“Everything and Then Some”
A Short Prologue
It was the early 1700s in a country that would one day be called the
This shadow tail had never seen a Greek or any other human being in its lifetime. It had never wondered more than a quarter of a mile from the place where it was born. It would survive, reproduce and die right there. Nothing more and nothing less was expected.
Everyday was an endless search for food, mostly acorns and nuts. Finding, hiding and hopefully finding again, but in most cases, not. The shadow tail had to hide a ton in hopes of later finding a pound. Where others rested in the heat of the day, the shadow tail continued to work.
As evening approached, the time to be wary also grew near. As the pine forest cooled down, the predators that had been resting in the heat of the day began to move about. The shadow tail should have stayed in his hole, but he had one more acorn to hide.
The bobcat laid low watching from the tree line as the furry grey morsel moved cautiously into the open meadow. He crouched with every muscle tensed, waiting to spring into action.
The shadow tail, known by the
Spaniards as ardilla,
the French in
The bobcat shot into the clearing and the race was on. The two ran with amazing speed and agility as one ran for his food and the other ran for his life. Each had nothing but survival in mind.
In the center of the clearing, the forgotten acorn had rolled into a small crack in the red dirt. (The red color was caused by high iron content.) The shadow tail would not be back. After the next rain the acorn would be covered over with rich acidic soil and soon a pair of cotyledons would appear above the ground as a massive root system began to develop. Within days, the first true leaves would mark the humble beginnings of a white oak tree that was produced by the natural activities of animals and minerals.
The oak tree would continue to grow and survive for nearly four hundred years as birth and life and death would go on all around it. Civilization would soon encroach with all its struggles to outlive one’s enemies. Good vs. bad, an age old equation that requires…
© Everything and Then Some
uneasy feeling crawled up the back of August Halden’s
neck as he walked his horse across no man’s land between
His keen eyes surveyed the overgrowth surrounding the trail. Danger could be hiding anywhere, and in any form, from a sucking bog to a pack of wild boars, or worse; man. The hair prickled on the back of his neck as a trickle of sweat rolled under the collar of his shirt.
His daddy had died when August was fourteen and he stayed and took care of his mother and his two sisters until they died of the fever. Why do the sweet and lovely things of this world seem to struggle and die young, while the undesirables seem to thrive on nothing and live forever? It was a question he would never have an answer for.
a while after his family was gone, he lived all alone in those beautiful
mountains until he began to feel some kind of strange calling, pulling him to
He looked a lot older than his nineteen years. He was a handsome man in an ugly sort of way. A fact that got him a lot of attention; smiles from the girls, who saw the handsome, and fists from the boys, who saw the ugly, and he enjoyed all the attention. He worked hard when there was work to be done, but he enjoyed having a good time when the work was done. And the good times, sometimes, included a good fist fight.
had enjoyed everything about growing up in
was a true Tennessean from the same mold as those men who had died at
He knew how to shoot, too. He once brought down a running buck at over four hundred yards. He didn’t usually risk shots like that, but at the time he hadn’t eaten in two days. His daddy taught him how to shoot true. Hunger taught him how to shoot even better.
He had killed a man, too, but had never told anyone about it. And the man he killed wasn’t talking either. That man was a Shawnee Indian who was trying to make August dead for some unknown reason, and remains unknown to this day. August was a product of his lifestyle of hard work and survival. It was all he knew. If the man hadn’t attacked, August would have left him alone, but instead he left him dead.
remembered the feeling he got just before he saw the
A movement turned him to his right as something hit him hard on his left shoulder, spinning him sideways. He held tight to his saddle horn to stay on his horse. He heard the shot a split second later. He tried to recover, but a second bullet struck his head, snapping his neck backward and sending his old felt hat into the bushes.
All he saw was blue sky and tree tops until the ground slammed into him and knocked all the air from his lungs. The blue sky and the trees were swallowed up in darkness. The last thing he remembered was breathing dust.
In the bleak shadows of early night, August heard voices talking in riddles using words that caught in his ears, but weren’t quite reaching his brain. A tiny slit of light seemed to penetrate one of his dilated pupils as three ghostly figures came into view. He heard laughter and more distorted words. A face entered into his vision for several seconds, long enough to etch itself into August’s memory for as long as his memory might last, an ugly face with one bushy eyebrow across the forehead, split only by a scar over the right eye.
