In the valley below the Gravelly Spur sometimes life was lost in the living, but at times circumstances would change that for a while.
Billy Thurston lived in a sharecropper’s house with his mother Alma and father Fred. Although Billy was just eight-years-old, he already had performed almost every task it took to help run the farm and help his parents scrape a meager living on shares.
He plowed and planted, tended to animals, and walked a few paces behind his father as they hunted to add a bit of meat to the table.
Each fall when it came time to cut the corn and tie the stalks together, in the mist the stands of corn stalks looked as if an army had left the field and propped its rifles there.
At this time of year an army of mice which made the field a home would tend to run for the cover of whatever building they could find.
This year Billy’s father told him it would be his job to place the mouse traps around the house and keep them clean of whatever they might catch.
Being mindful of his father, he went about his chore and kept each trap ready and waiting for the next offensive.
One afternoon one of the traps did not hold a dead mouse but one whose leg was caught and broken.
Billy did not have the heart to end the little one’s life. So, he cut some small branches and took a few threads from the ragged area of his overalls and tied upon the mouse’s leg a splint.
Billy carefully carried the gray field mouse to the edge of the cornfield which lay between their house and my Grandma Kitty’s and released it.
After a couple of days, my Grandma Kitty was sweeping off the front porch. As she turned and opened the screen door, in scurried a little mouse which she promptly followed with broom in hand. After quite a chase around the old butcher block table, she finally had the little critter cornered.
As she was about to bring the broom down with all her might, she saw the splint upon its leg. The sight of that little splint reminded her that every life has value no matter in what form it is carried. She could not bring herself to end this one.
She reached down, picked the animal up and carried it to the edge of the corn field to release it.
Twice the little mouse got a reprieve. The yellow barn cat Grover was not so kind-hearted.
From Randall Franks’s book “A Mountain Pearl : Appalachian Reminiscing and Recipes”