Brother Against Brother Chapter 7
Chapter 7 © 2018 Steven D. Shepard
Sergeant Buck Hartley had spent every moment of the night trying to round up the Dirty Job Squad. Even so, he didn't find or get a hold of each and every name he put on his list. So the rest of the detachment had to be located and assembled when and where they could be found. After Captain Ivey got done chewing on him, the two men got back together and walked together over to the Company Mess to get breakfast. Both of them rarely ate at the Fort and breakfast this morning reminded them why.
Company Mess was a flattering term. At Fort Turnbull this consisted of an arbor of log posts located to one side of the parade grounds. The arbor itself held up a roof of thatched river reeds. The reeds were just enough cover to keep the sun and the weather off of two cook stoves and a fire pit. Over these stoves two enlisted cooks labored and sweated over what meat and produce the area could provide at any given time. The men had been stationed at Turnbull long enough they had started their own barnyard and pens. From that larder came chickens, eggs and pork meat raised right on site. Chickens were cheap and could be found just about anywhere. The pigs were caught and penned from herds of feral hogs that ran the countryside. When not on duty, one of the soldiers favorite pastimes was running dogs and hunting hogs. It helped to break up the boredom, monotony and tedium of life at Fort Turnbull. And feral pigs were good eating.
Breakfast was simple enough. Eggs and ham from a leg of pork that hung in the air from the arbor to one side of the fires. The homey smell of biscuits came from Dutch ovens sitting right in the fire coals. There was butter and honey which the soldiers bartered from local farmers. Large blue speckled coffee pots hung above the biscuits pots on steel racks boiling coffee so thick you could cut it with a knife. There was no such thing as refrigeration, so the meat was only covered in layers of cheese cloth to keep the bugs and flies off it. If the meat didn't get ate, it spoiled. But the men kept that from happening. The eggs were gathered that morning. The food was fresh because it was butchered and harvested just the day before. The cooks started throwing things together around five or six in the morning. Other soldiers brought out simple crockery and wooden spoons the troops had to use to get served and eat with. When the meal was ready, the men filed out of crude brush barracks and hammocks and lined up on the one side of long log tables they had hewed themselves from the forest of trees that surrounded the Fort. The top of the tables started out so rough you could have filed shake shingles on top of them. From years of routine and use, the tables were so worn down now they were smooth. In fact, they were slick from use and the grease that had been spilled on them so many times. The troop lined up for breakfast and pulled their plates and bowls out of a pile at the one end of the table. They filed down the line so they could serve themselves from platters and iron pots the cooks laid the food in and on. You would never catch a Confederate cook serving anybody. If you didn't get to mess on time and help yourself, you didn't eat. However, there was usually coffee left over after the food was served and gone. The tardy got coffee and that was all they got until lunch. If there was a lunch.
It would have taken a hacksaw to cut the eggs. But the coffee was warm, needed and welcome. Ivey and Hartley took their cups and plates to the far end of the table and sat on log stumps for chairs. After they ate what they could stand, Hartley emptied his cup by throwing black grounds and dregs on the ground. He turned, nodded a goodbye and a pointed finger to his Captain and went to the stockade to saddle a horse. Then Sergeant Hartley rode out the open gates to locate the rest of the detachment. Captain Ivey stayed seated for a while trying to think out how they were going to proceed from here. He was still hungry, but the fare didn't warrant seconds. The two names on Hartley's list that Ivey didn't know well were the easiest to find. These two men were stationed at Fort Turnbull and rarely bothered to go or got to leave. It was odd that Ivey didn't know the men, but they were just soldiers. Pat Moe and Tommy Richardson were two buck privates trying to do their duty. They got stationed at Fort Turnbull when the war started and were almost glad for the commission. The Army provided three squares and a cot with a place to stay when all of that was hard to come by. The pay they got wasn't worth spit with the value of Confederate money shot to hell. But just having a roof over their heads was worth it. Ivey waited at his stump for Moe and Richardson to wade through the crowd of men sitting and standing around the tables feeding. He knew them by sight. The Captain waved them over to his position. The two men complied and walked up to Captain Ivey giving him his salute. Not getting up from his stump, Ivey sipped his coffee and saluted the men back. Then he asked them, “Who is your CO?”
