellie’s neighbors took pity on her and shared some of the vegetables they grew.  She also had a handyman who brought supplies to her from town which she paid for with her creative funds from an account her husband left her. She shared some of the purchased supplies with her neighbors. 

She was absolutely delighted when I asked her if she would like to borrow a Good Housekeeping magazine until my next visit to see her.  Maybe, as she looked at the pages in the magazine, she would see that housewives kept their shades open and let the world inside and would give her the courage to venture outside.

My conversation with Nellie travelled with me to my next stop, the McKevitt’s, a family of five whose life had hit a hard patch. The dad had been home healing from an injury he suffered at the mine.  Hopefully he could go back to work soon as the family was really struggling to put food on the table and clothes on the three growing boys, Harley, Donny, and Stanley.  Mrs. McKevitt was the glue that held the flock together.  Worry was etched in her brow, and deep lines in her face, but she greeted me with a hesitant smile.  The boys quickly took my horse Starkey over to the water trough, but they had no grain to offer her.

The boys looked like they could be extras in the Spanky and Our Gang movies although they weren’t as well fed or well dressed as the actors.  They were full of mischief and wore the scrapes on their knees and elbows as a badge of courage.  Stanley was too little to join in the exploits and antics of  Harley and Donny, which was a good thing.  Those boys were a handful!

Mrs. McKevitt tried and succeeded in teaching the rambunctious brood to read since she had a 5th grade education.  I had some easy primers tucked away in the pillowcase, and her face lit up when she saw them as they were books she had read with when she was in school.  She promised to take good care of them until I returned with other books for them. 

Harley and Donny were keen to look at the toys in the Sears and Roebuck catalog.  The way they were tugging at the catalog, I seriously wondered if there would be anything left of it when I returned.  They quickly settled down on the floor and started pouring over the catalog page by page.  Oh, how they giggled when they came to the pages of corsets and girdles.  When they came to the pages of erector sets, they begged their mama for one for Christmas.  A look of sadness crossed her face as she knew that request could never be granted.  Mr. McKevitt just rolled over in bed and stared at the wall as he knew the family wouldn’t be able to put anything under the Christmas tree this year. 

Harley and Donny were the kind of kids that would flourish with an erector set. It could be life-changing for them to use their active young minds and create anything they could dream about.  My heart was heavy as I left the boys on the floor still looking at the toy section in the catalog.  I decided I would ask Mrs. Jerome Reginald Steiniger if they had any funds to purchase an erector set for the boys.

I continued up into the back country delivering books and dreams.  I was exhausted by the time I headed for home.  My mind couldn’t stop thinking about the people and poor living conditions I’d seen during the day.  I know everyone was trying to make do with what they had, but the future looked so bleak for many of them.  I slowly road back to Grandma Millie’s house while the images of all that I’d witnessed and listened to during my first day rolled around in the catacombs of my mind. 

I stopped at a stream to give Starkey a rest and a drink of water and saw the reflection of my face for the second time today.  This reflection wouldn’t last as it would flow downstream and take the image of my travel-worn worried face with it.  No one would ever see it but me… was gone forever.

When I got back to town, I was greeted by Grandma Millie cleaning a turkey out on the back porch.  Walt, the owner of the local gun shop, dropped the turkey off for us.  I’m not sure how Walt was able to go out shooting after his tragic fall out of a tree when he was much younger. Visions of Harley and Donny following suit worried me.  Walt got along on his crutches while dragging his legs behind him.  He still loved to shoot and would maneuver himself out into the woods and sit by a tree for the day and wait for the game to come his way.  He was a turkey whisperer and always managed to keep himself fed with small game.  It was so sweet of him to think of us in our time of need.

Grandma Millie planned to make a pumpkin pie for us, and of course a pie for Walt.  That’s what people do here in Cob Hill.  We look after each other and try to share the burdens we all carry with us.  This is Grandma Millie’s excellent pumpkin pie recipe.

I never knew how she was able to keep the temperature of her wood burning stove to an even 475 degrees.  She had a sixth sense when it was time to add more kindling or open the door of the stove for the wood to get more air and burn hotter.  No matter what, the pie was always perfect. 

I’ll write more in my journal to you soon, Grace.  There is so little time with you now that I’m gone during the day in my new role as a Packhorse Librarian.  It is such important work that I must do.  It’s a though this is my calling to spread literacy and goodwill throughout my area.  Now I must go over to Mrs. Steiniger’s house and see if there are any funds to purchase an erector set for the McKevitt boys for Christmas.  I’m not hopeful, but I must try.




  1. I always look forward to catching up on your story!

  2. Have been looking forward to another chapter and what a wonderful chapter it was. Thank you Lynn.

  3. Another great chapter....keep them coming and then you should publish this book

  4. You wouldn’t happen to have that recipe for molasses cookies, would you? I’ve never had one, and they sound great. ✨

    1. Funny you should ask! I'm going to post the recipe in the next chapter in my own grandmothers handwriting. The cookies are delicious, but the dough is very soft and difficult to work with.

    2. ♥️♥️♥️🙏🏻

  5. Can almost smell the pie, Lynn!!...Paula B.