Silent Echoes #1
Tommy Lee should have been the happiest country music artist in Nashville Tennessee. His thirteen year over nigh success had started three years ago. The honkytonks and beer parlors had kept him in material things for a song writer; the platinum albums were making him a rich man. Today he had celebrated number four. ďSnow Packed TrailsĒ had already sold over one hundred thousand before it was released. Yes, Tommy should have been happy, that was something Tommy knew little of in his short life. He was a puzzle to everyone even himself. After three years of success he continued to live in the same three rooms over looking the Cumberland River, one flight over an almost forgotten cafť. He knew what he left there was safe, the place was kept clean by the cafť manager, nothing had ever been missing.
Most of his things stayed on the big tour bus, guitars, stage clothes, the few valuables he had allowed himself. The apartment was just behind one of the big new hotels, his short cut home. A friendly staff allowed him to use the front door as if he lived there, and then hurry down the back hall to exit across from the cafť. Everyone who gave him a ride thought he hived in the luxury of the big hotel. He didnít own a car anymore, had no needed for one, no close friends, no one really knew him or anything about him or his past. The trade magazines had a field day trying to stir up some news on him, every thing from being the disinherited son of a rich family, to bend the bastard son of a famous country music star. All manner of stories a bout him, they were all lies, no one, not even his band knew where he came from or anything about his personal life.
He felt there was something missing from his life, something he needed to take care of. He knew what it was, he needed to go home. It had been thirteen years sense he caught a trucker on his way to California .Tommy had written a postcard and asks the driver to mail it when he got to the west coast, in the mean time he was headed to Tennessee. He thought his Father might come after him, but Thomas would never waste a minute of his time on Tommy.
Thomas had never wanted him, why would he go looking for him, except now he would have to hire a farm hand to take his place. His Mother, yes his Mother Hanna, she had been fifty when she gave birth to him. That would make her seventy three. Thomas was sixty five when he became a Father, making him eighty eight now, if he was still alive, hell he had to be dead, he was too damn mean to live and too stubborn to die. Hanna had been fifteen when her father made her marry Thomas, no child until she was fifty.
Tommy needed to see her. At midnight he was on a plane for a four hour ride to the nearest airport to his home. He knew he needed to get there; the urgency he felt made him feel faint. He had to get there before it was too late. He had packed a few changes of clothes, the weather would be colder, and his old flat top guitar, even some pictures if anyone noticed him and wanted one. He was known all over the country and was surprised some one had not answered the many pleas of the magazines to give out who he was, no one had so far, but it couldnít last.
Since he had started getting money coming in he sent some to Mr. McKinley for Hanna, never any correspondence, just the money every month to make sure she didnít want for any thing. He hadnít even asked about Marilee, Macís grand daughter, who he had grown up with. He thought her probably married with a couple of children, maybe working in nursing or teaching, she had left that same summer to go to college in New York. He often wondered if she still lived there and knew when he had a concert in New York City.
Mac and Lela lived a mile down the road from the farm, in a fine old plantation house kept up to itís past glory while the Lee house had gone down every year. It was probably on the ground by now. It would be his when Hanna was gone, a land grant to a Parker who fought in the war against Mexico, couldnít be sold or disposed of in any way, Tommy was the last of the Lee and Parker line. At the airport he rented a black Jeep Cherokee. It would take an hour to drive from the airport to the house on willow Road. Would there be smoke coming from the rock chimney? Would the house even be standing?
In an hour he would know if he was the last of the clan still breathing. It was almost dawn, too dark to see very much, but he could tell the landscape had changed; even the airport had been more modern. He had walked past it the last time he was on that road. He had been frightened that Thomas would try to run him down. It had been a relief to get a ride to the nearest thereafter that it was pick and sing to earn enough to rent a place to sometimes he had worked for a farmer, or gathering fruit, slept in barns, abandoned houses.
Never really afraid, but never completely at ease neither small town liked drifters; he had almost ended up in jail as a vagrant in a couple of places. In Kansas a Food Market manager had given him a job on the spot when the law tried to arrest Tommy was doing what he wished he had done while he was young enough. Tommy was picked up by some strange people, mostly truckers, decent people, didnít mind having someone to talk to for a while .Went half way across the state with one. He had been a music loving man , Tommy had played every thing he knew for him. The fog was lifting; there would be no sun today. The trees in the yard were doing a silent sway .There was the house, hardly standing .The roof from the front porch was on the step landing. Windows were broken, probably by vandals. He hoped no one had taken the hand made mantels .
One thing Thomas could do was make things of wood and beautiful candles .His gift with his hand he could handle. The yard was grown up, a fence drawn over the drive, so much for the grand manner in which he in tended to arrive. He parked by the mail box, hopping he wouldnít get hit. If he was a smoker a cigarette he would have lit up. Suddenly his feet struck to the ground mind said turn it around .There was pure silence, not even a bird chirping a sound .He wondered what had happened to that old mangy hound .Tommy made his way to the back porch, the old pump was still there, rusted beyond repair. The big cabin door was unlocked, he felt as if he needed to knock.
Of course there was no fire laid for him. The big room was dusty and dim. Everything was gone, even the sink made of stone .Hannaís rocking chair had always been by the fireplace, as he walked he could hear his foot fall all over the place .The stares in the front hall looked strong enough. He wanted to see his old room, he knew it would be rough. The other doors were closed but his was open, he thought Hanna wouldnít let anyone close it It was still the same Spartan room,A single bed, no curtains , not much room. He went to the window by habit,looked toward the McKinley , to think of them was too soon. The distance was only a mile but it might have been to the moon. Out to the grave yard was the next place, he could feel the sweat pop out on his face. There was the double tome stone,with only one name. Some one had carved both names but Thomas was the only one with a date. 1918 Some where In East Tennessee,Died 1993 . that was the year Tommy had left. All this time Hanna had been by herself. Where had she gone, why was nothing left?
The nursing home in town where he used to sing and play ,Thomas made him go every Sunday. A crowd always gathered and sang along, people were happy living in that home. Back to the Jeep,away to town slowed some when he reached the McKinley place . It was still the prettiest place he had ever seen Mr. Mac was kind and gentle, not a bone in his body mean. His grand daughter Marilee, the prettiest girl he ever did see .Her folks had been killed, leaving her to live with her grand parents. They had go to school together she was in a different class, summer when the work was through they rode horses over the hill to the natural lake where water came from under the bluff as cold as ice. Many hours they had talked there, but never enough .She was going East to collage had no plans at all, maybe a scholarship from A&M , if Thomas thought it was of any worth to him.
Tommy had never been allowed to play sports at school. Every year the coaches went to talk to Thomas, but he would not give in. Like his music, he liked to play guitar and sing since he was a kid .Mr. Mac had made him a flute, and some playing he did. Thomas would forbid him to play ,but when he left in the truck Hanna would sit on the porch and listen to him, if Thomas had known both would have had to pay. One time in his life Hanna had stood up to Thomas, sold enough quilts to buy Tommy a flat Top guitar. Thomas said it went back Hanna said it would stay.
Tommy carried the guitar around every day, played it every chance he had. He wasnít allowed to play for the public, when he played at the nursing home, everyone loved it .Thomas was proud of his son, treated with such respect. Hanna had waited until the preacher came to dinner, knew Thomas wouldnít do anything against her. Thomas had a sour look on his face but the preacher had praised Tommyís talent with grace, after that Thomas hadnít said anything about music on the place. It wasnít Thomasí s ranch to begin with. So it never was mentioned, that Tommy knew of.
