Friday, December 30, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: Part 15 Dead eye Sam

Forever A Hillbilly: Part 15 Dead eye Sam:      By the time the crops were all planted, Lafayette brought up his status at breakfast one day. “All of you have been mighty good to me....

Part 15 Dead eye Sam

     By the time the crops were all planted, Lafayette brought up his status at breakfast one day. “All of you have been mighty good to me. You’ve saved my life. It’s time I headed on to Taladega County.  I have a family to look after. I might even be able to get my Marshal job back, If I go now.”

      James spoke up. “You can’t set out afoot, LaFayette. Those three horses we found on the way home are as much yours as they are ours. Take the big Pinto. He’ll get you there. We’re pretty well stocked up with jerky, thanks to Tom and Josh. Take  enough with you to get you home.”

     LaFayette was on the trail early the next morning.

     Now that the crops were planted, James and the boys had ten acres on the far side of the back forty that needed to be cleared. They wanted to expand their corn acres if they were going to continue to make a living there. But first, James decided it was time to go into town, and find out what was going on in Tennessee after these four hard years of war.

      He found out much about Bad Bob that day. When he went into the saloon, a big old boy he didn’t know was doing a lot of talking. Some of the other men were referring to him as Bad Bob. James could already have guessed that.

     “They tell me some towns around here are organizin’ ta protect themselves from all th’ black folks that are showin’ up around here. They call it the KAK. Some of those ol’ boys are dressin’ up in sheets and masks, spreadin’ around that these are ghosts of killed soldiers. They go out at night and scare th’ livin’ daylights outa th’ black folks. If that don’t get rid uv them, they haul th’ menfolk out an give them a good whoppin’.”

     “Men, we gotta organize. Protect our women folk. Not enuf that we done fought this war, now th’ black folks are takin’ over our land. Ya’ll need ta do like my family does. Th’ Dudley’s don’t never allow no black folks to even get close ta our place.”

     James had heard enough from Bad Bob. But even worse than that, far too many of the men around him, some who James had thought to be good men, seemed to be agreeing.

     James spoke up. “Just where did you do all your fightin’ in this war, Bob? I never saw you at any battles I was in. Word has it, you spent your time hidin’ out in th’ swamps. What you’ve been sayin’ sounds like your kind of fightin’, Bob. Hidin’ out behind a mask, with all yore scummy friends ta back you up.”

     Bob was livid. “I been hearin’ that th’ Thackers have been givin’ food to some of these folks. An lettin’ um camp on Thacker land. We don’t need your kind encouragin’ them to hang around here. We need to encourage them to keep movin’, gettin’ away from here.”

     “How would you know all that, Bob, unless you been hangin’ around my place? These folks goin’ through are just trying to stay alive, like the rest of us. And I best not see you around my place again, Bob.”

     James had a lot to think about on the way home. He had poked the bear, and stirred him up. Oh well. Men like Bob were usually cowards, when it came down to it. He didn’t think he had much to worry about from this loudmouth. He just likes to talk.

     With the war over, Sam was no longer needed at her guard duty post. Millie had done a lot of guard duty, too. But she did a little more than scare strangers off. And she thought it was a lot of fun, finally getting to use her skill with the big gun for something practical.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: Part 14 - Dead eye Sam

Forever A Hillbilly: Part 14 - Dead eye Sam:      “Do you remember the Dudley’s, who live back behind the swamps?  I’m sure you remember, they’ve been suspected of stealing from folk...

Part 14 - Dead eye Sam

     “Do you remember the Dudley’s, who live back behind the swamps?  I’m sure you remember, they’ve been suspected of stealing from folks around here for years. Well, there is a new man with them now. When I went to town to buy garden seed last week, he kept watching Tenny. People call him Bad Bob. He even followed us around some. I was scared, so we bought our seed and came right home. Since then, Josh saw him once out behind the barn, and I saw him once, just pretending to be walking by, hunting. He never talked to any of us, but I’m scared to death about this.”
     James thought awhile. “Baby, its’ one thing for a man like that to stalk women and children who are alone, quite another with the men around. Don’t worry. Just keep Tenny close. Tom or I will make a point to stay around. Lafayette will be here awhile, and although he can’t move around much, he’s a lawman, remember? And he can hit a man in the head at 300 yards with his big gun. I would say, Tenny could not find a safer place to be in Tennessee right now. I’ll clue Tom and LaFayette in tomorrow. Don’t you worry your pretty little head. Let’s just keep a sharp eye out.” He kissed her twice more. She smiled. She felt better.
     As Spring faded into Summer, everybody stayed busy on the farm. Clearing the croplands was a big job. The whole family was involved, Except LaFayette, who was still unable to do much of anything. But he was slowly gaining his strength and his weight back, thanks to Sara’s good cooking. His main job was protecting the home place – and one of his best friends, Tenny.

