In 1738, a great plague killed nearly half the Cherokee people and drove the survivors higher into the Smoky Mountains. Years later another kind of plague - the invasion of the white men - would ultimately lead to the forced exodus of the Cherokees in 1838 on the Trail of Tears. During this hundred-year span, murder and massacre prey on all people in the Enchanted Land, including the Africans who were brought to this land not by choice, but by slavery.
Born into this world is Bucklee Brown, a boy destined to live in a mystical land where Cherokee spiritualism and Christian beliefs collide and blend.
Unto this land come the soldiers following brutally clear orders to remove the Cherokees by any means necessary. Blood law and blood lust lead to battle in the blue smoke of the great mountains.
This is a time of good and evil, of redemption and revenge. In the midst of tragedy and death, this is a time of spiritual strength found through faith in an amazing grace.
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By DAN MARSEE
iUniverse LLCCopyright © 2013 Dan Marsee
All rights reserved.
The journey began a long time before the white man realized that it was his manifest destiny to be the master of America from sea to shining sea, even to the exclusion and extinction of the native American Indians there before him.
The trailblazers came down through the Cumberlands seeking gaps and more accessible routes through the mountains so that their families could follow to build homes and find fortunes in the yet untamed wilderness. Untamed, that is, by the white man's standards and notions. These white trailblazers relied heavily on the Indian trail system known as "Athawominee" to create their trails which the white settlers would call by other names, including "The Wilderness Trail." In 1775, Daniel Boone and his thirty axmen blazed a trail through the Cumberland Gap, known to the Indians as "Quasioto." Two years earlier Boone's son, James, and some of his friends had become lost and were captured, tortured, and killed by a group of Indians. Following the death of James Boone, many white trailblazers and settlers became much more vigilant and violent in their encounters with the Indians.
Several years after the opening of the Cumberland Gap, white settlers ventured through the Gap on their own into the wilderness, many bringing their families along with the intention of taking ownership of a good piece of farm land near a river. In the eyes of these settlers, the Indians had no claim of ownership to any land that would be recognized in any court of law. Besides, in that land there were no courts, and there was no law. These trailblazers were not mere sojourners. They were settlers with dogged determination to live forever in these unconquered lands.
Adam Lockhart, his wife, Elizabeth, and his young son, Samuel, along with eleven other families traveled south together from Cumberland Gap in the hope of founding a township. Lockhart was a proud Scotsman who was often emboldened by whiskey and who was sometimes driven to rage when his authority was challenged. He was a small man with big plans and with an even bigger temper that befitted his fiery red hair and drooping moustache. He seldom spared the rod or spoiled his child. Although not always respected, he was feared by the others in his group, especially when he had been drinking. Lockhart considered himself to be the leader of these trailblazing settlers, and no one had come forward to challenge his sovereignty. Elizabeth was a frail woman who came from a Quaker home in Pennsylvania. She rarely spoke, and she honored her husband, even when his ways were less than honorable.
Samuel, although a large 10-year-old boy, was very quiet and even meek, to the dismay of his father. The boy respected and feared and loved his father, in spite of the strop marks on his back carved there by years of discipline. After a stropping, young Samuel ached when he stood straight, but he refused to bend. His pride made him stand tall in spite of the fire burning on his back. He suffered in silence. Samuel accepted each brutal punishment and each time was comforted by his mother's gentleness and tears. Elizabeth had a voice as sweet as honey that could soothe young Samuel through any adversity. Her long and silky light brown hair would cascade around Samuel as he snuggled his head on her shoulder. Samuel would sit in her lap and listen to her softly singing even after he had grown so tall that his feet touched the ground. His father would taunt Samuel and call him a Momma's boy, but one look from Elizabeth would send Adam on his way. It was as if the angel in her eyes frightened the devil in his.
Lockhart and the other men had heard the story of the massacre of James Boone. They had agreed to take no chances if they were to encounter any Indians. Most of the settlers were God-fearing farmers with no experience in the ways of war. Most were able hunters. Adam Lockhart considered himself an Indian fighter. He claimed to have fought alongside Daniel Boone and Simon Kenton in his earlier years of blazing new trails into Indian land. Now Adam Lockhart was blazing his own trail, looking for a home for his family and for the other families who would follow his lead. His lead. For the first time, he felt a great sense of pride in knowing that the survival of those around him depended on his ability to lead. Lockhart's pride was stronger than his fear of failure and even his fear of death. And when his pride began to wane, whiskey would give him strength.
"Bring me whiskey, boy," he would call to Samuel at the dusty end of each day. Young Samuel would stop whatever he was doing and take the jug to his father, who would sit beneath a shade tree and gulp down the whiskey until his shirt was soaked and his breath was heavy with drink. Adam would often sleep under the same tree where he had fallen with the jug beside him. The others would cover their ears to muzzle the night sounds of their drunken leader in his besotted slumbers. Then each morning, Adam Lockhart would be the first to pick up his gun and stand Moses-like—ready to lead his people, not out of but into the wilderness.
