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.