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Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
My parents story before my birth.
Rooted in Dixie
Mortgage Money by BethShelby
 Category:  Biographical Non-Fiction
  Posted: April 29, 2009      Views: 357
Chapters:
Prologue 1 2 3 4 

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 ABOUT
BETHSHELBY 
BethShelby is retired from the printing and commercial art field. She is married and has four children and three grandchildren. She and her husband presently live in Tennessee.

Painting, photography, and writing are her passion. She has ha - more...

She is a top ranked author at the #70 position.

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Background
My parents are struggling to pay off the mortgage on their land and not having a bank account they bury the money they are saving. Something happens to disrupt their plans.


The window was shut to keep out the cold, but it wasn't working. The house was as cold as an Arctic tomb. The unsealed walls had been hastily constructed using green lumber back in the summer. Over a six-month period, the boards had dried and shrunk, leaving cracks large enough for snow to sift through into the house itself. Although snow was not common in Mississippi, it had been an unusual winter. On two separate occasions, all along the north wall of the house, there had been little ridges of snow lines on the pine board floor. The glass on the small windows had formed intricate patterns of frost that never seemed to dissipate.

Lucille shivered and hugged her sweater tighter around her, as she put another stick of stove wood into the little potbelly iron stove in the kitchen. She opened the small oven door on the side of the stove, checked the pan of cornbread and stirred the pot of beans heating on top of the stove. The fire was almost out, and she knew she would have to go outside for more wood soon.

She heard the sputter of Glover's old `35 Ford as he turned into the driveway. Good, she thought, let him go get the wood. A couple of minutes later, the door opened, and Glover came in quickly, his breath making little puffs of vapor in the frosty air. He gave her a quick peck on the cheek and started to take off his overcoat.

"Babe, we need some more wood. Do you mind getting it before you take off your coat?" Lucille asked.

Glover rolled his eyes, grunted and started for the door. It wasn't long before he reentered, carrying an armload of small chopped sticks of wood. He unloaded it in the kindling box near the stove. "What's for supper?" he asked.

"Cornbread and beans again," she answered. "We don't have any meat left. I can't kill anymore of the chickens. We need what few we have left for laying eggs. I made some tea. Are you ready to eat?"

Glover sighed and ran his finger through his thinning hair. Only twenty-five and he was going bald already. He would be an old man before his time. "Things will get better after this weekend. I'm looking forward to burning that mortgage. First thing Monday morning, we're taking that money to the bank, and we can kiss that loan good-bye. We're not ever going to borrow any more money. By this time next year, we'll have this house sealed.  Next winter, we won't be freezing our butts off."

Lucille grinned and turned back to the stove, adding more wood as she spoke "We need to go dig our money up Saturday after you get paid.  I'll put it all in a nice white envelope to take to the bank."

The year was 1938. Glover and Lucille had married in August of `36. She had only been seventeen, and Glover was twenty-two. The country had still not fully recovered from the Great Depression. Glover had dropped out of school at fifteen to take a job at a drygood store in order to help his family. When he thought he might be transferred to a store in another state, he had pressed Lucille to marry him. She hesitated, because she wanted to finish high school and go to college. Her older brother, Eugene, had promised to provide the money for her tuition. Still, she didn't want to lose Glover, and he was so persistent.

In the end, the thing that helped her make up her mind was when she learned her sister-in-law was pregnant. Eugene can't really afford college for me, she reasoned. Dad and Mom are barely making it as it is, so maybe this is the right thing to do. She was disappointed when Glover wasn't transferred after all. She had looked forward to moving to Tennessee.

The couple wanted a home of their own. Glover only made $20.00 a week, and it took at least half of it to live. Land prices were reasonable. If they skimped, they could manage to put most of the other half away toward buying land and building a house. They managed to secure a loan from the bank in order to purchase fifteen acres of land next to Glover's parents' home for one thousand dollars. The loan called for the land to be paid off within two years.

The first year, they had lived with his parents, and that summer, with help of his dad and an uncle, they had built the little two-bedroom house where they now lived. It had no electricity, no indoor plumbing and no heat, except for a fireplace in one of the bedrooms and the little potbelly stove on which they cooked their meals. Last year, Glover's dad had helped them make the mortgage payment by selling enough timber, but this year, it had been a struggle.

In the spring, Lucille had put in a garden, and the two of them had planted cotton on the rest of their fifteen acres. Since she had grown up in the country, Lucille was no stranger to hard work. By canning fruits and vegetables, raising chickens and milking the one cow Lucille's parents had given them, they had been able to have enough to eat.