Tommy Richardson spoke up saying, “Colonel Shelby is supposed to be. But we rarely see him. He is usually over at Headquarters and only comes down here to direct us when he needs labor. Ivey shook his head in understanding, then he told the men, “Boys, I'm volunteering you to join me on a special mission. I can't tell you much about it right now, but I need you to report to the Fort stables at 1:00 o'clock for further instructions. I'll tell you more at that time. The two men looked at each other, then looked back at the Captain. Pat Moe said, “Sir, we help clean those stables and pens on a daily basis. So we already have that detail. Ivey responded, “That's not what I'm talking about. This is different. We're riding south. Until 1:00 o'clock, I want you to find seven or eight mounts we can use for this mission. Now that's all I can tell you right now. You have your orders.” With that, the two men saluted and said, “Yes Sir.”
In his head, Sergeant Hartley did similar planning as he rode into town to locate the other volunteers. Steve Pogue was easy to find. He didn't have a job and could be seen loafing around town more often than he should. Hartley saw him walking downtown heading towards the docks. Pogue was probably going down there to see if he could pick up some day work not already assigned to slaves. Hartley rode up to the man as he was walking and asked Pogue if he was ready to go to work. Pogue just smiled and nodded his head yes. Hartley told Pogue he needed to report to Fort Turnbull at 1:00 PM that afternoon. He had just been drafted. Pogue smiled his usual friendly smile and said, “Sure!”. But when Hartley rode off to find the others, Pogue realized he didn't have a watch. He had no idea how he was going to tell when it was one o'clock. So Steve Pogue turned away from the docks and went ahead and started the three mile walk to Fort Turnbull. He figured if he got there early, there should be no harm. And, he just might get lunch out of it.
Buddy Franklin was home. He knew Sergeant Hartley was coming sooner or later. He had already packed his gear, got his gun and saddled his horse. He waited on the Sergeant inside the house praying with his mother and sister. They prayed hard for his safety and safe return and occasionally shouted out in tongues. Franklin heard Hartley riding up before he saw him. His family said their Amens and stood up. Buddy turned, kissed his mother Ann and his sister Debbie goodbye in the house so Hartley wouldn't see him. Both the women started crying and worrying they might never see Buddy again as they followed him out the front door. The Franklins walked outside and let the screen door slam behind them. Before Sergeant Hartley even had a chance to dismount, Buddy joined Hartley at the front rail and threw his gear on a horse. The men said nothing as Buddy stepped up the stirrup and into his saddle. He nodded at his Sergeant and turned his horse to follow. Private Franklin looked painfully back at his family to see them standing on the porch waving goodbye. He only looked back once. That was all he could do without crying. He planned on just following Sergeant Hartley around until they headed back to the Fort. Franklin was proud to ride with the Sergeant and thought to himself that they were bound on a holy mission. Sergeant Hartley sensed the emotion and tension in Private Franklin and decided he would let him go on and ride to the Fort by himself. So he could get his tears out in private. So Hartley told Franklin to go on alone down River Road and he would join him later. And that's what Buddy did.
Albert White, Jr. was home also. He was out in the front yard splitting logs for firewood. His Pa was dead and now that chore belonged to Albert. He had already worked up a sweat. Even in the cool March morning air he had to shuck his shirt. Working in his undershirt, he was so preoccupied with his splitting he never heard or noticed Sergeant Hartley riding up. Junior wouldn't have heard him in any case. Hartley rode up to the house and sat there on his horse watching Albert for a moment. He thought about throwing something at the boy to get his attention, but then decided that would be rude.
Sergeant Hartley dismounted and walked the red brick walkway towards the house keeping his distance. It's not a good idea to scare or surprise a man with an ax. When he got in Albert's line of vision he smiled and waved at him. Junior saw Sergeant Hartley, stopped his work and smiled his biggest grin right back at the soldier. He was glad to see Buck Hartley and Junior wanted nothing more than go on this mission. With joy in his eyes, he put his shirt back on and went in the house to get his gear. Private Albert White came back out the door, stopped and stood on the front porch at attention with his gun and gear in his left hand. He looked across the yard at his Sergeant who was already back on his horse. Private White stood as straight and as tall as he could and gave his Sergeant his very first salute. Sergeant Hartley saluted right back with all due respect.
