Hoovers 2015 Myrtle Beach

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This is a rambling account of our annual trip to Myrtle Beach, SC.  I have entitled each section with a song title or a line from a song.

Growing Older and Tenser With the Times[1]

Ocho and his gang of ever increasing in age hackers of the sacred turf have once again escaped the cruel and bitter bonds of winter.  A winter that was going along nicely until February and then all meteorological hell broke loose and the leaden skies and howling winds buried New England.  A winter that saw poor Ocho climbing out onto his deck through the removed lower window of the door in order to clear off the five foot deep ‘freshly fallen silent shroud of snow’[2].  A winter that saw poor Ocho hanging out of a third floor window in a desperate attempt to clear the two foot deep swath of ice and snow off the roof before it crashed down on a poor helpless vehicle in the driveway below.  A winter that saw a large chunk of the aforementioned collection of ice and snow on the roof, crash down on the wife’s lease car causing multiple contusions, bruises and the decapitation of the passenger side mirror thus prompting the aforementioned hanging out of the window.  All of the Hoovers have similar stories of woe, exasperation and deprivation.  All except Jimmy Two Birds who has retired and now calls Punta Gorda, FL as his home, the fat bastard. J

Another result of winter in New England, though this is not erratic like the fickle patterns of meteorological mayhem, this happens every year.  We do not get much golf played, say after Halloween, so by this time of the year we are salivating at the thought we will be teeing it up again.  While we are suffering from this environmentally enforced dormancy we get periodic emails from Jimmy Two Birds about all the golf he is playing, how many pars he averages, in general how much he is improving, the fat bastard.  J

All Strung Out from the Road[3]

It was an epic almost Magellan like trek, this solo drive from Providence RI. to Myrtle Beach, SC.  At 06:00 Gray Wolf pulled onto I-95 south, eager to stretch his legs on this 1050 mile jaunt.  The route chosen will avoid the nightmarish travel corridor of New York City to DC and the attendant dollars spent in tolls on The Jersey Turnpike.  Instead, Ocho will wend his way out of New England via I-84 as it travels through land formerly occupied and or used by the Delaware, Huron, Mohawk and others.  Ocho pauses for a few minutes to refuel and to grab a cup of mediocre yet necessary coffee to stave off the effects of being up all night at work as there are many miles yet to go.

Near the blood soaked hills and fields of Gettysburg a foursome walks a golf course fairway now cleared of snow renewing Ocho’s energy level; an anticipatory foreshadowing of the week ahead.  The Mason-Dixon Line looms just a few miles ahead, one of the landmarks/milestones that Ocho uses as another means of energy revitalization.  Not only are these sights important in terms of how far is left yet to travel but they also stir up the historical thought process that inevitably comes to the forefront of Ocho’s mind.  The more prominent milestones include the rivers, Susquehanna, Hudson, Potomac and James.  Formidable obstacles all and makes me wonder in awe at the hardiness of our pioneer forebears.  Imagine the sheer effort needed to cross those rivers and the countless smaller rivers and creeks, the effort needed to climb and descend numerous hills.  Not to mention that those game trails they followed weren’t exactly Eisenhower Interstates.

I-81 south runs through an area rich in history.  It seems every exit leads to a Civil War battlefield, not that that is surprising as the Shenandoah Valley was the bread basket of The Confederacy and both sides fought to control it.  General Philip Sheridan greatly hastened the end of the war by destroying Shenandoah.  It’s amazing that this is the kind of stuff that filters through Ocho’s mind as he drives, that and the hope that there’s a rest stop soon.  Ocho and Gray Wolf need another nap.

Twenty-five hours later, 1050 miles, half a dozen cups of coffee and numerous stops to recycle said coffee and to take naps, I arrive at Jimmy Two Birds timeshare.  We are scheduled to tee off in a couple hours but it is one of those rare occasions when I am glad it is raining.  Gray Wolf and I are just a tad worn out.  J

 

 

Won’t Get Fooled Again[4]

In an effort to add a little excitement and the chance to win a sleeve of golf balls, Jimmy Two Birds instituted a Par 3 contest.  You win a sleeve if you get a par on a Par 3.  The rest of us protested that no one would win on account of our self-acknowledged ineptitude but Jimmy Two Birds persisted and thus those are the rules.  Today’s round was the first one played in about 4 months for Joey, Bob and Rick and the first one played in about 4 days for Jimmy Two Birds.  Jimmy Two Birds won a sleeve of balls today, the Fat Bastard.

The teams having been chosen in a random fashion, for today’s golf match are Jimmy/Rick vs Bob/Joey.  A pairing that elicited an immediate, ‘We’re gonna kick their ass!’ comment from Rick who then went out and shot a front nine 57 thus winning a sleeve of Ram balls for his excellence in futility.  As to the arse kicking, Bob/Joey put up a valiant yet vain effort losing 9-7, although Joey did distinguish himself by taking individual honors for the day harking back to the year Joey won our most prestigious award, The Harry A.  A feat so astounding that even to this day no one believes it actually happened.

