"...I trusted in the Almighty… I knew I could only be killed once,
and I had to die sometime."
-Anne Bailey, 1823

Sunday, May 22

A tale of Pricketts Fort

Gentle Reader please understand the disorder of my writings and grant me leave to step back a month or so in time that this tale of Pricketts Fort not be lost.

21 March

A warm breeze teased the hair from my cap and bird song spilled from the trees. The post rider placed a sealed dispatch from Mr. Bray of Pricketts Fort in my hand, awaiting my instant reply.  Quickly I nodded beckoning the rider within my cabin and offering him water to quench his thirst, I penned my assent. The ink barely dry, the rider was off and I had a moment to contemplate this turn of events.

Though my intent had been to travel in the coming days far westward to the French fort deChartes, Mr. Bray’s urgent request had superseded my own preferences. I dashed off a letter of regret to my dear friends’ intent upon deChartes and notified them of this sudden and unexpected turn of events. Were it not for my high regard of Mr. Bray and the fort of his domain I’d surely not be altering my plans.

It seemed Mr. Bray would be playing host to a company of hunters, spies and scouts, each traveling far distances for a congress of sorts to determine their intent for the coming year. Such a congress as this would offer an opportunity for me to tell my story once more, perhaps influencing even one of these itinerant souls to take up the arms of Virginia to protect the innocent women and children of this wild land.

31, March
In the company of two good and likeminded men, my dear friends Roundman and Mr. Spooner I set off for Pricketts fort. Our travels were swift and smooth. Upon arrival at the fort gates the weather took a turn for the worse and a dreary fog and snow shrouded all but the banks of the river. Perhaps an ominous sign of what was to come? Indeed, memories of times past spent in this place swirled ephemerally through my mind leaving my thoughts in turmoil. A heartily hailed greeting interrupted my silent reveries.

My dear Mr. Browder, the fine proprietor of Long Hunter Leather Company settled my emotions within the strength of his arms as we greeted one another warmly.  Rarely does one meet such a person who can with so few words calm inner storms merely by listening. A fine and dear friend indeed!  We spoke briefly of mutual friends, our lives and our most recent travels.
Bob Browder, Longhunter Leather Company, image by Karen Garland

A short time later I announced myself to Mr. Bray and he conducted me to my quarters.  A small cabin safe within the fort walls was to be mine. T’was a smallish cabin, yet what it lacked in size was surely made up in convenience, a much valued asset after having traveled so many miles.  I dropped my bedroll and quickly ascertained a number of holes in the fortress walls would need to be filled to afford any protection whatsoever from rain, snow and prying eyes! This small problem was quickly overcome and a modicum of privacy resulted; another valued asset particularly when garrisoned amongst so many men of questionable origin!

Many friendships which had languished in the year of our separation were renewed and it was a fine thing indeed to see so many friends in good health and fine spirits. Yet there remained one whom I’d not yet spied amongst those assembled. My hearts turmoil once more returned, for I had not seen Mr. Mains since the time we had spent at the Blue Licks many months past and we had not left under good terms.
Time seemed mercilessly slow as I kept an eye toward the fort gates. Suddenly, there he was. My heart took a leap and a smile unbidden rushed to my lips. The pull of my heart toward his was undeniable, yet my head still said “no.”
Fortunately, mutual friends came along and we were both caught up in other conversations. There was word a few traders from the east had arrived and I was looking forward to meeting them. Indeed, t’was not long afore Mr. Galban, Mr. Hersee, Mr. Stout and Mr. Privott made their presence known. Further, I discovered Mr. N. Kobuck had arrived as well. The conversations quickly turned loud and laughter rang from the walls of the common house. Tales oft told were brought out once more and new stories from old friends blended together into a hum of contentment.

The gentlemen and longhunters found they had much in common and seemed to go on for hours on the pleating of sleeves, stroud cloth versus buckskin for leggings and even a word or two was heard of a foreign item they called a loading block…. Late into the evening we laughed and carried on. I made my way to my cabin well before the men had stopped their incessant talk of sewing, stitching and just the right materials. I noted Mr. Mains was well aware of my departing as I reached the common house door and headed toward my cabin.

Alone and much chilled, my blankets and the canvass draped around my bunk did little to keep me warm. Wind, snow and rain came through the rough walls of my cabin and even up through the floor. T’was a long night full of twisting and turning, trying to get comfortable, I wished I’d not forgotten my soapstone bed warmer. The morning came with little relief from the cold or the damp, though my dear dear friend Roundman had made coffee which warmed me some. His jests and humor brought a smile and some warmth as well.

