“If we hustle, we can get back ‘for dark, I don’t want to think about getting this stuff wet if it rains and it sure looks like it might.” said Uriah.
“Yeah, we’d be shit outta luck with wet powder. It would fizzle out for sure. and this milk carton looks like it’s seen better days.” said Whit. Stretching his limited span of attention to the maximum, he continued, “If we make it back to that wiki-up lean-two we saw comin over, we can get under it and stay dry.”
“Let’s stop thinking, said Uriah. It takes up time we could be usein’ to move our sorry asses outta here.”
I wondered, later, if it might have been better for me if I had paid less attention to what Jubal Early said about history, geography and religion and more to the knot-headed remarks of these two morons. Either way the first person experiences of the ups and downs of the trail and the changing weather conditions shed new light on the learning.
On the other hand it might have been better for me if I hadn’t ever met or known Jubal Early from the beginning.
With his help though I now know far more about the geography and topography of northwest Georgia than I did before he came to the valley.
“The terrain is the result of shifting plates that left a series of broad fertile valleys separated by parallel ridges of limestone, sandstone and shale. Sedimentary rock has been folded and faulted from the northeast to southwest forming the trenching valleys of the Appalachian Ridge and Valleys. The humid subtropical weather with mild winters and hot moist summers made it a attractive place for lazy unmotivated folks escaping from rigors of surviving in northwest Europe and the British Isles, i.e., Scotland, Ireland for example and the Scandinavians who had fled Sweden, Norway and Denmark several generations earlier.”, to quote from one of Early’s extended lectures.
Regardless of the trauma of the Atlantic crossing, the Burchfields and Huntragers had always been families and tribes of questionable brainpower. It wasn’t that they couldn’t think and reason, but they always seemed to start out from a different set of absolutes than the demanding social norms of groups they didn’t want to be a part of. Since debtor’s prison was no longer an option time was on their side.
By the time Uriah and Whit had been born these two families had figured out that they had more in common than either one or anyone else wanted to admit. Still after all this time and two or three generations of, both families were as always in debt and involved in questionable activities, and looking for a quick way out.
The myth of lore and the lure of glitter and fortune and rumors of “there’s gold in them thar hills” gave them the shove they needed to move their dead asses. and start them on their next ill-fated quest. The two families left the valley they had infested for almost a century and headed west to California. But after many more months of trails, trials and tribulations they had gotten as far as what later would be called northwest Oklahoma and the east Texas panhandle. By that time their compelling urge had weakened, dissipated and exhausted. The stress of striving for survival finally overpowered their fantasy of fame and fortune.
With nothing but hardscrabble dirt, miles and miles of it to be seen in every direction and no water in sight, they planted whatever roots they had been able to hang on to. They just hunkered down, squatted and stayed. The Huntrager and Burch tribes had found themselves at the end of the world pasted over with wallpaper made of nothing but dirt and nothing but wind to hold it in place. They were waiting for the dust storms that sent them high-tailing it back to the valley in Georgia.
As I said before, somehow, sometimes, some shit happens. In the crucible of creation, the grinding of the mortar doesn’t ever match the warmth and charm of the pestle. The chemistry of attraction never reaches the temperature needed to make a compound. The heat of the moment of attraction never gets hot enough to melt and weld the elements and create a balanced new compound. The mixture results in a product with too much undirected ambition, excessive greed coupled with huge attention deficit and a shortage of reason. Each element’s negative characteristic instead of being lessened by the process, often become more intense.
In Uriah’s case the result had become not only aggravating but also he was more like a disaster looking for a time and place to happen. In Whit’s case it was less focused but equally intense. Personalities and people, like elements in a crucible, in time revert to type. It’s the mettle that makes the difference.
Uriah didn’t feel comfortable or safe carrying the black powder but he was unwilling to delegate this responsibility to Whit. He knew that Whit’s self-esteem would soar and he would be unbearable.
“Not so fast.” Blurted Uriah, “Remember what Breedlaw said. The stuff’s dangerous even when you know how to handle it and we don’t.”
“I won’t shake it or drop it.” Whit replied.