Authors: Cathy Keeton
Table of Contents
Abigail Anderson sat at her desk grading papers, the breeze blowing through the window offered no relief from the oppressive heat. She yawned and rubbed the back of her neck. It had been an unusually difficult day. It was the beginning of August and the hot and humid days were almost unbearable. With heat and the fact that today was Friday, even the most eager of her students had been restless and tired.
She settled back in her chair and closed her eyes to the bleak and empty one room school. Without her consent, her mind drifted to that devastating day, nearly eight months ago. It just didn’t seem possible that her cherished mother was really gone. Sarah Anderson’s death had been so violent, so implausible, and the events of that day were forever branded in Abby’s mind. White Oak was a quiet, friendly little community where everyone knew everyone else.
It was a blustery day with the first snow of the winter just beginning to fall. The Reverend Anderson had decided to make a quick trip into town to get supplies, in case they got snowed in, as they had with the first snow of the last winter. He had only been gone a short while when the Indians raided the cabin. Isaiah Anderson could never have been prepared for what he found when he opened the cabin door. His wife’s lifeless body lay in a pool of blood on the unyielding wooden floor. He rushed to her side with little hope of her being alive. As he turned her frail body over to see her beautiful face, the abominable truth set in. Sarah Anderson’s body had been mutilated almost beyond recognition! She had an arrow through her neck and her breasts had been slashed from her body. Isaiah was utterly shocked to find her dress pulled up around her waist and signs that his wife of almost twenty-five years had been brutally raped. The thought of what she must have suffered sent him into a fit of rage! He ran from the cabin insane with grief and guilt. If only he hadn’t left his dear wife alone in the cabin. He rushed wildly into the dense forest. He ran and ran until he was wavering from exhaustion. In wariness he fell to his knees, his screams pierced the crisp morning air with terror. Isaiah Anderson was found a few hours later by a neighbor who was out hunting. Isaiah could not speak; he was almost catatonic from the day’s events. As the days passed and reality began to set in, he was finally able to remember that wretched December morning.
Abby sat back in her chair thinking of Black Heart and his band of renegades who murdered her mother. Tears of sorrow and despair slowly slipped down her cheeks. The horde of renegades had brutally slaughtered settlers in and around White Oak for over a year now. Abby longed to see Black Heart caught and a stop put to his reign of terror. Abby was deep in thought and didn’t hear her father enter the school.
Startled by his presence, she looked up at him with loving eyes. “Hello Father, I didn’t expect to see you until I got home.”
“Don’t you think it is about time to come home? I don’t like you being here alone, and you know we still have to rustle up some supper. Are you nearly finished for today?” he asked.
“I only have a few more papers to grade; how are you feeling today Father?” she asked as she rose to collect the remaining papers from her student’s desks.
As Isaiah watched his daughter move about the room, he was not only awed by her beauty but also by how far she had come in such a short time. She had inherited her mother’s loveliness, with a mane of long flowing blond hair and clear sparkling blue eyes, she had captured the heart of many local boys. Everyone in White Oak realized how beautiful Abby was, excluding Abby herself. She was devoted to her teaching and found little time for socializing.
Since the age of nine, she had wanted to teach. In her mid teens, she found herself in a position to take over as teacher at the White Oak school. Reverend Anderson had accompanied his only daughter to Grantsville to take her teaching exam, which she passed with ease. He was so very proud of his daughter then and even more so now. Abby had been a godsend since his wife’s death, spending even more time than she should, taking care of him.
“Dad did you hear me, I asked how you are today?”
“I’m fine dear. I was just thinking how beautiful and smart you are, so much like your mother. God rests her soul.”
“Thank you Daddy, but I don’t feel very pretty or smart right now. This heat is awful.”
“I know sweetheart, just about everything people tried to grow this year has dried up.”
“That reminds me would you go to the garden and see if you could find some ripe tomatoes for supper?”
“I’ll get the tomatoes, but I don’t want you staying here alone much longer.”
“I won’t I promise I’m going to finish these papers and I’ll be on home.
“Very well, but please do hurry. You never know when trouble might turn up,” he pleaded.
“I will Dad, see you soon,” she replied as she began to grade the final stack of today lessons.
Abby hadn’t taken more than a few steps outside when, without warning three screaming Indians rushed around the side of the schoolhouse on horseback. She tried to run with every fiber of her being but she was overcome by fear and her legs seemed to be paralyzed. The frenzied whoops of the renegades split the air. The sound of the horse’s hooves pounding against the sun-baked ground resonated like thunder. Her mind was frozen with horror. All she could think was that what had happened to her mother was about to happen to her. The Indians danced their horses in a circle around her, shouting to each other in words that Abby couldn’t understand. One of the men grabbed her and roughly pulled her onto his horse, her head hit something hard and sharp as she was thrown in front of the dirty savage. The last thing she saw before losing consciousness was her father’s stricken face as he came running from the garden.
