Little Catlin Cross climbed up in her grandpa's lap and shoved a package in his hands.
"What's this, Kitty? A present for your grandfather?"
She gave him that sour look she'd learned to use when folks treated her like the little girl they thought she was. "Ma found it in a box and she's been tellin' us stories, but I ain't so sure them's real."
Turning to his elder grandchild he raised both eyebrows to peer into the boy's thoughtful face. "And you, Adam? What do you think?"
Adam crossed his arms and looked down at the paper for a moment as though he were studying a ponderous tome. The look on his face reminded Jimmy of the boy's other grandfather all too well. "Son, say somethin' before I think I'm starin' at your 'other' grandfather."
The young man gave a little shrug. "Mama doesn't lie, but maybe the source of the story is the problem. Some folks like to exaggerate the story when they tell it. Try to impress others."
"Hmm…" Jimmy nodded a few times and set his attention to peeling back the newsprint. When he pulled back the final layer and caught site of the contents he let out a loud. "Whoa..." that had Catlin grabbing onto his coat to keep from being jostled to the floor as Jimmy called out in the direction of the porch. "Where'd you find this?"
Dara peeked in around the door and smiled. "You like it? Teo was going through some boxes and one of them must have been yours and Mama's. I thought you'd like to tell them about the old days."
He gave her a pout that had her laughing when she closed the door. "I ain't that old!"
His bellow had Catlin rumbling as she pressed her ear to his chest. "You growl jus' like a bear."
Jimmy turned his best stern expression on the little girl. "And how would you know?"
"Grandpa Buck took me to-"
He held up his hand. "On second thought," he began, "it's probably better for my heart that you don't tell me." He leaned in to whisper, his mustache tickling her ear, "I am getting' old you know."
With his free hand he lifted the small square piece of glass with its metal edging, faded from years of exposure to the air and held it up so that the light coming through the window revealed the entire image. "I'd forgotten that we'd even taken this." He fought down the sudden tears that wanted to fall and held up the picture so both children could see it. "You've both met at least four of the people in this picture, so their faces shouldn't be hard to recognize. Still, the image on this hasn't changed too much over time. I remember when we had this made it was quite the rage."
Adam touched the surface carefully with his finger, tracing the edge where the metal edging met the smooth silvery expanse of glass. "I've never seen one made of glass before. Why'd they do that?"
Jimmy smiled. "It's a daguerreotype done when a traveling photographer came to Rock Creek. It was a month or two 'fore our friend Ike got killed. He's the one there on the left. He was your Grandpa Buck's oldest friend. Damn good with horses."
"Dara!" He didn't even wait for his daughter to poke her head in the door. "Your daughter is way too sensitive about my 'colorful' language."
His daughter looked in the window through the screen and sighed. "Would you rather she 'used' your 'colorful' language?" She didn't wait for an answer, just turned back to hear what her mother was saying.
"I remember your Grandpa Buck bein' so all fire curious about how they made the thing that the photographer allowed him into the wagon to watch him 'fix' it up. Then again, I had to go with him."
"Why," Cat queried, "were you curious too?"
"Nope, the man was afraid Buck wanted his scalp and needed a man to help watch his back." He gave Adam a solemn look. "What the man didn't know is that I'd have let Buck scalp him if he wanted. We're still good friends like that."
Adam rolled his eyes and Jimmy had to again shake off the feeling that he was looking at his old friend.
Jimmy went through the process of naming everyone and answering questions about each of the people in the image that were no longer around.
"It looks like everyone's asleep with their eyes open," came Catlin's comment.
Turning the image from side to side Jimmy gave a decided nod. "The man had us sittin' still for what seemed like forever, after a while we felt our minds goin' blank and it didn't make the best image."
Adam turned his head, studying it from another angle. "You all look scared."
Catlin looked up at her brother. "Nuh uh… they weren't scared… where you, Grandpa?"
Jimmy set the image down on table beside him and slung his arm over her shoulders. "There was plenty to be afraid of in those days. Homesteaders that didn't care for no one but themselves, startin' things with each other or the Indians. We'd get stuck in the middle. The Army feelin' free to pull us in to help whenever they wanted. Not that ridin' the trails wasn't enough to worry about; we were always in someone's sights… always watchin' our backs. We were afraid, darlin'… bein' afraid kept us alive."
Louise leaned over the back of his chair, wrapped her arms around her husband's neck and brushed a kiss over his cheek. "We've kept you alive this long."
Jimmy covered a hand with one of his and nodded. "That's right. Any second thoughts?"
"Hmm…" Her thoughtful sigh was interrupted by her granddaughter's laughter, "After all we've been through together? You're not getting away from me without a fight."
Buck finally broke his silence when he entered the room from the porch. "Your grandmother has a way with a skillet, just ask your Uncle Cody."
The picture's surface winked in the light as Catlin lifted the square and tilted it toward the lamp. The faces staring back at her were familiar, but there was so much she didn't know.
The picture of the Camera in the graphic was a prompt sent to me for the Blogathon by Lisa L