|I completed a memoir in 2007, and it
inspired me to write the novel,
Nine Mile Creek.
Here is an excerpt from the memoir:
Growing up Nancy
silent as stone, also grab a break on the river’s edge. They watch us from a safe distance on
the other side of the coffee-colored waters. Two young boys playing near the water’s edge
squeal and splash and fill their plastic buckets with dark wet sand, then dump the sodden mess
onto each other's feet. I am surprised when the large white birds spread their wings in unison,
lifting their bulk with such ease into the vast Nebraskan sky. Stan and Iris sit together a ways
away from me, quietly examining a flat shimmering stone.
moments. There is an achy feeling in the center of my chest. I’ll be home soon, I think, home for
the first time in years.
After Marion died, the very last tethers had worked their way loose and I saw no reason to go
back, at least not in a hurry. Now, watching and feeling the sure current of this slow-moving
river, I long to go home. I can hardly wait another hour, but with the kind of time we’re making in
the old school bus it will be two days.
* * * * * * *
As the afternoon slips away, we make good time—sail our prairie schooner across Ohio.
Cornfields replace the dreary Nebraskan wheat fields, and though it is still unbearably hot,
there are more places here to find shelter from the sun. At lunchtime we rumble into a rest area
somewhere in the middle of an ocean of farmland and lurch to a stop in the only sliver of shade
for miles. Our benefactor, a broad-leafed oak tree, reaches upward to the noon sun. Once the
engine is exhausted, we run up and down the bus, lowering each window with a clang. Though
the cross-breeze is thin, we appreciate each tiny whiff of the countryside and its deafening
silence after the constant noise of the highway.
Stan is already outside checking out our temporary backyard. I see him lean against the trunk
of the tree and stretch his legs. Despite the heat and her hunger, Iris is singing a loud song in
her special language and banging a wooden spoon on the tray of her high chair.
Maybe it’s the racket we’re making inside the bus, but I haven’t heard the truck pull up. Outside
my kitchen window there is a red pick-up truck and two men talking to Stan. I cannot make out
the conversation, but the two shotguns hanging in the rear-window gun rack catch my eye.
Crouched behind the curtain I hear them ask Stan if maybe he doesn’t need a haircut, boy.
They would be glad to oblige. One of them lets out a hoot, and I know for certain that we are in
Before Iris can make another sound, I have her out of the high chair and tucked inside my
arms. She wears nothing but a diaper and a white islet bonnet. I don’t have time to think
straight, and even if I did, I know I must act on instinct. They both see me at the same time and
stop in mid-sentence or mid-gaffaw, like a freeze-frame movie clip. I too remain frozen inside the
doorway, locked in a stare-down with these two rednecks.
As though someone has released a gummed up reel on a 16-millimeter projector, the action
starts up once more. But I do not move. I know that I must be a sight to behold standing here in
my kitchen door in the middle of a cornfield, holding my baby, my long skirt swirling in a sudden
prairie breeze. I keep my eyes wide and unblinking, and when they see they haven’t scared me,
they are again deflated.
“You’re not going to hurt us, are you?” I ask them. I come right out and ask the obvious,
knowing that if either of us run, mentally or physically, they will chase us like wild dogs.
When the eternal minute has finally passed, they look at each other and drag their feet back
over to the pick-up. The shorter one, the one in the cowboy hat and the tight jeans, hops up
into the driver's seat and guns the engine. The other one, older and meaner-looking, runs his
hands through his slicked back hair and then adjusts his rolled up sleeves around well-tended
biceps. He considers the possibilities, looks over at Stan who has not moved this whole time,
and then pulls himself up and into the truck and shuts the door.
Neither of us budge or breathe as the back end of the red pick-up truck disappears into a cloud
of prairie dust.