Thursday, February 28, 2013

Day Six: Campfire Tales.

  Always a work crew going. Dig the well. Dig a trench. Shore up a platform. Carve a loophole. Stuff a hide and bulldog it into position. The pickets watch while men work.

  One of the Greys is a big man. Taller than Crockett and stout like an ox. They joke that riding out from New Orleans when his horse wore out he just carried it. He's not too smart but he's game and strong and anytime a load has to be shoved over or boosted up they call for Bull.
Of course, then its: "put a little Bull on it." A crew was trying to push a post back into place on the North wall and Esparza was chanting "listo! Bull, listo!" So now it's: "put a little listo on it." He wandered over to look at the well crew and they were saying, "Dawg it! Don't send him down here, we'll never dig him out!"

  Good bunch.

  The worst guy in the company, kind of a mean drunk from down on the coast has dried out. The one man who looks like trouble still fits in. He was sleeping down in the Long Barracks and his snoring drove out the night pickets. One of them stole his hat and when he woke up there was hell to pay. Lots of sand kicked but he when went up top to take his post looking over the cattle pen the dead Mexican leaning on the tree was waving at him. And wearing his hat. He stomped right out there cussing a blue streak. Nevermind the Mexicans shooting.

  Davy gave Bull one of the yellow cats that's always winding around the crowd at the cookfire corner and he's been carrying it around for a couple of days. The cat has taken to sleeping on him. Cottle gigs him about cooking his cat, "say Bull, let's cook that kitty!" And Crocket warns him back: "Don't let Cottle cook that cat now Bull." Bull is always watching Cottle out of the corner of his eye. "Don't cook a kitty, Wash."

  And the stories. Around the campfire day or night there are two or three going. We've heard all the famous ones: Riding a lightning bolt across the river, possum in a whiskey jug, blizzard in the bear's den, grinning the coons out of the hickory. One that really probably happened is about the dogs backing a big mama cougar into a hollow tree and one of Davy's guys saw the tail through a knothole, pulled it out and cut it off with a knife. Davy made him bow and apologize to the catamount and then they leashed up the dogs and left. The boy traded it for drinks in a bar and they said for a year all they heard was stories about a mad giant mama bobcat up the country. Or it would be a drunk in a saloon with the tail talking up some wild story about how HE cut it off. On the packet boat coming up the Arkansas a card player told them their story, except this time it was HIM that treed the cat and cut the tail off. Had the very tail for a hatband. Davy kept pulling a surprised face and saying: "That so? My nevers! You ever heard such a thing Clark?" When all along Clark was the one who had to apologize to the big cat.

  The Greys have some swamp stories: one showed a scar around his wrist where he cut off his hand in a sawmill. Said a black witch doctor put it back on in trade for an alligator hide.

  The Tejanos catch most of it, everyone crowding in while someone winds the yarn. Crockett told a long story about what language horses speak. Says the Arkansaw horse he bought does everything backwards. Go forward is back up, speed up is slow down, hasn't seen a smart horse since Memphis and says the Tejano mustangs look at him funny. One of the Tejanos bunks his horse in the room under the wall where he sleeps. He gave a low whistle and that horse popped right out of that room looking at us. He made it spin, circle right, turn left, back up, with clicks and whispering and little hand signals. He floated his hat out on the ground and the horse picked it up and put it back on his head. Crockett tossed his coon hat out and the horse wrinked up his brow and just looked at it like he was worried. Blew out the whole bunch.

  Horse came up behind Mirelez in the firelight and hung his head over the man's shoulder while he talked. Sweetest love you ever saw.

  Davy can fiddle now and those boys dance. McGregor blows the pipes up and plays with a red face. Even Bull got up and struttin when one of the rancheros who doesn't speak much started whirling a loop and jumping in and out of it. After a minute he roped the coffee cup out of Bill Clark's hand, roped the shako of one of the commandantes. Somebody yelled: "Rope Bull's cat!"
Everybody kind of froze. One of the Tejanos said something in Spanish and they all started laughing, then we all did.

  "You could put a rope on Bull's kitty," said Davy, " But I doubt you could hold it." Bull just glowered at Wash like it was his fault.

  It's Sunday, February 28, 1836.

  The Parson wanted to pray over the stew, since it was Sunday. About the time we all stood up with out hats off and he started rolling we heard the North battery go. You could tell it was their big howitzer putting up a shell: Puh-bloom! The Parson, he didn't QUIT praying, no sir, he speeded up. OurGodinHeavenwhosetendermerciesdecendonallsinfulmen. All of a sudden Davy says AMEN! and everyone scattered.

  We laughed till we were crying.

  Santa Anna killed a courier from Houston and intercepted his letter. 1000 armed men and eight cannons on the way. He sent troops to guard the road, but it's empty to the horizon.

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