Just as I threw my head back and laughed so heartily I nearly lost my cap, I caught sight of Mr. Mains coming from the fort yard. My laughter caught in my throat as I saw the huge grin break across his face. He strode up saying it did his heart good to see me laughing. Roundman filled Jesse’s coffee mug and we all stood around telling jokes, poking fun at each other and teasing.  A bit later it was time to go visit with our good friend Mr. C. Brown who was tanning some hides in the back of the fort yard. Though the customary smell assaulted my nose, it caused a great smile to see Mr. Brown who was looking quite well.  A rather large crowd gathered as Charlie shared and demonstrated the secrets of his tanning skills.  I was much pleased to show Mr. Brown the fine shot bag Mr. Mains had made for me of the hide I’d gotten from Charlie the year past. T’is a fine bag, nicely done and I’m greatly proud of it.

Speaking of shooting, Mr. Michael Seidelman spent the better part of an hour and a half talking about Carolina tradeguns, showing a number of his creations including one I dearly fell in love with; the Bumford gun which is covered in vines and flowers of ink. Truly this may be something I must have Mr. Seidelman make for me, ti’s so beautiful!! Mr. Kobuck’s nearly infamous Type G blue gun was also on display and much admired.

Time seemed to fly by and late in the afternoon I found myself in the common house with friends Mr. and Mrs. McClellan. We talked beside the fire for a few minutes and were lightly interrupted by Mr. Mains who joined us, asking me if I’d mind braiding his hair. My heart jumped into my throat! How could he ask that I touch his hair, knowing full well t’is a weakness of mine!
A smart reply came to my lips, but was beaten by Mrs. McClellan who asked if he was sure certain he thought that would be a good idea. We all laughed, but I can say that was perhaps the tightest braid his hair had known in a good long time! Nearly causing his eyes to pull back from one another like a Chinaman! That task done I retired to my cabin to catch my breath. The cool air felt good upon my cheeks as I quickly walked the short distance from the common house to my cabin.

Tears burst to my eyes as I entered the small room, for there upon the very center of my bunk sat the most beautiful bouquet of dogwood flowers. Knowing full well they were from my dear Mr. Mains I sat upon a small box and let the tears fall freely. This small gift nearly broke my heart. For though he had once told me he was a helpless romantic, none of his actions hitherto had demonstrated such a thing. Now, just when I’d forsaken him from my head, my heart was reaching out to his once more.

The sun fell below the mountains in the distance and the coolness of the evening sent me to sit beside a fire in the fort yard. I spent a pleasant few minutes with Mr. Ramsey, Mr. Galban and Mr. Stout. It seems Mr. Stout is soon to be a father! I wished him much luck with this, but he mentioned he is already well versed in fatherhood as this is his second child. Things then took a turn for the greatly unexpected as Mr. Galban launched into a grave warning against child hurling monkeys! For yes, it seems Mr. Galban is quite hateful in regard to all things having to do with monkeys. He was oft quoted the remaining days for saying “I’m a grown ass man and I hate monkeys, so deal with it!” Who would have suspected such vehemence for a creature so rarely, if ever seen in these parts of the world!

The mid day found Mr. Privott, Mr. Buxton and a few others highly involved in skinning a poor pitiful pair of squirrels. Their antics were much discussed, viewed, criticized and praised by the men gathered round.

Misters Ehlert, Ginglebach, and Baker conversed with Joseph, probably telling him he has pretty hair.

The evening chilled even more and darkness began to cover the land. Mr. Mains came out of the common house to gather a bit of fire wood and I removed myself from the crowd to thank him for my fine gift. Though it was quite dark I believe I felt, if not saw the heat of his blush. Together we went into the common house and though there were many people gathered inside I had eyes only for him.

A huge dinner was prepared by all in attendance and I brought out the cake I’d baked just for this event. The cake was a full 12 pounds, and I had every hope it would hit its mark with at least one gentleman. Dinner was quite delicious and there was only a tiny bit of the 12 pound cake after the line of men had cleared.  The room was further cleared for dancing when the musicians of Morgan’s Glade began to set up their instruments. Roundman claimed the first dance and brought as many folks to the floor as he was able to convince. I was much delighted to see Mr. Mains return to the dance looking fine in his jacket, breeches and even a neck stock of black. Roundman spun me round the room and into Mr. Mains arms.

