Billy Oldham's War
Billy was walking home after a hunting trip when he heard the scream. He dropped the two rabbits he was holding in his left hand and gripped his rifle tighter in his right hand as he ran toward the sound. He had recognized his sister Charlene's voice and knew that she was in trouble. Charlene was noted for being able to take care of herself. After all, she was 13 years old and practically a grown woman.
He came over a little knoll and found Charlene lying on the ground, naked, with Charlie Hamilton between her legs with his pants around his ankles. Charlene was fighting like she really meant what she was doing, and she was yelling stuff like "GET OFEN ME, YA BASTARD!"
Charlie was holding Charlene's wrists with both of his hands. He was a foot taller than her and outweighed her by 75 pounds, but he could barely hang on. As a result, he was not having much luck with his aim at the other end.
Charlene saw help arrive and yelled, "BILLY, HE'S RAPING ME! HE DONE KILLED HIRAM!" Hiram was their older brother, at 17, and was the darling of the family. This news was enough to incense Billy—rape of his sister was bad enough, but the murder of his favorite brother was something that he could not live with.
In a fit of rage, Billy dropped his rifle and pulled out his hunting knife, the one with the eight-inch blade. His first thrust into the startled Charlie Hamilton was just below his rib cage in the back. The blade entered through the man's kidney and drove up through his diaphragm. Hamilton fell away from Charlene, but was a long way from dead. Billy continued his attack with a slash across Charlie's belly that opened it enough for the bowels to come spilling out. Charlie collapsed back enough for Billy to reach his throat with the knife, and that was the end of Charlie Hamilton's time on Earth.
"Are ya OK, Charlene? Where's Hiram?" Billy asked amidst his panting from the exertion and excitement.
"Yeah, I'm OK, now that ya took care of that bastard, Charlie Hamilton. Hiram's lyin' over there 'bout 50 feet." She pointed to some bushes, and Billy dashed to check on the validity of his sister's story. He found their brother lying in a pool of blood with the back of his head smashed in, apparently from a bloody stone lying nearby. As Billy expected, Hiram was without his pants.
Billy knew that Charlene was no longer a virgin, since he had seen her and Hiram heading for the barn for extensive visits on many occasions. Billy was not upset by this, as he expected to get his share of Charlene before too long. The woman was too interested in the male appendage to be satisfied with only one lover, and that was where Charlie Hamilton had made his mistake. He could easily have gained access to Charlene if he had only asked instead of forcing himself. Oh, well, the world is full of fools!
Billy helped Charlene slip on her dress, which was neatly placed on a bush near Hiram's body. She was now as fully dressed as she ever was, so she was now ready to help with Hiram's body. They planned to leave Charlie Hamilton's body where it was for the scavengers or his friends, whoever got there first.
Billy cut some poles to make a travois they could use to drag Hiram's body home. It was a good thing that Billy was as big and strong as he was, 5'-10" tall and weighing 168 pounds, none of it fat. Charlene carried his rifle and rabbits while Billy pulled the travois home over the hills and dells to the family cabin. Hiram was heavy enough that the travois left deep scruff marks in the ground as Billy dragged it, but there was nothing that could be done about that.
Anyway, that's how the feud started. Seth Hamilton found Charlie's body the next day and followed the ruts to the Oldham cabin. In a rage, he accused the whole family of murder. Seth took a wild shot at Abraham, Billy's father, but came no closer than about six inches to scoring a hit.
This all took place in the Alabama gold fields of 1849, before everybody skedaddled to California. The Oldhams and the Hamiltons both made a living off the gold that they could find. There was enough gold for a family to live on if they weren't too greedy, but nobody was going to get rich over what could be found.
Billy figured that he had better go visit the Hamiltons and explain what happened before the situation got out of hand. Billy, at 12, was now the eldest boy, so he was the obvious selection to make the trip. Since he was also the one who had broken up the rape and had killed Charlie, Billy seemed the logical one to tell what happened.
