Gracie and Sammie were traveling a well known path that led from her house down to an old creek bed that only flowed in the early spring, but stayed muddy all year long. After carefully crossing it over some rocks put there for that purpose; they found the small game trail that led to where the best berries grew. The trip to the briar patch took about 45 minutes of careful walking with Gracie making sure that Sammie was also looking at their back trail to keep herself feeling secure that she would know the way home. After checking the berry bushes and seeing that they would indeed give many blackberries in just a couple short weeks and that the blueberry bushes also would be giving a great harvest, they decided to go check on the Montgomery’s. This was a family that rarely came to town. Mrs. Montgomery was pregnant with her seventh child and due in only about a week or so. She had given birth to all her kids at home with her husbands help. They weren’t in town the other day nor did they come to the hoedown, so Gracie thought she should let them know what was going on just in case they didn’t know, especially since they lived off grid and had no TV or radio.
Gracie and Sammie had just come out of the small strand of trees that bordered the back of the Montgomery’s property when they both heard a sharp, loud, agonizing scream. They both quickly looked at each other, and Sammie whispered “what do we do?”
Gracie thought for just a moment and then said to Sammie “ok, here’s the plan. We don’t know what is wrong, so you have to stay here and be my best hope. I’m going to leave my bag here and only take the radio and my knife. I’m going to sneak up to the house and then see if I can find any danger. You just leave your radio on and listen, do not answer the radio or talk into it unless I say ‘sugar and spice and everything nice’. So no matter what else I may say, if I don’t say that, don’t answer, ok?”
“Ok, Miss Gracie. I won’t answer unless you give the code.” replied Sammie.
“And if I tell you to run back home, you better run back home. Do you understand me?”
“Yes ma’am” Sammie could tell that this was serious business.
“Ok, now I want you to hide yourself real well, turn your radio on low, and wait and listen. I love you.”
With a quick hug and kiss and a slight push to go hide, Sammie scampered off and hid herself under a fallen tree with both the packs. Two of the kids went with her, Spice and the General, the oldest of the Sheppard's. The other two Sheppard's were alert at Gracie’s’ side. As soon as Sammie was out of sight, Gracie began to edge forward towards the house. She could still hear screaming going on, and as she got closer, she could hear arguing and children crying. She almost tripped over one of the families beloved dogs. He was dead. It was a gruesome sight. Someone had taken a knife to him. He looked like he had been dead for at least a day. Max and Georgia softly growled deep in their throats. But the sound didn’t carry over the cries coming from the house.
Now Gracie was totally ticked off. No one should treat an animal like that. They made it to the back porch without anyone in the house knowing they were there. With a quick hand signal, the two dogs slipped into the back door that Gracie had slowly opened. She was careful to have her knife ready. Now that she was in the house, she could hear the argument.
“Let me go to her, she is in labor and needs help. She isn’t due for another week and the baby may not be turned right. My God Mike, don’t you have any heart?” yelled a man that Gracie quickly recognized as Frank Montgomery. Then she heard a voice that chilled her to the bone.
“I don’t give a damn if she lives or dies! And you better shut your brats up or I’ll start killing them.” shouted Mike Tanner.
Gracie was now filled with righteous anger. It seemed to her that Mike Tanner didn’t give her warning enough serious thought. And it seemed that he now was in control of the Montgomery home. Well, not for long; she thought.
Slowly easing around the door way that separated the kitchen from the short hall that lead to the living room and also back to the bedrooms, Gracie peeked around the corner. She could see Max sliding behind Mike who was standing about six feet into the room with his back to her. Max glanced back at Gracie for some sign that he could jump him. Gracie gave the sign for no since she could see a gun in Mike’s hand. It was hard to miss since he was punctuating his words with jabbing motions of the gun. There was no sign of Georgia and so Gracie could only conclude that she went to Mrs. Montgomery side.
Gracie placed a finger to her lips as the oldest child; Frankie Jr. caught sight of her.
Then Mike must have sensed something was not right and slowly turned with the gun. Quickly Gracie ducked back but Max sprang and clamped his teeth on Mike’s gun hand. The gun went off and a shot flew threw the doorway and into the wall right where Gracie’s head had been. Whipping around the wall quickly and into the living room Gracie hollered “Release!” Max instantly released Mike’s wrist that the gun was still in.
“I told you I never wanted to see you again, Mike. And I wasn’t kidding.” With those words Gracie threw her knife and it slide through Mike’s ribs and found his heart just like they were butter. The gun slide from his hand and as he looked her in the eye, he dropped to his knees and then fell face forward, driving the knife even deeper.
"Is there anyone else here?" asked Gracie quietly.
"No it was just Mike" replied Frank.
Gracie apologized to the Montgomery family for them having to see her actions. She retrieved her knife from Mike’s body and quickly cut Frank free. “Mary needs you, she is having a hard labor and I think something may be wrong with the baby, please go to her” he cried.
