Elizabeth Bowles Mamie and the Root Woman

ISBN 13: 9781598004816

Mamie and the Root Woman

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Amazing historical novel about a leggless woman named Mamie. Charleston's most bizarre street vendor, Mamie, played her trade for perhaps fifty years without missing a beat. She had no legs, yet triumphed over every obstacle.

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About the Author:

Elizabeth Bowles is a student of the human condition, wielding the written craft to enrapture the mind much like an artist.

Born and reared in Charleston, South Carolina, she grew up seeing Mamie at her pencil stand week after week, year after year. Once, at age six, Elizabeth said, "Hi, Mamie." Mamie ran toward the little girl and chased her for a few steps mumbling unintelligible garble. Scary for a young child, but it made an indelible impression.

When Elizabeth returns to the city after an absence of several years, Mamie was gone. Nobody seemed to know what had happened to the old street vender. The author thought this sad and many years later began researching for the book, "Mamie and the Root Woman."

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:


Excerpt from chapter one

Root Woman's cheek bones seemed even more defined in the half light. A greenish glow emanated from her skin. Before leaving her cabin, she had crushed lightening bugs and smeared the juice all over her face, arms, and hands.

She stared at the men, and then, threw something down. A weird color blended with the swamp mists. It swirled and hissed, and with a hellish odor of sulfur, rose all around her. It rose from the ground in long writhing trails. She carried a long pole with a snake coiled around it. The snake, seen through the wisps of yellowish mists, seemed to coil and uncoil around the pole even though it was made of clay.

"Dambalah!" she shouted as she shook the pole at them. "Serpent God of Voodoo curses the lives of all. Pain, sickness, sorrow, misery-y-y!"

Four of the men mounted their horses and took off at a gallop.

"Yellow-bellied, white devils, ride out, but you can not outrun the curse of Dambalah!

Foot. Leg. Mind and heart!"

Judge Clayton took a step back, stumbled, and almost fell.

"You d-don't scare me with your cheap mumbo-jumbo," he said.

Root Woman turned toward him, held her arms out, and with fingers spread uttered another Voodoo curse.

"By your actions tonight, you have sealed your fates. You, man named Clayton, will die friendless and all alone after years of sickness and misfortune! I have said it. It is done!"

As she uttered the curse, she walked toward the tracks. Her voice grew louder and deeper as she emerged from the trees. "Untie the girl, now!" she intoned with measured voice.

It was then they heard the train. Standing as though in a trance, they heard the screech of brakes and the piercing whistle before they saw the steel monster clanking and thundering down the tracks. Judge Clayton stood as though frozen.

Isaiah whirled around to face the! judge.

"Give me a knife. Damn it, move." When the judge stood as though turned to stone, Isaiah turned toward the other man. "Do you have a knife?"

Both the judge and Clem shook their heads no. Isaiah knelt on the tracks to untie the girl, but the knots held fast. Root Woman ran toward him from a distance of thirty feet with a knife in her outstretched hand, but it was too late.

The light from the burning cross, the full moon and the bright beams of the train illuminated the tracks like day. As the train thundered down the track, the engineer saw something on the tracks. In one blinding moment of truth, he viewed the burning cross, and the group of white-sheeted men, and understood. He tried in vain to stop the train as steel screamed against steel.

Isaiah and Root Woman jumped clear of the track in the last possible moment. Their faces grimaced in horror, their stomachs pitched in nausea, and they moaned along with Mamie.

Then, the screeching of the train's brakes stopped along with the train. Inside the box car, Rosco heard a voice yelling 'dumb bastards dressed up in bed sheets.' He strained to hear, holding his breath.

Mamie! Is she dead? She's under the wheels. Her legs! Oh God, pull her out!" a young boy screamed.

Rosco, thinking he heard, "Mamie is dead", fell backwards onto the corn in the silo.
After pulling the girl out from under the train, the engineer became aware of the tall, thin woman.

"Give me the child," she said.

Blood poured from the wounded legs. Root Woman knelt down and tied strong twine around each leg. Picking up the girl, she pulled the hood off her face with one deft movement, and took the barely conscious Mamie over to the burning cross.

The men watched. Mamie, roused to full consciousness by the cauterizing of both legs, let out a blood-curdling scream. The smell of charred flesh penetrated the swamp as Mamie sagged back against Root Woman.

Saylee knelt down, smeared an ointment on the limp girl's stumps, and cradled the child in her arms like a baby. She left without a word, disappearing into the swamp.

When Rosco came to, the train moved along at a steady pace with a gentle rocking motion. He still clutched the dead rat that had earlier bitten him. He wiped tears from his face and sat slumped over, moaning.

Deep into the swamp, Saylee trotted with the girl. An owl hooted. She heard the bellow of a bull alligator and the cry of night-birds as she passed along the familiar trail. The fecund smell of swamp rot surrounded her as she ran with the unconscious girl. Root Woman sang a healing song as she jogged through the swamp. She sang a song that would, one day, bring Mamie back to life and to pain.

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