Defining a Man
by James Reynolds
Jason Harris walks down the street watching the people who are out and about on this Saturday morning in Arroyo, Texas. It is a small town compared to Ft. Worth or Waco, but for Jason it is his hometown because Of its location to his ranch 15 miles northwest of Arroyo. Walking along the boardwalk he nods to several men, and he tips his hat to the Preacher's wife as she goes into the Mercantile Store.
Two men ride into town out of the North and pull up in front of O' Reilly's Saloon. Jason hesitates for a moment before walking across the street to intercept the men. "Excuse me," Jason says as he walks up to the men, "I believe you are riding two of my horses."
The two men are dusty from riding a long trail and each has a week's growth of whiskers which are stained with tobacco juice that is leaking from the corners of their mouths. The older one looks Jason up and down and rests his hand on the gun hanging on his hip. "Sonny why don't you run on home before you get yourself hurt trying to be a big boy."
People began stopping to see what is going on as Jason steps back a couple of paces and says, "Sorry, I may be young, but I'm old enough to handle a couple of horse thieves like you." As he says it he reaches for his pistol and hauls back on the hammer as he looks them both in the eye.
By now eight men have gathered watching to see how Jason is going to handle this problem. "Now see here Kid, I don't want any trouble, but if you don't put that gun down you might shoot yourself. Or someone might take you seriously and shoot you for being a pest. Now get out of here before I turn you over my knee and give you a paddling," the older one says.
Jason never even blinks when the younger one reaches for his gun. Jason shoots him in the hand as the man lifts it from his holster. Jason turns his gun on the older one and says, "Unbuckle your gun and drop it on the ground. One false move and you will end up like your partner or worse."
To anyone who will listen, Jason says, "When I left my ranch this morning these two horses were in my corral. If there is any doubt about my ownership, lift the saddles off and you will find a JH branded on the withers on the left side of each horse."
Sheriff Nichols came walking up and demanded, "What's going on here. Who shot that man sitting on the ground?"
The older one of the horse thieves speaks up, "Sheriff this punk kid shot my brother for no reason. He came over here and began threatening us then pulled his gun and shot my brother."
Jake Wellman from over at the livery stable spoke up, "That's not exactly the way it happened Sheriff. Young Jason accused these two of stealing his horses. That one was standing arguing with him and the one on the ground tried to sneak a gun, so Jason shot him. I know these two horses they've been in the livery several times and they do belong to Jason."
"Alright you there, grab your brother and help him up. You're both going to jail until the judge gets to town and then we'll hang you for being the horse thieves that you are."
"But Sheriff, I've been shot. Aren't you going to take me to a doctor? I might bleed to death."
"When you are both locked up I'll send someone to fetch the Doc to patch you up."
"Jason take these horses to the livery, then come on over to the jail so I can get your story."
Jason is sitting in the Sheriff's office waiting for the Doctor and the Sheriff to get done patching up the prisoner when Jason notices some wanted posters on the wall by the Sheriff's desk. He walks over and is looking at them when the Sheriff comes into the room.
"See anyone you know," the Sheriff asks as he sits down behind his desk?
"Yes actually," Jason responds. "There are posters on both those guys. John and Billy Hillman wanted on two counts of bank robbery, one count each for stealing cattle and John is wanted for murder in Kansas."
"No joke?" says the Sheriff as he gets up from his chair and comes over to look at the wanted posters. "Well, I'll be! You have had a busy morning young man and it looks like you have reward money coming to you. Good job!"
The Sheriff takes down the posters and returns to his seat behind his desk. "Have a seat son. You don't get to town very often. Is everything going ok at the ranch since your father passed away? Is Old Brazos still out there with you or has he finally kicked the bucket?
"No Sir, He's still there. He works harder than I do. He's a good man. I couldn't have made it without his help. We're busy working with the horses. I sold 20 head to the Army in Fort Worth. They came by two days ago and picked them up. That's why I'm in town today, to deposit the money at the bank and buy supplies for the ranch. Between selling cattle and horses to the Army and breaking colts and chasing mustangs we stay busy."
"I don't mean to get personal Jason, but how old are you now?"
"Well Sir, I'm not sure but I believe I'm 14. Pa said he thought I was born in the fall of 56. It was a couple of years before we headed west from Tennessee."
"At 14 you're doing a man's job and walking the walk of a man. I know your Daddy would be proud of you. I'll need you to come to town and testify when the Judge gets here. It will be in a couple of weeks. I'll send someone to the ranch to let you know when he's coming. Court won't take long, what with these posters to help support your claim about them stealing your horses."
"Can I take the two horses back to the ranch or do I need to leave them here for evidence," Jason inquired?
"No, go ahead and take them home. There is not any reason to run up a feed bill at the livery. I do not think we are going to need them here for the trial. There are enough witnesses to testify to who the horses belong to."
"If there is nothing else, I will hit the trail for home. Either Ole Brazos or I will be in town before the end of the week to pick up the supplies that I ordered. Whichever one of us it is, we will stop in and check with you about the trial."
"Sounds good, I'll see you at the end of the week. Tell Ole Brazos I said to get a real job," the sheriff grins as he waves goodbye to Jason.
Jason leaves town leading the two horses. As he rides along he remembers it was a year ago when he and his dad had ridden back from town trailing two mares they bought from the banker, Mr. Billings. The mares were mustang/ Morgan cross that they were going to breed to a Tennessee Walker stallion to improve their blood stock. A lot had happened in that years' time. His dad was kicked to death by a young colt. That was the hardest thing Jason ever dealt with. When his mother died coming west, he didn't remember it being as hard as when his dad died.
After his dad died, the neighbor to the west of them moving his cattle on to their winter range but with the help of Old Brazos, they pushed his cows off and Old Brazos rode guard to prevent the neighbor from trying again. Once the cattle were gone Jason went to town and met with Tom Wilkerson a lawyer in Arroyo, and the Judge. He was able to show them the title to the ranch. After that he never heard from the neighbor again.
He and his father settled in a valley that had a stream flowing year around. It was fed by 4 springs which originated on the ranch. After they settled in, Jason's father went to Austin and purchased 2500 acres of land which included the 4 springs as part of the ranch. Money was hard to come by in Texas at the time so when his dad offered the State $2.00 an acre for the land the State accepted his offer. With the title to the land his dad didn't have to worry about people trying to move on to the ranch.
He and his father brought with them three Tennessee Walker mares carrying foals to start a horse ranch in Texas. A year after arriving his father traded two of the 'Tennessee Walker' colts for two Morgan stallions to breed to the mares they brought from Tennessee. One of the stallions he kept at the ranch and the other one he turned loose to run with the band of mustangs that called the ranch home.
The first couple of years they built feeder dams to irrigate the meadows along the valley floor for hay to feed during the winter months. As the meadows grew lush the cattle began coming down out of the hills to feed on the grass. These cattle were running wild for years and the brush country around the ranch was full of them. Jason and Old Brazos spent months combing the brush bringing in longhorns until they had a herd of 400 young cows and several good young bulls they could civilize to the ways of the ranch.
Jason reaches the road to the ranch as the sun is setting behind the hills. Coming through the gate into the ranch yard he's surprised not to see a light at the house or bunkhouse. "Old Brazos must be out checking cows," Jason tells his horse as he rides to the barn to unsaddle.
When he went to put the three horses in the corral where there should have been four horses, instead there were six. This morning there had been eight horses in the corral. Jason is riding one and Old Brazos is riding another one. If the thieves took two horses and left theirs there would be six horses which was correct except for the fact that four of the horses in the corral aren't his. They show signs of being ridden hard and when they were put in the corral they weren't rubbed down. Their coats are stiff with dried sweat and the paint horse has a sore on his back where a saddle rubbed him raw.
Jason studies the tracks around the corral but it is too dark to be able to tell anything. He is going to have to wait for Old Brazos to come in to find out what is going on. The one thought he had was there must have been four horse thieves. If they took four horses out of the corral and left theirs, it would make sense why there were six horses in the corral.
Jason went to the house and stoked up the fire in the kitchen stove before putting water in the coffee pot and added a handful of crushed coffee beans. While he is waiting for the coffee, he slices off a steak from a rump of venison hanging in the cool room on the back porch. Removing a skillet from the hook next to the stove, he dips a spoonful of bacon grease from the tin beside the stove and drops it into the skillet. While he is waiting for the grease to get hot, he slices up a couple of potatoes and an onion. When the grease is ready, he puts the steak, potatoes and onion in the pan.
Soon supper is ready, and the coffee is done so he pours a little cold water into the coffee pot to settle the grounds then pours himself a cup of coffee before settling down to eat.
When he finishes eating, he pours hot water into a pan and washes his dirty dishes and wipes them dry before putting everything away. Then pouring another cup of coffee he goes for a walk around the ranch checking all the outbuildings, the hen house, and finally the barn and the corral behind it. Everything is quiet. As he is walking around, he cannot help but wonder where Old Brazos is.
Old Brazos wasn't really that old. His name was Ollie Swenson, and he is about 35 with blonde hair and blue eyes that are always seeing the funny side of life. He was raised on the banks of the south fork of the Brazos River hence the name Brazos. When Jason's dad died Old Brazos became a mentor and a big brother to Jason. Together they do the work of four men and when Old Brazos is not around, the ranch seems awful quiet.
The sun is beginning to show a little color in the eastern sky as Jason gets up and stokes the fire in the stove. On his way to the outhouse, he checks the corral to see if Old Brazos's horse was there, but it isn't. Jason throws down hay to the horses in the corral and checks the water in the trough before going by the bunkhouse to see if Old Brazos came in afoot, but he is not there. Now Jason figures it is time to start worrying.
