At the age of eleven I began the journey to find out more about my 'real father'. It was not until the age of forty-four, when I found him AND seven, that's right, seven, more brothers and sisters; and a inspiration to write "Mittie's Song".
My Mom, Mittie Claire Belle Cantrell, passed away on March 29, 2011. Boy I miss her so, loved hearing her Southern Belle stories, or even singing a song with her. The last song we sang together was, "In The Pines".
She had several God given gifts; music, art, the gift of gab. One thing she had, that became an enemy of sorts, was beauty.
At forty-four I began to write music, make notes of stories, and set to find my lost brothers and sisters (that is a story all of its own). The night I found my 'father' I came home a wrote the song, "Daddy, Where Are You" - you can hear a sample on Mittie's Song Music Samples in The Store.
Well, many years later we have a novel (sample below), a screenplay (being revised, again), 20 plus songs and now, The Play. This is NOT the story of my Mom BUT she DID in fact inspire the story. MANY of the stories within, and characters, were from her life. So, I guess one might say, I took artistic license and created these productions. ONE of the main messages within is, to quote Mittie, "No matter what you are going through, with the Good Lord's help, you WILL make it through.
God Bless and enjoy "Mittie's Song",
Jimmie Ray Cantrell
Mitti's Song - The Novel Sample Pages
EXCERPTS: SELECTED Chapter Openings & Closings
Dedicated to abused women around the world.
YOU CAN MAKE IT!
Opening and closing of Chapter One
BEYOND THE GREEN DOOR
Mittie Cooper sat in this dimly-lit room, all alone with nothing other than her seasoned image in the mirror, reflecting, waiting, heart racing, anticipating. She was oblivious to the sounds beyond the dark green door.
Suddenly, as if God had reached down with His hand and reversed the sands of time, the room became a mental and emotional time-machine. Mittie saw herself as a child in North Carolina. For what seemed like several moments, but was really only a split second, Mittie Cooper revisited precious moments of her childhood, especially times with her older sister Dolly. Suddenly, the image in the mirror began to change. Mittie Cooper was now traveling back to the most frightening evening of her life. Tears began to flow as she fought the journey. She had done all she could to avoid talking or even thinking about that ghastly night of February 11, 1956, a time when she and her son Ray could have been killed. For the moment, it was impossible to direct her thoughts to any other time.
It was as though she were there once again, on that very night. A short distance away, high atop Mount Washington, the high- pitched shrill of a family of coyotes could be heard as they seemed to celebrate their latest kill. A large white owl was perched in one of the giant eucalyptus trees that overshadowed the duplex, searching for his next meal. The sparse population of the area made it hard to believe that downtown Los Angeles was only eight miles away.
Suddenly, from the pre-World War II duplex, Mittie's voice pleaded, "Please don't hit me again." Mittie had both talent and beauty. Her fifty-five-year-old husband, John Silvers, both loved and hated the way she looked...................
Close chapter one:
This really all began when Mittie Cooper was only sixteen, in the shadows of the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains, near Hendersonville, North Carolina, in 1944.
Opening and closing of Chapter Two
There had been a gentle spring rain the night before. The air smelled clean and pure. There wasn’t much dust around the old Cooper place today. The sound of Frank Cooper chopping firewood echoed sharply off the surrounding hills. A horse drawn wagon, loaded with small logs destined to be transformed into firewood, could be heard as it approached. A gentle cool breeze rustled the new leaves of the giant oak which shadowed the old farmhouse. The song of the south was being performed by the cicadas. Several chickens could be seen and heard as they hunted for scratch. On a scale of one to ten, this day had to be at least a nine. What a beautiful day for such a change in young Mittie's life.
