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Thread: Return to Sender - Chapter 5

  1. #1
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    Return to Sender - Chapter 5

    Chapter 5



    Three days later, while it was still daylight, I stopped beside a small creek and built a fire for my evening meal. I had just finished my supper, and was preparing to put out the fire and move on for a few miles before making camp for the night, when three men on horseback appeared on the small hill just to the south of my location. The man in the middle called out, "Hello the camp. We are peaceable, and looking for coffee. Mind if we ride in?"
    My rifle lay beside me. I reached over and pulled back the hammer. Then loosened the pistol in my belt, and said, "Come ahead." While they were probably as well intentioned as they suggested, men that blindly accepted words without preparing for dishonesty, often ended up in a grave before their time.
    After they rode into my camp and dismounted, they walked on over to my fire. The tall one was the rider that had called out. "Howdy. I'm Ben James. These are my partners. The gent on my right with the big mustache is Sam Elgin. The little guy on my left, we call Skeeter. Far as I know, he doesn't have another name."
    Pointing to the coffee pot on the fire, I answered. "Well, go ahead and sit down. Coffee is hot. I just had one cup, so there should be enough to go around."
    As they enjoyed their coffee, James inquired, "So you headed west, or back east?" We are hunting buffalo ourselves. Didn't have much luck where we were. We saw signs that a large herd was headed sorta north east. Figured we would see if we could catch up to them."
    Keeping my plans to myself, I answered. "On my way to Louisville from Colorado. Going to visit an old girl friend. Hoping to see if I can talk her into coming west with me. Figure on starting a trading post somewhere around South Pass."
    The three of them looked at each other and smiled. "Afraid you are a bit late," replied the little guy called Skeeter. There's been a trading post there for two, three years now."
    I shook my head in mock disgust. "Well now, don't that beat all? Anyway, that girl is mighty pretty, so it won't be a wasted trip."
    As he emptied the coffee pot into his cup, Ben James looked back at me. "If you are headed for Louisville, ain't you sorta taking the long way around?"
    "Reckon I am", I answered. "I scouted this area for a wagon train once, and I knew there would be better grass and more water for my horse in Nebraska than there would be if I cut right across Colorado."
    "Makes sense," James agreed. He appeared to start to say something else, when his eyes caught sight of the hammer cocked to fire on the rifle that lay beside me. After taking a couple of sips of coffee, he looked at his companions, and said. "Well, let's go boys. Let's put a few more miles behind us before turning in for the night." Turning to face me, he said, "Say, you never did say what your name was."
    I looked surprised. "Well, I'll be.... I don't guess I did, did I?"
    When I didn't say anything else, a bit of a grin showed on his face. "Real careful feller ain't you? Well, don't guess I blame you. Feller traveling alone and all." As they mounted their horses, James pointed off to the east. "We'll likely cross trails again since we are headed that a way. Maybe we can return the hospitality." Then they rode off as the sun was preparing to set.
    While I had no reason to believe they were dishonest men, my instincts were whispering that I should not trust them. A man on the frontier that doesn't pay close attention to his instincts probably won't last long, so I listened, and listened close. On the chance that they might be waiting for me when night fell, I headed south for a few miles and set up camp in the dark.
    The next morning, I waited for the sun to come up before starting a fire, then brewed up some coffee, and warmed some jerked buffalo meat for breakfast. After breaking camp, I returned to my original direction of travel. As it turned out, that afternoon I did cross the path of the three buffalo hunters about an hour after noon. I found them laying dead among the tall grass. They had been scalped, and their rifles and horses stolen. This was Pawnee country. They didn't take kindly to anyone crossing their country, be they Indian or white. They especially didn't like buffalo hunters coming into their territory and killing off the buffalo that their people depended on for life. These three men had discovered the depth of the Pawnee anger, but would never have an opportunity to learn from it.
    The signs indicated that the Pawnee had headed off in a north westerly direction. Climbing back into the saddle, I continued riding east, leaving the bodies where they lay. Some folks back east would be upset that I didn't take the time to give those men a proper burial. However, staying there long enough to put those fellows in the ground could be the difference in life or death for me. Lots of good men and women died out in this country for one reason or another and never got put in the ground. Near as I could tell, it didn't make much difference.
    In the eastern part of Nebraska, I ran across an army fort. Knowing that travelers were usually welcome to spend the night behind the fort walls, I decided to take advantage of the chance to get some hot food and sleep without having to keep my senses alert for every sound.
    I was almost finished with my supper when a tall broad shouldered Sergeant by the name of McClellan found me. "The commanding officer would be having a word with you when you finish your chow. It's himself that you will be finding in his office over by the flag pole."
    The Major was waiting outside his office when I arrived. He was sitting in a chair on the porch enjoying the evening solitude. Pointing to the chair beside him, he said. "Sit down, I'm Major Elliot. I understand you just rode in from the west. We don't have near enough troops to properly patrol the area we are responsible for, so I try to talk to travelers to widen our knowledge of what's going on around us. Did you have any trouble along the way?"
    "Well, I did run across a little. By the way, I'm Sean Eaton. My family and I live along the front range in Colorado. I'm headed back east to take care of some family business." Then recalling his question, I continued. "A few days back three buffalo hunters stopped in my camp just before dark. Altho I didn't care for the way they shaped up, I shared my coffee with them. My guess was that they intended to kill me and take what I had, but when the leader saw that I was prepared and not a helpless pilgrim, they rode out. The next day, I found them dead and scalped. Figure it was probably the Pawnee. They don't take kindly to having their buffalo killed off."
    Major Elliot replied. "Officially, I am outraged at this killing. Privately, I'm of the opinion that those men got what they deserved. Those buffalo hunters do more to rile the tribes up than anything else. If they just killed the buffalo, it might not be quite as bad. But, time after time, some of those men have kidnapped, abused and killed their women too. I'll deny ever saying this, but, if I was an Indian, I'd be looking to kill those men too."
    Looking the Major in the eye, I smiled and said, "Major, I tend to agree, with whatever it was that you just never said."
    The bugle blew the warning for the lowering of the flag, and the major jumped to attention and raised his hand in salute. My own father had fought as a soldier, and I had great respect for those men and what they fought for, so I stood alongside even tho I was but a civilian.
    After the flag had been lowered and put away for the night, we sat back in our chairs. "Mr. Eaton," he asked. "How is the land out there in that part of Colorado?"

