Editor’s note: I’m tickled to say that even though he didn’t use his rifle to shoot down this year’s magnolia blossom, my husband kept his Mother’s Day tradition alive this year (2017).
Here’s the audio version of the chapter called, “Mother’s Day” by Shelley Fraser Mickle. (full written text with pictures can be found below)
I’m proud to call Shelley Fraser Mickle a friend. Shelley is one of the most entertaining writers I’ve ever met. For many years radio listeners were able to hear her commentaries on life on not only WUFT-FM, but also nationally as she contributed her talent doing commentaries for NPR‘s “Morning Edition.” She’s also an award-winning author of several novels.
I always looked forward to the days she would come in to the station and record her commentaries because on those days we had the opportunity to catch up on life. That being said, as a journalist I should have known that some of the “Cross Creek” stories I shared with her would one day make it into print. I’m actually quite pleased she was listening so closely. My family is very proud of the chapter she wrote on my Cross Creek romance called, “Mother’s Day.” She genuinely captured some of the unique qualities of my husband Lee Townsend in our “courting days.”
(Full text of chapter called “Mother’s Day” from Shelley Fraser Mickle’s book, The Kids are gone; The Dog is Depressed & Mom’s On The Loose.)
I have a friend who lives at Cross Creek. She moved there over a decade ago from up North, and she would have left probably any number of times except that she fell in love with a man from the Creek. And that made all the difference. Apparently men at the Creek take the romancing of a woman very seriously.
For instance, a first date might be only a midnight fishing trip under a full moon on Orange Lake. It might be a frog gigging, or a beer shared out on a wooden bench near the Creek until it is dark and quiet, so that then you can listen to the alligators bellow in Lochloosa.
But no matter if you are fishing, gigging, or watching water, it’s a pretty sure fact that all the while, a certain magic is being practiced on you. So that afterward, it is very likely, your life will never be the same.
Creek men are aware of their power. And they strut it comfortably. For instance, it was reported that at the Marjorie Rawlings’ house, the staff spotted a snake sneaking into one of the rooms, and out of desperation, called one of the Creek men. After all, a man who has grown up at the Creek knows more than you ever want to know about snakes and how to handle them.
As the story goes, this Creek man sauntered up the steps to the house, saying he’d handle that snake, just point him to it. Then went into the room where the snake was and shut the door. In a few minutes he came back out and announced, “That’s a female chicken snake. And it won’t take me but a minute to get her to move on out of here.” One of the caretakers was really curious and asked, “But how do you know it’s a female snake?” The creek man didn’t even blink. “Because she quivered when she looked at me,” he said.
I guess that really does say it all. Yes, the men at the Creek have a certain powerful charm. And it’s said that everybody knows when a creek man is seriously courting a woman, because that’s the only time he wears shoes.
When she became pregnant with their first child, she says she had to relearn how to announce that fact. For out at the Creek no one is ever pregnant. No. Rather it’s that you’re fixin’ to have a youngin’.
In fact, my friend says, since she has made her life at the Creek, she has found that almost everything she does has the word fixin’ it it.
Last year on Mother’s Day, she was in the kitchen fixin’ to have a cup of tea when her husband sauntered up behind her, put his arms around her waist, and said to follow him, that he was fixin’ to give her a Mother’s Day present.
He then led her outside, and on the way, grabbed his rifle, so that in only a minute they were standing under the giant magnolia that shades the whole side of the backyard. Then he propped his rifle on his shoulder and aimed it up toward the tree.
My friend says the blooms were like round white stars, perfuming the air with a sweetness that was like the smell of warm honey, or of spun sugar. Then her husband said to her, “Pick out one darlin’.”
And when she raised her hand toward a bloom near the top, he focused his eye down the rifle’s barrel and shot it down.