thee streamside companion & angler's frequent respite

treatise, pomes, fine etchings & lyrics re. and not re. flyfishing (with an angle)

Friday, April 29, 2005

novel excerpt

I had broken all my blisters yesterday and used half my daily lawful ration to cleanse the wounds. Stung like a son of a bitch and I winced down the rest of my gill. Today, they is in bad shape. I have the devil between my shoulder blades now and the bastard has left his red hot fire irons. My neck has frozen solid and disabuses me of the very thought of even attempting to spin my head around -- even to swivel it, just a little. My teats hurt. I have never encountered the aching teat muscles, but the entirety of my teats is crying out. My shoulders is considerable weary but at least my arms is still sound. But my back, my back is my real blight -- and the blisters. Other than that, fucking stout!
I have cut two strips of linen and will wrap those around what stumps I have left. I pray for an upstream wind. I pray for guard duty, I pay for a storm that will force us to come to, to warm up, to rest.
But not today. Today it is just cold. Today the water is thin. Today the rocks is sticking up like fingers, the cobble like blisters. We gets ten boys up on the ropes at a time while the other boys warm up or man poles. Might I remind ya, Captain Clark, that it is December 5th or abouts, and that water is thinking about turning to ice? May I inquire, Captain, how we is to keep warm in and about its presence?
The bastard barge got high on the cobble and rocks and I was in the drink having to heave and pull, what with my stiff neck, boiled hands and sore teats.
There is no respite from the cold on decks. I can have a smoke, most likes, but my teeth chatter too hard. Instead, the boys is all mostly chewing now. Gritting teeth and fighting against the bastard current, which can run itself round and round into a considerable whirlpool. At times, we can only find a finger hold, just grasping to stay even with the current. Ordway shouting, the Fields boys and Drewer pushing away the sawyers bulling toward us. We is shouting and cursing on the oars. We is putting our backs into her. We is praying for some upstream wind. We is praying for a tin cup of steaming hot venison boiled with corn, white beans and salt. This thought nourishes me. This thought comforts me. It’s this thought I have as we finally pull up and come by at a settlement of Americans near Bell Fontain Creek. I am not on the guard, nor in the kitchen this night. And, if there is any luck to be had, there may be a roof over my head this evening. We is expecting to load up provisions here, but the head man in this camp ain’t seen em yet.
Clark is looking ready to spit tacks but he don’t get shook. And he don’t have at it with the squatter American. He says, “Mr. Barns, I expect you will notify the very instant this load is spotted. Am I correct in that assumption, Sir?”
And the squatter American, he just stands there with a handful of teeth in his mouth, a holding his hat and shaking his head like a rattle. He goes, Yuh yuh yuh. Yus shure. Yuh.
And Clark, he gives him the long glass. In an instant, he’s buttoning Ordway’s jacket. Sergeant, you do know what I’m about to ask you to do, do you not?
Aye, Sir, I reckon it.
Than move, dammit! And Ordway rightly flew down the plank a looking for someone to lash. Corps! Tents and Fires! Guards: Collins, Boley, Windsor. Kettles: Wieser and Shannon. Joseph and Reuben, join Drewer -- ask that baldheaded squatter about game and beaver. Newman! Newman what in blazes are you doing, he steams, running over to where the kid is engaged in considerable combat with a tent. My duty is the main fire pit, which suits me fine as I’m just about the first bastard to feel the fire’s warm in my knocking’ bones. Paddy and me, we gather up some rocks for the ring, which is the worst of it and then wait for some of the boys to start hauling in the timber. There is whacking and thwacking all around the perimeter, and the sheets is going up and boys is hauling some deer haunches up and out and old Paddy and I go at some dry pine with our hatchets, striking off shavings, then toothpicks, then sticks, then kindling. Finally, we sets it all up and strike up the fire. Sometimes, if we is fast, the boys will give us a hooray when the smoke starts to rise, but mostly, we gets the boys saying, nice fire after the flames is licking up waist high and the boys on the kettles gets them up and filled.