View Full Version : Return to Ballyickeen - Final Two Chapters

08-08-2012, 11:41 PM
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Because when we left Boston for Ireland, I had little reason to believe I'd ever see it again, it made sailing back into the Boston harbor a very special moment indeed. As the crew began unloading the cargo, I shook hands with Captain Gage.

"Captain, as promised, I'll have the papers drawn up giving you total ownership of the Galway. After it's recorded, I'll leave it with Cohen. You can pick it up there. Take good care of her. She's a fine ship."
"Thank you sir," he replied. "Never will I be able to thank you enough for this."
"No Captain," I answered back. "It's I that will forever be grateful. There are some ship Captains that would have left me to my fate in Ireland. You placed loyalty and honor above greed. That makes you a man worth having for a friend. It will take me a couple of days to take care of business before leaving for home. Perhaps I'll see you again." We shook hands again, and soon I found myself entering Cohen's Pub once again.
Cohen spotted me before I ever sat down at my table. He finished taking care of a customer, then hurried over. "Well, you've made it back Sean. I had grave concerns that we might never see you again." Then he smiled. "And look at you now. You've done away with the beard."
"Yeah, it served it's purpose, so I got rid of it on the voyage back. Is Chet Wilson still around?"
"That he is," Cohen responded. "He's working at the newspaper. I expect you will be seeing him shortly. He has been paying several boys to take turns watching for the Galway."
Cohen's expectations proved to be accurate, for in no more than a couple of minutes, Chet came bounding thru the door and walked over to my table. "Welcome back Sean. Cohen kept telling me not to count on your return, but I told him that you would be back." Chet lowered his voice. "So, did you do what you set out to do?"
Both Chet and Cohen leaned closer to hear my reply. "That I did. That account is settled."
Chet grinned and said, "Well, when we have the time, I want to hear all about it. When do we leave for Colorado?"
"Whoa lad," I replied. "You have a good job here, are you for sure you want to go to Colorado and start over from scratch? There are no fancy restaraunts, nor any fine pubs like this one to spend time with your friends in. For me, it's a great place to live, but I have to warn you, it's also a land where hard work is a part of daily life, and danger, a constant companion."
His eyes were gleaming as he said, "Don't try and discourage me. You wouldn't let me go with you to Ireland. Well, I'm going to Colorado. If you won't let me ride with you, I'll just follow, but I am going."
Cohen brought our drinks and set them on the table. When I tried to pay, he put up his hand. "No Sean, tonight, your food and drink are on the house. After what you have done, it's well deserved." Then he moved away to take care of another customer.
After taking a drink, I looked at Chet. "If your mind is dead set on going, you should be getting your things together. I have a couple of things to tend to, and I intend to be on my way home in a day or two. What about your job? Won't you be leaving them in a bind leaving this quickly?"
"No," he replied. "I made it clear from the start that when you returned, I'd be leaving with you, so they have been expecting it." Chet's eyes widened. "Say, I almost forgot. You can close the account of Ben Ruppert also. His body was found alongside the road. Looked like he had camped for the night, and some outlaws probably spotted his camp fire. Looked like they robbed and killed him. There wasn't any sign of his wife. Nobody knows if she left him, or if the outlaws took her."
Thinking back to all Ruppert had done to me, I couldn't help but feel a little satisfaction that he had finally paid for his evil ways. "I suppose he got what he deserved, but I hope his wife was gone before they killed him. She deserved better after putting up with him all those years."
After Cohen took our food order, I said, "I gave you a job to do while I was gone. Tell me about it."
"Well sir, I couldn't find any one farmer that could spare that many cows, but I put together a group of them, each providing what they could. They were all happy to see cash money, and the Mohegan people were well fed during the winter." Chet looked a little sheepish. "Sean, I don't mind telling you that I was more than a little nervous riding into that Mohegan village. I know you told me that they were peaceable, but I kept wondering if I would ever ride out again."
"Did you talk to Tiganche?"
"Yes, I did. You know, he's really an impressive man. I gave him your message, and he was really happy to hear that his daughter was well. You should have seen his eyes light up when I told him that he was a grandfather. He said that if you returned from Ireland, he would like for you to come see him on the trip back home. Tiganche wants to thank you for keeping his tribe from going hungry, and wants to hear more about your life in Colorado."
Nodding my head, I replied. "I do want to see him again. Mariska will feel better if I can say that I've seen her father with my own eyes, and that he is well."
After having been on the ocean for so long, it really felt strange to be sitting in a chair and feeling no movement. In a few minutes I saw Cohen start our way with our food. "Well, I have business to take care of today. Meet me tomorrow morning, and we will go over what you will need to take on the trip west." As Cohen began setting the plates on the table, I rolled up my sleeves. "For now, let's eat."

