Western Fiction posted May 20, 2011 Chapters:  ...10 11 -12- 13... 


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Esther dreams about her middle son, Solomon

A chapter in the book TROUBLE'S A'BREWING

Story Five The Sight

by c_lucas



Background
A series of short stories with a common thread. In 1882 Esther Thompson sends her three grown sons to start a ranch in the mountainous area of the Arizona Territory.



Story Five
The Sight
Narrator - Esther Mathews - Thompson
 
The Texas norther had been a real rip-snorter, keeping me awake way past midnight. When I did get to sleep, I dreamed about my middle son, Solomon. In my dream, he was a baby suckling and I enjoyed having him in my arms ...
 
The sudden scream of a mountain lion stirred me. The dream was broken, and I lay there wondering if I had dreamed of a mountain lion, or heard one on the prowl outside.  I slipped on my boots and picked up Samantha, my coach gun, and changed one chamber to a slug. Wearing only my boots and nightdress, I went outside for a look-see.
 
The norther had cleared the air and the bright moonlight helped a body to see a good distance. A horned owl glided through the yard and swooped down, picking something off the ground without stopping. The barn and bunk house were quiet. The horses in the barn and corral didn’t seem bothered.  I looked over the West Texas plains and saw no sign of a cougar. No varmints were around the pond, so I relaxed.
 
The night air on the Texas plains has a chill to it.
I went to one of the porches' two rocking chairs, took the blanket off the seat and wrapped myself in it before I sat down. I rocked real slow and began to relax.
 
A few minutes later, I saw movement out by the pond; it was just a thirsty coyote. I caressed Samantha and continued to rock, enjoying the clean night air, my thoughts on Solomon.
 
The door opened and a giant white apparition-like figure emerged in a nightshirt that fell short of his knees. He had his Sharps rifle in hand and a Stetson on top of his long white hair.
 
I looked at his bony knees and smiled. "I didn't mean to wake you, Sky."
 
"What's going on?" 
 
"I heard a mountain lion scream."
 
"Funny, I didn't."
 
"It must have been in my dreams. Everything's fine out here."

He took the folded blanket off the other rocker and wrapped it around his massive shoulders. It didn't offer his southern half any protection as he sat in the rocker.The nightshirt did a poor job of covering his pale white legs which were stretched out. "What was your dream about?"
 
I knew he was going to ask that! We sat there rocking. He waited for my answer. I knew I had no choice. "Solomon was a little baby, and I was nursing him. The mountain lion woke me up."
 
Sky is my late husband, Joe's, kin. The boys and nearly everyone on the ranch called him "Uncle Sky".  I didn't. Calling him 'Uncle Sky' brought memories of my husband. He was always kidding Sky about hiding at our ranch to get away from all the widow women that were supposedly chasing him. Thoughts of their shared laughter and antics were too much for me to bear.
 
He showed up late in the day Red Hawk killed Joe.  I didn't send for him, he just showed up. We had our first fight because he didn't want me going after Joe's killer.
 
When I came back with Red Hawk's scalp and hung it on a tree limb over Joe's marker, Sky didn't say a thing. He just took the four of us under his wings and has been here ever since. I thought of him as a true godsend and an excellent example for my boys to follow. . While I was gone, Sky took the boys and two of the hands to round up all the critters on his place and brought them to mine.

 
Sometimes, Sky would ride off in the middle of the night and return about mid-morning. Other times, I would wake up and find him out by Joe's grave. Since he visited it in the morning, I visited it at sunset and filled Joe in on the day's activities. The boys would go out there to look at the scalp, but they never stayed long.
 
Over the years, Sky became my closest friend and a father figure to my children.  He handled the three-man cowboy crew and our herd grew. Thanks to him, my sons became well-versed in nature's way and dead shots with rifle and hand gun. Seth, the youngest, had proven to be especially good with them.
 
Sky helped Solomon to accept his expedited growth due to a disease from Joe's side of the family. He would become as tall, or taller than Sky.
 
Solomon shared one of Sky's sage sayings with me, "Because of your size, you have the strength to win any fight, but sometimes in winning, you lose. You can hurt someone without meaning to, or you could make an enemy. A man will resent anything he thinks of as bullying. You may end up killing a man with your bare hands."
 
Sky's words answered a question for me without my asking. Joe always avoided answering by saying, "You'll have to ask Uncle Sky." Somewhere in the past, this gentle giant, who befriended me and my children, had killed with his bare hands. I never found out the circumstances, but I appreciated his teaching Solomon to control his strength.
 
The boys and most of the cattle are gone. Sky spent his time riding with our now two-man crew helping with the remainder of the cattle. 
 
Joe left me with money inherited from his father, and we weren't hurting.  I suspected that Sky had money, too, but he never mentioned it. He would take the wagon into town and bring back supplies. When I tried to pay him for them, he would shrug it off. "That's my rent money."
 
At first, I argued with him just like I did to get him out of buckskins and into cloth clothing.  Eventually, he gave up his buckskins, but he would never accept money for the supplies.
 
We rocked silently for a while, each lost in thought.
 
"What do you think the dream meant?"
 
Damn! He wouldn't let it be. I knew what he was thinking.
***
 
 
Several years ago, a dream sent me to his farm. He and his family were sick with the fever.  He was the only one I saved. The boy went first and his wife followed soon after.  I put the bodies in the barn because the ground was frozen.
 
