Blue Heart

Blue Heart’s her name. Don’t ask why she’s called that. It’s what the mountain folk named her when she moved up Silver Creek all those years ago to be a nanny to the family with quadruplets. Turns out she met their older brother, Tom, at a gas station in Texas somewhere. He was riding a motorbike, all shiny steel and leather, and they started up a chat while the tanks filled up. Next thing she knew they were going to Tennessee where she moved in with his family. Did all sortsa things for them like haul out the muck from the slophouse, feed the chickens, milk the goats, pick ramps, check for corn worms and squash bugs and vine borers and what have you. It was the quadruplets that called her Blue, short for Blue Heart, can’t figure why on account of her hair being black and shiny and straight down to her butt in a thick waterfall that sure filled many a dream young Tom had on many a night, rest assured. Nor were her eyes blue but brown, dark combination with the black hair, but there’s not much a gal can do about that now is there? She always did say she learned everything she knew up that crik in the holler they all lived in, packed tight in the old log cabin as they were.

I can’t say when her story really began for sure. But it had its’ roots in these mountains, yes sir. Old mountains make for roots running deep and far and wide, spread out from here to there, where posted signs have no meaning and get removed in due order by the good folks who find them to be ugly on trees. Really now, it all belonged to yonder Clyde’s from the time this country was founded till that wastrel son of theirs began selling off parts of it. Posted? It don’t account for nothing up in these hills, not yet anyway. Not when there’s ways to get on and off land that them poster’s don’t know nothing about. No sir. But what I’m getting at is her story began somewhere around here.

Perhaps it was when she met old Buck Buford and moved out into her own log cabin, having learned all she needed to from the Tom’s family. Next thing she knows she’s growing a cash crop and he comes a knocking at her door one night, unannounced, uninvited. You just don’t do that around these parts unless you’re looking for trouble, which is what old Buck found looking down the end of a shotgun. That’s when he knew Blue Heart was alright. That’s what you did when you became a part of the mountains. That’s when you had stepped over and joined the other side. And then nobody cared who your great great granddaddy was, cuz you was just a part of things see? And Blue Heart was that, certainly, with her long black braid tucked into the end of her waist band, shoot she could spit with the best of ‘em!

Then again you never can tell. Was it the tick bite made her mad? Go on with you, a deer tick never did make nobody mad!!! Well, it might have made her just slightly crazy. She was mixed up with that Coyote Clan after all, and they weren’t the type folk took to easily see. A rowdy bunch they were. The legend in their tribe was some deranged feller went by the name of Half Eye Sharpie got hunted by a posse and hung, yep they strung him up nice and tight on account of him doing dirty with some sweet rosy cheeked dairy maid further down the mountain. And they talk of him like he’s a hero or something, not some hot rod outlaw that don’t know better, got no fear of the Lord in him see. It’s what comes of being unchurched. At least that’s what folk say and Miss Blue Heart, now she was seen to be coming and going with them real friendly like. Until they set up a road blockade one year, in the ‘80s; shot up that nice Cambodian family that moved up here. That changed something and Miss Blue, why she packed up and moved way over to the other side of the mountain after that. Some folk say she had a real bad falling out with the Coyote Clan and was afeard for her life. Others said Miss Blue ain’t afeard of nothing, she’s just plain ol’ crazy on account of being bitten by a deer tick. Heee haaaaw, bitten by a tick indeed!

Anyhoo, she moved over to the other side of the mountain and it was like she’d fallen off the good earth dead or something like that. Nobody up Silver Creek heard from her again nor did they see her. Unless you believe in spirit folk, in which case I’ll tell you I seen her just the other day taking cuttings from the blueberry bushes up by One Eyed Joe’s place. Looked just fine she did, hadn’t aged even a bit, no sir, a fine looking woman she was and still is, and just as crazy. Now let me just roll this here cigarette ‘fore I go on, ya’ want one? I’ll just lean back here against your shiny red pickup truck, now where was I? Why just the other day, I heard she don’t eat meat no more!! Whoever heard of such a thing, why she used to hunt deer herself; one of the best darn hunters around here even if she was a woman. Iffen she liked you she’d even let you hunt with her, that’s right, look over at that blue sky through the smoke here and you might catch a glimpse of her in those there purty clouds.

