"...I trusted in the Almighty… I knew I could only be killed once,
and I had to die sometime."
-Anne Bailey, 1823

Tuesday, December 6

The Lost Scout

Darkness came on fast that November night. Stars began to twinkle in the night sky even as the sun’s last rays winked into oblivion. Autumn was fully upon us with its shortened days and unpredictable weather. The day which had just been extinguished had held reminders of summer’s sweet warmth, particularly in sunny patches of the forest. Yet, with the setting sun all such reminders had been whisked away, replaced by a deep chill which promised a long night.

I continued to hurry-scurry down the unfamiliar trail hoping against hope I’d not miss my friends entirely. Captain Jacobs had been clear in his instruction; we were to assemble at the appointed area at five of the clock. We would launch for a temporary camp along the creek Friday night, hunt Saturday morning and move on to a station camp Saturday afternoon. Yet, if my pocket watch were to be trusted, five had been gone round entirely and the hands were now closer to seven. I knew the main party of the expedition would have gone on without me, all but Mr. Egener who had graciously promised to await my arrival, regardless of the time. Although I felt horrible for holding him back, I was especially thankful for his kindness as I trudged through the dark night. 

Time and darkness seemed to be turning against me, as did the map. My eyes, which had once been keen even in the dark, had begun to blur with age and now I found I could barely read jumble of lines and words. Regardless of how close to my face or how much I squinted, I simply could not make out the path I was to take. Frustrated, I began to question why I had done this to myself, let alone to my friend who was (I hoped) patiently waiting.

A few more miles and my doubt and frustration doubled, I squinted again at my map and discovered a turning I had surely missed! For heaven sake, it seemed I could not see far away either! Age is a great betrayer, aided and abetted by my failing eyes! I turned to retrace my steps, this time with my pathetic eyes peeled even more widely. Ha! There it was! The turn onto Crooked Creek Road which I’d missed. 

I carried on with a watchful eye. Good thing too, for it wasn’t another mile afore I chanced upon a gent walking the road toward me his riflegun clubbed, gamebag empty. I clutched my own firelock, checked the prime and began to whistle a tune, thinking not to startle the man and cause my own demise.  The gentleman doffed his hat and admonished me for tarrying upon the path in the darkness. I assured him of my intent to meet with a party of hunters and inquired if he hadn’t come across them himself. As a matter of fact, he had passed a lone gentleman with a pirogue, not even a mile back. I thanked him for this bit of good news and bade him a good hunt of his own.

True to the gentleman’s word, less than a mile later I came upon my friend Dan Egener and his well stocked boat. Ah, a happier sight I’d not had in some time!  Much relieved to have found him, I immediately settled myself and my small belongings into his pirogue and we set off in the direction Captain Jacobs had indicated. Had I thought it dark before? T’was nothing compared to the darkness of the creek bottom!  My tired eyes were open wide and my ears strained for any sound of our friends. There was little talk between Dan and I as we concentrated upon our task. 

Less than a mile into our journey things began to go badly. The pirogue, laden down with our supplies scrapped bottom on numerous occasions, causing us to pole the thing along more oft than paddling. Traveling became treacherous though there was no fear of turning over in the cold water which was at times only a few inches deep.  Silently we struggled, each considering our folly and neither wanting to put voice to our fears. An hour slipped past, yet we had only traveled a tiny distance. 

Finally, my voice broke the silence and I asked if perhaps I should signal with my firelock to see if our friends were nearby. Dan readily agreed and I balanced myself to fire the long gun. The rifle's crack nearly blinded and deafened us when my dear Lady of the Woods riflegun discharged. I reloaded and fired again, hoping for the immediate response of Captain Jacobs.

Silence once more enveloped us, there was no response in the dark night.