Gracie pulled her radio out of her pocket and said “sugar and spice and everything nice, come to the house Sammie.” She then released the button and said “Sammie is here with me, she is coming to the house, Frank do you think you and Frankie Jr. can move this piece of trash out of here? I’ll need Susie, Cindy, and Sammie’s help now. You girls come with me.” She looked at the younger kids and said “Will ya’all start up the stove and start heating some water? And make sure Sammie brings my bag into your mom’s room?” All the rest of the kids solemnly nodded their heads and Gracie and the two oldest girls ran to Mary’s room.
Georgia sure enough was there and Mary had her head buried in the dog’s soft fur.
“Mary, it’s ok. The danger is over and I’m here to help you. Let’s get you cleaned up and get this baby into the world.”
Mary lifted her head and a flood of relief, gratitude and then pain crossed her face. “Girls, will you find a clean gown for your mom and bring me all the clean towels you can find, ok?” With quick nods of the head Susie ran to the dresser and dug into one of the drawers for a fresh gown. Cindy took off out the door but was back with a minute with a stack of towels that was over her head.
“Now will you go wet a couple of the towels for me to use to clean your mom up?” asked Gracie and Cindy took two towels and went back out the door.
“Mary, I need to examine you and see how the baby is sitting. Susie, can you go find some clean sheets so we can get this bed changed?” Again Susie nodded her head and was out the door and back almost before the question was done being asked.
Together the three of them cleaned Mary up and got her into clean sheets and a clean gown. After examining her, Gracie told her the bad news.
“Honey, I’m afraid the baby isn’t turned right and he or she is trying to come into the world wrong way first. I think I can turn the baby, but it won’t feel good. Sammie had come into the room during Susie and Cindy’s running around and spoke up “Miss Gracie, here is your first aid kit, are you going to use the needles?”
Gracie smiled at Sammie and said “yep; they will help Mrs. Montgomery deal with the pain of having a baby. Thank you Sammie very much for remembering the BOB’s earlier.” Taking a slender tube from the first aid kit, Sammie looked Mary in the eye and said “You and your baby are going to be fine, now let’s get you on your hands and knees.”
Gracie quickly inserted the needles at the correct points to stop Mary from feeling the pain and thanked God for the studies in acupuncture that she almost didn’t take when the course came up at the college a couple of years ago. And for the wise old Chinese teacher who worked with her after class also until she had perfected the 'needles'.
With Mary on her hands and knees, Gracie was able to reposition the baby by external and internal manipulation and just shy of two hours later, Mary gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Cindy and Susie both had been taking turns going out for fresh warm water to dunk towels in to use for the birth process and cold water for their wiping their mom’s forehead and anywhere else she wanted a cool cloth. They gently helped Gracie wash their new sister off, cooing over the little one. Mary gave a yelp, and Gracie glanced over. “I think that must be the afterbirth, let’s take care of this.”
But with one big push, it was another baby that came out, not the afterbirth. This baby girl didn’t cry like the first and wasn’t breathing. Gracie quickly grabbed a towel and started rubbing the baby quickly and when the slightly rough treatment didn’t seem to be working, gently blew puffs of air into the small baby girl. With a couple of fingers she pushed onto her chest above the heart.
Cindy, Susie, Mary, Sammie and Georgia held their breath, daring not to breath. Even the first baby girl seemed to know not to cry and quietly gurgled. Then in a rush, the baby took in a deep breath and let out a howl and brought smiles and tears to the others.
Gently the girls helped to clean up this baby too and after they had Mary and the two babies cleaned up and the bed remade again, both Mary and the two babies began to doze on the bed together.
“Cindy will you go get your dad? Susie, would you go make a pot of tea out of this for your Mom? She won’t sleep for very long right now.” And Gracie handed Susie a small packet of tea from her first aid kit.
“Well Sammie, I don’t think we will be making the town meeting today.”
“No Miss Gracie, I don’t think so either.” They both looked at each other with dorky grins on their faces, then they gazed at the two adorable babies sleeping so comfortable at their mom’s sides.
Frank was dumbfounded with he came in and saw two babies in his wife’s arms. Then he couldn’t help himself, he got a dorky grin on his face too! Mary opened her eyes as Gracie, Sammie and Georgia slipped from the room to give them some privacy.
Between Gracie and the kids, they managed to get supper fixed, they found some homemade soup that Mary had canned, in the pantry and since they already had the cook stove going for the water that Gracie needed, she made two big sheets of biscuits and everyone got fed. Mary drank the tea with her supper and soon after the babies nursed for the first time, mom and babies were sound to sleep.
Frank and Gracie sat at the kitchen table after supper drinking some coffee talking quietly. While Gracie had been in the bedroom helping Mary give birth, Frank and the rest of the kids had kept busy cleaning up the mess in the living room including taking burying Mike’s body; and now the kids were piled in there with Gracie’s “kid’s” and sleeping also.
Gracie got up and told Frank they had better get going if they were going to make it home by dark. With grateful thanks and big hugs, and promises of letting them know what the babies names were going to be; Gracie, Sammie and the kids set off for home. And when they got to Gracie’s Sam and Sandra were waiting anxiously with open arms that Sammie slid right into.