The sun is peeking over the east rim as Jason starts looking for tracks that will tell him which direction Old Brazos went when he left the ranch yesterday. He also wants to find the tracks left by the horse thieves telling him which direction they came from and if they left the ranch together or if they split up when they left.
Circling the ranch buildings, he finds where four horses came down off the rim behind the barn where they could not be seen from the house. All four horses were carrying men so that explains the four strange horses in the corral. Now to find out which direction they went and what happened to Old Brazos.
It did not take long to find the tracks of the horse thieves. They left the ranch heading south across country towards the Mexican Border. Soon another horse joins up with them because all the tracks are going south. "Those new tracks look like that bay horse Old Brazos rides," Jason tells his horse. "If it is, then he is following the same trail we are, but he's a day ahead of us. We better see if we can catch up with him. He might need our help."
Two miles from the town of Arroyo the trail split. Two of the riders rode into Arroyo and three kept riding south. Old Brazos must be following the ones riding south so Jason decides to ride into Arroyo and warn the Sheriff there are two more outlaws connected to the two in jail.
He rides up to the livery and ties his horse to a post. He asks Jake the hostler to give his horse some oats and to put a bag of oats on the back of his saddle while he goes to see the Sheriff.
"You'll have to go to Doc's house if you want to see the Sheriff. He was shot last night when somebody broke into the jail and turned those horse thieves loose," Jake said.
"Thanks, I need to see him for one minute and then I'm coming back."
Jason heads up town to the doc's house and knocks on the door. When Doc answers, Jason explains to him that he must see the Sheriff and he cannot wait.
"He's awake but groggy. I gave him Laudanum last night to help him sleep. He is still in danger but every hour that he lives he has a better chance of making it. Don't excite him and don't stay to long."
Jason steps into the room and is shocked at the appearance of Sheriff Nichols. He is grey in the face and looks like he's aged 20 years since Jason saw him yesterday. He tries to speak but Jason holds up his hand and tells him, "Don't talk. Let me do the talking. I don't have much time and I need to go after those who did this to you. When I got home last night there were 4 strange horses in my corral and four of mine were missing. I tracked them this morning and they split up outside of town. Two of them kept heading south and the other two came into town. The ones who went south must have circled around and came back and broke their friends out of jail last night, shooting you in the process. Old Brazos is on their trail, and I aim to catch up with him before he tangles with them. If I don't show back up here in a week I'll try to let you know where I am. Get well! We need you around here." With that said Jason turns and walks out the door and back to the livery.
When Jason arrives at the livery Jake Wellman is leading a horse into the barn. He looks over his shoulder and says, "Give me a minute, I'll put this stray in a stall and get your horse."
"Wait! Let me see that horse, I think it's the horse Old Brazos was riding yesterday." After a closer inspection Jason knew it was Old Brazos's horse.
While he is looking the horse over Jake says, "I think there's blood on the saddle," and points to a dark smudge on the left front swell on the saddle.
Jason wipes it with his finger and finds it still slightly damp. He looks at Jake, "This didn't happen very long ago. Which direction was the horse coming from when you found him?"
"He was coming up the road from the south dragging his reins when I caught him."
"Thanks, what do I owe you for the grain and I'm going to take this horse with me because Old Brazos may need him to get back home."
"Don't worry about the grain, you're in a hurry, we can settle later. Good luck and don't let them buzzards get away."
Jason picks up the trail of the bay and follows it south. The bay came out of the brush and on to the road about five miles south of town, so Jason follows the tracks back through the brush and mesquite trees. A mile into the brush he comes to the mouth of a canyon where there are a lot of hoof prints and at one spot near some rocks is a pool of blood. It looks like someone was shot.
Jason turns into the canyon and starts working his way quietly back through the brush. He knows he must be getting close, so he ties the horses back in the brush away from the trail where hopefully no one will see them.
He goes a mile on foot following the tracks when he catches the smell of mesquite smoke coming down the canyon. He leaves the bottom of the canyon and moves up on to the side hill about 30 feet up into the dense brush that is shoulder high on a man. He finds a deer trail where the deer created a tunnel leading through the brush so if he bends over, he can follow the tunnel allowing him to move quietly toward the fire. "There are some advantages to being smaller than a man," he tells himself as he moves forward. A hundred feet later he finds a place where he can look down on the fire. He sees the two brothers John and Billy Hillman standing with two men talking around the fire.
Jason can't hear what they are saying, but the two guys don't appear to be very happy with the brothers. John is looking down into the fire and shuffling his feet like he wants to run but is afraid to move.
Suddenly there is a rifle shot somewhere up the canyon and the shooter isn't that far away. It's followed by a second shot about 10 seconds later. All four men turn and are staring up the canyon trying to figure out who is shooting and at what.
The brothers stay at the fire while the other two men walk up the canyon towards where the horses are picketed and in the directions the shots came from. They stop next to the horses and stare up at the canyon with their hands shading their eyes as if it will help them see better.
Watching the men Jason thinks to himself, "Why not? What do I have to lose?" He starts working his way down to the clearing where the four outlaws have their camp.
The clearing is narrow, only about 20 feet wide and maybe 60 feet long. Jason steps out from the brush directly behind the brothers. He moved up behind brother John and put his gun in the middle of his back and cocked the hammer. Both brothers jump as Jason says in a quiet voice, "I told you if I ever saw you again, I was going to kill you. So now you have a choice. You can die here in the middle of nowhere where no one will ever find you, or you can loosen your gun belts and let them fall to the ground. Then you can step away from them and live. I wouldn't advise you to alert your friends over there because when they turn around, they will be pulling leather and firing at the first thing they see, which of course is going to be you."
Both brothers looked at the other outlaws and then looked at each other. Billy reached down with his good hand and slowly unbuckles his gun belt and lets it fall to the ground. John hesitates for a second then slowly follows his brother's example. Jason has them step two paces away from the guns. He then bends down never taking his eyes off the outlaws and picks up both gun belts with his left hand. He tells them to stand real still so the men who are waiting in the brush won't shoot them by mistake. The brothers look around and raise their hands up to shoulder height.
Jason slowly moves toward the other two outlaws. He hardly dares to breathe because he wants to get as close as possible before making his play. He is six feet from the outlaws when the one on the left must have seen a movement out of the corner of his eye because he starts to turn and at the same time reaches for his gun. Jason stands calmly and when the man's gun clears leather Jason shoots him between the eyes. The other man had started to say something when Jason's gun went off. The man jumped 4 foot in the air and when he landed Jason had his pistol stuck against the outlaw's right ear. "If you want to die, just twitch and I'll blow your head off your shoulders. If not, then unbuckle your gun belt and walk backward until I tell you to stop," Jason said in a quiet voice.
Sheriff Rob Johnston from Packer's Landing was standing in the brush watching the young boy who didn't appear to be much over 13 or 14 walk up and disarm the two men standing at the fire. The Sheriff had recognized both men as the part of the gang that robbed the bank at Packer's Landing 10 days ago. He saw them as he was coming out of the mercantile. They had exited the bank and rode off before he could get off a shot at them.
After the boy disarms the first two outlaws he continues walking toward the horses. From where the Sheriff is standing he can't see him so he moves through the brush until he can see where the boy has gone.
The Hillman brothers were considering an escape into the brush until they saw the man step out to the edge of the brush. At that point they sat down and placed their hands on top of their heads.
Just as the Sheriff reaches the edge of the brush, he sees one of the outlaws standing by the horses spin around and pull his gun and the young boy shoots him. The boy turns and grabs the other outlaw and disarms him with no trouble.
Jason is slowly walking backward toward the brothers when he sees a man step out of the brush with a gun in his hand. He knows that if this guy is with the outlaws, he is a dead man. There is no way to turn and fire before the new guy can shoot him. He jabs his gun into the outlaw and slowly turns him so that he is facing the newcomer. When the man steps clear of the brush, he moves the front of his jacket to reveal a silver star pinned to his chest. Jason nods and blows a sigh of relief when he sees that star.
Jason walks the outlaw up to the sheriff and says, "Sir I hope you have some handcuffs or a length of rope that we can secure these hombres with. I was afraid I was going to have to crack their skulls until I could find enough rope to hogtie them."
The Sheriff laughs and says, "I think I can manage to find something to tie them up with since you have already done the hard work. By the way, I'm Sheriff Johnston from over to Packer's Landing. These men robbed the bank in Packer's Landing 10 days ago and I've been on their trail since then. Now who are you and how do you figure into all this?"
The Sheriff produces some rope and ties up the outlaws while Jason held a gun on them and tells the Sheriff his story about the stolen horses and the shooting of Sheriff Nichols. He told him how his partners horse had showed up in town and he backtracked it to here.
"That's quite a story, but where's your partner? Did they kill him?"
"Those rifle shots we keep hearing are him trying to let me know where he's holed up. As soon as these guys are bound, I'd like to go get my friend and bring him down before we take these hombres into town, if you don't mind watching them while I'm gone. I think there's coffee on the fire if you're so inclined."
"I'll manage, go get your friend. We'll be here waiting when you get back. If they give me any trouble, I'll shoot them and save the judge the trouble of having a trial for them."
Jason walked back to the mouth of the canyon and retrieved his horses. Back in the saddle once again Jason goes looking for Old Brazos. He thinks he knows the general area Old Brazos is in from the sounds of the rifle shots. Soon Jason is high above the canyon floor. Looking down he can see Sheriff Johnston sitting with the prisoners. As he rides along, he is whistling a tune, when he hears a voice say, "Junior, you never could carry a tune, but I see you at least brought me my horse. Do you think you can help an old man whose been shot get on his horse?"
