Posted 06-25-2004 at 03:06:21
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Good morning. This is the third day since I visited the dentist to have all my upper teeth extracted. I've been doing right good with the gum healing process. So far I haven't experienced much pain. Moreover, I havent had any dry sockets. The problem is that I am having trouble with eating. It'll be nice to get back to hard food.
Now I kinda promised Mud that I'd write some more on the Old Tom saga. And, true to my word, here it is. I regret there isn't more but two of the teeth that were pulled were my eye teeth. now, I don't know if it has any bearing on it or not. But, for the past two days, my eyes have teared like a flowing stream.
OK, here's the next installment.
The next morning I was awakened with a start by sounds and commotion taking place in the back yard. At first, I could not distinguish what was causing the sound. But in a moment it became clear that the noise I heard was the broad edge of a pole ax striking a steel wedge. And, as the ax struck home, my brother Wayne made a loud vocal sound as he exhaled his breath in an effort to put more energy into his swing. After I shook away the sleep and became fully awake, I heard my fatherís voice as he called to Wayne and brother Frank from the kitchen door. Boys, he said, stop what youíre doing......Youíre making enough noise to wake the dead.......Donít you know itís Sunday morning and folks are likely sleeping in?
Yeah, dad, we know but we want to go swimming down at the shoals with Elbert and Bill Humphreys, said Frank. And, mom said she need lots of wood cause sheís expecting company.
Well, you should have known to have plenty of wood split yesterday. Cause somebody comes nearly every Sunday, said dad. Tell you what, if youíll knock off that infernal racket, Iíll split the wood a little later. Now, go ahead and find Elbert and be careful down there at the river. I donít want to lose one or both of you to drowning. You hear me now, he concluded.
The boys quickly left around the corner of the house and I made a bee line to the front porch. As they came along side of the house I leaned over the railing and asked could I go with them to the shoals. Tom had taken me there once before but I wanted to go back. There was something about that historic site that drew me. But, Frank and Wayne refused my request with a curt, smug, reply. ďNever happen kid, we donít want no youngens along spoiling it for everybody else. I guess I expected as much but I lived in hope that one day theyíd treat me like a brother, rather than a nuisance.
When they had gone from sight, I went to the kitchen where dad was sitting at the table drinking coffee. When he saw me he asked in his own amiable style, How are you this morning, young man. Without commenting on how I was, I asked, dad, why donít Wayne and Frank ever let me tag along with them? It was my mother who chose to answer as she sat a plate with some pancakes and syrup in front of me. Itís because they are older and they like to be with fellas their own age. itís just the same as you liking to play with boodlem and walter, you are all the same age. she concluded. I accepted her explanation and went on to ask dad to again tell me about what happened at the famous Sycamore Shoals on the Watauga river.
Why do you want to hear about that again, he asked? Iím donít know exactly, I said. Itís just that it has to do with history and that interest me. I donít know why, it just does. He then went on then to tell me how Fort Watauga was built near the crossing of the Watauga river just above the shoals. It was at the shoals that the first permanent settlement outside the original thirteen colonies was established. Now, that, he said occurred around 1772. Which was before there was a United States, or a Tennessee. These would come into being some time later.
Now, The following year, John Sevier migrates to a nearby settlement called Holston. And, the next year, he goes off to war and serves with George Washington in the Lord Dunsmoreís campaign. In a couple of years, Sevier rose up through the rank and was promoted to Lt. Col. of the North Carolina Militia. And, he was at Ft. Watauga when it came under siege by the Cherokee Indians. One of their chiefs, a man called dragging Canoe, was determined to drive the whites from their lands. Now, the old chief was aided by the English and their plan was for the Indians to attack the settlers from the rear while the British attacked them from the sea. So, the chief sent Old Abram of Chilhowee with a band of warriors to strike the Fort. Well, he said, their plan didnít work cause the men at Watauga withstood the assault for about two weeks and when the pioneers refused to surrender, the Indians departed. Now, he continued, that all took place in 1776, the same year as the Declaration of Independence.
I thought he had told as much of the story as he was going to tell. But, he just paused long enough to go to the stove and pour another cup of coffee. When he returned to the table, he began right in again as though he had never stopped. Now, eventually, Sevier was made a full Colonel in the NC Militia. And it was in late summer of 1780 that a group of Militia men, about eleven hundred strong assembled at the shoals. They were called the overmountain men. And, the reason they got together was to go up against a certain British Major by name of Patrick Ferguson who was leading a large contingent of Tory militiamen against the colonist. And, around late September, Sevier and another Colonel by name oí Shelby led the men over the mountains .
As I sat there listening to his words, I could just imagine that many men camped in and around the fort. Some mending clothing made from buckskins. Some cooking and marching and practicing their fighting skills. And, at night, sitting around the fires and telling stories of home. Also, I can see in my minds eye, the nearly two week march over the mountains with Shelby and Sevier in the lead, of nights on the trail and good natured complaints about how their feet ached.