We carried on as best we were able until once more the dread scrape of the bow upon the shoals brought us to a complete halt. We sat. Grounded. He, no doubt, wondering why he’d foolishly waited for me. Me, hating myself for being the cause of such a mess. Both us, wondering how it could have been possible for the others to navigate through the shallow water? Heaving mightily we struggled together to back the little vessel off the shoals.  Finally, we began to float mere inches above the mud. There seemed no other course than to turn around and return to the launch point. Thus, we put our backs and arms to the task, and as another hour slid into dark oblivion we arrived back where we’d begun.

Ironically, even though we’d literally gotten nowhere, we regained a positive outlook and determined to make the best of the situation. Back on shore we pulled our bedrolls and foodstuffs from the boat, laughing at the folly of trying to navigate in the dark. Soon a tiny crackling fire yielded bit of warmth and tea as we laid our plans for another attempt in the morn.  After a very late night meal of jerked meat and hardboiled eggs, we bid each other sleep well and each turned in to our bedroll. Though the fire, laughter and pleasant conversation had warmed my spirits, afore long a chill set in which refused to leave for the days to come. Throughout the cold night I barely slept, my ears strained to hear the crack of Captain Jacob's firelock or even a hint of voices carried over the water, yet I heard nothing. 

To be Continued in a future edition of On the Trail Magazine.  

Monday, October 24

Death, Forgiveness, Strength, and Power

Mark McCarter who left too soon. Photo by Ron Roundman Gholson
My thoughts of late have been rather influenced by the passing of too many souls. Some gone too soon, others who passed near the natural end of their days, and some who have been gone a long while and yet are still missed as though it were but yesterday. Eulogies seem to fall from our lips like rain from the sky. Too many words too oft spoke.
"Coming Home No More" painting by John Buxton
The loss of Anne's beloved first husband, Richard Trotter

Though some time has passed, our dear friend Hester Purefinder has been on my mind of late. She gave us all so much and her story keeps expanding.  It is hard to believe she has been gone for over three years and still the stories of her life carry on. In life she gave me a glimpse of what could be done in a non-traditional role, and upon her death she reminded me how short our time on this earth is and how important it is to forgive those who have hurt us.  I can not guess what my life would be like had I not attended her memorial service. Her ray of light touched me that day and she granted me the strength to reach out to someone whom I did not intend ever to speak with again. Her death truly made me realize how everything can change in an instant. Thanks Hester, I owe ya one, and every time I tell my story I am trying my utmost to pay you back and to pay it forward.
Colleen "Hester Purefinder" Gilbert from the Book of Faces - Steven Young Caudill

More recently, a good man tossed off the mortal coil and reached high to the heavens to be with his beloved. Gathered together, his friends and loved ones were much dismayed. Whispered questions flew. "By his own hand," they said. "God's choice not ours," they stammered. "Why?" they questioned. Yet, who are we to say, "It was too soon." "He had no right," or "How dare he?" How dare WE judge such matters?

Days are like gifts to some and pure torture to others, none of us can know the depths of another's soul. My friends, I am much humbled by this good man's act, and reminded to give thanks and forgiveness generously, for we know not the weight of our words and deeds. Each kind word, smile or gentle kindness given today may be that which is necessary to grant another but one more hour or one more day. Give gifts of kindness easily my friends and I beg you, give the kindest gift of all, readily, easily, and without being asked; Give the gift of forgiveness.

I remind myself of that word, forgiveness, as my thoughts turn to another sweet angel who carried the light from her mother's eyes up into the heavens. The only comfort I seem to be able to take in this loss is in knowing she is now in God's company, surrounded by those who have gone before. Yet, fury hot and loathsome burns still within my soul. For this dear one was snatched away as surely as a dove caught in the clutches of a horrendous and heartless boy. Tortured until she flew free at last away from hands which hurt her.

