Last week, I traveled to Pocahontas County, West Virginia, nature's mountain playground situated between the Appalachian and Allegheny Mountains. I accompanied my friend, Ann B. Fiala, Founder of Reading Instruction Co., to do a special reading for the teachers of several school districts within the county and to introduce the curriculum that Ann has created for The Angry Thunderstorm [much more about this exciting event in my next posting].
Before we boarded our flight as we were departing Austin, Ann gave me a copy of the book, Follow The River by James Alexander Thom. She told me that I might find the story interesting because the setting of the story takes place in the area we would be visiting. Now, anytime Ann B. Fiala gives me a book, I can always count on it being an excellent read and I gladly accept it. So...I began my journey reading about another woman's remarkable journey.
Follow The River is based on the true story of Mary Draper Ingles, a young pioneer woman captured by the Shawnee Indians during the French and Indian War in 1755. Late into pregnancy and due to give birth any day, Mary was led away along with her two young sons, her sister-in-law and another gentleman from her settlement. At the time, they were the only known survivors to follow the bloody massacre of family members and friends in the Draper's Meadow settlement. During her captivity, Mary would be taken some six hundred miles from her home across uncharted territory that had yet to be traveled by the white man. Three days into this journey, she gave birth to a little girl.
From the onset of her captivity, the young woman knew that if she were to survive, she would have to keep her emotions low and her wit strong. Dignity became her tool for survival. Memory and instinct became her determination. The dream of a return to Draper's Meadow [and to her husband whom she assumed to be alive] became her purpose.
The hardships she faced along the trail were equaled to the hardships she faced upon arriving at the Indian camp. She witnessed her fellow captors run the gauntlet. She was made to watch as some of the captives were burned at the stake. Her days were spent working endlessly for the two French traders, sewing shirts for trade with the Indians. Her sons were taken from her. She was sold to the two French traders and forced to work in the salt camp. The ultimate sacrifice came when she made the decision to leave her baby in order to make her escape and arduous journey home.
Follow The River leaves nothing to the imagination in this incredible account. The terrain. The scenery. The weather. The wildlife. [I read that the author actually walked the route of Mary Draper Ingles return so that he could provide the most accurate account possible.] As a visitor to this beautiful, inspiring, yet still somewhat wild part of the country, I was able to connect with the tribulations of this remarkable woman. While we often hear about resourceful men who settled our great nation, it was a welcome change to read a story about a woman who managed to do something that no man of her time would ever dare to do.