Jason took the time to bandage the gunshot wound which was just above Old Brazos hip. Once he had Old Brazos patched up he helped him into the saddle and led him down off the mountain.
When Jason, Sheriff Johnston, Old Brazos, the three prisoners and the dead man draped across a horse rode into Arroyo the whole town came out to meet them. Everyone was asking questions but none of the riders were saying anything.
As soon as the prisoners are locked up, Sheriff Johnston, Jason and Old Brazos head for Doc's house to get Old Brazos fixed up and to report to Sheriff Nichols.
After telling his side of the story to Sheriff Nichols, Jason went to check on Old Brazos. The Doc was wrapping a bandage around his middle when Jason entered the room. Old Brazos looks up and says, "Boss I may have to lay around for a day or two, but I'll be back on a horse before you know it."
Jason laughs, "What's with calling me Boss? You never called me that before. I thought we were partners."
"We are that, but after the last couple of days I don't feel right calling you Junior anymore. Boss seems to fit you better."
I am an old writer who is new to getting things published. I have spent thirty years telling stories for the enjoyment of my friends and family. They are encouraging me to share with others.
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A Twist of Pedigree
by Robert Perron
Lydia removed her wire-rimmed eyeglasses and brought the thin stationery close. The letter opened, "Dere Cuzin," and closed, "Yrs respecfly, Ethan." In-between: "I bin wishen to see You sinc Mercy wint. I Thank You for Yr letr of Comfert at thet tim. Im on Dean Brk." Postmarked at Northumberland the previous Friday, October 14, 1825.
Cousins or closer, the family outliers, high cheeks, aquiline noses, narrow bodies, dusky hair. Lean fingers and tawny skin. Lydia thirteen at Ethan's birth. She'd seen him, what, four times since leaving Northumberland, where they drew stares apart and together. They had this common ancestry. Following the French and Indian War, their forebears migrated up the Connecticut River. Ma, Pa, and Aunt Sarah formed one party, Ma's cousin Mercy and her husband the second. The parties passed the Fort at Number 4, passed Hanover, and settled on the east side of the river near Fort Wentworth. They built cabins and cleared fields. Pa and Mercy's husband mustered at the fort when called, but saw no action. The Indian threat had ebbed with the English controlling Canada and the French no longer paying for scalps and hostages.
Lydia replaced her eyeglasses and folded Ethan's letter. She walked to the window of her second-floor boarding room and looked across the road over leaf-covered lawns to the ruddy bricks of Dartmouth College. What would Ethan have to say that she didn't already suspect? Fine, this weekend she'd go, due for a visit anyhow. She'd hire a buggy, look in on brother Willett at the homestead, and find her way up Dean Brook.
Lydia looked at the backs of her hands and saw Jack, Ethan's natural father, in point of likelihood hers too. What Lydia knew or thought she knew about Jack was that he entered life through a French trapper and an Abenaki squaw from inland New Hampshire, that he'd been fostered some years at the Indian school here in Hanover before it became Dartmouth College, that he spoke French and English, that he roamed the river trapping and trading. He behaved with manners and bonhomie, but English eyes fell to slits upon his appearance. The men believed he was scouting the area, charting roads and farm locations for future mischief. Plus, he was a handsome rascal, prone to drop in at a cabin when its men were in the fields.
Once, Jack came by their cabin. It was a late April day, patches of snow in the woods still. Lydia remembered her age as nine or ten, must have been '72 or '73. Aunt Sarah, ax in hand, told him to get on while Ma stuffed powder and ball in a musket. Jack smiled, bowed, and told them au revoir. He had narrow features and didn't chop his hair like the Algonquian and Abenaki warriors, let it hang to his shoulders, thick and black.
After he'd backed off and turned away, Lydia said, "Why'd you chase him away? He give me a smile."
Aunt Sarah put down the ax and set her hands on Lydia's shoulders. "Child, you ever see that no-good, you run from him, hear?"
Aunt Sarah was Ma's younger sister, unmarried, and looked after Lydia more than Ma did. They all lived together in a one-room log cabin with a loft—Ma, Pa, Aunt Sarah, brother Emmett, an older brother, Lydia, and two toddlers. They had a milking cow named Roxana, two pigs, and too many hens and chickens to count. In the spring of 1777, Pa dug a root cellar in the middle of the cabin, constructed a lid, and tamped dirt over the lid. There they put their stores. The thought was if they had to abandon the cabin, the Indians wouldn't know about the cellar. For troubles had begun anew. A rebel American army had invaded Canada. The invasion failed, and now the English were attacking down Lake Champlain. The French and Indians were upon them again, siding this time with the English against the Americans.
In August 1777, the militia, including Pa and the older brother, marched off to fight Burgoyne, leaving a skeleton company of rangers at Fort Wentworth. Pa left two muskets for the cabin. Aunt Sarah and Ma could shoot, as well as Willett, who was upset he couldn't go to war. Willett was thirteen, Lydia's senior by eight months. Lydia was a poor shooter, but could prime and load two muskets a minute.
Mid-morning, September 15, a runner from Fort Wentworth burst upon the cabin. A war party had been spotted upriver, four or five Algonquians and the Abenaki half-breed known as Jack. Get to the stockade. The runner was a scrawny boy of sixteen or seventeen in a homespun hunting shirt that hung to his knees. He carried no musket, the better for speed.
"What about Mercy?" Aunt Sarah said, pointing toward the river. Mercy was one farm over, alone with a girl and two small boys, her husband gone with the militia.
"She been told," the runner said. As he loped off, he called back: if they heard a drum roll, it was too late; hole up or take to the woods.
With haste, Ma and Aunt Sarah loaded provisions into a two-wheeled cart, and Lydia brought Roxana around. Willett stuffed squawking chickens in crates and set the pigs loose in the woods. The toddlers were still in the cabin when musketry erupted from the stockade, followed by the rolling of a drum. Too late to make the stockade, there was no debate regarding the alternative. They had a well-built cabin of thick logs and no windows, just slits for light that doubled as firing ports. Provisions were unloaded back to the cabin, along with the squawking hens and chickens. Roxana was let loose, driven into the woods, bag and teats swinging between disappearing rear legs.
They were behind the cart, Ma, Aunt Sarah, Willett, and Lydia, preparing to push it away from the cabin, when an Algonquian warrior appeared on the path from the river. Hair like a porcupine ran along the middle of his head, which was shaved on the sides; war paint, black and red, smeared his chest. He wore a breechclout, leggings, and moccasins, and carried a musket and tomahawk. Ma took up a musket. Aunt Sarah pushed the other musket into Willett's hands and put him next to Ma behind the cart. She set Lydia up with a cartridge box and ramrod, ready for the reload. For herself, Aunt Sarah took an ax and a wide-legged stance alongside the cart like a woodchopper about to topple a tree.
The warrior fired his musket, the ball passing without harm, smoke from the muzzle obscuring him as he shifted the musket and lifted the tomahawk. With a whoop, he rushed the cart. Aunt Sarah yelled, hold your ground, hold your fire. As the distance closed, the warrior took better notice of the muskets and ax. And like the black bear that roars and makes a false charge to scare its foe, stopped short when the foe failed to flee. Standing at thirty paces, he set his tomahawk in the crook of his left arm and, with studied insouciance, drew from his pouch a wad of ball and powder.
Aunt Sarah said, "Go ahead, Willett, take yourself a shot."
Willett needed no further inducement to pull back his hammer, followed by the trigger. The musket jumped. The Indian maintained a warrior-like stance but eyes shifted right as the ball passed at close quarters. When his eyes returned, Lydia was reloading Willett's musket, ramming powder and ball, and Ma was pulling back the hammer of the second musket. The Algonquian backed off a step, then additional steps, and had retreated to eighty paces when a figure in buckskin came up alongside him.
Ma said, "It's Jack."
Aunt Sarah said, "It's himself for sure."
A second Algonquian warrior joined them. Behind, smoke billowed from cousin Mercy's farm.
"Make for the cabin," Aunt Sarah said.
The cabin was dark, with chickens and toddlers screeching and running underfoot, and dust and stink rising from both. Aunt Sarah rested the muzzle of a musket on the firing slit to the left of the door, now barred and bolted. Ma and Willett reconnoitered from slit to slit on all four walls. Aunt Sarah could see Jack and three Algonquians at the cabin's front. Keep checking the sides and back, she said, but she wasn't frantic. Approaching the cabin was perilous—a warrior couldn't tell if he was under observation from a firing slit until he saw the musket smoke. If he gained the cabin wall, what then? Attempting to see through a slit into the dark cabin was suicidal. The roof was a greater peril—a warrior trying to break through or set it afire would take a ball from below.
From the front of the cabin came a shout, followed by a flow of English with French harmonics. "Is that you, Sarah, ma petite chérie? Do not be shooting. Someone will get hurt."
"They don't come no smoother," Ma said.
Aunt Sarah responded with equal suaveness, like the flow of maple sap in early spring. She asked Jack to come a bit closer, chérie. He laughed and said he would, un peu. Aunt Sarah said a little more, but Jack said he was close enough to inform Aunt Sarah their situation was hopeless. If they surrendered, the Indians would take them unharmed to Canada to await ransom. Otherwise, he couldn't help what the warriors would do. Aunt Sarah said she was having trouble understanding him; that he needed to come closer. Jack gave another laugh and said, to the contrary, it was time to back off.