     Most farmers in this part of Tennessee had never had slaves. These were mostly small hill farms. The land was not suitable for large plantations. The cotton grown in this part of Tennessee was called bumblebee Cotton. The idea was, a bumblebee could put one foot on a cotton boll, the other foot on the ground.
      But now, many homeless people, Blacks and some Whites alike, were on the move through Tennessee. The North had established The Freedman’s Bureau after the war, attempting to work out share cropping arrangements between freed slaves and former owners. But for now, it was not working, for the most part. The Freedmen’s Bureau was just not up to the task. Thousands of Blacks were homeless, starving, and looking for a way to stay alive.
     Many of these displaced Blacks passed through southern Tennessee, headed to – where? Many did not know. Someplace better. Some had heard that Mississippi had much better cropland. Maybe they could share crop down there, but most did not know exactly where Mississippi was. Some had heard rumors of free homestead land, but so far, that’s all it was. Rumors. When it did actually happen, it was far west of Tennessee.
     Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave who moved to the North and became a famous abolitionist and a major voice on behalf of African Americans, said it well –
     “I stand before you tonight as a lowly thief. I stole these legs, these arms, and this body from my master, and ran off with them.”
     “You say you have emancipated us. You have, and I thank you for it. But what is your emancipation?
     When the Russian serfs had their chains broken, and were given their liberty, the government of Russia – Aye, the despotic government of Russia - gave these poor emancipated serfs a few acres upon which they could live and earn their bread. But when you turned us loose, you gave us no acres. You turned us loose to the sky, to the storm, to the whirlwind. And, worst of all, you turned us loose to the wrath of our infuriated masters.”

     Frederick Douglas was once invited to the White House, where he met Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln told Douglass, “ I trust your judgement more than that of any man in this house.”


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: Post 13 - Dead eye Sam

Forever A Hillbilly: Post 13 - Dead eye Sam:      As the war ended and the men started home, James and Tom knew LayFaette would die there, if left on his own, so they took him to south...

Post 13 - Dead eye Sam

     As the war ended and the men started home, James and Tom knew LaFayette would die there, if left on his own, so they took him to southern Tennessee to their little hill farm, and slowly nursed him back to health. After a month of rest and James’ wife Sara’s good cooking, LaFayette was able to travel on to Talageda County alone, and was soon back at his old job, Marshal of Taladega, Alabama.

Author’s note: James Thacker (Actually Tucker) was also my great grandfather. Sara was my great grandmother, and Tenny was my grandmother. As a small girl, Sara was watching after the new-born baby one day, while her mother hung out the clothes. Sara became distracted; a large wild hog came in and got the baby. It could not be caught, and it ate the baby. Sara never was able to shed this guilt. This story was the basis for the name of my second book, Forever Cry. This all happened on their farm in Tennessee. True story. This story remains just under the surface in my family to this day. My mother and my wife Barbara were hanging out the clothes to dry one day. Mom was reminded of this story; she told it to Barbara, who told it to me. My mother never told me.
     James Thacker was happy to be back with his family. Sara was of strong Tennessee stock, and had kept the farm going as best she could with the help of Josh, age nine, and Tenny, age six. Josh had stepped in and bravely became the “man of the family” when the men left, and provided meat for the family while the men were at war. The squirrels he had killed, along with an occasional deer, had helped the family scrape by. Tenny was a perky red-haired tomboy. She had also been a lot of help for her mother, feeding the mules and Old Jersey, their milk cow. She fed the chickens, gathered the eggs, and was a big help in the garden.
Author’s note:  Tenny was the last red head in my branch of the family until the birth of my grandson, Christian, who is now a college student.
     It was now planting season. After a couple of days of homecoming celebration, James called his family together after supper.
     “It’s been a hard two years for all uv us. Now, we gotta get our farm back in order. Lots of sprouts to clear from the cropland.” Sara and the children had had no time to keep the croplands cleared, and the land was a mess. “ Plowing to do, cotton and corn ta be planted. Tomorrow, Tom can go into town and buy seed. I’ll start with the land clearing. It’s been hard, and will still be hard for all of us for the next month or two. But by mid-summer, we should be back to normal. Get a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow will be a hard day.”   
     Later that night, when all the young people were asleep, Sara softly called James to the door. He was easily persuaded. Sara and James had not really been alone since the wonderful homecoming. Fixing up another sleeping place for LaFayette had pretty well filled the small cabin.
     LaFayette appeared to be asleep, along with the children, but a smile played on his lips as James and Sara quietly pulled the door to behind them.
     Arm in arm, James and Sara strolled across the lush spring grass. The fields were majestic in the dim moonlight. When they reached the creek, James pulled Sara to him, and they kissed tenderly. Sara pulled him to her as if she would never let him go. James gently unhooked her dress, and it floated like a butterfly to the fresh green grass. Sara was where she had longed to be for so long. She was a hard mountain woman, all fire and determination during the day, but she turned into soft, melted butter in James’ arm after dark. She had him home with her, where he belonged, and she would never let him go.
     Later, as a pack of coyotes yipped farther down the creek, and an owl hooted back in the woods, they strolled back across the meadow. Sara stopped and turned to him. Tears were flowing down across her cheeks.
     “What’s wrong, sweet baby? What’s bothering you?” Sara laid her head on his shoulder, and sobbed. He quietly caressed her.

