I write mostly fiction. The best stories in my opinion are about some kind of friction. Friction between characters, friction between elements, friction between the internal and the external. Too often my fiction is mistaken by friends, family, or casual acquaintances as autobiographical. Or if not that, then as a true account about actual people and actual events. Too often the friction is perceived as factual, and sometimes taken personally. Continue reading Real or Fiction?
The Republic of Texas
I woke up that first morning contemplating my next move in this new place. I didn’t know anything about the area. Was there a trading post, other settlers? If there were others, they would most likely be along the river, probably further southwest. It was an uncertain time in the territory. The both of us traveling a distance on one horse was risky but we had no choice. We needed tools, basic supplies, a mule and a wagon. Continue reading Choices: Chapter 10
A New Leaf
I left Tennessee toward the middle of February, halfway thinking about following my old friend Crockett to Texas to see what was happening there. The Colonel had lost his appetite for Washington politics, according to a man who came into the shop one day saying he had read about it in a copy of the Alabama Watchman. I suspect Davy simply tired of having his honor trampled by the likes of Andrew Jackson, and opted for more worthy pursuits. For whatever reason, most likely adventure, he went to Texas. Continue reading Choices: Chapter 9
Best Laid Plans
I noticed, topping the bluff and looking down at the river, that there was no houseboat moored in front of the cabin. All that was there was the pier, level with the ground. The cabin’s back yard backed up to the river, and a canoe lay on the bank. We rode onto the property using the main road separating the Wilkes homestead from Danny and Mana’s. Work on the new home had been almost completed when I left, with only light finishing remaining for Danny to do. A fence now enclosed the place. Continue reading Choices: Chapter 7
Last Trip East
Louis and I headed east early in the morning, as soon as the sun came up. There was not a cloud in the sky, and despite the July heat, there was a good breeze blowing. Louis, at seventeen, was the older of the Friedel brothers, although with his slight build and bashful grin, he looked maybe fourteen. He had been east of the Mississippi River no more than a few miles since his family had settled there, so he was raring to go. A wiry fellow, and agile, his movements quick and purposeful, I thought him a well-suited assistant, should we run into trouble: road, wagon, or worse. He could shoot, too. Continue reading Choices: Chapter 6
On The Mississippi
“CB, I’m gonna build me an ark. You ever seen an ark?”
I picked up a stick, and smoothed away a writing surface on the ground, sketching out the plans for the boat I had in my mind to build. It would be a hundred feet long and twenty-five feet wide, vee-shaped at the ends, but with a cabin in the center like those along the river on the common flatboats. There was plenty of redwood with which I planned to build the boat, but for the house portion, I would use poplar. Continue reading Choices: Chapter 5
Crockett rode up one morning wanting to know if I’d be interested in doing some exploring, a little surveying in the territory northwest, almost halfway to the Mississippi, and thought I might want to look around there, perhaps laying claim to a homestead for myself. I had been splitting logs close to the boat’s mooring when he rode up behind me. Everyone else was over at the Wilkes place. I was glad it had worked out that way. Continue reading Choices: Chapter 4
We got married on June 30, 1820, on a Friday evening at the Wilkes’ house. The preacher came down from Pitts Burg Landing to perform the ceremony. He was a Baptist, quite young, a red-faced Scotch-Irish fellow, another Wilkes’ relative. Danny was not a religious man, as far as I knew. The subject never came up. I had been baptized at Christ’s Church in Montreal, but had never taken to the church life myself, having found it to be an inconvenience, as had my parents. Mana and her family, on the other hand, were Baptists. Mrs. Wilkes belonged to The Primitive Baptist Church, but Mana must have taken after her father in that respect, for Homer rarely attended services. Mrs. Wilkes spent a lot of time excusing their absences. Continue reading Choices: Chapter 3
Home on The Tennessee River
I stood on the deck of the houseboat, looking out over the Tennessee River, the sun just coming up over the treetops. A cold wind blew that fall morning, for which I was grateful. It had been a hot summer, although Danny assured me Tennessee summers were nothing compared to further south. The day Danny brought me home with him, now a few years back, he took me in as his own son. The turn things took after that was most certainly on my mind that morning. Continue reading Choices: Chapter 2
PROLOGUE and CHAPTER I
Born on July 13, 1801 in Canada, the son of an English foot soldier.
I, William Featherstone, shakily ink my pen, early on this morning of the twenty-fifth day of February, in the year of eighteen hundred and eighty-eight, with mixed purpose and aged hand. I pray the prudently written words about to be spilt upon this journal lying blank before me, can somehow bridge the chasm too long existing between the offspring of my daughter I left behind in Tennessee and my children in Texas, for my blood flows through all your veins. Perhaps the words to come will reveal as much to myself as to those of you who read them when I am gone.
Aware that my sun is sinking low and that I have reached the end of my worldly pursuits, I have a few regrets. I have only one move left in me, that great mysterious exodus just over the horizon, so close now I expect I could reach it in a day or two, if I hurry. But I am weary, and choose instead to drag my feet a bit, to bide my time. I need to examine the choices I made in this life, ponder those I did not. I spend much time lately wondering about the role Fate played in it all, and whether the choices I made were ever really my own.
Just as I am being drawn away, I feel compelled to record my existence on this planet, and to expose myself, the good and the bad — to you, all my offspring, wherever you are, desiring, of this I am certain, to know and perhaps vindicate your own history.
My eyes, though dimmed, have seen all of what humanity has to offer, the best and the worst — the kindness of gentle folk and the brutality of the devil’s own. I have known good fortune, terrible loss, hardship, and recovery. Always recovery, for I am a man of strong will and resilience. I come from good people, as well as I can remember, although I, myself, have not always behaved accordingly. My greatest regret is my act of desertion, not of my country — no, for that I have no compunction — but the abandonment of my own, not once but twice, lies heavily on my heart.
My youthful quest for new adventure, shadowed later by a driven need to escape my own shameful past, drove me onward still, chasing that elusive ideal called freedom. Ill-conceived actions born out of anguish and fueled by rage set in motion deadly conflict and ruin. The bloody adversity left in my wake haunts me relentlessly, even after all these years. I fear the consequences of my mistakes will revisit you, my descendants, long after I am gone.
Perhaps old age is affecting my sensibility, leaving me superstitious, irrational, but I implore you, heed this warning: be knowledgeable of the sins of your ancestor, lest history repeat itself.
A Drummer Boy