Lydia stood next to Aunt Sarah and saw the hammer of the musket lay at full cock. Aunt Sarah closed her forefinger on the trigger. The hammer fell, the musket lurched, and smoke from the primer pan rose in her face.
Willett gave a yell. "You got him. You got him."
"By the Lord," Ma said, "you got him for sure."
Aunt Sarah couldn't see through the smoke from the musket, but Ma, at the slit on the other side of the door, had a clear view. Jack, she said, bent forward with an open mouth, then slowly backed away. It was more than a scratch. Outside came musket cracks and the thuds of lead balls hitting the logs of the front wall and the split wood of the door. Inside, the chickens and toddlers flapped and screamed.
At dusk, the Indians built a fire out front. They piled on the cart, fencing, winter firewood, anything that burned, and set fire to the sheds. From the dark, Lydia heard Roxana bellow. She had come back in for milking, or the Indians had gone out and found her. The bellowing took on the tone and urgency of a scream. They're torturing that poor cow, Ma said. Nothing we can do, Aunt Sarah said. Roxana screamed for two hours.
In the morning, the Indians were gone. Roxana lay flayed, some meat taken, but most of the carcass left. The rangers from the stockade asked to finish the butchering, since she was dead anyhow, no sense wasting her.
The Indians had carried off Mercy and her daughter, but her two boys had escaped to the fort. They told the rangers the Algonquians were holding them out front of the cabin, scalping knives up, when Jack came to the door and called. An Algonquian and Jack went back and forth in French, then the Indians pushed the boys away, and they bolted for the fort.
* * *
Next year, late spring, a detachment of rangers made their way to the headwaters of the Connecticut River. They continued north, paddling and porting their canoes through the Connecticut Lakes. At the top of the Fourth Connecticut, the rangers rendezvoused with French trappers, and handed over a ransom of beads, cloth, trinkets, coin, and knives. Two days later, the trappers returned with Mercy and her daughter. As the two women shambled into the ranger encampment in threadbare dresses, Mercy's advanced pregnancy was obvious.
Mercy told the rangers they had wintered in a small village, falling into the daily life of Algonquian women, being treated no better or worse. She said Jack had induced her pregnancy the day of the raid before going to Ma's and coming back with a musket ball in his abdomen.
The rangers asked what happened with Jack.
"They drug him along for a day on a travois," Mercy said. "Then they seed it was no use." As Mercy spoke, the rangers leaned in. The warriors, she told them, hunkered near a stream for sweating, chanting, and sipping water. Until Jack's spirit departed. The woods there were open with a prevalence of maples and oaks, and a prominent knoll. They buried Jack on the knoll with necessaries for the afterlife; although, after some discussion, substituting a lesser musket for his fine Charleville.
"Jack never cried out, not a once," Mercy said. "Never gave no anger, no remorse. He gone to the other side just like he was taking a next breath." This didn't surprise the rangers. It was the Indian way to make a good death. The story went all over Fort Wentworth and beyond. Lydia heard it many times.
Mercy delivered a boy three weeks later and named him Ethan like half the boys on the Upper Connecticut. Late summer, she came by Ma's with the baby. Lydia remembered tickling his stomach with her right forefinger and him giving a laugh, and it striking her that her finger and his stomach had the same chestnut color, different from everyone else.
Pa had been called from the field and stood in the doorway. Aunt Sarah said, "Cousin Mercy is asking us to take the child. Her husband don't want it around."
Some seconds elapsed. Then Pa said, "'Course. You didn't have to call me off work for that." He glanced at Lydia before turning back to the field. Lydia often wondered what went through his head. He never acted mean, nor did Ma. But there was a formal reserve, and Lydia went to Aunt Sarah for affection.
Lydia remembered tears and holding Mercy's hands saying she'd take good care of baby Ethan, and Mercy saying I know you will, child. But Lydia would be gone four years later. As the boy grew, he wandered and hired out to neighbors. He drifted between habitat and woods, running against progress as the Upper Connecticut shed its rustic roots.
* * *
Saturday morning, Lydia hired a buggy, and a mare named Maureen. She'd hired Maureen before and they got on well. The stable master predicted two days of agreeable fall weather, frost in the morning, sun in the afternoon. On the river road, Maureen appeared jaunty, lifting knees and head, scattering leaves of red and yellow. They reached the homestead, now a frame house with a front porch and barn, late afternoon. Willett came off the porch and took Maureen's bridle. "You'll be staying the night then?" he said.
"After a visit up Dean Brook."
"Oh. Your closer kin, are you?" Willett stroked Maureen's nose. "Best walk there. Not much of a road." He described where to exit Dean Brook Road, such as it was, and drop through the woods to a clearing by the brook. "Not much of a place he got. Log lean-to. Open fire."
"Who owns the land?"
"You do," Willett said.
Lydia remained silent until Willett smiled an explanation. "The town wanted him out of there, but found the land belongs to your Dartmouth College. They wrote a letter of complaint, but the professors wrote back they don't mind him squatting. So there he be." Willett laughed. "Stops by now and then."
"Never married, did he?"
"Oh, he's had some common law."
"I wouldn't doubt it."
Lydia exited the buggy with a two-step and walked Willett and Maureen to the barn. Willett rambled, unstoppable once started. "He works at chores and such, mostly at Cleary's up the hill. Suspected of stealing from gardens, chicken coops—lots of chickens, never been caught. A few years back, the town sent a delegation there for inspection. They was bent on catching him with stolen stores. They got me to guide them, otherwise they'd still be out there, couldn't find their way in the woods if they had a signpost every two feet. There was nothing in his lean-to, not a morsel, just bedding and clothes. What'd they expect? You don't leave food about, you'd have critters all over. He hangs it or buries it and they couldn't find nothing to incriminate him." Willett looked to the sky. "You'll be pressing the dark hours, sister. You okay with that? It's a waxing moon tonight, three-quarter."
Dean Brook Road passed a few setback properties then climbed alongside the brook, more rocks and ruts than passageway, no place for a buggy. Lydia found a three-rock cairn and off it a trampled footpath. It dropped into hardwood and pine toward the brook, and soon approached a log lean-to, well chinked, with gray boards nailed to the south-facing front. A raised canvas door overhung a wide entrance and, just inside, a stone fire pit glowed with red coals and a flicker of blue flame. Over the pit hung a large pot, letting off the stinky steam of purloined chicken.
Such different circumstances from her own. Near the end of the war, in 1782, Aunt Sarah had insisted Lydia's eyes be examined. She hired a wagon, took Lydia to Hanover, and found an apothecary at Dartmouth College. He said Lydia was shortsighted, a common ailment, and from a closet retrieved a wooden case of spectacles. He positioned a pair over Lydia's nose and ears and she was astounded to see Aunt Sarah's blurred face assume focus. The apothecary tested various spectacles, made measurements, and wrote numbers on paper.
Aunt Sarah put a hand on Lydia's shoulder. "Are they needing help here at the school?"
The apothecary regarded Lydia. "What's her heritage?" he said.
"There's Scotch in the family."
The apothecary's lips turned up, and he ventured a chuckle. "There's likely some need in housekeeping or the kitchen."
"She's literate," Aunt Sarah said, "and real good with numbers."
The apothecary wrote down a column of figures and handed Lydia pencil and paper. He followed Lydia's movements as she jotted and produced the sum. He followed Lydia's hand as she wrote to his dictation: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." He lifted his gaze to Aunt Sarah. "She's a smart one. I'll see what I can do."
* * *
Ethan sat on a shelf that ran the width of the lean-to. No longer young, black hair streaking gray, wisps of beard and mustache. Lydia took a seat on the shelf. Ethan served up chicken with potatoes and carrots on a shared slab of maple. He ate with his fingers but proffered Lydia a blade.
"Not bad for boiled," Lydia said.
Ethan licked his fingers and wiped them across his shirt. "I had a talk with mother Mercy afore she died."
Lydia said, "I hope you know it wasn't her fault she didn't keep you. It was her husband who couldn't deal with it."
"I'm not a blaming—him or her."
Lydia put aside the knife. "It's hard. I still don't know why Pa let you in with us. Why he kept me, for that matter."
"Oh, that's easy. He was sweet on Aunt Sarah."
"Go on," Lydia said.
"Oh, I don't mean anything happened. He would've took a ball same as Jack." Ethan poked the coals of the fire. "But he had that fondness men have for other than their wife, and she played it."
Outside, dusk presented a blanket of indigo punctured by flecks of white. From the tree shadows being cast, Lydia saw the moon had risen. Ethan eased a fresh log into the fire pit, and flames rose in his face. Jack would have got to look the same, Lydia imagined, if he'd lived on.
Ethan said, "Here's what Mercy told me about Jack. She said it was no more a rape than if her husband had done it."
"Well," Lydia said, "I guess I don't know how to take that."
"What she told me, Jack took her in the cabin and she cried out for her boys. So he went to the door and hollered at the Algonquians till they let the boys go. Then he came back and said some nice sounding French words to her."
"He was something," Lydia said. "Could charm your undergarments off in the middle of hostilities."
Lydia and Ethan sat side by side on the shelf, pressing forward, fire to their faces. Ethan poked at the new log and sparks coned up.
"She said more. She said she wished there was an afterlife. She wished it wasn't all nonsense, so she could see Jack again. Don't that beat all? Then she talked about how you arrived on this earth."
Lydia straightened. Then relaxed and looked at Ethan. "So she said what happened between Jack and Ma?"
Ethan turned a half-smile to Lydia. "What Mercy was witness to was the coming out part. She was midwife to your birth."
