The Red River Road © 2018 Steven D. Shepard
The detachment was awakened at the crack of dawn. The men got up and started shuffling around drowsy from trying to get their backs used to sleeping on the ground and in the field. Private Steve Pogue was already up, smiling and whistling while he rounded up his bed roll. He had been sleeping outside ever since he left Texas so this was business as usual for him. The other boys were missing their beds. Captain Ivey and Sergeant Hartley came outside from mother Ivey's house, still pulling their shirts on. When they looked across the front fence, there was Private Littlefoot Jones on her horse with a mule. Captain Ivey looked across at her asked out loud, “Where you been? And where did you get that mule?” “At the Fort.” was her only answer. Buck Hartley started chuckling. Ivey looked at him cross and asked, “What are you laughing about?” Hartley chuckled some more and said, “She sneaked into the Fort and stole that mule. I bet she did it while the sentry was asleep on duty. Only an Indian could do that.” He smiled even bigger. Private Jones called from across the fence, “Captain, ammo is heavy. These boys are not going to be able to carry all the shot they need. This mule can carry it.” All the men looked back at Ivey in agreement. The Captain just shook his head, turned around and walked back into the house to finish getting ready.
The men prepared themselves a cold breakfast. But they did make some hot coffee. When Captain Ivey came back outside, he and Sergeant Hartley stood around the fire with the boys and shared the black coffee. The Captain had his sword on. Private Jones finally got off her horse and was standing nearby. But she didn't drink coffee. There was a stiff silence in the group and Ivey figured it was time to tell them. So he did. “Boys, I know you have been wondering what the hell you been drafted for. So I guess it's time to talk about it. General Taylor has ordered us on a recon mission south. So we're heading towards Alexandria and we're going to see where those Yankees are. Soon as we figure it out, we're to keep our eye on them and to come back and report to General Taylor. If we can find him. I won't lie to you, this could get dangerous. The only way we're going to make it back is if we take care of each other. Now I'm going to do my best for you. All I ask is that you do your best for me. If the danger comes, we'll face it together. That's all I know to say about it.” The men didn't say anything in response. They looked at Ivey and then each other and sipped on their coffee.
Another pregnant pause gripped the group and Sergeant Hartley interrupted the silence by saying, “Well that's it boys. You ain't gonna live forever. So let's get mounted.” Each man turned away and started for his gear. Now that each man had a pretty good idea what they were getting into. The less said the better. Talking about it would just cause them to become more anxious than they wanted to be.
Captain Ivey and Sergeant Hartley made one more trip down into the cellar for more dry food and ammo for the pack mule. It irritated Ivey a little that the mule was something he should have thought of. It was one of many details he missed. It was another sign he may not be fit for field command and he was not thinking of everything like he should. He just got outsmarted by an Indian girl. After Ivey got his horse packed, he boarded the house up again. He applied a few more nails than last time cause he wasn't sure if or when he would be back. By the time he finished, the troops were mounted and waiting on him. Ivey walked to his horse, mounted, took one last look at his mother's home and ordered, “FORWARD.” And the Dirty Job Squad started their journey south.
The ride outside of town was quick paced and Captain Ivey could feel the anxious energy in the men and the horses. He figured he would keep up a quick pace and let them work some of that excess energy out. Their rapid trot down the River Road was raising the dry red dirt and leaving a dust trail in the air behind them. Private Littlefoot Jones started out riding drag, but when the troop dust started soiling her brand new uniform, she spurred her horse and ran on by passing each and every man. She took her lead position as scout and rode ahead. It was actually a good sign. The ride up to Fort Turnbull was starting to feel right and Ivey could feel the kinks working out of his horse. As they approached the Stoner Road turn off, he saw a lone rider at the intersection. Just standing there. Ivey could make out it was a soldier, but the soldier was too far away to make out a face. Littlefoot reached the soldier first, she just trotted by him on the far side of the road without saying anything. In fact, she looked away so the man couldn't see her face. As the squad got closer, Ivey could see it was Sergeant Jimmy Russell. It was not the best way to start a mission, but obviously something was on the man's mind. When the detachment rode up Ivey ordered a halt and nodded at the man saying, “Morning Russell. Something I can do for you?”