Sergeant Hartley did let Private White ride with him. They rode west into the tenement housing area to try and find Littlefoot Jones. The Jones house was on the other side of Allen Avenue on the far northwest side of town where most of the black folks lived. Arriving in what the locals called Coon Town, the men rode down bad, buckshot clay streets. There were holes in the road so big you could lose wheelbarrow in them. They passed sun bleached, bare plank shotgun shacks that weren't much wider than a wagon. There were row after row of these barren, stark houses that had never seen a bucket of paint. These shacks lined a shameful avenue that Shreveport called a street. Originally, the houses had been built to house slaves. Now it contained poor folks of all races who had no place else to go. The good houses had a front porch. Most didn't. The neighborhood looked like a bad and dangerous place to be. But most of the people who lived there were not bad people. They were just poor, doing the best they can. The riders stepped their horses around and over a filthy sewage creek that ran right down the middle of the street. This bilge water drained to the side of the dirt road that rarely saw any city maintenance. Barefoot black children in ragged, torn clothes ran up and down the unhealthy and sick creek. Giggling, laughing and jumping with their dogs barking and giving chase. Even in this rancid environment they smiled, screamed, yelled and played joyfully.
The Caddo Parish School Board wasn't much concerned if these kids went to school or not. Usually they weren't welcome. Because most them didn't have good clothes or shoes. Their dogs barked at the strange men and tried to nip at the hooves of the soldier's horses. That was a bad idea. At least one of the dogs got kicked across the street howling in agony. The kids just laughed at the dog's pain. Ignoring the injured dog the children smiled and waved at Albert White as the men passed by. They knew Albert. He was one of the nice white men in town who didn't have a woman of his own. Sometimes late in the evening, Junior would come around and court the young black girls. When he found one willing, Albert would pull her on the saddle behind him, take her out into the night and enjoy her company in the woods. He wasn't the only white man that did that.
The two men turned a corner, rode through a channel of row houses and arrived at the Jones place. In Shreveport, Indians were no better than niggers. There were few other places they were going to live, if they were going to live around white folks at all. Mama Jones saw them coming. So she walked out on her porch to greet the men. She would never let white men in her house. The men stayed mounted and gave Mrs. Jones a touch to their hats and a respectful, “ Good morning Mrs. Jones”. Mrs. Jones accepted their greetings warmly before she told them Littlefoot was not home. Littlefoot had grabbed her gun first thing that morning and went out before dawn. This was not good news to Sergeant Hartley. Mama Jones had no idea where she went. Hartley shook his head low and muttered, “Damn.” He wondered if Littlefoot had decided not to go and she was avoiding him now. Littlefoot knew he would be coming. Hartley rode up last night in the dark and came straight to her window, still on his horse. When he tapped on her window she thought she was going to have to kill some fool for trying to mess with her. When she saw who it was, she knew better than to try. Buck Hartley was white, but she knew he was a warrior. If he was at her window there had to be a reason. She opened her window and gave the man a stare from the darkness without saying a word. Hartley could barely make out her profile in the dark room. Then he asked her if she wanted a job scouting for the Army. Littlefoot responded by saying, “I guess.” No one had ever offered her a job before. She didn't know whether she trusted the offer or not. Sergeant Hartley responded with a simple, “Alright.” He told her he would be back for her. Even that was strange instruction. Nobody needed to come for Littlefoot Jones. She knew how to get where she was going.
Hartley let out rude curse about her absence now. He reined his horse sharply away without saying another word. His sudden jerk surprised Private Albert White and his horse. White had just enough time to draw rein and tip his finger to his brow in a goodbye to Mrs. Jones. Then he had to catch up with his Sergeant. The two men rode back through town toward the Fort in silence. On the way, Sergeant Hartley went back to his planning. He was trying to come up with a contingency plan to replace Littlefoot Jones. The only other person that came to mind, was not a pleasant choice. There was Master Sergeant Jesse Burton. But he was trouble. Jessie Burton had nearly as much Army and battle experience as Hartley. But the man was a drunk and could not be relied upon. If they brought Burton along at all, Hartley knew it would be a constant battle with the man to command the detachment and maintain any discipline. Burton would bring along enough booze to float a boat. And probably try to undermine Captain Ivey's authority. Hartley decided he would keep the man in mind, but elected to not look for or contact him yet. He knew Burton. If he did invite him, Burton would demand to know what the hell this secret mission was all about. And Hartley was still under orders not to say.