     Sara pulled away to arm’s length. “Oh James. There is something I’ve got to tell you, my darling. I didn’t want to ruin your homecoming days, but it can wait no longer. This is the most wonderful night of my life, but what I have to say to you, I must tell you now.”

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: Post 12 Dead eye Sam

Forever A Hillbilly: Post 12 Dead eye Sam:      Fat Bob showed up at his uncle’s door one day, carrying a letter from his papa for Clint. The Tennessee Dudley’s were not overly excit...

Post 12 Dead eye Sam

    Bob showed up at his uncle’s door one day, carrying a letter from his papa for Clint. The Tennessee Dudley’s were not overly excited about Bob living with them, but Clint owed it to his brother Ted to take him in. Blood was thicker than water. If Bob got to be too much trouble, Clint would just run him off.  After all, money was thicker than blood with all the Dudleys’.
    Bob loved to spend a lot of time in town, drinkin’ and Fightin’. And, talkin’ way too much. Soon he was telling all who would listen how tough his family was, how a Dudley never left any debt unpaid. At least, unless money was involved.  His cousins’, Clint’s three boys who were grown men now, starting their own families, seemed to look up to Bob, and before long they were bragging around, too, about the Dudley’s being so big and bad. Serenity sensed this; she could soon see a change in her boys. She needed to find a way of getting rid of Bob. She was smart enough to see that the Tennessee Dudley’s would soon have a reputation as bad as those scumbag relatives in Taladega County.

     The war just seemed to drag on forever. For everybody except the Dudley’s. During the first two years, the Dudley’s in Alabama had gotten rich. Slims’ plan had worked perfectly. The final two years had been slower for the clan, because most Southerners’ had less and less money for them to steal. And by then, the Yankees had already beaten them to most of it. But, still, just how much money did one family need in a lifetime? All in all, Slim was happy. At least, happy as a Dudley could be.
     Clint’s family in Tennessee had not been so fortunate. They were suffering almost as badly as most of the Southerners around them that they stole from.  Clint didn’t see any point in keeping his theft operation two long days ride away from his family. He hated those long boring horseback rides. And, he left too many victims who were beginning to have grave suspicions about their sneaky actions. For the Tennessee Dudley’s, life was hard.
     Bob wanted to go home. He didn’t like living the pore life. Clint just didn’t handle things right, to Bob’s way of thinking. And, more and more, this sorry bunch he was now forced to live with had a belly full of Bob.
     Someway, somehow, Bob had to find a way to get Slim to let him come back.
     Bob was putting together a plan. Mrs. Dolly, Slim’s wife, just loved little red-haired girls. The Thacker’s, who had a little farm just on the other side of the swamp, had a cute little girl, about the right age. He had seen her on one of his scouting trips, looking for something to come back and steal, some dark night. She had a really pretty head of red hair. If he could just get that pretty little girl, take her to Taladega to Mrs. Dolly, surely Slim would have to take him back. He would bide his time, and strike when the time was right, and then he could go back home. He smiled as he thought about it, and realized how smart he was, to come up with this clever plan.
     Actually, Bob was dumb as a doornail. Slim would never let him come back, no matter what. Slim, also, had a belly full of Bad Bob. But Bob was just too dumb to realize that.

Author’s note: LaFayette was my great grandfather. This segment about his war years is mostly true.
 Former Taladega Marshall LaFayette Gillum suffered greatly during the war. Early on, he was wounded, and spent several months in the hospital. Not long after he was back in action, he was captured by the Yankees, and had spent many months in a northern prison camp, far away from Taladega County. Eventually, he managed to escape, and he headed south. Ever south. He traveled by night, hid out by day. He had no food. This year did, however, have a bumper crop of White Oak acorns. Often, he was forced to live on the acorns. They are edible, but have a strong tannin content, giving them a bad aftertaste. He was forced to use the Indian method of gathering up a batch, cracking them, wrapping them in a cloth and leaching them out for a day or so in a running stream.

