Swinging Bridges and Granny Em

Ann H Gabhart Ann's Posts, One Writer's Journal 11 Comments


I just finished doing the final edits on my upcoming historical novel, These Healing Hills, set in the Appalachian Mountains in 1946 with the background history about the Frontier Nursing Center. My character, Francine Howard, comes to the mountains to train as a nurse/midwife at the Midwifery School in Hyden, Kentucky. She has to learn mountain ways and get to know mountain characters. One of the characters I had the most fun “hearing” talk was Granny Em, a wise old mountain granny. She just kind of showed up one day while I was writing and that was my lucky day with this story. So here’s where Fran learns about swinging bridges and meets Granny Em for the first time, that day she just walked into my imagination. Hope you enjoy the scene.

   Fran pulled in a deep breath and took two more quick steps. The bridge bounced to life with seemingly one aim. To shake her off. She grabbed the rope side with a death’s grip, afraid to move either direction. 

   A laugh behind her startled Fran. When she jerked around to see who was there, the bridge wobbled under her feet again. An old woman stood at the edge of the bridge with a basket looped over her arm.

“First time on a bridge like this’n?” the woman asked.

Fran dared a slight nod. “It doesn’t seem all that sturdy.”

“That bridge has held up plenty of bigger folks than the slip of a girl you are.”

“I’m not all that little,” Fran said.

“But some smaller than an elephant.”

“An elephant has been across here?” Fran couldn’t imagine such a feat.

“Not that I’ve heard tell of, but ’twouldn’t surprise me if Mary Breckinridge brung one in. She takes a fancy to all sorts of unusual things.” The woman eyed Fran. Her bonnet shaded her face, but it was easy to see the deep wrinkles creasing her cheeks. Her eyes were an odd coppery color that made Fran think of lion pictures she’d seen.

But her eyes were striking for more than their color. While the old woman’s shoulders were humped over a bit and her knuckles were thick with arthritis, her eyes looked like those of a young woman. Bright and glaring as she watched Fran, hardly blinking at all.

Fran had the feeling the old woman thought she was one of Mary Breckinridge’s odd things. She decided to go along with her. “Like me.”

A smile lifted one corner of the old woman’s lips. “Like you. But I’m thinking you ain’t as unusual as some of them others. ’Cepting for being scared of high places. These here hills ain’t a very friendly place for a body fearful of being high.”

“I’m not afraid of heights.”

“Are ye sure of that?” The old woman clucked her tongue, then set her basket down and moved over to the bridge. She grabbed the rope handhold and jumped on the bridge with both feet.

Fran clamped her lips together to keep from shrieking. When the swaying slowed, she admitted, “Well, except those heights that wobble and sway.”

The old woman twisted her thin lips to the side and gave Fran a considering look. “I like a body who tells the truth even if it has to be shook out of ’em. So I’ll cure you of the fear you’re having.”

“How’s that?” Fran thought she might just have to stay on the bridge until somebody pried her hands loose from the rope rails and carried her off.

“The bridge ain’t shaking. It’s dancing. You gotta dance with it, girl. Let your feet find the rhythm. If you pay some mind, there’s rhythm nigh on to ev’rything.”

“Dance, huh?” Fran kept her eyes on the old woman. “But I’ve never been much of a dancer.”

“Ain’t nobody what can’t dance if’n they turn their feet loose. The good Lord built tappin’ to music right in our toes.”

Fran swallowed and gripped the side tighter.

“Don’t be afeared. Give it a try.” The woman took a couple of steps toward Fran. She moved with the ease of a child and the bridge barely shivered.

Fran followed her example and forced her foot forward. The bridge dropped down a bit but then seemed to lift up to meet her next step. The swaying did have a certain cadence that might make one think of dancing.

She looked back toward the old woman, who had moved off the bridge. “I see what you mean.”

“Good to know you kin take advising.”

“Yes, thank you.” She took another step or two, but then thought she should say who she was. “I’m Nurse Howard, by the way.”

“I knowed who you were.”

“But I don’t know you.”

“If that ain’t the truth.” The old woman picked up her basket and walked away from the bridge.

If that’s got you interested in the story, it’s already available for pre-order on internet sites like Amazon; Barnes & Noble & wherever books are sold.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you think you might want to get to know Granny Em better.



Comments 11

  1. Sandi Keaton-Wilson

    YAY, Ann~ a book of yours to look forward to ~ one that I know is my “cup of tea” without reading the leaves in the bottom of a cup. I am so glad you chose the Appalachian region to write about and also this subject! Can you tell I am excited! I love how we writers can give voice to other people that need to be heard. You are great at it.

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      Ann H Gabhart

      Thanks so much, Sandi. I’m excited about people reading the upcoming book. Really hoping it will be a blessing to readers.

  2. Fran Foor

    Wow I can’t wait to read this. Gran Em reminds me of my great grandma. She would fit the bill great. I know I will love this very much. Thanks for the memories it brought back to me. God bless.

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  3. Lou Anne Panning

    count me in on reading your brand new novel. I too am not afraid–well too afraid of heights and was excited to cross a sturdy looking bridge high above some spectacular view. One quarter of the way it started to “wobble and sway”. I backed slowly off the bridge. Wish someone had said it’s just dancin’, for I missed out on the fun and the view. Thanks for the heads up on your writings.

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      Ann H Gabhart

      Sound like you had a Fran experience, Lou Anne. It may take growing up with swinging bridges or some time getting used to them to really not mind the bridge’s dance. I could be wrong since other than what I read I don’t have a lot of experience with swinging bridges, but I think I need to walk across one now.

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      Ann H Gabhart

      Maybe it takes a quirky character to know a quirky character and that’s how they can jump into this quirky person’s head, Paula. Glad you enjoyed meeting Granny Em.

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