On the second morning after my return, we said our farewells to Cohen and Captain Gage. Then we mounted our horses, and with a packhorse in tow, rode off with the rising sun at our backs. For better than two hours, we rode thru rich farmland with a clear blue sky over our heads. Then, our trail led up into some rolling hills, with mixed stands of Maple and Oak trees on both sides. It was there that I started Chet's education on the things he would need to know in order to stay alive on the frontier.
We were riding side by side when I said, "Listen."
I saw his eyes moving from one side to the other as he followed the sounds around us. "What am I supposed to be listening for," he asked.
"For just what you heard. The sound of the birds and animals around us. No matter how much you learn, you will never be able to hear, smell, or see danger as well as the wildlife around you. You should depend upon their eyes and ears even more than your own. When the sound suddenly stops, or you see animals acting erratically, that's a sign that there is some sort of danger around. It may or may not be a danger to you, but if you are smart, you will react as if it were. Careful men stay alive longer where we are going."

08-08-2012, 11:42 PM
After another fifteen minutes passed, I grabbed Chet by the arm. "Could you find your way back to Boston if I died or ran off?"
"Well, sure. I'd just follow this trail right back."
"Yes, but where we will be going, often there is no trail. You must develop the habit of looking back over your shoulder regularly. The country looks entirely different going one way than it does when riding in the opposite direction. Keep checking your back trail and you will learn to spot the landmarks that will guide you back. Besides that, if someone is trailing you, you will never know it, if you are only looking ahead."
Chet shifted in his saddle, and eagerly said, "Thanks. Tell me more!"
"No," I answered. "This isn't something you can just rush thru. Best you spend some time thinking about what I said. Imagine yourself in tough situations and think about how those things might help you. We've got a long way to go. I'll tell you more as I think you are ready to absorb it."
As the day passed, we rode mostly in silence. I wanted Chet to be learning to pay attention to the world around him, not focused on listening to his or my voice. Late in the afternoon, we found the trail leading into a stream that would have to be crossed. Pointing at the sky, I said. "Looks like the sun is getting low in the sky. We should pick out a good place to stop."
Chet looked around and said, "How about that open spot right there right in the middle of those trees? Looks like a good spot to camp tonight."
"What about that stream ahead of us?"
Chet could see that I was testing him, and his irritation showed. "What about it? We just cross it in the morning."
"You're right," I replied. "Under today's conditions, that's probably not a problem. The thing of it is, you need to develop good habits. By always doing the right thing, it cuts down on sloppy mistakes. If you are in the rainy season of spring, or in an area where flash floods are common, you might wake up and find that peaceful stream has turned into a deep and wide torrent that can't be safely crossed. It could be days or in some places, weeks before you could cross. Always cross first, then make camp."
After we crossed the stream, Chet picked out a good spot to stop, and we set up camp and cooked supper. While we ate, at Chet's urging, I finally told him all about what had happened in Ireland.
"Sean, I sure wish I could have gone with you," he said.
"Chet, I wish that I would not have needed to go. That would mean my cousin Grady would still be alive. Maura and his kids would still have a husband and a father, and I would not have had to leave my family. By the time we get there, I will have lost at least a year and a half of watching my boys grow. Don't get the idea that this was some great adventure. It was serious business. I am lucky to be alive. One mistake, one chance happening, and I never see my family again."
Looking a bit embarassed, Chet said, "Yeah, I know. I've just never done anything like that."
"Let's hope you never have to."
After we finished eating, I told Chet. "Let's get everything cleaned up and back on the pack horse. We need to find our campsight for the night."
He looked puzzled when he inquired. "Why don't we camp here? It's a perfect spot."
"It is a good spot. No doubt about it. However, you have to assume that there are hostile Indians or outlaws in the area, whether they are or not. Always stop early and have your supper. Then move on down the line a good ways, and camp for the night off the trail, and with no fire."
Later, after we found our campsite for the night, I told Chet to sleep on one side of the horses, while I slept on the other. In the unlikely event we were found, it would make it harder for someone to sneak into our camp or to steal our horses.
"As I lay looking up at the stars, waiting for sleep to come, I heard Chet say, "Sean, do you think I'll ever learn all this?"
I waited a few seconds before answering. "Well Chet, one things for sure. If you don't, you won't live long. Goodnight."

