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 Category:  General Fiction
  Posted: January 20, 2019      Views: 183
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Catherin Elizabet Belle, also a pseudonym. She is retired. She enjoys living in Florida where there is plenty of sea, sun and sand.

Ms Belle enjoys her research and creating poetry, novels, and short stories.

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Chapter 9 of the book Gun For Hire
Beginning the journey home
"After War's End" by Catherin Elizabet Belle

Days on the trail trying to avoid carpetbaggers, Yanks, and Rebs who are still fighting the war; some folks jist don't know when to quit.

Game is scarce, the country ravaged by the war, more times than not we go hungry. As the sun sets behind the pines we move off the trail into a thicket, gathering a few twigs Caleb starts a small fire as I forage for anything we can eat. Through the brush, I come up on a small shell of a cabin. At the edge of the clearing are two graves.

Foraging I find what was a potato patch, and dig a few small spuds. Guess the folks won't mind if I help myself. Putting them in my poke I head back to our camp. Handing the taters to Caleb who had scrounged roots and berries, we sit our rifles beside us.

Looking across the dying embers I ask, "Caleb, you got family?" He took so long to answer, I wasn't sure he heerd me.

"Nah. Lost them in a Comanche raid before the war, been drifting ever since. That is 'til I joined up. Guess I'll keep drifting further west, might even head to the Rockies."

Close to midnight heerd a rider moving through the trees off a hundred yards or so, Caleb slipped back into the brush; staying by the fire I gripped my rifle.

Returning to the clearing in a whisper Caleb says, "Two or three Yanks moving north. Son let's move on down the trail. They might not be alone."

Without saying a word, I pick up my saddle bags moving toward my old cayuse. We head south, its slow going at night. The stars glistening in the ebony sky instill a longing to be back under a Texas sky. A slight breeze rustles the pine needles as we move down the trail; in the distance the hoot of an owl echoes through the night. We move on heading southeast. Day after day we see Yanks and Rebs ridin' off aways. A few hails us in passing sometimes sharing canteen of water.

We ain't had no coffee is so long can't recall the last time had a taste of that stuff. Near the Alabama Mississippi border we come upon an old country store a few rebs sittin' on that thar porch. We didn't get no pay when we lit out jist twernt no point in stopping but we palavered for a while.

Caleb is the first to speak up, "Howdy!" Glaring back at him is six pairs of dull lifeless eyes hung in gaunt cadaverous faces of tired weary men.

An old timer sitting on the porch in a worn-down rocker points his corncob pipe at him, "Sit a spell if'n you're a mind too. Where you be going, mister?"

Stepping down from his horse Caleb answers, "Well, mister, I'm jist a travelin', Jeb here's headed for Texas." Caleb sits on the bottom step as I dismount. "Jeb, show some manners to these here folks"

Removing my rebel cap, "Howdy, names Jeb Smith." I keep standing holding the reins to my horse; jist ill at ease. Guess been fightin' too long; don't cotton to being' around good folks.
Over at the end of the porch near an old gnarled tree a fellow ask, "What outfit was you with Jeb?"

Grinning through the dirt and grim mired on my person, I stand straighter as I reply, "Terry's Texas Rangers, Sir."

He moves from his perch by the tree stickin' out his hand, "Sonny, I'd be might pleased to shake your hand."

Jeb stands there his mouth hanging open when Caleb says, "Dab blame it son shakes his hand." Turning to the newcomer, "How you know about the Rangers?"

"Ah shucks I was in the hospital with one of them rangers. Let me see now." Looking toward an old lean-to he says, "Yup, I recall now, he said his name was Karl."

A dark shadow crossed Jeb's face as his eyes glazed over with sorrow. Shaking his head his mind returned to the group and found them eyeballing him. "A tall lanky towheaded boy?"

"Well, now that you mention it, he shor was. You knowed him, son?"

"Yup, we fought together til I see'd him fall. Then word came down the line that he didn't make it."

The old man looks at Jeb then says to a young man sittin on the porch, "Jim Bob, bring these rebs a cup mud. Betcha they'd cotton a taste."

Grinning like an old possum Caleb says, "Reckon it'd taste mighty good. We be thanking you."

Jeb looks off in the distance where a blue jay is squawking up a storm, "Been awhile since we had a taste. Would pleasure me some."

The old man moved up on the porch and sat in an old rockin' chair, "You boys sit a spell. It's a right fur piece to Texas."

Jim Bob brought cups of coffee. The aroma of the brew mighty pleasing as I Sip the coffee listening to the older men palaver a wave of homesickness crept through me chilling me to the bone. I had to be movin' on down the road; wouldn't be polite to pull out now but come first light I'd be riding.

Caleb and the others were still a visitin' long after the sunset the western sky ablaze. Leaving them to their storytelling I moved into the trees. Removing the saddle from the old cayuse wrapped up in my old blanket leaning against my saddle with my rifle across my knees, I dozed.

T'were about midnight when Caleb joined me, "Jeb you sleep, son."

Moving the hat off my face the moon was bright through the trees I answer, "Nah, Caleb just restin'".

"Your restless son?'

"Caleb, you could say that, got a yen to get back to Burned Valley and the ranch. I been gone now on five year. Pa may tan my hide for lighten out like I did."

That old man said nothing for a bit. When he spoke, there was a sad tone to his voice I hadn't heerd afore. "Sonny, you left that there ranch a young boy not even dry behind the ears, but Jeb you're coming back a full growed man. He ain't gonna wallop you, he'll be mighty pleased to have you home."

The old man lay across the way; soon his snores were echoing through the trees. Smiling, I dozed listening to that old man along with the rustling of the leaves as the breeze whistles through the night air.

The book continues with A Lone Cabin. We will provide a link to it when you review this below.
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