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GENERAL TOPICS => Saddlebag Tales => Topic started by: Leo Tanner on October 17, 2008, 04:29:52 PM

Title: A Camp Fire Tale
Post by: Leo Tanner on October 17, 2008, 04:29:52 PM
     Jenson was eleven now.  The age he was promised to go out on his first cattle drive.  Of course his mother didn’t like this one bit, but Pa was not to be argued with.  The boy was old enough now to at least learn.
     When the day came, Jenson was full of anticipation.  What he looked forward to most was the nights he’d get to spend around the fire with the other hands.  It was every boy’s dream.  He was up before the sun with the rest of them on his own pony, watching the herd file out of the gate under the watchful eyes of the men.  “I’m really doing it” he thought.  It was the best day of his life.
     Once they set out, his father hung back and road along side of him.  The pride in the old man’s face was unmistakable.  “Boy, I’m sure ya heard us all talking before, and know this won’t be an easy drive.”
     “Yes sir” the boy said.  “I’ll make you pleased, you’ll see.  Can I stay up with you all when we make camp?”  His eyes were shimmering at the very idea.
     “ Of course.  That’s the time of the day that makes all this work tolerable.”
     “Will ya tell stories?  Like at home?”
     “Well now”, Jenson’s father said, “out here on the trail old McCauley the cosie tells all the stories.”  The man laughed and said, “he’s a little touched in the head but he tells tales enough ta cover all of us.  You’ll see boy.” 
    Jenson felt his heart swell and looked forward to his first night.

     The camp was made, and all ate well.  For being “touched in the head” the cook sure new what he was doing when it came to preparing food.  Now Jenson waited for the stories.  He draped his blanket around his shoulders as his father passed him a tin cup of hot coffee.  This was a true honor.  If his mother saw him drinking coffee, she would have thrown a blue fit.  He didn’t really like the stuff, but in no way was he going to let on.
     Once everyone was settled, McCauley stumbled over to the group with his eyes blazing.  “Now Sirs” he said, “you’re about ta hear a tale of an old grudge, an a battle that’s still bein fought ta this very day.  Ain’t a perty story, but one that’s true enough.”
     Jenson tingled with excitement at this.  He looked at his father, who looked back and smiled at him.  Here we go  the expression said.

Title: Re: A Camp Fire Tale
Post by: Leo Tanner on October 19, 2008, 05:57:25 PM
The old cook set down on the pile of wood that had been stacked for his morning fire.  He slowly looked around the camp at each man, but fixed his gaze on the boy a bit longer than the rest. 
     “Well now, yer a fresh one, ain’t ya”
     “Yes sir”, the boy replied.
     “Well listen up close”  The boy nodded at this.

     The man began his tale.  “We all know that there are a many forces at work on this earth.  Some good, some less desirable.  Well the most famous of the evil ones (ya all know who I’s speakin of) got ta lookin up at the world one day, tryin ta find some new mischief ta cause, and his unholy gaze happened upon a fine young gal.”
     At this point McCauley cleared his throat and spat.  Jenson wondered if was just a necessary action, or if it was for effect.  Maybe it was a little of both.
     The man continued.  “Well now, the beast decided he had ta have this girl, and wouldn’t rest ‘til he did.  Problem was, he couldn’t jus go an snatch her up.  There’s rules about these things ya understand.  So he started spending most of his time just a watchin her, an while he did this he made him a plan.”  Another cough and spit. 
     “He figured the only way ta have his heart’s desire was through an angel.  The angel of Death.”  McCauley mused over this for a moment, then went on, “Now most of folks see this perticalar haint in a bad light, but ya gotta remember he is an agent of the Lord, kinda like a Pinkerton man.  He just does the job he was handed, like you boys punch them cattle when the boss says so.”  The men around fire seemed to consider this, but no one spoke.  The cook had begun to do what he always did, catch the attention of everyone in earshot. 

     “So Ole Scratch pays a visit ta Mister Death an tells him he wants this perty young gal.  Well the shadow tells the beast that there ain’t no way, it ain’t her time an even if it were she ain’t done no kind a sinning ta be delivered ta the likes of him.  The evil one had his mind set and says, ‘let me show ‘er ta ya, an then you’ll understand’.  Then Death, he suddenly is swept up inta a vision.  A field of wild flowers and the most beautiful creature he ever seen picken’ ‘em an puttin’ ‘em in a basket.  Then Scratch says, ‘I will send temptations ta her, enough ta make her give in an fall.  Then ya bring her ta me.’