As it worked out, just about all the men arrived at Fort Turnbull just in time for noon mess call. When they arrived, they assembled at the steps of Ivey's office shack with their hands in their pockets. They asked each other if they knew what was going on, but none of them did. Sergeant Hartley got things moving by asking them all, “You boys hungry?” They all answered “Yes Sir.” Hartley corrected them, “Don't call me Sir. I work for living. You call me Sergeant Hartley. Clear?” All the men responded, “Yes, Sergeant Hartley.” “Well come on.” Hartley said and led them forward, walking the men over to the company mess to get fed. As he escorted them to the line, he got interrupted. Staff Sergeant Jimmy Russell made the mistake of standing in Buck Hartley's way. He compounded his mistake by asking, “What the hell is this? We don't feed civilians here.” as he pointed past Hartley at the rabble of men behind him. This is how Sergeant Hartley responded to the question. Sergeant Hartley smoothly reached up and grabbed Russell by the right thumb of the hand he was pointing with. Then Hartley quickly twisted the thumb back at the man and had Russell to the ground bending the man to his knees. Sergeant Russell whined out in pain while Hartley held his arm straight out in a twist that started at the thumb and spiraled to his shoulder. Then he said to the man, “Sergeant, I'll thank you to have some respect for my new recruits. These boys may end up saving your sorry ass someday.” With that Hartley released the man's thumb with a snap and marched right by him.
Private Buddy Franklin was first in line behind his Sergeant and asked, “What did you do that for?”, to which Hartley responded, “I don't let no Shreveport white trash tell me what to do.” The boys filed sheepishly through the line and they all got fed. Afterwards they felt better about being there. Even with the apprehension about the unknown mission. After lunch, Captain Ivey met them over at the stockade. As the men waited, Captain Ivey and Sergeant Hartley walked the corral and stalls to inspect the mounts and saddles Privates Moe and Richardson had selected for the men who didn't have horses. They would do. Steve Pogue was so glad to be back on a horse again he almost cried. He had sold his horse not long after he arrived in Shreveport. Just to get enough money to buy food. The men still didn't have uniforms or weapons, but that would be addressed soon enough.
Sergeant Hartley made an attempt to line the recruits up on the parade ground to see if they could march and move as a troop. The boys with no military experience didn't quite get it and were clumsy. Hartley could see if he kept it up they were just going to make him mad. So he quit. As Captain Ivey supervised this stumbling drill, it occurred to him that he had not seen or heard General Taylor anywhere. That was good thing. Come to find out, Taylor had a bad case of rheumatoid arthritis the night before and he had to get back to his physician in Natchitoches. This was not that unusual and had happened before. The aliment contributed a great deal to the General's general bad mood. When it took him away from Fort Turnbull, the entire Fort had a more casual and relaxed atmosphere. The benefit for Ivey was, he was not going to get dressed down and yelled at for not being in the field yet. Ivey noticed they were a man (woman?) short, but he was not about to bring that up while they were still there at the Fort. Hartley continued to try and work with the men while Ivey went to the armory to see what resources the Fort had. As he knew too well, there wasn't much there to choose from. But it was worth a check. He pretty much rejected what was available, but he did grab a hand full of striped insignia. They might come in handy later. Captain Ivey knew all along if this mission was going to happen at all, he would have to tear into his stash at his mother's house to equip his men. When Ivey got back to the parade ground, he was shocked and amazed to see that Hartley had taught the boys to ride around the parade grounds two by two in cavalry formation. In fact, they rode better than they marched. It didn't make a lot of sense, but it was a good sign. He should have known. These boys had been riding horses since they were children. Now they were on military mounts and these horses knew the drill better than they did.
There wasn't time to keep playing military games. They would either get it or not. Captain Ivey had Sergeant Hartley line the men up with their horses and he gave them their first line inspection. The men held good attention looking sharp. It would be their first and last inspection. Ivey shouted out, “ROLL CALL!” Hartley took up the call and started down the line, “FRANKLIN.” “Here Sir!” “MOE.” “Here Sir!” “POGUE.” “Here Sir!” “RICHARDSON.” “Here Sir!” “WHITE. WHITE!” Albert came alive with, “Here Sir!” Sergeannt Hartley turned smartly back to his Captain, saluted and reported. “Dirty Job Squad present and accounted for, Sir!” Ivey saluted his new squad. Noting they were missing one and and noticing he was far short of a real detachment, much less a squad. But he let that slide for now. As he looked down the short line, he could see the two soldiers Moe and Richardson were in uniform but only had sidearms. The rest of the motley crew were still in civilian clothes and carried what weapons they had or none. It was time to address that issue. Captain Ivey ordered a, “MOUNT UP!” and Sergeant Hartley repeated the order at volume. All the men got to their horses and proceeded to follow Ivey out the front gate. They rode proud, two by two just like a real military unit. It should have been a grand moment with music. But it was just a small parade of odd men off on business that most of the Fort personnel ignored. All but one. And he was nursing a sore thumb.