The story about Thomas that he had heard was never clear, of where he was from and why he was there. Tommy had wondered all his life in Tennessee, Thomas had left some children and a wife. If Hanna knew she had kept the secret quiet. The nursing home was still shrouded by the super lights, he had been inside, at the stairs three flights, if Hanna was there he hopped she had plenty of light .She should have the best room with a good bed so she could rest through the night; at home her windows were always open to the light. Darkness was one thing she never did stay quiet, he remembered over electricity she had put up a big fight. Thomas gave in when winter took the day light.
Tommy was slow getting out of the Jeep. He was weary to the bone and needed to sleep. He had to know where Hanna was, or this trip was a lost cause. The receptionist looked about as tired as he felt; she still had her professional disposition left, ask what she could do to help. Tommy didnít introduce himself, just ask if Hanna Lee was a patient there, she Nodded yes, said she would get a nurse out there; it was too early for a visiting hour. He stood looking out on the lawn, where he had picked his guitar so long ago. A hand touched his arm, he forgot everything, Hanna, music, the ranch.
The hand that touched him belonged to Marilee, he could smell her , he didnít have to see. She still had that little scar on her thumb where barbed wire stung her like a bee. "Tommy" she gently said his name after all the years her voice was still the same. He turned toward her, heart in his throat,tears in his eyes, not a mote. She had given him such a jolt." Marilee"He managed to get out, by then completely turned about. " Yes Tommy, itís me you have some time to see your mother ". He almost chocked on his words, " Is she alive?" " Yes " was what he heard." she is living but not another hour, just waiting for you to get here" tears were blinding Tommyís eyes.
He didnít try to hold them back or make them a disguise." How did she know I would be here?" Marilee "she was hanging on to see you one last time, she wonít last long donít waste what time God saved for you, she is all but gone now". Marilee had to bow her head, she had humbled him with the words she said. Tommy took his motherís hand in his, remembering the hard work they had done on the ranch all those years., the gardens she had brought in, the flowers she had put her heart into raising, her roses had been amazing.
He couldnít trust his voice, in front of thousands with his guitar in his hand he could laugh, joke, and sing until his throat rebelled. In front of his dieing Mother he was as tongue tied as a kid the first time to stand up in front of the class." Ma" he finally got out, "Yes son" she answered. "do you hear me on the radio and TV?" she turned her head slightly "these girls keep a radio, and TV on up here, we listen to your Cdís and see you on stage every where, they slip around and watch with me you see." Her old face had the ghost of a smile" I read the magazines to, they donít seem to know anything about you. Are You ashamed of where your from?"
ď No Ma I am not a shamed of the home place just didnít want news men with cameras in everyoneís face. Beside it gave me an edge of mystery., Some day soon some one is going to write in to a magazine and blow my cover, I am surprised it has held this longĒ Hanna smiled at the boy she loved so, ď I know you wonít have any freedom son, I hear your songs every one.Ē Hanna pulled herself up in bed, Tommy put his arm under her child size head, so much needed to be said, he followed where ever she lead. She tugged at his hands, pointed at the flowers on the standsĒ Your money did all this,Ē she brought his hand to her wrinkled mouth to give him a kiss. ďMac ask me to live with them, it was good of him. I just couldnít put my troubles on their shoulders, he and Lela arenít much younger, he has use of the ranch, now it belongs to you.Ē
Ē Tommy hadnít wanted to bring the homestead up, Hanna was being very abrupt.Ē I have thought about the old home placeĒ Tommy took a deep breath as a braceĒ I am going to have it brought down, as well as the old buildings all around, In a week it wonít be there, I have some plans I hope you wonít careĒ Hanna sighed deep into her lungs .It belongs to you, do what ever you want to. When they start taking it down there are some things under the cabin loft to be foundĒ Tommy thinking about the stories of treasure, as what it was just for good measure.
Ē A secret Thomas kept, didnít want anyone to know, especially the help, first glance I got I broke down and wept, canít say any more , you have to see for your self,Ē Tommyď Ma, what on earth did Thomas do? Beside work all time and yell at me and you? She could hardly speak ď Son give your Father respect in death which in life he did not seekĒ Tommy was beside himself, she was all the kin he had leftĒ Iím sorry Ma I know better than to disrespect the deadĒ Her face had blanched, her breath shallow. Whites of her eyes turning yellow, she could only whisper,ď Every thing has been arranged, I would to the almighty things hadnít been so strange, my marriage to Thomas I didnít arrange,
I kept a journal since I was a young girl. There will be more than one I have lived a long time, writing was the only way I could stand to live the life that was mine, Thomas wasnít always kind .He never hit me or tried to make me mind. Of his history , I know he came from the mountains of East Tennessee, he never told his story even to me, so folks there must be, maybe in time you will have a chance to see. I donít even know if his name was really Lee.Ē
Tommy felt her neck go slack, she slowly settled on her back, Marilee closed her eyes for the last time .Tommy saidĒ her eyes were looking into mine, I wonder what she did findĒ. He kissed her on her still warm cheek, one of the nurses looked in for a peek, Marilee told her Hanna was gone, give them a few minutes, then call the undertaker to come on. The nurse was hurt, Tommy could see,he knew she was showing her respect for Hanna, no crying there would be, professional was she and Marilee. Soon the staff came by, to Hanna they wanted to say good bye. Tears ran down his face so much good had been done for her in this place.
He remembered when he was young and hated being there. Thomas had made him play and sing, sense then he hadnít done that any where .Now he knew he would, Hanna had made him see that doing for old folks wasnít charity it was doing good. The undertaker came, Tommy had to leave. He had to find a place where he could grieve. Marilee went with him to his Jeep ďI am taking you home with me for Mac and Lela to keepĒ Tommy tried to protest, she wouldnít let go. She hugged himď Your are still the hardest head I will ever know, where in this country would you go?ĒTommy knew he had no choice but to go with Marilee, she was right, there was no motel with in ten miles, near the next town. There was no town there, just a few stores which supplied the county as they always had.
A general store which sold every thing from plows to suits, a flower shop where he stopped to order roses for Hannaís grave, two cafeís, one pool hall, one drug store which still served cokes from the fountain and ice cream, kids still went in to get a coke and take a look at the latest comic book. Catch up on the gossip among the people who shopped there .One kid recognized Tommy from a magazine, the others told him to shut up and give the guy a break ,he had just lost his mother. the kids got busy with something else and let it go .Many people could have called the nearest news paper or radio station but no one did. The little village would have been packed by dark and no one wanted that. No one wanted the media hanging from light poles getting pictures and running folks down for interviews. It was Hannaís time, the settlement felt the need for privacy.
Marilee drove the Jeep to the house where she lived with her grandparents, where she had been raised, and expected to grow old, the only home she could remember. Her home in New York had been an apartment, not lived in long before her husband moved into a halfway house with AID victims , she would have to tell Tommy, right then he had all he could handle. ďWhat was Ma talking about over the crawl space of the cabin?Ē Tommy ask, Marilee ď I donít have any idea, she didnít tell me anything was there, she did leave a package with me some time ago, itís in my room, Mac saw to the cleaning out of every thing, the crawl space must be well hid for him to miss it, he does know where Hannaís ledgers are, He packed them away in moisture proof tubs.