Oh, God her head hurt! Abby felt as if steel bands were around her waist. It was difficult to breathe. The certitude of what was happening to her struck her with a wave of nausea. Her captor smelled of sweat, horses and decaying flesh from the scalps that hung from his waist. She tried to calm down and slow her breathing she knew if she showed fear that she would be killed or worse. She had heard that Indians respected bravery, but in all her eighteen years, she had never been this petrified! They rode for what seemed like an eternity. On and on they rode into the night and she never let her captors know that she had regained consciousness.
The full moon illuminated the surrounding countryside. Abby knew that they had ridden several miles from her home, for she no longer recognized any of the land. At last, the horses came to an abrupt halt and she was roughly pushed off the horse, to land in a heap on the ground. It took all nerve she could find not to cry out, but still she did not move. The still muggy night was filled with angry voices speaking in a language that Abby could not fathom. She lay very still, hoping and praying they wouldn’t touch her. She knew of the insufferable things that these savages could do to a woman.
“I know you are not asleep white woman,” the leader said,” You do not fool me. No harm will come to you this night but we will see what the new sun brings,” he leered at her speaking broken English.
Abby glanced up through her tears at the face of the devil himself. He was tall with long straight hair and as black as night. His face was narrow and linear with high cheekbones. A jagged scar ran the entire length of his left cheek, but it was the evil that radiated from his eyes that frightened her the most.
“May I have a drink of water please?” she pleaded
He made a sound that resembled a growl, and walked to his horse and retrieved a small bag. The bag looked like it was made from an animal stomach, but Abby didn’t care, she was too thirsty to mind. He grunted and threw the water bag down beside her. Before she had her fill of the tepid water, he grabbed the bag away from her with such force that she fell backwards. He laughed and walked over to join the other two warriors.
Abby took this time to study her surroundings. She knew they had stopped near a stream because she could hear the water flowing somewhere behind her. To the left there were rows of large oak trees, bowed with age. The trees were maybe fifty feet away, if she could just get to them perhaps she could hide. Who was she kidding, even if she got away, where would she go? She was miles from any means of civilization. Abby slowly scooted closer to a tree where at least she could rest her throbbing back. She stole a glance at the warriors who sat around a cook fire, roasting a couple of rabbits. The leader lazily got to his feet and started toward her. He was holding two thin leather strips.
“I will tie you so that you do not think of running away.”
“Please don’t tie me I won’t run away, I wouldn’t know which way to go. Please don’t do this.”
Without a word, he wrapped her wrists and ankles so tightly that the leather bit into her delicate flesh. The heathen then stood and walked back to the cook fire. Why didn’t they just kill her and get it over with? Were they waiting until daylight so they could see the fear in her eyes, as they raped and tortured her? This question kept rushing through Abby’s brain.
“Please dear God let me die before morning,” she prayed as she watched the warriors.
Sometime during the night, she must have fallen asleep, for when she opened her eyes it was dawn. The Indians were getting ready to leave. They were acting as if she was nonexistent. The leader then mounted his horse, rode over to Abby, and pulled her up onto his lap. As he placed his arms around her, his hand brushed against her breast, she flinched and tried to move away. He gave her an evil grin and squeezed her soft flesh so hard that tears welled up in her eyes. He laughed and let go.
By midday, Abby was extremely exhausted and filthy. She smelled like a mixture of horse and sweat. Maybe if she smelled bad enough they would leave her alone. Her wrist had begun to bleed and her thighs were raw from rubbing the horse’s sides. She longed for a drink of water and something to eat. When they stopped to water the horses, they allowed Abby to have a drink of water. She splashed water on her face and let it run down her chest between her breasts. The water tasted and felt wonderful. She was also allowed a few minutes behind a bush to relieve herself. She felt very humiliated.
They had traveled no more than a couple of miles from the rest stop when they came upon an old prospector. He was tortured for close to an hour; they played with him like a cat would play with a mouse. Abby felt such pity for the old man. He was beaten with sticks and rocks when it appeared that they were going to let him crawl away, they would drag him back and begin the cruel game again. Just before he drew his final breath, they scalped him. His screams brought uproarious laughter from the three red devils. At that very moment, Abby knew what it felt like to want to actually kill another human being, for she could have cut the hearts from the heathens without one second of remorse. She knew what hate was, for no other emotion could describe what she was feeling. The three savages went through the old man’s possessions. They found dried meat, tins of beans, and two bottles of whiskey. They passed the whiskey back and forth between them. Soon they were on the trail again. By the time they stopped for the night all three were staggering drunk and looking at Abby with lustful intent.
The leader pushed Abby to the ground quickly tying her again. He began ripping the front of her dress open and put his hands on her breast. She was prepared to fight for all she was worth when one of the others called, gesturing like he had heard someone in the trees. The leader left her there and went to join his friends who were staring into the woods. They apparently decided that they had heard an animal for they went back to watching her as she crouched attempting to hide her nakedness. Was this another form of torture?
The last bottle of whiskey had been opened and the effects of the brew were showing on the savages, they were talking among themselves and seemed to be on the brink of an altercation. The leader said something to the other two, in a loud and commanding voice. They quickly became quite, apparently thinking it better to do as they were told. Abby sat very still as darkness began to descend around her. She noticed that two of the Indians appeared to be sleeping; the leader was on the verge of passing out from the whiskey as well. If there was a God in heaven, he would let him sleep also.