     He was slowly starving. During the last days of the war, he stumbled into a camp of Tennessee Volunteers. He was barely able to walk.  James Thacker and his son Tom, who had been fighting with the Volunteers for two years, found Lafayette one morning. In spite of the fact that the Volunteers were ragged and hungry themselves, James and Tom cared for him, and slowly began to save his life. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: Post 11 - Dead Eye Sam

Forever A Hillbilly: Post 11 - Dead Eye Sam:      It galled Slim considerably that Sam was so weak and soft about even killing a squirrel, much less a man. He talked to Dolly and Mi...

Post 11 - Dead Eye Sam


     It galled Slim considerably that Sam was so weak and soft about even killing a squirrel, much less a man. He talked to Dolly and Millie about it.
     “That dern Sam ain’t never even killed a squirrel. She’ll shoot at um and pretend, but I know what the trouble is. She’s chicken hearted through n’ through. Well, it takes some kids longer than others to get hardened up. I’ll just use her on guard duty awhile. She’s smart. She won’t never let a man coming up here get anywhere close. Shoot his hat off, shoot his gunstock, er somethin’ like that. She can scare ‘im off. Let her grow up a little. Give her a little time. She’ll be more valuable than gold to us after the war, when she comes around. Last resort, I may have to make a peddler outa her. She’d make a dandy one, way she likes people.”
     Under normal circumstances, Slim would probably not be so patient with Sam. But he was too busy right now finding new and creative places to hide all that money and other valuables that was coming in to be too worried about Sam.
     So, Sam spent most of the war years on guard duty. She had to shoot close enough to several men to scare them off, but she never hit a man. And she never would. She’d rather die. Or, at the very least, she’d rather not.

Chapter Two
     Bad Bob Dudley was always a trouble maker in the clan. He did not take bossing well from Slim, and he loved to go into town, get dog drunk, and talk too much. Bob was twenty-four years old. Even by Slim’s standards, he was far too rough and mean to younger members of the clan, and he was not overly smart. Truth be known, he was dumb as a rock. Slim knew stupidity and a mean, vindictive nature, on top of being a loudmouth and spouting off too much added up to make him a loose cannon in the clan, and Slim didn’t need a loose cannon. He was sick of Bad Bob. Slim took him aside one day.
    “ Bob, you’re a grown man now. You don’t seem to fit in well here. Pack up and leave. In two days, if you’re still here, we’ll have another talk. There are Dudley kinfolk in Tennessee, one of Ted Dudley’s brothers, Clint. They left here some years ago. Talk to Ted. Maybe you would fit in better with them. Hope you and I don’t talk again. You won’t like it if we do.” Slim had to smile to himself as he left Bad Bob in tears. He shut the door behind himself, thinking; Clint and that uppity wife of his got ta thankin’ they were jest a wee bit better than the rest of us Dudley’s. Let them deal with th’ likes of Bob awhile. Then we’ll see jest how good they really are. That Serenity was always crowin’ about comin’ direct from th’ founders of this whole outfit. Well, that ain’t really much ta’ be proud of.” Slim was clever, and he knew it.
     Bob knew full well what Slim had meant. Leave here, or pay a heavy price. The next day, Bob was well up the trail toward Tennessee at good daylight. He didn’t really know much about where he was going, but he was beginning to feel like, maybe,  he was riding there  in a handbasket.

     Clint Dudley and his wife Serenity had three young boys, back when they lived in Taledega County. Neither Clint nor his wife were happy with the direction the Dudley Clan was going. They saw little prospect that their boys would grow up to be anything other than killers and robbers, like the rest of the clan, if they stayed here.
     Clint’s wife, Serenity, brought the subject up one night, much like she had on a number of other occasions recently.
      “Clint, we got three boys. Right now, they ain’t been polluted by this bunch of scum here. Not too bad, anyways. But that won’t last. Tommy is almost old enough to start making these “business trips.” Is that the kind of life we want for our kids? We’ve got ta take them away. Anywhere away from this place. They say Tennessee is a really nice place. Come on, Clint, we’ve jest gotta get them outa here! If we don’t, I’m not too sure what’s gonna happen to our proud family.
     Over the last few months, Clint had begun to see his wife’s side of things. She had always had good judgement. She was a strong woman, always been the backbone of the family. Clint, though, was no angel. Though he never mentioned it to Serenity, he sorta liked these little business trips with the Dudley’s. Sure made life easier. But Slim didn’t handle things right, Clint decided. Even Clint could see that this was not a really good profession to drag their boys into, the way Slim insisted they handle things. Killing men, like Slim made them do, could get them hung. Clint was more of a sneak thief, himself. Slim’s ideas were just a bit too radical. No self-respectin’ sneak thief wants ta be a part of all that.
     Clint knew he had married a long way up when he got Serenity, and he planned to keep her. She often reminded him that she carried the name of one of the founders of the clan, generations ago, though the honor in that was questionable. “OK, Serenity, if that’s what you want. I’ve always had a hankerin’ to see Tennessee myself. Let’s jest do it.”

