Cheat River Three

Cheat River Three

by Scott Baker Sweeney


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"Cheat River Three", is a true life adventure immersed in circumstantial fiction! The adventures in this novel were based on true stories of my infamous father's wild life, intertwined with tales of a fictional heroine that rivals him with her own special free spirited exploits. Their quest for adventure would separate them and take them independently far away, but tragedy and love would eventually reunite them and return them home. Cheat River Three will take the reader on an emotional roller coaster of humor and excitement as well as pull at their heartstrings.

"if the reader is right with them hearing them speak, readers will both laugh and cry with this"

"'Cheat River Three', just as with his other stories, Sweeney knows how to hook a reader and keep them flipping pages and gobbling up his words! Eugene,James and Kat are wonderfully drawn characters that seemed real and familiar. Their exploits and stories will have you laughing and crying the whole time. ~ Melissa Caldwell, Must Read Faster

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781468543896
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 02/06/2012
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.75(d)

Read an Excerpt


By Scott Baker Sweeney


Copyright © 2012 Scott Baker Sweeney
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4685-4389-6

Chapter One

The morning sunlight flickered through the leaves of trees creating a natural kaleidoscope. It was enhanced ever so slightly by the southern Pennsylvanian breeze moving the porous canopies of green; just enough to provide access for the solar rays to meet the ground below. The beauty of this spring morning was not to be upstaged by the symphonic sounds of chirping birds, along with the muffled roar of the Monongahela River as it introduced itself to the mouth of the Cheat River.

Sunday morning, "the day of rest," was the only day of the week in which the sounds of nature were not squelched out by the heavy, metallic noise of rail cars heaped with coal grinding and clanging their hitches or the roar of the beehive coke ovens in the side of the Cheat Mountain. Yes, it was a peaceful, tranquil morning, indeed. Free of all artificial manmade noise pollution trespassing on one's senses. Well, not completely. This particular Sunday morning shutdown of the coal and coke operations was no different than many of the Sunday mornings that preceded it, but for one exception. If you listened closely, there was still one manmade noise disturbing this wooded high ground overlooking the river valley. For six consecutive mornings a peculiar noise of scraping—a sound of metal carving earth to be more exact—came filtering through the trees.

Near a tall spruce was the source of this grating noise: a young boy diligently churning up dirt with a silver serving spoon, which he had secretly commandeered from his mother's silver chest. Surrounding the boy as far out as perhaps thirty feet or so, was the evidence of his past excavations. There were piles of dirt twelve to fifteen inches high, and accompanying the piles were the numerous holes in which the same earth had originated. It looked as if a convention of gophers had just adjourned from a busy week of work.

The lad's freshly ironed white shirt was quickly becoming soiled, even before the church bell of the Point Marion Methodist Church had a chance to warn its parishioners of the start of Sunday school. Church, however, was the last thing on the boy's mind. A few weeks earlier, he had learned of an historical fact about the region in which he lived that would change the boy's daily routine.

Monongahela Indians, commonly known as "mound dwellers," had once inhabited the western and southern region of Pennsylvania. These particular tribes were believed to be the earliest inhabitants of the area. They migrated from Asia across a long, theoretical land bridge from Siberia to Alaska. How they arrived to Pennsylvania from Alaska, or even why they were drawn so far from their home in Asia to this inconvenient destination is still a mystery. More mysterious than their arrival was their departure. After enduring years of inherent dangers—nature, starvation, and the extreme weather conditions that accompanied a brutal journey of thousands of miles—the Monongahela tribe seemed to have vanished overnight in the early sixteen hundreds.

Leaving little evidence in the pages of our history books, this less-than-flamboyant people's only clue to their existence was the humble remains of the burial mounds they constructed.

The chronicle of the Monongahela tribe is based on years of scientific archeological studies by several universities, but this particular version of historical facts was absent some very important details of greater significance. That is, at least in the mind of this ten year old boy. His version came from more impressive authorities than mere doctors of science at local universities: the wisdom and knowledge of the "locals"—well, at least the local boys.

