Miss Annie And The Chief

BOOK: Miss Annie And The Chief
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Miss Annie And The Chief

By Joany Kane

Copyright 2013 Joany Kane

 

All Rights Reserved

 

MAY 1864

Annie Landon
raises an ax over her shoulder.
 
She swings it down, splitting a piece of wood in two.
 
She is pretty handy with an ax.
 
She has to be in order to survive,
living alone in the Pennsylvania countryside while her husband Caleb is off
fighting in the war between the states.

She picks up the
pieces and placed them in a woodpile next to a red barn.
 
She stops for a moment to smile at her
beautiful black horse grazing in the pasture, her one and only companion.
 
It is a glorious spring day; Annie
catches the scent of lilacs on the wave of a breeze.

Four Union
Soldiers on horseback approach her homestead.
 
The men look weary from years of Civil War fighting.
 
Captain Harmon Taylor, aged beyond his
thirty-something years, the battle experiences covering up his farm boy
sweetness, leads the soldiers.
 
He
dismounts.

Annie stops her
chores and approaches the soldiers.
 

“Good afternoon,
Mrs. Landon.
 
I'm Captain Harmon
Taylor,”
 
he says, an unwanted and
ill-timed blush flushing his cheeks.
 
He hadn’t expected to find her so comely.

“Good afternoon,
Captain Taylor.
 
My husband has
written often of you.
 
He holds you
in high regard.” Annie replies.

“As I him.” Captain
Taylor smiles warmly before taking a heavy breath. “It is with deep regret that
I am here today, Mrs. Landon.”

Annie's face
goes pale.
 
She has feared this
day.

“Your husband,
Caleb, fought admirably. He continued to fight, even after he was shot. He was
not alone when he died. I was with him.
 
His last words spoke of you.”

“Thank you.
 
That's a comfort to hear, Captain.”
Annie quietly responds.
 
Burying
her pain she turns her attention to the soldiers, noting their tired, ragged
condition.
 
“You and your men look
exhausted.
 
Why don't you camp here
for the evening and I will fix you supper.”

“That's a kind
offer, Mrs. Landon.
 
Thank
you.”
 
Captain Taylor motions for
his men to dismount. “Finish chopping the wood and make camp.” He orders.

Later in the
evening after dinner, the three soldiers sit by a fire near their tents.
 
One plays a fiddle while Annie sits
with Captain Taylor near the front of the Colonial house.

“You have a fine
home here, Mrs. Landon,” the captain comments.

“It's just a
house.
 
A home is for a family.”

“It broke your
husband's heart that he couldn't be here with you when your son passed.”
 

Annie looks
away, the words bringing back more painful memories. “They're now together in
God's care,” she whispers.

“You've suffered
more losses than any woman should have to endure,” the captain says with
empathetic anguish.
 
He would give
anything to comfort her.

“Do you have
family, Captain?”
 
Annie inquires,
wanting to change the subject.

“The Army has
been my family.”
 

“Seems awfully
lonely.”

“Not much time
to feel alone these past three years,” the captain shrugs.
 
Maybe not for the captain, but
certainly for Annie as shown in her eyes.

“I beg your
pardon, Mrs. Landon, that wasn't the most thoughtful of responses,” the captain
stumbles his reply. “I know it's been nearly three years since you've seen
Caleb.”

“Long years,”
she quietly sighs.

“Too long,” he
adds.

Inside the
house, after the soldiers have called it a night, Annie busies herself with
baking.
 
She focuses on her task
trying to keep her mind from dwelling on her loses, though tears are escaping
her eyes and rolling down her cheeks.

When daybreak
arrives, the soldiers are ready to leave.
 
The three soldiers have already mounted their horses while Captain
Taylor stands with Annie.
 
She
hands the captain a basket.
 
“Some
muffins and bread for your travels.”
 

“Thank you, Mrs.
Landon,” the captain says kindly, as the three soldiers give their thanks to
Annie for the food and shelter.

“You're most
welcome. I appreciated the company,” she manages a smile.

Captain Taylor
mounts his horse.
 
He tips his hat
to her.
 
“Good-bye, Mrs. Landon.”

“God speed,
Captain.”
 
Annie watches the men
ride off.
 
She returns to the house
and enters it.
 
It seems so big and
empty now, more so today than yesterday.

She looks
around.
 
It's quiet.
 
Lonely.
 
Painfully lonely.
 
Her toddler son is dead, taken by the pox.
 
Her husband is dead.
 
Now what does she do?
  
She takes a wooden box from a shelf, opens it and removes a small pile
of hand-written letters.

Annie looks
through the letters, they're all written to her from an Aunt Selma.
 
She reads one.
 
"Dear Annie, We crossed the
Mississippi today. I've never seen such a wide river. Everything I've
experienced on this trip west thus far has been exhilarating. As I travel
across this beautiful country, I eagerly anticipate my new life in the Colorado
Territory. I wish you were here to share it with me.
 