Sergeant Jimmy Russell watched the proceedings. He was puzzled as to how Buck Hartley could assembled a detachment on such short notice. Russell was as aware of the manpower shortage as anyone. As the Dirty Job Squad rode out the Fort Turnbull gates, they gave no notice to Russell 's angry sneer. Russell made a note to himself, he had not received any official notice of transfer of the two soldiers Moe and Richardson out of Fort Turnbull. He had seen no authorization of the issue of saddles and mounts to this troop. He had no authority over Ivey and Hartley. But as far as Sergeant Russell was concerned, Moe and Richardson were AWOL as of this moment. He would make a note of it to Headquarters and General Smith first chance he got. The Dirty Job Squad completely ignored him as they rode away.
This time, it was the Dirty Job Squad that took the River Road back to Shreveport. Their destination was the old Ivey home on Lake Street. At this point, none of them but Ivey and Hartley knew where they were going or what they were doing. Or why. But most of the boys were so glad to be included they didn't care or think to ask. They rode with pride. Sensing their energy and pride, their horses pranced up the River Road sometimes stepping sideways to show how well they could strut. Captain Ivey was lost in thought and gave little notice or recognition to the small command that pranced behind him. Sergeant Hartley watched them out of the corner of his eye and what he saw worried him a little. The boys followed in close order, grinning and smiling and enjoying the feel of their new mounts. The afternoon was bright and shiny with sun and clear air that gave them a sense of adventure. The kind of feeling men get when they're excited about starting a new job. But with a furrowed brow, Captain Ivey fretted to himself. He never really wanted a damned command. He never wanted to be in the Army in the first place. Or go to war. He was grateful when he got the Quartermaster job. It was no big deal, just telling men where to load materials and move supply. Now the thought of riding men into harm's way didn't appeal to him at all. He wasn't real sure he even knew how to do it. Already it seemed like there was too much to take care of and too much to cover. He didn't want to screw it up. So he prayed a prayer that many men before him had prayed, “Oh Lord, please don't let me fuck up.” Because there remained a real chance he could get his ass shot off.
The Dirty Job Squad was making smart progress up the River Road. Before they got to town, a pinto horse - with a small rider - slinked out of the woods and fell in step behind them. The pinto rider followed. But not close enough where her horse's hoof steps could be heard. At first the troop didn't notice. When they did notice, they saw that Littlefoot Jones was following them. Private Buddy Franklin looked back, turned forward and made sure everyone heard him when he asked out loud, “What does she want?” His rhetorical question went unanswered. All he got in return was Littlefoot's stare at the back of his head. She continued to follow. She had her rifle out. She held it erect in her right hand like an Indian carries a lance. The butt of the rifle was on her right thigh while she controlled her horse with her left hand and knees. Her hat was pulled low down on her face. The boys couldn't really make out her face or eyes. Her lips were pulled together tight, in a classic Indian frown that the boys recognized far too well. Tommy Richardson looked back at her two or three times and said, “Oh shit, this can't be good.” The detachment rode on, more curious and sober the rest of the way. They occasionally looked forward at their commander for some clue as to what the appearance of this Indian girl may mean, but they got no response from either Ivey or Hartley. The ride through town got some recognition from town folk. Simply because it was not common to see a detachment of oddballs on military mounts passing through town with an Indian girl bringing up the rear. But after they passed, they were soon forgotten. Folks got on with their lives, barely remembered their passing at all.
