Downtrodden, a short story by Nancy Richy at
Lewis Hine (1909, Georgia)



written by: Nancy Richy



Carry myself with pride, as my mama taught me. My name is Elizabeth but everyone calls me Betsy. I am sixteen, pretty and full of life. This is day one of my very first paying job – working in the cotton mills. I’m lucky and oh so grateful.

Mama is home doing chores and caring for my seven little brothers and sisters. Daddy left one day and never came back.

In my lunch sack is bread, an orange and a chunk of cheese. During my break, I’ll sit by the banks of the Conasauga River and splash my scorched face. Life is good.

Carry myself with stooped shoulders. I’ve been in the mill for eight months. It’s hotter inside than the blazing Georgia sun. Humid, too, to keep the thread from breaking. Boiled potatoes, cabbage, and river water for lunch. I’m sixteen. Maybe I’ll meet a husband here.

Carry myself on leaden feet. I work six days a week, twelve hours a day. I earn $1.00. The air is thick with cotton dust. Nobody talks anymore; we keep our mouths covered but that doesn’t stop the coughing. I have no time or energy for anything else. I’m sixteen and feel like I’m sixty.

Carry myself with doom. I’m coughing up blood now and see nothing in my future except dying in the mill. I think I’ll just walk into the river and never come out.

Carry my dead body to the graveyard. I was only sixteen and my name was Betsy.

Nancy Richy

Nancy Richy

One day while in English Lit class, the teacher returned a story I had written. Across the top in big red letters, he had scrawled "AAA+++ Excellent job. We'll make a copywriter out of you yet!" I was smitten with the writing bug. Well, life got in the way and I was sidetracked for many years. Married with children and life got busier with each passing day. Time flew by. I'm married almost 50 years now with two adult sons and 4 grandchildren. I never did become a copywriter or a writer of anything until 2017 when an opportunity to join a writing group presented itself. I took the plunge and haven't left the pool yet! I'm first-generation Sicilian, a wife, mom, grammy, friend, writer, musician and lover of all things Beatles. Life is rich and full. We've been blessed. And now I'm a published writer finally living my dream. Born and raised in The Bronx, NY, I've lived in Larchmont NY for the past 45 years. I belong to several writing groups and have had the honor of narrating a number of my pieces on the BBC Radio program called Upload. I also have a website on WordPress where I post stories of life, love, relationships, fantasy, drama, humor and everything in-between. Some stories are fiction while others are not; only those people who know the real me can tell them apart.
Nancy Richy

Latest posts by Nancy Richy (see all)