Topic #70: Revolution
|Off Its Axis by: Lori
||Life's Lesson by: Donna Ree
|Focus by: Dede
||Once A Texian by: Cindy
More James and Emmaline
James Hickok liked her. James liked her. James liked her. The sheer implausibility of it left her world feeling turned upside down. She half expected the sun to rise in the west because of her befuddlement. She’d admitted her crush on James and instead of tucking tail and running as she’d expected him to do; he said he wanted to stick around town to get to know her. The real her; the one he felt was complicated and had more layers than an onion.
Mrs. Robbins had encouraged her to get to know James. Not just the man she had admired from afar for years, but to talk to him and see if the real man was as fascinating as the image. She didn’t know whether to hug the woman or scream in frustration for the whole new level of complication following her advice had brought up. Because Emmaline had gotten to know the real James, and that crush was well on its way to developing into more.
Especially since he didn’t seem in any hurry to leave. He’d even gone so far as to speak to the sheriff in town, and had even helped out on occasion when an emergency arose. It wasn’t just Mrs. Robbins who liked him, or Mr. Lovelace’s sister, the entire town was getting in on the act. They had given him a much warmer reception than the good citizens of Rock Creek ever had. That wasn’t to say there weren’t detractors, there were people just like her parents who were quick to believe that Wild Bill shouldn’t be keeping the peace or be anywhere near them. But many people were far more accepting of him than Rock Creek had been.
And the obvious fact that James liked her and spent a good deal of time with her didn’t upset people here. It might have caused a small riot back home, but here it was met with nods and winks and outright encouragement. It was like they wanted her to take a chance on James.
In the face of so much support, and her own deep desires, Emmaline had.
Now she was scared witless. She could easily see herself falling in love with him. If she hadn’t already. She could easily see herself making a life with him. She could envision him as the deputy and eventual sheriff of the town. Her taking over for Mrs. Robbins and owning the bakery. She saw meals around the table, talks by the fireplace, working together to help others. Her stomach did funny flips when she pictured their children. But what if he really didn’t feel the same? What if he pulled back the layers and didn’t like what he saw? If he went away now, it was going to hurt even more than when she’d left Rock Creek.
Mrs. Robbins and Mrs. Peterson tried to calm her by telling her they’d remembered quite clearly when their husbands had looked at them the way James looked at her. It had been while they were courting and right before their beaus asked them to marry them. Mrs. Robbins insisted that if James hadn’t left by now, he wasn’t likely to leave any time soon. Not until he had his ring on her finger and was going back to pack up his belongings.
The thought of James asking her to marry him sent Emmaline into a flutter of nerves that would make her great-aunt Hestia proud. She knew she would say yes, but was he going to ask? The worry, the anticipation, the fear, the sheer giddiness of it all made her head spin and all day long she’d been distracted or cross with her customers.
“My dear,” Mrs. Robbins said kindly as she wrapped a thin, but strong arm around the younger woman. “You’ve been coming and going all morning long. I think you need to take a break and get some fresh air.”
Instantly contrite for her poor behavior, Emmaline shook her head. “Oh, I couldn’t. It wouldn’t be fair to you.”
The older woman smiled and said, “I insist. It’s not as busy today and I can handle things here. You go take a walk. Maybe head out down to the creek and the bridge. The sound of the water always seems to calm you.”
The promise of fresh air, the chance to get away so she wasn’t looking up each time the bell above the door rang wondering and hoping it was Jimmy coming in, sounded very appealing. She asked if Mrs. Robbins was sure just one more time, and then she eagerly took off her apron, smoothed her hands over her hair, and grabbed her bonnet before slipping out the door. She glanced down the street towards the sheriff’s office where James often spent his days talking with the older man. It was actually a relief when she didn’t see him and she looked forward to getting away undetected and just having this time to herself.
She was in no hurry as she walked. Enjoying her time, stopping to rest when she felt like it and idly picking flowers she thought were pretty. Soon she could hear the sound of the creek and already she felt the tension flowing out of her. Cresting the small rise, she saw the bridge and walked out onto it, pausing in the middle and resting her arms against the railing. A flower slipped from her fingers and as she watched it float downstream, she saw a most peculiar sight.
James was standing beneath a tree on the opposite bank, a basket at his feet. She frowned and straightened, walking towards him as he began approaching her. They stopped a few feet away from each other and Emmaline tilted her head to the side.