Russell returned with, “Morning Sir.” and no salute. “Captain Ivey, seems we had a visitor last night that got by our sentry. We're missing a mule now. Looks just like that one you got loaded up there.” Ivey looked back at the animal Russell referred to and then back at the Staff Sergeant and said, “You don't say.” Russell nodded his head up and down real slow and said, “Yes Sir. I don't want to tell you what to do, but I just think you should know that two of the men in your detachment are off post without permission. I didn't receive any notice of their transfer to your little operation. Also, if you don't mind me saying, them horses and saddles you're riding are military property and they were not properly requisitioned or obtained. I'm not sure where all your uniforms and new weapons come from but I sure would like to know.”
Captain Ivey gave the man a stern look and replied, “Sergeant, you are nearly as aware of my commission and orders from General Taylor as I am. Right now you are interfering with my mission. You are correct these are new weapons. Now you take my advice and mind your own damn business or I'm going to have these boys try out these brand new guns on your ass. Do you read me Sergeant?” Russell expected such a response and showed no surprise. He turned slightly in his saddle and looked north towards Shreveport. “Yes Sir, I read you loud and clear. However, I am obliged to let you know that I will be reporting all this to General Smith at HQ. I'm not sure General Taylor's orders authorized desertion and theft. I do know General Smith tends to be a bit strict about such things. You and Sergeant Hartley may want to delay your trip and make sure there won't be any charges and repercussions about all this.” Ivey looked back at the man and just said, “Sergeant Russell , that will be all. You are dismissed.” Russell looked back at Captain Ivey like he had no intention of leaving or moving. Ivey beat him to the punch, spurred his horse and ordered the detachment forward. But Buck Hartley held his position and remained behind leaning on his saddle horn.
When the detachment was well out of hearing range, Master Sergeant Hartley rode his horse right up tight along side Staff Sergeant Jimmy Russell. He got so close their legs collided. Then Hartley reached out and grabbed the Staff Sergeant forcefully by the upper arm. He pulled the man close as he leaned in on him and got right into his face. Russell dared a sneer at Hartley and Buck snarled his spittle and his words into his face, “Russell, when I get back me and you going to have some words. If I had time, we'd have them now. You seem to have forgot how to salute. That's OK, I'll remind you.” Hartley shoved the man back into his saddle and Russell 's sneer went away. He finally understood he may have bit off something he might not be able to chew. Before Hartley reluctantly turned his back on the man he pointed at him and said, “You just remember, when I get back, I'm looking for you.” then Hartley galloped off to catch up with the Dirty Job Squad.
After that bit of unpleasantness, Captain Ivey picked up the pace and let the horses have a run. He almost had to. Littlefoot was already gone out of sight down the River Road and Ivey wanted the bad taste of Sergeant Russell behind him. After they caught up with Jones, Ivey let her keep the lead. She would disappear around a bend and behind the trees but she soon adopted their same pace and reappeared regularly. Ivey let the detachment out of the run but kept up a fast trot. Now they were finally on the road, it was good to be making some progress and time. The weather couldn't have been better, but it wasn't right. This time of year in North Louisiana there should have been rain mixed with cold and clearing up to sunshine. This dry weather was unusual and not a good sign for the land. It meant drought. And times were hard already. The men kept up the fast pace for three hours. Ivey didn't even stop to let them pee and he figured they needed to after their morning coffee. The horses appeared to be holding up well and that was a good sign. But all the men would be saddle sore tonight from riding all day. Around eleven, Ivey ordered a halt and a Take Five. The men dismounted and ran in all directions to find a tree to piss on without Littlefoot seeing them. Sergeant Hartley didn't stand on any ceremony and took a whiz right on the road next to his horse. The boys didn't need to be concerned. Littlefoot rode on ahead doing her scouting and taking care of her business. The horses did what came naturally.
They mounted up again and fell back into the same determined pace. The horses were into it now and enjoying the opportunity to see new territory and having a place to run. Most of them had been penned at Fort Turnbull for months and never went anywhere except into Shreveport. Ivey had to get used to his sword bouncing on his leg, but he was enjoying the ride just as much as the horses. He didn't allow the detachment to stop for lunch. It was time for the men to understand they were going to work. The boys didn't complain and they did their best to keep up the pace in their new gear. Their uniforms were soon stained with sweat and the new wool cloth started itching and cutting into places where it shouldn't. Before too long each man winced in pain at the scratches and wondered if they were drawing blood. When he thought the time was right, Ivey ordered a dismount and walk. The men went for their canteens first, took off their tunics then walked their horses a few miles giving the animals a break and a breather.
