WritingEndeavors
WritingEndeavors

The #1 Writing Group on the web!
 
HomeHome  RegisterRegister  Log in  

Share | 
 

 Old Men, part 2

View previous topic View next topic Go down 
AuthorMessage
Boli Shagnasty
Admin
avatar

Posts : 60
Join date : 2014-02-02
Age : 67

PostSubject: Old Men, part 2   Wed Feb 19, 2014 11:02 am

Eli resumed his schedule of walking while the sun was down and sleeping while it was up. He was so tired. All the marching he had done during the war and now the long trek home. Yet it seemed that the closer he got to home, the quicker he walked and the more miles went by each night. As he got closer to home he extended his walking time to a couple of hours after the sun came up, before the day got too hot.
One morning, he was confronted by three Comanche warriors. They had suddenly popped up in front of him, seemingly out of nowhere. Eli threw down his belongings, drew out his bayonet and fixed it to the end of his rifle. He knew he would not stand a chance against three Comanche. He knew the Comanche were the finest Light Cavalry in the world. ‘To h**l with Jeb Stuart,’ Eli thought, as he determined to die as best he could. Eli stood and waited. The first move would be up to them.
The Comanche sat astride their horses, looking at Eli Edwards. Two had spears in their hands and one had loaded an arrow into his bow. The Comanche looked fierce and magnificent. They sat and stared at this intruder on lands they rightly considered to be their own.
As they stared at each other a thought suddenly came to Eli.
‘By God, the Comanche are just like us Rebs. They may have lost their war, but they will never be defeated until the very last one of them is dead.’
Elias Edwards slowly lowered the stock of his rifle to the ground until the barrel was pointing straight up into the sky. He then stood up straight himself. He gave a small bow of his head to the Comanche.
The Comanche stared at him for a long moment. Then they gave Elias the same small nod of the head that he had given them. They turned their horses and rode off.
Eli watched them go. He said a prayer of thanks that he was still alive.
 