Now the day she moved over to Wineberry Road, her hairs was still shiny and her skin creamy, smooth, and ever clear. It was in those days that she met and married old Doc Ward’s son, Junior. Doc and his wife, Red, lived down in Somerset in a stone house and Junior with them. Wasn’t much different to how it is now. Had a post office, couple of tavern’s, an inn, the schools, general store, and a couple of this and that type stores run by the ladies, you know the professor’s wives. T’aint much changed today, just a few more places to go eat and drink at, and more of this and that. Still not much for good country cooking down in town, and there ain’t nothing to have this here moonshine beat, care for some?

Well, nobody could figure what she saw in Junior. Could be she thought he was like his daddy. Now ol’ Doc, he was quite a man. Made house calls with his black bag, wasn’t nobody didn’t know him. Came to these here mountains to help the women folk with their babies when they were born, and the men folk when one of them had had an accident. Wasn’t much he could do for Buck Buford though, accident like that weren’t a body coulda helped him, and his wife Deb finding him lying there on his own knife. Man slipped off a barrel while dressing the deer he’d brought down. Knife went straight to his heart. Blood everywhere Deb said. Grand stag it was too. See it was from Buck that Miss Blue learned all she learned about hunting. And one thing Buck always did swear by was letting go anything that was a right handsome buck, could be six pointed could be more, but if Johnny saw something in it that made him think, well who can say how Johnny thought other than he’d silently pull the trigger and say pow. No, Johnny never did bring back nothing that weren’t the most beautiful buck or stag you ever did saw if it were male you see. Mostly they’d be does, some of them with child, and he’d say keeps them from overpopulating. Right shame it was how he died, leaving Deb and the boy, Little John behind. That’s a boy that’s just like his daddy and don’t even know it! Not Junior Ward, never was and never could be. Too soft see. Turned out Miss Blue must have found that out eventually.

Ol’ Doc took to her right away, easy to like Miss Blue. After she and Junior got hitched, they lived in the stone house all together for a while. The house on Wineberry Road she’d been staying in was just an old run down shack, and Junior promised he’d fix it up real nice so they could live in the country like she wanted to again. And the boy did just as he said, still in love see. Worked hard too, fixing up that old tore up cabin. Stripped it down to the beams and rebuilt from the ground up. Did all the work hisself, not like the other town folk that don’t know nothing about building up a house. That boy sweated something hard, tell you what, and when he was done Miss Blue was mighty pleased with what he’d done. Had a root cellar and a spring house and all kinds of a big glass wall that faced south. It was a beauty to be sure.

Now all the days it took Junior to build up this place, Miss Blue spent hers with ol’ Doc. See he mighta been a doctor, but really he just loved plants. Same as her. When she got to know him, he had begun doing less and less doctoring and more travelling. Japan, China, Korea, places like that. He’d learn a good deal about medicine while he was there, the kind that uses needles you know, but mainly he’d visit all the gardens and get to know the plants. Did that here too when he was young and made house calls, often his wife Red would come with him and they’d stay the night at folks places. Then the next day the two of them would go off and explore the woods. He’d make drawings and she’d make sketches and paintings. Went to some fancy girl’s art school up in Maine where they smoked and cussed and ran about the place nekkid, or so it’s told. Never heard Red cuss though she did smoke. Smoked with her a few times myself when I was a kid and they stayed at our place. Been in the woods with them once too with their magnifying glasses and bags and tweezers and what have you’s for taking cuttings, and what not.

Yep they was real interested in knowing what things were, the wildflowers and shrubs and trees. Planted themselves a fine garden at the stone house, has a right big magnolia tree that shoots up over the house to this day. They must have run out of place for all their rootings and cuttings and plants, which Miss Blue was helping them out with. They’d bring back new plants from the places they’d visit too, so one day Doc retires on account of there being enough other doctor’s in Somerset see, and they sell the stone house and up and move to the country. Big piece of pasture with nothing on it back then. Just the cabin and out house they put on it and a big old oak tree. Place didn’t even have electricity. See it now and you can’t tell what it was like. They musta planted thousands of trees ain’t nobody ever seen or heard of before. The trees all grown big and everything. Old oak’s still there, so’s the cabin and outhouse. It’s got electricity too and all sorts of new things, like a swamp and some kinda wetland they’re reclaiming wastewater in, and trails for kids to play on. See these town kids don’t get outdoors much, so the folks that bought the place from Red once Doc died thought they’d make it all a refuge or conservation and share it with all the other folk that want to enjoy it. Doc woulda liked that.

