“Nancy Ward, where are you?” It’s getting late. A sudden turn in the road and we’ve reached the place; the cabin is on the right across this rocky ditch. And on the narrow porch sits Nancy herself, most venerable of midwives, respected by all because of her calling.
The old woman rises with the quiet dignity of the hill people. Pride, sorrow, mirth, are written in her rugged features. Her skin might be envied by many a Park Avenue debutante. Her soft black eyes glow with pleasure. A ten-cent store red necklace graces her neck. On her feet are men’s shoes, much too large. On her head is a red felt hat.
“Come in, sweetheart. Hist youreself right over my doorstep and gab a spell.” She greets Miss Lester. “Now I ain’t caught no babies come two month tomorrow. I aims to quit my traipsing round and set my bones by my own fire. But let me try to quit and some woman’s man will come arunning from yan way, and afore I knows it I’m a’tagging at his heels to help, jest like Jake’s old hound dog, or some such critter too dumb to rest.”
“Come to the meeting at Brushy Fork,” Miss Lester says, “and learn the best new ways to save your patient and yourself. The young doctor has studied and will be there to teach and help us all. We’ll all learn about cleanliness together, won’t we?”
“Yes’m, we will and that’s the truth. It’s the truth and I’ll be there with my bag and soap. Just count on me like us folks has counted on you for many a year.”
“Fine,” says Miss Lester. “That’s the kind of talk I like to hear. Now we must go.”
“Don’t hurry off.”
But go we must. The cabin seems a dim speck now far on the trail above. Below the little dusky stars came out and shine like symbols of the understanding of these mountain people.
“It was real nice of you all to ride by.” The dim sweet chorus of the hidden friendly army of the hills has remained with me and always will.
A DAY WITH THE BOONE DISTRICT NURSE
By Katherine Palmer
Notes gathered in 1935 Federal Writers’ Project, revised December, 1938
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