Thursday, October 31, 2013

Maybe it was and maybe it wasn't

Hans spoke deferentially to his boss, “We have built better cabins so we can at least be warmer this winter. But we need to be more careful about the smoke from the chimneys. It attracts much too much attention.”
“You are in charge of the encampment. You take care of the daily life problems. I haf more important things to think about. If you had gotten ze maps and charts from ze greasy little man, ve would be digging already! Ve must begin before the winter snows.”
The younger man promised “I will ride to the Trading Post and purchase some supplies. And try to get some gossip. Maybe there is someone who is getting suspicious.”
“Go! Go! Off with you now, Hans. Your constant talking is disturbing my calculations.”
“Yes sir!”

The younger man was accustomed to being berated and did not respond to the stream of accusations. He might even have enjoyed his job if only he had been left alone to do it in peace. Sadly, that was not the case. Hans’ face was furrowed with worry as he rode the dirt trail to the Trading Post. No question, the Shawnee were becoming increasingly suspicious of the “settlers” to whom  they had given permission to farm the mountain valley. Hans was uncertain how much longer he could maintain his cover and he increasingly regretted being drawn into the project.

During the weeks in between the Sandflea’s time in the mountains and the present spring had come to the mountain valleys. It was not the Charleston spring of azaleas and Palmettos but rather a cool, mountain spring. The trail was muddy but at least all the icy patches had melted and the horse was able to walk without a mis-step even if Hans didn’t dare try a faster pace.

The Trading Post was housed in a wooden cabin as was typical for the mountain region. The bench outside the front door was empty due to the spring chill and indeed the entire area seemed somewhat neglected. Indoors there was a wood-burning stove to give warmth and plenty of goods from which to choose.
“I need to buy more flour.” said Hans. “Ten large bags.”
“Really?” The shopkeeper raised his eyebrows. “Weren’t you just in here a few weeks ago with a big order? Must be a powerful lot of biscuits you’re bakin’.”
“No, we are not baking so much.” Hans said carefully. “The other flour, it was spoiled. Got spoiled I mean. I need new, fresh flour.”
The shopkeeper nodded. “Yeah, that happens sometimes. Mealy bugs get in the bags and eat-up the flour. Or maybe it was weevils?”
“Ja, ja, it vas de veevils I tink.” Hans was rapidly losing his grip on the language due to his increasing nervousness.
The Shopkeeper glanced up and back down again. One of the other customers in the Trading Post rose-up silently and went out the front door without even saying good-bye.
“Is there anything else you need, fella? Some coffee maybe? Sugar?”
“No tank you. Ve come to fetch the bags of flour in 2 or 3 days? Is that ok?”
When the shopkeeper nodded assent, Hans practically threw the money on the counter and hurried out the door. So much for playing it cool!


Captain Willie was, as was his wont, enjoying his time-off and intended to continue enjoying it for as long as humanly possible. At his family’s home his mama served him up delicious, home-cooked meals during the days.  And at night there was dance halls with cold beer to drink and lovely ladies accompanying him as he drank it.

Therefore he was not in the least pleased to receive a summons to visit the Shipping and Receiving Office in the middle of an otherwise fine afternoon. The crew had only been home for about 3 weeks so far and there was still the need to refuel the Sandflea as well as load on fresh provisions. Surely no one could be thinking about sending them out again so soon! 

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