Home of the Bellingwood Series – Nammynools

The Ballad of Bells Dell

Building small cabin 1Mom wrote this five years after she and Dad purchased the land. There are grand stories about things that happened heard in Iowa’s early days that have long since been lost been lost. She alludes to some and I don’t know if I’ll ever find them again, so maybe I’ll make up my own. This does evoke great memories of my childhood, listening as she and Dad spoke with neighbors who told of miners and millers. Time passes, people come and go, but the land remains.

The pictures in this post are of Mom and Dad building the first room – 1/4 of the cabin where I do most of my writing now. Dad built it for us kids – a place to play and sleep, out of the confines of the little trailer. I just realized that it was during this summer – 1969 – that Mom was also doing some of her best writing. Bells Dell brings it out of us.

Building small cabin 2I have one more of her poems about Bells Dell that I will share tomorrow. I’m so thankful to have her words.

This land holds a mystery;
Age-old secrets kept intact
Through years of history,
Now from rusted bindings hacked.

Into the hillside men bored
A tunnel, looking for coal.
Their lives and their labors poured
they into the long dark hole.

The tunnel is closed and sealed.
Ninety-odd years have now passed
Since men, grimy, blackened, reeled
From gloom to sunlight at last.

An aged man who once lived here
Told us how two brothers worked
The mines and how the old fear
Of death round each corner lurked.

Red cabin 1One brother looked back too soon;
Death caught him a glancing blow.
The clanking ore cars, the Boone
No longer heard above its flow.

Across the river, the old
Bell’s Mill ground settler’s grain
While folks sat and talked and told
Tales of Indians and wagon trains.

But Death had crossed the river
And stopped the wooden mill wheel.
His son’s crushed bones sent shivers
Down Bell’s spine; his blood congealed.

Late one night in early spring,
Ice went out; up rose the Boone.
Great ice chunks did smash and fling
Themselves high beneath the moon.

Death claimed the miller that night
While violent ice knives spilled
The mill’s life blood as if in spite
For grain no longer to be milled.

Red Cabin 2The mineral water spring
That lured folks from miles around,
Searching cures, no longer sings.
Cows trampled it in the ground.

A row of huts once stood
Upon the hillside here.
Children romped warm in mitts and hood
While mothers toiled and spilled a tear.

Their men worked at the sawmill
Down by the edge of the road.
A rough crew, but bound by law still;
Justice was served as the cock crowed.

Much later, a fine old woman
Fought her own battle with death.
It took the life of this human
As her soul fled with her last breath.

An emptiness surrounds her house,
A bleakness, a hole of despair;
Sounds of mourning whistle through the boughs;
Her husband waits with a vacant stare.

Playing in the river 3Last summer, wading, we found
Under the river, wood parts
From the old mill race. But no sound
We heard of ghostly, creaking carts.

The children climb, slide and play
On the old slag heap beside
Our drive. A sunken place flays
Our memories of a miner’s pride.

The land is peopled with ghosts
Who once lived and loved and died.
They beckon, eternal hosts
who live on the other side.

Some of their secrets we share.
We’ll add our own to this land;
Much later then we will dare
Follow the beckoning hand.

August 15, 1969
Margie Greenwood


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