An old flintlock pistol seemed to float in the air pointing somewhere below the slit August was peering through. He saw the gun jump with a flash from the muzzle, but he heard no sound and he felt no pain as nighttime returned.
was at the
Wyman Graves reloaded his old flintlock pistol as the two men with him stripped the body of everything the man owned. This was the second body they had left along the road today. They were having a better day than usual. Sometimes they would go a whole week before a lone traveler came through their territory. Most of the folks who came through traveled in large groups and they passed without incident. Wyman’s little trio of cutthroats only picked out, what they thought to be, sure things.
Graves was considered a bad man even amongst bad men. His mother said he
drank from the
Nobody ever challenged the man. The law never went into the thickets and Wyman never went into areas where the law was well known for bravery. And the men who rode with him were of the same ilk.
Reinholdt, the big German, searched the pockets of the clothes they had removed from the body, while Hooks, the old man, tried on the dead man’s boots. They fit better than the stolen pair he had been wearing. Wyman was going through the saddlebags looking for anything of value. Nothing.
Reinholdt was wanted for murder in his native
Deutschland. He had escaped into
At six foot eight, the blond-haired, blue-eyed German wasn’t exactly inconspicuous, but despite his size he didn’t look like the cold blooded killer he was.
Wyman and Reinholdt seemed to have a bond the moment they met, despite the fact that Wyman told him if he spoke German again he would blow his Deutsch face out the back of his head. Reinholdt said, “I vill only speak zie English.” And that became his only language. Reinholdt had never been afraid of another man before, but there was something to be feared in Wyman Graves. The bigger man truly believed if he ever slipped and spoke German in front of Wyman, the man would do what he said he would do.
Reinholdt remembered when Wyman tried to force himself on a woman, two years back. She was not a fearful woman and that angered Wyman. He was used to everybody being afraid of him, especially women. He began to slap her around until she got her hand on a bottle and broke it across his face. He brandished a scar over his eye as a reminder of his encounter with the spitfire of a woman. He shot her in the back as she ran away from him. It was the first time Reinholdt had ever seen a woman murdered, and he had been with some bad men, but none as bad as Wyman Graves.
As Wyman searched through the dead man’s saddle bags, Hooks stood up and tried out the boots he had just aquired. They felt good as he got back to stripping the body before Wyman got angry. He had seen the man’s fury and people usually died before he calmed down.
Hooks was fifty-two and the oldest of the three killers. He had gotten his first taste of killing at the Battle of New Orleans, fighting under the command of Andrew Jackson. That was the last battle of a war that had ended two weeks prior to the battle. Most of the men went home and never killed another white man, but Hooks enjoyed it too much to stop.
They walked away from the area with the man’s horse and gear and never looked back at the naked body. They were no different from the other scavengers who were hanging around in the woods waiting their turn. They were killers without consciences just like the animals. But, unlike the animals, these men killed indiscriminately.
August opened his blue-gray eyes. It was dark and he saw stars, but they weren’t in his head. They were in the night sky. He heard an owl and he felt a cold chill run up his back. He couldn’t be sure if the two were somehow connected. He tried to move, but it caused such a pain he laid back on the cold ground.
felt himself shivering, but there was nothing he could do about it. The pain
seemed to come from everywhere. He could not pinpoint it. But the pain was
good in as much as it assured him he was still alive, for now. Then he was
back with the dead men at the
When next he opened his eyes the stars were gone and the sky was turning blue. He felt warmer. Was it the sun? He moved his head some without the earth shattering pain. In fact, his body had no feeling at all. He saw a blanket over his body as movement caught the corner of his eye. Coming into view was the Shawnee Indian he had killed. All he was seeing were dead men. He must be dead, too.
The Indian pushed him back to the ground and he had no strength to fight back. He lay there as the only man he had ever killed looked at the side of his head, then lifted the blanket and seemed to be poking around at something. The Indian’s dead hand came into view and held something dark and wet looking. The man had removed August’s heart from his chest. It was the last thing August saw before the darkness of death swallowed him up.
Tarvis Crosley led the five
wagons and ten armed men along the
In fact, he and his men had buried a man just the evening before. He had been murdered and stripped naked, then left for the critters to tear apart. It was a grizzly sight, but unfortunately, you got used to it, traveling through that savage land. He had buried several men and even a woman. There was no code of honor among those Redlander barbarians.
Vigilantes, who called themselves regulators, would try to patrol the 30 mile wide strip of land, but usually wound up executing innocent men. Another group of citizens, calling themselves moderators, was now trying to control the regulators. And while these two factions were fighting each other, the Redlanders were continuing their murderous trades.
Tarvis was a very ordinary looking man. He was thirty-eight years old, but folks thought he was younger. His had a pleasant face, smooth and boyish, and his eyes and smile were friendly, but men usually didn’t mistake him for someone to pick a fight with, especially those men who had seen the men who had made that mistake.
