Chapter one "
It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood," I sing as I go out to hang the clothes on the line, and it truly is a beautiful day. Sun is shining, flowers blooming, all the new ones I have planted have settled in and are growing, buds popping out, really a beautiful day.
I feel the baby in my belly moving, and I stop a minute to put my hand where the little foot or hand has pushed. Too little to do much more than make a fluttering feeling, but this baby is letting me know she/he is in there.
Clothes hung, I head back to the house still singing, but now I sing a lullaby to celebrate baby.
Nap time, work all done, and I need a rest. Seems like I'm always sleepy now, but a nap will fix me right up, I tell myself. I lay on the sofa, pull a little throw over my feet, and I am out.
An hour later, I'm awake, wondering where Rob is now. Should be back from town soon. I get the things I'm going to fix for supper tonight, out, and ready to cook as Rob will be hungry for sure after all that driving.
Wonder if he was able to get the loan we need for new equipment for the mine. Too bad our old truck died on us, it has to be replaced, as well as our excavator. Rob says our sluice box is good for several more years, and the little stuff we'll just buy.
I'm still happy when I go out to see if the clothes are dry and start folding them as I glance over at the mine entrance and see Robs' truck parked there.
Don't remember seeing it when I hung out the clothes, must have just gotten here. I put the basket on the porch while I walk to the mine. Hate the mine, never been in it, never plan to go in. So scary makes every hair on my arms stand up when I even walk close. I have a bad history with mines.
My dad was a miner, had his own mine, not too far from here and I played in and out of the mine with my brothers and sister. I got sick one day when I was about nine and had to stay in the house with mama while the rest of the kids went out to play. She had given me something to make me feel better, and I had napped, but something startled me awake, and I was all alone. I called and called for mama, but she didn't answer. Finally, I went running out of the house to find her. There was a lot of dirt, dust in the air, hard to breathe, but I didn't see mama anywhere, none of the kids either. I saw Mr. Bob, our next-door neighbor driving up in a hurry, followed by several others.
"Penny, where's your pa, girl?"
"Don't know. Can't find anyone. Mama's not here, can't find any of the others either."
"God be with them please." I heard him whisper. He turned to the other men, "Mike, go sound the alarm, see how fast you can get help here, and maybe a woman or two for Penny. Tom, see how many shovels you can round up, and let's get busy."
He picked me up, walked me to the porch and told me to sit there til someone came to take care of me. I was a bit resentful of his sending me away, but didn't feel good enough to argue, so I went back inside, lay on the couch and pulled a blanket over me. I felt so cold, was back asleep in minutes, never imagining what was happening outside, or what the rest of my life would be like.
I woke to the sound of women talking in the kitchen. "Worst thing I ever heard of whole family taken like that. Don't know what they were thinking of letting the children play in the mine. Won't ever catch one of mine playing in ours."
I listened for a few more minutes as they talked, then it gradually sunk in that they were talking about my family. I screamed, kept on screaming, until finally, blessed oblivion.
The doctor was called, my fever was high, high enough for concern, so after Mr. Bob had gotten in touch with my moms' family to tell them about the mine cave-in, he had to call them back to tell them they might lose me too. They had already packed to come and promised to be there in a few hours if someone would just stay with me, take care of me til they could get here. Arrangements were made, but I was too sick to care. I wanted my mama.
The family came, I recovered, and, after the funerals they took me home with them.
I grew up of course, went to college to get my teaching degree, met Robert who was studying mineralogy, and that was that. Never looked at another man and Rob said he was just as smitten.
We managed to graduate, got married and worked for a few years saving our money like crazy. Rob had big dreams, wanted to try his hand at mining. Not for gold, but for semi-precious jewels.
Rob had found a natural cave in the area we wanted to search, with a small house on the place, a little barn and a chicken coop. It was mostly fenced in, just what we needed. We managed to scrape up enough for a good down payment, and he started working in the nearest town, while I tutored at the local high school. It was close enough to our house for me to walk back and forth, and I did love to watch those kids that needed a little extra help catch on to what we were working on and take off with it. Did my heart good to help them.
As I near the mine entrance, I can hear something, sounds like it is coming from the bowels of the earth. A groaning, moaning sound with a bit of mewing like a kitten or some such. I jump back several feet, nearly falling when my feet land on loose gravel.
I gingerly approach the entrance, but just can't get closer than 5-6 feet. My hands turn to ice, and my heart is beating out of my chest.
Feel like I will faint away. "Rob, Rob, are you in there?" No answer. I ease closer, call again, and hear the moaning, groaning sound again. I turn and run away, crying now I'm so scared.
