It was noon and every booth was full. Nobody was in a hurry to leave the air-conditioned diner. The rise and fall of buzzing cicadas outside signaled it was the high season. Residents in the small town earned enough money during the summer months to support their families all year.

Every conversation suddenly silenced when a thundering “Thud…BOOM!” sounded in the distance. Every eye turned toward the chalk painted windows. “Thud…BOOM!” It came again. There was no smoke in the distance and there were no highways or railroads for at least fifty miles. Several men started walking quickly towards the door. “Thud…BOOM!!”

(Stories need only touch on this topic in some way to qualify.)

It was noon in the Cajun Grill and Bar in Farmerville, on one of the hottest July days in recent memory with the temperature nearly at one hundred degrees. Every booth in the diner was full, and the day’s dinner special was plastered on the wall advertising coffee, chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and cornbread There was a short line waiting outside under the awning that sheltered the sweating customers from the sun. Cicadas and tree frogs joined their voices in a summer chorus.

Crystal, a slim waitress, called out to her fellow worker, “Jessie, looks like a bumper crop today. I don’t know most of these customers. What do you reckon brings them to our diner?”

“Hungry, I guess,” Jessie said. “We’re the only diner within fifty miles. Where else could they eat? Anyway, our tips should be good today. They could be coming to see the Civil War enactment tomorrow on the Johnson Place.”

The customers silently grew silent when a giant boom sounded in the distance, so strong that it rattled the dishes on the table and the chalk painted glass windows. When it boomed the second and third time, a few customers rose, walked to the windows and peered through squinted eyes to see if they could see anything.

“What do you think caused that boom?” one man asked. “It was loud enough to wake the dead. Can’t see any smoke, no jet streams in the sky, so couldn’t be a sonic boom.”

“I know what that sound was,” a man in the audience said as he set his fork down and took a sip of coffee. His voice was strong, his hair was gray, and his eyes a piercing blue. “The booms are caused by cannon. There should be four cannon that the reenactors are preparing for the Battle of Okalalala tomorrow. They’re also getting the artillery ready for a memorial service tomorrow for a soldier who came from this area and who fought in the Battle of Petersburg and was buried in a grave at Point Lookout prison. That was a terrible prison. Thousands of Southern soldiers died there.”

“What was this soldier’s name?” a lady known as Miss LaRue asked. “I am the local librarian and genealogist. I should know his family and descendants.”

“The soldier’s name was Rose Marie McCannally.”

“Ah, I have heard of her and her brother Jimmy, but nothing in a long, long time,” the librarian said. “I think they lived near the town of Bernice. Didn’t she teach school down that way? I did not know she died in the war.”

One lady gasped. “A woman soldier?”

The man continued, “Yes, a woman soldier. There were more women who fought in the Civil War than most are aware of. She was part of the Farmerville Artillery, a nine-man unit who served in several battles, so the cannon are important to the ceremony. The booms you are hearing are the artillery team practicing. The reenactors arranged to have the soldier’s remains exhumed and brought here to be buried with full military honors. They’ve also raised enough money to create a tombstone. I’m hoping to create a plaque for your library to honor her memory.”

“Why would any woman join up for that horrible war?”

“Most people think that women who pretended to be soldiers wanted to prove they could do anything a man could do. Actually, most who fought joined so they could be near their fathers or brothers who had signed up. She and her brother were orphans, and she couldn’t bear to be separated from him, so she joined the Farmerville Artillery with her brother. Her brother was a blacksmith and I’m told she was good with horses, so they were a good match for an artillery unit. However, Rose’s story is not a happy one..”

“Why do you say that?” one asked.

“Rose was captured by the Yankees and taken to Point Lookout Prison, but before she died, she had a baby boy. They found out she was a woman when she gave birth. I’m not sure that her captors even allowed her to hold him. The men in the Farmerville Artillery, who were in prison with her, loved that boy, so they bribed their guards and managed to convince a visiting priest to smuggle him to safety. They called him Little Artillery Man. After the war, one soldier in her unit adopted the boy, raised him up and he prospered. Raised a family of his own. Some of his descendants will be at the memorial. The memorial will be tomorrow afternoon. I hope you will come to the memorial and honor her, since she was from your small town. I’m ready for my check, ma’am,” he said.

The waitress brought him his check and took up his empty plate, “What makes you so interested in this woman’s memorial?” Jessie asked.

Another boom, as loud as a thunderclap, echoed as a tear slipped down the man’s cheek. He slipped a small daguerreotype from his shirt pocket and held it up for the waitress to see. “She was my grandmother. My father was the Little Artillery Man, the baby boy she never held, who knew of his mother only from the stories the soldiers who served with her told him. This photo was taken when she was a schoolteacher and before the war had started.”