About ten or twelve days later, dad continued, they came upon Fergusonís party at a place called Kings Mountain, in South Carolina. In just over an hour, the overmountain militia defeated the Tories and Ferguson lay dead. It is believed by many that the victory at Kings Mountain was a big factor leading to the British surrender at Yorktown. Of course, like I told you before, When Tennessee became a state, John Sevier became itís first Governor. He served two terms and later became a congressman. Sadly, he said, it seems the man should have gotten more recognition for all he did. you know, he never stopped being civic minded. He died in a tent at age 70 near Ft. Decatur, Alabama, working on a treaty with the Indians there. As he finished speaking, I looked up as he took a drink from his cup. For a moment there, it was as if he held his cup a little higher as if to say hereís to you John Sevier.
He then stood and said, alright now, finish your breakfast and get ready to bring in the fire wood. Cause, Iím feeling fit to swing an ax. And, he reached down and stroked my hair and smiled before heading for the door. As I put the last bite in my mouth, I could hear the swish as the ax sliced the air. Outside, I stood and watch as my father deftly split the wood. Every blow a precise hit. every piece of wood almost perfectly sized. it was a pleasure to see him work. At that moment, I wanted more than anything to grow up to be just like him. now that he is long since gone and Iím on the downhill side of 60,
I know in my heart I could never be the man he was. And, thatís as it should be. But, more and more Iím finding that Iím so much like him.
After the wood was carefully laid in the wood box by the big Home Comfort cook stove.
I was off and running in search of an adventure. I knew tom would be at church and so I decided to see if Boodlem and Toodlem were anywhere around. Now, this being Sunday, A day when their father would most likely be home, I did not go directly to their house. Instead, I walked to the corner of Second Avenue and turned left and went up to the street that ran in front of their house. My intent was to casually walk past their house and if I saw one or both of the twins, Iíd see could they come to our fort. As I turned the corner, I saw several cars in the street in front of or near their house. I wondered what was going on. Several Negro men were standing on the front porch talking amongst themselves. My first impulse was to turn right around and head back to the house. But, to my way of thinking, it would be cowardly and Iíd be hanged before Iíd admit to being a coward. So, with a quickened beat of my heart, and a set look about myself, I thrust my chest forward and strutted down that street like John Sevier on his way to Kings Mountain.
As I neared the house I could hear the men talking in muted tones.....almost to a whisper. One of them whom I recognized as being the twinsí uncle said in a louder voice. I wonder who could do such a thing? Another man spoke up and said, it was probly thet ole man Tom. They tell me he wuz alooking fer him las night out to beartown dance hall, the speaker drawlingly said. About then another man said, naw, old Tom might be an uppity nigger, but he ainít one to hit ye from behind and then run off. no sir, if Tom would a done it. heíd a done it straight on like a man, the speaker concluded. Yeah, I suppose yer rite, the uncle said. That ole man can get on a feller, always telling us to act like men and quit slipping around like a suck aig dog, and to quit wasting our money on moonshine and tobacco, but, like you said he hainít no back stabber. About that time one of the men said shut-up now, wez got company, and he nudges a man closest him and jerked a thumb in my direction.
Upon hearing the men talk and the mention of Tomís name, I had deliberately slowed my walk to something akin to a snails pace. By the time the man saw me I was nearly directly in front of the porch. One of the men called out to me and asked, what are you doing there boy...... what do you want? Not expecting to be put on the spot like that, I started to stammer like Ned in the first reader, Oh, well I was just , ah yeah, I was looking fer Boodlem, I said. All the while, my heartís a pounding like a drum and was fast raising up to get better acquainted with my Adamís Apple. About that time a reprieve came from the thumb jerker. He said, Boodlem canít play now! ......So, you jest go on and git outta hear. Well, I didnít need to be told twice. I continued on down to the corner of the next street at a quickened pace and never looked back. All the while my mind is racing as I try to understand what if anything, Tom had to do with the congregation on the porch. By the time I turned the corner and out of sight of the house, when I thought my heart couldnít stand another scare, Old lady Februaryís German Shepherd Proved me wrong. That old dog was as vicious as a dog could get. And she kept him tied near an old hollowed out tree where he could go when ever it rained or got cold. Anyway, when he sees me, he ran and lunged against the oversized chain with such force, that he broke his leather collar.
As soon as I saw what had happened, I broke into a cold sweat. Cause, I just knew my number was up. But, by the grace of God, one of the old ladyís laying hens saw the dog and let out with a squawk and flew about a foot off the ground right in front of the charging canine. Well, I reckon that old dog had killed a chicken or two in his time and had liked the taste. And I reckon, too, that his hunger overcame his hatred for little boys. For, he turned, and in a single leap, landed squarely, with front paws bearing down on the poor wretched hen. As he held the helpless bird, he looked at me and with hackles on end and teeth bared, and growled to let me know this was his breakfast and he wasnít about to share. I immediately thought to myself, old dog you ainít got to tell me a second time, and I turned and ran all the way home.