Set in the mountains of North Carolina in 1870, the play deals with a frontier family; father, mother and son, who work long hours to wrest a living from the small farm they have bought from the county. Unexpectedly an old woman appears, perhaps deranged, and carrying a cowbell and a broken bit of mirror. They offer her food and drink, and she talks of her youth—which was apparently spent on the very farm which is now theirs. Years before, to ward off suitors, the woman had declared that she would only marry a man who could take her to Tennessee, but one man accepted her dare, selling off good bottom land to do so. Now in her later years, she realizes that the new farm which they carved from the wilderness was not in Tennessee at all, but only seven miles distant over the hills. Mingling scenes from past and present, the play is rich both in atmosphere and real emotion as it unfolds its tale of lives lived sometimes perilously but always to the full—and with the indomitable spirit which characterized those who laid the foundations of a great nation.
Produced Off-Broadway, where it won the Obie Award. An eloquent, evocative 'folk play' which captures the sense and spirit of frontier America. "What Linney has done in the telling of this story is extraordinary. Each bit of narration is textured with rich detail so that an entire world emerges, in which land is important not only as property but a ground for sustenance, independence, and family continuity." —Village Voice. "…an amiable ramble through the thicket of folk wisdom climaxed by a clever plot twist." —NY Times.