Saturday, March 25, 2017

Shadow In A Timeless Myth Presents Miss Hannah Fox: Pioneer Woman and Courageous Survivor

Miss Hannah Fox tells the following thrilling story of an adventure that befell her while engaged in felling trees in her mother's woods in Rhode Island, in the early colonial days.

We were making fine progress with our clearing and getting ready to build a house in the spring. My brother and I worked early and late, often going without our dinner, when the bread and meat which we brought with us was frozen so hard that our teeth could make no impression upon it, without taking too much of our time. My brother plied his axe on the largest trees, while I worked at the smaller ones or trimmed the boughs from the trunks of such as had been felled.

The last day of our chopping was colder than ever. The ground was covered by a deep snow which had crusted over hard enough to bear our weight, which was a great convenience in moving from spot to spot in the forest, as well as in walking to and from our cabin, which was a mile away. My brother had gone to the nearest settlement that day, leaving me to do my work alone.

As a storm was threatening, I toiled as long as I could see, and after twilight felled a sizeable tree which in its descent lodged against another. Not liking to leave the job half finished, I mounted the almost prostrate trunk to cut away a limb and let it down. The bole of the tree was forked about twenty feet from the ground, and one of the divisions of the fork would have to be cut asunder. A few blows of my axe and the tree began to settle, but as I was about to descend, the fork split and the first joints of my left-hand fingers slid into the crack so that for the moment I could not extricate them. The pressure was not severe, and as I believed I could soon relieve myself by cutting away the remaining portion, I felt no alarm. But at the first blow of the axe which I held in my right hand, the trunk changed its position, rolling over and closing the split, with the whole force of its tough oaken fibers crushing my fingers like pipe-stems; at the same time my body was dislodged from the trunk and I slid slowly down till I hung suspended with the points of my feet just brushing the snow. The air was freezing and every moment growing colder; no prospect of any relief that night; the nearest house a mile away; no friends to feel alarmed at my absence, for my mother would suppose that I was safe with my brother, while the latter would suppose I was by this time at home.

The first thought was of my mother. "It will kill her to know that I died in this death-trap so near home, almost within hearing of her voice! There must be some escape! but how?" My axe had fallen below me and my feet could almost touch it. It was impossible to imagine how I could cut myself loose unless I could reach it. My only hope of life rested on that keen blade which lay glittering on the snow.

Within reach of my hand was a dead bush which towered some eight feet above me, and by a great exertion of strength I managed to break it. Holding it between my teeth I stripped it of its twigs, leaving two projecting a few inches at the lower end to form a hook. With this I managed to draw towards me the head of the axe until my fingers touched it, when it slipped from the hook and fell again upon the snow, breaking through the crust and burying itself so that only the upper end of the helve could be seen.

Up to that moment the recollection of my mother and the first excitement engendered by hope had almost made me unconscious of the excruciating pain in my crushed fingers, and the sharp thrills that shot through my nerves, as my body swung and twisted in my efforts to reach the axe. But now, as the axe fell beyond my reach, the reaction came, hope fled, and I shuddered with the thought that I must die there alone like some wild thing caught in a snare. I thought of my widowed mother, my brother, the home which we had toiled to make comfortable and happy. I prayed earnestly to God for forgiveness of my sins, and then calmly resigned myself to death, which I now believed to be inevitable. For a time, which I afterwards found to be only five minutes, but which then seemed to me like hours, I hung motionless. The pain had ceased, for the intense cold blunted my sense of feeling. A numbness, stole over me, and I seemed to be falling into a trance, from which I was roused by a sound of bells borne to me as if from a great distance. Hope again awoke, and I screamed loud and long; the woods echoed my cries, but no voice replied. The bells grew fainter and fainter, and at last died away. But the sound of my voice had broken the spell which cold and despair were fast throwing over me. A hundred devices ran swiftly through my mind, and each device was dismissed as impracticable. The helve of the axe caught my eye, and in an instant by an association of ideas it flashed across me that in the pocket of my dress there was a small knife—another sharp instrument by which I could extricate myself. With some difficulty I contrived to open the blade, and then withdrawing the knife from my pocket and gripping it as one who clings to the last hope of life, I strove to cut away the wood that held my fingers in its terrible vise. In vain! the wood was like iron. The motion of my arm and body brought back the pain which the cold had lulled, and I feared that I should faint.

After a moment's pause I adopted a last expedient. Nerving myself to the dreadful necessity, I disjointed my fingers and fell exhausted to the ground. My life was saved, but my left hand was a bleeding stump. The intensity of the cold stopped the flow of blood. I tore off a piece of my dress, bound up my fingers, and started for home. My complete exhaustion and the bitter cold made that the longest mile I had ever traveled. By nine o'clock that evening I had managed to drag myself, more dead than alive, to my mother's door, but it was more than a week before I could again leave the house.

 A Tryst In Time: A Complimentary Shadows In A Timeless Myth Short Story

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Smiles & Good Fortune,
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

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