Scenes from an Italian Restaurant[5]

Some of our more memorable moments take place at the various eateries we frequent while in Myrtle.  Last night at the Texas Roadhouse, for example, we simply reinforced the notion that we are losing our mental edge.  The tallying up of the bill proved to be an exercise of mathematical futility.  Determining that $35 was needed from 4 people because 130/4=35.  No one questioned that figure and we ended up $10 over what we needed.  With no immediate solution as to why the discrepancy, Joey, out of kindness, handed the extra $10 to Ocho.  The problem gnawed at Ocho on the drive back to the condo so he whipped out the calculator on his smart phone and lo and behold, 130/4=32.50.  Mystery solved and a time to celebrate so Ocho used the $10 and bought beer.

I’m Just a Substitute for Another Guy[6]

As has been the case the past few years Ocho’s financial woes have relegated him to the position of a stand by substitute golfer; not unlike some alternate on the PGA Tour waiting on somebody to drop out of a tournament.  I have to be ready at a moment’s notice in case one of the aging Hoovers can’t shake out the kinks from the prior day no matter how long they hog the limited hot water in the condo.

There are, I think, two prevailing theories as to why my fellow Hoovers insist that I come to Myrtle despite my monetary limitations.  Theory #1 is that they cannot do without my pleasant demeanor and witty repartee.  Theory #2 is they only care about not having to drag their clubs through airports and pay a small fortune to have them flown here.  Your guess is as good as mine as to which one is true.  J

Day number three and the call for a relief golfer has been made and Ocho is making his way in from the bullpen.  Now mind you the last two days were bathed in glorious sunshine and near 80 degrees.  Today is cloudy and only reaching the high 50’s.  Jimmy Two Birds is a no go for today’s round, the Fat Bastard.

Two days in a row for the relief golfer as JTB is once again hors de combat with a balky knee.  I feel bad every time I lace up my golf shoes at the expense of one of my fellow Hoovers, but only for a moment.  J

Day number five and for the first time ever in the annals of Hoover history a Hoover pulled himself out of a round halfway through.  JTB called ‘no mas’ after nine holes for the simple reason he was having no fun and was in danger of throwing his clubs into a gator infested pond.  Fortunately the relief golfer was at the course and took over for the distraught and frustrated Jimmy.  Unfortunately the relief golfer had to use Jimmy’s clubs and they weren’t any kinder to him than they were for Jimmy and almost ended up in the gator infested pond anyway.

 

Don’t Fear the Reaper[7]

For some reason, probably the onset of our advancing years and the aches, pains and medications needed, we had a jocular discussion on death and how we wanted our remains taken care of.  Jimmy mentioned having his ashes scattered over many of his favorite golf courses in Myrtle Beach but all I could imagine was a Big Lebowski type mishap.  A sudden gust of wind and Jimmy is scattered all over those officiating the event.  I came up with a couple possibilities for my epitaph … ‘All things considered, I’d rather be putting for birdie’… or (and this is a reference to my hard of hearing condition), ‘You can say anything you want about me, I won’t hear you anyway.’

Boring Stories of Glory Days[8]

I have been fortunate in my life to have two distinct groups of close friends.  The guys (and later the girls) I grew up with are once again a part of my life after nearly 40 years of no or very limited contact.  We have an annual reunion, this year being the 4th and those few days are filled with silliness and the chance to relive our glory days as young athletes.  We have played basketball & football.  We went bowling and visited the batting cages.  We recount our prowess with clear minds with no thought of hyperbole as we fail miserably to be what we used to be but laughing our arse off nonetheless.  We even have our own Hall of Fame of which we are all members and which we named The Moron Hall of Fame in honor of the fact that we actually made it to adulthood mostly unscathed and without criminal records.

That brings me to the group that sustains me in the ‘back nine’ of my life, The Hoovers.  For those who are not familiar with the history of the name we chose a brief digression.  It was somewhere on a golf course on Cape Cod.  We had just hit four of the more miserable tee shots in the history of golf.  As we watched the fourth one sail off to a place a golf ball ought not to visit, Jimmy Two Birds uttered these words, ‘We’re like a bunch of Hoover vacuum cleaners, and we can’t suck enough.’  Thus the name of the group was born along with our motto.  Since then we have traversed many fine fairways and even more not so fine areas of golf courses scattered throughout this great country of ours.  The main point of our exercise in futility is not so much trying to improve as that ship has sailed but to have more fun than should be allowed.  I would really like at some point to mike all of us for a round as there would be some great material to cobble together in a story.   So here’s to my buddies The Hoovers:  Joe Martin, Jimmy Two Birds Ouellette, Bob Svirsky, Loring Mackey and Rick Lobsitz.  May your balls be many and your strokes be few.  J

 

Every Day is a Winding Road[9]

Every nook and cranny of Gray Wolf is stuffed with the flotsam, jetsam and the necessary golf accoutrements needing to be returned to the normal habitat of our four intrepid Hoovers who must now sadly depart for the frozen wasteland of New England.   Rick and Bob are flying home from Charleston, SC while Joey opted to only fly to Myrtle and drive back with me.  Jimmy, of course, is driving back to Punta Gorda, FL where it is not a frozen wasteland, the fat bastard.  Included in the flotsam is Joey’s rather large suitcase that was not part of what Ocho brought down to SC.  Some creative packing was involved to accommodate it so as to leave room for Joey too.  It would have been a shame to have to strap Joey to the roof for the 1050 mile trek home.

