Morning mist swirled through the trees as I silently placed one foot in front of the other along the trail. My destination, the Story Inn and Ordinary was not far ahead and I was looking greatly forward to a cup of hot coffee. Though the days past had been unnaturally warm, the predawn chill and rain reached its bony fingers deep inside my coat and left me shivering. Suddenly, through the trees shrouded in the fog my destination loomed darkly before me. No warm glow to meet me, no delicious smell of hot coffee, only a thick door solidly bolted against visitors in the night, or apparently the darkest hour of the day.
I shuffled my feet and hrumphed a few times hoping some generous soul inside would perhaps hear me and come to throw back the bolt and welcome me out of the rain. Once I realized my shuffling and hrumphing was to no avail I addressed myself to a chair upon the porch, huddled into the blanket I'd pulled from my bedroll and commenced to wait. Wait for the proprietor, wait for my friend Captain Jim Jacobs, wait for the other fellows who had determined to join this adventure, wait for any sign of life on this cold morning. I'd not long to wait since I'd set my standards so low; a large and seemingly well fed black and white cat slunk upon the porch and promptly launched it's substantial girth into my lap. Normally, I'm not overly inclined toward felines, however this one was warm and willing to rest upon my lap allowing me to warm my hands by petting her silky fur. Clearly, this was no scavenger reliant upon her own devices. Her purring covered the growl in my stomach.
An hour passed slowly as the cat and I kept company and the sky began to transition from blackness to a lumpy gray. The rain slackened off to a fine mist once more and just as my eyes began to feel impossibly heavy I heard the crunch of stone beneath Captain Jacob's foot. The cat leaped from my lap as my head jerked up and I wobbled to a stand, horrified I'd been caught napping. Fortune and fog was on my side and I met Captain Jacobs and Mr. Terry Perkins alongside the road, them none the wiser to my catnap.
The Captain greeted me stoically as is his habit and informed me the rest of the men were assembled but a few miles ahead. Together, we three bemoaned the fact the innkeeper had not seen fit to rise with the sun to provide us with warmth and coffee. Nothing could be done, so we set off for the banks of the Salt Creek.
It was determined Misters Henderson, Babcock, Burke and Perkins would travel the waterway, whilst Captain Jacobs and I were to journey afoot. Meeting points along the way were chosen and rapidly the remains of our early morning repast were stowed in bedroll, pack, and seabag, and we set forth.
Our pace was rapid and the captain and I made excellent time as we made our way through the marsh bottom lands. Conversation was relatively scarce as we each took in the scene around us. Spring had been well sprung in this lush area, flowers, green buds and even leaves were in full bloom. Being a farmer when not on expedition, the captain was a fine companion and had a ready answer to each and all of my queries. On we walked until we came upon the first of our meeting places alongside the creek.
Afore long our water faring companions arrived. Mr. Babcock and the others climbed to our level and we briefly discussed our next turnings and trails. It was agreed Captain Jacobs and I would remain on land but were we not to arrive at the next meeting place we would return to this location an await the return of one of the boats to ferry us to the next passage.
Again, Jim and I set a steady pace, until we were forced into what I can only describe as "the hells along the creek."
To be continued... in an upcoming edition of On The Trail Magazine.
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