08-08-2012, 11:44 PM
There was a cool afternoon breeze in the air as we rode thru the gates to the Mohegan compound. Someone had obviously alerted the tribe of our coming, for the entire village was gathered together, with Chief Three Feathers, and Mariska's father, Tiganche, standing at their front.
Chet and I dismounted and faced Three Feathers and Tiganche.
"Welcome." said Three Feathers. "It does our hearts good to see both of you again."
"It is good to be among my Mohegan friends again," I answered. "Always I have remembered how kind the Mohegan people were to me when I first came among you."
Pointing to Chet, Tiganche spoke. "That was clear to us when you sent this one to us to inform us that we would be getting beef to help us thru the winter. Our people will never forget what you have done."
"The words of Tiganche warm my heart, but it was just one winter. The same problems will return this year as always."
Tiganche nodded in agreement, then responded. "This is true. However, what you did gave some of our people another year of life. That will always be a remembered gift among us."
Three Feathers pointed to the people standing behind them. "As you see, our people are eager to see and talk to you again. However, you have come a long way, and need to rest. I have ordered a celebration feast tonight. There you will have plenty of time to meet everyone again. In the meantime, I'm sure your father-in-law wishes to hear about his daughter and grandson. Put your things in the visitor's lodge, then join Tiganche in his lodge for awhile. We will talk more tonight."
We unsaddled our horses and put our things in the lodge used for visitors. Then Chet took our mounts and the pack horse out to the two Mohegan boys who were responsible for guarding the tribe's herd. Our horses were turned loose to graze with the Mohegan horses for the remainder of our stay.
When I knocked on the door of Tiganche's lodge, his voice answered, "Come in."
When we stepped inside, my father-in-law motioned for us to sit down. As my eyes swept the inside of the lodge, it seemed as if nothing had changed in the years since I was here last. Then, in the back of the lodge, I saw movement, and then it was clear that one thing had changed. A pretty young girl was walking toward us carrying food. After she set the food down, Tiganche nodded to her, and she left the lodge.
Taking note of my curiosity, Tiganche said, "That is Two Falling Stars. She is my wife. The way he said it left me with the feeling that it wasn't something he was particularly excited about. "Everyone kept telling me that I needed a wife to help take care of my lodge and cook for me. Finally I decided they were right. I gave Pony That Sleeps, two blankets and my best horse, and he let me speak to his daughter about marriage." He grimaced, and continued. "She works hard, and as you can see, she is pretty. However, she is a child, and has a child's mind. She never stops talking, so she has nothing of consequence to say. Mariska and her mother were wise beyond their years, and knew how to listen. I miss the wise counsel they gave me on days when I was troubled."
In the Mohegan culture, it was considered a bad thing to speak of the dead. To me, Tiganche's reference to his dead wife was a clear indication of the level of his unhappiness.
"But, enough of that," he said. "Talk to me of Mariska and my grandson. My heart was glad when this young man told me that my daughter was doing well, and that she had made me a grandfather. I would hear more."
We talked for better than an hour, then I told Chet, "We need to return to our lodge and rest. This celebration will probably run late into the night, maybe even into tomorrow." Tiganche thanked us for joining him, for our talk of his family, and said we would talk more at the celebration.