Together we faltered momentarily before laughing and joining into the dance as best we were able. After a few turns on the dance floor Mr. M and I stepped outside to cool down in the slight drizzle. Lamenting my skills as a dancer, Mr. Mains attempted to teach me the steps of the waltz as the the strains of the music wafted out the open door of the common house. Rarely if ever have I been caught up in such a romantic moment! Yet, somehow we remained a respectable arms length away as we danced in the rain.  
Late into the night we talked and laughed in the common house. As the crowd dwindled to just the eastern boys, Jesse and myself I saw the cake dregs scraped from the pan and it wiped entirely clean. Funny how that pan seemed much like the dregs of resistance from my mind! As the fellows began to settle into their blankets Jesse and I determined it would be foolish for me to return alone to my cold cabin. Rather it seemed more sensible to retrieve my blankets, and to sleep beside Mr. Mains and the warmth of the common house fire.  Throughout the night the men’s snores resonated through the room, including the sound of Mr. M’s teeth grinding.  A loud, but warm and pleasant night ended as the sun rose in the eastern sky.

T’was a sweet morn waking to the sounds of the snores of those still sleeping, but perhaps the sweetness was merely waking next to Mr. Mains who was looking directly into my eyes when I awoke. A breakfast of ham and biscuits was placed into my hands by my dear Roundman along with a cup of coffee. A good bit of teasing was given as to my choice of sleeping locations, but t’was all good natured.

Mr. Rundorf and others who were neighbors to Roundman, Doug Spooner and Jeff Beaver took part in the morning coffee. Little did I know Mr. Rundorf was the writer of a fine book Defending the Backcountry: Recreating the Spies and Scouts of the Trans-Appalacian Frontier! His presentation was most interesting, speaking of brave spys such as Sam Brady and the forts of the back country. Mr. Rundorf has made quite a study of the pension applications of many a spy and scout and gleaned much useful information. I’ve no doubt he’ll be a good man to know in the coming days. Mr. Heresee, who may oft be found at Old Fort Niagara, too made an excellent presentation of information about such characters as Simon Girty and "hair buyer" Hamilton and their exploits in and around Detroit.

A walk along the river soothed my troubled mind and I thought ever so much on the question of Mr. Mains and my relationship. True, he had demonstrated his continued strong feelings for me, had not given up in the face of adversity, yet still my head said no. My feet carried my along the bank of the river until I arrived at a small graveyard. Walking amongst the stones I thought on the lives which had been cut short and those who had lived long and yet still found themselves alone in a field of green. Regrets seemed a waste of time, time alone when longing for another seemed foolish and my heart began to prevail upon my mind.

A short time later I returned to the gathering hall whereupon Mr. M. A. Baker told of the romance of the natural man. His words were well received by all assembled! A short time later Mr. Kobuck and Mr. Privott demonstrated for all who were gathered the art and mystery of tattoo. Even to the extent that Mr. K gave Mr. Privott his arm and allowed Mr. Privott to stab him repeatedly delivering ink into his extremity! T’was quite horrendous and fascinating all at the same time!

Mr. Baker took the stage once more and spoke further of the Sons of a trackless Forest. I regret I was unable to stay to hear all of his words, as I had been called upon to tell my own sad story.

I determined I would not speak in the same hall as the fine gentlemen before me had, but rather would draw all who were interested into the common house. I would tell my story before a fire, in the dark and smallness of a cabin rather than the bright light of the center stage.  Shortly after four on the clock the men began filing into the common house. I noted with some sense of pride Roundman and Mr. Mains had attained front row seats for themselves.

Sweeping ash, dirt and debris from the hearth I began my story, looking out beneath the tears which coursed down my face I noted there were few dry eyes before me. My story complete I was much gratified to see every man rise to his feet and applaud the telling of my tale. A gentleman introduced himself and asked if he might someday paint my image for others to see. Much honored I gave Mr. John Buxton my leave to do so if he wished. Worn thin by the telling, I returned to my cabin.

Mr. Mains stepped inside shortly upon my return. I turned to him as he said he had a question to ask. His question contained no words. He merely leaned toward me. The answer he was looking for was quickly on both of our lips as I fell into his arms. He held me tightly to him and the pounding of my heart drowned any last vestige of reluctance. A feeling of rightness and of wholeness came instantly as I wrapped my arms around him. The remainder of the night we were not parted and the small cabin which had previously been so chilly became quite warm. Morning came too soon and it was time for us to once more depart each other’s company. This parting came with the knowledge we’d soon be together once more at Mr. Martin’s Station in but a few weeks time and held none of the misery and uncertainty of our departure at the Blue Licks.

My heart sang during the long journey home, for it had found it’s mate once more. Time shall tell what it will, but for the time that we have, we should be happy! Travel safely my friends and enjoy each step of the way, fear not to turn back when a misstep has been taken. For perhaps, in turning back you shall go further.