     “ Boys, I tell ya now, that reaper got one look at the lady in the field and felt something he had never felt since all a time began.  He made an oath right then and there that he’d never allow fer the Dark Prince ta get his mitts on this one.  He aimed ta protect her fer all times.”

     With that, the cozie said, “sorry fellers, I gotta make a trip ta the brush.  I ain’t done bein close ta finishin’, but you’ll have ta excuse an ole man fer a moment.” 
     He wandered off and the trail hands settled back.  Jenson asked his father if the old man was done for the night.  The reply was, “Naw, prolly just went ta get another nip on his way ta the brush.  Got a feelin’ we’ll be up fer awhile son.” 
Title: Re: A Camp Fire Tale
Post by: Leo Tanner on October 20, 2008, 02:20:27 AM
The story teller finally returned.  He looked at ease, but his gait was off a little more than before.  “’Persheate the break, sometimes a man’s just gotta answer the call”, he said.  All sat up and nodded.  Now it was time for him to continue.  “Where was I?” he asked to himself.  “Oh yes, OK, now’s here where things get interestin’.

     “We all here’s God fearin’ men, and we knows an believe our scriptures.  What I’m sayin’ ain’t no ill talkin’ ‘gainst the Book, just don’t get spoke of much in there.”  He paused and looked to make sure he wouldn’t have any nay saying from the group.  The cowboys just looked at him, and his confidence seemed restored.
     “There’s folks out there say that when some people come ta their great reward, they get sent back as a baby.  They don’t ‘member nuthin from afore, but in a way it’s the same person.  Well so it was with the flower pickin’ gal. 
     “The days when the whole thing started was back in the old country.  See, back then, the evil one would try ta get the best of her but a feller in one of them tin uniforms would always come along and save her hide.  He never asked fer nothin’ in return an jus’ ride off on that horse that was kinda white, but not quite.  I guess ya coulda called it pale.”  McCauley looked around again to see how many of them really did know their lessons.  From the blank looks he saw, most of them didn’t.  The man with the boy at his side smiled and put his arm around his son.
     “The gal grew old, without being tempted or havin’ any harm come ta her.  One day she finally came ta the end of her days and the tin soldier become himself again, an was allowed ta be with her as himself on the short trip ta the Pearlies.  He felt he done a good job.  But like I said before, she come back in a differnt time an a differnt place.  And as he had vowed, so did he”.       
Title: Re: A Camp Fire Tale
Post by: Leo Tanner on October 24, 2008, 03:20:22 PM
Jenson scootched closer to his Pa, and wanted to ask questions but knew better than to open his mouth.  He waited for the cook to resume. 

     “Well when she did come back it was right here in these United States, an she was growin’ up just as beautiful as ever before.  That ole devil watched as she did, an went back ta schemin’.  Just the same, Death saw she had returned and took up his old task.

     “This time around,  she growed up on a ranch and as before she had no mind fer mischief.  Pure as the driven snow ya might say.  When she come ta blossom the ranch started gettin’ more visitors.  Travelers lookin’ fer a bit of rest, or so they’d say.  The girl’s folks were always accommodatin’, but the men who road through always seemed ta find a moment alone with her.  She liked to go to the stable in the evenin’ and they’d find her brushin’ her pony down.  Most of ‘em that come out would offer her a nip from a flask.  A few of ‘em was more direct ‘bout what they wanted.  Thing was, every time this would go on, the neighbor, a man by the name a Thaddeus, would happen by ta say hey ta the family.  He always wore a six shooter at his hip, said it were fer varmits, and kept a repeatin rifle in a scabbard strapped ta his saddle, said it was fer bigger varmits.

     “He’d come ridin’ up on that pale horse a his, stop at the stable ta water it, an happen across the girl and her unwanted visitor.  Each and everyone of them visitors would leave directly when Thad came along.  He’d say hello ta the girl, go see the folks at the house, an be on his way.  In all the years the girl had known him, the man never seemed ta age a bit like her Pa had.”   The old Cozie paused a moment and gathered himself.

     “Well ‘bout this time, the Dickens was gettin’ perty frustrated.  Decided next time he wouldn’t send no fool ta trick her inta doin’ bad.  It was time fer him ta handle things hisself an get rid of that pesky man who rode the pale horse.  And fellers, this is where the true war started…”

Title: Re: A Camp Fire Tale
Post by: Leo Tanner on October 26, 2008, 01:02:11 AM
  "There was a family that lived on the spread on the other side of the girl's house than Thaddeus'.  They's mostly kep ta themselves, but were real nice folk, name a O'Toole.  The woman of the house, name a Jane, was always bright an cheerful whenever she'd cross paths with the girl or her kin.  The husband seemed a nice gent, just a bit consumed with working his land.