The year was 1946; the "local boys" were the rough and rowdy gang of males ranging in age from nine to twelve years. They were friends to the apprentice archeologist digging solo in the woods.

Who generated the local tale no one knows, but for years, it had been the most popular version for the youngsters in the town of Point Marion. Their account of the Mound Dwellers, based on pure myth, differed in the fact that the Monongahela's did not originate from Asia, but rather from South America. They were actually a group of several Inca tribesmen who stole tons of gold from the Incan empire, and then defected with their spoils to Pennsylvania, where they eventually buried their treasure, hidden safely under the mounds of earth. This tale was absolutely nonsensical, but to the enthusiastic minds of young boys, this tale bore plenty of plausibility.

There was gold to be had, and this morning was the morning this young treasure hunter was going to strike the "mother lode." Well, that's at least what he kept telling himself as he started clearing away the debris of old pine needles and decaying leaves to start a fresh excavation.

So this morn, the woods on the outskirts of Point Marion would have to share the sounds of nature with the grating noise of a silver serving spoon carving scopes of dirt and gravel. Suddenly another sound reverberated sonorously amongst the harmonious birds, river rapids, and of course, "silver spoon." A distant, faint, soprano sound; a voice sternly calling, "Eugene, Eugene," came searching through the trees seeking out its intended target. The method of the repetitive sounds was somewhat similar to a bell on an ocean buoy, used effectively when visual senses were impaired by the dark of night or thick shroud of fog—or in this case, a wooded forest. The constant clanging noise alerted ships or sailing vessels to the approaching land or jagged rocks. The warning in this case was not from a buoy, but from a mother, and it was not intended for sailors in peril, but rather to alert her to the location of her delinquent offspring and to summon him home immediately.

The boy had to be conscious of his mother's calling; however he kept to his business unfazed. He, in fact, increased the haste of his work. Faster and faster he dug, beads of sweat forming just under his hair line, then running down his forehead into his eyes. The sting of a salty droplet meeting his eye broke his momentum just long enough for a quick swipe from his white shirt sleeve, and then activities were underway again.

"Eugene, Eugene!" His mother's vocal tone sounded slightly closer and more urgent with each announcement. The boy dug faster and faster.

Suddenly, without warning, the boy felt a hand grip the back of his shoulder, grasping a fistful of his cotton shirt. This dramatic intrusion incited a startled reaction from the young man, causing him to gasp as he arose to his feet, hurling the silver spoon several feet. The momentum did free the boy from his captor and allowed him to spin around to meet his unexpected guest. Surprisingly, it wasn't his mother.

A tall, skinny boy in his early teens stood before him, wearing a similar Sunday morning uniform consisting of a white cotton shirt and khaki pants. "It's time for church!" he said. The younger sibling stood in shock, a few feet away.

"You scared the hell out of me!" barked the young boy.

"Why didn't you answer Mother?" The tall brother retorted. He was not empathetic to his startled younger kin, not in the least. He stood smugly gazing over his brother's excavating accomplishments, thinking to himself what a foolish waste of time and energy. Then the elder brother remembered that his mission was only halfway completed. Find Eugene and deliver him home immediately was the direct order given by his mother, who was pacing the front porch of their company-built duplex house holding his baby sister in one arm.

"Come on, if we miss church you will be in big trouble." Begrudgingly, Eugene followed his brother out of the woods and towards home. The elder took satisfaction in the fact that his frequently in trouble brother was once again likely to receive punishment from not only his mother but also his father for disobeying an ongoing rule of wandering away and getting dirty before church.

The Briggs were not unlike most other families of Point Marion, or for that matter any other small coal community in Pennsylvania or West Virginia. The coal industry had been a part of their family's heritage since their ancestors' arrival from Germany in the late seventeen hundreds. They were hard working, conservative country folk. The world to them was only as large as their education. They were also survivors. This community suffered through the "Redneck Wars" over two decades earlier; next to the Civil War, this was the bloodiest time in history for Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Gun battles and assassinations between the union thugs trying to organize the local non-union mines—and the hired guns of the owners of the mines—left many children fatherless and wives widowed. More good men were lost by bullets than by actual mine- related accidents during this period of time. Life indeed was tough and so were they; excitement, adventure, or even mere relaxation, were not words familiar to their vocabulary.

