The Spruce Gum Box – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat
“Jedediah! You and your bastard had better run like the wind and don’t look back!” screamed Benjamin Wingate as he picked up the bench and tossed it into the growing inferno. The baby started to cry, adding to the turmoil of the scene. Jed stumbled a bit, but managed to swing the pack onto his back as he ran for the door. On his way past the little table he grabbed the lock and key and stuffed it in with his mittens. He hesitated for a second to trace his hand over the carved memories of his childhood; the teakettle just missed his head as it flew out the door. He ran north to the woods, doing his best not to slip on the scattered patches of snow and ice. When he reached the bend in the river, he took a breath and looked back at his cherished cabin, fully engulfed in flames, sparks reaching the top of the tallest pines. He could still hear Mr. Wingate screaming obscenities and raving, “Don’t you ever come back! No owner will hire you; count on it! Don’t you ever tell anybody about that bastard! Don’t you ever break our secret! Don’t you ever link that child to my family and me! Do you hear?”
This was the scene that played out as Jedediah Smythe took his son and fled for their lives as they escaped the wrath of Adelaide Wingate’s father. Jed was a walking boss for Wingate as he harvested the timber along the Aroostook River in a land that was claimed by both Canadian and Maine. He had met Addie and the rest of her family upon his arrival from England. Wingate had met young Jed while visiting his own home in England and saw his knack for numbers and business and talked his parents into letting Jed accompany him to this timber wilderness. He just didn’t anticipate he and his daughter Addie falling in love. He especially didn’t expect her to present him with a grandson and shortly after the baby was born he delivered it to Jed and sent Addie back to England.
After the delivery of Benjamin Wingate Smythe to his father, the story takes us to a settlement of Micmac Indians. Jacob and Jed had met some time before when Jacob served as a cook for Wingate’s crew. They hit it off and Jed had no doubts that he would find comfort and help for himself and his son if he could make it to Jacob’s settlement. And as he had expected, he was greeted by everyone with open arms and a promise of protection.
The Spruce Gum Box is one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever read. The love between Addie and Jed was beautiful but the love between Jed and Ben was so strong that nothing could separate nor pull them apart. To top it off, the love and friendship between the Micmac Indians and their two new found family members became a bond for life. And this bond will continue and strengthen as it goes into hardships and even into death.
In school we are taught the basics in history. We aren’t taken into many of the hardships that were involved in creating what we now have. Author Elizabeth Egerton Wilder, through The Spruce Gum Box, has given us a lesson in history that has me wanting to know more. I want to learn more about the Micmac Indians who I’ve never even heard of until now. I want to learn more about the treaty and land grants that took place between the squatters, England and the US. She has made this part of history very interesting and fun to learn.
Red Dobie Press