The Cooper farm was on twelve acres, nestled in a small canyon called Big Willow, about fifteen miles from Hendersonville. Only three of the twelve acres were cleared, the balance was a mix of red and white oaks, Carolina pines, sycamores, a few sweet gum trees and a variety of other trees common to the area. There was a dense undergrowth on most of the undeveloped acreage; arrowwood shrubs, honeysuckle, muscadine grapevines, lots of snakelike vines hung from the trees; and let’s not forget the snakes, lots of snakes. Not to mention a host of other critters, even an occasional cougar that’d come down from Pisgah Mountain. Insects? Big Willow had every variety. And, oh, poison ivy and poison oak. Makes one itchy just thinkin bout it. And of course, the Brier brambles and the blackberries; snakes loved to hide under the blackberry vines......................
Close of Chapter Two:
On her final night at the old farm Mittie was so excited she could hardly eat supper. After her and Dolly had finished with the evening chores, the two girls took Mittie's guitar out on the front porch. Mittie wrote a song of joy, unlike most of her previous songs that always seemed to have a touch of the blues.
Opening and closing of Chapter Three
Particles of dust slowly drifted across the morning sunbeams as they pierced through the sisters attic bedroom window. The morning reveille was being sounded by the Cooper's Rhode Island Red rooster. A Red Tailed Hawk soared high above the small valley, soon to demonstrate the Survival of the Fittest. It was a comfortably cool Saturday morning. A perfect day lay ahead for Mittie – a day of change, a day of destiny.
Mittie and Dolly had slept as usual on their old, overstuffed, lumpy, musty smelling, barely full-sized bed. The girls didn’t know no better– they felt they had plenty of room, particularly since Selma had left four years ago. Back then all three girls slept together.
Only moments after the sun pierced through the girls dingy upstairs bedroom window, Mittie was awake, she knew that this was her day. "Dolly, Dolly you awake?"
Dolly slowly rolled over......................
Close of Chapter Three:
Soon, Mittie's thoughts shifted to her new things, her new room, her new lease on life, how comfortable she felt, her new songs, what would their uppity church be like tomorrow, on Easter Sunday, what was it going to be like at the Court House on Monday...
Opening and closing of Chapter Four RESURRECTED
There Mittie was, standing in front of the big white First Church of the Uppity. Every time the Cooper's came to town they had to pass this house of worship. Often Mittie wondered what it was like inside. Were the services like the hellfire and brimstone she had become accustomed to at their little Baptist Church? Mittie never imagined she would be attending here, and with a family of such prominence to boot.
It was a beautiful Easter morning.........................
Close of Chapter Four:
I'll think 'bout the trial if I can. Ain't ever even been in the Court House. I better get out of this tub. My, look how wrinkled my hands and feet are. Oh, this has been wonderful. Mittie even found pleasure in drying herself, the thick soft towel against her body. Within minutes, Mittie was within the comfort and security of her new bed. As she began to doze off, somehow she knew she was going to have sweet dreams. Dreams of all the wonderful events of the past few days, her new inner feelings and thoughts, her faith; the evidence of things hoped for. She had been resurrected, had new life, new hope, new feelings. A new Mittie Cooper. Resurrected.
Opening and closing of Chapter Five
THE TRIAL of Leroy Francis
Easter had been a warm beautiful day. Today was stacking up to be one with record breaking heat. Large fans had been placed in the front corners of the courtroom to make it more bearable for those in attendance. Two other factors contributing to the anticipated temperature were the ninety percent humidity, and the knowledge that the courtroom was going to be jam-packed with people. People create heat. Lots of people equals lots of heat.
A constant murmur was heard as spectators entered the courtroom and scrambled for the few remaining seats. Several of those seated were already fanning themselves with makeshift fans, some were using folded copies of today's Hendersonville newspaper, the headline of which boldly read "GUILTY or NOT? THAT IS THE QUESTION". At the rear of the courtroom there was a "special" section reserved for Colored Only. This special section was filled to capacity with the family and friends of Leroy Francis, the defendant...........
Close of Chapter Five:
Within thirty minutes Mittie was safely home. She took her bath, which was nothing like the one she took the night before. Her memories of the past few days were now bittersweet, mostly bitter for the moment. It was as if Mittie subconsciously thought that the bath was going to wash away the stains that had been placed in her mind over the past few hours. This had been another day of doors opened, never to be closed again.
The trial was over, but Mittie Cooper's journey had just begun.