Once again I owe a deep debt of gratitude to Blackrandi1958 for her editing and suggestions. Her assistance has made this a much better story.
Sixteen year old Seth Thomas stood with his arm around his weeping mother’s shoulder as the rail-thin preacher droned on and on with his sermon. Truthfully, Seth found it almost impossible to not join his momma in tears. His face looked like a thundercloud as he clenched his jaws mightily to keep from bellowing out his sorrow, also. The damn preacher had been hired to perform the funeral for the last remaining son of his mother (save for Seth) and her new daughter in law, not to preach about the sins of coveting your neighbor’s wife or those who lived by the sword dying by the sword.
True, those things did enter into the problems facing the now two-person family but only tangentially. Seth felt as if the preacher was looking deep into his soul when he stared at him and continued, “ ... we must remember, Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord. Sinners who break the commandments will be judged and punished by the Lord.”
Finally, after almost an hour and a half of preaching, the parson completed the funeral, and Seth guided his somehow frailer appearing mother toward the buckboard. She stumbled a few steps and stopped to look back at the two new graves. She whimpered when the gravediggers began throwing dirt into the holes containing the now lifeless bodies of his older brother and his wife.
It somehow didn’t seem right for Eli to survive the horrible civil war and die at the hands of a rapist while defending his new wife. Not right at all. Of course, Reed Samuels told a different story.
Seth remembered back to the evening before. Seth, his brother and his mother were talking in the kitchen about the next day’s work on their worn out farm when they heard a gunshot and Abigail scream. Eli took off out the back door of the old log cabin farmhouse, running as fast as he could. He was pulling his pistol as he went.
Seth ran into the front room and took his rifle off the hooks on the way past. He burst out the front door, also heading for the cabin his brother and sister-in-law shared. He heard another burst of gunfire and saw a shadow running across the barnyard toward the road. He fired a quick shot and saw the shadow fall, then rise and continue running away, but more slowly, limping as he ran.
Seth rushed into the cabin to find his brother lying on the bed cradling his dead wife and crying as his lifeblood bubbled out of his mouth and chest. He looked up at Seth and with his last breath said, “twere Reed. He done it.” Seth watched as his brother took one last breath and relaxed against the bloody bed, still cradling Abi in his arms. Seth then noticed the white discharge coming from Abigail’s pussy. Even in his anger and sorrow he blushed, seeing that which he was not supposed to see. He quickly covered her privates and turned in time to see his mother standing in the doorway, shaking with her tears.
Seth looked around the room and picked up Eli’s pistol. He placed it in his waistband, then began removing the holster for it from his brother’s body lying on the bed. After the holster was off Eli, Seth placed the pistol in it and began fitting the belt around his slightly smaller waist. He took care to properly settle the heavy rig. After the pistol was settled to his satisfaction, Seth walked over and picked up Eli’s rifle. The pistol and rifle had come home with Eli from the war. He claimed the Henry rifle and Starr DA pistol, both in .44 caliber, were the best weapons in the world. The Henry used the .44-40 caliber round, but the pistol was still cap and ball.
When Wilma, Seth’s mother, saw him taking up the weapons she grabbed him and said, “No Seth. Ya’re alls I got left now. Don’t do it.”
Seth gently took his mother’s hands off his arm and said, “All’s I’m gonna do is sic tha sheriff onta him Ma. We’ll let the law handle it if they will. If they don’t then I’ll take care of it.”
“Seth, ya knows Reed and his family are the top dog in the county. Twont do no good. Onliest ones more important than them is tha Ogles.”
“Well, we have to try, Ma. I will give the law a chance first but mark my words; Reed will pay for this one way or another.”
Seth rode into town and roused the sheriff from his sleep to report the murder and who did it. Like his Ma said, it didn’t do much good. The sheriff listened to Seth then said, “I’m sorry son but there is not much I can do. It will be your word against his, and his daddy is an important man. I will ask them about it but you know even if he did what you say he will not own up to it.”