“James? What are you doing here?”
One corner of his mouth twitched up and he said, “I was waiting for you.”
To Be Continued...
With each revolution of the Colt’s cylinder, Jonah Tyne’s life’s blood seeped further and further from his body and into the ground.
Jimmy emptied three rounds in rapid succession into the murder’s heart. One bullet would have done it, but Jimmy thought there was a certain justice in putting the same amount of bullets into the killer to echo the number of lives Tyne had ended when he tried to rob the bank – the bank clerk, a woman customer and her small daughter. A daughter whose age was close to his own daughter’s. And the mother – it could have been Lou.
With that thought, Jimmy wished Tyne were still alive so he could shoot him all over again. The anguish Jimmy felt when he realized it could have been his own family in the bank yesterday was momentarily pushed aside by Teaspoon’s hand on his shoulder. “
Ya did good, son. I know what yer thinkin’ but ya gotta let it go. Lou and little Emma are safe at home waitin’ on ya. You had a job to do and ya did it. Now you gotta put what happened behind ya and stop thinkin’ ‘what if’.”
“I know, Teaspoon, you’re right. But if it had been Lou…” Jimmy paused and quickly shut his eyes so the brimming tears wouldn’t fall. “I just never thought…” Clearing his throat, he continued, “I always thought I’d be the one that would be the danger to them with that danged ‘Wild Bill’ nonsense doggin’ me.” Shaking his head, he added, “I never once thought there could be danger for them in every day life.”
“Son, there’s danger everywhere – everywhere ya look. But there’s also good out there, too. Look at the lives each of you boys have made for yourselves. Each of ya became fine men and Lou became the woman she tried so hard to keep hidden under those boy’s clothes. None of ya were afraid to become what ya wanted and you shouldn’t be afraid to continue on with life because of something like that bank robbery.”
“I ain’t afraid, Teaspoon. I just want to keep them safe.”
“I know ya do. Now ya know what I felt each time one of you went out on a run.”
Jimmy gave the old man a look of bewilderment.
“Ya don’t think I worried ‘bout y’all when you went out, wondering if you’d make it back in one piece?”
Jimmy thought about what Teaspoon said on the ride back to town - and his underlying meaning. He grimly smiled as he thought of the bank robbery killings and how he and Teaspoon had to hunt the killer down. His grip tightened on Sundance’s reins causing the horse to sidestep. Jimmy then thought of Lou and the day she married him. He thought of their Emma and how her eyes lit up with merriment when Jimmy swung her up in his arms and twirled her high in the air. Jimmy’s smile widened and took on an air of pure pleasure thinking of his family. Yes, there was danger in the world, but the happiness he felt in his life outweighed the hazards of living.
Teaspoon gazed at Jimmy and was relieved to see the way the young man was now sitting his horse. He grinned and muttered to himself, “I knew you’d figure it out, son.”
revolution: \re-və-‘lü-shən\ moving in a circular or curving course, as about a central point
Everything he did, every decision he made about his day, centered solely on whether he’d have a chance to see her. And whether he could make that chance reality.
If the other riders found it strange that he volunteered to go into town every time for the supplies, they didn’t show it. If they thought he was crazy to be the one to stay in the wagon bed taking the supplies from them as they handed each item to him, placing each sack or box securely in its place – again, they didn’t let on. But he wouldn’t care if they had. It was a perfect vantage to watch her.
As he was doing at that very moment.
He bent over to move a sack, though it didn’t really need to be moved. It was just so his hair would conceal, as a screen, where his eyes were focused. He could peer out at her behind a thick, black curtain. He didn’t need to see what he was doing in the wagon; he’d done the job so many times.
How had this woman, in just three short months, become the focal point of practically his whole life?
He still dutifully took the rides he was assigned and completed all the chores he had. However, that he got up at least an hour early each day to complete these tasks went unnoticed. That hour allowed him time to ride into town to watch her open the barbershop her father owned. He made sure he stayed hidden in the alley, directly across from the small shop.
The sight of her laughing at something one of the customers said, of her sweeping the front walk, of her smiling at the children that came by for the sweets she always seemed to have for them; these stolen moments stayed with him, swirling around in his mind, never leaving him in peace.
How had he become so focused on this one woman?
