Thursday, September 13, 2007

WILDERNESS CONFLICT

Chapter 3

They were in for a cold night. No fire would be lighted for fear it would be a beacon for the Indian miscreant scouts of the French. They gathered pine boughs and laid them along side the cabin walls to lie upon. Matty plopped down on his bed with a sigh and a groan. His legs were tired keeping pace with the frontiersman. It seemed Boone never grew weary. His endurance seemed endless. Boone set a pace and never varied from it. Hour after hour they loped along stopping only at streams for quick hands full of water. Then off again. Matty slid to a sitting position, clasped his hands behind his head and rested his back against the cabin wall. He watched Boone in the waining light as Boone carefully inspected his rifle that carried the name Tick Licker. Matty studied Boone's profile. The face was an honest face, the jaw cut sharp with a prominent chin. Boone's nose had the appearance of being a bit large for the narrow face. The mouth was proportionate with everything else and his lips narrow. When Boone was in deep thought, those lips would close tightly together forming what appeared to be a straight horizontal line under Boone's nose. Overall a handsome man, but a bit ungainly, Matty thought. Boone was not an arrogant man but Matty noticed an ere about Boone that bespoke hidden rage. Matty wondered what it would take to unleash that characteristic in his companion.

"I reckon we'll head due South just before sun rise and make for Ft Ligonier." "It lies just forty or so miles from us," Boone exclaimed. Matty acquired a puzzled look on his face, thought a bit on Boone's statement and replied, "think I'll head further East and South to drop dead South and over toward Ft Cumberland." "My folks live that way." "They're due a visit." "Suit yerself." "Yer likely to run into Boushways or Potowathomes if ya don't keep watch." "They're bad folks who will roast ya alive ifen they ketch ya." "Huron is the worse of the lot but they're up Mohawk Valley way toward the Hudson River." "Ive seen a Huron scout grab hold of a stirrup of a French officer's horse and run along side while the horse was galloping." "They are a fine example of Indian heathen. But thars no reasonin with em." "Only one way to talk at em and that's with lead." "And don't take no time a ponderen on weather to shoot or not." Boon was referring to the incident back in the wagon where Matty hesitated to use Boone's rifle. Matty swore to himself that would never happen again.

The gray sky's of morning promised a wet day. The air was cold and thick with moisture. Boone commented that snow might be a possibility. It was day break and the sun would surely warm up the latter hours.

They both gathered their possibles and moved to the cabin door. Each lowered himself to one knee, Boone on the left and Matty on the right side of the door way. Their heads slowly moved into the door opening for a better view of the surrounding forest. This caution was necessary for obvious reasons. "I'll walk out and turn South into the woods." "You cover me from here." "Then I'll watch you when you come," said Boone. "Make sure that musket is primed with dry powder Matty." "Blow out the old stuff and re prime the pan with this." Boone handed Matty a goat horn filled with fine pan powder for the fritz en of his musket. Matty did as Boone instructed. With rifles ready, Boone stood vertical and exited the cabin through the door while Matty leveled the musket toward the woods whence they came. Boone walked slowly and stood tall with rifle across the crook in his left arm at the elbow. The fingers of his right hand were wrapped around the slender portion of the rifle stock just behind the cocked hammer with his index finger on the trigger of Tick Licker. He wanted to appear unafraid and daring to any enemy who might be watching from the forest. Anything less than boldness would instigate an immediate hostile action from any heathen who might be watching. Like animals, the Indians always take advantage of the weak and fearful. The fittest always had a better chance of survival. Such as it was on the frontier. Boone walked casually into the woods then turned quickly and laid his long rifle across a fallen tree trunk to cover Matty's exit from the cabin and the small stockade. Like Boone, Matty walked tall and took long brisk strides appearing to care little about his surroundings. He even carried his musket in his right hand, arm extended straight down at his side to indicate his disconcern for danger. The hammer, however, was back and the trigger set on the big gun. Matty had a feeling of security at the heft of the weapon in his hand.