Tommy watching the fence post go by ĎĒI canít wait to read them, she said she didnít know anything about Thomas, there must be something in the ledgers, some clue to who he really was, I may have some kin back in TennesseeĒ. Marilee ď wouldnít that be something, you living in Nashville and having kin that close with out knowing them, but they wouldnít know anything about you either, if Thomas ever got mail Mr. Preacher would know about it,he delivered it every day, surely he would have told Hanna, he could have had a post office box, we can check that out quick enough, I canít see him keeping quiet about any news of Thomas LeeĒ. TommyĒ he swore an oath or something about privacy, he did know everyoneís business, helped Hanna with her quilts, never charged her for delivering one, always brought the money back next day, the man is as honest as the day is long, brought my guitar when Thomas wasnít at home. She hid it until Sunday ,when the preacher was there for dinner and surprised us all.
That was the only time I ever knew of her going up against him, She was like a mad old rooster that day, determined to have her wayĒ. Marilee ď I remember Hanna as kind and quiet, never raised her voice when we stayed out on the horses too late. Mac would have a fit and threaten to stop us from riding off to the lake. Just as if he didnít know we could swim, remember, you taught me to swim. It was about ten, the water was as cold as ice. But I learned, I thought I had to do every thing you could do,except to play the guitar, I even tried to do that.Ē Tommy ď why didnít you tell me you wanted to learn? I could have taught you. Would have given us more time together.Ē
Marilee ď At ten we thought we had all the time in the world. We were sure wrong, next thing we are out of high school, you had hit the road the very next day and I was off to New York to study nursing. Tommy ď I can see the house, seems as if it is saying welcome home Tommy Lee. Marilee had tears for him ,he sounded so wishful, he never had a happy home, not even now that he could buy anything he wanted. Mac and Lela were waiting on the sun porch with Molly peeping from Lelaís wheelchair, it frightened him, she got up and walked to him for a hug and kiss, a big hand shake from Mac, and a sweet kiss from Molly, she had been there forever also.
He was invited in, they expressed their condolence at Hannaís passing .Molly had dinner on the table, her grand daughter was sulking in the kitchen because Molly wouldnít let her come out. She had made the mistake of saying she hated country music, especially from that stuck up Tommy Lee who thought himself better than anyone else in the country. The sun room was new, things even here had changed. Mac had built an apartment over it for Marilee. To give her some privacy. She was a homebody hadnít been out with a man sense Stan died. She had lost too much. The Lewisís had called often at first, now they didnít even send a Christmas card, they still blamed Marilee for Stanís decision to live out his life in a home for AIDS patients, intent upon helping them and protecting Marilee
Hannaís Funeral The Viewing
Hanna's body was brought out at ten the next morning. Tommy was there with the McKinley's behind him , Marilee was was at his side. Hanna was dressed in blue, her hair pulled back as she had always wore it,with out her glasses she looked naked, tommy had them put on her face. In her crossed hands he placed a rose . Tommy tried to control his pain but it went too deep. He felt the guilt of having stayed away so long. The fact he had provided for her did not ease the pain although he knew she had been taken good care of all this time, it hadn't been by him.
Going back to the funeral home the second time was more difficult. First Tommy drove by the grave yard to see that every thing was taken care of there , it was behind the old grape harbor vine. To build a new house there was enough room to choose from. He didnít want it close to the old house . Tommy had talked to Bobby on the phone the night before ,It was hard to do business when death had knocked on the door. Bobby had been a good friend, much like a cousin as Thomas would allow, he worked with his father in construction, and on the ranch followed a plow. He was married to Gill, how did that happen anyhow? Tommy couldnít wait to see the house he had built out of a water mill. His mind had been busy, suddenly they were sitting still.
Out side the funeral home someone was waiting to line the cars up .They were in Macís big Buick, easier for Lela to get into. Mac had always liked big cars, his was the first in line. With Mac some one always followed behind. The chapel and sitting rooms were filled, Tommy was surprised to know so many people knew Hanna lived. They went up to the casket to say last good byes. Tommy could not hold the tears in his eyes. His Mother, the last kin he knew of on earth, so late in life had given him birth. So much were his memories worth, to have to lay her beneath the homesteads green t ruff .Not one of her family was left, she had only her Mother and Father and herself .
A man old and bald had been to the casket, maybe once he was handsome and tall. He had taken Tommyís hand, tried to talk, his voice sounded like sand . Tears streamed down his face .Tommy felt as if he knew him from some place. He ask Marilee when the man turned his faceĒ Thatís Mr. Goldman, owns the jewelry storeĒ Tommy recalled him, Hanna never went into that store, jewelry she never wore. Tommy shook hands and got hugs from a lot of folks, Everyone was sincere, no one cracking jokes.
Bobby was there with his children and Gill, some school friends from the hill. Some of his old teachers, one pinched him on the face said he was so talented it was a disgrace. Not many had mention of his success, he was glad they let the subject rest .Could he sing Hannaís favorite songs? It would relieve him of some old wrongs. If his voice would just relax, he hadnít used it in several days, it shouldnít be taxed. His guitar was in Macís car, he told Marilee he needed to walk that far. She said to send the funeral director, he wouldnít mind, to have Tommy sing in his establishment would send him into the sublime. He talked to some others then it was time. People were seated all over the place.
The chapel was encased with fresh flowers, roses and all kind of garden flowers. He thought the shop had probably been up for hours. The speaker was the old minister, Tommy remembered him from when he was a boy, so many memories he did employ. He told of the day Hanna gave the guitar to the boy, how he had played it with out help. The first thing he played was Old Shep, he remembered because he was there and he had wept.
He had fine things to say about Hanna, her girlish smile and mild manner. The beautiful quilts she made, some she gave away. He would never forget the day....Then he caught himself , said it was time to pray. Prayers over it was time to play. Tommy took his guitar and made his way to the side of his Motherís casket. God please let me do this was all he was asking. He strummed the strings to make sure it was in tune, twenty years he had played it come next June. Slowly he drifted into the tune, there was not a sound in the big room.Ē Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in theeĒ Tears
In every eye he could see, even Mac couldnít let it be. Mr Goldman cried like a baby. Had he known Hanna ? More than just a maybe. He might have loved her when he was young, being a Jew, Hannaís Father would have come undone Mr. Goldman would have had to run. The service was over, songs sung. Tommy Lee had out done.
Hannaís Last Good Bye
Cars and trucks lined the road way between the McKinley and Lee place. The Sheriff had kept the fence up around the house and barn yard for private parking. People were all over the place .Some had walked the mile from the MacKinleys to the grave site .To view the burial of Tommyís mother Hanna. The word was out, there was no way to keep people back when they wanted to see a Celebrity. It was no longer Hannaís day. The local law was not large enough to handle that kind of crowd. The last thing Tommy wanted was an incident to mire Hannaís funeral and make head lines in local and national papers, there were news men from as far away as Nashville, at last they knew who Tommy Lee was, or would as soon as some one opened up and spilled his life story.
For the disruption Tommy was sorry, He had wanted Hanna buried in peace and quiet with the county people as witness Only one thing to do, please the public, take the old guitar and play for Hanna one last time. Please the country people. The hearse had trouble getting to the grave site, it was not in a convenient place behind the garden and the grape harbor. She would of course be interred by her husband and near her parents
Jacob Parker Jessie Router Parker
Father and Mother of Hanna
Thomas and Hanna Lee
The preacher said a prayer which could only be heard in the immediate area. Tommy had thought the Sheriff should have a loud speaker in his car for crowd control, when Tommy ask the Sheriff quickly knew the meaning of the question, sent a deputy to get the speaker. Tommy stood with the MacKinleys who by then had figured out what was about to take place. Marilee was frightened, there would be some unlawful conduct, but Tommy was determined to play music for Hanna and for this crowd. The word spread through the multitude of people who quieted down .Allowing the funeral to continue.