"God, help me, God, give me strength, God, PLEASE give me courage." I march back toward the mine entrance, wringing and shaking my hands, my feet are stumbling and dancing as I fight to keep them moving in the way I need to go.
I manage to get just inside the entrance and yell loud as I can "ROB ARE YOU IN HERE?"
This time I hear "help me Penny, need help," followed by groaning.
"Oh Lord, it's Rob in there and you know I love him, you know he needs help, but right now, I need help worse. I can't go in there alone, no use pretending. I'm scared, scared bad. If you don't help me Lord, I won't be able to do this."
I shut my eyes and run straight into the cave. I don't know how far back in the cave Rob is mining, so I start calling him as I start walking. Every time I hear the slightest noise, I think the roof is going to be falling down on us. Can't stop shaking. Finally, I hear a groan. It is so dark in here; I am beyond where light comes in thru the entrance. Around another bend, and I see the glow from a lantern. I rush toward the light, gasping for breath, and see Rob laying there, leg under him at a weird angle.
He looked at me and tried to smile. "Wasn't sure you would be able to come in here, Penny. Thank you." He knows my history, and that I fear mines, caves, anything underground.
"Not for a million bucks, but our baby needs a pa, so here I am." My heart is still racing, but I am so much more confident with Rob in here with me. "What can I do to get you out of here?"
"There is a big wheelbarrow just beyond me. Think you could push it with me in it?"
"Won't know til I get you in it and try." I ease past him and find the wheelbarrow and push it up close to him. He tries to pull himself up, but shrieks with pain and is momentarily unconscious.
"Here are a couple of boards," I mutter as I tear the bottom off my shirt, then another strip. "Good strong cotton. I can do this." While he is out, I straighten the broken leg amidst more groaning, put the boards along the sides of the leg, and tie it tight with the pieces of my shirt. Need more rope or something. I find an old shirt hanging where he had been working earlier and manage to get several long strips. It is nearly rotten, not strong, so I braid three of the pieces together then tie them around the boards and his ankle.
"Rob, Rob, honey, I know you are hurting, but I can't get you in there by myself, you will have to help me."
He rouses at my voice, and somehow, gets into the wheelbarrow with me holding the splinted leg steady. It was a long way to the entrance. Rob is holding the lantern to guide me, but it seems like I hit every bump as I push us thru.
"Thank you, Lord, for your mercies, and for the truck being parked right here."
Rob is pale, in pain, but determined to do most of the lifting as I get us by the truck door. We work together and get him in the truck, then I look at my shirt, not much there, better get a different one on before we go. I drive up to the porch, grab a clean shirt, have it on in seconds, grab my purse, and we are off to the hospital.
Pain medicine, x rays done, and the doctor came in to tell us it will require surgery.
I think this is the longest surgery ever. I have been waiting in his room for three hours now, and I'm tired, hungry, and ready to see him, see that he is ok.
One of the nurses brings me a dinner tray, how kind. "Thank you, you must have known I was hungry."
"Saw you were pregnant and remembered how hungry I always was. The operating room just called, your husband did well, and will be back in here in about 30 minutes, so finish your dinner and I'll pick it up before he gets here. He won't be allowed to eat tonight, and we don't want to tease him, do we?" She smiles and walks out.
I hurry thru eating and freshen up before Rob comes back to his room. Don't want him to see me all frowsy headed, no lipstick.
"Hi honey, sorry you had to go thru this, but thank you for loving me enough to come into the mine. It had to be hard."
"We'll have a great story to tell baby when he gets here. Honestly, I couldn't have done it without God giving me the courage and the strength."
"Are my dirty clothes in here? Would you please look in the pockets?"
I pull out some dirty looking rocks, and ask "what are these? And if we have a little boy, will I always be finding stuff like this in the pockets?"
"I am pretty sure those have some rose red, possibly some purple garnets in them. We have a lot of mica schist, containing biotite and bronzite back in the mine and there is an underground stream running thru there. That is where I picked up the rocks." He gave a mighty yawn just as his nurse came in.
"Ok folks, times up. You, young lady, skedaddle on home and get some sleep. I'll be here all night to watch over your hubby."
Being totally exhausted, I didn't argue, just kissed Rob, grabbed the rocks, put them in my purse, and went home to shower, then to sleep.
Rob is right, and when we took the stones, cleaned them up and showed them to a guy Rob knew, they were garnets. Not precious stones, but not bad for semi-precious. I know that as days go by and the baby comes, I will have to visit the mine again, just to show God how much I appreciate the love, strength and courage he gave me when I needed it most.