Fury burdens my soul for all of the helpless and the hopeless. Forgiveness does not figure easily into my heart in this matter and I can not resolve this anger, even knowing full well it only grants another power over me. For there in lies the secret, doesn't it? By allowing another to cause us anger or fear, we give them the very thing they most desire. I try to breathe deeply, and reach into the depths of all I have been given, all I have been taught, and all I believe in, and I ask God to help me and the many others who struggle with this kind of loss. I ask Him to help us to regain our strength, indeed to make us stronger for our loss

I truly believe He has set His angel free, she has gained her wings. Let her be an angel of God by our side, a guardian dear, reminding us she has been set free of all our mortal strife. She has much work ahead of her to light and guard, to rule and guide her little one, and all of us who need a guardian angel.
Abigail Parmer - Angel of God and Guardian Dear

Wednesday, August 31



It rained in my sleep
And in the morning the fields were wet

 I dreamed of artillery
Of the thunder of horses

In the morning the fields were strewn
With twigs and leaves
As if after a battle
Or a sudden journey

I went to sleep in the summer
I dreamed of rain
In the morning the fields were wet
And it was autumn"

Poem by Linda Pastan, from Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems 1968 -1991 ©W.W. Norton & Company, 2009

Thoughts of fine and shining times fill my mind on this eve of September, for not all which surrounds us is madness, war and the battle cry. There are moments of grace and beauty in the everyday if you but look to see.  Look dear ones! Look upon children at play, a simply set table, a soft and comfortable place to rest, a basket of fresh eggs, a letter from a dear friend. A garden fresh with life, a harvest of much needed meat. Oh, my friends you’ve only but to look!

Original Painting by Mark Selter
Look in the everyday, the mundane, the simple, t’is there we find the clarity we seek.  Glimpse my friends, at the many small and varied blessings which are bestowed upon us daily.  Butterflies upon flowers, nature in all her glory, or a cool mountain stream.  Look!  Truly look upon your surroundings for t’is the simplest of these which grant us the necessary strength to carry us into battle.  Is it not for these smallest treasures we fight?

The days shall surely soon grow colder, the savages shall surely make war upon us, and the nights will become long. But for this moment be well, be blessed, and please my dear ones, be thankful.

May all beings be happy and blessed.

Monday, June 27

Dare You Speak of Madness?

 Madness? You dare speak to me of madness? Dare you say the word out of my earshot and think ye I know not that which you say? You speak the word, but you know not of what you speak. Know you the terror of fire once used for warmth now burning all that you have loved?  Have you heard the sound of a child’s cry for mercy where there is none?

Perhaps, your hand has caressed a lover’s cheek, only hours later to use the very same to clutch a bloody knife; ministering grace and death within moments of each other.  Such are these times, knowing not what the morn may bring. Lying, head upon weary arms for scant hours, called upon too early to war against savages intent upon death and destruction. T’is pure madness which makes a widow’s tale of heartbreak and loss, the entertainment of others, yet t’is this very form of madness which seems my destiny.
image captured by Mark Selter http://www.markselter.com/

Dare I write words of love, of beauty? Of nights when the hearth fire burned bright, memories made, only to be lost to the sound of the muzzle’s blast on the morn.  Shall I write of iridescent flowers dusted across the pasture. Of a shift white and sheer, gossamer as moth’s wings? Dare I write of urgently whispered words? Nay, not for fear of loss. All of this and more I feel! I have felt, and fear losing.

Yet, like moth to flame, drawn to fight the savage. To avenge all that has been lost. Madness. Yes. T’is surely madness, for there are times I feel others inside of my mind, inside of my heart, in my head screaming in fury for their revenge.  T’is their hand at work whilst my rifle is raised;  as my knife plunges.

Captured Moments by Ken Bentley
Image from Don Counts and the Book of Faces
These days and nights passed I have traveled far and wide. To the banks of Laughery Creek where savages tore through a homestead ripping a babe from the arms of her mother and the butt of my rifle took its toll upon a savage’s skull.  Children tossed over painted shoulders, carried screaming from all they have ever known.  Loss so deeply felt by a mother who stood amidst the carnage and chaos. Laughing madly, trying to wake the tiny lifeless babe she had moments before smothered at her breast to keep its cries quiet. Madness, you speak to me of such things? Have you been there flattened upon the grass holding strips of bandage to stanch the flow of ceaseless pumping blood? Have you seen the madness of a mother’s eyes as she recognizes her  unwitting complicity in her child's death?