On the road at 5:00 a.m. feeling the usual pangs of remorse that the week is already over, that the daily joy of camaraderie is once again relegated to memory and in my case to the written word.  However, those thoughts need to be suppressed in order to survive the long, long way home.  So with a stoical mindset Gray Wolf springs to life and we head home.  Nineteen hours later Joey is safely ensconced in his own bed and 15 minutes later Gray Wolf is safely at rest in his own driveway.  The trip home is mostly without incident.  The only traffic encountered came, naturally, when we got on the Mass Pike; a kind of welcome home committee.  Until next year, same time, same place.

[1][1] Paraphrased line from Bruce Cockburn’s ‘How I Spent My Fall Vacation

[2] Paul Simon I Am a Rock

[3] Bob Seger ‘Turn the Page’

[4] Pete Townsend ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’

[5] Billy Joel ‘Scenes From an Italian Restaurant’

[6] Pete Townsend ‘Substitute’

[7] Donald(Buck Dharma)Roeser –Blue Oyster Cult ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’

[8] Bruce Springsteen ‘Glory Days’

[9] Sheryl Crow, Jeff Trott, Brian MacLeod ‘Everyday is a Winding Road’

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Myrtle Beach 2015 – an excerpt

Growing Older and Tenser With the Times[1]

Ocho and his gang of ever increasing in age hackers of the sacred turf have once again escaped the cruel and bitter bonds of winter.  A winter that was going along nicely until February and then all meteorological hell broke loose and the leaden skies and howling winds buried New England.  A winter that saw poor Ocho climbing out onto his deck through the removed lower window of the door in order to clear off the five foot deep ‘freshly fallen silent shroud of snow’.  A winter that saw poor Ocho hanging out of a third floor window in a desperate attempt to clear the two foot deep swath of ice and snow off the roof before it crashed down on a poor helpless vehicle in the driveway below.  A winter that saw a large chunk of the aforementioned collection of ice and snow on the roof, crash down on the wife’s lease car causing multiple contusions, bruises and the decapitation of the passenger side mirror thus prompting the aforementioned hanging out of the window.  All of the Hoovers have similar stories of woe, exasperation and deprivation.  All except Jimmy Two Birds who has retired and now calls Punta Gorda, FL as his home, the fat bastard.

Another result of winter in New England, though this is not erratic like the fickle patterns of meteorological mayhem, this happens every year.  We do not get much golf played, say after Halloween, so by this time of the year we are salivating at the thought we will be teeing it up again.  While we are suffering from this environmentally enforced dormancy we get periodic emails from Jimmy Two Birds about all the golf he is playing, how many pars he averages, in general how much he is improving, the fat bastard.  J

All Strung Out from the Road[2]

It was an epic almost Magellan like trek, this solo drive from Providence RI. to Myrtle Beach, SC.  At 06:00 Gray Wolf pulled onto I-95 south, eager to stretch his legs on this 1050 mile jaunt.  The route chosen will avoid the nightmarish travel corridor of New York City to DC and the attendant dollars spent in tolls on The Jersey Turnpike.  Instead, Ocho will wend his way out of New England via I-84 as it travels through land formerly occupied and or used by the Delaware, Huron, Mohawk and others.  Ocho pauses for a few minutes to refuel and to grab a cup of mediocre yet necessary coffee to stave off the effects of being up all night at work and there are many miles yet to go.

Near the blood soaked hills and fields of Gettysburg a foursome walks a golf course fairway now cleared of snow renewing Ocho’s energy level; an anticipatory foreshadowing of the week ahead.  The Mason-Dixon Line looms just a few miles ahead, one of the landmarks/milestones that Ocho uses as another means of energy revitalization.  Not only are these sights important in terms of how far is left yet to travel but they also stir up the historical thought process that inevitably comes to the forefront of Ocho’s mind.  The more prominent milestones include the rivers, Susquehanna, Hudson, Potomac and James.  Formidable obstacles all and makes me wonder in awe at the hardiness of our pioneer forebears.  Imagine the sheer effort needed to cross those rivers and the countless smaller rivers and creeks, the effort needed to climb and descend numerous hills.  Not to mention that those game trails they followed weren’t exactly Eisenhower Interstates.

I-81 south runs through an area rich in history.  It seems every exit leads to a Civil War battlefield, not that that is surprising as the Shenandoah Valley was the bread basket of The Confederacy and both sides fought to control it.  General Philip Sheridan greatly hastened the end of the war by destroying Shenandoah.  It’s amazing that this is the kind of stuff that filters through Ocho’s mind as he drives that and the hope that there’s a rest stop soon.  Ocho and Gray Wolf need another nap.

