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Sweeter Than Elderberry Wine
Zona had no choice

Zona fought to keep her balance as the wagon tipped and swayed, leveled and then veered off to another angle while they were fording the freezing stream of water called Hogshooter’s Creek in the year 1890. She was only twenty-one and this was a new experience. The young woman was never one to be faint hearted with an adventure. The two oxen pulling the wagon seemed to be sure-footed and able to take her across this place that was in the shallows.  Zona held the reins bravely and was alert to her husband, John’s,  instructions as he called out to her. They had been married for only two weeks but a trust between them was already established.

    “Steady!  Steady! Hold ‘em.” John kept his voice level and in a comforting way spoke to both the animals and his new wife. Suddenly the oxen were stumbling about as though they had lost their direction. Determined beasts though they were there was something  causing them to flounder in the water. The wagon was jerking back and forth  more violently now and all Zona could do, was to hold to both sides of it with hands and knuckles made white by the cold and strong grip she had to use to stay upright. The danger of slipping off this shelf which was less deep into the depths of down, the stream was now a reality.

    “What’s wrong?  What is wrong?” Zona was incredibly frightened and she searched her husband’s face for answers when he rode his horse up beside her. His thoroughbred was stepping carefully through the rock bottomed stream while the horse’s muscles were taunt to show its stress. John’s handling his steed with grace and strength because of the rider he was.

    “Hold on!  Just hold on!”  Her husband called to her as he slid off the side of his horse. “Just hold steady.”

    Zona had no choice but to do just that. Without a moment’s hesitation he was into the frigid churning water. John dived and dived again into the very depths of the freezing, boiling, seemingly bottomless stream until he came up out of the water holding in his hand the heavy metal pin from the oxen’s yoke. The wiry young man wrestled to catch the thick wooden yoke that had been across their necks and was able to replace it.  He did have to fight the cold and the  animals  until he was finally able to put the pin back in place to get control and bring his wife to safety.

    “Say Gal! You’re sweeter than Elderberry wine and just as strong.” He threw back his head an laughed out loud after he was able to get out of the freezing water. John was truly proud of Zona, who was his new wife,  and he told her so.

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