If you enjoy this story then please purchase a copy of either “Panther Trouble” or “Huntin’ Trouble” off my author’s page at Amazon.com. Both books have several similar stories. Both are in eBook form. “Panther Trouble” is available in paperback as well.
He knelt there, slowly wiping the blood from his knife by dragging it across his buckskin covered thigh. Nearby lay the body of the former owner of that blood. He was also the cause of Mike’s now very careful and studious gaze as he slowly turned his head, listening to the sounds of the surrounding pine forest.
In the distance he heard the drumming of a woodpecker. Nearer, the bark of a squirrel. The bushy-tailed old male was still disturbed by the rush of sudden activity which had just occurred in his usually quiet world. A passing black snake paid neither the squirrel nor Mike a bit of concern. His rapidly gliding movement in and out of the straw and palmettos as he sought his day’s meal never slowed.
Mike stayed low and moved very slowly. Any sudden movement or standing might invite another renegade Creek warrior to try his hand at killing Mike. “One’s enough for today,” he muttered quietly. Slowly he reached down and retrieved his rifle. Then, still alert to another possible attack, he began loading it with powder and ball. As he glanced around slowly, his skilled hands worked at their task. On a not too distant pine tree he noted the torn bark where his last ball had gouged a path after it had passed by the charging warrior.
“Guess I was a little too excited on that shot,” he thought. “Man can’t be so wasteful on the frontier, boy,” he recalled his father saying. “Yep,” he muttered an acknowledgment to the remembered fatherly coaching. It was especially true now he realized. His shot bag only held five remaining balls, if his fingers weren’t lying to him. That was how many he felt down in the short bag at his waist. “Need to get on to Waresboro and see can I scare up some more ammunition,” he thought. He slowly turned this way and that holding the now loaded and primed weapon. Waresboro still lay about 8 to 10 miles north and east of him as best he could figure.
With no more Indians in evidence, he checked the now dead warrior for a possible bag holding needful items…..such as maybe some rifle balls. The man had a bag hanging across his back, but it contained various items for fire building and a few sea shells. None of this interested the young frontiersman, so he straightened up. With another glance around to ensure he was alone, he turned and started for Waresboro. The warrior’s fighting knife now rode on his waist, the only thing he took from the dead man. His spear lay where it had fallen. The squirrel renewed his barking as Mike sat off along the faint path he had been following before the deadly encounter.
|photo by Clint Bowman taken along Swamp Road on the west side of the Okefenokee Swamp|
The doe had frozen still as she suddenly sensed a possible danger in her forested world. With a flick of her raised white tail she turned and vaulted into a hard run weaving between the palmettos as she raced for the cover of the nearby creek bottom. Her sudden movement drew the attention of the three renegade Creek warriors. They seemed to be lazily idling beneath the shade of an oak. Idling, they were. Lazy, they were not. They each stood armed and ready. Wild Cat, their respected Seminole war chief, had assigned them the task of bringing back a white prisoner from among the local settlers. They were hoping for a passing family to appear on the nearby trail to Waresboro. They wanted to snatch away a child, small enough to travel quickly with. A boy child, one that could be raised and trained to do chores and farming. Those kind brought good prices with the slave traders along the distant Florida coast. They waited quietly, only a slight turn of their heads as they watched the retreating deer.
Mike had finally relaxed a little as he walked along headed northeast along the old Indian footpath skirting the edge of a large swampy area. After a couple of hours of walking and keeping a watchful eye out for both Indians and snakes, he had halted in the large shade of a flowering magnolia tree. The area at its base naturally clear of high grasses, he could rest there and not have to worry about accidentally sitting on a snake. After checking his weapon, he had leaned back against the not too rough bark of the tree’s trunk and briefly napped. It was his action of standing which had alarmed the deer. Fortunately, this action corresponded with one of the warriors raising a hand to swat an annoying mosquito.
The warriors thought the deer to be alarmed by the brief movement of the hand and never suspected that an enemy was now nearby. The brief wave of the hand had also drawn Mike’s attention. Now he stood almost immobile. Almost, but not quite. Slowly, with infinite long practiced patience, he eased back down out of sight. Once below the level of the covering palmettos, Mike retreated behind the large trunk of the magnolia and carefully considered his options.
Samuel MacDonald was known to be a careful man. A man who thought long and hard over matters before investing time or money. And he had pondered over the idea of moving his little family to the “red” side of the Altamaha River for over a year before making the decision. But, with the matter decided, he had quickly moved to pack his two wheeled cart, tether his cow to it and set off for the distant and well talked of Waresboro. The region was supposed to be good for farming, hunting and fishing… what else could a man ask for?
