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The Dream Bucket (Covington Chronicles) (Volume 3)

By Mary Lou Cheatham


In The Dream Bucket, Trudy Cameron, lives in an elaborate Mississippi home with her hypocritical father William, withdrawn mother Zoe, and mischievous older brother Billy Jack. It is the spring of 1909.The last session ever at Gravel Hill School comes to a close, as Trudy looks forward to her tenth birthday. She adores Papa until she hears him slap her mother for asking him where he hides his cash. Soon afterwards, Billy Jack tells Trudy that Papa ridicules her behind her back. On the last day of school, Papa gives the schoolmarm a noisy smack of a kiss, overheard by all the pupils in the one-room schoolhouse.All she has heard leaves her so angry she wishes Papa would die. When he accidentally sets fire to the family mansion and dies in the fire, she is not prepared for the shock. She believes her anger caused her father's death. Zoe also feels she caused William's death by prodding him to meet her demands. He's cautioned Zoe not to pry into his financial arrangements. He has withdrawn his money from the Taylorsburg bank because he distrusts the fraudulent bank president. She needles him to tell her where he stores his twenty-dollar gold pieces in case his life should end one day. Two men load William's body into a farm wagon. How will Zoe survive as a widow? The sudden horror causes her to forget who her children are. First Trudy and Billy Jack run after the death wagon, but they turn back to the pile of ashes, where they plan their future. On the day Papa died, they will milk the cows and begin making arrangements for the funeral. Trudy and Billy Jack make a pact never to leave the farm.Regaining her orientation, Zoe bounces back. She moves her family into a shack that needs so many repairs the sharecroppers have abandoned it. When it rains, they run with cooking pots from one leak to another. The kitchen floor has rotted into nonexistence. The cabin offers little protection from heat and cold, bears and rattlesnakes, or human predators. Samuel Benton, the Camerons' best friend, lives with his two children down the road. He tries to help Zoe, but she rejects him. She's busy harvesting the garden, milking the cows, sewing for hire, and caring for her children. She makes no plans for the future. In a hopeless situation, Trudy, Zoe, and Billy Jack fight outside forces to survive. The Bentons and the Camerons fill their bucket and empty it and fill it again. Sometimes in horror and sometimes in joy, Trudy Cameron always dreams big.

Book Takeaway:

To live well, a girl needs to dream big, fill her bucket with dreams, empty the dreams into reality, and fill the bucket with dreams over and over always.


Year Title Description
2011 Texas Writers Conference of International Writers Alive Second place in book category

Why the author wrote this book:

The Dream Bucket is fiction. Memories bring pain and joy. The truth may be more or less than the fiction. Stories also come from nothing that ever happened.

Here's the truth that inspired the novel. No one is left who can verify my tale. It is my story, and I've lived long enough to tell it.

When I was seventeen, Mother took my brother and me to Jackson after Christmas to visit and shop. I bought fabric with my Christmas money. Dad didn't go. He seldom left the farm. The stated reason was that he had to milk the cows. The larger reason was that he was tied to the land.

When we returned home, a pile of smoking ashes stood between the chimneys. We didn't know whether Dad was alive. I dissolved into a screaming heap in the back seat of the car.

Dad appeared finally and said he heard an explosion while he was milking. He went into the fire and removed a thin mattress, a dresser, and a blanket. These items he risked his life for.

The mattress was to sleep on in our sharecroppers' cabin, which was vacant and exactly like the one in The Dream Bucket, even though the novel is set fifty years earlier than the reality. In front of that old dresser, my mother, sister, and I had applied our makeup. The blanket represented his mother, who practiced the Native American customs of our heritage. She farmed her own sheep, carded the wool, spun the thread, dyed it using black walnut shells, and wove the striped cloth.

For months after the fire, he lived in the cabin. I lived in an apartment Mother rented in town two blocks from school. Mother alternated between the two locations.

I withdrew from everyone, even though it was the last semester of high school. Staying in the apartment, which had twelve windows in the long bedroom, frightened me. My sister purchased a large box of remnants from a garment factory. I sewed and sewed and sewed. I stayed awake the nights I was alone because the bushes beat against the windows. My home economics teacher tutored me so I could sew at school.


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