"That doesn't tell me what I don't already know."
"But it does." Ethan paused, then continued. "Didn't you ever notice it was Aunt Sarah who raised you? Schooled you? Set you up down there at Dartmouth College?"
Lydia's eyes went to the fire. Aunt Sarah visited in Hanover three or four times a year. Died eight winters ago. Willett came down with horse and sleigh and fetched Lydia back in time for the deathbed. Aunt Sarah had smiled and pressed her hand. Called her a good girl.
Lydia said, "That's right. Ma was busy with the others. And I . . . I was an outcast, like you."
"Lydia, Aunt Sarah was your natural Ma."
"That's impossible. That's—"
But swapping pregnancies wasn't impossible, holed up in a frontier cabin wearing loose homespun with few visitors. Lydia's thoughts went to childhood, Aunt Sarah teaching her writing and arithmetic, monitoring her chores, holding her to her skirts in town. Her constant presence.
Lydia said, "Here I am, a copier and calculator at Dartmouth College, smart as a whip, and I never suspected." Ethan prodded the logs, now consumed by wavering spirals of blue and red.
"Why wouldn't she ever say? Even at the end?"
"Hard to tell," Ethan said. "Sometimes things, well, they become the way they're wanted to be. Anyhow, I thought you ought know."
"What do you think happened?"
"I just said."
"No, I mean the other end. The beginning. Between Jack and Aunt Sarah."
Ethan poked at the fire.
"Oh, it would be no big mystery. I think he come around when she was alone and said some of them French words."
Lydia stood and stepped around the fire pit, out the doorway, and looked across the brook over the trees to the three-quarter moon. There would be no problem finding her way back up to the road. She pulled her shawl tighter and stepped back in. Maybe she'd sit with Ethan a while longer.
Robert Perron lives and writes in New York City and New Hampshire. Past life includes high-tech and military service. He is the author of The Blue House Raid, a novel. His short stories have appeared in The Bombay Review, Lowestoft Chronicle, and other literary journals. Check out his website at https://robertperron.com.
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He Was No Hero
by Phillip R. Eaton
We didn't always eat this good. Ever since Daddy went away to fight in the war, food had become scarce. Our garden got smaller each season that he was gone. There were times when we would eat from the same pot of soup for days on end.
But not this night. Mother had made our favorite for dinner, chicken and dumplings. My sister and I put on our Sunday dresses, and Mother put hers on too. We sat around the table together and Mother actually had a smile on her face. I noticed because ever since we found out that Daddy wouldn't be coming home, they were few and far between. We held hands and said Grace. We felt truly blessed to be able to have such a fine dinner.
Not a moment later, several soldiers waving their guns in the air, came crashing through the front door. Mother screamed for us to get to the root cellar. I didn't think I had enough time to make it that far, so I dove behind where the curtain hung beneath the sink. Mother and Victoria were slow to get away from the table and were grabbed by our intruders. I stayed as quiet as a mouse hoping that one of them hadn't seen where I hid.
A big burly soldier with a head full of curly bright orange hair grabbed onto Victoria. She tried to wrestle herself away but to no avail, she just wasn't strong enough. Mother kicked and scratched at the two others who fought to hold her down, all the time screaming and yelling at the big guy to let Victoria go.
Their captain casually strolled into the kitchen brushing the dust from his blue uniform. He was an ugly man. He had a nasty scar across his face, from his forehead, through his left eye and down his cheek. He didn't say a word to the men, but he helped himself to a spoon and proceeded to eat from our kettle. When it seemed as though he'd had his fill, he looked around and took Daddy's bottle from the cupboard and drank from it until it was empty, then smashed it upon the wall.
He ordered the two men to hold Mother by her arms and they shoved the plates aside and bent her over the table. The captain walked up to her, ripped her Sunday dress open, and had his way with her. When he was finished, the captain walked back out the front door telling the men that they knew what to do.
One by one the other soldiers took turns with both Mother and Victoria, who were holding onto each other's hands across the table from each other. Victoria was sobbing through it all, while Mother made eye contact with me and shook her head no, I knew what she meant.
When the last man was done, the one with the orange hair began to beat Mother and Victoria until their faces were red with blood. As they both fell motionless to the floor, it was all I could do to keep from screaming out to them, but I knew that Mother would be mad if I didn't do as she wanted.
On their way out, two of the soldiers tossed our oil lamps onto the parlor floor, setting the carpet on fire. I kept still all the while smoke was filling the house. When I was sure they had all left, I rushed to Mother's side. By this time, the flames had engulfed the entire front room and were creeping toward the kitchen.
"Emma," she said in a faint voice, "do as I tell you and get to the root cellar and be quick about it. I'll get Victoria and follow you, now go."
I was more scared of not doing what Mother had instructed me to do than I was of the fire, so I opened the trap door and got myself into the root cellar. I could hear the crackling from the fire above me, and I feared that Mother and Victoria weren't coming.
The temperature got very warm as hot embers sifted through the floorboards, but I waited until there was nothing but silence from above before I tried to leave. I climbed the ladder and stuck my head out to see that the house was burned to the ground. All around me there was nothing but the night sky and plumes of smoke rising from the ashes. Across the kitchen floor I could see the charred bodies of Mother and Victoria.
I was alone.
Frightful chills shot through my body, and I retreated into the root cellar. There, feeling sick to my stomach, I curled up in a ball and cried myself to sleep. It was still dark when I woke up, but I waited until dawn before I ventured out.
The blue coats had set up camp along the road to town, and I had to walk for miles through the woods and thickets to avoid them.
I was desperately hungry and knew that I could sneak around by the back door of the hotel where Miss Mamie was the cook. She liked me. Not many people in town did, because I had befriended Miss Mamie's daughter Izzy. We always had fun watching the people's faces when we would stand arm in arm and tell them that we were sisters. Me with my yellow hair, blue eyes and fair complexion, and Izzy with her black curly hair and dark brown eyes, and skin as dark as the burnt timbers of my house. Many times, we would swap dresses, and I would show off Izzy around town in my bright yellow sundress with the snow-white lace around the neckline, while I wore her handmade burlap dress. She looked so pretty in that dress that I just had to let her keep it.
"Missy Emma, what you doing here child?" Miss Mamie asked, looking around to see if anyone was watching her.
"Soldiers in the blue coats burnt our house down last night. Mother and Victoria are both dead. I hid in the root cellar till morning and I'm mighty hungry, Miss Mamie."
"You wait right here while I fetch you a piece of my fried chicken and a hunk of bread."
Miss Mamie was not one to turn her back on a living soul in need, and since I already held a special place in her heart, befriending her Izzy, she took me into her home and Izzy and I became 'real' sisters. Mamie got permission for Izzy and I to work with her in the hotel kitchen. We didn't get paid, but we were allowed to eat whatever we wanted. While we were expected to help serve the food, clean the tables and wash the dishes, Mamie also taught us as much as we wanted to know about cooking. She was a great teacher, and before long, we were fixing dinners right alongside of her.
Mamie had many years of hard living behind her, and when her health started to decline, I was able to handle the majority of the kitchen responsibilities without anyone else finding out about Mamie.
Miss Mamie lasted long enough to see the war's end and was comforted by the knowledge that her Izzy would be able to live as a free woman. Our little town became desolate as many people moved westward for new beginnings.
One morning, a traveler left his newspaper behind after eating breakfast at the hotel. I was able to find time to look at it later in the day. Buried inside was a feel-good story about a small-town sheriff who had heroically saved the lives of a sow and her three little piglets from a barn fire just before the building collapsed around them. Along with the article was a photograph of the sheriff holding one of the piglets.
The blood rushed from my head, and I felt like I was going to pass out. There he was, the scar across his face, from his forehead through his left eye and down his cheek. It was him, the son of a bitch who took my mother, my sister, and my house from me. He was being treated as a hero. He was no hero; he was a murderer. The anger inside me was making my blood boil. I was so mad that I shredded the paper. I made my mind up right then and there, I was going to that little town in Kansas and find him. I didn't have any idea what I would do when I got there, but I had to go.
* * *
The sweat dripped off my chin and sizzled when it landed on the hot griddle. Dinnertime at the hotel was winding down, the last thing to do before cleaning up was to put together meals for the jail. One for the sheriff and one for each of the prisoners.
Mr. Hudson, the hotel manager, came into my kitchen to tell me that our server, Mary Jane, wasn't feeling well and he sent her home as soon as dinner was over. He said that he would help me clean the dining room if I would take the dinners to the sheriff's office. I had avoided seeing the sheriff, on purpose, because I was afraid of what my reaction would be when I saw him up close and in person. But I couldn't say no to Mr. Hudson, after all, he gave me a job and a room to stay in when I arrived and had nothing to my name but the clothes on my back.
I used my toe to knock on the door. When the sheriff opened it for me, I thought I was going to pee myself. My brain was doing flip flops in my head. All I could see was him in his blue uniform standing behind my mother as she lay across our dining table with tears falling from her eyes. I turned my head as to not make eye contact with him and set my tray on his desk.
"Would you like me to take the dinners to the prisoners for you?" I asked in the politest voice that I could muster.
"Just be careful and don't get too close," he said.
I set his dinner down in front of him.
As I carried the tray with the dinners for the two prisoners down the hallway to their cells, I heard the sheriff yell out, "This is what you call dinner . . . cabbage soup?"
I passed the plates through the slots in the iron bars and one of the prisoners also grumbled about having cabbage soup as his dinner. Then he sniffed the cloth napkin that covered his plate.