Tommy knew every song in the old church hymnals,he strummed the guitar until the crowd settled down completely. Only then did he start ď In the Sweet Bye And ByeĒ The crowd behaved, didnít applauded just waited until he sang one after the other, after Jordanís Stormy Banks, they begin to join in, soon the country side rang with the voices of hundreds of people. Tommy Lee was for the first time in his life humbled by his reception. When he sang the last song the grave was covered.
The Sheriff left two men to guard the grave ,until the next morning, asking Tommy how long he would be there. Tommy hadnít thought about time. He had a week before his next show, he needed to rehearse with the band, but in a pinch they could go on with out him. He could stay until Monday of the next week. Marilee was relieved to know she would have him for a few short days, he had a lot to take care of, having the house demolished, and the out buildings also. He would get to spend some time with Bobby, which would be good for both of them .She had watched Tommy walk out of her life one time, she doubted if she could let his go with out her. They had to get Lela home, she had insisted on standing for the service, but used the wheel chair for the singing. She would suffer tonight.
The day had been a long and hard one, Marilee had stayed by Tommyís Side through it all, even coming to the grave yard and cleaning away the debris. Hanna had never left her garden in a mess. Tommy wanted to go to the McKinley house and spend some time with them, he knew some people would stop by , they always did at a country funeral. He knew some would be asking about his intentions for the homestead, and remind him it had to be renovated or the state would take it away as abandoned. He had plans for fixing it up, but never would they have guessed how.
Tommy had talked to Bobby at the grave site about his idea. Bobby agreed to do the work and put the new building up. Getting the license and permits with all the red tape, plus blue prints and moving the old cabin over to the lake. Soon the weather would not permit out side work, he hoped to get something started on the house so he could keep his crew working inside all winter. Tommyís decision to build Hannaís House was a blessing to Bobby and his crew. The trick would be to run the utility lines under ground across the hill to the lake, and moving the two hundred year old cabin with out it breaking to peaces. Tommy wanted it on the South side where the sun would shine into the front, and the cottonwoods would made a wind break from the north. Actually he had thought it through very well, and continued to think about it on the drive back to Macís house. If Tommy had his way another house would be built on the bluff over looking the lake in a year or so, when he was settled in and not on the road so much. Until then Bobby would be his caretaker, under Macís supervision of course.
The family was quiet, like Tommy they wanted some peace and quiet, guests were already seated at the table with Molly and granddaughter doing the honors. A couple of men were smoking on the cobblestone patio. Tommy felt as if he was at home for the first time in his life .Thomas could not call him home from a mile away. A voice he often heard in his dreams, waking up soaking wet and as angry as hell. It took days for those moods to wear off .The subject of discussion was of course what he intended to do with the ranch. He really wanted to tell them to mind their own business, but why get off to a bad start and leave it for Bobby and Mac to have to deal with.
The banker and county judge thought it a novel idea to build a home for battered women and children. It wouldnít bring any revenue into the county, but Tommy was not concerned about making the countyís coffers run over. He said he would deposit the money in the local bank, that was enough to shut the banker up. The judge pointed out all the applications he would have to present, a certificate of need for a house of that size and for that use, which Mac laughed about. There would be no problems getting the necessary papers signed. The banker was all ready to disapprove a loan when Tommy told him he had no need for private or government grants, his own money would build the house, and maintain it until he could justify taking federal grants to help the women and children.
It was late after noon when the guests finally made their way to the door. Lela went immediately to bed and Molly took the granddaughter home as quickly as they could get away. Mac was watching football with his eyes closed when Marilee motioned Tommy to follow her up stairs. He was delighted although he knew their minds were not running in the same direction. He wanted to take her to his bed so badly he physically ached. In all the years he had known her he had never held her, never once kissed her lips. In child hood he had kissed away her bumps and bruises, and when they were fourteen he had kissed her on the cheek, but no real kisses. In his room she got out jeans and a heavy sweat shirt,pulled his dress shirt off and unbuckled his pants, before telling him to get dressed, they were going horse back riding to the lake.
She told him she new he was exhausted, but some riding and fresh air would do wonders for him .He smiled and told her he didnít think he needed a wonder just then. Playfully she scratched his back and let her arms rest around his broad chest, playing with a cross on a gold chain around his neckĒ When did you start wearing a cross? Do you wear an earring?Ē Tommy didnít know if she was playing or just filling time. ď Yes ďHe said .His mind and body was ready for making love to that beautiful woman who for ever had driven him out of his mind. She touched him just as if she touched him every day, he was at the breaking point.
She reminded him the horses were saddled and waiting, they had to go or be out after dark, and Mac would have the hands out looking for them. He wanted to ride to the bluff to watch the water falls, told her of his dream to have the cabin rebuilt in the cottonwoods where the wind wouldnít hit so hard. She ask him why a cabin, why not a house. He told her when he built a house it would be on the bluff over looking the falls and lake, a big log house with steps from a deck all the way down to the lake, there would be a picnic table with lounge chairs and a grill. She ask him how he could invent such plans after living in that three room walk up. He told her he wasnít building for himself alone, he would have a wife. Marilee smiled and said for him to hold that thought he might not have to look for if he was interested in local talent. Now he knew where it was going.
They took the horses across the familiar pasture to the hill over looking the Lee place. Tommy's horse was skittish had his own will. Tommy hadn't ridden in years, he had some disadvantages to full fill. Marilee rode on, left him standing still .Evening was moving in early, the rain clouds were gathering
If the rains came the horses would be scattering. Marilee loved to ride in the rain, but that was in the summer this cool time of the fall would bring sickness upon her they rode down the hill to the lake, Tommy rode into the cottonwoods broke a limb and pounded it in the ground , it was a stake
for the house he would have and the home he would make.
They tried out the water it was as cold as could be,an underground cavern where the ice could form free the coldest water Tommy knew there could be. He could close his eyes and see the cabin right there. Sun in the morning the breeze light and fair in this hallowed place life would be like a prayer. Looking up he could see the big house up there, shining in the night like a fire burning flair, stairs running down the side to the lake .How many songs and appearances would it take, this dream to make?Marilee just let him dream, she knew his most intimate dream .She would be a part of that scheme, tears in her eyes made them in the evening light gleam. Life had come full circle for the both of them it would seem. She had left, tried to stay away missed seeing him on the very first day. He stayed away, had no way to know, her days were weary, no desire to play.
Stan had been dead five years that day. No one had remembered,she had nothing to say. She could have bought tickets , she could have taken a plane to where ever he did play. It had come to her mind she would have done it some day. Hanna had handled that by passing away. She talked about him so much, longed to see him to feel his touch. there was still the package, and what ever was found in the house, beneath the cabin crawl space, a treasure?Something lasting. The journals were taken to Tommy's room he would remember and want to start back soon, just then he began to whistle a tune, said lets go it will be dark soon. He still hadn't touched her, it didn't seem fit. He was afraid he would lose control. Her very presence in his heart she had lit a fire that only making love would quieten. Making love to Marilee was his life long dream when he was young he dreamed and schemed, nothing was meant to be. Back once again to the ranch in a canter, the terrain was rough .They had used a careless manner, just to spend some alone time together.
Darkness came early as the winter drew near, sometimes there was snow by this time of year. Thanksgiving Thursday of next week, he would be gone, his fortune to seek. Now he had a goal, he could write and sing of love and loss as in times of old. A tribute to love, the oldest story to be retold. In his mind were the words of a song, they had bothered his mind all the day long. Paper and pen or the words would be gone. Lela and Mac had gone on to bed. A note they left by Marilee read .A call from Nashville, get in touch it said. Marilee kissed him good night was off to bed.
