These are short stories put up each Friday that you can read for free. By the next Friday the post will be taken down and a new one will go up. Enjoy!
“That was before Little Turtle’s War,” Joe pointed out.
Colter nodded, but didn’t really hear. The mention of Boone had brought up Kenton in his mind, and that made him think back to George.
What the hell is ol’ Drouillard doin’ right about now? Colter wondered as he put the rope away and took up an oar. They were heading up to a bend in the river and it looked like there were some rapids. Of course George’s dad, Pierre Drouillard, had saved Kenton at Sandusky after the Shawnee had forced the poor man through the gauntlet for days straight.
Colter chuckled to himself. Of course if Kenton had died instead of being adopted into the tribe then he’d never have scouted for George Rogers Clark in ’78, something that allowed the commander to capture Fort Sackville and be forevermore known as the ‘Conqueror of the Northwest.’ William Clark had spoken often during the expedition about his older brother, and how he’d done more than any other to win so much land from the British in that campaign, although it wouldn’t be formalized until the 1783 Treaty of Paris. The Thirteen Colonies were nearly doubled in size by the measure, William Clark had often said around the campfire at night – especially if he’d been in his cups – though it was an assessment that Meriwether Lewis often downplayed, out of hearing of Clark and when he’d sobered up a bit, of course.
Colter sighed as he thought back on it all. After that George Rogers Clark took more interest in Simon Kenton, which meant he had more work back home in Ohio. That lead to more men, and that’d been how Colter had come to his attention. After all, he was looking for men that knew their way around the wild and around a gun, and everyone agreed the young John Colter was that man. From there he’d travelled in the circles he’d needed to, and come to the attention of those needed to come to.
“Yep, that damn Daniel Boon,” Forest said.
“Oh, c’mon!” Joe said, and he and Colter both turned about in the canoe to give the surly trapper a cold look.
“What!” Forest said. “I had my daughter kidnapped by Shawnee and I rode in and saved her, I’d be a hero too.”
Joe shook his head. “Don’t be stupid, Forest – ain’t no woman stupid enough to have your daughter.”
“Or bed ya,” Colter said, and the two men immediately fell to laughing.
Behind them Forest just stewed.
“Oh, what’s the matter, For,” Joe said after a few moments, taking pity on him.
“That damn Boone!” Forest shouted, unable to hold his anger in any longer. “Never should’ve moved us from Kentucky to New Spain in ’99, never! We were doing just fine back along the Little Sandy River, just fine, mind you! But no, for Boone it was never good enough, and the chance to be a judge!”
“And if it was never for Boone and who he knew then we’d never have heard of Lewis and Clark and we’d never be here now,” Joe said, his exasperation plain.
“So you started out in 1803, then?” Colter asked.
Joe shook his head. “1804, wintered north of Council Bluffs, and had a hell of a time of it.”
“Couldn’t find nothin’ to trap, huh?”
“Ha!” Forest laughed from behind them. “We found plenty – it was stolen!”
“Stolen?” Colter said, his brows scrunching up.
Ahead of him, Joe nodded. “We were flat broke and busted and had nothin’. We joined Charles Courtin’s band of trappers that spring and went all through the season with ‘em, finally wintering with the Teton Sioux further up the Missouri.”
“God, what fools we were!” Forest shouted out.
“What happened this time?” Colter said. He felt like laughing, but felt it’d be bad form.
“Sioux robbed us all blind, and we were lucky to make it out alive.”
“Many didn’t,” Forest said, “and Joe there came damn close to being one.”
Colter looked up at the quiet trapper, and Joe nodded before pulling up his shirt.
“Took a damn Indian javelin right in the side,” he said, tracing his finger over a thick, red scar just above his waist.
“Damn!” Colter said, and Joe nodded again.
“Was laid up for most of the spring with that.”
“And we were just starting to get back on our feet and into a bit of profit from the summer when you men rolled back down the river,” Forest said from the back.
Colter nodded. August 12 was the day Lewis had said he’d met them, and he’d mentioned how they’d just wanted some powder and lead to replace what they’d lost fighting some Sioux over the winter. Now here they were, and moving back into the wilderness.
“Look alive,” Joe said from the prow of the boat, “we’ve got some rapids coming up here.”
Joseph Harrison Dixon, Illinois Fur Trader