It was this fateful decision which lead to Samuel and his young wife of eight years being on this particular trail on this particular day. Between the two of them, they would never have been able to survive an attack by a party of Indians. The math simply wouldn’t have worked out. Samuel carried a decent and well used musket. Clara had a small but deadly pistol riding at her feet in the cart. In her lap sat little Sally, all of three years old and napping. Sitting on the back of the cart with his feet dangling down rode their five year old son, Robert. A party of well armed Indians would quickly have had their way with such an easy target. But not today. Sometimes, the Good Lord just works things out. At least that would be Clara’s way of saying it at the Waresboro trading post that evening.
Mike heard the approaching cart at almost the same instant the waiting Indians did. He quickly realized their intentions to attack the cart as it came into view across the palmetto tops. One of the warriors quickly rushed across the distance to get ahead of the cart as the other two started directly for it. Such a cart, loaded and with a cow tied behind, would not be able to rush away from an attack and the experienced warriors knew this. Their war cries momentarily froze Clara with fear. Samuel quickly called for her to arm herself. He then stepped to stand between her and the two attackers, not realizing that one was taking a roundabout approach ahead of him. Samuel was a frightened and desperate man. He touched his knife in its sheath to assure himself of its presence, threw his long gun up and took careful aim. The warriors, long practiced in the art of charging armed white men, spread out as they charged. They knew he would have only one shot and then it would be club, fist, and knife!
The attack would have been perfect and hugely successful for the Indians, except for one tall, scruffy, and battle hardened factor. Mike swiftly swung into action. His first movements were sure and quick. His position behind the magnolia tree put him ahead of the approaching cart. The Indian swinging out ahead of the cart passed just yards away from his hidden vantage point. Mike’s aim was true. The warrior fell face first into the palmettos, out of which spurted a well frightened swamp rabbit which seemed intent on heading for the Florida border as quick as possible.
The other attackers both fired their weapons as they attacked Samuel’s position. Neither expected to hit Samuel or Clara, they fired more to frighten the young couple as they yelled and charged at them. Mike’s not too distant shot didn’t seem to register with them. They were completely focused on Samuel.
They closed the gap quickly… Samuel fired his musket and quickly realized he had missed the weaving warrior. He stepped bravely forward swinging his rifle before him! One warrior dove beneath Samuel’s ineffective swing and slashed across the back of his leg with his fighting knife. It was a crippling blow! Samuel’s leg collapsed as he sought to turn and swing down at his attacker. Clara’s weapon discharged somewhere behind him! The second warrior faltered briefly as her short ranged shot was true. Then suddenly, a viscous whirlwind of fury descended on the fight in the form of a buckskinned, knife swinging, kicking, and yelling demon!
The fight ended quickly. The two warriors lay dead and Samuel sat beside them with blood tricking down the side of his head. Little Sally wept as she sat wrapped with Robert in their mother’s shaking arms. Clara sat, glancing from Samuel to Mike to the nearby forest, unsure of what to do or say. Mike, the danger now over, turned and walked over to pick up his rifle. Glancing around at the young family, he began loading his weapon. His gaze resting on Samuel, he asked,” You fit to stand?”
Samuel sat still, glancing around as if he had not heard the question. Mike waited, long experience telling him the young man was dealing with shock. After a long minute, Samuel reached over to the nearby cart wheel and began to pull himself up. The movement of her husband spurred Clara to action. “Robert, hold Sally tight and you two stay right here on this seat,” she said calmly as her motherly instincts kicked in. With that she nimbly climbed down and began to assist her husband. Mike, with his rifle now loaded, picked up Samuel’s musket and began loading it with an occasional gaze out and around for any possible danger. The surrounding pine forest seemed at peace, now.
A few hours later, the cart rolled its way to a stop outside the trading post at Waresboro drawing the attention of all within sight. Indian attacks were fairly frequent occurrences and rumors of them even more frequent. A small crowd gathered to help Samuel hobble into the store. Three ladies, upon seeing the small children and their mom, rushed from their nearby cabins to surround and fuss over them. The Waresboro folks knew how to welcome new settlers to their remote post on the South Georgia frontier. Soon, soup was being ladled up and bread being shared. The men quickly made Samuel feel welcome. Mike, well known to the locals, was surrounded by a small knot of men who wanted to hear his news of the region to their south. And soon the community’s preacher arrived with his wife and an invite for the newly arrived family to settle with them for the first few days.
Later that evening, Mike sat beside his fire not too far from the trading post. He lay back against an old oak and watched the smoke from his fire as it lazily drifted up into the Spanish moss draped boughs. Somewhere nearby, a couple of owls seemed involved in a discussion of some sort. In the distance a fox yelped. As his eyes slowly closed, Mike thought,” Sure is good to have friends whose wives cook so well.” The nearby owl curiously eyed the smiling buckskin clad figure then suddenly launched himself into the night. In the far distance, the sound of a bull gator bellowing his challenge reverberated across the edges of the Okefenokee. Not everyone would sleep along the South Georgia frontier this night.