By six o'clock that evening, they had passed through Caspiana and had not seen a soul. That was odd. Ordinarily the Red River Road carried most of the farm traffic north to Shreveport. This oddity was because most of the frightened civilians who lived or worked along the Road had evacuated and gone north to Shreveport or were hiding in the woods. Sergeant Hartley gave Captain Ivey the look and ordered a halt. They were losing the light and the troop needed to find a place to camp. They could travel the Road at night. It was clear enough. But it may not have been a good idea. The men dismounted and Sergeant Hartley led them west into the woods, well away from the road, the river and out of sight into the trees. Just in case someone came up the River Road they didn't want to see or didn't want seeing them. It was a good time to make camp and the forest swallowed them.
Away from the road, they found a clearing which had obviously been made and used before. Probably by hunters. There was even an old fire pit there with some felled logs around it. It may have been someone's fishing camp. The boys groaned a little with their saddle sores and stiff uniforms but each set out their bundles and started making ready for the night. After their gear saddles were down they all started fetching firewood. Hartley assigned sentry duties and gave the boys two hour shifts to keep them fresh and get them used to doing it. It would be necessary. Littlefoot Jones kept her distance as understood and made her own camp far enough away where she could see but not be seen.
All of this activity pretty much came natural to the men. These boys had been hunting, fishing and camping these woods all their lives. They all went about their chores and tasks mechanically without having to be told what to do. Their efficiency at these tasks allowed Captain Ivey and Sergeant Hartley to walk away and take time to talk and start making plans about which way they were going to go and what they were going to do when they got there. Both men knew there were only two ways to travel anywhere south. There was the Red River Road which they were on at this time and then there was a poorer and less used stage coach road west through Mansfield. But nobody took the Mansfield road south unless they had business over there. The only business in Mansfield was farming and pigs.
There was another road to the southwest, the Sabine Crossroad that headed west out of Mansfield and into Texas. But you could barely call the Sabine Crossroad a road. It was still like an old Indian trail. Rumor had it that road was a good place to run into bandits and you had to travel that trail armed. But it was hearsay to Ivey as he had never taken that route to Texas. The two men agreed that if the Yankees are in Alexandria, it was likely and possible they would also send out recon parties north to scout the very area they were standing. With only one good north/south road in existence the chances were more than likely the Dirty Job Squad would run into advance parties of the Army of the Gulf. These Yankee recon squads could be fully armed and staffed with hundreds of men. So taking on these parties with Ivey's small detachment would not be a good idea or recommended. This recon mission was going to have to be little or no confrontation with Union forces if at all possible. The boys wouldn't like it, but it was unlikely they would be able to maintain a conflict with a well supplied Union Army. So it was agreed the best strategy would be to keep riding south while evading and avoiding any Union forces they might encounter.
As night set in, the Dirty Job Squad finally got to sit around the campfire they built, get something to eat and do a little talking. The talk started out clumsy and slow. Some of the boys knew each other but they didn't know each other well. It would be too easy to say the wrong thing and either insult or hurt another feelings. And now each man had a gun. But it came as no surprise when Steve Pogue started the conversation by saying he wasn't from Texas. This caused a small chuckle round the group because it was obvious as hell Steve Pogue was Irish. Pogue went on to say, “I crossed the Atlantic with my brother, Pat. We landed in New York City. There was nothing left for us in Ireland but the British and starvation. What do ya know, I got to New York and they tried to draft me into the Union Army just as soon as I got off the boat. Pat and I wanted no part of that and we ran away from the immigration officers. In New York City the people there told us we should head south. There was free land available in the South and a man could stay free. Well, we was Irish and not New Yorkers. So Pat and I, we took the hint and we came South. And what do ya know? When I got in the South they put a gun in my hand and they drafted me in the Confederate Army. Funny how things go.” With that finish, Pogue put his pipe in mouth and smiled to himself. The firelight crackled in his elfish eyes and made them sparkle in the night. The silence indicated the soldiers heard him. They took their time pondering what they would say in response.
Buddy Franklin spoke up next. “I thought I understood what this war was about. The Union was trying to tell us what to do and we didn't like it. So we seceded and they invaded. It seems to me it is our duty and up to us to defend our own state and homes. I never killed a man before. For any reason. Never wanted to. Hope I don't have to. The idea of it scares me. It might become something I enjoy doing. That worries me too. I heard about bandits who start killing and they keep on doing it cause they don't know how to stop. I just hope when the time comes, I am able to do my job and not shame my family. I been praying about it. But the Lord hasn't given me any answers yet. I don't feel good about that.”
