The Homestead: Part Twenty-Four

This is the twenty-fourth part of a fiction serial, in 920 words.

Before the next winter set in, daddy talked about the hunting trip again. He reckoned a few days away would provide us with some deer and wild hogs, not to mention plenty of game birds. As well as the Henry rifle, daddy had bought an old fifty-calibre Hawken from a man in town to take along. It was slow to use, but daddy said that it could knock down the biggest buck from a ways off. We both tried it out in the woods, and it sure had some kick to it.

Henry was going to use my horse and tool box while we were away. He could do a few small jobs locally, and Walter would be busy sorting and storing the crops. Mary had woven some baskets, and she said they were fish traps. Her and Susan were going to take them up to the deepest part of the creek and set them. Mary said salted fish would make a change from meat come winter. I wasn’t much for eating fish, but I had to admit that Mary could make anything taste good. Even beans.

Daddy told me to leave my forty-four with Henry, and he made sure they both had the shotguns handy, just in case of trouble. Susan made me a dandy case for my hunting knife, and her and Mary packed us up enough food for a month. Heading south not far from the banks of the Arkansas River, we could see how so much more land was being settled, or fenced off. Derby was growing, no doubt about that.

After travelling all that day and the next, we turned inland and daddy started to get the feel of where we might see some game. The pastures at the edge of the woodland looked good, so we got the wind against us, and set up a hide of sorts, leaving the wagon in a dip where it would not be spotted. After a dull morning with nothing happening, a herd of deer appeared walking out of the trees to our left. Daddy readied the Hawken to take the leading buck, and told me to aim for the biggest doe, which was at the back of the herd. He counted us down from three, and we both fired.

When the smoke cleared, the herd had scattered. The big buck was stone dead on its side, daddy had got it right through the neck. But my shot had hit the doe in the top of her leg, breaking the bone. She was dragging the leg as she tried to run. Daddy spoke quietly to me. “Hit her again, Phin. Don’t make her suffer now”. My second shot was still too rushed, but brought her down. As we walked over to finish her off, I apologised for being clumsy. Daddy smiled. “You’ll learn Phin. Can’t be helped. Why don’t you go back and get the wagon, bring it over to them?”

By the time I got back, he had gutted the animals, and tied their legs so we could lift them up, and fix them to the sides of the wagon. It was too cold for us to sleep outside if we didn’t have to, and we didn’t like the idea of sleeping next to the dead animals inside.

The next morning, we drove for a couple of hours before seeing some woods up ahead. Daddy thought they might be a good place to find hogs, so drove off the trail and hid the wagon at the edge of the woodland. We blocked the wheels and put the brake on, leaving the mares some feed as we walked inside. It was dark and damp in there, with lots of ground cover hiding many of the roots. We had to walk real careful, and stay quiet. Daddy couldn’t smoke his pipe neither, as the hogs would smell it. We were both wearing coils of rope around us, to use to drag out any we managed to kill.

But after creeping around for a good while, we heard no sound that might be hogs. Daddy whispered that we should turn back, and try for some more deer somewheres else. I could just see the light at the edge of the trees, when there was a crunching sound, like someone running through a big pile of leaves. As I turned to look at daddy, he raised the Hawken, with his back to me. But he had no time to fire before a huge hog crashed out of the undergrowth into him, knocking him down, and causing him to drop the rifle.

I raised the Henry and looked along the barrel, but I was afeared to shoot in case I hit my daddy. Then there were two shots, and the hog fell over on its side. To my left, I heard some grunting and squealing as the rest of them ran off from where they had been hiding, and I walked over to help daddy up. But he couldn’t stand. He had shot the hog with his old service pistol, through the pocket of his long coat where he kept it. But it had bit him bad, the long sharp teeth tearing his thigh. It was nothing like the pigs we kept back home. Covered in dark hair, with a huge head, it looked fierce even though it was dead.

Daddy’s shout snapped me out of it. “Phin, take your belt off son, you need to strap it around my leg. Real quick now!”

39 thoughts on “The Homestead: Part Twenty-Four

    1. Deer meat could be smoked and dried. They lost around 30% of the bulk with that method, which is hy they tended to shoot more deer than might have seemed necessary. But it lasted quite a long time once dried. It would have been something like beef jerky. Pork was usually either heavily dry salted and stored in sealed containers, or alternatively stored in barrels of brine. The pork lasted up to 4 weeks in room temperature, or more than six months if kept in a cold place. During the winter, the containers or barrels might be kept outside, and even surrounded by snow if it had snowed. Many of the joints would be cooked and eaten immediately, and some stock animals killed before the salted or dried meat was used much later. Much depended on the severity of the winter in any given year, and the availability of game in the wild.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I do the research for it, which is one reason why the episodes are more spaced out this time. However, the current ‘chapter’ is Phin telling his story in later life. I’m not so sure he would go into so much detail when he is doing that. I do have the research, in case anyone questions any points, or is interested. 🙂
          Best wishes, Pete.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. I doubt he would have done that in real life though. He would have just eaten it, knowing that everyone knew how it was prepared.
              I wouldn’t write in a modern novel, “Jasper ate some frozen peas, which he knew would keep indefinitely in a modern freezer”. See what I mean, Elizabeth?
              Best wishes, Pete.

              Liked by 2 people

  1. (1) Bad citation: “He reckoned a few days away would provide us with some John Deere tractors and Harley-Davidsons (“wild hogs”), not to mention plenty of games like Angry Birds.”
    (2) On the barrel of the old fifty-calibre Hawken was an engraving that read: THE BUCK STOPS HERE.
    (3) According to Henry, “Doves and Hawkens don’t mix.”
    (4a) I find it Odd that Mary can make anything taste good. Even beans.
    (4b) There’s something fishy about Mary.
    (5) “We got the wind against us, Toto!” (a girl from Kansas, referring to a Gale force wind of between 34 and 47 knots)
    (6) “My second shot was still too rushed.” Perhaps Phin should have chosen a gun that shoots a slower projectile?
    (7) Bad citation: “It was too cold for us to sleep outside if we didn’t have to, and we didn’t like the idea of sleeping inside the dead animals daddy had gutted.”
    (8) Another bad citation: “Daddy hid the wagon at the edge of the woodland. He didn’t want to tip off the hogs that hunters had invaded their neck of the woods.”
    (9) Jessie “shot the hog with his old service pistol, through the pocket of his long coat where he kept it.” He then shouted, “Phin, take out your sewing kit, son! You need to mend the hole in my coat pocket! Real quick now!”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Holy moley! That there hogs gone torn him up.
    I just hope they make it back in one piece, and who knows what they are going to find when they get back with Griefenstien an co sniffing around.
    I hope you manage to get the next installment out tomorrow 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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