In the Ozarks in 1935 Claudia begins a new school with an optimistic name, New Hope. Still smarting from being jilted years before in front of her students, she has since dedicated her life to her students. She has a good year in her isolated one-room school on a river bluff. Falling for a first grade boy and his older sister, she becomes incensed when their father, Harve, won't let the girl attend school. Accosting him, she discovers his need of his daughter's help and his background of an alcoholic wife who ran away three years earlier. Very ill and drunk, the wife interrupts the school demanding her children. Claudia handles the crisis and that afternoon and the next day helps Harve care for her until she dies. Censored by the community for babysitting Harve's children in his house and being with Harve alone the two nights helping nurse his wife, she is hired back to teach the school next year. At the last day of school Harve stands up to remind everyone what a great teacher Claudia is and how at his and his dying wife's request, she stayed with him on her last hours. Understanding her actions, everyone comes to the church for their wedding and give them a shivaree. Though the school board offers Claudia the school. she doesn't want it now. Next Christmas she presents Harve with a baby girl. She named her Hope.
A Hard Shell Word Factory Release
Ellen Gray Massey is a speaker, writer, editor, and teacher from the Missouri Ozarks. She has published numerous articles, short stories, essays, a two- act musical play, six non-fiction books, and eleven novels. She was inducted into the first Writers Hall of Fame of America. She has received several first place awards from the Missouri Writers Guild and is a two-time Golden Spur Finalist from Western Writers of America.
Her specialty is the Ozarks where she has worked in Agricultural Extension work, has farmed, and taught all levels of students from a one-room school through college graduate work. Retired, she now she writes about her favorite region.
"Situated in the Missouri Ozarks, this tale is one of those stories that captivates you from page one and won't let you go until you finish reading the very last word. This is a classic romance that reminds me in theme of the Laura Ingalls Wilder series of books. The characters are unique and the writer sets the stage for romance by describing the lush beauty of the Ozark Mountain region. Overall, an excellent read!"Qetesh -- TCM Reviews
She stepped back from the blackboard to admire her beautiful schoolteacher handwriting. Putting her hands on her hips, she nodded in approval at the six-inch high letters spelling out her name, Miss Claudia Montgomery, and the school's name. New Hope. That's good. Maybe the name is a good omen. Maybe finally after all these years something wonderful will happen here this year. Maybe…
Apprehensive the first day in this district new to her, she hardly noticed a click of a horseshoe on some rocks near the door. She took a deep breath and turned around to examine the big room designed for eight grades.
"You don't look so fierce. You the new teacher?"
Claudia jumped back in surprise. Standing not two steps from her, grinning and looking at her with blue eyes peering from under unruly blond hair, was a small, barefooted boy. He clutched a syrup bucket turned lunch pail in one hand, a new tablet, a box of crayons, and pencils in the other. His faded overalls were clean, as was his new, homemade gingham shirt.
"Yes, I am," Claudia answered.
"My dad says you'll whup me if I don't mind. But you don't look mean. Are you?" He squinted up his face as he studied her.
"I don't think so." She laughed. "Are you mean?"
"My dad says I'll get the meanness whupped outta me once I go to school. Do you whup hard?" He made a face as if preparing himself for a blow.
"I try not to whip at all. What's your name?" Claudia asked.
The boy let out his breath in relief. "Harvey. Li'l Harvey Webster. My dad is Big Harve. He brought me to school on his mare."
Oh! The horse sounds.
"My dad, he don't like you." Harvey studied her for a few seconds frowning. Then he smiled brightly showing a missing front tooth. "But I like you."
"I like you, too, Harvey." Looking through the door and not seeing anyone, she then glanced across the room through the west windows and glimpsed a horseman riding into the woods that edged the river hill. All she could see was his straight back and head held high under a brown felt hat as a sorrel horse and rider floated over the ground. "Why doesn't your dad like me? Does he know me?"
"New, he don't know you. But he don't like no dames, especially book-learned, fancy, nice-smelling ones like you."
"Oh!" Claudia didn't know whether she was insulted or complimented. She shot another glance toward the woods. No rider. Only waving grass and a dense mat of green leaves where he disappeared.
"How old are you, Harvey?"
"Almost six. I'll be six in November."
"Do you know your letters?"
The boy lifted his head and rolled his eyes at the stupidity of her question. "Hell no! I've only been at school five minutes." His voice boomed out, deep for a small child.
Claudia put her hand over her mouth to hide her amusement. She knew exactly how he felt. She knew as little about this school as he did. Not being able to prepare made her feel inadequate. And nervous. Now, even though she'd come early, this little boy interrupted her first view of her school.
She took his hand. "I just got here, also. Let's explore the school together."