"Get up!" the Scotsman would yell at first light—and sometimes before the first light. "Sharpen your axes and load your guns. Let's see how far we can go today."
A few of the others, who had lost sleep because of the growling of this red-headed badger of a task master, grumbled and muttered to themselves. Slowly, they dragged their aching bodies from the ground and resigned themselves to another day of dirt and thorns and chiggers. And to the ever-present fear of unknown terrors ahead—of wild animals and of even wilder Indians.
The men in front wielded their axes to clear away trees and brush in the old pathways that had grown over from lack of travel or from only infrequent use by a few native hunters. The new trail had to be wide enough to accommodate their wagons loaded with families and their provisions. The new road being built by the blood and sweat of the trailblazers would someday guide others to the virgin lands where townships would be built by the blood and sweat of the settlers. Occasionally, the men would have to take down great trees, exerting all of their combined strength to split the massive trunks and move them from the new road.
Week after week the travelers endured the harsh life on the trail. Each day they sought to find the right place to settle. Each night they talked about what they planned to do when they finally found the right place. Plans to build homes and a town. Plans to raise their children in a God-fearing place with a church and a school. Plans to put down deep roots in a place their children and their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren could call home forever. Plans to plant the seeds of civilization for their progeny.
Each night the women and small children would sleep inside the wagons. The men and the older boys would sleep on the ground, usually underneath the wagons. Several of the men would stand armed vigil throughout the night. Then each morning the group would renew their tenacious search for the right place. The right place would require rich land close to water but high enough to be safe from floods. Land rich enough to bring forth food to feed their families. Land rich enough with fish and game to feed and clothe their families. Land free for the taking or land that could be taken by force, if necessary.
Lockhart was always ready to use force. He carried a long rifle made from the best European steel and carefully crafted onto a stock made of English walnut. He kept his powder dry in a horn hanging from a rawhide string, and he carried a fur pouch for bullets and patches. He wore a coarse linsey-woolsey shirt that made him sweat profusely. He kept his deerskin leggings pulled up, but they still sometimes dragged the ground over his boots. He wore no hat to cover his red hair, which blew like meadow grass in the wind, in defiance of any Indian seeking such a rare scalp as a trophy.
One day in the late spring of 1778, the party stopped to set up camp on a hill about a hundred yards from a swiftly flowing river that was beginning to swell with the melting of the snows. There was an odd winter chill in the air from a northerly wind. The travelers pulled their coats and scarves over their faces as they gathered wood for their fires. Adam Lockhart grabbed his jug to keep him warm. As Lockhart would do at the end of each day's journey, he and several of the men walked about a mile ahead to scout for imminent dangers, to survey the land, and to see what they might encounter the next day. Standing at the top of a wooded hill and looking down toward the river, Lockhart saw the Indians.
The two Indians, one apparently very old and one appearing to be very young, knelt beside the river cupping their hands to bring the holy water to their brown bodies. They drank the mountain water, and it was clean and cold. The old man splashed the cold water on the young one's back when he bent down to drink. The boy turned, shivering, with a broad smile on his face. The old man laughed out loud. They leaned upon a rock and rested beside the rushing water.
"Would you look at that?" Lockhart said. "It's a good thing I saw them savages before we lit our fires."
"They ain't wearing paint," said Solomon Grady, who had some experience in the Indian wars. In spite of his name, Solomon was no wiser than any of the others in this group. He had the look of a wild man with bushy black eyebrows, a multi-colored beard, and gray hair protruding from his coonskin cap.
"Let's get out of here," said Old Man MacGregor. Maon MacGregor had been "Old Man" MacGregor since he was in his early 30's. He spoke through a scraggly gray beard and his voice had a rasp that made everything he said harsh and unpleasant to hear. His white hair was sparse on his mostly bald pate.
"Yes, leave them alone," said Connor Jordan, a sad young man who wanted nothing more than to get back to his young wife who was in mourning from the recent loss of their infant daughter on the trail. Connor had become a pallid ghost-like figure of a man with haunted eyes, almost black, that looked inward, never making contact with other people. He wore his dark coat even on the hottest of days, and he kept the brim of his old slouched hat bent down over his forehead as if to hide from the light.
"And let them kill us all in our sleep?" Lockhart derided the others. "By God, I'll show you how to deal with Indians!" Lockhart inched down the hill toward the river. The roar of the river muffled the sounds of the white man's descent. He was now within easy range of his prey.
Lockhart set down his jug and raised his rifle. Without further discussion and without hesitation, Lockhart aimed and fired. The old Indian fell onto a large rock just slightly above the water. The river ran red with the blood of the Indian. Lockhart bellowed for the others to fire as he reloaded. They hurried down the hill, but none fired a shot. Old Man MacGregor stumbled and rolled down the hill near the water's edge.
