Defiance on Indian Creek FREE PEEK
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Copyright©2016 by Phyllis A. Still
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Western Virginia, 1774
I weaved the gold embroidery thread into the last swoop of my letter M, laid the white neckerchief in my lap, then stared at Momma in the hazy glow of the hearth, and sighed. “It’s been three weeks since George and I saw the Indian tracks. I’m tired of being cooped up and scared. Please, let us check for signs and hunt.”
“I’ll get the traps ready.” My little brother leapt to his feet, letting his slate bang on the table where we sat. He smoothed his loose black hair behind his ears, retrieved his hat from its peg near the door, and waited.
Seated on the other side of the table, my younger sisters, Katie and Lizzy, glanced up from their needlework, wide-eyed.
Momma continued to stir the steamy pot of squirrel stew, then shook her head, and wiped sweat from her brow. “One more week. If Papa isn’t home by next Sunday—we’ll risk it.”
Thoughts of Papa being among those wounded or dead at the Point made my eyes water. Why else be delayed? We’d learned of the mid-October ambush and the later peace treaty from our closest neighbor, Mr. Thorndike. He said that the men would be home the early part of November. “Papa should have been home two weeks ago. What if he’s—”
Momma raised her eyebrows, tilting her head toward the youngest children playing on the board floor. Susie frowned, looking up from her pile of wooden clothespins and scraps of cloth. Nancy pooched out her lip, and Charlie let his block tower topple as he stared at the door.
“Papa?” Charlie asked.
I focused on the dried chamomile flowers that hung from the lower log beam to prevent my eyes from watering, then took a deep breath. “We need to get meat in the smokehouse. Papa would say so.”
Momma’s jaw clenched as her eyes narrowed.
I glanced at my hands. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sass.”
Momma sighed. “Take Drummer and scout around the creek for Indian signs. But if he so much as bristles his fur, get back here quick. If you find nothing, traps can be set in the morning.”
“And me?” George headed to the gun rack above the door.
Momma shook her head. “I won’t risk both of you. Mary is the eldest and a better shot. You’ll stand guard here.”
His chest rose and fell in a quiet huff.
My heart raced as I dropped the almost completed neckerchief into the sewing basket and hurried to the door. I donned my sage-green knitted bonnet and gray wool coat, then shouldered the powder horn and leather-encased pine cartridge box. George handed me one of the two loaded flintlock rifles that were slightly longer than his height of forty inches but a foot shorter than me.
Momma stepped up and wrapped me in her arms. Her breaths were shallow. “I’ll try not to worry. Be safe.”
I nodded. “I’ll hurry, but if I have a shot at small game, I’ll take it.”
The black iron hinges creaked as I opened the oak plank door to a cold wind and squinted at the bright, clear afternoon.
“Be safe,” echoed my siblings as Momma closed and latched the door behind me.
Drummer scrambled from under the porch and shook the dirt from his brown-and-white fur, before sitting at my feet. I rubbed his head, stalling to calm my racing heart. With a deep breath, I forced my first steps. “Let’s go, boy.” I tapped my right leg, and Drummer heeled.
The woods were eerily quiet except for the occasional creaking of tree branches and crows alerting one another of our intrusion while we crunched on leaves of gold, brown, orange, and red. As we neared the creek, I slowed to examine the bushes for broken twigs and the ground for prints. Outside of the normal tracks of squirrel, deer, and coons, there was nothing alarming—until a gobble on the other side of Indian Creek made my blood run cold.
Indians imitate turkeys. I squatted among a tangle of vines and planted my right knee into the damp leaves, prepared to shoot. Drummer stood alert, sniffing the air. I pursed my lips to prevent foggy breaths from giving me away, just in case.
Something large rustled the leaves across the creek and flushed a crow from an oak tree. Its ruckus of caws echoed through the forest, and my heart raced. Too late to run. Drummer snarled with bristled fur and pulled his ears back. “Shh,” I whispered to him
He sat but grumbled. I pulled the hammer back on the flintlock, filled the flash pan, then watched the darkening woods, ignoring the trickle from my nose.
Drummer sprang to his feet, growling, as the silhouette of a man ducked behind a sycamore tree. I gasped. It is an Indian.
I snapped my fingers, and Drummer hushed. Shallow breaths squeezed from my chest. If I don’t shoot, he’ll scalp me. I swallowed. My stomach churned. God, help me. I propped my elbow on my left leg, raised the stock to my shoulder, and aimed toward the tree. As a head eased into my sight, I held my breath, steadied the swaying barrel, and fired.
The flash stung my cheek. My ears crackled. Smoke burned my eyes and made me cough. With trembling hands, I pulled a paper cartridge from the box, bit off the tip, and poured the contents down the barrel. I slid out the rod, tamped wadding and bullet down the barrel, sucked in a deep breath, and prepared for a second shot.
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