     So they did. The move was hard. But they had a good wagon and a good team of mules, thanks to some luckless farmer who had lived two days ride from Taladega. With emphasis on the word had lived. They had found a place to settle, a few miles out from a nice little town, back behind the Swamps. It was sort of a hidden location, where nobody would bother them, except maybe a few old wild hogs. He could free-lance on his on a little from here, along with having a little farm as his cover. Serenity need never know all the sordid details of their farming operation.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: Part Ten - Dead eye Sam

Forever A Hillbilly: Part Ten - Dead eye Sam:      The wind settled. Complete stillness. Sam quickly verified this with her wet thumb, then slowly squeezed off. The loud boom echoed ...

Part Ten - Dead eye Sam

     The wind settled. Complete stillness. Sam quickly verified this with her wet thumb, then slowly squeezed off. The loud boom echoed from the hills. The crowd held it’s breath. The judge looked at the target, shook his head, then looked again. “Dead center bullseye!!! The judge was laughing, and shaking his head slowly. “Looky here, folks! We have a tie! This little redhaired Dudley girl, eleven years old, has tied Fred! Who woulda believed this, folks!”
     Sam became a legend in Taledega County that day. These men would tell this story around a thousand campfires during the long war to come, giving a brief little respite during the dark days of the war.
    Sam made more friends before she went home that day. But most of the townspeople still avoided her. Everyone knew she was a Dudley girl, even though they had never seen a Dudley act so friendly and personable. But Sam had done what she had set out to do that day, let everybody in Taladega County know how she could shoot. She was proud of her brand-new .50 caliber buffalo gun she had just won, but mostly, she knew she would never have to use her gun to protect herself in Taladega County. And maybe, she had made some friends who could one day help her get away from the Dudley Clan. All was well in Sam’s world as she rode back to the land of the Dudley’s.
     Within months, the War was in full swing. Just as Slim predicted, there were many farms, and even a few rich plantations, that had no or few men left at home to protect their property. And Slim had been right on another count.
      There were many of the men who tried to avoid the war, because they had bad feelings about it, or secretly favored the North.  But the winds of war were blowing like a gale in the South. At first, those who were neutral or secretly favored the North were threatened and shunned. Later, as more and more rebels were killed and reinforcements were sorely needed, rebel soldiers began to raid farms whose men were still at home, and have a hanging. One does not die by hanging quickly, unless the neck is broken by the initial shock. By simply lifting a man up slowly with a noose around his neck, it may take five minutes or more. Being hanged for two or three minutes, then surviving, caused many neutrals or Northern sympathizers to fight for the South. Some stubborn holdouts were hung several times.
     Though these harsh methods were used in Taladega County, none were interested in raiding the Dudley clan.
     “Now, listen here. If they all can shoot as good as that little red haired girl Sam, we’d lose more men goin up thare than we got. There must be twenty men up there. And no tellin’ how many young’en’s with a Buffalo gun!
 Others nodded their heads in agreement. Most all of the men in Taladega county with the guts to consider such a thing were away in the war, anyway. Even the Marshal was long gone. LaFayette Gillum was in the war all four years. Nobody bothered the Dudley Clan. They were free to conduct their business, while the young’uns guarded every trail in, night and day. With their buffalo guns. And by now, everyone knew how deadly a Dudley kid could be. With a Buffalo gun.
It was easier for the Dudley businessmen now. The farm machinery and other large items were of no use to them, because they could never be sold by the peddlers, anyway. So, they forgot the wagons, used only their fast horses, and specialized in money, jewels, silver, and other small items, along with taking the very fastest horses. With emphasis on the money. Other items were hidden away to sell long after the war was over. As the war moved into Alabama, most people blamed the farm raids on the dern Yankees. Everyone pretty well just forgot about the Dudley’s.