V
Eli bypassed Dallas and Fort Worth in favor of the Red River. He would certainly find the falls if he followed the river, where if he went to Dallas he would then have to change directions and might miss them altogether. It was not like he could ask for directions often. This part of Texas was still sparsely populated.
As he traveled the last few nights, Eli had begun to wonder about his family. Would they know him? Would they recognize him? He was certainly not the same boy he had been when he had left home more than four years ago. He had changed in ways beyond his own comprehension, and certainly beyond theirs. After all he had seen and done, would he even be able to stay on their little ranch in the vast middle of nowhere?
Eli finally reached the small community of Nestorville. He knew his home was a straight shot south of there, past the falls on the Wichita River and through the little settlement there. He managed to get some cheese and bread at the settlement as he passed through.
Eli figured he had walked damn near 2000 miles to get home. He was now 20 miles away, two more nights walking would find him home. However now, for some strange reason, his legs did not want to work. Each foot felt as if it was wearing his own weight in lead.
Still, he covered the miles until, at last, he topped a small rise. The house he was born and raised in sat quietly in the darkness. Eli felt a lump in his throat and a tightness in his chest. He stared at it for a moment. It was so very strange. In that moment, he had never been so glad to see the old place and yet, there was something deep inside him that wanted to turn and run away.
Instead, he walked down the hill toward the house. He stepped up on the porch. He knew everyone inside was asleep. Rather than wake them up, he sat down with his back to the wall beside the front door. In no time at all, he was asleep.
The sun had not even begun to rise when the front door creaked open. Eli heard it and immediately jumped up. His father, Silas Edwards, was coming out to do the morning milking.
Silas was startled to see the tall dark figure standing a few feet away.
"Who are you? What do you want?"
"Its’ me, Daddy . . . Elias."
Silas recognized the voice immediately. He dropped the milk pails and ran to his son, embracing him.
"Eli? . . . Oh My God, boy . . . My boy . . . my boy . . . my boy . . . "
Father and son laughed and wept together.
Silas’ wife, Sara, was still in bed, savoring her last few minutes of rest. She was awake because soon she would have to rise and cook breakfast for her family. She was surprised when Silas walked back into the room carrying a coal oil lamp he had lit. He came and sat beside her on the bed.
"Sara, you need to get up, Honey."
"I know. I will in a few minutes."
"No. You need to get up now. I’ve got something you need to see in the front room."
"In a little while, Silas."
"No, woman. Get up now. This is important. It can’t wait."
Sara gave Silas one of those wifely looks that means ‘this had better be good or you will be sleeping in the barn the rest of the week.’ She climbed out of her bed, pulled on her housecoat, and followed Silas into the front room.
"All right, Silas, what was so . . . ?"
She had to look twice to be sure, but then she screamed and ran into the arms of her son.
Mother and son laughed and wept together.
Sara’s scream had awakened their two daughters, Betsy and Rachel. They came scrambling into the room to see what was the matter. They were shocked. They saw their Mom in the arms of another man. Someone they didn’t know. Elias turned toward them and smiled. The girls looked at the man. Something oddly familiar was in his smile.
"Eli," Rachel asked, "Is that you?"
"Its’ me, little Rachel. My, you both have grown so much."
Betsy and Rachel raced into their brother’s arms. They held him as tightly as they could while he smothered their hair and cheeks with kisses. Silas and Sara came over and joined the family circle. For the first time in so many years, Elias Edwards knew peace.
VI
Sara and the girls made a huge breakfast. The family sat around the table and between bites he tried to answer their questions. They were so excited to have him back home.
"It was so sad, Eli," Sara said. "All through the war we would get the news of the different boys from around here that had got killed. Then we heard the war was over. Spring turned into summer and still you weren’t home and there was no news of you."
"We all thought you was dead, Eli." Betsy said.
"I didn’t, Eli." Rachel said. "I never gave up hope. I always knew you would come back to us."
Elias reached over and tousled her hair in an affectionate way. Rachel was his youngest sister. She had been 11 years old when he had left. Betsy had been 14. Elias had always felt much more protective and closer to Rachel than Betsy, probably because Rachel was the youngest. He had always called her ‘Rache’ or ‘Little Rachel.’
"I would never leave you, Little Rachel."
"Yeah, well, you did, when you ran off to join the Army."
"Yes, I did. Believe me, Rache, I won’t ever do that again."
Elias finally pushed his plate away, saying he couldn’t possibly eat another bite. It had been the first full meal he had eaten in months. The family kept talking. Five minutes had passed when Elias head began to bob up and down and he could not keep his eyes open.
He was in a half stupor as his father lifted him from his chair and led him into his old room. Elias did not even bother to undress. He fell on his bed and was asleep.
Eli slept for three days, only rising to relieve himself once or twice a day. Sometime during those three days he had undressed himself and crawled under the covers but he could not remember it.
The moon was high and the stars were bright when Eli woke early the morning of the fourth day. He got up and dressed. He buckled on his pistol belt with the .36 caliber Colt Navy revolver he had taken from a dead Yankee officer at the battle of Spotsylvania.
He was home from the war but this was still the Texas frontier. It was wild and untamed. Lots of things that could hurt or kill roamed freely . . . snakes and spiders, scorpions and centipedes, wild boar, coyotes, rabid animals of every kind, not to mention bandits, rustlers, Comanches and Kiowas. You never went out into this country unarmed.
Everyone else was asleep. Eli went out of the house and into the yard. He dragged a few logs off the woodpile and built a small fire to stay warm. He sat beside it and stared into the flames.
‘Strange to be home. Strange to be home and know that the war is over. I don’t have to shoot no Yankees tomorrow. God, if you are real, thanks for letting me live.’
Eli heard a soft noise behind him. He whirled and drew his weapon.
"Easy, son. It’s just me."
"Hey Daddy. What’re you doing up at this time?"