That night, as I looked at the excitement in Chet's eyes, I thought back to my own excitement the first time I experienced one of the Mohegan celebrations. It was certainly an exciting sight to behold. With the sounds of the singers and drums in the background, everyone in the tribe stopped by to talk, almost all of them bringing lots of good food to sample. During all this, for hours, the singers and dancers told the stories from the Mohegan legend and history. Some of those stories were probably from many centuries before we were born. Stories of the wisdom of Mohegan leaders. Stories of courage in battle of Mohegan warriors. Late into the night, I heard the story of my rescue of Grey Fox, whom I found with a broken leg and other injuries while on a hunting trip. That was followed by the story of my ambush of the men that came to kill Mariska.
After the celebration finally died down, we returned to our lodge to rest. As we waited for sleep to find us in the dark, we could hear the sound of the last stragglers making their way to their homes. Chet's voice came out of the darkness. "Was that true Sean? Did you really hang two men?"
"It's true," I responded. " Those two men had kidnapped Mariska once before, and killed her mother. They were coming back for her again. I was glad to hang them."
"Well," he answered. "Listening to them tell the story, it's for sure the Mohegan's thought it was a great thing."
"They didn't tell all the story Chet. There was a third man riding with those two that day. There was no time for questions. I killed the third man before he had a chance to either attack or run away. Before I hanged the other two, one of them told me that the man I killed had just joined them on the trail and was only riding with them for safety. He claimed that the third man was not connected to them in any way." I let Chet think about that for a few seconds, then continued. "He said that I had killed an innocent man."
The night was filled with a few seconds of deafening silence before Chet spoke. "Wow. Did you ever find out if he was innocent or not?"
"No," I answered. "Don't suppose I'll ever know the answer to that."
"Does that bother you a lot Sean?"
"Overall, I made peace with myself over that issue. My first priority was to protect Mariska. Had I done anything other than what I did, I might have been killed, and Mariska too. Still, I wake up now and then wondering about it. I suppose I probably always will. If there is a heaven, or a happy hunting ground, maybe I'll run across him after I die, and find out."

For three memorable days, we talked and traded with Tiganche and the Mohegan people. When the time came for us to gather our gear, say our good-byes, and saddle up, there was a lot of sadness in the village, and more than a little of it was our own.
As we made our final waves at the village and headed west, sadness began to fade as the excitement began to build over seeing my family again after being away for so long.

As we slowly walked out horses to the house, the sun still liked an hour or so clearing the mountain peaks, but it's morning light was already filling the sky. Two squirrels were chattering away in the Pine trees off to my left, while I heard the sound of a trout jumping in the stream to my right. Both were sounds that tugged at my heart. Judging by the smoke coming out of the chimney, somebody was hard at work cooking breakfast. We dismounted, tied our horses to the hitching rail, then walked quietly to the door.
Slowly, I eased the front door open and said, "Excuse me. Could a passing stranger get a cup of coffee here?"
The shock of seeing me suddenly standing in the doorway, seemed to freeze them in place. I looked at Chet, and said, "Guess this was a bad idea, coming up on these folks sudden and all. Guess we better get on down the trail."
Then about a second and a half later, I was knocked to the floor by the onrushing tandem of Mariska and Senta, who were soon followed by Chance and Patrick. After a bit I heard Dover's voice saying, "unless ya'll want to smother him to death, you might want to let him get some air. Be a shame for him to come all the way from Ireland and then die right in his front room.

08-08-2012, 11:51 PM
After we got back on our feet, I was bombarded with questions until I held up my hands, signaling a halt. "I have about a thousand questions for you all too, but first I want you to meet someone. Pointing to Chet, I said, "Chet Wilson, meet my wives, Mariska and Senta. The two young'uns are my sons Chance and Patrick."

Dover quickly spoke up. "The oldest boy's correct name is Chance Dover. Probably destined for great things I should imagine."
Laughing, I said, "and this, is Dover. No last name, just Dover. Best friend a man ever had." Looking at Dover, I smiled. "You must be showing your age Dover. I can remember when you would have spotted me before I got anywhere near the cabin."
He walked over to the fireplace and refilled his coffee cup. "Well, you caught me at a weak time. When Mariska's coffee is brewing, it's hard to think about anything else. Had you rode up an hour later, I'd have parted your hair with a bullet before you cleared the canyon yonder."
Mariska said, "Sit down and we will have breakfast ready in a minute and then we can catch up on everything." Senta filled two cups with coffee and brought them to Chet and myself. She smiled shyly when I saw her hands were trembling. "I'm just so excited Sean. I was so afraid I'd never see you again."
I kissed her and said, "Well, I'm here, and you can stop worrying. Now, why don't you go over there and take over the cooking for Mariska for a bit?"
Hearing my words, Mariska turned and looked at me with a puzzled face. "Why can't I finish cooking?"
"Because I wanted to show you a present I brought for you." Looking at Chet, I said, "How about bringing Mariska's present in?"
Chet walked to the door, stepped outside and waved. Ten seconds later, Tiganche stepped inside.

