David A. Schwinghammer
· Soldier's Gap
· Seminary Boy, a memoir
· Fisher of Men, Chapter Nine
· Soldier's Gap, Chapter Three
· Honest Thief, Tender Murderer, Chapter Nine
· Fisher of Men, Chapter 8
· Honest Thief, Tender Murderer, Chapter Eight
· Mengele's Double, Chapter Eight
· Bereavement Blues
· Fisher of Men, Chapter 7
· Speed Dating With 'Janeane Garofalo'
· The Three Stooges, book review
· The God Particle
· Empire of Sin, book review
· Science at the Edge, book review
· Obama, a Modern Caesar?
· Americans Need to Pull Together
· Voices of the French Revolution, book review
· Great American Scandals
· Odd Man Out, book review
· Portrait of a Killer, book review
· Widow's Peak
· Alumni Game
· Girls Who Wear Glasses
· The Do Drop Inn
· Ode to Neve Campbell
· Jacks or Better 101
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A farmer shoots a great Sioux chief.
Abner awoke that morning before first light, went to the kitchen and cut a slice of bread, which he took with a cup of water, then he went out into the yard and whistled for the dog and the two went to the barn to milk the cows. Pistol came flying out from behind the corn crib, panting and ready for fun. Today would be the day Abner would begin to scythe the wheat and as he milked his four Guernseys, he began to gauge how long the harvest would take without the help of his three boys and Romana, who had gone to the St. Cloud where there was safety in numbers. The Sioux were on the warpath in New Ulm, several settlers having been murdered in their sleep and there was talk that the savages were headed north.
Abner stored the milk in the spring house, then busied himself with the sharpening of his two sturdy scythes, the grindstone shooting sparks that would sometimes sting the hairs on his arms. Abner tested the blade with his thumb, drawing blood, which he wiped on his shirt, before remembering that it was new, sewn from material Romana had purchased with egg money. He spit and tried to wipe the stain with his opposing thumb, to no avail.
When he finished sharpening, Abner went to the house for his flintlock, just in case the stories were true , or in the event a whitetail deer wandered across the field. The sun was up and he and Pistol headed out into the field. It had been hot and humid yesterday and he hoped to make steady headway. If it got to be too hot, he'd quit at noon, and mend some harnesses the rest of the day and if he finished with that, he'd surprise Romana and churn some butter.
Pistol soon got bored with the the rhythmic swing of the scythe and when he saw a jack rabbit he was off, not to be seen until that evening. Abner would have liked the company. Since Romana and the boys had left, he'd begun to talk to the dog. After an hour or so, he stopped to check his hands. Despite the calluses he still got the occasional blister in the flap between his thumb and index finger and when it popped it hurt like the blazes. He dropped the scythe and stood to stretch. If he didn't stand somewhat upright as he scythed his back would give out, so he had to stop occasionally to remind himself. He didn't know how those cotton pickers down South did it. There was a war going on down there and there was talk the British would join up with the Confederates because of the cotton.
According to the sun it was about mid morning but Abner was already beginning to feel light headed from the heat. He guessed he was getting old. Just turned fifty and his father had been dead already at that age.
Abner sipped from his canteen, then looked off into the hazy distance. A man had climbed the wood fence that separated his land from the Meyer farm on the north side of the field and was heading his way. He wiped the sweat out of his eyes and squinted. Feathers. The man wore feathers in his hair. Abner's bowels felt loose and he couldn't think whether to run or take up the flintlock and shoot. He looked around for the gun. He'd left it back by the windbreak. His stomach churned and he tried to see if the Indian was carrying a bow and arrow. How good were they with those things? The Indian was at least a hundred yards away. Abner turned and ran for the gun, tripping on a dirt clod after only a few strides. He scrambled to his knees and ran, lead footed from
the long disuse of those particular muscles, but finally he got there, took up the gun, cocked the flint, and sited in on the Indian, who must have seen him running for the gun. He had stopped about fifty yards away, just standing there, as if trying to decide whether to continue or to turn and skirt the field.
The Indian was yelling something at him, but he couldn't understand what he was saying. He raised his hands palm outward as if to say, "I am not armed." But this was a sneaky murdering savage and Abner wasn't about to fall for that. He'd heard stories about settlers who'd gone out to talk under a flag of truce who'd . . .
Abner hands shook. He didn't think he'd be able to do it. This was no white tail deer. The Indian was a human being. But Abner had been so nervous he hadn't realized that he'd been gradually increasing the pressure on the trigger. The flintlock exploded, catching Abner by surprise, knocking him on his rear end. And the man in the field sank to his knees, clutching his chest, then fell flat on his back.
Abner reloaded the flintlock, then slowly walked toward the body, keeping his gun at the ready. A blotch of red had flooded the man's chest, and Abner knelt to listen for breathing. The Indian, dressed in buckskin with a bow and a quiver of arrows still strapped to his back, looked peaceful. Abner threw up next to the body, then sat down in the field Indian style and tried to pray, but couldn't even remember prayers he'd said all of his life. What should he do? Bury him? No, the law would want to know, in case there were more of them out here someplace. Abner took another look at the Indian. This was no ordinary brave. He was wearing an eagle feather. He'd heard that only the bravest of the brave got to wear one of those.
Abner dragged the body out of the field, hoisted it into his wagon, then got the horse out of the barn and began the day-long journey into St. Cloud.
When he got there, the sheriff told him that the Indian was Little Crow, the leader of the Sioux responsible for the massacre and that there was a reward. Abner was feted throughout the day with free drinks and all the food he could consume, but when it came time to collect the money, he could not bring himself to take it, despite the fact that the farm was just barely getting by and sometimes his children were hungry.
If you enjoyed "Little Crow," Dave Schwinghammer's full-length novel, SOLDIER'S GAP, is available on Amazon.com, new and used.
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|Reviewed by Roger BURKE
|Interesting take about how a peaceful day for a farmer turned into something deadly. Those were the days, of course.
Saw a typo error with the use of "gage" in the third line; I think you meant to use "gauge"
|Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado
|Compelling story, David; well written!
(((HUGS))) and love, your friend in Tx., Karen Lynn. :D
David A. Schwinghammer