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!”

An Alphabet Of Things I Don’t Like: R

Remakes.

It will come as no surprise to long-term followers of this blog that film remakes feature for ‘R’. With a handful of exceptions, the constant remakes of great films are usually unnecessary, and completely pointless too.

Yes, they remade ‘Carrie’, that classic Stephen King adaptation from 1976.
And it was truly awful.

Taking on one of the best British gangster thrillers ever, they remade the wonderful ‘Get Carter’, in 2000.
Why? Please tell me why!

Seemingly out to murder another classic Michael Caine film, they remade ‘The Italian Job’, in 2003.
COME ON! Just stop it!

I could also write a book on how they remake foreign language films for people who can’t handle subtitles, always ruining them in the process.
One of the worst examples has to be ‘The Vanishing’. They changed the ending in the US version, to make it ‘happy’.
GRRRRRRRRRR!

And don’t get me started on Japanese Anime classics with western actors voicing the characters!
How wrong does this sound? Very wrong, believe me.

BUT WAIT!

While I am on ‘R’, I have to mention ‘Reimagining’. In case you don’t know, this is the blatant plagiarism of classic fiction, ‘Reimagined’ for the modern reader. Take ‘Jane Eyre’, set it in modern-day California, call it something else, and you have ‘reimagined’ the original. You get the idea.

DOUBLE GRRRRRRRRR!

Film makers and writers, I have a suggestion for you.

DO SOMETHING ORIGINAL!

A Tip For All Writers

Ray Bradbury’s Greatest Writing Advice

“I’ve had a sign over my typewriter for over 25 years now: Don’t think!

Ray Douglas Bradbury; August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012) was an American author and screenwriter. One of the most celebrated 20th- and 21st-century American writers, he worked in a variety of genres including fantasy, science fiction, horror, and mystery fiction.

Ollie’s Sad/Happy walk

I took Ollie out earlier today, hoping to take advantage of the sunshine while it lasted. With full darkness by around 4 pm now, it makes sense to be out long before that.

It was a crisp and cold day, with bright sunshine that was uncomfortable to look into. It had also stirred up some insects, and four bites on my head later, I was beginning to regret my decision.

Ollie wasn’t too happy either, as there was nobody else around. With no other dogs to greet and sniff, he had to resort to sniffing anything left behind by the early-morning dogs, those taken out before their owners leave for work. It was sad to see him looking decidedly fed up after almost an hour of us being the only two on the usual route.

He was staring along the path that leads to each of the three entrances, his concentration intent, no doubt hoping to spot a canine pal arriving. But to no avail. As we headed home, he plodded along reluctantly behind me, making me feel extra guilty for leaving home forty-five minutes earlier that usual.

Suddenly, his head shot up, and he started into the distance. I looked in that direction, and could see a dog running for a ball a long way off. Ollie wasn’t waiting for permission, and took off like a rocket. When I finally caught up with him, I saw he was wth our next door neighbour, and her dog Henry. She was accompanied by a friend with a small Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and both dogs were chasing balls as if their lives depended on it.

Although Ollie has no interest in the balls, he ran alongside each dog as they chased them, and kept that up for at least fifteen minutes. Then a lady arrived with a large white Retriever that Ollie loves, and he scooted off to see that big dog, yelping with delight.

I felt vindicated. His sad walk had turned into a happy one, and he got some great exercise into the bargain.

An Alphabet Of Things I Don’t Like: Q

Quiche.

Q is a hard letter to find things to add, whether you like them, or don’t.

I don’t hate quiche. I have eaten it, and would politely still eat it, if it was served to me by someone.

But as a snack, it would never be my first choice. Years of weddings and funerals, where small pieces of quiche or the now familar ‘mini-quiche’ are always on offer. Sometimes the pastry is undercooked, and they are also usually served cold too. Shop-bought versions are often lacking in flavour, and just plain boring.

These days, you can buy ‘dressed up’ quiches, even ‘Vegan quiche’.
Like this one.

But on any list of tasty edibles, quiche would be at the bottom for me.

Happy Thanksgiving

I would like to wish a very Happy Thanksgiving to all my lovely blogging friends in America.

It will be very different for most of you this year, I’m sure.

So I hope you can celebrate as best as you can, given the social restrictions we all have to deal with in 2020.

We don’t have this holiday over here, so I usually give thanks for that fact.
One less thing to worry about. 🙂

My very best wishes to you all, Pete.