“What about wounds on him. That should show he done it. Abi had skin under her fingernails, and I am sure I hit him as he was arunnin’ even if Eli didn’t get lead into him before he left the cabin.
After Seth helped his mother into the buckboard, he walked behind it to the other side and climbed up beside her. He picked up the reins and flicked them as he clicked at the old mare pulling the rig. They were driving through town headed toward their home when he saw Reed stagger out of the better of the three saloons in town. He saw them almost at once and stood grinning as they drove toward him. Seth saw a bandage on his right thigh and left side. There were scratches on his face. When they were almost even with Reed Seth heard him say “That was some good pussy boy. You ever get any of it?”
With an oath, Seth shouted, “Whoa” at the old mare as he pulled back on the reins. Before the buckboard stopped moving he bailed off and ran the two or three steps to Reed. Reed blanched when he saw him coming and fumbled for his pistol. He got it out of his holster just as Seth reached him. Seth drove his fist into Reed’s belly just before he crashed into his body. Reed grunted and fell backward, releasing his pistol as he did so. The pistol flew up into the air and landed in the dusty street under the buckboard.
Reed’s head hit one of the benches on the boardwalk in front of the saloon and there was a sharp crack. Seth landed on Reed and rolled off onto the boardwalk. He staggered to his feet and stood looking down at Reed, fists clenched for another blow. When Reed didn’t rise after being hit, Seth kicked him and said, “Get up and take your beating like a man you son-of-a-bitch.”
Reed didn’t move. He made no sound. By now a crowd had gathered and one of the bystanders bent down to check on Reed. The man looked up and said, “You done kilt him boy. Was I you, I would light a shuck afore the sheriff and his daddy hears about this.”
Seth stood for a moment, then walked quickly back to the buckboard, climbed in and drove away toward their ramshackle home. After they left the small town, Wilma turned to her youngest, and last, child. She said, “Well boy, you have done it now. We get home you need to pack up and light a shuck out of here like old Simpson said. It does not matter if he deserved it or not or if you killed him by accident or not. His daddy is going to come after you.”
“I cannot do that ma. What will become of you? I have to stay and take care of you.”
“No, you do not. I will go to your uncle’s farm and live. We will lose this little patch of ground but it is wore out anyway. Mayhap I can sell it. If not, we will just let her be. Now you best pack and light a shuck right quick like. You know Mr. Samuel’s temper and you done him and his wrong in his book, so he will be after ya soon as he hears. He most likely will have tha sheriff and a posse after ya, too.”
They pulled into the yard of their house as Mrs. Thomas finished speaking. Seth started to open his mouth and argue with his mother, but she cut in once again and said, “No sass now. Ya get Toby saddled and throw that ole pack saddle on the good mule,” as she jumped down from the buckboard and bustled toward the door of the house, heading for the kitchen.
“I’ll throw some grub inta a sack fer ya. Soon as ya git yer animals ready, ya come inta tha house fer some clothes and some more powder and ball. I’ll have what food there is ready fer ya by then.”
Seth sat for a moment and then flipped the reins and clucked at the horse pulling the buckboard. He guided the rig to the barn, unhooked the mare and led her inside the old log building. He gave her a quick rubdown and threw some oats and hay in the feed trough before he put her into her stall.
Seth quickly saddled their best horse, Toby, a beautiful 5-year-old sorrel stallion he raised from a colt. Abner, their young mule, gave him some trouble when he put the old packsaddle on him. He wasn’t used to being a pack animal and didn’t like the thought, apparently. Finally, Seth finished his work in the barn and led the animals toward the house.
When Seth walked into the small cabin, his mother met him near the door with a bag of food. She said, “Now you hustle up to tha loft and grab yer clothes while I put together some powder and ball.”
Seth made his way up the steep stairs to the loft where he still slept and grabbed his extra set of clothes and heavy coat. He also pulled the three blankets from his corn shuck mattress and picked up his ground cloth. He walked past his mother carrying the clothes and bedding, headed toward Abner.