     The Dudley’s were getting rich. Hand over fist. And their fist could kill at three hundred yards.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: Part Nine - Dead eye Sam

Forever A Hillbilly: Part Nine - Dead eye Sam:      As Sam placed her gun on the post, the gasps turned to laughter. “A kid? Sam Dudley is a kid?”      Some men got mad. “Are we turn...

Part Nine - Dead eye Sam

     As Sam placed her gun on the post, the gasps turned to laughter. “A kid? Sam Dudley is a kid?”
     Some men got mad. “Are we turnin’ this here contest into a sideshow??” The judge waved them all down, and Sam slowly went about her business. The big gun was in place. Sam licked her thumb and put it up into the air. A gentle breeze stirred. As Sam prepared to squeeze off, the wind picked up just a little more. Sam Stopped, and again wet her thumb and put it up into the air. Many laughed, others were getting angry. “Git on with it!” The judge tried to wave them down, but was not completely successful.
     Sam slowly squeezed the trigger, as a crowd gathered around Fred, congratulating him. The big gun boomed, and the crowd quieted. The field judge laughed, shook his head, and hollered out, “Two inches right of dead center!!”
     Not a sound was heard for a moment, surely the judge was making a joke. But no. The crowd interest increased tenfold. This kid was a serious competitor, shooting against Taledega County's best!
     As Sam prepared for her second shot, the wind picked up. She waited, with her wet thumb in the air, but it only got worse. Finally, the crowd was only getting louder, and the wind was still gaining in strength. She squeezed off. She knew immediately she had made a mistake. She should have waited. She had let the crowd rush her.
     The crowd waited. The judge bellowed out, “three inches left of dead center.” 
     Again the crowd gasped. “That Dudley kid is dang good!” Shock and surprise registered on many faces.

     Sam was doing her math. Nothing could save her now. Nothing short of dead center, and the wind was still blowing. Maybe her cap was throwing her off just a bit, she usually practiced without a cap on. Sam readied the big gun, but there was just too much wind for a good shot. She needed to kill a little time, maybe the wind would settle a bit. She slowly removed her cap, and the prettiest, brightest red hair anybody had ever seen flowed down around her shoulders, waving in the gentle wind. The crowd went instantly silent. Finally, someone shouted, “Lookie thare! That kid Sam’s a girl!!” The crowd went so wild, the judge didn’t even try to settle them. Sam stuck up her thumb, but she knew it was hopeless. Too much wind. She had to kill a little time, somehow. She decided to have a coughing spell to kill more time. The crowd was getting unruly. More coughs. Suddenly, a strange thing happened.
CONTINUED IN FOUR DAYS. Thanks for your time and your attention.  Pat

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: Part Eight - Dead-eye Sam

Forever A Hillbilly: Part Eight - Dead-eye Sam:       Sam was excited when Slim laid out his plan for her. This played right into her long-ranged plan. And, being alone was perfect; thi...

Part Eight - Dead-eye Sam

      Sam was excited when Slim laid out his plan for her. This played right into her long-ranged plan. And, being alone was perfect; this would be the chance to make some friends in town. Sam was already realizing; someday, somehow, she had to get away from the Dudley clan. And having friends in town could someday help her do just that. And, everybody around, Clan and town folks alike, would know just how good she really was with the big gun. This would mean, Sam would never have to shoot anybody!
     Sam did not plan to just do well. She planned to win.
     Millie wanted to go along with Sam to the shooting match, but Slim said, “No! Sam’s been livin’ in yer shadow too long already. And besides, it might be dangerous for you. I heard about you shoot’en at that man last week, who was not even on Dudley land. Didn’t think I knew about that, did ye? He mighta saw you. That Marshal gets his hands on you in town, they just might hang ye. And if you do that again in Taladega County, I’ll hang ye myself.”                
     Sam spent every day leading up to the big match honing her skills on the shooting range. When the big day arrived, and Sam rode Old murt into town, she was at her peak. Once she got to town, Sam let her true personality come out, finally. They all knew she was a red-haired Dudley girl, but many began to realize, she was just not like the other Dudley’s. She paid her entrance fee Slim had given her, and awaited her turn.
     This was a major event. Everybody knew, the War was almost upon them. Most of the men would soon be leaving to join the war effort. Everyone had been practicing up. They all realized the South had far fewer men than the dern Yankees. Every shot had to count – only the best shooters would be coming home at the end of this war. And the very best shooters in Taladega County were entered today. The target would be a twelve inch circle. Range, two hundred yards. Each shooter would get three shots. Free standing, or resting the gun on a post, which everybody did.
    The shooting began. Each man took his turn. Sam noticed early on, these men were good. The fifth man came up. It was Fred Williams, who everybody knew had a reputation as the best shooter in Taladega County.
     He slowly squeezed the trigger. The judge walked to the target, and bellowed out excitedly, “dead center bulls eye!!” The crowd went wild! The wind had been perfectly still during that first shot, but began to pick up a little. He took more time with the next two, which were each a few inches off dead center.
     Slowly, man after man shot. There were thirty in all. Number five, Fred Williams, was still in the lead, but two others had hit dead center also with one shot. But their other two shots were not as good. One of them missed the target altogether as a stiff breeze picked up. Finally, all the men had had their turn. Someone hollered, “Fred Wins again!” a big cheer went up from Fred’s family.

