Now that the April sun had slid down behind the rocky ridges, it was cold in the valley. Cherry hurried along, hoping Bertha would have set a match to the blazing logs in the fireplace of their small room behind the makeshift clinic.
Cherry was as tired as she had ever been in her whole nursing career, but she knew that plump Bertha Larsen, who had been hobbling around on crutches all day, would be even more exhausted. Cherry glanced up at the sunset, veiled by the mist that hung above the thickly wooded mountain. Lonely little cabins perched precariously on the lower slopes of it; gray unpainted barns dotted the hillsides. Between the pastures and the farm lands narrow dirt lanes spiraled, following the path of mountain streams.
In the growing twilight, Cherry felt hemmed in by the dark-green palisades. There was something almost sinister about the shadows that lay across the valley floor. Desolate Mountain had certainly been well named. Cherry felt sure that there could not be another village in the whole state of Kentucky as isolated as Heartbreak Hollow.
But in spite of the fact that the people were poor and, for the most part, ignorant, it was a happy place. Daniel Boone, it was said, had given the village its name, because, after an attack by the Indians, only two of the original frontier families had survived. Later, other pioneers had come to build their log cabins and to struggle for existence side by side with the Smiths and the Clarkes. They brought with them the customs, idioms, and traditions of their English, Scottish, and Irish ancestors, and even now the older members of the community were reluctant to relinquish them.
The children, in spite of their sporadic schooling, were slowly but surely freeing themselves of the idioms and superstitions. In general, the fathers although they kept saying they didn’t want to be “beholden” to the doctor and nurse, were much more modern-minded than the mothers. But the grandparents were not of the twentieth century and didn’t want to be.
Cherry Ames, Mountaineer Nurse
by Julie Tatham (1951)