The conversation was going now and it seemed obvious that each man was going to have a turn to speak. The pauses between speakers strained the night air and provoked somebody to say something just to break the silence. As the fire crackled between the silences, Ivey and Hartley held back, giving the boys an opportunity to vent and get their worries off their minds. It didn't feel like the right time for their input. So they let it wait.
Private Albert White finally spoke up and took his turn. “Well, all I know is that if I get a Yankee in my gun sights he's a dead sum-bitch. I hate'em. I hate they brought this war and all this suffering to us. We never done nothing to them but try to be free and have our rights. It ain't right them coming down here and trying make us do what they want. Have you seen the casualty numbers in the paper? It makes me sick. I was sick of it four years ago. I would be over in Virginia killing Yankees now if I could. But the Army wouldn't take me. It may be sin to kill, but it ain't no sin to do your duty and your job. Now the Union Army is knocking on our back door. Well, they gonna get a surprise when I answer the door. When the time comes, we going to take back a bit of what belongs to us. Cause I've had enough.” White finished with all the bravado he could muster. Then he leaned back onto his saddle and tried to let his silence make his point.
Most of the detachment shuffled a bit on their bedrolls. The ones who had not talked yet thought about what they might say. Those who had talked so far sat quietly and let their words sink in. With that Pat Moe spoke up.
“I think you boys got it all wrong.” That statement got everyone's attention and they all looked at Moe like he had three heads. “You boys seem to think this war is about freedom and liberty and rights. It ain't got nothing to do with that. Them Yankees are down here for one reason and one reason only. And that's to free them damned darkies from slavery. Lincoln said so hisself when he freed them up North. Them niggers is a problem we brought here on ourselves. We never should have brought blacks into this country as slaves or anything else. In fact, what we should have done is kill everyone of them and anybody who ever tried to bring them into the country. Just look at the problem we got now. In Shreveport there is one slave for every two white people. It costs a fortune to buy one of them black sum-bitches and keep'em fed and clothed. A lot of slave owners don't even do that properly. Those darkies working the docks on the Red, most of them don't even own a shirt or shoes. They get sick and their owners just let them die. A working white man can't get a labor job in Shreveport because they got all the niggers doing all the work a family man needs. Then them slave owners will let a nigger reproduce and they take their families away and sell them for a profit. You ever been over to the slave auction in Bossier? I tell you what, it is a pitiful sight. They'll put some nigger and his family up on a wooden block and start the auction. One by one they take away that slave's wife and family right in front of him. I saw some old nigger man break down screaming and crying while his family was screaming and crying as they was pulling them away. The poor sum-bitch then tried to start fighting to save his family and the overseers jumped him and beat him so hard he was bent and lame. They beat him so bad they couldn't auction him and they ending up dragging him feet first back to a pen. I don't know if he lived or not. I bet he died. I saw that once. I don't need to see it again. I sure hope that's not what we're fighting for. Cause far as I am concerned, that ain't worth fighting for. I joined the Army cause I couldn't find work that would even feed me. When they stationed me at Ft. Turnbull, it was like being on vacation. We don't fight and I get three squares and cot. That ain't bad. Captain, Sergeant I will do my duty and my best. If you boys watch my back, I will watch yours. Cause that's the right thing to do. But I'll tell you something right now, I ain't risking my life so some fat cat can have slaves.”