    Continued below.
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  2. #2
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    Return to Sender - Chapter 5 - part 2

    Continued...
    "Major, please call me Sean. It's good country. No, actually, it's wonderful country for those that don't require towns and cities. There is a large Arapaho village not too far away, and we are on very friendly terms with them. In fact the chief and I are blood brothers. We do get an occasional attack from some of the other tribes, mostly the Ute, altho occasionally a Pawnee war party strays our way."

    He nodded and asked, "I'll be retiring next year,and my wife and I are thinking of settling out west and starting a small farm to keep busy. Perhaps your part of the country might be a good location, you think?
    "I think so Major. If you do come west, stop at the trading post on the Laramie river. Good men run it, and they will tell you how to find me. There is a small valley not far from our cabin that might be just what you need. It's sheltered from the wind, has a small stream running thru it, and should do fine for a small farm. You won't get rich, but you can feed your family, and have a bit left over to sell at the trading post. It's not a place for people that have to have a lot of folks around them. My nearest neighbor is about two days away right now. Altho if you moved into that valley I spoke of, we would be less than half an hour apart on foot. My wives would enjoy having another woman close by, I'm sure."
    "Wives, did you say?" he asked.
    I chuckled. "Yes Major, I said wives. I have two wives. My first wife is the daughter of the chief advisor for the Mohegan tribe back east aways. My second wife is the daughter of the Arapaho chief that leads the band over on the South Platte. I suppose most folks back east wouldn't understand, but it works for us. I could explain how it happened, but, to what purpose? You either accept it or you don't. Bottom line is that the land where we live is a very demanding and unforgiving land, especially for women. The man is often gone hunting or taking care of things, leaving the woman alone, often forced to do work that's really too much for her, and she has to deal with loneliness on top of that. Ever notice how that a lot of Indian women age quicker than most white women? That's because they have to work so much harder. A second wife spreads the workload out, and provides someone to talk and listen to while the husband is gone. Anyway, like I said, "The three of us are happy with it, and that's all that matters to us."
    He nodded his head to indicate that he understood. "Please don't mistake my surprise. I've served in enough different places to understand that the smart thing to do, is to live with the country around you, rather than try to bend it to your preconceived ways. If my wife and I move out there, we would be tickled pink to have you and your wives as our neighbors."
    "Major," I spoke as I offered my hand. "Then you are as welcome as a spring rain. I'll tell the boys at the trading post to be looking for you next year and to take good care of you."
    The Major shook my hand and replied. "I have a report to finish before going to bed. Glad we had a chance to talk. I'll look you up next year when I come west." After we shook hands, he stepped inside the office, and I headed for the stables. The Sergeant had offered me a cot in the barracks, but, I figured I'd spend half the night answering questions from the troops in the barracks, so I opted to sleep on the hay in the stables. The horses didn't seem to mind my presence, and if they asked any questions, I didn't notice.
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  3. #3
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    Sean is certainly good at setting up proper relationships .... I guess surviving wasn't that easy for a lonely man travelling over there in those days, not least for the distances from one inhabited place to the other.
    The image here as well as that of the previous chapter is quite neat and illustrative of the story, as usual.
    I also see that the idea of having two wives (or more) was teasing to You and pretty interesting to many gentlemen although we're now in a period and a lifestyle when there's people who would afford or even like to have only half or a part-time one or just unbinding temporary affairs or even none at all, sometimes only not to take up the responsibility of sharing and so as to go on having teen-age fun forever. Anyway, not knowing wester or indian habits, it would be interesting to know if in that cabin making love admits any combination of partners (with at least two of them I mean ... LOL). Hard to find what environment dictates thereabout ...
    Last edited by Caesar; 06-28-2012 at 12:24 AM.
    Panta rei (everything flows)!

  4. #4
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    Enjoyed keeping up with the story.

    I like your style and your illustrations. Keep us posted!

  5. #5
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    Wink

    Caesar - Actually, the notion of Sean having two wives was a blatant tool to add a bit of a different twist to the story, but, it comes from a historical basis, at least as far as the Native American people, especially the plains Indians. In many/most tribes, the male was the hunter/warrior. All other work was left to the wife. Their workload was brutal to put it bluntly. For that reason alone, multiple wives made sense in their culture. The older wife grew to a position of ordering the younger wives around, and her physical work became very limited.
    As far as "threesomes" (or more ), I've never read anything that really addressed that issue. My own guess is that it was not something commonly practiced, altho considering the differences in people, it would probably be unrealistic to rule it out completely. Now, is there any chance that it might be a factor with Sean, Mariska and Senta? Gee... I dunno.....I suppose we will have to see...

    Marilyn - Many thanks for your interest and comments. Very much appreciated, I assure you.
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  6. #6
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    This is so good Barnburner, dont know how you think these stories up but its a great read
    Sometimes...I remember better with my eyes closed

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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by coops View Post
    This is so good Barnburner, dont know how you think these stories up but its a great read
    Katie, I am delighted that you are enjoying it. Thanks so much.
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