Twenty-five hours later, 1050 miles, half a dozen cups of coffee and numerous stops to recycle said coffee and to take naps, I arrive at Jimmy Two Birds timeshare.  We are scheduled to tee off in a couple hours but it is one of those rare occasions when I am glad it is raining.  Gray Wolf and I are just a tad worn out.  J

Boring Stories of Glory Days[3]

I have been fortunate in my life to have two distinct groups of close friends.  The guys (and later the girls) I grew up with are once again a part of my life after nearly 40 years of no or very limited contact.  We have an annual reunion, this year being the 4th and those few days are filled with silliness and the chance to relive our glory days as young athletes.  We have played basketball & football.  We went bowling and visited the batting cages.  We recount our prowess with clear minds with no thought of hyperbole as we fail miserably to be what we used to be but laughing our arse off nonetheless.  We even have our own Hall of Fame of which we are all members and which we named The Moron Hall of Fame in honor of the fact that we actually made it to adulthood mostly unscathed and without criminal records.

[1][1] Paraphrased line from Bruce Cockburn’s ‘How I Spent My Fall Vacation

[2] Bob Seger ‘Turn the Page’

[3] Bruce Springsteen ‘Glory Days’

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excerpt from Chap 1- 2nd draft – Clash of Empires

CHAPTER 1

A Journey Contemplated

1749 – Autumn

Thomas Mallory stopped chopping and took a moment to wipe the sweat from his brow.  ‘Saints preserve us,’ he sighed, ‘it will take more wood than this to see us through the winter.’  He gazed about and took in the sights of the small lease held farm he worked with his family.  His wife Abigail was baking bread in the outdoor oven. His eldest son Daniel was over in the field harvesting the last of the squash and pumpkin. His only daughter Elizabeth was spreading feed for the ducks and chickens.  Liam, the youngest son was nowhere to be seen as he was out hunting.  ‘Aye and what about the spring?  What will they think about my plans for the spring?’

Thomas never did much like farming.  The plot of land that he leased from a wealthy member of the Philadelphia merchant aristocracy was barely sufficient to feed his family and make a profit.  For fifteen years he toiled, saving up every last farthing so that at last they could move West and begin a new life.  He had met William Trent, an adventurous woodsman and one time officer in the Virginia militia a few years back when he stopped by the farm looking for a place to bed down for a few nights.  He regaled them with his stories of the frontier, about his trip down The Ohio and the opportunities waiting for men with vision and courage.  ‘This is only the beginning’, said William, ‘but I plan on opening a trading post along the Allegheny River.  If I’m any judge of events then it won’t be long before the frontier will be teeming with them that’s looking to make their fortune.  Hunters and trappers at first and then with settlers.  Once things have settled there it will be back to The Ohio to start another trading post.’

The seed of adventure and profit was duly planted in Thomas so when William asked him to be his partner in a recent letter he quietly accepted to himself.  The time to tell the family would come soon enough.  All he needed to do now was to convince his wife Abigail that the move would be more than worth the risks involved as the area in question was in dispute between the British, the French and the various tribes of Indians, some of which sided with the British and some with the French.

The thought came to Liam as he followed the movement of the deer that he was never so at peace as when he was in the woods.  For as long as he could remember he made the most of every opportunity to be outside, marveling at nature and studying it.  Indeed he had come to know the area around his home very well and was now hidden on a small mound that was overgrown with brush.  He knew from experience that the deer used the trail below the mound to travel to a small creek for water.  He also knew that he would be too far away for an effective shot with his favorite weapon, the bow, so he had brought his musket along.  The deer was now broadside to Liam, the hindquarters obscured by tree branches but the front shoulder was in the open.  Liam fired, the shot hit and knocked the deer down but it was soon back on its feet, staggering away.  Liam resisted the notion of rising up and following the deer right away.  He knew that that would only cause the deer to panic even more causing it to run meaning it would be farther away once it finally succumbed to the wound and Liam was sure the shot was fatal.  ‘That got at least one lung, maybe both,’ he said to himself as he rose up just enough to keep an eye on the deer.  The wounded deer was still standing and walking but it was quickly losing blood and becoming weaker.  Liam, satisfied that it would not be going too much farther sat back down to wait for a few more minutes giving him time to think and daydream.   As was usually the case his thoughts were of Indians and how they used and nature to survive.  He was most in awe of the Indians and their way of life though he had encountered them only fleetingly. The farm he grew up on along the Schuylkill River west of Philadelphia didn’t have many Indians in the area. The last of them, the Delaware tribes, had been pushed farther west by the encroaching white settlers.  What truth he did learn he gleaned from a former Black Robe, a priest who had lived with his Order in the village of Teatontaloga near the white settlement of Albany.   Pierre Baptiste was now the village apothecary having learned from the Mohawk about the various herbs and plants that could be used for assorted ailments.  He was also an amateur naturalist and agreed with Liam to teach him about the Mohawk including their language in exchange for Liam gathering up and bringing him herbs and any other interesting plants and critters he could find.  He peered over the brush in time to see the deer collapse to the forest floor.  He slowly got up and stretched his cramped legs.  When he reached the where the deer had fallen he noticed the pink froth that had been seeping out of the deer’s mouth and nose.  ‘Yep, got the lungs,’ he said to himself.  Liam then got down to the business of field dressing the deer, removing the unwanted innards, placing the heart, liver and kidneys in a pouch.  He used a long strip of rawhide to wind around the torso, keeping it closed as he hoisted the carcass up onto his shoulders using the legs as handles and began the short but laborious trek back home.