     "Then one day somethin strange happened.  The girl and her folks had ta make thier monthly trip inta town an visit the dry goods an such.  Whilst lookin' over some swatches, the gal an her mother saw Miss Jane.  But she was differnt taday.  She was fidgetin' with a skein a yarn an didn't look so bright an cheerful.  She wouldn't look up and was in no mood fer conversatin'.  Somethin' was very wrong sa far as the girl could see.

     "She asked her folks on the way back ta the ranch why Jane had acted so.  Her Pa said they was prolly havin' some kind a trouble, an if they didn't feel right askin fer help er talkin ta folks', best ta leave well enough alone.  The girl didn't unnerstand, but didn't press no harder, she never sassed her Pa.
     "The next night, the O'Tooles up an left.  Just like that.  Didn't say nothin' ta no one.  Just up an left.  When it was clear that there place had been abandoned, the perty gal's father said they must a had trouble with the bank.  Said that would 'splain why the woman wouldn't talk in the store, she must a had a good dose of shame." 

     The cook made eye contact with each and every hand at that point and said,  "But that weren't the case at all".

     "Not long after this, activity was seen at the O'Toole place.  The girl’s Pa figured he outta go check things out.  He rode on over an was met at the gate by a youngish man who had quite a smile on ‘is face.  Now you fellers gotta reckon it was the kind of smile that anyone of the female persuasion would a swooned over, but also the kind any sensible man would never trust.  The girls father was a sensible man, but he was also versed in manners an such.
     “’Howdy’ he said ta the feller settin a’front of him.  ‘Name’s Bertram, Bertram Leangle.  I live right down the road an was wonderin’ what all was happinin’ over here since the O’Tooles moved on.’
     “Well now”, the old trail cook went on, “that new feller made that smile a his even wider and says his name is Clay Dickenson, and how pleased he is ta meet ole Bertram.  Went on ta say he got the land cheap from the bank an planned on movin’ in livestock soon.  Girl’s Pa don’t like this one much but manors is manors, so he invites the new neighbor fer Sunday supper.  The man agreed, and his look become even more unsettlin’ than afore.  Said he’d be there with bells on.

     “Ole Bertram changed a few more pleasantries, then at the last moment a thought come ta him.  Weren’t sure why, but it felt right ta him.  ‘We’ll have the other neighbor, a man called Thaddeus, join us too.  That way we’ll all be familiar’.  The old rancher couldn’t be sure, but he thought he saw that rotten smile falter fer a second on the new man’s face."         
Title: Re: A Camp Fire Tale
Post by: Leo Tanner on October 30, 2008, 04:27:11 PM
     At this point, the old man went into a coughing fit, apparently another regular habit of his.  Jenson was beginning to understand the full crux of what was happening in the story and whispered to his father, “this ain’t really a true story, is it Pa?”
     His father smiled at him and said, “Well that’s for you to decide.  He says it is, an we never argue”.  At that, the man tipped his son a wink.

     The coughing finally stopped and the cook wiped the water from his eyes.  He didn’t beg anyone’s pardon for this interruption and continued on.

     “So the gal’s father heads over ta visit his other neighbor, good ole Thad.  He tells ‘im ‘bout Sunday dinner and meetin’ the new holder of the O’Toole place.  Thaddeus asks the man if he had gotten a name.  “Dickenson”, was the answer.
     “The younger of the two men raised his eyebrows and one corner of his mouth come up in a kinda half smile.  He says, ‘Bertram, I’d be honored ta join you all fer supper’.

    “Bertram Leangle road home with the feelin’ he’d made a good decision invitin’ Thad.  Again, he didn’t know why for, he jus knew.”
Title: Re: A Camp Fire Tale
Post by: Leo Tanner on November 09, 2008, 01:35:40 PM
     Jenson wasn’t used to coffee and was now wide awake and fidgety.  His father saw this and just patted him on the head.  He handed a stick of kindling to the boy along with his knife and whispered, “Just whittle”.  Jenson began shaving the piece of wood and focusing his concentration.