He had a simple rule for the men on his payroll. You did what he told you to do and nothing more or less. If you didn’t want to obey that simple rule you didn’t work for Tarvis Crosley. He was an easy going man, but he had a bad temper if you crossed him. Men who knew him didn’t cross him.
Tarvis’ sharp eyes scanned the road and trees in front of
them. The wagons were heavy and they were making less than forty miles a day.
They had crossed the
He pulled up when he saw a rider coming in. It was Tahoka, the Hasinais Caddo Indian who rode for Tarvis as a scout to watch for hostiles, just in case.
The Indian rode up beside Tarvis and reported in broken English that he had found another body. But this one was still alive.
Tarvis and Kyle Bartow followed Tahoka away from the slow moving wagons. Kyle worked for Tarvis in many capacities. One being, he took care of the men and animals that were injured. He had worked as a medic’s aid in the war they now called The War of 1812. He had only been sixteen when that war started, but he grew up fast as he helped save some lives and helplessly watched some men die.
Just a few miles ahead of the wagons, Kyle squatted down beside the body on the ground and examined the head wound. It was bad, but the skull had not been breached. The man probably had a concussion, which may have saved his life, because it made him appear to be dead, even now.
Kyle lifted the blanket to examine the other wounds. He removed the poultices of moss and herbs that Tahoka had applied to remove infection. There were only two wounds, but they were bad. Mini balls left big holes in whatever they entered and even bigger when they exited, like the one in his chest. Fortunately for this man, it went through without damaging any vitals. That seemed to be a miracle in itself. Being young and, apparently, healthy was also keeping the heart and lungs working, but what about the brain?
They were some thirty miles from the nearest hospital in San Augustine and if the wounded man was going to have a chance, they had to get him there. But first, that ball in his shoulder had to come out. Tahoka already had a fire going just trying to keep the naked man warm. Kyle placed two thin bladed knives in the fire and prepared to do the job at hand.
He had seen a lot of men die, and many had lesser wounds than the man who lay unconscious before him now. If this man lived it wouldn’t be because of Kyle Bartow. It would be because God had plans for this man.
Kyle was a tall, lanky man in his mid forties. Some called him skinny, but each muscle was as hard as the bone it was attached to. Someone said once that he could kill a man by punching bullet sized holes in him with his fists. But those long, slender fingers had a God-given talent in them for saving lives, even though he didn’t call himself a doctor and he certainly had no degree. In fact, the only schooling he had was on the battlefield. If the wounded had any chance at all, he could keep them alive until they were in a hospital.
He and Tarvis had been friends for many years and Kyle was on the payroll because of his talent and his trustworthiness. Tarvis would have trusted Kyle with everything he owned and then some. If he was ever shot, bit, or stabbed he didn’t want anyone but Kyle working on him.
By the time the wagons caught up, the mini ball had been removed with absolutely no objections from the patient. With as much ease as possible they got the body loaded onto some boxes in the back of one of the freight wagons and were ready to travel. Hopefully they would make San Augustine by nightfall. And, hopefully, their passenger would only be an attempted murder victim.
August Halden opened his eyes and looked at the rough hewn rafters above him. Where was he? He remembered hearing voices and someone making him eat some soup. At least, he thought it was soup. He couldn’t taste it, but it was warm and salty.
Then his muscles tightened as he began to recall some things like the pain, but most of all a face with a scar. A face he would never forget. The face was attached to an arm and a hand that held a gun with a black bore that suddenly erupted in a fiery explosion. He felt a scream rising from somewhere inside his body cavity and it shoved its way into his throat and out between cracked lips.
Hands were grabbing him as a voice entered his ears. “That’s okay. There’s no need to hold him down. His own weight is taking care of that.”
August looked up into the face of a very old man and wondered if he had died and gone to heaven. God really was a white haired old man. But he hadn’t expected wood in heaven. He always thought it would be all gold.
“Can you hear me?” God asked. August nodded his head slowly as the hands released his arms. God smiled and put a pipe in his mouth. He struck a match and sulfur smoke curled in the air. He watched the old man’s face disappear in smoke as he puffed on the pipe
August shuddered with a new reality. This wasn’t God. It was Satan. That would explain the wood. Heaven probably was made of gold, but he would never know, because he was in hell.
August tried to get up, but his body wouldn’t cooperate. Satan had him under his spell. He didn’t even need ropes to tie him down.
“Are you going to start my eternity of torture and damnation?” August asked.