While he was stowing his clothes on the packsaddle, his mother walked up with his bag of food and another bag of powder and one of shot. Wilma handed the bags of powder and shot to Seth first and said, “I put all the powder and lead in that I could spare, but you need to buy more as soon as you can. Your bullet mold is in there, too. Eli only had 23 cartridges fer tha Henry, and they’s all here with the two spare cylinders fer tha Starr,” she said as she handed him a belt pouch.
“I recon ya should convert the Starr to fire tha Henry cartridges soon’s ya kin. Eli allowed as how he thought it was a good idea, and he was agonna do it soons he had money ahead.”
Seth secured the ammunition to the packsaddle and reached for the bag of food. Wilma continued talking as Seth loaded the food. She said, “Ya got enough food there to last a week or more if ya hunt a mite. They’s some beans and meal along with some bacon, coffee, salt and flour. Didn’t have much coffee but what we had is there less enough fer me ta get by a day or two. Now ya get and write when ya can. Remember, son, don’t pull down on nobody ‘less ya aims ta shoot ‘em and stay on tha right side of tha law.”
Wilma turned away toward her small cabin. As she trudged toward the door she said, without looking back, “Now ya light a shuck and ride on out of here. I don’t want to lose my last son to no no-account dandy the likes of Saul Samuels.”
Seth reluctantly mounted his horse. He watched his mother take two more steps, then turned the horse away from the small cabin and headed up the ravine. He rode for several minutes before he got to his pa’s old still. He and Eli had been planning to repair it and go back into the ‘shine business. There were still several jugs of good ‘shine left stashed from when his father made his last run. He hadn’t known about them until a week before when they looked the old still over to see what would be needed to begin distilling once again.
Seth dismounted and managed to get six of the gallon jugs tied on Abner before he had to stop. He took one last jug to carry on Toby, looked around a moment longer then mounted up once more. This time, he headed cross-country in the general direction of “west” which was the only destination he had in mind at the present.
Seth hadn’t been riding long when a cool, strong wind blew up. There were dark clouds hanging overhead and obscuring the mountaintops. He soon felt moisture in the air and shivered as the thunder rolled across the now dark and dreary landscape. He wasn’t very poetic or even philosophical, but he did think the day was mirroring the sorrow in his heart from being forced to leave his home. He was not a mama’s boy, but he sure was going to miss that tough old woman.
He was careful to ride wide of Gatlinburg, the nearest town to his home, in order to stay away from Reed’s father and the law. He did stop on the crest of a small rise, hoping for one last sight of his hometown, but all he could see was the now steadily falling rain and the angry looking dark clouds. He knew he had to find shelter soon. He was already becoming uncomfortably cold, and knew he could die from hypothermia or a lightning strike. He was headed in the general direction of a cave most hunters in the area used during the cold months and rainstorms.
Finally, after another thirty minutes or so of travel, he found the cave. Luckily, when he dismounted and led his animals inside, he found sufficient dry wood to last the night. His first action was to start a fire, then he cared for his animals. After the animals were taken care of, Seth stripped off his wet clothes and donned his only other change of clothes. He draped his wet things over nearby rocks to dry while he prepared his supper.
The next morning, Seth brought in wood to replace what he burned before saddling up and moving on toward the “west” and his new life. Shortly after he began his trek away from the cave, he saw and shot a deer. He quickly dressed it and tied it onto Abner. He would stop a little early that evening, have a good meal, and dry some of the meat for later.
It took him two and a half days to travel the nearly fifty miles from his home to Knoxville, TN. He had never been to this town or any other one so large. He knew he must look like a country bumpkin as he rode through the streets, swiveling his head from side to side taking in the sights. Why there must be seven or eight thousand people living in this town.
Seth stopped in front of a general store, intent on replenishing his supplies before moving on. He first went into a saloon two doors down to get news of the trail ahead of him. Like most men, when he entered he stepped to the side and stood, letting his eyes become accustomed to the darker interior and to look the room over.