     The judge waved them down. “No, we have one other entry here.” Then he laughed, and hollered loudly, “Sam Dudley, come on up!” A collective gasp spread through the crowd as Sam walked forward, carrying the big gun, a few short strands of her bright red hair waving below her cap in the gentle breeze.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: Dead-eye Sam - Part Seven

Forever A Hillbilly: Dead-eye Sam - Part Seven: Part Seven      Millie braced the big gun on a post, got in position to fire, then wet her thumb, sticking it up in the air. “You ha...

Dead-eye Sam - Part Seven

Part Seven

     Millie braced the big gun on a post, got in position to fire, then wet her thumb, sticking it up in the air. “You have to learn to sense the wind blowing on your wet thumb. You have to know how much to allow for wind. This new buffalo gun is made to shoot a long way. You have to learn how much the bullet will drop in two hundred yards, or however far away your target is. See those three pumpkins I set up out there?
 They’re about head sized. Watch that middle pumpkin. You need to learn to do this. Just watch.”
     Millie carefully sighted the target in, held her breath, and slowly squeezed the trigger. The middle pumpkin exploded.

“OK now Sam, it’s your turn. We’ll move up to the hundred yard marker for today,” Millie said. “A good place to start.”

 That gun will kick, but the stock is padded. Hold it tight against you shoulder. There’s almost no wind now, and the bullet will drop less than the length of your little finger. Squeeze the trigger, don’t jerk it. Aim at the left pumpkin.”
     Samantha was scared. She was shaking. This gun was far too big and heavy for her, but she tried. The first try nearly kicked her down. Dust was kicked up four feet or so to the left of the pumpkin, and was way short.
     Millie’s instruction went on and on, with each shot being analized, and corrections made. Samantha never hit a pumpkin that day, but she was slowly getting closer.
    “OK, Sam. That’s enough for today. Your shoulder will be sore for a day or two, but we’ll come back in a few days. You’re getting better.  And you will get better each time. I’ve got confidence in you. Good Job.”
     Samantha was thinking, I’ll work as hard as I can with this gun. I will get so good with it, I will never have to shoot at anyone. And I will show everyone how good I am, every chance I get, so they will all know. It’s my only way out.
     Millie had been right. Samantha did get better every time with that big gun. There never seemed to be a shortage of ammunition around for that big gun, and every member of the clan was encouraged to use as much as they wanted.
     Slim told them, “Our clan will only survive if we are all experts with that long-ranged gun. This country is moving toward war. I hear that Southerners who don’t join up ta fight are being forced ta fight or be hung. Well, nobody can force us to fight. If they kaint safely get within 300 yards uv us, without having a rifle ball put in their dang heads, how can they force us to do anything?”
     “This here war will be good for us. With all th’ farm and plantation men gone, off ta fight, our job will just be that much easier. The South will lose this fight, in th’ long run. They don’t have enough men. Our market will start to dry up, as the South gets all beat down. We gotta hit’um hard th’ first year, get all th’ money saved up we’ll ever need, then we can jest sit back, an’ watch th’ dang fools kill each other. This here war will make us rich, if we jest play our cards right, an’ ever body gets good enuf with our big gun.”
     “ We got all th’ ammo stashed away we’ll ever need. I wanta see ever last one uv our young’uns practicing ever day. You’ll answer to me if ye don’t.” And everybody knew exactly what that meant. Get good with that gun or die.
     Slim had been exactly right, on every count. His prediction was right on. Things with the war, as it later proved out, played out just as he said. Slim was very, very smart. And nobody knew that better than Slim.
     Samantha was very smart, as well. This all played right into  her plan. She went to the range every day. Before long, Millie was getting burned out on training Samantha. So, Samantha went alone. By the time she was eleven years old, about the time the Confederacy was forming, she was better than Millie. Others at the shooting range were beginning to tell tales of her skill with the big gun. Even Slim was noticing.
     “That durned kid Sam is jest flat good. She’s by far the best uv the youngn’s, and most uv th’ men. She can bust a punkin almost ever time at 300 yards. Funny thang, though. I send her out to get a mess uv squirrels, and she always comes back empty handed. She ain’t no good as a hunter, but I’ve got somethin’ else in mind fer her. “

