This is the ninth part of a fiction serial, in 779 words.
By late afternoon, daddy was talking about finding a good place to camp for the night, when we came across a one-horse flatback buggy stuck on the trail. The man standing next to it waved as we approached, and walked toward us. He was dressed in a long black buttoned-up coat, despite the heat, and his hat looked like the hats I had seen the Quakers wearing back home. It was clear to see what had happened. from the way the buggy was lying to the left, resting almost on the wheel hub.
“Could you help me sir? The side spring has come off the mounting, and I have no tools. Otherwise I will have to unshackle my horse, and try to ride with no saddle into Leavenworth”. Daddy jumped down and examined the damage. “Reckon I can fix that enough for you to get there, mister. But you had better get a new spring when you can, this one’s kinda bent now”. The man beamed a big smile, finally removing his hat to mop the sweat from his head with a large white handkerchief. ” I am greatly obliged to you sir, I am the reverend Thomas Mostyn, at your service”. Daddy was already pulling one of his toolboxes from the wagon. “Fuller, and this here’s my son”.
As daddy worked on the buggy, the reverend got to talking. “You are on the road to Lawrence, sir. Are you intending to pass through, or do you have a notion to settle there?” Daddy stopped, and looked up. “Fella told me they need good workers in that town, to help rebuild it. I’m handy with tools, so figured we might stay there awhile, before moving on to the Colorado Territory after the winter. Mostyn chewed his lip. “I detect a southern accent, sir. May I ask, were you a Confederate during the recent troubles?” I thought it was a strange thing to call the long war something as mild as ‘recent troubles’.
“Yes I was, Army of Northen Virgina. But that’s all done with now” Daddy leaned back under the buggy, hitting something with a hammer. Mostyn got down on his haunches to peer under the cart. “Sir, you have been kind enough to do me a service, so allow me to return the favour. Lawrence is the last place you should be thinking of going to. I would not advise even passing through. Rebel raiders did an awful thing there, and even though it was years ago, and the war is over, there is bad feeling against southerners there. They are all confirmed Jayhawkers, sir, and many served with the Redlegs too. I would consider the safety of yourself and your son, and keep going west”.
When the repair was good enough, and the buggy was no longer leaning askew, daddy wiped his hands on his shirt, and went to fetch the map from the wagon. He spread it out on the back of the buggy, and turned to the reverend. “This here’s a good map. If you know this country, I’d be grateful if you could point us to somewhere where the war don’t matter none”. After examining the map, the reverend shook his head. “Sad to say this map is not accurate, sir. The border with Tennessee is all wrong for one thing, and some of the distances are greater or lesser than they are in truth. I would caution you against relying on it too heavily”. Then he took a deep breath. “However, I have heard that Wichita is a place of opportunity, though I have never been there”. He poked a finger at the map, and daddy leaned over to look.
“You can travel north of Lawrence, and cross the Kansas river by steamboat ferry at Topeka. The trail is well established since the early settlers headed west. But I would advise avoiding mentioning anything about your service in the war, until you are well south of that town. From there, you should find a new settlement on the banks of the Arkansas River. But watch out for the natives. Most of them returned to that region following the war, and not all are friendly”. Daddy shook the man’s hand. “Looks like Wichita it is. I thank you for your counsel, reverend”. Mostyn waved a friendly goodbye as he set off in the other direction, and daddy folded the map carefully.
“Let’s keep going a ways until we find a spot for tonight, Phin. Then in the morning we can start heading for Wichita”.
I climbed up onto the seat, wondering how many times we might be changing direction because of what someone said.