I tended to him and the barn animals, and prayed. Sky began to improve. One day, he asked me why I was there. Like a fool, I told him that I dreamed he and his family were in trouble. He told me I had "The Sight". I waved it off. To me, I just followed my intuition.  It was lucky for him I did.
 
Joe and the boys came looking for me a couple of days later. Sky was recovering, but he was still too weak to dig the graves.
 
Joe had the boys set up camp near a mound three hundred feet from the west side of the house. He scraped two areas of the mound, but he didn't try to dig the graves. He used a stick and drew two outlines of the graves; one larger than the other.
 
The boys were set busy gathering firewood from the nearby mesquite and acacia trees. It didn't take them very long to gather enough for two fires.
 
When the boys had a good stack in each area, they were sent to hunt up supper. They brought back several rabbits, cleaned them and put wild herbs in the cavities.
 
Samuel went to the well and brought back a bucket of water. Joe watched as the boys mixed it with some of the dirt he had scraped off the mound and covered the rabbits with mud.

When everything was ready, Joe set the mud-covered rabbits in the center of the stacks of  limbs and started the fires.
 
Once the fires burned down, he retrieved the rabbits with two sticks and set them aside to cool. Then he removed the dried brick-like cover off each rabbit. The boys helped by using warm water to clean off the remaining residue.
 
Samuel brought me two of them. Sky couldn't handle solid food, so I cut one up and boiled it. He was able to keep the broth down.
 
After they ate, Joe and Samuel took care of the animals while Solomon and Seth tended the fires. Later all three boys took turns and kept them burning all day and night. 
 
My husband used the shallow graves for fire pits. While the boys tended the new fires, he and I made two crosses. Sky, in his weakened state, used a hot running iron, carved his wife and son's names on them. He had to stop on occasion, but he wouldn't accept any help. To prove he was healthy, Sky took his wagon into town and brought back two coffins.

Joe and the boys helped to unload them and Joe filled them with the bodies.
 
At mid-morning, the fires were allowed to burn out. After lunch, Joe and our sons worked on the graves. By late afternoon, they were ready to be filled.
 
Sky stood straight and tall during the burial. He showed no emotions as I read one of Alice's favorite scriptures, the Twenty-Third Psalms, with tear-blurred eyes.
 
The boys wiped their eyes occasionally with the back of their hands.  When the service ended, Sky saddled his horse and rode away without speaking.
 
"He'll do his mourning, alone," Joe told me. "Don't worry, he'll be back." 
 
I cleaned the house while Joe and the boys worked on the farm.
 
When Sky came back, three days later, everything was in order.  He put his horse away and walked out to the graves. He stayed there for hours with his hat in his hands.
 
We left him alone while we ate supper. Joe finished eating and got up. He nodded at me and I stayed with the boys while he went out to Sky.  They didn't come in until after dark.  I had supper warming for him, but Sky went to bed without eating.
 
Joe moved the campsite away from the graves. Each boy stacked a pile of wood near their bedroll. Their father assigned each boy four hours of duty on watch. Seth had the first, Samuel the last. They were armed and warned against losing their night vision by staring into the fire.

Joe and I slept on the porch, holding each other without talking.  I knew he was grieving, but I didn't know until later, that Joe's main concern was for his uncle.
 
The next morning, Sky went to the graves.  The boys fixed our breakfast and  put out the fire. Joe and I complimented their successful effort. We saddled our horses and went out to Sky.
 
"You're welcome to move in with us," Joe invited.
 
"We'll be glad to have you," I added.
 
Sky kept his eyes on the grave. "My place is here with my family."
 
We left and went home.
 
 
A rooster crowed and I looked over at Sky, who was staring in the direction of the pond. He had a faraway look in his eyes. An image of Alice and Joshua came into my mind. Soon, Sky was there, holding them and laughing. I had a clear mental picture of them. I got up, folded my blanket, placed it on the rocker's seat and went into the kitchen and began breakfast.
 
Sky came in as I laid out the bacon and eggs. Without speaking, he started making biscuits. Here we were, him in his undersized nightshirt and me in my nightdress, joining forces to cook breakfast. We enjoyed each other's company as we ate.
 
A mental picture suddenly came to me. I looked at Sky and smiled. "Solomon is okay, Samuel and Seth found him."
 
He nodded. "You definitely have 'The Sight'."
 
I smiled and made plans to make him a longer nightshirt.
 
 


Recognized


Thank you, Darrin Stevens for the use of your image, "Still together..."

Esther Mathews-Thompson, stands five-foot-six, with long brown hair and green eyes.

Joe Thompson. Esther's husband and father of Samuel, Solomon, and Seth. Three years older than Esther, Sandy brown hair and hazel eyes.

(The flash back will give information about earler days. I describe the brothers as they would appear as children.and reduced the age of the adults, also.)
Samuel Thompson is ten years old, brown hair and brown eyes. The oldest of the three boys and has more of his father's traits than the other two.

Solomon Thompson is eight years old. light brown hair and blue eyes; by far the strongest of the three sons.

Seth Thompson, Esther's youngest son, seven, He has light brown hair, cut just below his ears with hazel eyes.

Sky Thompson has the trait of gigantism. He is in his early forties, seven foot-three. He has white shoulder-length hair, a full length beard and blue eyes. Sky is Joe's uncle and takes over raising the boys when Joe is killed. His wife called him "Runt." He called her "Pixie."
Alice "Pixie" Thompson, wife, five foot, deceased.
Joshua Thompson, son, deceased.
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