Eugene Briggs was the exception. From his first steps as a toddler, it was apparent that he was not content with being the normal conformist. Eugene was the middle child; he had two siblings, Delbert, the elder and the baby, Mary Lou.

Eugene's mother, Ertta, handed Mary Lou off to Delbert like a quarterback handing off on a third and one to an awaiting halfback. She wheeled around and grabbed Eugene by the nape of his neck, marching him into the house. In the kitchen, she quickly wiped off his soiled shirt with a washcloth while her rebellious offspring washed off his hands and face under the flowing spigot. Ertta was used to this little setback, for it seemed to never fail that whenever the family had to be somewhere, and especially when her husband was out of town, Eugene would always come up missing. Then, when he was eventually recovered, he always needed some quick repair work before presenting him to the public.

Pacing back and forth outside, only stopping occasionally to kick a clod of dirt, Delbert and baby sis waited patiently for mother and brother to reappear. Ertta was a quiet lady of very few words, but when it was time to express herself or make her views known she had no problem articulating her point.

Suddenly, the screen door flew open. Out marched Mother with Eugene in tow.

"Come on, we're late! Thanks again to your brother!" Delbert nodded at his mother's response, then handed back his sister, and they were off. The church was only about a half mile away; still, they provided their normal grandiose entrance while the congregation was well into the first hymn. Settled in, Eugene began surveying the room for his mate, or should I say his usual partner in crime, James "Jimmy" Wilson. There he was two rows back and to the right. Of course, Jimmy knew exactly where the Briggs were sitting, watching them pass his pew only moments earlier. Jimmy was waiting for Eugene's eyes to make contact with his, and as soon as they did, both simultaneously gave an acknowledging partial grin and nod.

Mr. Briggs seldom accompanied his family to church, unless it was Easter or Christmas. This time he had a valid excuse. Fred was away on business in Pittsburg. He was taking an exam for a supervisory position from his employer, Sun Devil Coal & Coke Works. Fred was one of four brothers who were all employed by the local coal mining and coke company, which also had employed Fred's father, grandfather, cousins, and 85 percent of Point Marion and the surrounding county.

The minister's sermon was a blur to Eugene. His mind was still back at his archeological dig, along with the silver spoon he had tossed when his brother greeted him from behind. One of the things about Eugene was that he was stubborn. Very stubborn! Even though his excavations so far had been a complete waste of effort and had not yielded as much as a chicken bone let alone an artifact, he was now ready to ratchet it up, move into overdrive, and send his operations to the next level. He was going to strike it rich, at least that was what he kept telling himself. He had been thinking long and hard about this (well, at least through the Sunday morning sermon). He needed a partner. Someone he could trust. So at that moment, he made up his mind that there was no other choice but to commandeer Jimmy.

So what if he had to split the loot? There had to be more than enough for the both of them.

Chapter Two

Point Marion was a company town. Half of the townsfolk were employed by the local coal mine and coke producing company, Sun Devil. The company compensated their employees by building their homes and paying them with vouchers that they could exchange for food and other sundries at the town's grocery and small goods store, which was also owned by Sun Devil.

Obviously, this employer/employee relationship worked out well for the owner, creating an environment eerily similar to colonialism. For the men and their families, the system basically meant they were indentured servants. The fear that they would lose their jobs, which meant losing their homes, kept them totally committed to Sun Devil. This fear was about to become reality—not due to lack of effort from the workers—but because of the evolution of technology. There were growing rumors amidst this community regarding the introduction of new technology that would change the way coke was currently derived from coal. Coke was the main ingredient that revolutionized the world when it was introduced to iron. This was the molten cocktail which created steel. The established beehive cooking method, which for years had been used for converting coal to coke, was becoming obsolete. This method was the lifeblood of this community, and shutting down the ovens would devastate this town. If only Eugene were paying attention to the sermon, he would have heard the pastor's attempt to soothe and calm the anxious souls.