If anybody wanted to disagree or respond to what Moe had to say, they didn't. Albert White kicked his boot at the dirt but he kept his peace. It was a night when everyone was going to get a say about how they felt and there was still people left to talk. The other men looked over at Tommy Richardson to see if he was going to talk. Richardson had his head down and his eyes were boring into the dirt. He could feel the unit looking at him and he seriously considered not saying anything. He came to kneeling position on the ground between his bedroll and the fire. He started scratching at the dirt with a stick. As the detachment waited on him to take his turn, the songs of crickets and frogs picked up like a sonic wave wailing in the night. When their songs seemed to take command of the moment Richardson scratched the ground a couple more times. It was obvious he had something he wanted to say but was having a hard time getting it out. The detachment could afford to be patient and wait and that's what they did. At last Richardson started low and slow and spoke saying, “I was a farming up in Missouri. Not too far west from St. Louis. The weather would drive me crazy. It was either too hot or too cold. But the farming was good. Rained a lot so the when Spring came everything grew well. Damn dirt was so fertile you could spit on it and something would grow. I had a wife and son. They was there with me. They was good. That woman could set a table if you brought her something to cook. Her cooking was good. The boy, he was a pretty good boy. Liked to learn. He wanted to know all about farming and I tried to show him as much as I knew. His name was Raymond. Good boy. I was actually kind of proud of him. Summer of '61 we had a pretty good crop going. I had high hopes for it. A farmer could haul his product over to St. Louis and get a fair price. You didn't have to take it very far. One day I was out working the field, I guess it was late July.” He paused again. “I heard gunshots back towards the house. I dropped my hoe and started running to the sound. Like a damned fool I had walked far out in the fields instead of taking a mount. So me trying to run through a loose dirt field was slow going. I remember it was really hot and humid and I broke out in sweat that had me wet from head to toe in no time. But I didn't stop cause I had got close enough I could hear my wife screaming. Did I tell you her name? Her name was Judith. Judith. Anyways, Judith was screaming like I had never heard her scream before. I could tell it was bad and I was ready to come in fighting whatever it was that was making her scream like that. I got near the house just in time to see a Yankee Red Leg Soldier shoot her down on the front porch with his pistol. My boy was already down on the ground with his head bashed in. I ran past the boy and was after that Red Leg when another one on a horse rode up behind me and clubbed me in the head with his rifle. I went down and out. Why he didn't shoot me in the back and finish me off I'll never know. But I wish he had. I woke up the next day and could barely walk. The wife and the boy were already starting to smell. I dragged their bodies out in the field and buried them. Then I burned the house down and left. Come South. I wanted to get as far away from what happened as I could. I had no idea how to find the men who killed my family. Since I been at Fort Turnbull, I've had a lot of time to think about getting revenge. Most of the time I thought against it. I figured it would either be a bad idea or I wouldn't do it right. But I see now God is taking me back into the storm that killed my family. I won't speak for God, but I think he wants me to kill some Yankees and get my revenge. I'm not happy about it. But I'm going to kill as many of them as I can. Just hope I can sleep with it after. I never told that story to anyone. Just you.”
Richardson's story stunned the entire detachment into silence. Most of them tried to think what they could say or do to offer some condolence to a man who had lost so much. But all of them knew there was nothing they could say or do that would help. So the best thing to do was accept his story in respectful silence. As they sat quietly considering the man's story, no one noticed Littlefoot Jones had sneaked up, climbed a nearby tree and was quietly wrestling with something overhead on a tree limb. Like an Indian. She had been there for a while. She heard all the stories and she was trying to decide if she even wanted to hear what these white men had to say. But the fact was, it was the first time in her life she had ever had the opportunity to sit near a council of men and listen to what they had to say. While a lot of it made no sense to her, it was different and not something she was inclined to interrupt or contribute to. So she kept to her perch and waited for the next shoe to drop. While she waited she struggled with a turtle she had caught. Turtles don't like being up trees.
Albert White tried to change the subject by asking, “Captain, Sergeant you two have been into battle. We haven't. What's it like? Captain Ivey looked over at Sergeant Hartley and he could see the Sergeant was going to defer to rank and allow him to go first. Ivey started by saying, “Well boys, the Sergeant and I went to military school when we was younger. So they start preparing us early for military life and the possibility of serving on the battlefield. What I found out the hard way, is school will fill you full of ideas about battle and combat that just ain't so. In school, they tried to teach us about bravery, duty, honor and the glory of war. I don't have a lot of combat experience, but what little I saw never had any glory and honor in it. Mostly it was a bloody mess that took the lives of good men who didn't want or need to die. But what school did teach us that's true is that if we don't take care of each other on the field of battle we're not going to make it. Cause a man alone by himself can't defeat an opposing army. We got to work together and we got to take of each other. That's the only way any of us are going to survive this mission. You got to believe me on this. The man you're sitting next right now may save your life. You may get to return the favor and save his. That's how it's got to be. Just like I told you yesterday, I'm going to do my best for you. You have my word. But I have got to have the best from you in return. I don't know what else to say about it. Honestly, the Sergeant here does have more combat experience than me. I welcome him to share his thoughts with you.”