A sudden rush of heat flushed over Matty's face as adrenalin shot through his body. He heard running feet behind him; a rapid thud, thud of someone running really fast toward him. As he turned to look behind him he caught a movement off to his right. A Savage had run out into the open from the edge of the woods at the North side of the meadow. Never stopping, Matty looked behind him to see a French Boucheway trotting after him at much the same speed Matty was moving. These half French half Indians were masters of the forest and a force to be reckoned with by the colonial militia. They would play havoc on the British Army through the early period of the war until a special force would later come on the scene and level the playing field. That force would be Rogers Rangers.

Matty picked up the pace as he saw the Indian reach behind him to a quiver and withdraw an arrow and fit it to his bow. "Where was Boone?" "He's supposed to be covering me." Matty felt the first stages of panic. He ran hard. The Indian to his right had run not only toward him but also to where he would intersect Matty if his arrow missed its mark. At a position parallel to Matty, the savage dropped to one knee drawing his bow in the same fluid movement. A sharp crack of a rifle sounded from the thicket ahead. The arrow launched harmlessly into the ground as the miscreant fell over onto his side." "Shoot, shoot now!" Boone was yelling at Matty from the woods. "Shoot now!" It was a recreation of the scene in the wagon from yesterday. Matty put it all together in his head instantly. Boone had taken the shot and dropped the savage. His gun was empty now and Boone knew the Canadian Boucheway would be on Matty before Boone could finish reloading. Without slowing down, Matty spun around, and placed the stock of the gun to his shoulder in one fluid movement. The Canadian was close. Matty could see the surprised look on his adversaries face as the boucheway looked into the end of the musket. The Canadian held a flint and ball pistol in his right hand and was raising it when Matty turned. Matty pulled the trigger and the big 58 caliber musket recoiled back into his shoulder. White smoke obliterated the view in front of him. His attacker lay flat on his back, his face covered by a bloody mess, the skull broken in pieces and scattered alongside the body. Boone was standing at the edge of the woods waving at Matty to hurry. "Yer a larnen." "Yep, yer a larnen," Boone said. Matty didn't understand why the Canadian didn't shoot sooner. Of course Boone had the answer. "He only had a pistol. Only good at close range." "If he'd a shot at ya and missed, you would have put him in a bad sityeaton with yer musket." "He had to run up close on ya to make sure he hit ya when he shot." Funny thing. Matty didn't feel bad. He didn't feel anything. A man tried to kill him and he killed that man. No, he didn't feel bad at all. Boone looked at Matty and said "come on." "We gotta make time." "Thar will be others a comen and we'll leave a heavy track for em cause we ain't got time to go careful." At that Boone turned and took off running. He quickly fell into a steady, casual run. Matty had just fitted the ram rod back into the thimbles under the barrel of his musket after reloading. He quickly closed the gap Boone had gained and fell into the identical pace of his companion.

Boone slowed and stopped after about five miles. Matty came up beside him and went down on to his left knee at rest. "I'm goin straight South from here to Fort Ligonier. " "It's only a day and a half run." "I'd advise you to come along Matty." "The French will have scouts out now." "Them scouts will be savage unless I miss my guess." "Better come along with me to the fort." Matty stared at the ground while still on his knee. "Nope, I"m headen for Cumberland and home." "I made a promise to my folks and I aim to keep it." "Yep, I recon you will," said Boone. "Alright friend this is whar we split; "Boone said. Looking at Matty Boone said "remember; run with the sun anywhere but in front of ya and keep the woods close so ya can run and hide." "Indians is like wolves with a brain." "They stick with something once they put a mind to it, and if that somethings you; well, good luck." "We'll meet agin Danel." "Take care of yer hair Matty." "Yep, take care o yourn Danel." Matty watched as Boone disappeared into the forest. His eyes stayed on Boone's dirty brown deer skin shirt until he was out of sight completely. Suddenly the realization that he was all alone hit him. He was on his own.