His cell phone was in the Jeep, no making love tonight he wanted to weep. what was so important, it couldn't keep .He got his manager right away, the man said he didn't know what to say .He had learned of his loss and his history today, He needed to come to Nashville, have a press conference right away. Tommy told him no way until Monday he had to stay. the press could get it's news some other way. Sure he was alright he could sing and play, he had played for an hour for his Mother's funeral that day. He had been gone a long time he could get away, there was some things that needed his attention, right away. He slipped of his boots went quietly up the stairs, he saw Marileeís wedding pictures, they didn't cause any cares. He knew she had been married it had given him night mares.
Now he knew she loved him the answer to his prayers. He opened the door to his room, a rose colored light seemed to bloom, Marilee was sitting up reading in his bed,Ē have I got the wrong roomĒ? was all he said. She told him to not act silly just get into bed turn off the cell phone, before she killed it dead, it had already killed the plans she had. Tommy went in the bathroom to change out of jeans,he had lounging pajamas with blue silk sheens. He didn't ever wear them but here he couldn't go around with out his jeans. Marilee loved them they matched her night gown. In a few minutes neither could be found. In Marilee's arms he thought he might drown, not many women had been in his bed, no romance had he allowed to be lead, this relationship was solid and sound. They made love as if it had just been found.
The hands on the clock kept going around, the essence of her in song he had written, never by the love bug had he been bitten. would to describe their lover making could bring it alive, he wondered as did she if either would survive. They might just be found in the morning, in each others arms they died. At dawn Tommy pushed the covers aside looking down at the woman who would soon be his bride, he would have to leave her, his love and pride, work out the season, see the Christmas sun rise,with love not sunbeams in his eyes.
He didn't work at Christmas, not with his band .he gave them two weeks off, some went to the Florida sand. Most were married, played the time off soft .Stayed with wife and children didn't run around. He usually celebrated Christmas in the first open bar he found He didn't drink but bought the homeless a round, then played and sang free any place open in town. that was how he had celebrated Christmas until now .
Marilee was slow to awaken, Tommy sat on the side of the bed and kissed her awake, afraid any minuet Mac would knock on the door 1Finding Marilee in his bed. It was going to be awkward , the look on their face would tell, nothing would be said. She was a independent woman and he was certainly a man on his own , but there was respect to Mac and Lela to be paid. What would they do if she went with him , sooner or later she would have to move away from here. He could not travel between the ranch and an Nashville. Many had tried and it didnít work, Nashville was the place the opportunities were he had to keep that in mind when talking with Merrilee .
After breakfast, with no major blow up Tommy felt better. There were dozens of things he had to get done in just a few days. He wanted the old house down as soon as possible, sense they lived in the county , no permit was needed to bring down an empty building, burning it was a different matter, he had thought of it but the mystery under the crawl space was more important than burning the old dry rot building, beside he wanted to try and get it moved to the lake, it might not be worth moving but the mantle piece in the living room and the cabin were worth a small fortune. Marilee didnít go back in to work. Decided she needed some time what better time to take it, if she went back the memory of Hanna would not haunt her so much, the sun room would be used for another patient or turned into a rest place for nursing, how ever Hanna had wanted it, and there was that package in her room she had to give that to Tommy right away, why had she forgotten it?She knew what it was. But Tommy had never seen it, or watched Hanna working on it.
There were other things packed away he might want for his house by the lake, he would never take them with him to Nashville. Tommy had gone to town to see a contractor Mac had recommended, he had no ides on what kind of house he needed to build, it would have to pass a lot of state inspections Like fire and safety exits, alarms sprinklers, windows safe to open. A guard there at all times, a house keeper, people to take care of the house, cooking, cleaning, maintenance.
He wanted to find Old Crow to see if he would agree to live on the property as over seer. He lived in a tee pee last Tommy had seen him, might welcome a place out of the rain and cold winters, He was getting on in years but had the sharpest ears and eyes of anyone he had ever known. The trip to town called for a trip to Bobbyís house. He had wanted Marilee to go with him but she wanted him to take care of his business, they could visit later.
Gill was taking over Marileeís old job of Director of Nursing which would boost their income quiet a lot. He was glad Gill was there to fill the spot. It told him that Merilee was getting ready to change her address he wondered if her grandparents had guessed. Tommy was speechless when he saw the old Water Wheel, it had been turning water all Tommyís life, what Bobby had done with it was a sight, he had built an A frame of cedar, balconies on the front and back upstairs, with a patio by the water wheel where water formed a pool before flowing on under the road. Gill had planted flowers every place, of course cold weather had dried them out, but green shrubs were placed in places to take the bare look away, especially the ones with orange and red berries.
Bobby welcomed him on to the front porch, Tommy hugged him and praised his work on the old run down mill, the inside was as pretty as the out side, raw lumber for the walls and ceilings,Gleaming in the light, hard wood floors, rustic furniture, a fireplace which no self respecting ranch house could do with out. The water wheel most impressed Tommy ,a haven in the summer for the children to play in the fresh water, while Gill or Bobby sat on the patio to watch. The water wasnít deep, Bobby said it frightened him when it filled up too much, the kids were dare devils in water, just like their old man. Tommy told him why he was there, Bobby was ready to start the project as soon as the permits were signed. Every thing had to be in line, for a project of this kind. Peoples life would be at risk if every thing wasnít in top shape.
The house they would start that very day. He had told his crew to meet him there at noon. He knew to look for things between the floors, he knew up stairs there were some blocked doors. In all his life of sleeping up those stairs He had never seen one door open. He didnít know if he was fearful or hopping. Back at Macís ,Merilee met him at the door with a message to call Nashville right away. Tommy hadnít thought to call them all day .He couldnít go back yet there was no way, he had watched the news to see what the Nashville stations had to say. They really had treated him in a kind way. Remarking that he had returned to his home place in time to make peace with his Mother before she passed away. One paper had pictures of the crowd that converged on the grave service, giving him no choice but to play. Some were saying he had a concert over his Motherís fresh grave .Others said he had been very brave, to sing for the folks that way.
An East Tennessee Paper had sent out a plea, to anyone who might have in the past known Thomas Lee. What would come from that He would just have to wait and see. The work crew was waiting Had the house half down by three. Two brought boxes to the McKinley house for Tommy to see. He didnít know to be happy He really wanted to just let it be. Mac handed him a hammer to pull out the rusted nails, he knew the story of treasure was just tales. Wrapped in burlap were thin cut boards, hand cut, and sanded Pictures on each there was. Pictures of Tommy as he grew up. Some of Hanna, some with Tommy and a little pup, hand painted pictures, as clear as could be, an artist Thomas was, they could plainly see .Dozens of pictures of Tommy sense the hour he was born. Even one of the horse Tommy watered at the barn. Pictures of a house, never built, pictures of Hanna in her garden and sewing at her quilt. Two other pictures were a surprise, two little boys with Thomas in their face and eyes, his children?
Yes they were his he had never said one word about them, kept their existence secret. He left them, had they died, were they the reason he never wanted Tommy as a son by his side? The mystery of Thomas in the form of pictures did arise. Marilee held Tommyís hand ,he had tears in his eyes. Yesterday he had buried his Mother, today his Father had given him a surprise. The journals were even more important for him to read, his questions some answers might feed. Where Tomas was from, why he came here to sew his seed. There were a great many questions, that night he would start to read. Marilee told him she would come to him some time in the night. He put his arms around her and held her tight, holding On to his sanity with all his might.
May 8 1943, I am fifteen today, Mother baked a cake,We cut it at supper. I didnít get a present, but I didnít expect one. Mother gave me this journal for Christmas last. Writing for me is surely a task. I didnít go to school much Daddy said getting me there was too much to ask. I like school, the Golden Rule, saluting the flag, and saying The Lordís Prayer every morning, Donny doesnít say it because he is a Jew, but he stays quiet until we are through. His Daddy has a jewelry shop in our little country town, I have never been it. Some of the school girls have some pretty things their parents bought for them. Donny offered to give me a heart to wear around my neck. Daddy would have a fit and beat me like heck .He hates Jews, says they have all the money in the world, he has no business around a good country American girl. I like Donny but I canít even talk to him, some one would tell.
There is a man named Thomas Lee living here helping Daddy, heís a lot older than me. Mother ask me if he had bothered me, she said tell her had he. I really donít know what she wanting me to tell, sometimes he helps me get water from the well. One time he put his hand on my shoulder For a long spell, Mother said if he bother me to yell. I wish she had made herself clear. Seems as if he means to hang around here. Daddy gave him a room in the up stairs. Some times he just sits and stairs. Never does say if he has any cares, just said he didnít have any kin about anywhere .I wanted to ask him out right, if he left his home because of a fight. Heís got some scars on his arms, donít know how he got them on a farm .I saw him washing up at the tank, he doesnít smile, just looks blank. Sometimes he talks to Daddy out on the porch. I heard him mention something about a clan and a torch. May 9 1943I have some new today, Thomas wants to marry me, doesnít want to take me away. When Daddy and Mother die this farm will be mine. It has to stay in our family for all time.
Daddy bought some new windows for the living room, and a new door, with painted glass all the way to the floor. Mostly we live in the old cabin part to leave this land would fair break my heart. I donít know about the marrying part. Mother has told me some things, said married women liked to have a wedding ring. She never got one but she is married just the same. I am the only live child she ever did bring. Three others died before they reached the first spring. Daddy wanted boys, to work the farm,but a hired man he employs. I donít know what to say about becoming a wife. I am too young, I would Like some time to have a life, meet some young men, if I marry Thomas I wonít have the chance again. There will be children for me to tend. He hasnít ask me, seems like Daddy has the last say. May 10 1943Daddy told me this morning I was going to marry Thomas Lee. I have cried until I can hardly see, what a young wife I am going to be. Said we would marry Sunday out in the yard under that old Oak tree.
Neighbors will come a party there will be. Music making and dancing, some whiskey drinking.
I donít want to but I donít have a say. What do married people do any way? Mother and Daddy fuss a lot, if there is something Mother needs that she ainít got. Daddy donít let her go to the General Store a lot, no money in the old pot. Thomas had gone to the barn just as he did each night before bed, took a bath it the creek, does that three , four ,times a week. Mother said his bed sheets were some times stained. I thought she meant he had go to bed after it rained .I see him coming, he has lit his pipe, the smoke smells so good, like apples gone ripe. This is all I have time to write tonight, my first wedding night May 16 1949 .
Now I know what Mother didnít tell me, I am so raw I can hardly stand to pee .It scared me to death when he just rolled me over and got on top of me. I couldnít see and I couldnít breathe, then he stuck himself right in the place Mother had to never to a man see. Well he didnít exactly see, he blown the light out, had to feel around on me. I donít want to see what I could feel. Could anything that hard and long be real, how would it feel, at least a woman is all inside, to carry that around, how does it hide. Now I know what a young horse feels when he has his first ride ,Thomas didnít break me, he never will inside. I know the rest of his life I will have to abide. I am glad Mother didnít tell me, I would have found a place to hide. To day I helped with dinner, Mother worked in the garden, said cooking was for the bride, she knows how I hate to be left in this house,I hate hearing noise even if it is a mouse. And I hate a snake.
I killed one yesterday day with the rake. I canít write any more to day ,Thomas said we have a debt to pay. I donít know what he means, we donít have any thing new that I have seen .He works as much as Daddy. Mother said now I had done it I might have a baby. I donít want to have a child, I couldnít take care of it I would sure go wild. Maybe it wonít happen much and I wonít have a baby for a while. Good night my good friend, my free time is at itís end .Life was hard for Hanna, she had never even seen her Daddy in his long johns, much less naked and aroused as Thomas always was at night or anytime he caught her. She couldnít go to sleep with out awakening to find him with his hands on her budding breast. She was no more than a child, still filling out and not yet grown. Hanna couldnít stop crying some days,she was sick with in a month .Vomiting in the morning, hardly able to get out of bed, but unable to lay in even for an hour past day light. Work started early on the farm.
Her Daddy took a lantern to the barn for miking and feeding. Mother was afraid he would set the barn afire with the dry hay. Thomas insisted Hanna make every step he made in the field,and around the barn, by noon she was so exhausted Mother had to tell him she was in the family way ,he had to let her be. It made him angry she was pregnant,not that they used the word, even expecting was unacceptable.
Hanna had missed one period and didnít know what it meant,she couldnít ask Thomas, her mother tried to explain how it all was but she was so embarrassed she could hardly get the words out. Hanna had not gone to school long enough to learn about health and anatomy. The whole process of pregnancy was frightening to her. The thought of a baby growing inside her, horrified her, when it began to move she screamed with fright. Thomas was not patient with her, he told her she was a woman grown .Had to accept the baby and care for it on her own, then her tummy became a large pone..She wished that Thomas was in hell and gone,
He deserved to be with the devil shoveling fire under his thrones sick and miserable as she was he would not leave her alone. Every night he went on and on, no kindness or affection shone. Just in and out, on and on, she longed to be in her bed alone. wished he was Donny and that they had run away long ago ,he would have been kind to her she had known. His being a Jew had no bearing on the way they felt about each other .Jews were dirty according to her Daddy and Mother,he had a sister who was kind and a loving brother. Life with Thomas didnít have to be so bad, if he didnít treat her so to make her all the time sad. It couldnít be good for the baby, would it live she thought not, maybe. She didnít feel just right, her side hurt and she bleed in the night. She had to keep the blood out of Thoma's sight woman things to him were a blight .She lost the baby before the sixth month,Daddy and Thomas were on a coon hunt. They didnít have a phone, Hanna and Mother were there alone. Hanna was in agony,when the baby came Jessie didnít want her to see,it was so perfect and so wee,not a breath of air did it breathe. They cleaned it up and lined a crate,Jessie dug the grave,they buried it by the garden gate, a year later they buried his mate . After losing two babyís Hanna was frightened of becoming pregnant, begged Thomas to leave her alone in the night,he could not seem to keep his hands off her.
Hannaís father tried to intervene on her behalf, which caused Thomas to be more vengeful and demanding, and eventually caused the old manís death. That winter of their third year of marriage was snow covered from November until April, banks of snow became higher every week as the two men tunneled their way to the barns with shovels of snow thrown on top of the pile. Water was melted snow, buckets of now brought in and set nest to the fire. Washing piled up and baths were seldom taken. In march the weather began to moderate. The great piles began to melt and break up causing a hazard to anyone going to the barns, a person could easily become buried under the loose snow.
