Thursday, September 17, 2015
Interview with the heroine of the Sweetwater River series by Peggy Blann Phifer!
Q: Rozene Gentry Carson, what is the most interesting thing about you?
A: I’m at least half Cherokee. I was raised from infancy by my grandmother Chenoa, a full-blooded Cherokee. I don’t know whether she was my maternal or paternal grandmother, and I know nothing about my parents. She never talked about them. In fact, she rarely talked at all. Mostly she just grunted. But she loved me, in her own way.
Q: Wasn’t it hard growing up that way?
A: I suppose, but I didn’t know any other life. We lived in a hut built with field stone and rocks from the Sweetwater River, chinked with clay Chenoa made and had to repair each fall and again in the spring. She always had a small garden, caught fish from the river, and she hunted. Not with a gun, she used skill, cunning and snares. Including the fish, we always had fresh rabbit and squirrel, or anything else edible, which were cooked over an open fire pit. She’d get harvested field corn from the Livingston farms, grind it up and make a sort of flatbread. Until I started Kindergarten, I didn’t know that wasn’t the way everybody else lived.
A: Brutal. A backwards, terrified ‘half-breed,’ the only Indian child in Sweetland? My little classmates couldn’t even pronounce my name right, which is how I earned the shortened version of Rozie. Used to make me fighting mad. Doesn’t bother me now though I still think of myself as Rozene. But children can be cruel, and the taunts and barbs caused me to withdraw, to build walls around myself that grew thicker and higher, to protect me from the hurt.
Q: Please go on, Rozie…I mean Rozene. Sorry. This is interesting.
A: As I understand it, while I was maybe three or four, a farmer named Robert Gentry somehow acquired Chenoa’s land, which turned out to be a thousand acres on both sides of the river. Some folks around Sweetland claimed he stole it from her, but I found out later that it was all legal and properly registered at the courthouse.
Papa Gentry, as I came to call him, was a big, kind man with an equally big heart, though a bit rough around the edges. But he loved God, and he loved me as his own.
He built this house and Chenoa became his housekeeper, though she refused to live in it. We continued living in the stone and clay hut along the banks of the Sweetwater River.
Papa eventually realized he could no longer handle the farming operation alone, and his son Ross came to help run the place.
A few years after the house was finished, Chenoa died. I was in my late teens and I felt lost and abandoned, and my walls grew. But Papa wouldn’t let me withdraw and moved me into that grand house, where I’ve lived ever since.
A: Naïve and vulnerable, I accepted Ross’ marriage proposal. Eighteen months later, Robbie was born, the light of my life. When he was almost three, during the spring thaw, Robbie was outside following his daddy to the barn. Something distracted him and instead of following Ross, he headed toward the river. I was in the kitchen preparing breakfast and I saw the ice ledge give way. I flew out the door, screaming for Ross. But…we didn’t get to him in time. Searchers found him far downriver in the next county.
For years I blamed Ross for not watching Robbie that morning. We never had any more children. As Papa Gentry aged, he turned the farm operation over to Ross and me, while he pursued his dream and built what is now Gentry’s Family Restaurant. When Papa died of a massive heart attack, Ross and I sold all the farm equipment and concentrated on the restaurant. Then Ross died almost two years ago, and once again, I was alone.
Q: And that brings me to the next stage in your life. Would you mind sharing some of it with us?
A: Oh this is where my life changed forever. A little over a year ago, I was invited to join a group of other widows and widowers. There I met Pastor Mike Carson who’d recently lost his son. Later I met Celia Evers, a case worker at Sweetland’s Department of Social Services. Through her, I met several girls in foster care at the Youth Acres Group Home, and fell in love with Misty, Shira–pronounced Sheera—Melanie, and Veronica.
Friendship with Pastor Mike deepened into love, and we got married this past Christmas. And then a miracle happened. With Celia’s help, Mike and I formally adopted those four beautiful girls the same day, giving us a ready-made family, and them a forever home beside the Sweetwater River.
What did you think of the interview??????
If you are interested in the character and want to try the series out either find the reading samples here in the blog archives or go to Amazon Kindle and grab Volume 1! Here is the link:http://www.amazon.com/Sweetwater-River-Peggy-Blann-Phifer-ebook/dp/B00WJ9HPIK/ref=sr_1_1?s=fiona-hardware&ie=UTF8&qid=1442504354&sr=8-1&keywords=peggy+blann+phifer