Arrival at the Lake Street house caused more confusion than anything else. All the recruits looked at each other and waited for orders or the other shoe to drop. When Sergeant Hartley ordered dismount they each got down and shrugged in silence at each other waiting for some explanation. As they tied up their horses, some of the boys knew this was Captain Ivey's family home. But they had no idea why the Captain would even bring them there. The whole thing was puzzling, made no sense and they briefly wondered if the mission was already over. Littlefoot Jones rode up and remained mounted. She sat mute in her saddle. Much like she had on the road. When she ignored the dismount order it annoyed Sergeant Hartley a little, but he remembered he was going to have to work with this bunch. More than he would regular soldiers. He let her slide for the moment, but he was going to have a talk with the Indian later. Hartley was just glad the gal showed up. Captain Ivey went around the back of the house and banged around letting himself in. He soon showed back up on the front porch and ordered the men at ease. The house was too small to let them all in, so he would have to outfit them one or two at a time from his secret supply. Sergeant Hartley followed Captain Ivey back inside the house and Doug led him to the kitchen where they pulled back the rolled rug and unlocked the floor lock. The heavy door to the cellar creaked as Ivey opened it revealing the dirt cellar Doug and his brother dug so many years ago. Dust long undisturbed flew up into the air of the small kitchen. It would have made Ivey's mother mad had she been there. Ivey led a wide eyed Sergeant Hartley down the wooden steps into the dark. Striking a match and lighting a candle, Ivey waited for their eyes to adjust to the poor light. When he could see, Buck Hartley let out a gasp when he saw what he saw.
Everywhere Hartley looked, each and every corner and wall of the cellar was lined, racked and stacked with military provisions and supplies that included ammo, belts, boots, food, gear, uniforms and weapons. Lots and lots of ammo and weapons. Rifle boxes were full on the floor and ammo boxes were stacked on one wall from floor to ceiling. When Hartley found his voice all he could say was, “What in the hell?” Doug Ivey smiled, held the candle up to his face and said as he nodded, “Four years of accumulation. In case we ever got invaded.” The candle light glinted and reflected back the gleam in Ivey's eyes and off the shiny black metal surface of brand new weapons. The guns had never even been fired before. Raising a rifle in his hands, Hartley recognized that familiar smell of gunpowder and grease the Army used on the weapons to keep them from rusting. Then the realization came to his face and he understood, they had just hit the jackpot. This mission might actually have a chance of succeeding after all.
Captain Ivey didn't let Hartley think long before he instructed, “Go fetch one of the fellers and let's get him outfitted.” Hartley raced out of the cellar and started bringing the men in the kitchen one by one, in random order and had them stand in wait. Hartley called out their requirements and size down to Ivey in the cellar. Ivey tore through the neatly stacked materials searching for what he wanted and needed for each and every recruit to have and carry. Then he handed the supplies and weapons up the staircase and cellar door to Sergeant Hartley. The boys who needed uniforms got dressed right there in the kitchen. The crisp, new, wool uniforms were scratchy and starchy. They didn't have rank or insignia on them yet. The boys would have to try and put the stripes on themselves when they had the time. But that was not a priority right now. If the men needed it, they got brand new square-toed boots that were made right there in Shreveport. There was a factory in town that turned out shoes for the war when they could get leather from Texas to make them. The shoes were fair quality.
One by one the troop got outfitted. The whole process was taking longer than Ivey wanted, but it had to be done. So each man was equipped and supplied like a proper Confederate cavalry soldier. The boys got dressed and armed with pride. The Sergeant had to admit, they looked pretty sharp. When the soldiers finished, they grabbed their old clothes and shoes and went back outside to pack them into their saddle bags as best as they could. When the last man was finished outfitting, Hartley walked back outside to look for Littlefoot Jones. She was still sitting in her saddle. Across the fence and away from the other horses. She had sheathed her rifle and was leaning back on her saddle, just sitting and staring. One of her arms was propped on her horse's haunches. This pose made her hair fall away and hang down her back like a curtain. The pose was far too attractive and feminine for the occasion. Hartley didn't call her name like he had the others. He motioned with his hand and arm for her to come. Littlefoot looked at him a moment like she was deciding if she was going to come or not, then she threw her right leg over her saddle horn and slid lithely on her butt down her saddle to the ground. Jones strutted by and through the group of uniformed soldiers standing in the front yard. She pretended to ignore them. Each and every eye watched her strut by on her way to the house. The boys couldn't help but notice, Littlefoot Jones had a nice ass for an Indian.