In the blazing hot September sun, they had picked the cotton from the ripe bolls, bursting open to reveal the soft white fluff. The cotton burrs had sharp edges that pricked their hands and made them bleed. As they removed the cotton from the burrs, they placed it in the burlap sacks onto which Lucille had sewn straps. The sacks hung across one shoulder and trailed behind them in the dirt. As they filled the sacks, they weighed the cotton and emptied it into Glover's father's wagon. Once the wagon was piled high with cotton, it was hitched to a pair of mules, and hauled to the cotton mill to be ginned.

Every time Glover got enough dollars together, he would take them to the bank and exchange them for a crisp hundred dollar bill. At first, they had sewn the money into the mattress on which they slept, but fearing fire or perhaps a thief, they decided to put the money into a fruit jar and bury it in the dirt floor of a little shed outside the house. There were four hundred dollars in the fruit jar, which they had buried last fall. With Glover's Saturday's pay, they would have enough to put together the final five hundred-dollar payment on the mortgage. On Monday, they would take the money to the bank.

By Saturday, the weather had warmed to a 60 degrees. This wasn't unusual for Mississippi. The temperature could change drastically from one day to the next. When Glover got home from his job at the store, he wore a big grin. "Let's go dig up the money," he said. "You ready, Sweety? Come Monday morning, we'll be debt free."

Lucille was excited, but she was also cautious. "Maybe we should wait until Monday just before we go to the bank. What if something should happen over the weekend? We know the money is safe where we have it."

"No, let's do it now. I can't wait. I've never seen that much money at one time in my life. I just want to hold it and look at it." Glover headed for the shed and grabbed the shovel. Lucille followed close behind. It took both of them to move the heavy chest out of the way, which they had placed over the spot. Once the chest was moved, Glover started to dig carefully so as not to break the jar. When the shovel hit something solid, he put the shovel aside and dug with his fingers until he uncovered the jar. It was dark in the shed, so they took the jar outside before they opened it.

The jar appeared fogged over. Apparently, there was moisture inside. Glover twisted the lid and grabbed the money. His face drained of color. The money felt clammy. It was white. It didn't look like money at all. "Oh God, something has happened to the money."

Lucille's mouth fell open. She stared at the bills Glover held in his hands. "It can't be gone," she cried. "Let me see." She took the bills from Glover and gaped at them in shock. There was nothing on the money you could read at all. The bills could have been fives, ones, or simply pieces of white paper. "What on earth are we going to do?" she moaned. "We've worked so hard. We're going to lose everything we've worked for." She burst into tears.

In a daze, they walked back into the house and spread the money out on the kitchen table. It appeared to be covered with some kind of white mold or mildew. It had a strange musty smell. Lucille picked up a dry towel and pressed it to the money. "Be careful! You'll tear it. Let's leave it flat on the table and see if it will dry out."

It was getting dark, and the light from the kerosene lamp did nothing to improve the appearance of the money. Reluctantly, they turned away from their ruined treasure and tried to come up with some solution. Was there any way they might manage to hold on to their land if they couldn't make the payment? Would anyone believe them when they claimed the money had gone bad by some strange freak of nature? They finally had to admit, the situation apeared hopeless. If they lost their land, they would have no choice except to move back in with Glover's parents.

The evening temperature dropped and Lucille and Glover went to bed early in order to keep warm beneath the heavy quilts. He held her close as she cried herself to sleep. It had been his idea to bury the money, so he felt responsible for what had happened. Fine provider I am, he thought.  Lucille could be in college making something of her life, if I hadn't insisted that she marry me. I've made so many promises, I haven't been able to keep. 

The next morning after a restless night, Lucille hopped out of bed and ran to see if maybe the whole thing had been a bad dream. The money appeared much the same as it had the night before. Her heart sank. Glover refused to look at the money. He was so discouraged, he could barely choke down the breakfast that Lucille prepared.

By mid-morning, the sun was streaming through the window and lighting some of the bills. Lucille noticed they were starting to dry. She picked up one, and a fine white power fell from the bill. A ray of hope sprang up in her chest. She grabbed the bills and hurried to the clothesline in the back where the rays from the sun were already beating down. She pinned each bill to the line and closed her eyes and prayed.

An hour later, Lucille returned and found the bills dry. As she gathered them from the line, the white powder came off on her hand. The sun had killed the mold that was growing on them. As the powder fell away, the writing and portrait of Benjamin Franklin reappeared. "Thank God!" she cried, rushing inside to show Glover.

For the next hour, the two of them worked on the bills with toothbrushes to make sure all the powder was completely removed. Never had they felt so happy. Nothing could spoil this day. Tomorrow, they would have a mortgage burning party.

This Sentence Starts The Story contest entry

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The book continues with The New Arrival. We will provide a link to it when you review this below.

Author Notes
This story is true as told to me by my parents. It takes place a couple of years before I was born.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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