She hadn’t been overly attentive but neither had she been dismissive. She spoke to all the riders equally, treating each one in a kind and considerate manner. So it hadn’t seemed that he had stood out from the other boys. Yet, the way she looked at him, the slight glint in her eyes, told him otherwise. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get the nerve to actually act on that.
So he’d continue to watch her as he always did.
He looked over to see Emma standing at the front of the wagon. By the expression on her face, he realized that wasn’t the first time she’d called him.
“Um, sorry Emma,” he mumbled, blushing behind his hair as he continued to set the supplies in the wagon. He noticed that the other riders had gathered around.
“Quite alright,” she said, the amusement evident in her tone. “Just that we’re about done and I’ve got a few errands myself, so I’m lettin’ you three have some time to wander about.” She grinned pointedly at Buck.
“Thanks Emma!” Cody whooped.
Before Emma could answer, Cody had grabbed Jimmy by the arm and was dragging the dark-haired rider across the street, Buck saw, to the barbershop. Jumping down from the wagon, he grunted – not from the action but from the scene. Cody and Jimmy were chatting with the pretty young woman without a care in the world.
Buck was startled when he felt a hand touch his arm.
“You know,” she said softly, “you could go over and talk too.”
He shook his head and stared down at the dusty ground, not trusting his voice to respond. Again, he felt Emma’s hand on his arm.
“Well,” she said, squeezing gently, “things seem to come around the way they’re supposed to. Everything’s always changin’ but sometimes you gotta make that change.” She squeezed his arm once more before walking away.
Buck watched Emma until she’d disappeared around the corner. Looking back at Cody, Jimmy, and the center of their attention, he thought about what Emma had said.
Did he really see that shine in her eyes when she talked to him? He focused on her and realized that every so often she’d glance over at him. A small smile appeared on his face. “Looks like it’s time for that change.”
They rode up slowly, the face of the old mission church seeming to reach out and beckon them forward. The rains of the last few days had moved on, leaving the yard full of soft, oozy mud.
The rain had also washed away the blood.
They stopped by the small corral and Jimmy reached over to steady the middle horse as Buck slid off of his mount and went over to the middle rider. “You sure you want to do this?” he asked softly, reaching out a hand.
Teaspoon nodded slowly, accepting the offer of help. “Somethin’ I gotta do.” He dismounted carefully, his breath catching as the action jarred the still-healing wound in his side. As his feet hit the ground he stumbled slightly, staying upright only with Buck’s help.
“Somethin’ I gotta do,” the older man repeated. He placed a hand on Buck’s shoulder and started forward.
Jimmy watched the other two men start for the church, then he dismounted himself. He tied the reins for all three horses off on the corral fence and then hurried to catch up.
Teaspoon paused just outside the door. He looked up, his eyes seeming to mist over a little as he took in the adobe structure. All of a sudden he trembled, and he grasped Buck’s arm a little tighter for balance.
“I knew this was a bad idea,” Jimmy muttered. “Teaspoon, you ain’t ready for this. Let’s go back to town…”
But Teaspoon had already started forward again, his hand reaching out to caress the hardened mud like it was an old friend. Then he grasped the door handle and twisted, pushing the heavy wooden gate open.
Inside, it was cool and a little damp. Patrons of the mission had cleaned away all of the candles that had been there a few nights earlier. Now, only a few flames flickered on either side of the altar.
They’d cleaned away the blood as well, from where Teaspoon had made his stand, and from where the tortured life of John Eberly came to an end.
Teaspoon walked slowly toward the front, leaning heavily now on Buck’s arm. Finally he reached for one of the pews.
Buck helped the older man to sit down, and then slid in next to him. “Teaspoon, are you all right?” he whispered.
Jimmy slipped into the pew in front of them. “Maybe I should go get the doc.”
Teaspoon took a deep breath, and then another. “No, I’m all right.” He shifted a little, wincing at the movement. “Well, leastwise I ain’t dyin’ just yet.” He paused, looking around. “Just somethin’ about this place, everythin’ that happened here.”
“What did happen here?” Buck asked. “I mean, you told us about what happened with Eberly. But you were here, twenty-five years ago.”
“We didn’t think anyone survived the Alamo,” Jimmy added.
Teaspoon sighed and closed his eyes. “Guess after all you boys been through to get here I might owe you some explanation.” He opened his eyes and looked at the two younger men. “You know much about the Texas Revolution – ‘sides the battle of the Alamo, that is.”