Jones followed Sergeant Hartley into the kitchen where they both stopped. Hartley looked at Jones briefly and then called down into the cellar, “Captain Ivey, would you care to join us here Sir?” While it was Hartley's wicked sense of humor and idea to bring Littlefoot Jones along as a scout, he hadn't yet worked out all the details yet. He wasn't really sure how this was going to work. Captain Ivey peered up the hole at the two, hesitated at the request, shook his head and climbed up the wooden steps. Back in the kitchen again Ivey looked at the both of them, pulled his hat off and scratched his head. The gal was an Indian. And if it wasn't for her deep red complexion, the fact that she was tough as nails and mean as a snake, she would be attractive. But that long black hair hanging out from under that hat and down her back had to go. Ivey walked over the kitchen table and brought back a cane bottom chair and set it down in front of her. He didn't speak to the woman. He just pointed at the chair waiting for her response. Jones looked back and forth at both the men and then seemed to get it. She sat down and pulled her hat off. Ivey grabbed his mother's scissors out of a ceramic holder on the wall while Hartley grabbed a dish towel and threw it around Littlefoot's shoulders. Then Ivey started butchering on the dark cascade of Indian hair.
Ivey didn't know what the hell he was doing and it was soon obvious he was making a mess of things. He pulled on her hair just as much as he cut it. Then Littlefoot had enough. Jones grabbed his hand forcefully and stopped his cutting with one hand while taking the scissors away with the other. She got up out of the chair and walked away into his mother's bedroom where she stood in front of an old chest of drawers with a mirror. Jones used her reflection to complete her own haircut and gave herself a fair young boy's cut. When she finished, she came back out with a hand full of hair, walked out the back door and threw her shorn locks out in the backyard. The two men just watched her silently as she came back into the kitchen. Captain Ivey went back down in the cellar and Sergeant Hartley called down her small requirements. Hartley took the material as Ivey handed it up through the cellar door. He passed it along to Jones. When she got all she was getting, she stood there briefly with the uniform and materials cradled in her arms. She looked over at Hartley and without a word walked back into the bedroom again. This time she slammed the door shut. It took a while, but eventually Private Jones came back out into the kitchen in full uniform. Her new knee high riding boot heels clopped on the plank floor. The boots were just slightly too big for her. She had to roll the sleeves of the Lindsey-Wolsey blouse and the jacket up so her hands could clear. Sergeant Hartley looked her over liking what he saw. He ordered, “Attention!” Even though Littlefoot Jones had never taken an order in her life and never stood at attention, she snapped to just like a soldier should and assumed the position. Captain Ivey came back up out of the cellar and added his inspection. He could tell that from a distance Private Jones was going to look just like a young male teenage soldier in the field. Unless they got close, no one would ever be the wiser. But one thing still concerned and nagged Captain Ivey. He didn't know how to ask what he wanted and needed to ask next.
Captain Ivey looked over at Sergeant Hartley and decided to put the monkey on his back, “Sergeant, can I ask what you're going to do with this recruit when he has his cycle?” Sergeant Hartley looked back at his Captain with confusion and asked, “Cycle Sir?” “Cycle, Sergeant. Female cycle.” Buck raised his eyebrows and replied wide-eyed. “Ohhh, cycle. Yes Sir, Well, I kinda figured that might be a good time for Private Jones to go on leave during that period. If you'll forgive my saying Sir.” Ivey hung his head down to his chest and shook his head side to side in worry. Then Private Jones finally broke her silence saying, “Begging the Captain's pardon.” Both men were shocked to hear her speak. She spoke such good English, they were taken aback. “If you please Captain, don't concern yourself. I know how take care of my own needs.” Jones offered.
Out of confusion and embarrassment, Captain Ivey was willing to take her word and drop the subject. Doug Ivey knew about women. He had been married for years.. But almost all the women he knew kept that subject to themselves. It was never something they allowed men to discuss or know about. Men preferred it that way. With her issue, Littlefoot Jones was going to have a more difficult mission than all of the other troops combined. Right now, Ivey didn't even know how the woman was going to be able to go to the toilet with any privacy. But he decided he couldn't allow the issue to occupy any more of his time and worry. However, he did address one final concern, “Private Jones, do you plan to go with us on that damned pinto pony?” “Yes Sir.” Jones replied still at attention. “Well soldier, you might as well paint a target on your back. Cause the first enemy that sees you will aim for it.” It was not a pleasant thought or a nice thing to say but Jones fired right back, “Sir, that pinto will still be jumping and running when those fat nags you got are winded. Sir.” Ivey nodded back at her in agreement and let it drop. It was too much time and trouble to go back to Fort Turnbull and get her a proper military mount. She would have to ride like she was used to riding. Hopefully that would be enough.