The young Indian called out "Edudu" as he ran toward the old Indian lying lifeless on the rock. Connor Jordan turned and walked away. The others fired wildly, their bullets ricocheting off rocks and trees, except for one bullet that caught MacGregor in the chest, sending him face down in the mud. The mud oozed red with the blood of the white man. No one knew whose bullet had found MacGregor.
Lockhart fired and his bullet cut deep into the back of the young brave who again cried out, "Edudu!" This time there was great pain in his cry.
"You fool!" Solomon Grady shouted at Adam Lockhart. "You'll get us all ...", but Grady said no more when he saw the white-hot anger in Adam's eyes. No one else dared speak.
Lockhart handed his rifle and powder horn to Grady and then waded out into the water to the now crimson rock where the Indians lay. Lockhart stared for some time at the Indians. The old one did not move. The young one moaned as he tried to rise from the water. Then, with an inhuman scream, Lockhart raised the young Indian's head by his raven hair. Lockhart looked to the sky. Then, taking a great knife from his belt, Lockhart, in a quick, sawing motion, cut the flesh that held the hair. The young Indian screamed wildly as he reached for the knife that tore into his flesh. Lockhart ripped the scalp away as the Indian's lifeblood spilled into the river. His writhing body fell into the river, but his scalp was held high in the cool early evening air. The men watched in bewilderment as Lockhart worked the same mutilation on the old Indian. One of the men vomited uncontrollably. Another man fell to his knees, his palms open toward the sky.
Adam Lockhart tucked his trophies into a buckskin pouch as he walked proudly to the shore. This was his time to stand tall.
"Bury them," he ordered.
"But where?" they asked.
"Where their friends can't find them. Under the rock," he pointed into the water.
The men struggled with the great rock in the river. Finally, the rock rolled away. Solomon Grady held the bodies down while the others replaced the rock, forever entombing the Indians in their watery grave. John Bryan, a lanky young man with a pock-scarred face, stood alone in the water and said The Lord's Prayer while Adam Lockhart stood on the shore, his bloody hands holding the jug of whiskey across his chest.
"What was the young buck saying?" asked John Bryan.
"Edudu," explained Grady, "means grandfather. He was trying to help his grandfather. He was just a boy."
"May God forgive us," said John Bryan, who would one day become a church deacon.
It was dark when the men returned to camp carrying the body of Old Man MacGregor whose widow wailed as she ran her feeble fingers through his gray beard. MacGregor was given a proper Christian burial the next morning. In his eulogy it was told how Maon MacGregor had died a hero in battle against a horde of savage Indians. The men did not boast about this battle. Years later their secret would die with them.
But from the top of the hill, a silent witness had beheld the horror. Adam Lockhart had told his little Samuel not to follow him when he scouted ahead. This time Samuel had followed his father. There, standing in the river was a man that Samuel had never seen before. Not a man. But a beast. A white beast holding human scalps in his bloody hands. Until that moment, Samuel had never thought of an Indian as a human being. He felt pity and shame. He wept all the way back to the encampment where he slid unnoticed into the wagon for the first of many sleepless, terrifying nights he would suffer throughout the rest of his life. Samuel never told anyone of this terror.
As soon as the last words were said at MacGregor's funeral, the mournful band of travelers moved on. They followed the path of the river, breaking camp earlier each morning and traveling until the last light of day for the next six days. Then, beyond fatigue, the travelers could endure no more. Each new place began to look the same as the last place. There were always more mountains and more valleys. Summer would be coming soon. The people were far too weak to withstand travel in the oppressive heat. Besides MacGregor, three other members of the group had lost their lives on this trail. The first to die was Amos Goforth who was killed in a logging accident while clearing the path. The second to die was Polly Jordan, the infant daughter of Connor Jordan, who died while struggling to be born in a wagon during a mountain rainstorm. The last to die was Naomi MacGregor who died of grief, or maybe from fatigue, a few days after the loss of her husband.
So in 1778 these pilgrims found a place. Only history would tell if it was the right place. It was a small valley tucked in snugly at the base of a great mountain. A great river ran just below the valley. The land was level and the earth was rich for farming. There was fish and game abundant in the streams and forests. Not far from the valley was an open meadow with tall, green grasses where a multitude of deer grazed in soundless grandeur.
The land was free for the taking. There were some abandoned huts that had been occupied by Cherokees many years before. There were relics and signs showing where a ceremonial square once stood. There was decaying wood that had been burned out for the making of a canoe. There were reeds and flint for the making of weapons, gourds for the making of musical instruments for religious rituals, and clay for the making of pots. There was a Cherokee village without the Cherokees.
Excerpted from BUCKLEE by DAN MARSEE. Copyright © 2013 Dan Marsee. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse LLC.
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