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First draft – complete Clash of Empires

Approximately a year and a half later at 18:00 EST on March 3, 2015 I wrote the final words of the first draft of Clash of Empires.  My editorial staff(well some friends and other fellow travelers) are hard at work giving it the once over.  As they report in I am editing the draft accordingly….or not, depending on how strongly I feel about the change they are suggesting.  I’ve never been one who likes to change things once he has written it down…a foible I may have to rein in a little bit but….the way I look at it is that if one of my editors says I should change something and another editor says they like that part then I will most likely leave that part alone…  :-)..

This is all new to me…this process of editing and so forth.  Next I will have the 2nd draft copy edited and then the real fun begins….getting it out so the unwashed masses can enjoy the fruits of my labor.  Oh and I will also begin book 2 of the series…have already jotted down some notes and ideas…heck I already have thoughts on book 3.  Book 2 will encompass the Revolutionary War period…book 3 will be the war of 1812 and years preceding the Civil War.  Book 4 will be the Civil War years, followed by the western expansion years in book 5.  Ambitious, yes, but what the heck, I wanna retire in style.  :-)

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from the epilogue of Clash of Empires

As he lay in the snow he drifted in and out of consciousness and so afterward he wasn’t sure if he was awake or asleep when he had another visit from his brother the buffalo.  This time there was also a woman; Orenda was standing beside the buffalo holding a baby in her arms and smiling at Liam.  Then in a lilting, ethereal voice she said, ‘Otetiani my love, do not overly grieve for us any longer.  Remember us, yes, but do so in the happiness that we shared together.  Let go of the rage that eats at your heart and turns you into a man you are not.  Cherish us in your heart not the hatred.’  A mist then rose around them and from what seemed like a great distance Liam heard Orenda say, ‘farewell my love, we are always with you.’  Liam found that he was now sitting up and had tears streaming down his face.  He raised his left arm to wipe his eyes forgetting for a moment of the wound in his shoulder.  The pain brought him back to reality and he saw through his tears a buffalo calf standing where Orenda and the old bull had been in the dream.  In a playful gallop it came over to Liam, licked his hand and then scampered back to the herd.  The pain from his wounds increased when he stood up and it took a moment before he was able to start walking.  He turned and was surprised to see just Huritt’s gored body lying on the ground; the buffalo was gone.  Liam looked at the body of the enemy he had pursued for so long and for so many miles; the rage and the hatred he carried in his mind, those twin qualities of destruction that ate away at his soul, the driving force of his life seemed to melt from his mind.  The bleating sound of the calf drew Liam’s attention and he watched it walk away, occasionally going into a leaping, zig-zagging trot as if it had not a care in the world.  Liam’s face lit up into a smile, ‘farewell for now, my brother,’ he called out and then began the hike back to the camp.

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an excerpt from Clash of Empires

A look at the surrender of Fort William Henry…this piece stars a Colonel Gordon Doherty and a Sgt. Glyn Mulhern…take a bow gentlemen   :-)

Colonel Doherty watched the second day of exchanged artillery fire from his post in the militia encampment.  The cannon and howitzers of Munro’s force were giving back as much as they were taking from the French but it was just a matter of time thought Doherty before the walls were breeched and the real slaughter began.  Realizing that something had to be done to turn the tide he headed to the fort for yet another confrontation with Colonel Munro.  He entered headquarters to find Munro hunched over casualty reports when a tremendous explosion rocked the building knocking candles out of their sconces and shaking the windows.  ‘That was not an enemy shell,’ exclaimed Doherty as he extinguished a burning candle that had fallen to the floor, ‘sounded more like an exploded cannon.’  He ran to the door and saw that one of the 12 pounders had indeed exploded while firing, killing three soldiers and wounding four others.  ‘That’s the fourth one plus one howitzer.  We’re killing our own more efficiently than the French are, ‘he said as he sat opposite Colonel Munro.  ‘Sir, this fort is going to fall and sooner rather than later.  The walls cannot take much more pounding and our counter artillery is rapidly falling apart.  We need to do something to save the men from being mercilessly slaughtered.  The French can talk all they want about keeping their allies in check but they won’t have the will to do it.’  ‘What do you propose, my dear Colonel Doherty, ‘replied Munro, ‘that we attack the French?’  ‘Yes, but not the force besieging the fort and not conventionally,’ said Doherty, his excitement mounting with every breath as he laid out his plan, ‘we attack the force guarding the road to Fort Edward.  That is our objective, getting as many of these troops to General Webb as we can rather than waiting on the General to send troops to us; troops that would have to fight their way in and for what, saving a doomed fort?  We send in the militia just before dawn catching them by surprise and as the sun comes up, you lead the regulars in and from the road deliver a few massed volleys.  That should do the trick and will buy us enough time to march the 20 miles to Fort Edward.’

‘An interesting thought, Colonel, but I have no intention on leading a doomed to fail attack. Your idea of having the irregulars execute a raid in semi-darkness is not only foolish but is not the way I will prosecute this war. We are outnumbered.  We will wait for the reinforcements that I’m sure will be here in two or three days.  If they are not, I am fully confident in the French commander and his honorable word.’

‘We may not have two or three days, Colonel.  We need to…’

‘That is enough Colonel Doherty,’ interrupted Munro, ‘I will hear no more about it.  You are dismissed.’