"Had to take a leak and saw your fire . . . thought maybe we might have a chance to talk just between us without the womenfolk around. Do you mind?"
"No . . . No . . . have a seat."
Silas sat down on a log beside his son. They both just stared into the fire for a few minutes.
"Are you all right, son? It is a little chilly this morning."
"I’m all right. Gets a heck of a lot more chilly up in Virginia."
"I suppose it does. Well, the Texas sun will warm us quick enough when it gets up."
"Yeah, I reckon it will. Daddy, did you ever find the mare?"
"What mare? . . . Oh, you mean the mare you left in Dallas that day?"
"Yeah."
"I took off that day, rode down to Dallas and got her. Looked around for you but found out you boys was already gone. I started to come after you and drag you home but then I figured that you would probably just run away again. I realized there was nothing I could do to keep you here so maybe the best thing was just to let you go. It was the hardest thing I ever did."
"Dad, I am sorry that I defied you. I should have listened to you. I never should have gone off to the Army. They uh . . . they didn’t tell us it was gonna be like that."
"They made it sound as if it was gonna be glorious and fun, didn’t they?"
"Yeah. They told us we would all come back as heroes. I sure as h**l don’t feel like no hero."
"Son, when it comes to war, I’m not sure there is any such thing as a hero. Of course, I have only fought against small bands of Indians. I have never seen anything like what you must have seen. But what I learned from fighting Indians is that there are only two kinds of people in a battle . . . those who die, and those who live. And those who live usually realize they did so by luck alone."
"You remember Billy Joe Wicker and Johnny Temple?"
"Yeah, I remember them."
"Billy Joe and Johnny were right next to me in that cornfield up in Maryland. A cannon ball exploded about 15 feet from us. Billy Joe got shredded with metal and died. A couple of minutes later Johnny took a musket ball right between the eyes . . . blew his brains out the back of his head. I didn’t even get a scratch. Why did they die and not me?"
"I don’t know, Son."
"I don’t know either. The older guys would tell us it was just their time. The Chaplains would tell us we didn’t die cause God had a plan for us. But then, some of those they said that to died the next day, or the day after. What the h**l kinda plan was that?"
"I don’t know, Son. God don’t consult me in those matters . . . let me ask you a question . . . "
"What, Daddy?"
"The first couple of years you were away, you wrote us pretty regular. After that your letters stopped coming. Why did you quit writing us?"
"Oh, Dad, I don’t know . . . I just . . . on the third day . . . at Gettysburg . . . I watched a whole bunch of our boys just get . . . butchered . . . we had done that to the Yankees a number of times . . . but it is a different thing when it happens to your own . . . after that, I just didn’t feel much like writing."
"I see. So what happens now, Son?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I mean what are you going to do now? Are you planning on staying here on the ranch or going away again? I hear tell they are letting some of you boys that was Rebs join the Yankee army now."
"Oh, h**l no! . . . No more fighting for me. I done seen all the men die I ever want to see in my life . . . I just want to find someplace quiet and live out my days in peace . . . Daddy . . . can I . . . would it be all right with you if I just stayed here on the ranch?"
"Yes, Son, you can stay. I would be right proud to have my son working alongside me."
"Thank you."
"Its’ all right, Son. I need the help. See, when the news came that Billy Joe had died, his Daddy didn’t last long. He got the fever and died in early ’63. Mrs. Wicker packed up and went back east. She sold me their place real cheap. We got a lot more land now."
"D**n, Dad, you mean we got over a thousand acres now?"
"Closer to 1500, Son . . . too much for me to handle alone. That is why I need you. Besides, when I die I will be leaving it all to you."
"Don’t even talk about that, Dad. You got a lot of years left in you yet."
"Well, I hope so. But there ain’t no guarantees in this life, especially here in Texas."
"What do you mean? You talking about the Comanche?"
"Yeah, partly. The Army doesn’t seem to be able to keep them up on that reservation. But it ain’t just them. Since the end of the war Texas has got a lot more wild than it was. A lot more men with guns and no jobs coming through, causing trouble."
"Well, some of ‘em ain’t got nothing left back east."
"I know, but they shouldn’t be coming out here stealing what other folks have . . . robbing and killing . . . I reckon it is the only way they can live now. But then I wonder, if we had won, would we have treated the North as good as they treated you boys? After all, they just let you go home."
"I don’t know. Old Jeff Davis didn’t consult me either. He just had me kill Yankee boys for him."
"Well, son, I just want you to be happy. I want you to settle down, get married, have some kids and live your life."
"Married? Oh H**l, Daddy, I hadn’t even thought about that. We used to talk about women in camp some, not very nice talk. But then I was just a boy."
"You ain’t got no competition around these parts now with the boys all being dead. There is a group of young girls and a few young widows. They will be looking for somebody to share their bed with on a cold winter night."
"Daddy, that war kinda burned me out. I don’t know if I got anything left inside to give a woman."
"Well, Son, it don’t exactly work that way. You remember when you was about 14 and you was real sweet on Betty Johnson? You remember the way you felt inside?"
Elias smiled.
"Yeah, I remember."
"When you find a girl or a woman that you can love, she sorta fills you up on the inside. And it is a h**luva lot deeper, more wonderful feeling than anything you have ever felt before. What she gives to you, you have to give right back to her. That is the way it works, Son."
"Does it still work that way for you and Mom?"
"Yeah, it does. Your Mom is the most stubborn, pig-headed woman I have ever met. But she is also the smartest, most loving woman I have ever met, and I wouldn’t want her to be any other way."
Elias smiled. His parents had always loved each other and he knew that. Even when they were arguing about something it never lasted long. Sara had always been able to make Silas laugh. And when she finally brought him out of his shell Silas was always a lot of fun. He made Sara laugh also. They had passed on that love and laughter to their children.
"You are a lucky man, Dad. I hope someday I am as lucky as you."
"I am a lucky man. I got a woman I love, two great daughters . . . and my son is home safe from the war. What more could I ask for?"
Back to top Go down
Ann
Admin
avatar