Captain Ivey looked over at Sergeant Hartley and threw him the ball Hartley knew was coming. Hartley was barely listening to what Ivey had to say. He knew what Ivey was going to say. Hartley was biding his time and considering what he wanted to say to these men himself. He didn't have everything in mind that he could say or wanted to say, but he was ready. He paused briefly, took a breath, let it out slowly and he started with, “Boys, I won't lie to you. It can get bad. Real bad, real quick. When the powder is burning on the ground and the smoke is so thick you can't breathe or see the man next to you it can happen so fast you don't even know what's going on around you. I found that for me when I'm standing on the field and there is a line of enemy coming at me with bad intentions, it's best I don't think about it much and just start killing people. But that's me. That's the way my mind works. Or don't. I reckon if I thought about it much I would just run away like a lot of men do. Now I'll tell you this, when it gets bad and you're out there running low on ammo, the smoke is so thick you can't see ten feet in front of you and you're surrounded by the enemy, what you gotta do is get mad. I mean plumb mad dog mean and mad. You gotta keep fighting. Cause if you give up and quit – you're dead. They might take you prisoner. If you're lucky. But even if they do, you'll wind up in some Yankee prison camp starving to death and wishing you was dead. I can't tell you exactly what to do when the time comes. Combat is chaos. Hopefully you'll know and understand that you got to keep shooting until your ammo runs out. After your ammo runs out you gotta use that long knife on the end of your rifle and start stabbing people. If you lose your rifle, you gotta go to your sidearm. When the sidearm runs out you gotta pick up a rifle off the ground and start clubbing people in the head with it. If that rifle breaks or you lose it, you gotta start punching, kicking, biting and scratching until you can't go on. But don't kill a man and then stop to look at what you did. The worse the enemy's death is, the less you need to see it. It'll just distract you and make you forget there's probably another one coming after him. You got to kill him too. Go on and get ready for the next one. If all you got is a knife, use it. Cause it ain't your job to die for your country. It is your job to make the enemy die for his country. You just got to make up your mind that you're not going to die today. That's just the way it is. I wish I could explain it better. But it's probably one of those things that shouldn't be explained well. You need to make your mind up to live.”
There wasn't much the detachment could say in response to that speech, so they didn't. They had no similar experience or reference. The silence gripped them all again and they sat or laid quiet looking at the fire. Behind the silence, fear started setting in. It crept up their backs from the darkness in the woods and started gripping their hearts. It was crawling up their spines towards their minds and they almost had the opportunity to think about deserting or running away when Private Littlefoot Jones had all she could stand. So she threw her snapping turtle down right into their campfire from her perch in the tree. The flying turtle hit the fire dead center with a crash and the shell sent an explosion of fire, sparks, ash and wood in all directions splashing out into the circle of men. With alarm, curses and a shout, all the men leaped wildly or rolled away and grabbed for their guns while white hot sparks rained down upon them on all sides and sparkled up into the black sky. The poor turtle rolled out of the fire hissing angry, loud and mean at anything it could see. Its wicked jaws snapped with menace while the turtle stretched its terrible head and neck out of its shell to the left and right as far as it could to try to bite some kind of flesh. The only reason it didn't strike flesh was because it was still a turtle and not as fast and nimble as frightened men. The men rolled to their feet and crouched down low armed and ready to shoot. They would have shot Jones out of her tree if she had not started laughing right out loud at them. “Goddamn you Jones!” one of the men yelled a curse at her. Littlefoot slid and slithered out of the tree like a smooth snake. Just like she had her saddle earlier that day. She walked into the disrupted camp just a laughing. The men glared at her and most of them seriously considered knocking the hell out of her. It was a good thing they didn't.
Jones walked up to what remained of the fire and started kicking burning logs back into the pit. The snapping turtle gained its wits and ran away into the bush. The disturbed flames and sparks illuminated her face and kicking and made her look like a demon dancing in the firelight. She kept her sinister laugh up until it became a chuckle. When her chuckle became a smile, she whirled on the men where they mobbed together glaring at her. Then with a snarl she slung angry words at them.
“You damned white boys. Whining about fighting and dying. Hell, dying is easy! Living is hard! You whites have killed just about every Indian I ever knew. The ones you didn't kill, you run'em off. Now you're killing each other. You think you're special and won't die. Well you will! If this war don't kill you then you'll find some way to kill yourself. That's all you white folks know how to do is kill things. You ought to be used to death by now. Scared to die? We all die! Today is a good day to die! You boys need to learn from that turtle. He carries his home with him everywhere he goes. He don't ask nothing of nobody. He just hunts and eats and he's happy being a turtle. But when someone messes with him they better watch out!” With that she kicked dirt at them and marched out of their camp into the darkness leaving them with their anger and surprise. It was a hell of a start.