Edney is unique in mystery, humor and lots of tears. The story begins in post Civil War Tennessee with the rape of Edney by a renegade soldier which changes her life forever.
Doing all in her power to make a life for herself and her children, Edney often chose the most destructive paths, yet she always came out a survivor.
Written with the eloquence of the hill folk, Edney paints a rare portrait of survival and intimately examines many rituals of Appalachia as well as some of the now defunct Tennessee laws of that time period.
Looking out the window, Edney breathed in the fresh mountain air. To the right, rows of pine trees lined a path leading to the chicken coop. Over a bit to the left was the creek where they washed clothes and pounded them clean on the rocks. Her dad had told her once that they had seventy acres here. The land was part of her mother’s dowry. Pa had built the cabin himself, using logs from the many trees. Ma had wanted a big house, so he constructed it one room at a time, not stopping until she was satisfied, though it took ten rooms to satisfy her. Old man Sanders offered to help with furnishing the home, but Frank would have none of that. She remembered hearing them argue sometimes about how pa felt like he taking charity from Old man Sanders.
“Well, it’s my home too,” ma would fling back. “It’s no sin to have nice things.”
Edney inhaled the warm fragrant air. The scent of jasmine and roses filled her room. Louisa planted them in profusion along every side of the house. Edney loved her home which sat high atop the mountain. She could see clear across the valley and over the treetops from the peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Pulling herself away from the window, Edney slowly made way to where her clothes were kept. Daddy had built her a nice chest where she stored all her frocks and under garments. Pulling out a dark rust colored dress, she began to get ready to face the day. As she was putting on her dress, Edney happened to glance in the old silvered mirror over the chest. Surely that young woman looking back at her was not she, surely it couldn’t be. Edney noted big dark bruises around her neck. Pulling the bodice of her frock open for further inspection she saw that these bruises were not only around her neck, but all over her body. Horrified Edney saw that her nose was clotted with old blood inside and her lips were swollen almost twice their normal size.
Quickly she finished dressing, ran a brush through her hair, washed her face and hoped that she looked at least halfway decent. Walking down the stairs she heard talking. There at the kitchen table sat her family and Sheriff Hawkins. Something seemed a bit odd about this scene. Ma sat at the table so still she could have been frozen in time. Her brother’s eyes darted about the room, alert and wary. Pa was the only one who seemed comfortable and spoke easy like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. “Sheriff Hawkins, I can’t say that I know what might have took place, but its news to me.”
The table was spread with a fresh cover. A pot of coffee was keeping hot on the old iron wood stove, fresh cream in a bowl nearby.
About that time Edney came in and poured her a cup of coffee, adding plenty of fresh cream. Hawkins looked up at her and she could see astonishment in his brown eyes. Lord, she thought, I forgot about how I must look.
“What got hold of you Edney?” Hawkins observation was a fair enough question. He had been Sheriff in these parts for some near ten years and really cared about the folks under his protection. Hawkins had known Edney since she was a baby.
Edney looked at her ma for guidance, but it was pa who spoke up. “Child got raped yesterday down at the swimming hole. Don’t know who done it, but would sure like to take an axe to his head.”
Looking at Louisa, he then explained to her, “Lou, it best the good-hearted Sheriff know so he can be on the lookout. Plenty folks are going to ask. If we truthful maybe she won’t be rernt and she can still have some kind of chance to get along with.”
Louisa suddenly broke her frozen look and began to sob softly. “You may be right there Frank. When she takes a husband he gonna know that she’s been had. Didn’t think of that, so it’s probably best we keep it in the open.”
The boys fidgeted like they had ants in their pants. Neither dared look directly at the Sheriff nor at Edney.
Hawkins had a knowing look on his lean face. “I see. Here we find a dead body about a quarter mile from your house and on your property and here we see Edney broke up like this, maybe rernt for life. I know the temper of the Bradley boys. You right sure you boys didn’t have nothing to do with this?” Hawkins looked at the boys, but all three seemed to have found something in the floor that held them captive.
Dead body? What was going on around here? Edney leaned forward on the table in undivided interest, not daring to speak.
“Sheriff, my boys was out hunting. They didn’t know what happened to Edney till they came home. Done told you and told you, my boys didn’t have no stake in this”
Slamming his fist on the table, Hawkins all but yelled, “News is out over town that a renegade soldier has been located in the woods on your property. His dead body was found with six shotgun shells in it, four in the head, one in the heart and one that blew off his family jewels. You mean to tell me that had no bearing on what happened to Edney?” Hawkins knew mountain justice ran strong and that Frank was like an old bear protecting his cubs.