Image from Rebecca Waterman
This tragedy barely behind me, I pressed onward to Mr. Martin’s station for what was to be a sojourn of happiness with my dear Mr. Mains. I traveled once more with my friend Roundman and again, nary a stranger was met by my friend! All who were near became instant friends, pulled in by Ron’s humor and kindness.  All but one, which remained untamed, and was duly relocated to a more suitable home!

Ah, to be in the arms of my love once more! Time nearly flew by with not nearly enough to satiate our desire to be together. T'is perhaps this, the most true madness; to be separated by hours, days, months and miles from the one whom we love most dearly!

And still even in this fine place the savage was never quiet! Little did we guess the Cherokee were watching us at the mid day whilst we walked aside waggoners Heindl & Linenkohl. I am grateful beyond belief  the attack came only after my friends the Heasleys, Mr. Mains and Mr. Linnenkohl and Mr. Heindl and I were a safe distance to the walls of the fort. 
Image by Amanda Evans and the Book of Faces
 Captains Titus and Martin were spitting mad as men were deployed along the ramparts. I was granted a station at the wall gun, where I believe I turned back many a yellow dog with a bark much louder than any they bargained for!  
Another image from the Book of Faces, via Chetworth del Gato
Yet still the dogs were successful in grasping within their evil limbs the most tender of lambs; the Doctor’s beautiful governess and her young charges, the Doctors four lovely daughters!  One and all taken by the barbarians to the slaughter! And yet the good Doctor carried on, treating the wounded upon the field, ignorant of his pending doom. 

From Amanda Evans - the Book of Faces
 My own dear, dear friend Roundman was selected with a small group of men to press outside the walls of the fort to push the savages back. Imagine my terror upon finding he had fallen in the field, his musket clutched in his hands!  Thankfully, but wounded! I could not imagine myself telling his dearest wife Jane of his loss! Fearing the words “burn the messenger!” I was most gladdened the Doctor was able to ascertain he would stand to fight again!

The day's raid upon Martin's Station subsided, though but a few hours later a wretched evening attack found me outside the walls in company with Captain Titus. Together in the gloaming we two seemed everywhere upon the field! The barrel of my fine smoothbore Lucky became hot to the touch as she sprayed her deadly fire upon the heathens of the night.  

T’was a pure pleasure to find Mr. Boone, who had traveled so many many miles was at my back at all times, loaded and ready whilst I reloaded, and I firing whilst he shoved powder down the hot barrel of his own thunder stick.  The battle raged, until Captain Titus’s sword sprang forth from its scabbard and he personally led the men in a final push to move the savages from the field. Their heinous black forms fading as shadows into the trees from whence they came. 
image from the Book of Faces ~ Retha Elaine Reece
Captain Titus was kind enough to offer a glass of fine Madeira in his cabin as the final remains of the sun slipped behind the mountains. Candles were lit, sparkling glasses set upon the table and bottle uncorked.  Together we toasted the fine young men who had fought so bravely, those who would not be coming home, and those who were fighting still. Though much refreshed from the Madeira I was longing for the comfort of my dearest as I begged leave of Captain Titus.

From the fort I passed the flames of another cabin which had been burned. Another frontier family found themselves homeless and lost upon the land; having lost more than the hard work to build the small cabin which burned like a beacon from Hell itself  in the dark night.

Wearily, I lay in the arms of my love knowing full well we would part on the coming day. Our words, thoughts and deeds were those of two who could not get enough of one another.  The dawning day brought forth shovels and the dead were buried beside the ashes of their lost cabins. 
Captured by Adin Pemberton from the Book of Faces
The parson said a most touching and fine service for the gathered settlers and travelers garrisoned at Mr. Martin's Station, following which, a scant few moments were gathered during which Captain Titus and I were able to greet each other as dear friends.

