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Bo Drury

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Albert's Papa Tells a Tall Tale
By Bo Drury
Thursday, February 28, 2008

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Spinning a yarn for the children and telling a bit of history, Alberts Pa tells a tale

As all children do, Albert and his
brothers and sisters loved to hear the
stories their father would tell as they sat around the fire on cold winter
nights munching pop corn and sipping
hot cider.
“Tell us Papa, please do. Tell the one
about the night grandpa disappeared.”

Unable to resist the chance to tell a
tall tale Carl lifted little Betsy to
his lap and looked around the room at
his children.Sure he had their attention he began:
“Well...when I was but a lad of nine or
ten,” All eyes were upon him. “I was
awakened in the dark of night. My
father shook my arm...but shushed very quite, he says in a
whisper. Gather your sisters and follow
down the stairs with me.”
“What is it Father?” I asked, but he did not hear me. I quickly shook my sisters and we tiptoed down the stairs in our night cloths...One of the steps squeaked...My father swung around. “No noise.” he whispered.
We were fair shaking with fright, the way he was acting. Then...we heard voices.”
Papa stopped and put his hand to his ear, “Listen” he whispered, everyone around the fire strained forward unconscious of their movement. “We could hear voices outside our house. They sounded rough and mean.
I was shaking in my shoes.
“It’s the French,” he whispered, “I must hide you...come.” And he led us into the fireplace room. There he removed the rug from in front of the hearth and raised a trap door.
Now I never knew that door was there in all those years. And I was nigh-on-to ten years old. What a surprise.”
Papa leaned back on his seat and raised his brows in mock surprise letting out a little gasp.
He looked around at his audience, and leaning forward with an air of urgency went on; “we quickly descended the steps to a room beneath our house.
Why was there a room under the floor of our home I wondered? I looked around but before I had a chance to see anything...Someone began to beat on our door, demanding to be let in.”
“Open up this door” they shouted. My father put his finger to his lips...shhhh...he said. They continued to shout. Then they beat on the door to break it down.
There were guns in the room with us and father picked up a rifle and handed it to me and he took one for himself. He then belted two pistols around his waist.
That rifle he handed me was near as heavy as myself. What was I to do with it I wondered?”
Papa leaned back and got out his pipe. He tamped tobacco carefully into it and leaned toward the fire to get a twig to light it. It took a few minutes too get it going. He took advantage of this time to look around the fire at all the expectant faces. He loved it, the ability to capture their attention like that.
With a puff and a smile he went on.
” Now there was another door in this room. When father opened it, it appeared to be an old storage room but when he removed some of the junk we could see there was another opening going through it
” Carl...he said...I’m counting on you to see to your sisters safety. You take this gun and if anyone tries to stop you, shoot them. Do you understand what I am telling you?”
“Yes sir. “I said, loud and clear.
He gave my sisters’ shoes and a shawl and me an old jacket that was twice my size.
It made me feel like I was a man. I had on a pair of old boots that I found in that closet.
Then father said...”This tunnel will lead you out into the woods. Be careful when you come out. Don’t make a sound. Don’t be scared. You will be OK. I’m counting on you son.” He said to me then turned to the girls, caressed their cheeks, and pressed his lips to their forehead, “You girls do what your brother tells you too do. He’s in charge.” He paused and looked at each face, as though to record it in his memory,
” It’s a long way but run to your Uncle Ben’s. Stay in the woods, lest they find you, now go...“he said pushing us through that dark opening. It was dark as pitch in there. We had to feel our way out. It took a long time.
There were all kinds of creepy crawly things in there with us. Spiders and rats”
He shivered, making a show of shaking all over.
The women and girls looked around and pulled their skirts closer to them,
” We finally came out into the night air. It was cold. The old hooty owl was hooting and screeching at us, it sounded spooky. Then we heard things crawling around in the bushes...we didn’t know if it was the French or not. It felt like something was about to reach out and snatch us up. We took off running into the woods. I had to grab Molly by the hand and drag her with one hand while I held the rifle with the other. Sarah was right behind me. Both of the girls were crying.
”Shhhh...I said. Don’t be a cry baby.”
Papa stopped for a minute,
“Is there any more of that cider? This story telling is hard on my throat,” he said.
“Oh...Pappa...hurry up, what happens next?” Anna asked impatiently.
Papa waited as Alice got him a cup of cider and settled back in her place by the fire, then went on.
“Well we wandered around all night in the dark. We didn’t know where we were. I didn’t know then that you could tell direction by the stars.
Finally we got so tired we had to stop and rest. We sat under a big tree with our back against it so nothing could reach out and grab us.
The girls fell asleep but since I was the man in charge I had to stay awake. My eyes felt like they wus buggin’ out trying to see in the dark. Every little sound I moved my rifle in that direction ready to shoot.
Then all of a sudden there was a terrible racket...something’ coming right at us...I raised my rifle and prepared to meet the enemy...I saw this huge big monster of a man coming at me...I knew he was the French...I took careful aim and slowly pulled the trigger. BOOM...that gun knocked me back against the tree and knocked me out. I felt myself sinking...I knew I was dead for sure...”
“What happened then...”
“I woke was a dream. “
“Time for bed little ones...” Mama laughing stood up and waved the children toward their beds.
“That was awful Pa, “Albert said as he tramped off.
Papa lit his pipe again giving it a puff. Mama sat beside him,
“I wondered how you were going to get out of that tale.” She questioned. “I think you had them going, sounded pretty good, might have believed it myself.”
He smiled and took a puff at his pipe. “That was a scary night. I will never forget it. I could have told them that the big scary monster I shot at was in fact a big, scared, raccoon and that I nearly scared us all to death when I pulled that trigger.”
“Well you were the oldest, but that was a lot to put on a little boy.”
“Yes and I was scared spit-less. They all thought someone had shot me and ran over to find me lying under that tree. The blood from my nose, where the gun kicked back, was all over me. They thought I was dead.”
Papa chuckled as he sat there quietly, remembering.
After a few minutes he said, “That was a long time ago, another lifetime.”
After a brief silence,
“I’ll always wonder what happened to my Dad? We
never saw him again.”
Lost in his thoughts Papa suddenly broke the spell when he stood up and stretched.
“Let’s turn in Mother. Good night Albert...I know you are listening...I’m glad you did.”
“Me too.” Albert answered as he walked out of the shadows and into the light of the fire.
Papa knocked the tobacco from his pipe and headed for the warmth of his feather bed... It had been a good day, a good story, a bit of history passed on.
Albert climbed the stairs and fell across his trundle bed.
Looking through his window at the stars twinkling in the clear cold sky he wondered where his grandpa might be.
Out there someplace under the same stars that shone down on him this night, fighting the French and maybe an Indian or two?

© Bodrury 2008

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