Colonel Gordon Doherty prided himself on being a good soldier and it is only that pride that stayed his voice and allowed him to give a rather slipshod salute just before he slammed the door.  He was heading to his own tent when he heard an incoming bombardment thud into the wall.  So far in this siege the French ceased their artillery firing once the sun went down.  ‘Not so tonight it seems,’ Doherty thought, ‘the end is near.’  When he reached his tent he sent his orderly to find Sgt. Mulhern, Timothy and Markus.  He sat down at his camp desk and began writing out an order for the three of them.  When they entered he motioned them to sit.  He looked them each in the eyes before he read out their new orders.  ‘The three of you are hereby ordered to vacate this camp in the event of surrender and report at best possible speed to General Webb at Fort Edward.  You are too valuable to be captured or killed.  This order will nullify any chance of desertion or cowardice charges ever being discussed.  That takes care of the legality of your disappearance; I would ask one more thing.  If I am taken captive and appear certain to be tortured or burned do what you can to end it.’

Timothy and Markus shook Doherty’s hand, ‘I really didn’t want to give up my new musket anyway,’ said Markus, ‘been getting pretty good with it too,’ he continued looking the colonel in the eyes, ‘I can hit what I aim at.’

Sergeant Glyn Mulhern reached inside his shirt and pulled out his flask, ‘A wee bit of comfort and fortifying colonel darling.’  He handed the brandy to Doherty who raised it up and toasted, ‘To all the campaigns we fought, to all the glory we sought, to all the regiments we led, to all the privations we endured, to the friendship we forged.  To you my Irish bog trotting friend.’  After taking a drink he handed it back to Mulhern who could only manage to reply through his tears, ‘Colonel darling.’   He took a drink, saluted and followed Timothy and Markus back to camp.

The artillery barrage the following morning went on relentless for three hours, twenty pieces in a constant bombardment of the walls.  After a tremendous double salvo the firing ceased and a French officer headed across the open meadow under a white flag.  He was met by a company of grenadiers, blindfolded and led to Colonel Munro.  He handed the colonel two letters, one from Montcalm detailing surrender terms and the other the message from General Webb stating he would not send reinforcements. ‘Thank the Major-General for his generosity and concern.  He will have our answer shortly,’ said a noticeably shaken Munro. The French aide returned to Montcalm and relayed Munro’s answer and then asked, ‘What about our allies?  They are not going to like losing out on trophies and the like.  You know that that damnable Shawnee Huritt will be stirring up trouble.’  Montcalm paced back and forth, ‘I will speak with the chiefs in the morning but not with Huritt.  The other chiefs will have to keep him and the other hotheads in check.  Once the British surrender we will supply the normal honor guard; make sure they know that they are to keep the British safe as they leave the fort.’

Huritt stormed into the Shawnee encampment eyes spitting fire, hands clenched tightly on his war lance.  He had been to the French camp and heard the rumor that the British were going to surrender and that they were getting safe passage out of the fort.  The chances for scalps, captives and other prizes of war not to mention the basic thrill of battle were all being taken away by these craven French.  Huritt knew Montcalm would approach the chiefs and tell them to not make trouble but he would not listen to the French or the chiefs.  He would make his own plans; gather those of a like mind from across the tribes assembled and then dare the French to stop him.

The next morning Colonel Munro addressed his officers,’ Gentlemen we are faced with a hopeless situation.  Our munitions and supplies are dangerously low, our morale is low, and we can expect no help from General Webb, an act of deplorable negligence on his part.  Major-General Montcalm has offered us full honors; officers may keep their side arms and our baggage will not be molested nor will we be.  All other weapons will be stacked up in the fort.  I will not wait any longer.  I will walk out and surrender the fort.  Colonel Doherty will accompany me.’

An hour later the sun just now cresting the hills to the east, Colonel Munro and Colonel Doherty with an honor guard bearing a white flag trotted out of the gate.  Major-General Montcalm expecting such a move was already mounted when word came that the British were riding out.  The two parties met in the meadow just west of the fort; Doherty was scanning the group of French cavalry attending the Major-General when his eyes were drawn to a lone Shawnee brave standing on a hilltop.  ‘That bloody chap does not have the look of acquiescence about him,’ Doherty muttered under his breath.  He was partially drawn back to Colonel Munro who was officially surrendering the fort but he couldn’t escape the look of that Shawnee.  ‘I see my death in his eyes.’  ‘What was that?’ asked Colonel Munro.  ‘It is nothing sir, just a moment of private reflection.’  Montcalm saluted Munro turned and headed back to his camp.  Colonel Doherty finally turned away from Huritt’s stare and rode back to the fort, his gaze now falling upon the three men on horseback leaving the militia encampment.

