This is the fourteenth part of a fiction serial, in 845 words.
Considering all the blood, Mister Delacroix seemed happy enough. I helped him up into the back of the wagon, and he fished around in his coat to find a cigar to smoke. Winking at me, he smiled. “How ya doing, young Fuller? Enjoying life in Kansas?” I nodded, still sore at him for his idea that we should have gone to that nest of Redlegs, Lawrence.
Back home, he told the story as daddy washed his wound with water mixed with whiskey. Seemed someone had accused him of cheating at cards, and pulled a knife. Delacroix had whipped out a pistol and shot the man close to his face, taking off most of his ear. When the man’s friends had come close, he had fired twice more to discourage them, before realising that he had been cut bad. There was no lawman in Wichita settlement, so he thought he best get gone until it all calmed down. “Sir, I was plumb happy to see you, I declare”. As daddy sewed up the wound with a darning needle and some tent cord, I had to admire how he didn’t even flinch.
Henry seemed very taken with Eugene, and offered his bed for him to rest in. He slept on the floor in front of the fire for the next three days, as we all nervously waited to see if men would come from town looking for him. Then he asked daddy to drive him to the edge of town, so he could recover his horse from the livery stable without anyone getting the notion that we had helped him. “I have a mind to carry on to Texas, Mister Fuller. I hear tell there are lots of cowboys working steers down there. Seems to me they might have money to gamble with. I thank you for your help and hospitality”.
He was always so polite and well-mannered. One reason I never trusted him.
Two days later, we started work on the church. I was set to nailing frames together, long pieces of wood arranged on the ground by my daddy. Him and Henry started levelling the ground and digging out the big holes where the support posts would sit. The weather was fair that Saturday, and people came to watch us work, including Reverend Parker. It wasn’t long before others started to ask daddy to work for them once we had finished. Reverend Parker intervened, reminding us that we had agreed to make the benches for the congregation to sit on, and the rostrum for him to preach at. To my surprise, daddy rubbed his beard, and nodded at me. “My boy will be making those, Reverend. He’s good with wood, just like me”.
Using some paper that had been wrapped around long nails, and our stubby marking pencil, I made a list of the names of the people who wanted work done, and a rough idea of what would be needed. Daddy would visit them to give them a price once the church was almost done, and he called to them as they walked away. “First come first served now. Just as the names are on this here list”. When we were alone again, he smiled and shook his head. “Well, I reckon we got enough work to last until winter at least, maybe more. I might have to think about taking on more help”. Then he told Henry to start making some longer ladders while he worked on the window frames and shutters.
When the church frames were finished, we got some local men from the Trading Post to help us haul them up on ropes, as daddy checked that the support posts were dropping in right. He gave them some money for whiskey and tobacco, and said we had done enough for the day. It had been a long day, but I had enjoyed working at the settlement, and meeting lots of new folks. We wouldn’t be working the next day, as it was a Sunday, but on the way home, daddy told us that we would be laying fence rails around our property instead. I would have liked to have a day doing nothing, but that wasn’t to be.
At midday, we were all hot and thirsty after the morning fixing rails. A buggy drove up to the house from the creek path, and we walked over to see who it was. The man driving got down, and offered his hand to daddy. “Shawn Ryan, late of the city of New York. Pleased to make your acquaintance, sir. We are to be neighbours, I understand. I have claimed the land on the other side of the creek”. I looked over at the buggy. The older woman I took to be his wife was stout, and smiling. In the back sat two girls, one with bright red hair. She looked away when I caught her eye. The other one was older, and favoured her mother in looks and size.
Daddy made the introductions of our names, but didn’t mention where we hailed from.