“That’d be hell, wouldn’t it? I’ve been accuse of being a bad doctor, but never of torture.”
“You’re a doctor?”
“That’s the rumor going around, but don’t help it spread if you’re going to say I torture and damn folks.” He winked with a smile as he sucked on his pipe and disappeared in smoke again.
“Why can’t I move?”
“I don’t know. I guess your body just don’t want to.”
August stared at the old man who wasn’t God. He was afraid of the answer, but he finally asked, “Am I paralyzed?”
“No. You have feeling in all your extremities. Your body just don’t want to move, yet. It’s had a bad shock. I think it’ll be okay eventually.”
“What’s that mean?”
“Something that may possibly occur sometime in the future.”
“You don’t know?”
son, but I’m not God.” He smiled, but August didn’t smile back. “Look on the
bright side. You’re still alive and in the
“It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been called that. But most folks just call me Doc Rueben. And what do folks call you?”
“August.” He paused a moment trying to remember his last name. “Halden, yeah, my name’s August Halden.”
“Well, August Halden, I’m very glad to meet you.” He reached down and picked up his patient’s hand and shook it.”
“I can feel your hand. I just can’t make the muscles work.”
“You will.” He laid his hand back to the bed. “You will.”
“Thanks, Doc. I’m sure you did all you could.”
“Well, that’s true. I did all I could, but you would have never made it to me if it hadn’t been for these two men.” He motioned to someone outside August’s vision. He waited as two men stepped into view on his left. “This is Tarvis Crosley and Kyle Bartow.”
Tarvis explained how and where Tahoka had found him. “He found another poor soul before you, who wasn’t as fortunate. Kyle here dug the mini ball out of you.”
There was silence then, “Thank you.” August paused. “I don’t know what else to say.” There was more awkward silence. These were all men not used to taking credit for things.
Finally August asked, “This Tahoka, is he Indian?”
“Yea,” kyle answered. “Caddo.”
it’s nothing. Just a bad dream I had about a
“Don’t keep trying to sit up,” Doc said. “When it comes back you’ll know it. Trying before that’ll just get you frustrated. You just rest. You need it.”
August watched as the three men left the room and stared at the closed door until it grew fuzzy, then disappeared into that old familiar darkness.
Tarvis led his wagons on home to
August had told him that the man who shot him should have killed him, because now the hunter was going to be the hunted. Tarvis had smiled at the flamboyance of youth. The young man could barely move and he was talking about hunting down the man who had shot him.
Tarvis had started calling his new friend, Hot August,
a nickname that was destined to become part of a legend not quite as big as Wild
He was still weak, but August was getting up and walking gingerly. Everyday he was feeling a little stronger. He was standing beside his hospital bed when Tarvis entered the room lined with mostly empty beds.
morning,” Tarvis greeted August on his fifth visit,
over a month after they had found him out in the
“Better than yesterday.”
“Doc said you were feelin’ pretty good yesterday.”
“Then, I feel better than good today. I feel like I could throw Doc across the street today.”
“You’re feelin’ that good, huh?”
“Naw. He’s just makin’ me so durn mad I feel like I could throw him across the street.” The two had got to arguing during the last week. Doc wanted him to stay in the hospital a while longer and August wanted to leave.
Doc had entered the room unbeknownst to August. “If you want to go, then go.” Doc said angrily. “I release myself from all responsibility if you die.”
August looked at Tarvis, who was smiling, and sat down on the edge of his bed with a sigh. “Doc, if I stay cooped up in here another day, I’m gonna die, anyway.”
“I know, son.” Doc’s voice was softer. “If you throw me across, you’ll surely open those wounds again then you’ll probably bleed to death, because I’ll be across the street.”
three men laughed. It was cleansing laughter for August. “Look, Doc. I’ll
stay as long as you want me to, but please, I really need to get out of here.
At the very first chance you get, open that gate and set me free. I’m an
outside man, ‘cause
“You can stay with me and the wife,” Tarvis offered. “As soon as Doc says you can make the trip to Nacodoches.”
August looked at doctor Rueben. “What do you say, Doc?”
The doctor shook his head and almost laughed. “Let me watch you a couple more days. If you continue to improve, you can go with Tarvis. I trust him not to let you do anything stupid, like pick somebody up and throw ‘em.” Doc shook his head as he left.
August stuck out his hand to Tarvis, who walked over and shook it. “Thanks for everything you’ve done for me. It’s more than I can ever repay. But if you ever need anything I can get you, just get out the word and I’ll be there.”
“I know and I appreciate that, but I didn’t do anything any decent person wouldn’t do.” He patted the younger man’s shoulder. “I’ll be back to get you in a couple of days.”
