Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Finding Iris~Part 1
Cody Hill was only 9 years old when he first saw Mavis Short in the woods behind the shack the Hill family called home. Mavis was Mavis Cooley at that time. It would be two years until she married old Earl Short. Mavis was the prettiest thing Cody had ever seen. She was reading a book. Cody had never seen a book before let alone ever read one. Mavis called him over and showed him her secret stash of books that had fallen from a traveling salesman's wagon a few years back. Cody sat down next to her in the small patch of grass while she read him the story of Little Women. She made Cody promise not to tell anyone about the books. Learning, especially for womenfolk, was frowned upon in the backwoods. Cody was able to sneak out every day to visit with Mavis and listen to her reading her precious books. Mavis learned to read when she was just barely 7 years old with the help of old Mrs. Crenshaw.
Agnes Crenshaw had lived in Greensboro until she was 16 years old when she was married off to Gideon Crenshaw who had been a mountain man all his life. Mrs. Crenshaw hoped that Mavis would be able to leave the mountain someday but she knew that it was almost impossible to escape this backwoods country.
Mavis read her books out loud to Cody and eventually taught him to read also. Cody didn't mind that the stories were about girls, he was happy to have stories to read over and over again. The two friends met every day when weather permitted. Mavis was like a big sister to Cody. He knew she was resigned to marrying Earl Short. Mavis never complained about the mean, unpleasant man she called Sir. Earl was out of sight most days and Mavis was happy to have her time with Cody reading and dreaming of a better life.
Cody guessed Mavis was going to have a baby even before she discovered it herself. Cody had been around his aunts and cousins enough to know the signs. Mavis knew in her heart that the baby was a girl. She told Cody she would name her Iris after the beautiful irises that bloomed every year by the river. Her joy was contagious and Cody anxiously awaited the time when little Iris would be born and he could be a big brother to her.
An early winter storm hit the mountain on a day that had started out very calm. Cody's Paw was felling trees when the winds started blowing. He was knocked unconscious by a falling tree and died shortly after. Maw took to her bed after Paw's death and eventually died of what Agnes Crenshaw said was a broken heart. Cody's aunts and uncles would have taken him in but Agnes saw something different in Cody. She knew that Mavis had taught him to read . He was just a boy, not quite 12 years old.
Agnes wrote a letter to her brother in Greensboro and explained the situation to him. Melvin Tanner agreed to give the boy a home. Melvin was a kindly old gentleman who lost his beloved wife several years before. His only son lived in New York City. Melvin never understood why their parents married off Agnes to Gideon Crenshaw so many years ago. Agnes did seem to be happy with Gideon through the years but her life was very difficult in the mountains.
Cody was heartbroken to have lost both of his parents and Mavis comforted him as best she could. He told Mavis about Professor Tanner's offer to take him in. He didn't want to leave Mavis but she insisted he go to Greensboro where he would be able to go to school.
“One day you will come back to get me and Iris and we will all find a way to a better life.”
With tears in his eyes, Cody left the mountain. He tried to fight the feeling that he would never see Mavis again. Mavis died later that winter giving birth to baby Iris.