One night at dusk Hannaís Father had not come in from the barn when Thomas came. Thomas said he stayed shucking corn for the cows, too stubborn to come in before night. He refused to go looking for him. It was left for Hanna to bundle up and go out. She found her father under a pile of loose snow. One foot sticking out caught her attention. It had become dark, the lantern light didnít penetrate the darkness very well. She went running to the house to get Thomas. He took his own good time getting to the old man, of course he was dead, crushed beneath the snow, smothered as well. He never had a chance to get out. Thomas dug him out, took him into the house for his wife to lay him out. The roads were snow covered, there was no reason to go for the doctor, he was dead. Hanna was inconsolable, the old woman went about her duties as she had done for neighbors for years, laying out at home was necessary in those days, usually the only one to be called was the Sheriff to report the death. There was no law to prevent the burial of a body on private land. Thomas built a wooden box, Jessie lined it with a quilt, burial would be in the spring when the ground thawed. In the mean time the body would be kept in the tool shed. Hanna felt uneasy having a dead person, even her Father near by. The winter was soon over, the body was put to rest with some neighbors in attendance. Thomas was eager to start the spring work turning the ground , getting ready to plant. Plant beds seeded. Jessie seemed to fade away with every week, she didnít speak some days, and went to bed before dark every night, the lamp in her room was never used.
One morning three weeks after her husband died Jessie gave up the ghost in her sleep, Hanna found her when she failed to come to the table for the morning meal .Hanna was eighteen. Now she was alone with Thomas in the old house, and frightened more than she had ever been. There were no more pregnancyís one of the neighbor women told her she was probably damaged from losing the two. Chances were she would never be in the family way again. Hanna was relieved. For many years she and Thomas worked hand in hand bringing in the crops and gardens, tending the orchards and bee hives, sometimes not even talking. Thomas spent a lot of time in the new barn he had built, he had a loft room where he worked on tack and made small repairs to farm equipment. The light was good up there, he got the morning and evening sun.
Hanna often referred to his past, even became brave enough to ask if he had any family they might contact to come for a visit, the answer was always the same, his past was his business and none of hers. She told him she felt she had the right to know if he had another wife or children which made him so mad .He hit her for the first time in their married life, across the face with the back of his hand, breaking open her lip and causing a nose bleed. He wasnít sorry and didnít waste his breath saying he was. The mail man reported to the MacKinleys the next day that Hanna looked as if she had been hit in the face. There was no one to take up for Hanna, Mr. McKinley was furious with Thomas couldnít stand the low down beggar any way always said he had something to do with the old manís death , and Jessieís also, but there was no proof. He doubted Hanna had any idea, now she was at his complete mercy. The only saving grace there was that the place was signed over to Hanna, if something happened to her Thomas would have to Leave for good, if no kin could be found in the Parker line the farm would go back to the Federal Government. That was how the papers were signed by President Grant in 1852. Hanna was alone with Thomas at last, she was older but as afraid of him as the day she married him. He had never hit her but that one time, she had told him then he had lost his mind, he told her "Woman you donít know anything about losing you mind I lost mine in Tennessee many years ago, my mind and any love my heart might still hold.
After that conversation he was even more old. He acted as if he hated her, and driving her insane was his goal. If that was his plan it would with her world ,he owned her body but she still owned her soul. Hanna stitched her quilts and sold them in the mail. The first time Thomas tried to take her money she told him she would blow him to hell. She reminded him they would have a child if she hadnít fell, all of that story she didnít tell. Year in and year out until Hanna became fifty they lived like strangers. Thomas was getting on in years,his steps in the night still brought her to tears. One night he came to her with a smile and kind words, told her she was still as pretty as the little blue birds. She was frightened beyond words. He was taking off his overalls, as he talked his word slurred. Was he drinking? He never did, once said he was a rounder when he was a kid. drinking her Daddy never did, if he had whiskey he kept it hid. Into her bed as if he was ask, making love to her behind that false loving mask. The act for him was a task, the sweat poured from his face, it seemed her existence he was trying to erase, he kept up a hard and steady pace, until nature put a stop to the race. He left her bed never to return. For his presence she didnít yearn. For all of her in hell he could burn.
Two weeks later her stomach started to turn, she thought it strange to have the heart burn, Morning sickness she remembered well. She didnít believe she was pregnant until her stomach started to swell. If Thomas noticed he kept his interest hidden well. She let out some dresses and cut back on her work. When she felt the first movement her heart gave a jerk. What kind of baby would she give in birth fifty years she had been on the earth. Fifty years and Thomas her daily adversary ,for the childís sake she knew she had reason to worry. When her time came the mail man stopped every day. He would alert the neighbors a mile down the way. Sunday morning came her time, for the life of her baby she wouldnít have bet a dime. She had lost two while in her prime, here she was alone she had no more time. Thomas came in she was withering in pain. He couldnít help her, he made it plain. He got her some water and towels, some scissors and cord, the babyís clothes she made with care, helped her to the bed and left her alone there.
The pains were harder and close together, the only saving grace was that it was cool weather. The water broke, the baby gave one last stroke .Itís head came down, a perfect crown, left shoulder up and around. Out he came with a yell and a bound, slick as he could be, a steady stream he did pee, every thing was working well, he was sound as much as she could tell. She cut the cord after tying it off. Turned him over when he tried to cough, she cleaned her self of the after birth. Oh what a second pair of hands would be worth. Hanna was still strong after the birth, cleaned up the mess,though her back really hurt the baby was hungry, sucking on his hand. She got to the icebox , put milk in a pan, when it warmed she bottled it up, he was content with the first sup. He was a beauty, every inch male ,If Thomas was any kind of a man he would let out a yell. Yet he might hurt the boy, if he did she would tell, she might give him up for adoption but never to sell. Getting rid of the babies she had buried as a young woman had been hard to bear,this one was hers Thomas just happened to be there.
Thomas came in another hour, looked at his son his face showed no care she felt uneasy with him standing so near, told him to take himself else where. He ask if she had supper on, she told him his supper would be milk and cold corn pone, get out , leave her and her baby boy alone. Have you named him Thomas ask. Yes she said, Tommy Parker Lee and he should feel blessed. Thomas had never been blessed he thought the Lord not up to the task, a wife and family was all he had ever ask, the first was wiped out with men wearing white mask, all because he gave a black man a drink from his whiskey flask. He had let Tennessee headed North West,to save his own life that was the best, if he stayed around his family would be next. By the KKK he had been hexed.
Tommy had read is Mothers journals in two days and nights, he was so horrified at the way she had lived her life. Thomas had been as mean as he appeared ,evidently he had been responsible when Hannaís father disappeared. Poor Jessie having to dig him out of the snow bank and keep him in the smoke house until spring. What a life for any one to have lived. She had answered a lot of questioned for him without meaning to. The fact that he was from East Tennessee and the approximate year could be checked out in the news papers and death records in Knoxville and Chattanooga .Did he want to know any more, he didnít know. He didnít even want to see the pictures Thomas had painted of him with what appeared as love for him and Hanna. Having lost a family in such a way, probably burned out, accounting for the scared arms. He had a right to be bitter, but not to cause the death of the Parkers to get control of the farm. Hanna had been so young and innocent. He was glad Marilee was not that way. He had opened the package she had kept for Hanna to give him, a quilt of course, one of the prettiest ones he had ever seen, would sell for a thousand dollars in Gatlinburg .She never in her life got over fifty for one. How many had her old fingers made? He wished he knew. Now he knew why the old jeweler had been so brokenhearted, he knew he had to pay him a visit and tell him Hanna had loved him all her life as surely he had loved and suffered for her. The quilt would go on the road with him, to every show starting the next week.