“Not much,” Jimmy admitted.
“I know Texas won independence a couple of months later,” Buck added. “But that’s about it.”
“San Jacinto,” Teaspoon said softly nodding. He sighed again. “You know why the American Revolution was fought?”
“They had some tax on tea,” Jimmy suggested. “Threw all that stuff in the harbor.”
“Taxation without representation,” Buck clarified. “And most of the early settlers came for religious freedom.” Too bad they couldn’t extend the same freedom to the Indians…
“Well, kinda like that with Texas,” Teaspoon went on. “Mexico makin’ all the decisions, an’ them settin’ the capital near five hundred miles from where most o’ the citizens of Coahuila y Tejas were.”
“Co-ah… what?” Jimmy asked.
“Coahuila y Tejas,” Teaspoon repeated, saying each word very slowly. “That’s what they called the Mexican state what included most o’ what we know as Texas.” He closed his eyes again, remembering. “For a while, the Mexican government encouraged people to settle from the U S of A, but I guess then they figured there was too many people who might not fully support Mexico so they tried to stop more people from coming.”
“Closed the borders?” Jimmy asked.
“Officially,” Teaspoon replied. “No more land permits – ‘course, that didn’t stop people from comin’ anyway.”
“The Mexican government figured the settlers were more loyal to the United States,” Buck suggested.
Teaspoon nodded. “Purty much. So there was other new laws passed. Mexico outlawed slavery, for one. Figured that’d discourage a lot o’ the folks comin’ in. Then they started tryin’ to collect property taxes, even though they’d promised not to.”
“Kinda like that tea tax,” Jimmy said.
“A lot like that,” Teaspoon agreed. “Then there was increased taxes on all goods comin’ from the States, an’ the Mexican government told the settlers what crops to raise. They also dictated everyone had to follow the Catholic church, an’ even pay a tithe.”
“Sounds like a good basis for a revolution,” Buck said.
“It was gettin’ there,” Teaspoon said. “Then ‘long about 1834, Santa Anna made things even worse. He started arrestin’ settlers who were growin’ cotton instead of the crops they was assigned. He ordered state militias dissolved, and he revoked the constitution, takin’ away whatever rights the Texians did have. By 1835, Santa Anna had sent lots o’ his soldiers into Coahuila y Tejas, which didn’t set none too well with most o’ the settlers.”
Buck scowled, trying to remember something. “Wasn’t Stephen Austin arrested by Santa Anna?”
Teaspoon nodded. “The Father of Texas,” he said reverently. “Finally got released the summer o’ 1835. He come back and started calling for a council to be held.”
“To call for a revolution?” Jimmy asked.
“Pretty much. By then, most folks didn’t see no other option.”
“How did you wind up in the army?” Buck asked.
“Texas was in my blood,” Teaspoon replied. “My folks had moved in afore it was even a Mexican state, ‘fore Austin or Houston or any o’ them had come in. I was born an’ raised in a little town not far from here, place that don’t even exist no more. Right along the San Antonio river. But there was always trouble ‘tween the settlers and the Indians, mostly Commanche and Apache. Mexican government didn’t have money for a army to cover the whole area, so the settlers set up their own militias.”
“And you joined up,” Jimmy said.
“Protectin’ my home, an’ my neighbors,” Teaspoon said. “Prob’ly about your age,” he continued. “And then in ’35, General Austin called for a real militia to take on the Mexican troops. Come November, there was a conference to declare a new provisional government, an’ Sam Houston took over the military. He called for men to enlist in the first Texas regular army.” He paused, smiling. “I couldn’t wait to get to Gonzales and sign up.” His smile faded. “Hadn’t seen enough fightin’ yet to know how horrible war could be.”
“That’s when Santa Anna sent his troops north,” Buck prompted.
“An’ we had some good early success,” Teaspoon replied. “The Texians, we was all frontiersmen, and hunters. The old muskets the Mexican troops had were no match for our huntin’ rifles.”
“So what happened to change that?” Jimmy asked.
“We won the first few battles, places like Bexar and Goliad. That didn’t set well with Santa Anna, so he sent a bigger army north. There was only a few thousand settlers in Texas at the time, so the Texian army weren’t so big.”
“They just outnumbered you,” Buck said.
