Here’s a taste of Billie Rose and Penny’s next adventure.
One year later—1947, Laughing Creek, West Virginia
Howling wind and driving rain sweep through the mountains.
Sheets of rain gush over our house like a waterfall. Penny’s barn
is almost invisible from my attic bedroom. I hear water raging down
the ridges turning little creeks into rushing rivers.
Laughing Creek, the little stream our town is named after,
usually flows gently at the edge of our small farm. It used to
babble and chuckle over rocks like little kids. Today it roars and
barrels along, bulging twenty feet or more beyond its banks like a
river gone wild. I never saw it like this before, but I’m only
twelve. Ma said she’s never seen it like this, either.
I keep telling myself, Billie Rose Tackett, you’re not
scared. I mean, what’s a little water? Well, it isn’t just a
Our grandmother clock strikes six. It’s time to get up and feed
Penny and the other animals. Most days at this time of the morning,
it would be light enough to see clearly. Not today. The storm still
roars over us. The wind howls and whistles around the house like a
hundred demons escaping from hell. I dress and hurry downstairs.
I’m surprised that neither Ma, nor Rita, are down yet.
They’ll be down soon, I'm sure. How can they sleep through
all this racket?
Constable Elmore Elkins, my new stepdad, has not been home in a
couple of days. Lots of folks are worried that the dam at High
Point could break up. Elmore and his team are telling everyone in
the bottom lands to get to higher ground. He said our house should
be high enough, so not to worry. Well, I'm worried.
I run through the kitchen to the mud room and slide rubber boots
over my shoes. I hate going out in the rain, but the animals need
to be fed. Even though it’s June, I pull my winter jacket
A crashing, crunching sound fills the house! Everything shakes
and vibrates. Glass shatters somewhere. I grab for the bench, but
I’m thrown off my feet and hit the floor. Wind whistles through the
I jump up and look out the kitchen window. Muddy water surrounds
the big maple tree out front and crashes against the porch. Then
the kitchen windowpanes splinter into fine cracks.
“Ma! Rita! The river’s at the porch,” I scream up the
Why aren’t they answering me?
I turn back to the kitchen. The floor’s slanting at a strange
angle. A huge tree branch crashes through the window. Pieces of
broken boards hang from the ceiling. Rainwater spurts onto the
floor through the hole.
I crunch over glass and push through the rising water littered
with leaves and sticks. Another thick limb busts a huge gash
through a wall in the parlor. Tangles of leaves and branches spread
everywhere like a jungle fence.
I crouch down and crawl under the overhanging mess. I wiggle
through and stand where the bottom of the stairs used to
“Ma! Rita! Wake up!” Still no human sound from above.
Maybe a tree trunk fell on them. “Ohhhh, Ma! Please talk to
'Billie, get out of the house! More water is coming. I can
feel it. Wake up your mother and sister. Hurry!' Penny, my
horse, think-speaks to me.
Amazingly, more like magic, Penny and I discovered last year
that we could talk to each other through what I call think-speak.
Her voice comes into my head, and I can think or talk aloud back to
her. She has never yelled at me, but here she is now yelling and
ordering me like never before.