There were several men scattered around the room, drinking and talking. There were two tables with poker games in full swing. Seth walked up to the bar and ordered a beer when the bartender took his order. He stood leaning on the bar sipping his beer and asked the bartender if he had any news about the trail toward Nashville and Memphis.
As they talked, Seth caught movement out of the corner of his eye. He braced himself just as one of the rough looking men from farther down the bar slammed into him. Just before he bumped into Seth, the man said, “Get outen tha way, pilgrim. Ya’re in my spot.”
To the bully’s surprise, Seth, even though he was smaller, wasn’t pushed aside. As the power of the man’s shove dissipated Seth stepped into him and shoved him back. He then turned back to the bar and picked up his beer for another swallow. That infuriated the bully more and he reached for his gun as he said, “Ye damn tinhorn. Nobody pushes Jack Seivers around and gets away with it.”
Seth took a step back and turned to face the bully as he pulled his pistol. He was glad he had been practicing his draw. He felt Jack’s bullet tug on his coat just before he heard the roar of his shot. Seth gave Jack a double tap in the heart and stood watching as he fell to the floor.
One of the men Jack was drinking with reached for his pistol with a bellow and Seth fired once more striking him in the chest, also. The others raised their hands and slowly backed away before turning and leaving the saloon. Slowly, the other customers stood from the floor where they dropped at the first sign of gunplay. The noise and laughter resumed as the room returned to normal.
Seth quickly went through the pockets of the men he shot. He took the money he found and the money belt he found under Jack’s shirt, as well as their knives and other weapons. He was standing sipping on his beer when the Marshall came through the door.
After getting the story from witnesses, the Marshall walked up to Seth and said, “Well son, it appears ya was in the right here, but I want ya to move on. We don’t need gunslingers ‘round here.”
“I was planning to spend the night, buy some supplies and ride out in the morning if that is all right with you, Marshall.”
“No, ‘fraid that just won’t do son. Ya go ‘head an get yer supplies, then light a shuck outta here. If I see ya ‘roun here after two hours it’ll go rough on ya.”
“All right, Marshall. You’re the law.”
The Marshall followed Seth out of the saloon and into the general store. He watched as Seth ordered his supplies and loaded them onto his mule. Seth mounted Toby and headed out of town, once again heading west to his future.
It was almost two weeks before a tired Seth rode into Nashville. This time, before stopping at a saloon, he found a hotel and hired a room. After he took his belongings to his room, he took his animals down the street to a livery stable and arranged for them to be cared for and fed. He stopped in the saloon at the hotel for his beer and information. This was a real class joint. Most of the men in the saloon were in clean clothes, some wore suits and others higher quality pants and white shirts. Why they even charged 20 cents for a beer! Outrageous!
Seth drank his beer slowly as he listened to the conversation and made inquiries about the route to Memphis. After he finished his beer, he arranged for a bath in his room. After his bath Seth changed into clean clothes and went to the dining room for his evening meal. He was back in his room and was in bed just at full dark.
The next morning, Seth was the first customer for breakfast at the hotel dining room and was riding out of town as the sun came up. As usual, he was in no hurry. He allowed his horse to walk as he paid careful attention to his surroundings. Even in these modern times, it was all your life was worth to amble along inattentively.
It was nearing noon and Seth was having trouble staying awake in the heat of the late morning. In spite of the heat induced drowsiness, Seth forced himself to pay attention, to listen, and constantly moved his gaze over the terrain. Because of his care he spotted many things others wouldn’t. He noticed noises or lack of noise almost immediately with the change. He was well outside of Nashville when he heard the faint sound of gunshots coming from the direction of his travel. Seth urged his horse to move slightly faster and intensified his scanning of his surroundings.
After travelling about a half mile he saw a stopped wagon through the trees with several men surrounding it, some on horses, some standing. All held guns and were laughing as one held onto a spitting, screaming young lady and two others were throwing items out of the wagon. The man holding the woman had one arm around her waist and his other hand was squeezing her breast.