“Thanks. I just want you to know I won’t be puttin’ you and your wife out for long. I’ve got three men to find.”
won’t be puttin’ us out, unless you go and get
yourself killed. Forget those men. They could be anywhere from the colonies
don’t believe that and I know you don’t either. The
had been in
Tarvis was gone some days and August was left alone with Tarvis’s wife, Priscilla. She was a beautiful woman, much younger than her husband. August figured she was closer to his age, maybe 20 or 21.
She had black hair and big dark brown eyes. She was the most beautiful woman August had ever seen. And she made him very nervous.
He could feel her eyes on him when he worked. And when she got close, she got a little too close. August loved the ladies and he wasn’t shy around them, but he never knowingly sweet talked or kissed a married woman. And he especially, wasn’t going to change his morals with a friend’s wife. Then again, there was also the possibility his ego and imagination might just be running wild.
The Crosleys lived in a two story house just across the lot behind their emporium. They used to live above the store before they had the house built. There was a big kitchen and a bedroom on that second floor and August had suggested he stay up there. He said it would be easier for him to get to work. He didn’t tell Tarvis the real reason.
Some evenings August and Tarvis would sit on the boardwalk and talk. Priscilla would stand in the doorway and watch them. When August would glance back at her, she would smile and he became a goofy little boy, all mushy inside.
Pricilla Crosley stood on her back porch watching their guest in back of the store stretching his stiff and sore body. She watched his muscles ripple as he lifted the heavy sledge hammer over his head, then let it hang down his back, stretching his chest and arm muscles.
The hair on the back of Pricilla’s neck prickled as she watched August’s bare back become shiny with sweat. A bead of her own sweat rolled between her breasts. It was getting hot.
Pricilla had never worked a day in her life, yet there was nothing she ever wanted that she didn’t get. Her daddy was wealthy and she married Tarvis to keep up the lifestyle she was used to. In fact, Tarvis was more like her father than her husband. He was closer to her father’s age than hers.
Pricilla walked over to the well and dipped her glass into the cool water and took a long drink. She walked back to the porch and sat in one of the two wood chairs Tarvis had made. They would sit together in the evenings and watch the sun set, when Tarvis was home.
She couldn’t keep her eyes off August. She had a lustful desire, a yearning for young men with leaner and firmer flesh than that of old men. As she took a drink, she intentionally/accidentally let some spill down the front of her blouse. It rolled down her stomach and dampened the waistband of her undergarment.
August was like an itch she couldn’t reach to scratch. And, oh, how she wanted to scratch it. She looked across the lot as August slowly brought the sledgehammer back over his head. She poured more water down her blouse.
was a rare beauty even back east in a big city like
She had a god-given gift that made men turn and look at her a little longer than they looked at other women. The early morning sun played around inside her eyes like it would play upon a pond, dancing across the ripples created by a slight breeze.
She sat back and watched that same sun dance across August’s sweat-glistened back as he put down the sledge hammer and picked up the ax and began to chop wood.
She tried to be subtle, but the lust inside her had built up to a point where she felt she would explode. She stood up and walked down the porch steps and across the lot toward August. He did not see or hear her come up within ten feet behind him.
She concentrated on a single drop of sweat as she watched it roll down the back of his neck, in between his shoulder blades then down his muscular back and disappear behind his belt.
The morning sun was already hot. She needed to go in the house and take a cold bath, but the thought of being naked and wet only made her want to stay outside.
pretended like he didn’t know she was behind him. He had been watched by
women before and he always looked back and usually pursued like any
respectable male. But this was so different. Back in the
He was having thoughts that betrayed his new friend and savior. But he could always feel her watching him, even when she wasn’t. Sometimes she would brush against him as she would walk by and their skin would touch with a searing heat that would last into the night.
He had never been afraid of any of the girls back in the mountains, but there was something about Pricilla he just couldn’t put his finger on. And he told himself he never would.
He turned around to look at her, but she was gone.
Pricilla stood in the kitchen feeling how much cooler it was inside her beautiful Victorian house. It was only a couple of years old and the new hadn’t worn off, yet. But like everything else in her life she knew it would and probably sooner than later.
Pricilla met Tarvis back in
A year later Tarvis moved her to
Tarvis wasn’t blind. He could see how the men looked at his young, beautiful wife. They looked her back east where there were many young, beautiful women, but they, especially, looked in east Texas, in 1841, where something fragile and lovely stood out like a diamond in a pig’s ear. What Tarvis hadn’t noticed was how she looked back at them.