For a second, I thought Mariska was going to faint. Then she screamed "Father!," then ran and threw herself into his arms. After a couple of minutes, she turned with tears running down her face. "Sean, how???"
"Well, Chet and I stopped by the village on the way back so that I could tell you how your father was doing. The more I talked to him the more I realized just how unhappy he was that he couldn't see you, and I knew that it was hard on you never getting to see him. So, I finally talked him into coming for a visit. He's going to stay at least until next year. If he wants to go back next spring, Chet will take him. If he wants to stay, he's more than welcome."
Tiganche's face was impassive, but his eyes were twinkling when he said, "Perhaps it's time for a change. This is good country. Maybe I will stay."
Grinning, I asked. "But Tiganche, what about your pretty young wife?"
Mariska's head snapped about and looked at her daddy with an amused expression. "Pretty young wife Father?
"I traded her back to her father before we left. She makes too much noise, and too little sense."
Senta called out, "Your breakfast is going to get cold if you don't sit down here."
We all gathered around the table, with Senta and Mariska seated on each side of me. Tiganche had Chance and Patrick sitting next to him on either side. Looking over at his daughter, he said, "Mariska, your husband is a fine man. You chose well."
Staring at me, she answered. "Yes I did". She reached over me and grabbed Senta's hand. "As did Senta."
Dover took a sip from his coffee cup, then looked across the table at me. "Now, all this happy stuff is fine, but what I need to know, is how long before you take off on some other adventure leaving me here to contend with these women? I bet the aggravation has taken five years off my life."
Before I could open my mouth, Senta spoke up. "Oh Dover, just shut up. Mariska and I pampered you to death, and you know it. Besides, Sean's not going anywhere."
Mariska smiled, and said. "In fact, nobody is going anywhere. This is home, and everybody is staying."
The End.

08-09-2012, 12:41 AM
:DI am cheering at the end of this wonder story Barnburner, it been a wonderful read and a terrific ending. Well done on such a brilliant story:)

08-09-2012, 05:22 AM
:DI am cheering at the end of this wonder story Barnburner, it been a wonderful read and a terrific ending. Well done on such a brilliant story:)

Thank you so much Katie. I truly appreciate that. Actually I had an entirely different ending in mind until I reached the last two chapters. Then I realized it just wasn't going to work well, so I had to come up with a new idea, and I think this ending was better. :) :)

08-09-2012, 09:35 AM
Barney, what a fantastic story and great ending, I sure wish my mother in law would agree with us to let us buy her an e book but she is so stubborn, she is 93 yrs, but she would love your stories, as she is an avid reader, thanks so much for sharing, and do love your illustrations

08-09-2012, 01:57 PM
Barney, what a fantastic story and great ending, I sure wish my mother in law would agree with us to let us buy her an e book but she is so stubborn, she is 93 yrs, but she would love your stories, as she is an avid reader, thanks so much for sharing, and do love your illustrations

Many thanks Pat. Your kind comments and support are truly valued by me.
I know what you mean about your mother-in-law being stubborn. My Mom and stepdad were probably the last human beings in America to still be using a rotary telephone hanging on the wall. We finally bought them a cordless phone to keep in the bedroom so they wouldn't have to run for the phone in the kitchen and maybe fall. My mother never would use it. If it rang, she would take it to my step dad at the other end of the house and give it to him. She wouldn't even answer it. :) :) :)

08-09-2012, 02:11 PM
That is so funny Barney, we went thru the same thing with a phone with her also, her phone that she had was one from the 60's we paid over a 100.00 dollars on a new one for her and it is still in the box, that was 3 yrs ago lol