This is Mattie Lee Pamplin Dingler in her later years - probably taken in Texas where she died in 1962. She was my father's grandmother - a woman who could mix any of her herbal remedies with molasses to get him to swallow it. She raised her family on a small farm in Arkansas. I wish I had known her for I think we had many things in common. Instead, I took the stories my father told me about her and wove them into a novel. Some of the threads are truth and many of the threads spun out from my imagination.
So to honor my father on Father's Day I pay tribute to his grandmother with this excerpt from my novel, Daughters of Time. Enjoy.
Twilight and the road stretched ahead through the tall pines. What was it her ma use to say? Oh, yes—twilight was the most dangerous part of the day—the time when the dark and the light met—the time of in-between.
“Mind yourself now, Mattie—a person can get lost in the in-between time with no sun to guide you and no real darkness to hide yourself in. You mind yourself, child.”
So here she was, alone at twilight on a long road that was in itself about being between things. Or between places, as it were. This road, from her daddy’s farm where she was born sixteen years before to her daddy’s new farm that she had never seen. Here she was in this place between the two in the time of in-between. And no longer a girl, but no one could think of her as a woman, could they? What was she then—just an in-between?
“Life’s nothing but a journey, Mattie-girl,” that was Pa speaking, leaning against the wagon loaded up with all their worldly and not-so-worldly goods, and Ma up front, with the youngsters behind riding on quilts and the feather bed. “A journey has no end, not even in the dying. You just keep on walking to someplace new—leavin’ Mississippi ain’t quite like dyin’ though to look at you all white in the face has gotta make a person wonder…”
That was Pa, all right, his big, rough hand on her shoulder trying to look like everything was fine, though they were leaving her and going off to Arkansas, and she would come later—all on her own. That’s when he gave her the crock of her Ma’s cherry jam and told her to save it for the trip to the new farm. And now here she was at twilight, walking down the dusty road that led through the pine forest and out of Mississippi and into her new life in Arkansas. An in-between, not quite a woman but no longer a girl—some kind of new person. And the gray crock of cherry jam was safely tucked into her knapsack—untouched, because it was all she had left of Ma and Pa and Mississippi.