With much love, Aunt Selma"

*****

A horse-drawn
buggy, driven by Annie, rides down the main road of a small Pennsylvania
town.
 
Annie parks the buggy in
front of a tavern.
 

Dressed in
mourning black, she steps down from the buggy.
 
She pats the nose of her horse, showing true affection for
her beast of burden.
 
She looks at
the tavern, at first unsure about entering.
 
Mustering determination, she enters.

Not one man in
the place looks like a gentleman, an observation not lost on Annie.
 
She clears her throat and looks at the
bartender. “I'm looking for Mr. Emmet Howes.”

The men seated
at the front of the bar turn their attention to a rough ole coot seated at the
end of the bar.
 
“He's at the end
of the bar,” the bartender replies.

Emmet slinks
down on his bar stool, not wanting to be acknowledged. He looks tough in most
spots, lovable in a few others, and could stand for a bath and a shave.

Annie approaches
him. “Mr. Emmet Howes?”

Emmet gives
Annie the once over. “If you're recruitin' for the Lord, ya picked the wrong
man.”

“I'm Mrs. Annie
Landon.
 
You took Selma MacHattie,
my aunt, to the Colorado Territory a couple of years ago.”

Emmet furrows
his brow, trying to recall.
 
“Was
she that teacher?”

“Yes, she is a
teacher.”

“I
remember.
 
I took her to Beaver
Creek.
 
Went with the
missionaries.
 
The good bookers
determined to bring Jesus to the savages.”

“I wish to hire
you to bring me to Beaver Creek, to my aunt.”

“Sorry,
missy.
 
If yer anything like yer
aunt, I ain't interested.
 
She got
me so riled I had to drink warm milk for a month to calm my stomach.”

“Please.
 
I can pay.
 
Handsomely.”

“Have you ever
seen a savage?”
 
Emmet asks.

“No.”

“Good.
 
You should keep it that way.”
 

“My husband is
dead, Mr. Howes.
 
My little boy is
dead.
 
I have no family other than
my aunt.
 
Please.” Annie implores
with quiet determination.
 
She
reluctantly adds.
 
“I will give you
my horse.”

Emmet looks away
from Annie.
 
He gave her his
answer.
 
Annie, now embarrassed by
her pleas, leaves the tavern.
 
She
hops up into her buggy.

Emmet exits the
tavern.
 
He studies the horse.
 
“Is this the horse?”

“Yes.”

“Fine
animal.”
 
Emmet pets the horse's nose.

“He is.
 
He was a present to me from my
husband.”

“We leave at
daybreak the day after next.
 
If
you ain't ready, you ain't going.”

“I am
ready.”
 
Annie answers with
conviction.

*****

At daybreak a
covered wagon rides up to Annie’s house, Emmet is at the reigns.
 
He whoa’s his horses to a stop.
  
Annie exits the house.
 
She approaches Emmet.
 
“Good morning, Mr. Howes.”

“It is good and
it's gettin' away from us.
 
We best
be gettin' a move on,” he says surly as he hops down from the wagon to help
Annie with her trunk and two bags.

“This all ya
taking?”
 
He asks as he looks at
the trunk and two bags.

“This is all I
need.”

Emmet ties
Annie's horse to the back of the wagon.
 
“What's gonna happen to yer house?” Emmet inquires.

“I gave it to
the church. It was built for a family and a family should live in it.”

Emmet helps
Annie up into the wagon.
 
He hops
up next to her.
 
“You got the money
for yer passage?” Emmet asks.

Annie hands a
small bag of coins to Emmet.
 
“Half
now and half when we arrive at Beaver Creek.”

“Fair
enough.”
 
Emmet giddy ups his
horses.
 
The wagon moves away from
the homestead.
 
“We're meeting up
with some abolitionists who will be riding along with us.”
 
Emmet shares with Annie.

“Escorting
teachers, missionaries and abolitionists, Mr. Howes?
 
I think the good Lord has already recruited you,” she
smiles.

“Now that's just
plain not true.” Emmet scoffs.

The wagon rides
down the road, heading away from the homestead and away from the rising
sun.
 
Annie does not look back,
only forward.

*****

Emmet’s wagon
reaches a crossroads.
 
Another
wagon waits by the side of the road.
 
There seems to be some sort of activity happening in the back of the
covered wagon, unseen to anyone.

Emmet's wagon
approaches and pulls up alongside the waiting wagon.
 
He calls out.
 
“Ain't the best time to be professing yer love for each other, you
abolitionists.”

Peter and Jenny
Newton, a middle-aged couple, hop out of the back of the wagon. They're careful
to close the flap so no one can see into their wagon.

“Good day.” Peter
greets. “I'm Peter Newton and this is my wife Jenny.”

“It's a pleasure
to meet you.
 
I'm Mrs. Annie
Landon.” Annie warmly shares.

BOOK: Miss Annie And The Chief
10.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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