The rest of the day was spent in stacking of arms under the supervision of a troop of French Marines and in the moving of the troops from the fort to the larger militia camp.  Timothy, Markus and Sgt. Mulhern were camped in a small valley between the hills to the east of the camp.  They agreed on taking turns watching the militia camp.  Markus had the first watch but had seen nothing noteworthy; his ears perked up as he heard Timothy climbing the hill to relieve him.  ‘Nothing going on down there.  I ‘spect it’ll be quiet until morning,’ Markus told Timothy as he headed to a well needed sleep.  Timothy found it hard to stay awake through the long and quiet night and so was startled when Sgt. Mulhern tapped him on the shoulder.  ‘I’d kick you six shades of shite if you was regular army; napping on guard duty,’ chuckled Mulhern, ‘I presume all is quiet?  Oh well now what have we here?’  Mulhern pointed down to the foothills below them where a large force of Shawnee, Ottawa, Huron and Ojibway warriors were spreading out on either side of the road out of the camp, keeping to the depressions between the hills so as to not be spotted.  ‘Go and help Markus saddle our horses.  I have a feeling down the back of my neck that we will need to follow the colonel very shortly.’

Colonel Munro led the contingent of regulars out of the gate and was followed by Colonel Doherty and the militia.  The baggage and civilians made up the rear as they marched out to the fanfare of drums and military band of the French.  They had barely cleared the gate when they heard the cries of Indians as they began killing the wounded that had been under French care in the fort.  The already somber mood of the British became noticeably tenser with eyes darting back and forth expecting to see a horde of blood thirsty savages descending upon them.  Colonel Doherty being on horseback saw them first.  When they had gone about 500 yards there was a loud war whoop and then the hillside was alive with tomahawk brandishing warriors.  Some of the warriors headed to the baggage train and began looting it finding among the valuables a sizable quantity of rum.  Others went straight into the British ranks indiscriminately killing and scalping or grabbing men out of the line to be taken back as captives.  Soon the 2500 unarmed men and women were in a panic and began running, some trampling on the bodies of the fallen and the dead.  The sight of brain matter, the coppery smell of blood and the loosened bowels had many bent over retching.  The French were quick to react but were ineffective in quelling the slaughter.  They did manage to put a protective cordon around Colonel Munro but were too late to help Colonel Doherty.  Doherty had pulled out his saber and was using it to club and slash at the hands trying to pull him down off of his mount.  He had just succeeded in repelling an Ojibway by cutting off two of his fingers when he locked eyes on Huritt who was leaping onto the back of the horse bringing the pipe end of his tomahawk down on Doherty’s skull knocking him unconscious.  Huritt grabbed onto him to keep him from falling and took the reins from his hands.  With a victory scream he galloped away with his prize heading north to a Shawnee village on the east shore of Lake George.

Colonel Doherty awoke to a sharp pain in his head and found that he was sitting against a tree trunk bound to it around his waist.  His feet were bound together as were his hands.  He grimaced through the pain and tried to focus on his surroundings but his eyes were blurry from the blow to his head.  Soon Huritt came over to him, set down a bowl of food and untied his hands.  ‘Eat, colonel. You will need your strength to run a gauntlet in the morning.’  While eating he reached his hand up to his head and felt the stickiness of caked blood and an indentation in his skull.  The touch had him almost screaming but he had made up his mind that he was not going to give Huritt the satisfaction of hearing him suffer; he would go to his death silently.  When he had finished the food Huritt came over to re-tie his hands and said nothing but just stared into his eyes trying to intimidate Doherty.  Doherty was staring back and was about to look away when the sound of a curlew reached his ears.

Sergeant Mulhern began imitating the songs and cries of the birds of his homeland when he was a boy and through the years with Colonel Doherty they had always used the curlew as a means of communicating in the field.  They had taken a position in the hills east of the lake and had a good view of the Shawnee camp and of Colonel Doherty.  The possibility of rescue, after much debate and with much sadness was deemed impossible.  The Shawnee camp was a getting larger as the night wore on as more and more warriors came into the camp with their captives or with their many scalps.  The constant activity and the fact that the captives, including Doherty were being kept in the middle of the camp made any rescue attempt a suicide mission.  When Doherty heard Mulhern’s bird call, his resolve strengthened and with a grin he said to Huritt, ‘You think to gather my warrior spirit and courage by killing me; God’s bollocks you will.  You will get nothing from me but this advice; you are doomed, Snake Slayer will avenge his family and me.  If I were you I’d head west of the Father of Rivers and perhaps sleep with your eyes open.  He will find you and you will die.’  Huritt snarled and stood up, giving Doherty a slap to the back of his head causing him to spasm with fresh waves of pain.  Still he did not scream but he did vomit most of his just eaten dinner on Huritt’s feet and lower legs.

The Shawnee camp, being a temporary one used only during the siege and battle for Fort William Henry, did not contain many women or the older men and women of the tribe.  This meant that the gauntlet run was lined on both sides by mostly young men and warriors.  They each held some sort of club or a cluster of thorn covered boughs.  Huritt led Colonel Doherty to the beginning of the line and said, ‘Now we see if you live or die,’ and gave him a shove in the back to start him running.

Timothy watched as the colonel stumbled into a slow jog and was met with a hail of blows to his back, buttocks and legs.  ‘Come on colonel.  Make it to the end and you might live through this,’ he exhorted.  ‘I don’t reckon them Shawnee are gonna let him finish,’ replied Markus, ‘do you see the size of the bastard at the end of the line.  If the colonel makes it that far without falling or losing consciousness that beast will stop him.’