Teaspoon nodded. “Santa Anna, he had thousands o’ men he could send out, an’ he didn’t care none if he sacrificed hundreds, even thousands, long as he won. He took back Bexar, forced us here to the Alamo.”
“The history books say none of the defenders survived the Alamo,” Buck started.
“But you were here,” Jimmy added.
“We had fewer’n 200 men defending this mission,” Teaspoon said softly. “Santa Anna’s men started arriving, an’ they just kept comin’ and comin’… til he had thousands out there. Weren’t no way we could defeat that many more alone. So came a time Colonel Travis knew he had to send for help.”
“And that was when you left,” Buck said.
“Me, Erastus, Eberly, an’ a few others,” Teaspoon confirmed. “We was all experienced frontiersmen, knew the area well. Colonel Travis, he sent us out one or two at a time to try an’ get reinforcements. But no one could get here in time,” he finished, his voice trailing off. “I should have died here w’ all the others,” he said softly.
“Nah, wasn’t your time,” Jimmy said.
“They needed people to survive and tell their story,” Buck added.
Jimmy grinned. “An’ ‘sides. We needed you.”
“Hmmmmph. You boys all need more’n I can do,” the older man grumbled, but there was a hint of a smile on his face and in his voice.
Buck and Jimmy exchanged a glance and a grin. Now that was sounding more like the old stationmaster they knew.
“You ready to go back to town?” Jimmy asked.
Teaspoon looked up toward the altar. “Think I need to just sit here real quiet like for a few minutes.”
Buck looked at Jimmy and jerked his head toward the door. “We’ll be right outside,” he said, getting to his feet. He started toward the door, and he heard Jimmy’s footsteps following him.
Buck walked outside and moved a few feet away, then turned to look at Jimmy. “What do you think?”
“I think that man just keeps on surprisin’ me,” Jimmy replied. He looked around at the mission. “I never thought I’d be here, at the Alamo.”
Buck nodded. “One of the best known symbols of the Texas Revolution.”
“And Teaspoon was here.” Jimmy shook his head in awe. “Who’d o’ thought?”
“Not me,” Buck replied. “And I’ll bet there’s a whole lot more we don’t know about him.”
“Long trip back to Sweetwater,” Jimmy pointed out. He walked over by the corral and sat down on an overturned crate. “An’ I’m gonna think of a lot of questions for the trip.”
Buck just grinned and went over to sit next to the other rider. They both leaned back against the corral rail, thinking and waiting.
Teaspoon leaned forward gingerly, running his fingers lightly over the headstone. It was newer than the others in the cemetery by several years – well, newer than all but the one right next to it.
His fingers traced the name on the headstone. ERASTUS HAWKINS. And then his eyes looked to the next stone. JOHN EBERLY.
“Texians all, ‘til we’re all dead,” he whispered. “Seems like I shoulda died here twice, and I ain’t. So mebbe someone’s got other plans for me.” He looked over to where Buck and Jimmy waited, and he thought about the others waiting back in Sweetwater. “They’re good boys, all o’ them, but I guess they still need me a bit longer. It ain’t been so easy, bein’ a survivor, an’ I guess you know that better’n any. But I still got work to do. So you fellas rest easy here, an’ I’ll join you one day.”
He straightened up slowly and walked over to where Jimmy and Buck were waiting with the horses. It was two weeks since he’d been shot, and they’d come for one final goodbye.
“Ready to go home?” Jimmy asked, handing over the reins to Teaspoon’s horse.
Teaspoon looked around, drinking in the Texas landscape. “Kinda seems like I am home,” he said softly. “But,” he added, finger and voice raised, “Guess I’ve been away from Sweetwater too long.” He climbed carefully into the saddle. “No tellin’ what kind o’ trouble them other boys’ve gotten into. Guess it’s time to get back so’s I can straighten things out.”
“Same old Teaspoon,” Jimmy said.
Buck grinned at Jimmy as he swung up onto his horse. “Wouldn’t want it any other way.”
They started forward, but Teaspoon held back, looking over at the mission. For just a moment he could see the men on the walls again, defending the Alamo. Through the smoke and haze of time, familiar faces swirled past. And then the haze lifted, bringing him back to the present. “Texians all,” he whispered. “Rest well.”
Then he turned his horse to the north – toward Sweetwater, and family.