Ollie Changes The Rules

Last week, for the first time in eight years, Ollie started to refuse to eat his dinner at the usual time of 5 pm. Every day since the spring of 2012, he knew it was dinnertime around five, and would be ready and waiting to gulp it down.

But not anymore.

At first, we were worried that he might be unwell. But he still enjoyed his midday treat, and his late evening Bonio biscuit. After throwing away his dinner on three occasions, I decided to try something.

When we get back from his walk at around 3 pm, he often eats some of the dry pellets left over from the previous evening. The exercise and fresh air obviously gives him an appetite when he gets home.

So I gave him his dinner at 2:45 the next day, and he ate the lot as if he had never seen food before. So now he is fed as soon as we get back from his walk, and he has been eating everything.

By changing his behaviour, Ollie changed the rules to suit himself.

The Homestead: Part Twenty-Three

This is the twenty-third part of a fiction serial, in 865 words.

It wasn’t long before daddy found out who the men were. The moustache man was Bill Mathewson. He had made his money from buffalo hunting and skins, and was buying up land along with the German, who was called Grieffenstein. That German was a successful merchant and trader who soon had a hand in most things bought and sold in Wichita. But with no railroad yet, all they could do was to keep accumulating property, hoping to cash in later.They left us alone for a while, but pretty soon the building jobs got less, as they made sure never to use us for any construction or repairs. Reckon they also told their friends not to employ us too.

Daddy said he weren’t that bothered. We had a good amount of money behind us, and the steady stream of new settlers meant that there were still jobs to pick up from time to time. One good thing was that Shawn Ryan went to work for the German, and after that he never called on us no more. And when I rode past their place, Maggie didn’t come out waving no more neither.

The next spring, railroad men started to lay the rails heading north to Newton. That would connect with the railroad that had already reached there, so it seemed it wouldn’t be long before trains from up north would soon be arriving in town. But on the homestead, life was still good. The planting got done, and with less work for us in Wichita, we set to improving our own buildings, and doing repairs. Daddy and Henry got some work over in Delano, building a new saloon near the riverbank. We had always avoided that place, but Henry said ‘Work is work, Mister Jessie”. That left me working around the homestead with Walter.

Susan used to bring us something to eat and drink mid-morning. As we stopped work to eat, she would show me her practice at writing in an old notebook daddy had given her. She was doing good, and keen to learn more. Reading the old Bible was hard though, ’cause of all the funny names and old words. I thought to get her a better book, next time I was in town. One day, as she cleared away the plates and cups to take back to the house, she gave me a smile. It was a certain sort of smile, and it made me notice her in a way I hadn’t thought of before.

She was sure pretty, I had to admit.

When I got to the new General Store in Wichita, the man told me there was no call for books, but he could order some for me from Topeka if I knew which ones I wanted, and paid up front. Then he suggested I go see Mrs Parker, the reverend’s wife. She was running a school for little kids from her house behind the church. She was a nice lady, and happy to make some suggestions. I wrote down what she recommended, and went back to the store and paid for them. I ordered a copy of Moby Dick, also Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Mrs Parker said that was about slaves before the war, and Walter might like to hear it read. The books were mighty expensive, and the man in the store said they would take three weeks to arrive.

Daddy picked them up for me on his way home one evening, and that night after dinner, I read some chapters from Moby Dick as everyone sat around the fire. The characters were so well-described, it was like we could see them in our heads, and hearing about fishing for the big whales was something new to us all. As they were leaving, I handed Susan the copy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, wrapped in some white cotton, and told her it was for her. I don’t reckon anyone had ever given her anything before, as her hands were trembling, and I could see tears in her eyes as she took it. Turning in the doorway, she said, “Will you help me with the words I don’t know?” I smiled and nodded.

All through that summer, we carried on working around the house, with daddy and Henry away most days finishing the saloon. They also got more work at the hotel, adding more rooms at the back. The hotel owner said he paid no mind to what the rich cattlemen said, and he was happy because daddy did good work at a fair price. The corn, potatoes, and greens were growing well, and Walter did indeed show his skill at producing a fine crop. Which we later harvested and stored.

Around the time I was coming up eighteen that fall, Susan gave me a package wrapped in some soft hide. Inside were a pair of moccasins she had made me, all sewed real fancy, with small beads and injun designs. She said I could wear them around the house when I took my boots off, to save tearing holes in my socks.