And Junior didn’t want nothing to do with it. By then he’d upped and left Miss Blue with their fourth child still growing in her belly and moved to Wyoming of all places. No he just wanted the money’s what folks say. Good thing too since he wouldn’ta done nothing with the place. Wasn’t nothing like ol’ Doc; wasn’t real interested in things like his daddy neither. That boy liked good looking women and fast cars and that’s about all he amount to! Once the two of them moved up to the new place on Wineberry Road and the first kid came and Miss Blue spent more time in the garden and with the kid than with Junior, well things began to change for him. By the time she was carrying the second girl, her skin weren’t no longer creamy. It’d turned brown from all her days spent working in the sun. She was determined to homestead it up at that place. Planted fruit trees and Junior built her a greenhouse and she got cattle running the pasture and everything. Did a dang good job of it too and then Junior musta realized the woman didn’t need him. Not really. She was too much for him see. Much more than he coulda ever been. Too much like his daddy. By the time she was on their fourth he couldn’t stand it no more, just took off and she had that last baby girl all by herself! Learned about that stuff from ol’ Doc and on account of the woman being tough like she were, well nothing afeard her! No sir. Raised four girls all by herself and ran the farm too. Turned it into one of these organic places long before anyone else around here’d even heard the word organic. Had folks come pick their own blueberries, peaches, plums, apples. She’d deliver meat and greens and eggs and fruit right to your house in town. Cash only kinda place, did real well. Her girls grew and went off to college like they do nowadays. Real pretty girls like their mama was when she was young, feisty too just like her!

You musta been behind her on one of those few days she went to town. On the delivery days, maybe when she went to market. She had a booth at one of the farmer’s markets see. Couldn’t have done nothing to help her anyhoo now could you? How were you to know she’d fallen asleep while driving? All you’dve seen woulda been her car going off the road, into the ditch, back onto the road, through the fences and into a tree. No way of knowing and even if you had, how’d you have woken her up see. Honked or something? No sir. Miss Blue Heart, she’d a been fast asleep and not a fire woulda woke her up. One of those deep sleepers that don’t wake up for nothing, that’s how she was. Now I know a woman who says she ain’t asleep when she looks to be asleep. Claims she’s really going places, journeying she calls, it, and where she goes she talks with mountain lions and bears carry her around on their backs and she does what sound like miracles in her sleep, healing folk she don’t even know and never even seen. Right crazy if you ask me, but see woman like that woulda pulled out fine had she been driving while asleep. Woman like that seems to be at her best while sleeping, she’da made that car grow wings and carry her up to the top of a meadow and when she was done neither the car nor herself would be banged up nor nobody else neither. Sounds crazy but there’s crazy folk here in these mountains.

Now Miss Blue, she lived hard and worked hard while she was awake see. Could deal with just about anything while awake. Why she had a copperhead in her garden one year, and she says to me, she says Sly I just picked that thing up by the back of its’ head and threw it in a bucket. I told him, you will not hurt me friend but you cannot live here in the garden. She took him out in the bucket and threw that old snake into the woods somewhere. She was like that, even before she stopped eating meat. Wouldn’t kill a creature for no reason, not like Charlie down the road who likes to drive over every snake he ever did saw. If it’s a rattler he’ll go back and cut off the rattles just to keep. He’s got quite a collection of them tell you what, ask him to show you if you ever do run into him. But not Miss Blue Heart. Couldn’t never figure that one, why she raised cow and slaughtered them to sell to other folk, but wouldn’t eat it herself no more! Wish I’d a asked her what happened. Maybe her girls know.

See here don’t blame yourself, there weren’t a thing you coulda done about it. Right fine of you to have stopped and checked in on her, though that musta been hard seeing all that blood. Reckon it was you that called the law? Right fine, Miss Blue’d have done the same. You’d have liked her, I can tell. But it musta been her time and when the time comes, there ain’t a thing a body can do to get out of it. The time just comes know what I mean. And see here, Miss Blue Heart she lived far as I can tell as hard as a body can live, so don’t go feeling badly on her account. Mighta been on account of being bitten by that deer tick. That’s right.

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