Soothe and calm the anxious souls, indeed! Eugene's soul had no time to be calm. It was purposeful and deliberate. Just as soon—and I mean just as soon—as Pastor Michael Browne's closing prayer concluded, Gene took a beeline path straight toward Jimmy. Jimmy was alert to his youthful colleague's accelerated approach; he had seen that look on Eugene's face before.

It was a look that was usually the precursor of some scheme that would ultimately end with the both of them in trouble.

"This is you're lucky day, Wilson!" Eugene beamed. "Gonna let you in on a chance to become rich and famous!" Jimmy shook his head as Eugene put his arm around his friend's shoulder, slowly spinning Jimmy around and escorting him out the door of the church.

"Whatever it is, Briggs, I'm not interested."

Jimmy Wilson was fair-haired and blue-eyed and always well-groomed. His attributes afforded him above-average intelligence. He often vented dry, sharp, and quick-witted sarcasm, which was mostly unappreciated by his youthful cronies. However, Jimmy's wisdom seldom separated him from his counterparts. Always apprehensive and somewhat reluctant, he very seldom turned down an opportunity to go along with Eugene's wild adventures. For Jimmy, Eugene provided an almost constant source of entertainment and excitement in this normally uneventful community. Boredom provided a pathway for curiosity, and true entertainment was rare in Point Marian.

Waiting outside of the church until the sidewalk vacated, Eugene proceeded to explain his archeological aspirations to Jimmy. Jimmy was unimpressed.

"Briggs, you're an idiot!" Jimmy gave Eugene a momentary cold stare, as if to say, "you wasted my time to tell me this nonsense", then spun around and ran off to catch up to his family.

"You'll be sorry, Wilson!" Eugene scowled. "Creep," he muttered, before running off in the opposite direction toward his own house. Eugene could not believe that his friend and longtime cohort was not just as excited as he was at the prospect of becoming rich and famous.

Eugene could not get home fast enough. In his mind, while he ran, he was planning a quick change of clothing and a bite of lunch. Then it was back to the big dig. Passing his mother, brother, and baby sister just before turning the corner to head for the home stretch, Eugene spotted something unexpected in his driveway. Behind him rang out the announcement from his brother, "Dad's home!"


Excerpted from CHEAT RIVER THREE by Scott Baker Sweeney Copyright © 2012 by Scott Baker Sweeney. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Cheat River Three 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
WandaE More than 1 year ago
This was an awesome read!!! It was a mixture of history, romance, adventure, humor - so much! It made me laugh and cry! The characters were so realistic and layered. It was exciting to see what they were up to next, I could hardly put the book down. I am hoping and praying for a sequel!?!
Sailon More than 1 year ago
This book follows the lives of three friends from their days as young children in a poverty-stricken coal miner's town through their young adult lives as they attempt to fulfill their dreams. Throughout their lives, no matter where they were, Eugene, the adventurer, Jimmy, the brain, and Kat, the daring, charismatic and slightly mysterious girl with a special gift maintain their close bond. Both boys love Kat, only one will win her heart completely. The author has achieved the goal of bringing these characters to full living color. I felt I was there with them through all they did and could feel the intensity of their emotions. I laughed, smiled, sighed and cried as the story wound its way to an ending that gave hope to a bright future. This is a wonderful story told with passion. This copy of Cheat River Three was provided by Scott Baker Sweeney in exchange for an honest review.
criticSS More than 1 year ago
Rating: 5 stars Starting in Southern Pennsylvania in 1946 where readers first meet 10-year-old Eugene Briggs and his best friends, James Wilson and Katrina Garretson, Cheat River Three shares their unique bonding for life. Readers go from their childhood seeking of buried gold to all of life’s divergent paths for them. They have different personalities and different goals, but their kinship of the heart can never be broken. Sweeney developed the setting, theme, and plot as strongly as the friendship of the three, keeping the reader engulfed in the story. With characters that the reader will love, and their conversations written as if the reader is right with them hearing them speak, readers will both laugh and cry with this expertly tailored novel. Cheat River Three shares not only a good story, but also shares a view of friendship elevated to the level only true friendship can attain to sustain friends throughout all the twists and turns of life