Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Waterfall

I made dry camp on high ground above the falls. I unsaddled Badger, rubbed him down with some dry grass I found, took his halter off and let him graze in the tall grass nearby. I put more grass under my bed roll cause the ground was hard and rocky. Walter laid down against my saddle and closed his eyes. I knew I could count on both of them to alert me if they sensed danger. I was hot and tired and the water coming over the falls into the clear cool pool below sure looked good but I couldn't risk getting trapped in the open. The air was still hot with no breeze at all and my shirt was wet with sweat. There was no sign of movement around the falls but it was pitch black with no moon and I couldn't take a chance. I could see lightening off to the west but I couldn't hear the thunder. I laid on my bed roll and watched it til I drifted off to sleep. I had always loved to watch storms. A loud rumble of thunder shook me awake and I instincticly bolted upright with my gun in my hand. A rain cooled breeze hit my face and I realized it was the storm I had been watching when I fell asleep. The cool air was refreshing and with the flashes of lightening I could see Badger 50 feet away facing into the wind. I had rode him hard and I know the cool air felt just as good to him. Walter had moved in under a big cedar tree behind me so I picked up my saddle and joined him. I taken out my slicker, spread it over my bed and climbed back in. The rain came in sweeping torrents and it felt good on my face. It would wipe out any tracks we may have left and I could get to the caves from here without getting on the main trail. For some reason I thought about the last time I had been to Paw's cabin. It was raining just as hard as now and he was sittin lookin out the back door at his critters when I walked in. He was drinkin strong coffee and eatin a doughnut. I said,"I'm your boy." He looked at me long and hard and said,"Ain't got no boy." I smiled at the thought and drifted back to sleep.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

It was a week ago Sunday me an Walter rode to the cemetery to clean up the graves some an pick some fresh flowers to put on em. I borrowed a rake from a man there an got all the leaves an sticks off Mama's grave an smoothed out the dirt from where the rain had washed out some places. As I worked my mind went back to when we was all just kids. I could see Mama weedin her tomatoes and okra an singin about the old rugged cross. Or in the late fall wearin her sweater and headscarf hangin clothes on the line. "The chimes of time ring out the news", she reached into the basket for another shirt, shook it out and pinned it to the line. "Someone slipped and fell", she worked quickly so she could get back in the house to check on the pot of beans. Times were hard for her and sometimes we didn't have any money but she always had a song in her heart an made sure we had what we needed. In the winter time we had a magic wood stove that was always glowing red when we woke up so we would have a warm place to get dressed for school. Part of her nitely ritual was checkin ever kid in ever bed to make sure we had plenty of cover. She always tucked us in an felt of foreheads to make sure we wern't sick. Likely as not she would go get one more quilt and spread it over us just in case we might get too cold. I can still feel that puff of air on my face as she shook out the quilt an let it settle over us. I've not felt that peacefulness since. An now it was my turn to tuck her in, a knowin she was safe and happy in God's hands. I mounted Badger and turned back for one last look, brushed away a tear and headed back home.
And now I was ridin for the caves. Darkness was commin on an I would have to stop an make camp for the nite. I could hear rushin water so the falls were close ahead. The caves were about twelve miles beyond the falls. I could tell Badger was winded an I was dog tired so we would stop an make camp at the falls then move on at daybreak. .

Monday, April 27, 2009

When we had both ate our fill I poured us one more cup of hot coffee. He pushed back from the table, carefully filled his pipe and struck a match. Blue smoke floated gracefully across the room. "I saw two men last nite camped over on War Eagle creek. They looked out of place so I eased in closer and listened." He paused and took another sip of coffee. "They are looking for a man. I figure it's me they are after. I overheard the name Sackett. I think maybe that's who they work for."
So - it was time! They were too close now and I would have to find a better place to wait for them. If only I could get word to my brothers I know they would come. If you're gona kill one Sackett you best count on killin us all. I told the black man to stay as long as he wanted and to make out like it was his place if anybody came. He said, "So it's you they are after. Where will you go?" I didn't usually trust a stranger but this man was different. "They's some caves south of here a piece an I know ever inch of em. Me an Walter'l hunker down there a few days an try to get word to my three brothers down by the fort. They's plenty of food here and you're welcome to it. They's a trap door to the root cellar under the table whur you can hide out if it comes to it.
I stood up and reached out my had to him. "Elmo's my name - Elmo Sackett." He stood up too and shook my hand firmly. "I go by Amos. I never did know my real name."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Stranger