     “Folks in town are all rowled up about goin’ ta war. They’s a big shootin’ match comin’ up in town next week. I’m agona send her in, by herself, to enter that contest. If she can do good, which I know she can, it will show those townies that even an eleven year old Dudley girl is a better shot than mosta them. And they will know, we’s all better than they are. So, they will all be too scairt to come out here, on Dudley land, ta wrangle us about joinin’ th’ war. That’ll give us a free pass. They’ll leave us alone.” Even Slim just had to smile; this may be his best idea ever. He was so wise, and, of course, he knew it. “But that thare name, Samantha, it’s gotta go. From this day farward, nobody calls her anything but Sam.” And nobody in the Clan ever did. They all liked the idea of staying alive far too well to cross Slim.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Forever A Hillbilly: Part Six - Dead-eye Sam

Forever A Hillbilly: Part Six - Dead-eye Sam: Part Six      When Samantha was eight, Millie told her she had something very special to show her. They mounted the horses and ro...

Part Six - Dead-eye Sam

Part Six
     When Samantha was eight, Millie told her she had something very special to show her. They mounted the horses and rode a long way, must have been at least half a mile. As they came over a hill, Samantha could see a long, narrow canyon ahead. It was very deep. A beautiful stream meandered along the right side of it, with a flat, grassy meadow to the left of the creek. A long, very crooked and steep trail led to the bottom. Even on Old Murt, Samantha was very scared as they wound along the trail, deeper and deeper. The trail was worn deeply into the canyon wall, showing that it had been traversed thousands of times.
     “This canyon is so deep, the sounds of the shooting does not carry out of it very well. We can’t even hear it at the Compound,” Millie explained.
     Soon they were in the lush meadow. It was long and straight. A small cabin stood at the near end of it. At the far end, Samantha could see several brightly painted objects shaped like a person, and they appeared to be about the size of a grown man.
     “This meadow is three hundred yards long,” Millie said. “This is our shooting range. Our family is surrounded by bad, dangerous people. We have to learn to protect ourselves. All us Dudley’s, men women and children, learn to be experts with this gun.”
     Millie pulled out a very large, long rifle from her saddle scabbard. Samantha had seen many of these large guns back at the compound. She had noticed that when any adult leaves the compound, they almost always carried one of these guns.
     Millie explained. “As we get older, and deal with big men, men who know how to fight, all the tricks I’ve shown you with the boys won’t work. And we can’t beat them. They’re stronger. All these people around us from the outside want to hurt us, even kill us.”
     Samantha was getting a very bad feeling about this.
     “Every one of us, even a girl, must get very accurate with this gun. So that when bad men who come onto our land, planning to hurt or kill us, they will know that we are able to take them out long before they can get close enough to hurt us. Most of these bad people surrounding us already know that, so they usually stay away from our land.”
     Samantha burst into tears. “But I don’t want to hurt anybody! I hate guns! I never want to even hold one! All they are good for is hurting people!” Please don’t make me touch that thing!”
     Millie put the gun aside, and hugged Samantha. Millie realized this was not going to be easy. “We have many needs for this gun, and this skill. Don’t you like the meat you eat back at the compound? How do you think we get that meat? We Hunt! And we all get very good at it. When we get good enough, these mean people around us realize they must never come here. If you work hard enough with this gun, and get to be the very best around with it, people will soon know, and you will never have to shoot this gun at a man. It’s just like fighting with the big boys at the compound. Don’t you remember how they are afraid to wrestle me? They know I can hurt them, and they leave me alone. They’re even beginning to leave you alone, simply because they know you know all my tricks. All you ever have to do, mostly, is bluff. Isn’t that true, Sam?”
     Samantha was still sniffling, but she had to admit, that was true. It did seem that the more the boys respected her abilities, the less she had to actually wrestle one, which Samantha completely detested.
“Let’s go in the cabin. There’s always snacks and drink there. We’ll rest a bit, and I’ll show you how this gun works.”
     While they ate snacks and rested, Millie started showing her the mechanics of this gun. Samantha was thinking about all this. She did not know if she could ever get good with this gun, but it was seeming like that may be her only out of having to shoot at a man, like her family seemed to be all about. And what about her name? Samantha sound like a sissy, girlish name. Would people respect the abilities of Sam more than Samantha?

     For her demonstration, Millie chose to shoot from two hundred yards. Continued, four days. Thanks for reading.