There were two men and a woman lying in the dust unmoving. Seth could not tell if they were dead or just injured. Seth counted six men total in the gang. He guided his horse off the trail into the woods, dismounted and ground hitched him. He pulled his rifle from the boot and checked the loads in it, then loaded the sixth chamber in his pistol.
Seth moved toward the stopped wagon carefully, searching for more men hidden in the woods as he went. He stopped about 100 feet from the wagon and found a good shooting position. He took a moment to plan his shots and even moved his rifle through the arc he intended to use as he actually fired.
Seth’s first shot took out the man holding the woman, then he moved on to the men still holding weapons. He had fired twice and hit two men before the remaining men began to move. He hit a third as he scrambled for cover. To his surprise, as soon as she was released, the woman grabbed a pistol from the holster of the man that had been holding her and began shooting at the men who had been going through her wagon.
The woman fired at the men in the wagon again and hit one of them. He fell with a scream and she calmly took careful aim and shot him again. The other man in the wagon rose up slightly to take aim at the woman and Seth managed to shoot him. He was still taking fire occasionally, from the remaining man. Seth moved slowly, carefully, circling around toward where he thought the last man was hidden. Finally, he saw the man move as he searched for sight of Seth. He snapped off a shot and was rewarded with a scream. The man lurched away from the tree he was hiding behind and the young woman fired at him. He grunted and fell to the ground.
Seth stood carefully behind a tree and said, “Ma’am, I think that was all of them. I counted six and we have shot six. Were there any more?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Ma’am, I mean ya no harm. I am coming in now if that is alright with you.”
“Come on in sir. I think I can trust you. And thank ya fer helping with these galoots. I was mighty afeared there fer a spell.”
When Seth walked up near the wagon he saw the dejected young woman kneeling beside the three people he had seen lying in the dust before he began shooting the bandits. She looked up at him with tears running down her cheeks and said, “What am I going to do now? They done kilt ma and pa and my brother. They are the only family I had. We were heading for Independence, MO, to hook up with a wagon train to Oregon. Now they are all dead and I have no way to support myself.”
“Well ma’am, I cannot properly answer that question for you but I can offer my help for now. As hot as it is, we surely do need to get yer kin buried real quick like. Do ya want to do it here or try to find a preacher to do the service up fancy?”
“I suppose we should just get to it. I do not have the money to pay a preacher or no undertaker. If you would be so kind as to dig the graves for me, I would be obliged.”
“Surely, ma’am.” Seth walked to the wagon and took a shovel from the side where it was racked. He moved away from the trail a short distance and began digging while the young woman took the valuables off all the bodies. She piled the belongings of the ones Seth killed separately from those of her family and the two she killed. After that task was completed, she began preparing her family for burial. That wasn’t much of a task since all she did was wash the blood off their bodies and straighten their clothes.
After the graves were dug and the bodies placed in them, the young woman stood gazing at her family for a moment. Finally, she said a short prayer and looked at Seth as she said, “Thank ya fer tha diggin’. Now, if ya would be so kind, could ya please finish and cover ‘em up?”
“Yes, ma’am. You just go on back to the wagon and rest a spell while I finish up here then we will try to find ya a town to settle up in until you decide what you aim to do now.”
After Seth finished covering up the graves, he took the shovel back to the wagon. The woman looked up at him when he returned and gave him a slight smile. She said, “Thank ya again fer yer hep. I fixed a bite of lunch and there is fresh coffee if you are hungry.”
“That I am, and much obliged, ma’am. It has been too long since breakfast, and some grub would go down right nice.”
After they finished their meal, the woman quickly cleaned up and loaded the wagon again. While she was doing that, Seth watered the horses. The woman watched him water the last one and then said, “I know I don’t have a right to ask, but could you ride along with me until we find someplace safe for me to stop? I’ll be happy to cook fer ya and share what grub I have ifn ya will.” She gasped and continued, “Oh, I am so sorry. I don’t know your name. I am Amanda Cooper. Folks usually calls me Mandy, though, and I would like it if you would, too.”
Seth smiled and said, “Good to meet you, Mandy. I am Seth Thomas at your service. Now, we best be on our way if you are ready.”