It was Walter that saw him first, or maybe just sensed him. Out of the corner of my eye I detected the slight rise of Walter's left eyebrow; a sure sign of imminent danger. He was coming up the lane - walking deliberately - head down, looking neither left or right. When he got closer I could make out he was a tall slender black man in worn out clothes and no shoes. He walked up to Walter and me on the porch and said, "If I could get me a dipper of water out of that bucket I'd be glad to split that wood for you." He indicated the woodpile at the side of the cabin. From the way he talked, he was an educated man. He was about my age and looked like his life had been one of hard work and few frills. He was a raw-boned rugged looking man - not a man to tangle with - but there was also a kindness in his eyes and a gentleness about his presence that made me want to know more about him. Where was he from and how did he get to be here in tattered clothes and no shoes?
I asked him how long it had been since he ate and he said he had stopped by yesterday morning at that Ms Weatly's place and for helpin her boy carry in the wash she had made him some biscuits. Said they was a man stayin in her barn that was not quite right in the head but that her boy liked the way he talked and that he had promised a friend of hers that he wouldn't ever hurt her or that boy. I said, "Me an Walter was just about to go in and make us some breakfast an they's plenty if you want to come in and eat with us."
" I wouldn't mind a plate of food if you could bring it out here on the porch," he said as he looked down at his bare feet, "but I'll have to work some more to pay for it. I won't be beholdin to no man. I pay my own way." I'd have none of that and insisted he set with me at the table. I sliced off thick slices of bacon into one skillet, sausage in another and stirred up a pan of biscuits while the man worked on the wood pile. I put on a fresh pot of coffee, fried up a dozen eggs and sliced up a couple of tomatoes.
When he came back in I had him a feast spread out. He ate slowly and seemed to savor every bite as he gazed out the window at a place far away in another time that only he could see. He said, "Coffee makes me kindly nervous when I drank it." I went and got him some cold buttermilk outa the well. I was anxious to know more about him but I was never one to pry into another man's business. I knew that he would tell me in his own time whatever he wanted me to know about him. He said, "This sausage is really tender, did you make any gravy to go with it?" I said, "That IS the gravy."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Muley's Crossin

We had some awful bad storms in Japton this week. My cabin's OK but I had a lot of fence down and was all week gettin it back up and roundin up cows that found the holes fore I did. When I rode down to check on pappy I had to ride nearly six miles upriver to Muley Shad's crossin to get across the Buffalo. Where I usually cross without hardly gettin Badger's feet wet was a raging torrent about eight feet deep. Muley is a short squatty old man with a grey shaggy beard and long grey hair flyin ever which a way from under his faded confererate hat. He has a raft rigged up with ropes and pulleys to pull it across the river and back again. He gets four bits - two bits for the horse and two for the rider. He gets a dollar for a wagon, loaded or not. The crossing was terrifying for me and Badger but Muley just puffed on his pipe and talked his fool head off as he pulled us across. I recon he gets sort of lonesome out there by hisself and had saved up a lot of talkin for whoever come along to listen. Just when I was about to tie a gag on him, he said something that caught my ear. The day before he had carried two of Wayne Elliot's hands across headed north. I wondered why Elliot's riders would be driftin this far north and where they were going. I said as much to Muley. He said they told him they was cattle buyers but from what he could overhear they was goin to take care of a problem for their boss. Wayne Elliot is an evil greedy tyrant but he is not careless. If he sent riders up to my place they would be his best gun hands and they would have only one purpose. I stayed a little longer with pappy than usual, I guess cause I was dreadin the ride back home. Pappy said he knowed Muley cause he used to live by us when we was kids but that he knowed him as Mr. Shad. I wish I had let Walter come with me this time cause when he's with me no one can get within a mile of me without him lettin me know they're there.....

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A visit from Elwood

I was mendin fence down on the low west meadow yesterday when I heard the awfulest commotion commin thru the brush down close to the river I ever heard. It sounded like a four up pullin a stage. I never heard so much blowin and snortin carrin on in my life. I started for my rifle but they was no time. I just dove behind a big log close by and covered my head. What ever it was stopped right where I had been workin but it was still blowin an snortin an stampin it feet. I couldn't move a muscle!
"Elmo!" came a shout from the creature. "Hey Elmo, whurd you go?" I'd know that voice anywhur. It was my own brother Elwood! "Elwood Sackett!" I hollered. "What in tarnation are you doin up here and whur did you get that horse? You couldn't sneak up on a bufalo stampede."
After we said our howdys and got us a cup of coffee, Elwood explained to me how he had won the horse in a poker game from Blue Minor down at Boles an that he didn't thank much of him at first but had come to get sort of attached to him. I got to say he was a fine horse to look at but was still the noisiest one horse I had ever seen.
Ole Badger had eased back from whur he run off to when he heard Elwood a commin an he was tryin to get a better look at what had caused all the commotion. "What's that horse's name anyway Elwood?" I queried. "Don't know what Blue called him, he never said. I been a callin him Harley."
Elwood was a man of few words an that's all I got out of him as he swung up and lit a shuck with even more wild-crazy-blowin-snortin-commotion than when he rode up....

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Company in Japton

Me an Walter had company yesterday. Orvil Self an Luther Bailey rode by on their way up to Joplin to pick up some cows Orvil had bought. They had planned to har a couple of boys up there to help drive em back to Scott County an wondered if me an Walter might want to come along. I tole em ever since I taken that job with the telegraph that I hadn't had time to spit. Luther shook his head an said he knowed about that cause he helped run the first lines to Fort Smith for the Army there. We had a good visit. Orvil tole about when he would get all gussied up on Saturday an go into town. He bein a cattle buyer would muck around the feed lots all week but when he come to town he wore his town shoes with white socks. First place he would go after he had his breakfast at the Rock Cafe was to Herman Atchley's barber shop to get his shoes shinned. I was the shine boy there an I could shine a pair of boots to where they would hurt your eyes. When Orvil walked in with them black town shoes an white socks...wul I just come from together. They was no way I could get them shoes black an leave them socks white. We all had a good laugh specially Orvil. I thank he did that a purpose. I wrapped em up some biscuits an mustard for the trail an tole em to stop back by on the way back an tole em where to hole up their cows close by. It was sure good to see them boys...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Jury Duty

I been sort of out of pockett a few days. That kid Andy done broke his leg when his horse threw him and I been havin to do his job an mine too. On top of that I got sent for to be on Judge Parker's jury to hang a horse thief they caught down close to Mansfield. Turned out Judge Parker was gone so they had Judge Cox -we called him Jamie when we was kids- set in for him but the outcome was perty much the same. Recon that Floyd Folsom has stole his last horse. I saw Paw a while Sunday. He don't talk so much about Logan wearin the blue no more. I thank he final figgered out we all just called it the way we seen it an did what we thought was right. It was a hard time for us all and is best forgot. The day I took off the grey they wont no more blue an grey just four brothers that come back alive an not shot up too bad. I thank when it was all said an done Paw was more prouder of Logan than the rest of us.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sally Jo

I was late leavin Paw's place and Walter was sure glad to see me. You'd of thought I had been gone a month. I thank he smelled them frog legs in my saddle bag about a mile away cause he was there to meet me when I turned onto the lane. I recon I should have taken him with me to see Paw but he was all rung out from ridin fence with me the day before I left. I stopped by to look in on Sally Jo on the way back. She is a sister to Eve that married up with Tell so we are almost kin. I was thankin I might get another good meal but she had pulled a calf that evenin and was too tard for cookin. Her place is way bigger than mine and she works it by herself. We sat out on the porch, her in the porch swang and me in her dad's old rockin chair and looked out at a billion stars on a moonless nite. She had fixed me some crackers and mustard and a big glass of ice tea and I was a happy man. I gota go rub down ole Badger now. He will get a double ration of oats tonite.........

Monday, February 16, 2009

Frog legs and Homebrew

Wul I was worried some about Paw so yesterday I saddled up Badger and rode down to his place. When I rode up to his cabin I heard voices from inside. Come to find out Paw and Joe Bob Austin had been down on Bull Creek frog gigin and had come back with a toe sack full. Paw had cooked a mess of frog legs in fish batter and fried some taters and sliced up a big purple onion and had a big pan of cornbread on the table. They had sent for Frankie Dean and R G Oliver to come help eat them and Frankie Dean had brought some of his latest batch of home brew but I noticed everbody but him was drankin ice tea. I ate my fill and then some as did everbody else and they was still a lot left. R G said maybe I ought to take some frog legs to Walter on account of he memberd how much Walter liked em. Frankie Dean come too about then and slured that maybe Walter would like to have some of his latest batch of home brew to wash em down with. I tole Frankie Dean that Walter favored ice tea.....

Friday, February 13, 2009

Luther's Visit

Cousin Luther came by my cabin today.. said he'd been by to see Paw a week ago Sunday. I told Luther I never thought I'd see the day that Paw would be feedin varmints in the back yard and that he's mellowed some. I tole Luther that ever time I went down there he was smokin, drankin coffee an lookin out the back door at the critters. Luther tole me that's perty much how he seen it. Said when he rode up that Paw was sure nuf sittin at the table smokin, drankin strong coffee an pickin his tooth with a mockin bird bone. Said he had a big pot of squirrel dumplins a boilin on the stove. Paw always favored Squirrel dumplins I recall. What Luther tole me sort of esplained them feathers I been findin around Paw's cabin. Luther said he ain't seen Walter ... his brother Walter not my dog Walter... though they do favor... since he got out of jail but had been tole that Walter had a place down close to Needmore now. It's a good thang I ain't gettin no valentines tomorrow on account of I ain't got no shoebox to fix up to put em in.......