Smoky Mountain Michael, was a very special child, that was raised in his Smoky Mountain paradise, during the Civil War and this is the Rest of His Story. Michael and his mother were left to fend for themselves, when the father left to enlist in the Union Army. Life was tough for the mother and son, toiling on the remote homestead, struggling just to provide a meal and a meager subsistence on a daily basis. Michael didn’t speak, could barely hear and if one could get him to look you in the eye, it was obvious that the young lad was incapable of understanding any of his circumstances. Michael’s mother considered her son a special gift from god, consoling her in silence, soothing her loneliness and despair, he held to her apron, as she worked their slim Smoky Mountain row crops daily and in the early evening, the two would spend the end of the day, enjoying the solitude on the flat rocks near the creek that ran at the back of their small cabin. The critters would come to drink and cool off, they made the Smoky Mountain mother and son remember their best friend and companion, Little Blackie, the fearsome black bundle of barking fur, that had been killed by the rampaging ruffians, that pounded the wagon trace that fronted their cabin. Michael’s mother cringed at the memory, remembering her son’s agony, that made him utter his first words, They killed my only friend, Little Blackie.
Smoky Mountain Michael and his mother had buried Little Blackie near the creek, in a small cove, under a large old oak tree. Both were crushed by the loss of one that brought so much life to their isolated world. Michael had lost his companion that he ran and rolled with in the fields. During the quiet times in the evening, down on the flat rocks, at the creek, Michael would sometimes surprise his mother by attempting to manage a couple of garbled words, her favorites were Ma, No, Yeah and his version of Michael.
In early Spring, Smoky Mountain Michael and his mother received word, that the father had been killed at Chickamauga. Mother hid her grief from Michael, although he knew deep down, that something dramatic had altered his future. The routine didn’t change, but his mother’s smile, had become less frequent and when he let her hold him, which he hardly ever did, she squeezed him closer and tighter, than she ever had before.
One evening, after the chores were finished, Michael and his mother were enjoying the coolness of the creek and the critters that visited every sundown, when they noticed a small movement in the brush, on the other side of the flow. Michael’s mother held him tight and yelled, who’s there. A timid voice replied, Noah. Out of the brush stepped another little boy, barefoot, a too big, pullover blouse and ragged pants, held up by a piece of rope. Unafraid, the wee one, jumped the rocks and grabbed the mothers legs, holding on for dear life. Michael was startled, but his mother felt Noah’s anguish and relief, holding the new arrival close and comforting him as best as she could.
The three returned to the cabin and mother prepared a supper of beans and corn bread. The new little boy, wolfed down his portion, but knew better than to ask for more. During mouthfuls, he explained, how his mother had hidden him in the ditch one night, telling him not to move and at sunup, everything was totally quiet and everyone had disappeared. He waited for his mother to return, but as Noah simply described, they’re all gone, never came back and here I am.
As his mother made up another pallet for Noah to sleep on, Michael was eyeing the new arrival carefully. He noticed how closely his mother watched Noah’s face, her hand gestures and especially her new-found smile that graced her lips. Smoky Mountain Michael, may have been a little jealous, but he knew that he hadn’t noticed his mother this happy in a long time and what was good for mother, was ultimately good for him.
Every day from then on, Noah joined Michael and his mother in the small plot, that was their field. Michael and Noah became inseparable, romping and exploring the woods, creeks and coves. Michael shared with Noah, where Little Blackie rested and where to hide when the hoofbeats on the wagon trace spelled danger. Noah didn’t really understand what was wrong with Michael, but he did know that he needed their companionship as much as they needed his. Noah took special care to turn Michael’s face to his, when explaining something or asking a question. Michael in return, found joy in gently rubbing Noah’s arm, scratching behind his ears and patting him lovingly on the head.
As the season’s changed, Smoky Mountain Michael and Noah grew into young men and started working the field by themselves. Mother had begun to slow a bit and began to spend more and more of her day inside the cabin. One Spring morning, the boys let mother sleep and started their chores early in order to finish sooner than normal. When they returned, they were startled to find their mother still asleep and both seemed to realize that their Smoky Mountain Mother would never have to work the field or cook them another meal.
They lived their remaining years together, best friends and oblivious to the fact that one of their skins was as dark as Little Blackie. Backpackers in the remote reaches of the Smoky Mountains swear that if they listen closely, they can still hear the echos of Smoky Mountain Michael calling for his friend Noah.