Mr. Mains escorted me from the fort yard to do a bit of shopping and then a ride with the waggoner returned us to his cabin.

image provided by Mr. Carroll Ross

 My dear friend Roundman came round to collect me from Mr. Mains cabin, knowing full well how much I hated to gather my scant belongings from the small cabin which is Mr. M's humble domain.

Our long journey away from Powell's Valley was filled with talk of our time spent, his narrow escape from the hands of death, and my simple happiness with love, and the sign of hope we'd been sent from heaven above at the close of the day.

My own travels continued, including a brief visit once more to the land of Friendship along Laughery Creek with my lovely friend Marie Blanche. Together we celebrated long into the night amongst friends not seen for a goodly long time.  
Image from the Book of Faces ~ Jeri Vaughn

Sadly for us, though perhaps a blessing upon our unfortunate neighbors, our shining times did not last and but five days later I was sheltered within the walls of Fort Harrod whilst the damned savages taunted, hurling insults, fire and lead upon the fortifications.  
image captured by Mark Selter http://www.markselter.com/

 My good friends Mr. M. Ramsey, Mr. Burns, the Dunkelbergers, the Selters, the Heasleys, Mr. Hagee and his lovely wife were with us as were the dear Parson and his servant Maggie.

T'was so good to share time and a punch bowl with my friends! Mr. Ramsey, Mr. Kell, Mr. MacGillie, Mr. vonDielingen joined the Selters and I in partaking of the communal punch bowl.  Ahhh, therein lies madness, partaken of willingly! T'was most fortunate the Parson had removed himself from the proceedings, lest a sermon would surly have followed upon the Sunday morn following!
image captured by Mark Selter http://www.markselter.com/
image captured by Mark Selter http://www.markselter.com/

image captured by Mark Selter http://www.markselter.com/

image captured by Mark Selter http://www.markselter.com/

T’was pure pleasure having Mr. MacGillie back within our lands, his having traveled most far and wide in the days earlier. He spent a goodly amount of his time sewing a pair of moccasins for Mr. Kell, who will surely wear them out in but a few days. Ah well, yet another form of madness, to speak nothing of the great pleated sleeve generation of fellows being clad by this seamstress of the sand. 
image from Luke MacGillie and the Book of Faces

I believe we three MacGillie, Kell and I shall travel to Mr. Martin’s station in the coming weeks and I shall be reunited once again with my dear Mr. Mains whom I adore and miss madly. I pray he is safe and sound cradled in Powell's Valley awaiting my return.

Nay, do not speak to me of madness, for surely you know not of what you speak. 

Wednesday, June 1


Dearest Readers,
I’ve only just knuckled the sleep out of my eyes this early morn; grasping my pen and paper hoping to gather the  wisps of strange dreams from the night last afore they escape my mind. T’was a dream which started in the arms of my dearest Mr. Mains, an impossibility as he is so many many miles from me. I’ll not cause you to blush by sharing those details but t’was quite warming on this cool morning.
The sound of rushing water, a stream cobbled in sunlight, shadow and splashing white bubbles woke me from dreams within my dream.  
Mr. M and I drank coffee and spoke words of love whilst sitting far above the water.  The images changed in my mind and shifted to a place only accessible in dreams. Strangely, the two of us were now high in the trees with blooming mountain laurel below. The smell, even in my dream was intoxicating, but the view was truly magnificent. 

Mr. Mains and I were strung up in some type of extraordinary apparatus and were flying through the air as if we were birds.  These dream flights were so vivid and strong t’was as if it had been in real life!

I wondered if I had screamed in my bed as I had as I’d crossed valleys high above the tree tops. The worst moment had been when I had somehow missed grasping Mr. Mains hand and found myself flying backwards over the longest distance between one landing and another.

Within scant moments Mr. M’s strong arms were around me and together we pulled ourselves to a landing platform, my heart raced and I could hardly get my breath. 

Again the dream shifted and I found myself once more aside a sparkling river surrounded by hundreds of fairie butterflies fluttering over a carpet of moss.

Upon waking my heart continued to soar and a smile remained upon my lips as I reached for pen and paper.