I put them on and walked around some, declaring they were the most comfortable shoes I had ever owned.

An Alphabet Of Things I Don’t Like: P

Peanut Butter.

It might sound strange that I don’t like peanut butter. I like peanuts, plain or salted. I like Satay sauce on Asian food, and that’s made from peanuts.
But peanut butter gives me the shivers, smooth or crunchy.


The first time I ever saw it as a child, it was always the Sun Pat brand.

That is still sold, but supermarkets also sell their own brands. Then there are the ‘Organic’ or ‘Luxury’ versions sold by various companies.

It’s the texture, as far as I am concerned. It has a cloying feel to it, and a tendency to stick to the roof of your mouth. The crunchy variety has bits that can get between your teeth, and the taste is simply too overwhelmingly ‘Peanutty’. And it smells funny too.

I know millions of people love it, including most of America, which is famous for its peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

But I don’t like it.

The Homestead: Part Twenty-Two

This is the twenty-second part of a fiction serial, in 720 words.

Daddy invited the men into the house, and told me to fetch Henry from the barn. As they tied their horses to a rail, the one with the long moustache nodded in the direction of Walter, who had come to see who was visiting. “Thet neegra of yours is carrying a shotgun, mister. T’aint a good idea for folks to see him with that”.

His accent was unusual, almost like a whine, and not familiar to my ears at all. Daddy held his hand up to stop Walter coming any closer. “Walter ain’t mine. He works here. He’s his own man, lives in his own house too”. The other man looked older, and was fat. He didn’t say anything, but shook his head.

I came back with Henry, telling him to be careful about what he said to the men, and not to say nothing if he wasn’t sure. Daddy had poured some whiskey, and they were sat around the table. Henry sat down and took out his pipe. Moustache man reached into his inside pocket and removed some folded papers.

“Says here you’re Henry Dench, and you have staked claim to this land. Is that a fact, Mr Dench? Henry glanced at daddy, then nodded. “Well then it’s your lucky day, Henry. If I may call you Henry? ‘Cause I’m about to make you a fine offer for this place. Enough for you to start over anywhere’s that takes yer fancy. See, I bought the Ryan place next to this one, and two more to the east behind you. I’m aiming to build cattle pens for when the railroad starts to attract the big drives to Wichita”.

Henry listened politely, lighting his pipe and filling the room with sweet smoke.

“Ain’t for sale, sir. We are happy here, and want to stay on the homestead. Getting crops ready for next harvest, and got a good business going with building too. No need for us to start again. But I say thank you for your offer, all the same”. The man hadn’t mentioned a price, but I got the feeling Henry wouldn’t sell for a king’s ransom. The older man started talking. He had an accent I did recognise. Dutch, or German.

“Mister Dench, you are too hasty. Listen to our offer, and think about the future. Very soon your homestead will be surrounded by cattle on three sides. There will be a lot of noise, a great deal of dust, and in hot weather, those beasts will drink the creek dry. Why not move on, find somewhere more pleasant? There will be room for your workers to stay on with you, and you can start again someplace else. Once the railroad comes, Wichita will change completely. You won’t recognse it, I promise you”. He slid some papers across the table. You will see our offer is well above market value, and all you have to do is sign. We will arrange to pay you in cash or gold, and you will have six weeks to pack up”.

Blowing out a cloud of smoke that covered both the men, Henry shook his head. He didn’t even bother to inspect the documents, not that they would have meant a great deal to him anyway. “My mind is made up, mister. I ain’t selling, and don’t care about how many cows are living around us. But I say thanks to you again for your consideration, and there’s more whiskey if you care for some”. The men looked at each other, and both downed what was left in their glasses. Then they stood up, and moustache man folded the papers before returning them to his pocket.

As they walked to their horses, the fat man turned back to Henry. “The offer’s good for a month. We are in the hotel if you change you mind”. Once in the saddle, moustache man looked over at daddy. “Take that shotgun off your neegra, mister. That’s free advice”. When they were gone, Walter walked over. “What them fellas want, Boss Jessie?” Daddy had told him not to call him boss, but he couldn’t stop himself. Daddy spit on the ground, and looked over at the dust where they they had reached the trail.

“Trouble, Walter. They want trouble. And don’t call me boss, y’hear?”