As soon as he entered the clearing in front of the Hamilton's cabin, Billy stopped and announced his presence. Before he could take a step, he was greeted by a shotgun blast! All of the shot missed, and probably would have done no real harm if it hadn't, since it was bird shot. Mrs. Hamilton had been the one to fire the shot, and she had simply grabbed up the first gun that came to hand. She also shouted, "DEATH TO THE OLDHAMS! WE'LL KILL YA ALL FER MURDERIN' CHARLIE!"
This was enough to convince Billy that he would not be a welcome guest at the Hamilton residence, so he left for home at a trot. He was about half way home when a shot rang out, and a rifle ball grazed his ribs. Now, that was down right unfriendly, so Billy dove to cover behind a convenient tree. He was carrying his own rifle. It was one of the newfangled kind with a cap instead of a flintlock, so he was ready to fire as soon as he drew the hammer to full cock.
He peeked around the tree and glimpsed Benjamin Hamilton madly reloading his rifle. This proved to Billy that the shot that had hit him was no accident, so Billy chose to retaliate. He cocked his rifle and estimated where he had to shoot to hit his quarry in the chest. Billy was an excellent marksman, so, when he fired, the rifle ball hit where he had desired, even though it did have to pass through some leaves between him and his target.
There was a grunt heard to come from the intended target, but no other sound was heard, so Billy assumed that he had only scratched his opponent. Billy hurriedly reloaded and looked for another assailant. Not spotting any, Billy hurried home to report the results of his trip.
As soon as Abraham heard Billy's report, he knew that a feud had been declared. Counting the parents, there were nine remaining Oldhams to stand off 11 Hamiltons. This count was based on including the women as well as the men. Of course, Benjamin Hamilton, was questionable at the moment.
All of Billy's siblings could shoot, though some would be using flintlock muskets, but that was a formidable force to reckon with. They had all been trained in what to do in the event of an Indian attack, so they were ready to treat the Hamilton's attack the same way. The first thing they did was to clear out all of the underbrush within gunshot range of the cabin. There were trees for attackers to hide behind, but no shielding bushes to let them sneak in too close to the cabin.
There was about three weeks of no activity from the Hamiltons, and the Oldhams wondered if the feud had been called off. Well, they got the answer to that when somebody took a shot at Sue Oldham as she was gathering eggs from the chicken house. Sue was only five years old, so the feud had taken a turn for the worst. Sue was not hit, but the terms of the engagement had been established.
Billy and his brother Edward were sent on a scouting expedition to the Hamilton's cabin. They got close enough to see John Hamilton, the father, and Seth Hamilton, the eldest son, loading several rifles. The two boys figured that this could only mean a concerted attack on their cabin, so they determined to put a stop to that idea right away. Billy fired at John, and Edward fired at Seth. Both scored hits. John was hit in the head, and it exploded when the .75 caliber ball made contact. Edward's shot was more conservative, and hit Seth in the chest, but the ultimate results were the same.
The two boys reloaded as quickly as they could and waited to see what might transpire. Mrs. Hamilton ran out the door and saw the two bodies. She then did what was probably her most stupid act of her entire life. She picked up one of the recently loaded rifles and took a shot at the cloud of powder smoke hanging over Billy and Edward. Both boys reacted just as their training had taught them: when somebody shoots at you, you must shoot back. Two .75 caliber rifle balls hit Mrs. Hamilton in the chest, and that was quickly the end of her sojourn on Earth. She was probably dead from hydraulic shock before she hit the ground.
The magnitude of their acts now registered with the boys, and they ran for home. They had not even taken time to reload, for which their father chastised them after they had reported in. Except for Benjamin and a couple of boys of essentially toddler age, there were no Hamiltons left except for girls. Nobody knew for sure what would happen now, but it looked like the feud was over for all practical purposes. If Benjamin were still alive, and that was doubtful, since no sign had been seen of him, then he would be too busy trying to provide for the remnants of his family to be interested in feuding. If Benjamin were dead, then the girls were going to need help, so they could hardly feud with the only people who were near enough to do them any good.
Billy felt bad about the whole thing, and none of the family could convince him that he had done nothing wrong. He moped around for the whole winter of 1849-50, and generally drove the rest of the family nuts. The only time he was anything like his old self was when he and Charlene spent some time in the barn.