Posts : 76
Join date : 2009-01-15

PostSubject: Re: Old Men, part 2   Thu Feb 20, 2014 9:36 am

I think this part speaks for itself. Absolutely great story. Life was hard back then, it's hard now but nothing compared to then. But back then it was also more alive. Silas said it correctly. What more could he asks for.
Back to top Go down
sarianna



Posts : 45
Join date : 2014-01-25

PostSubject: Re: Old Men, part 2   Sun Feb 23, 2014 1:38 pm

What an intense chapter of your novel. I hope Eli does find someone he can share his life with. He sure deserves that after all he has endured.
Back to top Go down
Boli Shagnasty
Admin
avatar

Posts : 60
Join date : 2014-02-02
Age : 67

PostSubject: Re: Old Men, part 2   Sun Feb 23, 2014 9:41 pm

Dear Ann,

You are quite correct. Life was very hard then compared to today. Because we have all the creature comforts we do I think it is almost impossible for us to realize how difficut it was. Coming from Texas, I will always mjaintain that air conditioning is mankind's greatest achievement. lol

Thank you for your kindness.
Back to top Go down
Boli Shagnasty
Admin
avatar

Posts : 60
Join date : 2014-02-02
Age : 67

PostSubject: Re: Old Men, part 2   Sun Feb 23, 2014 9:45 pm

Dear Sari,

Post Traumatic Stress is a modern term, but if one does some study into the lives of the people after the Civil War, one can see it staring them right in the face. And, in some ways, I think it must have been even tougher back then because of the way in which war was fought in those days.

Thank you for your kind words.
Back to top Go down
Sponsored content




PostSubject: Re: Old Men, part 2   

Back to top Go down
 
Old Men, part 2
View previous topic View next topic Back to top 
Page 1 of 1

Permissions in this forum:You cannot reply to topics in this forum
WritingEndeavors :: Let's Write! :: Novels-
Jump to: