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.....