This is the second part of a fiction serial, in 815 words.
Momma had kept the tobacco going while daddy was away. That still sold for cash, or could be traded for what we needed. The money was not much use, not Confederate bills, anyway. She would say, “Might just as well hang these on the nail in the outhouse, put ’em to some good use’. We never did get troubled by the Yankees that daddy warned me about. Though the fighting got close enough that we could hear the guns at times.
Then one day, we were hanging washing out front, when there was the sound of horses, a lot of horses. Cavalry came riding slowly up the turnpike, from the north. They had blue uniforms on, and I feared they would raid the farm, maybe hurt momma. But one of them just raised his cap and called out, ‘Good day to you, dear lady”. He had a funny voice, and I asked momma why he was talking so strange. She shook her head. “He’s Irish, Phin. Lots of them Irish fellas up north, I hear. They come all the way across the ocean to fight for the Federals. No wonder we’re losing this war”.
Three weeks after he got home, daddy walked into town one afternoon to see if he could sell the dry tobacco we had stored in the barn. He came back late, and woke me up to talk to me. “I spoke to Mr Shultz, the land agent. He says that some men from up north are in town, buying up land. They are paying with Yankee dollars, in gold. I told him to tell them to come see me, boy. So I thought you should know I am planning to move us on. Nothing left for us here now, with your momma and Calvin gone. The Bloys are getting old, and we don’t have any kin left alive. I reckon we ought to head west, look for a better life”.
I didn’t know much about the west, though I had heard tell of the gold rush, and injuns of course. I had never been outside the county all my life so far, so I didn’t know that much about anything. “We going to mine for gold, daddy?” He smiled at me. “No, that’s played out, boy. I reckon we will get ourselves a nice piece of land, build a homestead, maybe raise cattle or horses. What do you say to that?” I immediately pictured myself as a cowboy, yee-hawing, and rounding up the stock. It seemed like more fun than growing tobacco. “Sounds good to me, daddy’.
The two men were serious, sweating in the May heat in their thick wool suits as they walked around with daddy as he showed them our place. I wasn’t part of any negotiating of course, but I listened from the bedroom as they argued. Daddy had a price in mind, and they had a lower one in theirs. There was lots of talk about the yield of the tobacco crop before the war, and I knew for sure that daddy exaggerated how much we could grow. After a lot of talking into the afternoon, they left in their buggy. When I came out, daddy was smiling. “Those boys thought to cheat me, Phin, but I held out for the price I always wanted. We had better go say goodbye to the Bloys on Sunday, ’cause we will be leaving soon as I sign the papers”.
Over the next few days, we packed up the tools, and our few clothes and posessions. Once daddy got the money from Mr Shultz, he bought us some work clothes, boots, and warm coats. He told me most of the money was going on buying a travelling wagon, with a canvas top. We would be living in that with all our stuff, until we got wherever it was we were going. We needed a pair of calm mares to pull the thing too, but there would be enough left to get by on, and to buy the land when we arrived. One day, he took me out back and showed me the Henry Rifle he had brought home from the war. “Took this off a dead Yankee, Phin. He was lying right on top it”. He also had his pistol, a Navy Colt that he had taken to the war. He showed me how to load and fire both of them, setting up some stones as targets.
“You will have to know how to use these where we’re going, Phin”. He had bought me a hunting knife at the store in town. “That old bayonet ain’t much use as a knife. Only good for sticking in someone. But you hang on to it”. I watched him cleaning the rifle and pistol later, as I played around with my new knife.
I was growing up fast, and could feel the excitement in me.