"That don't smell like no cabbage soup."
"It's not. Not for you, only him," as I nodded toward the door, and pulled the napkin back exposing a nice thick slice of beef and a potato. "Shh. Don't say anything."
I cringed as I walked back toward the office and the prisoner started to yell, "Hey sheriff," my heart skipped a beat, "this cabbage soup sure smells mighty good."
I smiled to myself all the way back to the hotel.
* * *
I laid sleepless on my bed. My brain cells were square dancing with each other trying to figure out a way to avenge what I watched him do to Mother and Victoria.
As I stared at the strange shadows on the wall, caused by the candle flickering on the nightstand, I wondered to myself, did I have it in me to be a murderer too? I certainly could never get away with just walking up to him and putting a bullet through him. No, I had to come up with a way that no one would ever suspect me.
I was startled back to reality when the shadow of a mouse was cast upon the wall. I grabbed the candle and held it high above my head, frantically searching around the room for it. I spotted it. It was the biggest mouse I'd ever seen.
That's when it struck me. Poison. To get rid of the mice that our big old cat didn't get, Daddy always put down poison for them to eat and die. From now on, the sheriff will be getting a new spice added to his meal every night. He'll never know what hit him.
Days turned into weeks, and nothing seemed to be happening to the sheriff. Did that poison only work on mice? Maybe I'd have to shoot him after all.
* * *
After we cleaned the kitchen, I offered to take the sheriff's dinner to him and sent Mary Jane home. When I got to the sheriff's office, I found him slumped in his chair behind the desk. His breathing was very labored, and he was sweating profusely.
"Are you alright sheriff?"
My heart began to race. Could the poison finally be working? I could only hope.
"I must be getting sick," he said faintly. "I don't feel well. Will you go fetch the doc?"
"Sure, I will. But you know, the first thing he's going to ask you is when was the last time you had something to eat? I brought you your supper. You should try and eat a little bit. Here let me help."
I spoon-fed him a few bites, then he asked me again to fetch the doc.
"Sure, I will. As soon as you finish your dinner."
"I ain't hungry, I want the doc," he screamed. His voice was becoming garbled, and he was slurring his words.
"I don't think the doc can help you now. I think this is it for you."
"What do you mean this is it?" he mumbled.
I leaned in and whispered in his ear, "I mean that you're dying, you son of a bitch. I've been feeding you rat poison every day. Now you are going to pay for what you did to Mother and Victoria."
"I . . . don't know . . . what . . . you're talking about," and his head crashed onto his plate, spilling what was left of his food.
I grabbed him by his hair and lifted his head up, and as the beans dripped from his chin, I said to him, "Richmond, Virginia, April 1865, you and your blue coats stormed my house, killed my mother and my sister, and burned my home to the ground. I have fought to survive just to see the day when you would pay for what you did. And that day has come. And I'm gonna sit right here and watch you go straight to hell."
* * *
Mr. Hudson never spoke to me more than was necessary for several weeks. Then the day came that he sat me down before I started cooking and said to me, "Emma, I don't pretend to know anything about things that I don't know fer sure. And there are things that I don't need to know either. But there is a new sheriff coming to town shortly and I suspect that you'll cater his meals more to his liking than you did the last sheriff."
"Why Mr. Hudson," I said in my most dramatic southern drawl, "whatever do you mean? You know I'm the best cook you've ever had in this here establishment. I serve ALL of my customers like they are the most important people on the face of this here earth. Sir."
* * *
The dinner dishes were all washed and dried and put away when Mary Jane asked me to sit down.
"You're not going to like what I have to say," she said as a tear welled up in her eye. "I'm leaving soon to go back east to go to school."
I stood back up and gave her a hug. "That's fantastic. I'm so happy for you."
"I thought you would be upset. I'm leaving you here by yourself."
"That's Mr. Hudson's problem. He'll just have to hire someone to replace you. I will definitely miss you, but you gotta do what's right for you. I would love the chance to go back home, but my home is gone."
Mr. Hudson stuck his head through the doorway, "Oh good, Emma you're still here, there is someone out front asking for you."
"Who is it, Mr. Hudson?" I couldn't imagine who in the world could be looking for me.
"She didn't give her name, but it's a young Negro woman."
I swung open the pass-through to the dining room and stopped dead in my tracks. Standing right there in front of me was none other than my Izzy.
"Oh, my," was the only thing that came out of my mouth.
Izzy did a little curtsy and said, "Good evening, Miss Emma."
I curtsied back and said, "Good evening, Miss Izzy."
We both started giggling and ran into each other's arms.
Both Mr. Hudson and Mary Jane stood there gawking at the two of us.
Izzy explained that even though the war had technically ended slavery, a lot of the attitudes back home remained the same, and when the opportunity arose for her to leave, she jumped at the chance.
"Where are you going? What are you going to do?" I asked her.
When she told me that she was on her way to San Francisco to work as a maid for some rich guy, I looked her straight in the eye and said, "Oh no you're not."
I turned and looked at Mr. Hudson, "Sir, I think I just found Mary Jane's replacement. Izzy's momma taught me everything I know around that kitchen, and Izzy here learnt right along with me. What'ya say, Mr. Hudson? Will ya hire her?"
"But Emma, she's . . . "
"She's what, Mr. Hudson, a good cook? You bet she is. She's as good as me. And she's like my sister. And if you don't hire her . . . "
"Okay, okay, okay. But I'll only give her a room and meals until she can prove to me that she's as good as you say she is."
I looked back at Izzy. "Please say you'll stay with me. I've missed you so much. And things here aren't like back home, you'll see. Please say yes."
Izzy smiled that big toothy smile of hers, turned her eyes to Mr. Hudson and said, "After you've eaten my cooking tomorrow, sir, you won't be sorry."
I threw my arms around Izzy, and the two of us jumped around the dining room like little kids on Christmas morning.
* * *
Izzy and I made a great team running the kitchen. Our down-home southern style vittles were very popular. Mr. Hudson's hotel became the go to place in town to eat.
"The new sheriff arrives today, Emma. I'd like you to fix him something real special for his first dinner."
I looked over at Izzy, she got that big toothy grin on her face again and nodded.
"Yes sir, Mr. Hudson. Me and Izzy are gonna make Miss Mamie's famous fried chicken. I promise you he'll be back for more."
Izzy piled the plate high with the chicken, while I added some boiled potatoes and carrots, and a big slice of peach pie. I took off my apron and made sure my hair looked nice and made my way over to the jail.
Some of the town's prominent businessmen were gathered around the new sheriff when I walked in. I butted in between them and set the tray down on the desk.
"Excuse me Sheriff, this is compliments of . . . Mister . . . Hudson's . . . hotel . . . "
The big burly sheriff roared with laughter and said, "What's the matter, Miss? Haven't you ever seen orange hair before."
My whole body began to tremble. I choked back my tears and said, "Yes sir . . . just once . . . a long time ago."
Phillip R. Eaton is an author from Western New York. He has published two non-fiction historical novellas: Col. Frank N. Wicker, from Lockport to Alaska and Beyond, and My Civil War Uncles, and has been featured in Frontier Tales Magazine.
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Riding the Shadows
by Chris McAuley
Jesse rode hell for leather his eyes scanning the rolling hills of the Missouri countryside. He had just
pulled off the train ride of the century and as he pushed his black stallion forward a feral grin escaped
his weathered lips. They were taking a chance by riding through the open fields in the middle of the day
but it was the fastest way back to their hideout. As he traveled, Jesse's mind raced with thoughts charged
by the adrenaline rushing though his body. His gang had successfully intercepted a train from the Union
Pacific Express. Blasting open the doors they had secured a fortune in gold and bank bonds. He was
especially pleased that no folks had got hurt in the process. It was usually the way. Once he announced
his name no one ever reached for their guns against him. The Jesse James gang was well known and their
leader's name was whispered with fear and awe across the western plains.
Glancing behind him he made sure that none of his gang had strayed. 'Windy Jim' Cummings's horse tended to
go slow on account of its rider's weight. On more than one occasion Jesse swore he would do something about
that. Maybe enforce a little separation between that man and his food for a while. Windy was there alright
but so was a cloud of dust rising in the distance. It was growing larger with each moment. A sure sign that
the lawmen were on their trail. Jesse knew that their escape was never assured and as much as his famous
name sometimes benefited him it ensured that the relentless pursuit of the law was never far behind.
With a yell the outlaw spurred his horse forward and urged his gang to keep up the pace. The azure blue of
the sky began to darken as day turned to night and despite the tricks that Jesse attempted to employ, the
lawmen continued to gain ground. The sound of thunderous hooves echoed through the countryside but all
Jesse could hear was his heart beating in his chest. It was forming a rhythm that came from a mixture of
exhilaration and fear which was coursing through his veins. By God he loved a high stakes game and he knew
that the odds were fairly stacked against him. Only Jesse's wits and skill could save his gang now.
Bullets started to whiz around the James gang as the tin stars got within range. It was then that Jesse
spotted a narrow ravine which snaked its way through the landscape. Shouting an alert to his crew he veered
off the main path and led them further into the treacherous terrain. With a mixture of agility and
determination the horses sped through the causeway, their riders clinging to the saddles for dear life.
The ravine grew narrower and Jesse could feel the walls of rock closing in around him. He continued to urge
his frightened steed forward, knowing that this was the only course to salvation. With a quick turn of his
head Jesse saw that the lawmen had been caught out by his audacity. They were struggling to follow suit.
Their well-fed and ill trained horses stumbled and skidded, unable to match the skill and familiarity with
the rugged landscape that Jesse and his gang possessed.