     The old cook resumed.
     “Well Sunday come an Dickenson arrived a bit early.  Said he didn’t mean ta but he sure didn’t wanna be late.  Gave that smile of his again ta Bertram and stepped inta the house.  Then the girl come inta the room.  She took one look at Clay an her eyes seemed ta drift away, like she weren’t lookin’ at nothin’ at all.
     “Bertram introduced the man to his daughter and saw her distraction.  He asked the girl if’n somethin’ were wrong and she just smiled and kep lookin’ at nothin’ in particular.  ‘No Pa, not at all', she said and she walked over and offered her hand ta Dickenson.  The father didn’t much care fer the looks of the way she done it.  He offered the man a seat and told the girl ta go check in the kitchen an see if her ma needed any help.
     “Then a knock came ta the door.  Bertram Leangle felt relief wash over him.   He knew it had ta be Thad.  What happened next were a bit strange.
      “The girl’s father answered the door and greeted the new guest heartily.  Ushered ‘im inside and at that moment the two younger men saw each other.  It was one a them times when everythin’ seems ta just stop an hang there.  Bertram had figured on makin the introductions but now he couldn’t get the words outta his lips.  Somethin was happin’n and he couldn’t say what.  He just watched them two men look each other over, an without even realizin’ it he stepped back ta a corner of the room.
     “Thaddeus broke that silence and says ‘You must be the new man.  Pleasure ta meet ya’.  Dickenson held that wicked smile a his an says, ‘No, the pleasure is all mine’”.

     At this point McCauley went into another coughing fit.  Though it was cold, the man appeared to be sweating and having a tough time of it.  The hands stayed silent and waited for him to continue.       
Title: Re: A Camp Fire Tale
Post by: Leo Tanner on November 25, 2008, 12:46:51 AM
Now boys, here's where Thaddeus 'stended his hand out in that age ole manner of greetin'
     Dickenson says, 'Sorry friend but I got a mean case a bursitis in that one an it jus' don' seem ta work so good no more'.
     ‘Oh don’ worry’ Thad says, ‘No offence taken by me.  Just hope ya find the right salve ta fix that up so’s one a these days ya can give a person a fair shake.’  The pun seemta be shared right way ‘tween the two men and pass right by the others.  ‘Like that youngin’ in there, she deserves one fer sure.  Good luck with that.’  Bertram thought he saw a bead of sweat run down Clay’s brow.
     ‘Ya all met before?’ he asked.  His voice cracked at this question. 
     ‘Somewhere on this long ole trail, I’m sure’ Thad said with that friendly like aire .  Dickenson nodded an says that yeah they’s prolly shared a fire or two in days past.   An’ the two men give each other that queer look agin.
     “Well ole Bertram decided it was time ta end the small talkin’ an get down ta supper.  Things had taken a strange turn, an agin he was glad to have asked his ole neighbor over fer the meal.  ‘Bout ready in there?’ he shouted, an the womens say yessir they’s ready ta serve em up.  An so they come out the kitchen ta the table carryin’ all manner of foods ya’d think was fit fer a king.  There was country fried steaks, tater salad, a bowl a picked beets, corn, a pot of chicken an dumplins an fresh baked bread.  E’rybody’s eyes got wide at that spread.  Bertram was wonderin’ how they was gonna make it through the season if they et all this grub in one night. 
     “Eat they did ma friends, eat they did.”  McCauley cackled and rubbed his blood shot eyes.  “When all was done Bertram asked the girl if this weren’t about the time she usually got ta groomin that pony a hers.  She says ‘yes Pa’ an excuses herself.  Dickenson says he outta walk her ta the stable an check on his mount afore leavin’ fer home.  Thad says he’d be on his way too but was so plumb full a so much wunnerfull chow that he’d like ta sit back fer a bit an have a smoke by the fire.  Man of the house says acourse that’d be fine an his little woman began pickin’ up the dishes and takin’ ‘em inta the kitchen as the girl an the new neighbor headed out the door.
     “After no one was left in the main room, Thaddeus stood ta head over ta the hearth.  It was now that ole Bertram noticed sumpthin’.  He could’a sworn that when his friend had entered the house every loop in his cartridge belt had been full.  He had quit askin’ him take the rig off fer meals long ago but still took note of it e’ery time.  Now it looked as if five of them loops was empty.  He didn’t say a word about it, but it done backed up the eerie feelin’ he’d been getting all night.
     “Thad rolled his smoke, lit it an relished it.  The smoke that drifted off the end looked like a thousand spooks set free after an ever an ever all kept up in some sort a jail.”
     Jenson, who had begun to dose, sat up and took renewed interest in the old timers story.  There was fire in the old cooks eyes now and everyone seemed to perk up a bit.