Time was frying by, he had not accomplished half of what he had intended. Bobby had told him the cabin would have to be taken apart and rebuilt, the mantles were still sound as was the stair case. Someone had started out to build a fine house there but never carried through, they had found the stained glass windows still intact, would cost a small fortune now. Tommy and Marilee were no longer hiding their affair from Mac and Lela, if they objected nothing was said. They treated Tommy like family, knowing there would be a wedding before or during Christmas. Marilee was ready at a moments notice, but Tommy wanted to do it right. His idea was to have it in the gazebo in the park out side the nursing home. It was a beautiful spot, but it would also be winter, probably snow on the ground, a second plan was the National Guard Armory. It would be too much to have it at the house as much as he would love to see Marilee walk down those white stairs.
He had album plans for the stairs, next one would have the stairs on the cover, in his head the songs were written, they just had to be penned and scored. He wrote his own material, sometimes with a co writer but not often. Since Hannaís death and reading the journals , looking at the art his father had made he had enough for a dozen albums .There had been treasure hidden there but not the kind the locals had told tall tales about .Finding his fathers family was of no interest to him he knew all about Thomas Lee. More than he would have liked to know. On Sunday he went to Church with the McKinley , was welcomed as the long lost son, some even cried over him. He told them to save their tears for Hanna and the women who would benefit from her life and death at Hannaís House for abused women and children. The surprise went over well when the preacher announced it. Many of the congregation made pledges to donate to the house .Bobby would do well with building it and a house for Tommy by the lake. The weather had turned cold, snow was in the forecast by Sunday night. His last night with Marilee until she could join him some place where he would be for more than one show, usually Branson Mo. They spent a week there she could meet him there and in Nashville between shows. He had two hundred and sixty booked for the next year, giving him very little time off the road. A new bus for them to travel alone was next thing to see about, she told him to also find a better place to live. his three rooms over a cafť on the river wasnít her idea of favorable .
Monday dawned as wet and ungracious as the day Tommy arrived .He left the journals and pictures with Marilee, took back only what head brought in the black Jeep. He really liked that Jeep ,had put in a order for one to be delivered to the MacKinleys after he left. Marilee had cried, she had tried not to but the tears came anyway. He had bee there nearly a week , had been to gather every day. Lela wasnít feeling well, Tommy was afraid he had brought too much on them, they assured him he was in no fault, she had days when she didnít get out of bed. Hannaís death had been hard on her, even though Hanna was several years older than she and Mac. Tommy promised to keep in touch, and take care of himself. He had a lot of shows to do, once he got in the swing of it, he would be fine. The quilt went with him he almost forgot it. He had a song in the back of his mind that had to see paper soon or it be gone, the recorder he used was in Nashville .The flavor of the words were there, he could write on the plane. Usually he slept or watched a movie, this time was different, he never dreaded leaving anywhere before .He was cutting his own heart out when he said good by and kissed Marilee one last time, she wore the
Locket Donny have given her as a wedding present, it was old fashioned with jewels on the front , two pictures fit inside.
Donny had made if for Hanna many years ago, of course she could never have it, he kept it in the vault all those years. It had made him happy to give it to Tommyís wife to be, the whole county would be invited to the wedding, some were already making plans to get together and go to a show when he was near enough for a drive or a short plane ride. Marilee would make sure that would be soon. He would be back before Christmas for the wedding and where ever they went on a honeymoon, that was left up to Marilee also, with the amount of traveling he did, he would just as soon stay home, if they had one. No chance of the cabin being finished until spring. Passing the old home place gave Tommy a tight feeling in his stomach, had the rain stopped he would have one to the grave yard ,the place was clean. The next time he saw it the foundation would be down for the Hanna house. He could see in his minds eye how it would look, green grass in the spring, trees greened out, the old grape harbor dark green against the grave yard fence .A lot of changes since he had made the trip home.
The trip back to Nashville was uneventful , Tommy spent most of the time writing the words he had been keeping in his head. Some how the pictures Thomas had drawn on wood of him were the greatest mystery, if he had not wanted him, why keep a record of his growing up . The other two boys must have been the two he lost in a fire. It made him sad even for Thomas to think of a family burning. He must have really got on the bad side of the KKK to get that kind of treatment. He gave a drink of whiskey to a black man , that was how it went in the journal.
Things had changed a lot in the past fifty years, he didnít know of any black people around home who were mistreated. They went to Hannaís Church, the kids went to school, played sports, which was more than he got to do. One base ball player had hung out with him in school, wanting some pointers on hitting .Tommy had loved baseball, would have been a great asset to the team if Thomas would have let him .Hanna would never take his side in those fights, she seldom went against him except when it came to the guitar. That he owed Hanna his greatest respect for. she had stood right in there in front of the preacher over that guitar, bought a great one too, a Gibson, he used it every time he played.
A few people on the plane acted as if they knew him, one little Lady ask him if she had seen him on TV, he told her if she watched country music stations she might have, she said oh yes she watched CMT every day, loved the videos, that was where she knew him from. He got out a picture , ask her name and signed it for her. She was quiet after that and no one else came to ask for anything. One of the band met him at the plane, took him straight to the rehearsal building on 18th avenue. Every one was ready to get started, he had pictures of Marilee he had to show off and a hundred questions to answer before they could settle in. Old Tommy, like everyone else had a home town, or a wide place in the road, with a farm and a dead Mother just buried. They were kind of pissed off about that, some of them would had been with him had they known where he was in go to hell Montana. As far away from the civilized world as you could get and still be an American. His base player was a black man named Benny, he thought of what Thomas had done that lead to the death of his first family, made him more kind to Benny much to everyoneís surprise, they had not been close at all before. Rehearsal went well, lasted six hours, just time to get on the bus for Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains,Then on to North Carolina and places South until they hit California, for a month, one little town after the other. How he wished it was summer and time for Branson Mo .a whole month in one place, Marilee could come out for a whole month, but they would be married by then. Married in six weeks to be exact, the band would be there in snow knee deep for the wedding, staying in a hotel ten miles down the road, he had booked rooms and the lobby for Christmas Day, dinning room included. He hoped they would enjoy Christmas in hell and gone Montana .The weeks went by, more Cdís selling every day, the album had gone double platinum in just a month, he had to get started on another, this time the writing was almost done on the plane coming in. Thanksgiving they spent in the East, Marilee and the crowd at home had flown to a concert in Kansas, Donny was like a mother hen, of course Mac and Lela were not able to be there but Molly and her grand daughter were, brought all kinds of good food, met the band, and spent several hours getting acquainted before they made their way back for the wedding.
The band was excited about seeing Montana and spending Christmas in a big old fashioned hotel. It did snow the day of the wedding, on top of the twelve inches already on the ground, they took the ceremony to the armory,It was packed to the gills with country people, not many made it out there. Tommy didnít care who was or wasnít there just so he and Marilee were married as planned. Pictures were made at the house, with Marilee coming down the stirs just as Tommy had dreamed. The old house was in its splendor that day with red roses and Marilee in that chiffon wedding dress with a low neck and long selves .
She said she wore long johns under the skirt to the armory..The wind was blowing the snow like a blizzard. The wedding went off in grand style, the band played, and entertained after it was over .The families enjoyed Christmas in the old hotel especially the food and visits to the farm with the MacKinleys. Marilee moved back to Nashville with Tommy to a house they had bought in Belle Mede .She was delighted with the reception held for them there by the management,the house she had helped decorate didnít seem too strange to her. Tommy had been living there, to get the empty out of it before she moved in. So ends the saga of Tommy Lee the country music idol of thousands, and husband of Marilee.