Mandy turned to the wagon and started to climb aboard. Seth quickly moved to help her, then he mounted his horse and they moved down the road, once again heading west.
Midafternoon, Seth was riding his horse beside the wagon and Mandy said, “Seth what am I going to do? Pa had a small stash and I took some money from those galoots what I kilt, but it will not last forever.”
“I do not know what to tell you, Mandy. I suppose you will do whatever you have to so ya kin live. That is about all any of us do. We find work we can do and work at it to build a life as best we can. If we are lucky we find someone to share the good times and bad with and raise a family.”
“I know that, but I have no skills. I was raised on a farm and all I know is cookin’, cleanin’ and caring for the garden and critters. Now I have no farm and no man to do the heavy work.”
“We will find something for you, Mandy. If ya are still set on going to Oregon by way of Independence, MO, though, ya will have to turn north, soon. I am not heading that way, at least now right now. I aim to go just straight west: maybe a little north of west as the trail takes me until I find someplace that feels right. Ya are welcome to travel with me ifn ya want, or ya kin stop any time it suits yer fancy.”
“Oh, thank ya, Seth. I will do that. I will cook and keep yer clothes clean until we part ways.” After that conversation, Seth heeled his horse and trotted off ahead of the wagon a small distance looking for a good place to stop for the night. He was careful not to get too far ahead of Mandy, keeping the wagon in sight at all times.
The days continued and all were of a sameness. They got up before the sun, ate, hitched and saddled, then traveled through the dry heat until time to stop once again for the night. Of course, from time to time they did travel through towns of varying sizes, occasionally stopping for supplies and news of the trail.
By the time they reached the Mississippi river they had settled into a routine and became very comfortable with each other. They spent one full day traveling north along the river, hunting a ferry to cross the river.
After they were across the river on the Arkansas side they angled a little more south in their travels but generally followed the trails that were easiest to travel on. It was well into the summer before they reached Little Rock, AR. They stopped for several days while they each looked over the town and Mandy looked for a job. Seth also made sure the wagon was in good repair, animals shod and tack repaired if needed. He purchased what supplies he thought he would need for his future travels. He also found a gunsmith who could convert his revolver to fire the same cartridges his Henry rifle used. These expenses took almost all his remaining cash. He did find a saloon owner willing to purchase 4 of the gallons of shine he still carried, so he had a small stash to use in the future.
When they were returning to their rooms after supper one evening after they had been in town for almost a week, Seth said to Mandy, “I need to be moving on, Mandy. I aim to leave tomorrow morning.” He opened her hotel room door and turned to hand her the key after he said that. She was standing with a shocked look, a scared look, on her face.
“All right. I understand.” She entered the room and turned, hand on the door, looked at Seth and said, “Good night Seth. I will see you in the morning before you pull out won’t I?”
“Of course, Mandy. We will have breakfast together one last time in the dining room.”
After she closed the door to her room, Mandy listened as Seth walked down the hall and opened his door in the room next to hers. She then moved slowly to the bed, and sat, almost collapsed, on it. She looked out the window at the dusk and bit her lip. She never lit the kerosene lamp in the room and sometime after full dark, she undressed and crawled into the lumpy bed.
Breakfast the next morning was subdued as the two young people tried to ignore the subject of moving on. Before Seth was even half done with his meal, Mandy stood and said, “Seth, you finish your meal. I have something I have to do.”
Seth rose like a gentleman as Mandy stood. He said, “Is there something I can help you with, Mandy?”
“No. well maybe, but I will talk about it with you before you leave if you will let me. I’ll meet you at the livery.” Mandy turned and hurried from the room. Seth resumed his seat and dove back into his breakfast, wondering what Mandy needed to do in such an all fired hurry.
The sun was still not up when Seth walked into the livery stable and began saddling his horse. He was surprised when he heard a wagon jingle into the street in front of the stable. He turned and saw Mandy sitting on the seat watching him. “Mandy! What are you doing here?”