     “Thad looked all peaceful like while he sat there, an finally tossed the butt of his smoke inta the fire” the old man said.  “Then he looked over at his host an says, ‘Thank ya an’ the Missus fer that fine meal, ‘spose it’s time I get on down there an saddle up maself.’  Bertram says ‘acourse, acourse, it is getting’ on in hours’.  His old friend looked at him then an says, ‘Bert, it has been a pleasure.  Yer a good man’.  An with that he got up out his chair an headed out the door.”
Title: Re: A Camp Fire Tale
Post by: Leo Tanner on November 26, 2008, 01:18:29 AM
     Jensen whispered to his father, “They gonna have a fight, aint they Pa?”  The trail hand looked down at his son and shushed him.  He thought this was a good way to begin a drive.  Get the men used to little sleep before a day of hard work.  McCauley had his tricks to help the Boss and this was one of them.  And then he completed his story.

     “The girl started with her ponies hooves, digging out pebbles an what not.  Whilst she was workin’, Dickenson began talkin’ to her ‘bout his plan ta set up a fine ranch an how he was only sorry that it’d be missin’ a woman’s touch.  She began a dreamin’ of what that would be like, bein’ the lady of such a place.  His voice had worked it’s way deep in her head and soon she felt all, how ya say, transfixed an all.  She was no more thinkin’ of her little horse, jus’ how wunnerfull her life could be with this man.
    “Dickenson had played her like a fiddle, an he was ready ta seal the deal with this one.  The one he’d choosed fer himself long ago.  Then he herd the foot fallin’s comin’ toward the barn.  The girl heard ‘em too an’ popped awake right quick.  She figured it was Thad.  He always showed up at times like these, only this time she weren’t glad about it.  She wanted ta hear the new man’s voice some more an’ go back ta her dream.
     “The stable door opened an’ there he was.  But this time sumpthin’ was different.  In all the years, she never recalled him wearin’ the long black duster that was now draped over his shoulders, er seein’ his hat pulled down so low over his eyes.  This certainly weren’t how Thad looked when he had arrived that night.  ‘Well now’, he muttered quietly, but with directness, ‘Either you take me ta hell er I take you ta perdition.  Any which way the girl lives.  You’ve broke a million promises, an’ I’m keepin’ one vow.’
     “The girl was confused an backed against the rickety wall.  The flickerin’ lamp light seemed ta change both men.  Like they was growin’ taller an’ their shoulders was comin’ broader.  She watched them stare each other down.  Clay Dickenson become pert near the ugliest man she ever saw an’ ole Thaddeus seemed ta turn ta nuthin’ more than a shadow.  ‘The girl lives’  he said agin an both men drew on one another at that very second.
     “The two guns firing sounded like a thousand cannon ta the girl.  Couldn’t make heads ner tails of what was happenin’ ‘fore her very eyes.  They both slumped forward an began walkin’ to each other.  Dickenson were smilin’ an’ Thaddeus had the blankest look on his face the girl had ever seen.  They got close enough ta grab one another by the shoulders and once agin the young lady heard, ‘the girl lives’.  Then there was a horrible laugh from the other an’ the oil lamp exploded.  The hay caught an’ the old barn went up in a ball of fire an the girl ran fer the door.  She didn’t think she’d make it, but felt a push that sent her tumblin’ ta the ground just outside.  Girl got up an ran fer the house an’ her Pa
     “Sheriff ruled the whole mess an accident.  Girl didn’t have much ta say other than the stable lit fire an’ she ran.  Didn't speak much at all after that.  Group of men went out ta the ruins ta look fer bones ta give a proper burial, but nuthin’ was found.  That small burned up spot in the middle of 140 acres sat untouched an’ untilled fer a full four seasons.  Bertram had no interest in goin’ near it, it gave him the heebey jeebeys ta even look at it.  Then one spring mornin’ the girl broke her silence and woke him a yellin’, ‘Pa, Pa, look!’
     “Mr. Lengal walked ta the winder an saw what the fuss was about.  In that burnt up patch a ground a small field of wild flowers had done sprouted over night.  The girl grabbed a basket off the table an ran outside ta where the worst thing she would ever see in all her days had happened.  An’ she picked flowers.  Picked ‘em all day an’ put ‘em in that basket a hers.”  McCauley signified he was done by mearly turning and walking away from the group

     Jensen looked up at his father.  “That was a good ‘un” he said.  His father smiled down at him and said it was time for all good cow hands to get some sleep now.  Jensen smiled and asked, “Will there be another one tomorrow night?”
     “We’ll see son, we’ll see.”