With a final burst of speed, Jesse emerged from the ravine, his gang hot on his heels. They raced towards
their sanctuary, a secluded hideout which was nestled deep within the forest. This is where they could
regroup and plan their next move. Their horses breathed heavily and their muscles quivered from exhaustion.
The gang had pushed their mounts to the limit but they had once again outwitted the law. In the darkness of
the early night Jesse dismounted. Once again, a triumphant smile tugged open his lips. He wasn't smiling at
his men crowded around the stolen loot which glinted in the fading light. Riches didn't drive him. It was
the thrill of the chase which gave his escapades meaning. The exhilaration of outsmarting those lawmen who
tried to bring him down.
In the safety of their hideout, Jesse's gang counted their spoils. It was deemed to be another successful
venture and another chapter to the legend of Jesse James. If there were trains to rob and lawmen to elude,
Jesse's name would continue to echo throughout history, forever intertwined with the wild, untamed spirit
of the American west.
This story is set after the infamous Blue Cut Train Robbery which occurred near Glendale Missouri on September
7th, 1881. Not one shot was fired during the holdup and at the end of the robbery Jesse exclaimed to the express
agent that the James gang would ruin the Chicago & Alton Railroad. This was a different James gang to the one in
the James-Younger days. The James gang were no longer violent pro-Confederate holdouts and the Younger brothers
were in jail for shootings in Northfield Minnesota. Nonetheless, the law was after Jesse during this time like
never before. Blue Cut is acknowledged to be a second turning point in Jesse James criminal career.
A writer who specializes in the Horror, Science Fiction, fantasy, western and crime genre. Chris has been the
lead writer in novels, comics, audio dramas, and games. He is the co-creator of the popular StokerVerse, along
with Bram Stoker's great-grandnephew Dacre Stoker. He has also created a science fiction and fantasy franchise
with Babylon 5's Claudia Christian called Dark Legacies. Chris has worked on The Terminator series, is the lead
writer for the Astroboy animated show, and also works on franchises such as Doctor Who.
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by Cole Burgett
In the year of our Lord 1781, the wild frontier of the Ohio River Valley, a land uncharted and untamed, stretched its calloused fingers into the heart of the American wilds. Amidst the dense woodland, the cunning hunter, wily trapper, and the daring longhunter sought their fortune in this vast, hostile land. Their hearts beat to the rhythm of the wilderness, their spirits intertwined with the woods, rivers, and the creatures that made this land their home.
As the sun set on a cool day in late October, the light cast deep shadows across the land. Storm clouds gathered overhead, foretelling a long night of fury and tempest. The silhouettes of the tall trees reached out like hungry beasts, forming the backdrop for the story of a tall, broad-shouldered man, clad in fringed buckskin and carrying a long, flintlock rifle. His face was weathered, and the scars that etched his visage spoke of many battles fought and enemies overcome. His eyes, sharp as those of the soaring hawk, missed nothing as he moved through the twilight gloom.
His name was known only to the wind, the trees, and a few settlers whose homes he had protected. To the Shawnee, he was an ominous shadow, a threat lurking in the gloom. Tonight, his quarry was a band of renegade Shawnee, who had been raiding settlements, leaving a trail of blood and misery in their wake. The Longhunter had sworn an oath to put an end to their reign of terror, and so he had tracked them across the Ohio Valley, his long strides eating up the miles.
As he moved through the forest, his senses were as keen as a hunting cat's. He could smell the tang of woodsmoke on the breeze, and he knew the renegades' campfire was nearby. The Longhunter moved with the stealth of a stalking panther, for he knew well that if the Shawnee discovered him, the odds would be against him, and the chances of his survival decreased dramatically.
As the shadows lengthened into night, he came upon the encampment. The Shawnee warriors were gathered around a large fire, their painted faces twisted into grotesque masks by the flickering flames. Their chief, a tall, powerful man named Black Eagle, stood at the edge of the firelight, surveying his men. The Longhunter knew that Black Eagle was no ordinary foe. He was a cunning strategist, a feared warrior, and his men were as loyal to him as wolves to the leader of their pack.
The Longhunter silently watched from the edge of the clearing, his keen eyes studying the encampment. He counted the warriors, gauging their strengths and weaknesses. He knew he could not take them all on at once. He would have to draw them out, thin their numbers, and take them one by one. He also knew that Black Eagle would not be easily fooled, so he would have to be as clever as the fox and his timing nothing short of perfect.
As the night deepened, the Longhunter prepared his trap. He found a small grove of trees nearby, and within it, he carved a symbol into the bark of each tree. He had spent much time in this rugged country and learned many things about the people inhabiting it. The symbol was an ancient one from the tribes in the northern territories, known to the Shawnee as the mark of the dreaded Wendigo, a monstrous beast that preyed upon men who ventured too far into the woods.
When the symbols were complete, the Longhunter retreated to a nearby thicket and waited. He knew that the Shawnee were already on edge. The slightest sound or movement would draw them to investigate. So he remained as still and silent as the stone that lay beneath him.
As the fire in the encampment began to die down, the Longhunter chose his moment. He let loose a haunting cry, a sound that seemed to be torn from the very bowels of the earth. It echoed through the night, chilling the blood of those who heard it, man and animal alike.
The Shawnee warriors leaped to their feet, weapons in hand. They knew the cry of the Wendigo and feared it more than any other creature in the forest. Black Eagle barked orders to his men, sending them out in pairs to investigate the source of that chilling wail. As the warriors ventured into the darkness, Black Eagle remained in the camp, his eyes narrowed and his senses alert. He knew that there was more to this night than the howl of a mythical beast, and he was determined to uncover the truth.
The Longhunter watched from his thicket as the Shawnee cautiously approached the grove. He saw the fear in their eyes as they discovered the symbols carved into the trees, and their whispers filled the night air. As they debated whether to return to camp or continue their search, the Longhunter struck.
He moved with the speed of a striking serpent, his long rifle thundered and one of the warriors fell, his lifeblood staining the ground. Before the others could react, the Longhunter vanished into the shadows, leaving the remaining Shawnee warriors scrambling for cover.
The sounds of gunfire reached Black Eagle's ears, and he knew that his men had fallen into a trap. He dispatched more warriors to join their fallen comrades, but this time, he would not be content to wait in the camp. He snatched up his tomahawk and set off into the darkness, determined to meet whatever danger lurked in the darkness. He was a leader of warriors, and he would face the beast that terrorized his men, even if that beast walked on two legs and fired a rifle.
The Longhunter moved through the forest, knife in one hand, tomahawk in the other, and his keen senses guiding him. His blades whispered in the night, cutting throats and drawing blood. He picked off the renegades one by one, as silent and deadly as the Reaper himself. He could sense Black Eagle's approach and knew that their final confrontation was close at hand.
A flash of lightning split the sky, casting eerie shadows across the forest floor. Thunder rumbled deep and low, shaking the ground beneath the Longhunter's moccasin feet. The wind howled like a tortured beast, filling the night with dread. For only a moment the Longhunter thought that perhaps on the screeching wind he heard the echoing cries of the Wendigo.
Then he emerged into a small clearing and saw Black Eagle waiting there, the air crackling with tension. The storm raged above them, but for a moment, time seemed to stand still. Another flash of lightning illuminated the two warriors, and they stood face to face, the hunter and the hunted, each man knowing that only one would leave the clearing alive.
With roars that dissolved into thunder, the two men charged at each other. Tomahawks whistling through the storm, they clashed in a brutal and deadly dance, each man seeking to land the killing blow.
They fought like titans, their weapons flashing in the storm-tossed darkness. A swipe from Black Eagle's tomahawk tore and bloodied the Longhunter's buckskin. The Shawnee renegade's painted face was streaked with sweat and blood. The storm raged around them, but neither man noticed the rain that soaked their bodies or the wind that tore at their clothes.
As the battle raged on, the Longhunter began to tire. He had been tracking the renegades for days, and the fatigue was finally taking its toll. Black Eagle, sensing his opponent's weakness, pressed his advantage. He struck with the speed of a striking snake, his tomahawk biting deep into the Longhunter's side.
The Longhunter stumbled, the pain threatening to overwhelm him. But as he looked into Black Eagle's wild and fearsome eyes, he found a reserve of strength he did not know he possessed. With a primal scream, he hurled his knife at the renegade warrior. Black Eagle swatted the blade away with his tomahawk, but failed to recover before the Longhunter was upon him. With a single, heavy strike, the Longhunter buried his tomahawk in Black Eagle's sinewy chest. The Shawnee's eyes went wide with shock, his mouth dropping open in a silent gasp.
As Black Eagle fell, the howling wind died down, and the rain slowed to a gentle patter. The Longhunter stood over his fallen foe, the last of the renegade Shawnee, and knew that his mission was complete.
He moved back through the thicket and recovered his rifle, then turned and limped back to the settlements, his wounds a testament to the ferocity of the battle he had fought. The settlers hailed him as a hero, but the Longhunter knew that his work was far from over. There would always be danger lurking in the untamed wilds of the Ohio Valley.
Though the settlers offered him a place among them, the Longhunter knew that he could not stay. His spirit was bound to the wilderness, and his restless heart yearned for the solitude of the frontier. But he slept some and ate a little, giving his wounds time to heal. Then, some days later, with a heavy heart and his long rifle resting on his shoulder, he bade farewell to the settlers and headed into the trees, disappearing into the unforgiving wilds of the Ohio Valley once more.