She looked guilty and bit her lower lip before saying, “I am hoping ya will let me go along with ya again, Seth. I got nothing here and the only work I could find is not fit fer a decent woman. Ya do not mind if I travel a ways farther with ya, do ya?”
Seth smiled and walked up beside the wagon. He said, “No, Mandy. I do not mind at all. I will be glad for the company but, I have to tell you we are heading into some wilder country now. You need to be extra careful and keep your pistols close to hand.”
Mandy smiled and said, “Thank ya, Seth.” She flicked the reins on her team of mules and said, “Now get up. Let us get moving. We are burning daylight here.”
Seth smiled and followed along, riding beside Mandy as she guided the team and her wagon onto the street, once again heading west.
Over the next week, the trail became more difficult to navigate as they encountered some small hills and the local equivalent of mountains. They were headed in the general direction of Ft. Smith, AR, but Seth was still undecided on his final destination. They began hearing about Indians “on the warpath” and became even more careful during their travels.
After they crossed into Oklahoma at Ft. Smith, Seth turned more northerly, headed deeper into the Indian territories. He had no reason for that other than he thought the travel was easier and he heard of less danger from Indians there.
After several days of travel, Seth and Mandy were talking as they rode along. He said, “Mandy, this area isn’t at all like my old home in the Tennessee mountains, but it pulls at me. Many of these Indians around here were resettled here from back home and Alabama. They were forced to move here and followed what is being called the Trail of Tears. We have meet Creek, Cherokee and Osage Indians and have had no trouble from them. I’m thinking I might try to find me a place hereabouts and stay a spell.”
“It is a right nice country and there appears to be plenty of water, but what would you do?”
“Well, I don’t rightly know. Just settle in if the Indians will let me and go to farming I suppose. Indians have to eat just like white folks, and I bet they would trade for food.”
They rode along in silence for a few moments, Mandy worrying once again about what would happen to her if Seth stopped. She sighed and thought ‘he is the densest man I think I have ever met’.
Mandy was trying to decide what to say to Seth when they heard gunfire coming from ahead. Like an avenging angel, Seth heeled his horse and took off for the sound. Before he was out of hearing he yelled to Mandy, “Stop yer wagon on that there rise over there and take cover. Be sure ya have plenty of ammunition and weapons. I will be back when I see what is happening up ahead.”
Mandy turned the wagon off the trail and parked it under the only three trees on the rise. She laid out her weapons and extra ammunition, then settled down to wait for Seth, being as watchful as she could.
Seth soon arrived in the vicinity of the gunshots. There was a small group of Indian women and children with three young braves clustered together trying to fight off four whites on horses. Seth rode up close to the whites and started to ask why they were shooting at the Indians, when one of them took a shot at him.
Well, that made the decision for Seth. He quickly reined away from the confrontation until he came to a rock large enough to hide behind. He jumped from his horse, pulling his Henry as he did. He quickly took position and began firing at the men on horseback. He hit the first one he shot at, and missed the second. He winged the third one, but he wasn’t sure where. He saw him lurch in the saddle just after he fired, however.
With an oath the two uninjured men and the one he winged turned their horses toward him and came at a gallop. Seth continued firing, as did the horsemen. He shot the horse out from under the leader and was aiming at the other uninjured man when he was hit in his left forearm. He could no longer hold his rifle and fire, so he dropped it and pulled his pistol.
Two of the Indian braves began running after the men on horses. They were in range with their bows and arrows just as the uninjured man took aim at Seth. Seth shot and missed. An arrow fired by the leading Indian didn’t. The braves arrived and quickly pulled the injured man from his horse and subdued him. They then moved carefully to Seth.
Seth was worried. Back home he had played with Indian children when he was young and had noting against Indians per se, however, this was the West. Even though the “five civilized tribes” settled this part of the Territories, he didn’t know how they would treat him here and now.