By the time they got through all the dressing and supplying, it was getting dark again. The March days were still ending short. Unhappy with the delays, Captain Ivey made the decision that they would bivouac that night in the yard and get underway in the morning. It was intolerable and unbelievable how long everything seemed to be taking. They had to get on the road or there would be hell to pay from General Taylor. Ivey, Hartley and Littlefoot walked back out on the front porch together. When the boys saw Private Jones, they all let out an audible, “Huh?” and they wondered what the hell they were getting into. They looked back and forth at each other again while Ivey and Hartley watched them from the porch. The only explanation they got was when Sergeant Hartley said, “What's the matter with you boys? You never seen an Army scout before?” It was then Captain Ivey offered, “Gentlemen, Private Jones here is going to scout for the Army.” Then Ivey ordered the men to make camp.
With that, the boys got a fire going and they tore greedily into the food supply they just received from the Ivey storehouse. Most of it was coffee and dry goods. It wasn't good eating, but it was better than nothing. And so far, it had cost them nothing. The smell of hot coffee was the first thing going. Captain Ivey decided it was probably a good thing they fattened up this evening while they could. He could resupply their food stores in the morning and then get underway. The camp and food preparations distracted the men from the Private Jones puzzle as they struggled to get to know the bedrolls and blankets they were just issued. While they fussed around with their new gear, Private Littlefoot Jones and her horse disappeared. When Captain Ivey noticed she was gone, he thought about sending Sergeant Hartley to bring her back around. Then he decided she was probably doing the right thing. He imagined she rode home to tell her mother goodbye. That would be a good thing to do. The men did ask Sergeant Hartley where they were going and what they were assigned to do. Sergeant Hartley's response was to tell them they would be informed when the time was right and they had a need to know.
For now, the men had to accept this response. But they gossiped about it around the camp fire most of the evening. Their talk continued into the night and it gave the men a chance to start getting to know each other. Most of the boys were local and either knew or knew of the other. But none of them knew Steve Pogue. When they found out he came through Texas and how chatty and happy he was around a fire, they gave him as much acceptance as they could. Before they got to eat the food they cooked up Private Buddy Franklin interrupted them all and called them to prayer. Each and every cap came off and heads were bowed respectfully. Franklin looked round at this small gathering, drew a breath and started:
“Our Father, who art in heaven
hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done
on Earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive our trespass
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil
for Thine is the Kingdom, the Power
and the Glory forever and ever.
Dear Lord forgive us our many sins and bless us in this mission we face. Lord, thank you for the table you set before us and bless the work we have at hand. Lord, if it be thy will, please bring us back home to our loved ones again safe and sound. So we can continue your holy work in this world and the next. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.”
The prayer went like it should. But most of the troop was glad Franklin ran out of air and let them eat. After their meal, they hobbled their horses and let the animals graze what they could find around the Ivey home. Ivey let their remuda finish off what feed and hay that was left in the shed. But the horses preferred the new March grass. It was so green and lush, the animals barely stopped grazing to sleep. The horses were fine. They were still fat from being stockade kept at Fort Turnbull. The boys camped outside on the ground in their new bedrolls. They used their saddles as pillows and tried to catch a glimpse of the stars through the canopy of trees. Most of them couldn't sleep. It was hard to deal with the excitement they felt about tomorrow and the unknown to come. As night came on they could almost make out music and laughter coming across the River from Bossier City. That sound eventually drifted away. It was replaced by the peaceful ripple and lazy flow of the lazy Red River. Night birds chimed in harmony with the crackle of the fire as it burned down to soft, hot, glowing coals. For now, the sleepy world of North Louisiana moseyed along in peace. It made it hard to believe that far away to the east and south, the land burned and raged with war. It was something they all knew, but could not yet understand. Eventually, all the music of the night stopped and the men finally went down. Some of them snored on their saddles. Ivey and Hartley pulled rank and slept in the house and out of the night air. Hartley ended up on the floor and didn't seem to care or notice. He fell right to sleep and almost disturbed Ivey with his snoring.
Before he went to sleep in his mother's bed, Doug Ivey cleaned out what few food supplies were left in a kitchen cabinet. He didn't think mom would mind. After he finished, he walked out to his mother's grave in the back lot and and took his hat off. Standing alone in the starlight, he tried to make himself talk to the her. But he wasn't even sure what he wanted to say. Doug ended up just nodding his head and slapping his hat on his leg. Even when the woman was alive all she would have told him is, “Goodbye”. Affection was not in Mother Ivey's vocabulary. That's just the way she was. The night passed away solemnly and the men got a good rest. It would be their last good rest.