Doherty moved as quickly as he could but could not avoid some of the more vicious hits and soon was only able to walk slowly, almost shuffling his feet as he progressed down the line.  His mind was now numb as fresh bouts of pain took their toll.  He was about three-quarters through the gauntlet and only with great effort did he move one foot in front of the other.  A glancing blow to his head sent him reeling but he caught himself before he hit the ground.  A young Shawnee boy then lashed at him with a thorn laden branch, scrapping it down his back and creating several rivulets of blood to stream down his back and legs as he struggled to right himself.  Somehow the blow of the thorns digging into his back and sides triggered him into action and with a roar he grabbed the boy and using him as a shield moved closer to the end finally throwing him into the body of one of the last warriors in line.  He glanced up at the only one left and with a cry of rage and with an instinct for survival he launched himself at the large warrior.  Huritt, who was now standing behind the muscle bound brave, watched with an amused look on his face as the warrior raised one of his ham sized fists and brought it down on the back of Doherty’s head right where the tomahawk had done its initial damage.  The colonel went down, unconscious before he hit the ground.

When Colonel Doherty awoke he found himself tethered to a pole by a noose around his neck.  His hands were tied but his legs were free from restraint allowing him to move in a circle around the pole.  He pushed back the throbbing pain in his head and willed himself to focus his sight on his surroundings.  A pile of brush and firewood was stacked around the pole; there being about a five foot clearing where the condemned could shuffle about in a vain attempt to avoid the heat and flames.  He looked out at the gathering warriors and saw the many empty rum barrels scattered throughout the camp.  He vaguely remembered hearing while he was coming to consciousness the whoops of drunken men and the beating of drums but now it was eerily quiet as they all waited for Huritt to light the fire.  To compose himself before his fiery death, Doherty thought back to his last conversation with Sgt. Mulhern and fervently prayed that his friends were nearby.  He looked up to the hills and he realized that the morning was without even a breath of wind and he smiled.  His grin grew when he heard the distinctive trilling of a curlew.

Markus had used the pre-dawn darkness to creep down the hillside until he found a covered position behind some boulders.  He estimated that he was about 225 yards from the execution site and was pleased to note the absence of any wind.  Timothy and Sgt. Mulhern remained at the top of the hill; their muskets loaded and the horses saddled.

Growing impatient at the wait, one of the more inebriated Shawnee grabbed the unlit end of a smoldering, white hot piece of firewood from the camp fire and entered the ring intending to inflict more pain on the prisoner.  Doherty backed up as far as he could until his back was against the pole and waited for his tormentor to get close.  With a reserve of strength he did not know he had he leaped up and delivered a two footed kick to the Shawnee catching him in the groin sending him sprawling into the brush and logs where he proceeded to moan in pain to the sounds of laughter from his fellow warriors.  Huritt picked him up and shoved him out of the way and lit the bonfire.

Huritt stood back from the growing conflagration as the brush ignited all around the condemned colonel.  He was looking for the fear and listening for the begging screams but Colonel Doherty just stared back at him with an emotionless face. When the heat grew too fierce, Huritt backed away more and joined his warriors who were screaming their approval and their hate.  Doherty felt the hair on his legs begin to curl and singe, his feet began to throw off smoke as he retreated as far as he could.  Then some of the Shawnee with long poles began pushing the burning wood closer to the cut-ta-ho-tha; the condemned one.  No longer able to hold out, Doherty screamed out, ‘For God and Saint George, for King and Britain.  MULHERN!’

Markus knew it was time when he heard the colonel cry out.  He raised the musket, said a quick prayer for accuracy and squeezed the trigger.

Huritt was beginning to feel good about the proceedings and had even allowed himself a long drink from a rum cask.  His eyes, however, never veered off of his victim.  Just when it appeared that the flames would engulf the pole and the man on it, Huritt saw the colonel’s head recoil as if from a blow and saw a fresh spray of blood, skin and hair.  He threw down the rum and looked back to the hillside and saw a white man scrambling back up from the boulders.  Bellowing at the top of his voice because he had been cheated out of the death of his enemy, he looked around but realized he would not be able to catch the shooter.  Too many empty rum barrels meant too many warriors unable to take up the chase.

Sergeant Glyn Mulhern saw Markus raise the musket to his shoulder, heard the shot and watched as his friend died cheating the Shawnee out of some of their glory, honor and barbaric notion of courage and strength.  ‘Farewell, Colonel Darling, you sheep shagging Scottish bastard.  The Good Lord and Saint George will take care of you now.’  He nodded to Markus as he joined him and Timothy and handed him the reins to his horse.  With unabashed tears and without looking back, the three then rode away.

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a question for authors

I have found that the closer I get to finishing my first novel the more my thoughts head off to the sequel.  This is both enlightening and infuriating….helps in the sense that book 2 needs to feed off of the end of book 1 but at the same time it muddles up the thought process as the Muse tries to get the ending right for book 1.  Is this a unique problem or does this happen to other authors as well?

Oh well..the end of book 1 will happen regardless and then I get to write a foreword, an acknowledgment and an author’s afterword…all firsts for me…then I just need to find the required funds to get a cover done, the draft edited and whatever it costs to promote the heck out of the book(writing it was the easy part.)  :-)

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