One of the braves looked at Seth, then handed his bow to his companion and knelt beside Seth. He reached for his arm then hesitated and began to pull Seth’s shirt from his pants. As the shirt pulled out of his pants Seth screamed and doubled forward. Damn, his side hurt! Until that moment he hadn’t realized he was shot in the side, also.
The Indian grunted and nodded to his companion who took off for the small group they had been defending. When he was partway there he yelled in Cherokee, and two of the women moved toward him at a run. Seth was surprised he understood most of what was said.
Through his pain, Seth said, in Cherokee, “My woman waits there,” and gestured toward where he told Mandy to stop.
The Indian grunted once again and said, “Our medicine woman will help, then we will take you to your woman. Why did you help us? What are you doing in our land?”
“You needed help so I helped. I am looking for a home and am traveling until I find a place I like.”
The Indian tensed at that statement and said, “You would take Cherokee land? This was given us in treaty.”
“No, no. I would take nothing from any man, white or Indian if it was not freely given. I had not thought of taking land here. I only told you what I was doing traveling through here.”
The Indian relaxed once again then said, “I am called Wolf Killer.”
Seth smiled and said, “I am Seth Thomas. When I was young the Cherokee called me Fish Catcher.”
“You were friend of Cherokee?”
“Yes. In Tennessee we lived near many Cherokee and called them friend. We traded and helped as needed.”
“Is good. We have some here from your Tennessee. You and your woman must come to our camp while you heal.”
The women had by that time done all they could for Seth’s wounds. One of the young boys caught Seth’s horse and led him to him. The Indians helped Seth climb onto the rock, then mount Toby. They caught the three living horses from the white attackers and took what they wanted from the bodies. When Seth turned toward where the wagon was supposed to be, all the Indians followed along.
Mandy was scared when she saw Seth slumping in the saddle, heading toward her surrounded by Indians. She didn’t know what to do. Should she shoot? Was he a captive? Were they coming for her now? Finally, she stood and held her pistol at her side as she watched the group ride up.
She saw Seth was injured and quickly put her pistol in the holster. She rushed to him and said, “Damn you, Seth, I told you to be careful. What would I do if you got yourself killed? Let me see your wound.”
The Indians who understood English laughed when they heard her. She helped Seth down and quickly made him a bed under the trees in the shade. To her surprise, the Indians set up a camp nearby. The Indian women immediately began building a fire and preparing a meal while she checked Seth’s wounds. Luckily, both bullets were through and through. The shot in his side was barely under the skin in the meat and did not hit his intestines.
Mandy cleaned the wounds again and worked some of Seth’s white lightning into them. After Mandy finished with him, Seth carefully lay down leaning partially on a down tree trunk while he watched the activity around him. Slowly, most of the Indian braves moved over and sat nearby. Wolf Killer sat the closest to him, and they occasionally spoke to each other. They knew some of the same people, so a tentative friendship developed because of that and because of the help Seth gave them earlier that day.
For two days Seth convalesced and the Indians camped. Then, on the third morning, Wolf Killer told Seth over breakfast, “We will return to our village today, since we have killed enough game and gathered enough food. Will you come with us?”
“Yes, my friend. I long to see people from home, perhaps to even see someone I knew from there.”
It was a full days travel to the camp and part of the second one. When they arrived Seth was impressed. There was a bustling little village with, perhaps, 150-200 people living and working in it. They called it by the name of a Creek town from northern Alabama from which most of the residents came. The town’s Creek name was Rekackv (pronounced thlee-Kawtch-kuh), meaning broken arrow. (The new Creek settlement was located several miles south of present-day downtown Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.)
Seth found himself relaxing and content, living with the Indians. The land was nothing like that in eastern Tennessee, but it was somehow pleasing to him. He felt no urge to continue his trek west, yet he was unsettled. One morning, as she was checking his wounds, Seth reached out and ran his hand over Mandy’s face. She stopped and looked at him, partly with shock, partly with hope then pressed her cheek to his hand, capturing it against her shoulder.
Seth sighed and said, “I am going to miss you so much when you find what you are looking for and leave me. You and your help has come to mean more to me than you can ever know, Mandy.”