Cole Burgett is the creator of the award-winning audio drama, The Lost Son, as well as an author, screenwriter, and the editor-in-chief of Epic Echoes Magazine. He holds a ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary and is a staff writer for Christ and Pop Culture, as well as a regular contributor to the Christian Research Journal. He teaches courses in systematic theology and the exposition of biblical books, and writes extensively about theology and popular culture. His short fiction has appeared on Rope and Wire and in Whetstone.
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Horse Killer's Injun
by Tom Sheehan
My horse was down, with a broken leg and a neck gash. My left leg was under him.
He wasn't going to move, and I couldn't but he'd been good to me, that fine animal.
I put a round in his head, thankful he was out of his misery. Some people will know my misery in a flash, a ton of it on the soul.
The shot also brought company, a young Indian standing still with a rough iron knife in his hand, a strange weapon for him to wield. I was willing to bet he'd honed it every day of its creation from who-knows-what-piece-of-junk he had found on the trail to somewhere, Oregon most likely.
We were in the Idaho territory of the Bannock tribe, and stories had been told for years of Chief Buffalo Horn all over the region not only saying how heroic he was but wise as any sage of the west. Two generals he'd served under, Howard and Custer, trusted him until he found out that settlers were cutting up land where the Bannocks raised camas roots, one of their main food sources.
It was hell to pay for from then to his death and when he was buried near a fort.
The connection came in a hurry; just what I needed, This young Indian waved the knife, pointed at my dead horse in mock surprise, and began to make some subtle cutting movements. He even looked hungry to add to his message, and pointed at my pistol, shaking his head.
Then he cut meat from the horse; the knife was indeed sharp, honed to the keenest edge and thick slices came away in his free hand.
I detected a smile on his face, at first saying that he had sliced well and had a meal coming, then I thought it was he had gained something from me, then I thought it was a sign of peace between us: it was evident he was the only one who could help me.
I hope it didn't have to wait until the carving was completed.
He walked off and soon I smelled fire first, then meat cooking, and he was back, the knife put away, and a strong-looking pole over his shoulder, thick and long. When that pole was shoved under a portion of my horse, I felt the ache and pain leave me temporarily, and then my leg was loose.
This stranger pulled me free from my dead horse, all the way.
When he smiled and made a gesture of inhaling, it was the aroma of cooked meat he had caught. He smiled again and helped me to his fire site in a nearby wooded area, smoke curling up through the trees, the leaves caught in a steady breeze.
We chewed on the meat side by side, cowboy and Indian, the late sun telling me I had been trapped for half the day and might not have made it through the night ahead of me, ahead of us.
He did not speak any English, at least said nothing in English, and when I said, as clear as I could over a bite of horsemeat, "Chief Buffalo Horn," he kept saying the words back to me, "Chief Buffalo Horn, Chief Buffalo Horn," hitting his chest with proud thumps. I knew he was declaring himself to be a member of the Bannock tribe. This was followed by his saying slowly and clearly, while tapping his chest, "Etu Chatka," as he introduced himself, the first Indian I had ever talked to.
In response, I repeated several times while pointing at him, "Etu Chatka, Etu Chatka," at which his smile grew wider and wider.
Tapping my own chest, I said, "Bob Parsons. Bob Parsons," until he said it many times while pointing at me, like we had momentarily swapped places.
Holding my hands as if on a horse, I exaggerated my urgent signals at speed and my savior and new friend understood me right away, using the same antics to signify his point of view, at which he kept smiling and nodding at me, friendly as the Ace of Spades in a tight game.
With the introductions done, I hoped it was notice that he was going to get me mounted again, though I saw no mount of his own anywhere in the vicinity.
Urging me with motions to stay seated, he went off, running swiftly but in an easy pace, as though he could run for hours.
And he was gone for hours; darkness had come down and my saddle and blankets were available for a night's sleep as I arranged my comfort. The night animals sounded from every direction in their searches as they prowled about me and the remains of my horse. The moon leaped from behind a cloud bank and a hunk of mountain between here and there, the moon strong enough to throw shadows in the heart of night. And, I thought, light enough to show the trail to Etu Chatka on return.
I was sure he'd come back, his nobility and gentility backing up my assurances.
I might have gone off to sleep for a few hours in the soft moonlight, and then was wakened by clomping sounds close by, followed by horse talk. In the moonlight Etu Chatka staked two horses to a tree, flipped a blanket on the ground near me, and abruptly went to sleep.
I kept counting my good luck until morning sounds woke me again, day already spilled atop us, the sun pointing out the mountain, Borah's Peak, was higher than I realized, dawn was sweeter than nightfall, friends can entwine when darkness drops below a blanket of stars or rises when that cover is rolled back.
Dawn has majesties, but being alive, even if hurting, heads the list. And there came Etu Chatka riding one horse and leading another by a rope. I felt better; my leg felt better, and this new friend had climbed the scales of friendships; I swore to myself I would stand between him and Hell.
And that was bound to happen no matter where we were in the west.
It didn't take long on the trail. Three on horses, guns drawn, stood in front of us at a narrow spot in the trail.
"Whatcha got there, sonny boy, your own injun slave?" His tone was loaded with malice and hate that leaped from him, looks, moves and otherwise, even as he nodded at his comrades, and said, "Ain't we surprised, boys, to find a redskin this easy this early in the day? Hell, it ain't even lunchtime yet, and we got us a live injun to play with."
I made sure I was between Etu Chatka and the trio, and said, "You don't play with my Indian friend unless you want to play with me, and that you don't want to do, because, you there, big mouth, gets the first round where your last shirt button in not yet buttoned."
My pistol. Drawn like spilled grease, was in my hand, and his expression changed on the spot, my eyes steady, my gun hand not wavering for the fraction of a second.
He looked over his shoulder, as if he was expecting help from his pals but neither one moved a muscle. That's when I motioned them, with my gun hand, to step aside so we could pass by them. The two quiet ones moved right away, and then big mouth thought better of the situation and also moved.
We passed by them and looked back as they stood at harmless ease, though in discomfort.
A few hours later we were hailed from a slight rise off the trail. "Where are you headed, son, with an Indian by your side? I hope you're not going into town."
"What town is that?" I said.
"So, that's Keeping Horse up ahead of you and they'll be trouble for sure. You should let him go his own way right now unless you got bad plans for him."
"I have no bad plans for him, mister, and I've been there before. Why don't you ride in ahead of us by an hour or so and tell folks, like the sheriff, Bill Swanton, that Harry Parson's son Bob is coming to visit with my Indian friend. Etu Chatka, grandson of Chief Buffalo Horn of the Bannock tribe is with me after saving my life back there in the hills."
Surprise jumped from him. "Old Harry Parson's your pap? He still with us? I hope so. We rode a few trails together in the past. Likable man, your pa, all I got to say, 'cept I'll tell all of Keeping Horse you're coming along soon. Yes sir, Harry Parson's boy Bob."
He spurted past us and was out of sight in minutes.
I had no idea what a turnout would result from the mention of my father's name, but a dozen or so men stood in welcome fashion at the door of the saloon, not a mock hello in the bunch, respect casting a mark on the gathering. For a moment I was stunned by the reception, before a near full recollection came from the back of my mind of how he was living his life to the coming end.
One man stepped out and said, "It's been a long haul since him and I were pards, son, but I sure hope he's still with us. The world's a better place with him in it. If you and the injun are friends, as it appears, it's okay with me and all these others here. Ain't that right, boys?"
It was like he was in charge of the whole shootin' match without any shooting.
I managed to say, "Is it always this quiet here?" I stretched my arms wide to include all of Keeping Horse.
"It is for about twenty seconds, son. Come on in."
He led the way into the Keeping Horse Saloon, the bar already loaded with full drinks, a few select tables reserved at one end of the bar.
Etu Chatka refused a drink, I took my first sip in days. Wonder worked its edges on me.
The apparent man in charge of the whole reception said, "Son, I'm the sheriff here, by name of Chill Brentwood. If yore pap ever shows up in Keeping Horse, he'll own the town and your injun friend could be a deputy of mine in a second. You too."
"I'm flabbergasted," I said. "I had no idea of what he had been through, what he had done."
"It's a funny thing, son, but we hardly ever know what we should know. Most of us are blind to what counts all the way from the beginning, every foot of the way."
"What have I missed," I asked. "Have I been blind?"
"Son, don't you know he saved the president once and sat him down with Chief Buffalo Horn for a session loaded for peace?"
"Who was the president?"
"Why, it was Ulysses S. Grant himself, comrades of battle once from what I understand. I don't know the whole story, but who gets to save a man who becomes president? Not many, that's who. Not many did but your pap did. Wouldn't take no medal either."
"I never knew that about him. He never told me a word about it."
"You know what it really means, don't you? You own the place, you and your injun, for this night anyway." He turned to the gathering, and said, "Hoist 'em, gents, for Harry Parson's son and his injun pal. We won't see many like this pair, and you can swaller your Adam's Apple on that."
Sheehan, now in his 96th year, (31st Infantry, Korea 1950-52; Boston College 1952-56), elected Man of the Year for his home town, grappling with macular degeneration, has multiple works in Rosebud, Copperfield Review, Literally Stories (UK 200+), Frontier Tales, and Green Silk Journal, etc. He has 18 Pushcart nominations, 6 Best of Net nominations (one winner). Latest books released are The Townsman, The Horsemen Cometh, The Grand Royal Stand-off and Other Stories; Small Victories for the Soul VII; Jock Poems and Reflections for Proper Bostonians, Ah, Devon Unbowed, and The Saugus Book, among others. His book count is now at 40.
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