Yesterday, Author K . Meador made an appearance. To read more about Author K. Meador click
As promised, here is Part 1 Reading from The Knight of the Dixie Wilds
Colonel Tyler, broken in health and worn from hard life in the trenches, returned from the War at its close in the spring of 1865.
He had been a wealthy planter, owning two large plantations and many slaves. His home was near Pearl River, sixteen miles above Jackson in the state of Mississippi. Before the War, his place was one of the beautiful spots in Dixie. The country was one of tall trees, crooked rivers, clear creeks, and fertile lands. In the springtime, when magnolia, dogwood, woodbine, and wild plum trees were in bloom, the forest was one continuous bouquet of beauty. Blackberries, grapes, and wild cherries were abundant in the summer. The fall with its hickory nuts, beechnuts, and ripe persimmons was no less attractive than the other seasons.
The Colonel’s eldest son, who was destined to lead a picturesque life and become the hero of this story, had not yet reached his teens. Because of his habit of rambling in the woods in search of game and other wild adventures, he had been nicknamed “Buck”. Strenuous out-of-door life had given him strength and endurance equal to that of a wild Indian.
His almost constant companion was a Negro boy named King. King was about Buck’s size, but was two years older and of stocky build. Although he had been a slave all his life, the two boys had been born playfellows ever since they could remember. Through Buck’s influence with his father, King had often been spared punishment and had obtained favors which the other Negroes never enjoyed.
While Colonel Tyler was in the War, the two boys explored every thicket on the hills and every jungle in the swamps for miles around. They spent nearly all of the days and much of the nights in the woods. They kept a pack of dogs, which they had trained to hunt the many kinds of wild animals that were to be found in the wild sections of that country.
Like thousands of other once wealthy slave owners, their sudden misfortune was too much for their pride. Furthermore, there appeared to be nothing ahead of them in the war-swept country but starvation. They decided to sell out what little they had left and leave the desolate scene. The question was, Where should they go? The Colonel wanted someplace far removed from all that would remind him of the past, to start all over again in some frontier country where land was cheap and where he could reasonably hope for better opportunities for his children.
Australia, South America, and the frontier of Texas were considered. After a lengthy consideration, they decided on Texas. There were many broken-up families in the community that held similar views. They, too, were anxious to hide their poverty and broken pride from the eyes of gloating enemies. From these, the Colonel selected a dozen families who he induced to venture forth on the hazardous trail toward the West. They turned what little property they had into cash, at less than half its worth, and purchased wagons, teams, guns, ammunition, tools, and camping outfits.
As the day of departure came near, Buck grew distressed over the thought of being separated from his life-long playfellow, King. It had been decided that none of the Negroes would be taken along, but after long and earnest pleading by Buck, the Colonel relented and agreed to let King go.
King was an orphan, and while the other Negroes had no control over him, they strongly opposed his being taken away to a country unknown to them. They used all of their power to keep King from agreeing to go. They told him that hostile wild Indians would kill and scalp him if he went with the Boss to Texas; but King was determined to go wherever Buck went, regardless of the results.
He declared that he was not afraid to go anywhere, as long as Buck and the Boss were with him. He pointed to the fact that the Yankees had been trying to kill the Boss for four years but had failed, and he felt sure that Indians were no better fighters than the Yankees.
Preparations for the long journey were completed, so they hitched the teams to their canvas-covered wagons and began saying farewell to the large assembly of kindred and friends. This was a sad hour to all. Women wept in each other’s arms, while strong men trembled with speechless emotion when they gripped hands, as they believed, for the last time in this world. They were leaving forever the land of their forefathers, the graves of departed loved ones, the dear scenes of happy childhood, the peerless Pearl River, shaded by wide-spreading beech and magnolia trees. Tear-stained handkerchiefs waved until the moving caravan was lost to view on the winding road.
On reaching the ferry on Pearl River, they were joined by several more families, and the refugees were on the first leg of the long journey to an, as yet, unknown country. Progress was painfully slow. Much of the road was all but impassable. Washed-out bridges and high water in the large creeks and rivers caused long delays. After nearly three months on the road, they found themselves on what appeared to be boundless prairies, west of the Brazos River in Texas. As far as the eye could see, there was nothing but the monotony of a treeless country. They made a temporary camp and examined the surroundings for several days. They assembled in a camp one morning and held a council. Thomas Ratliff, the oldest man in the party, expressed himself as follows:
“I have examined this land carefully and find it to be as rich as any in the world, and it is so near level that it will never wash away. The price of it is almost nothing. The boundless range of fine grass is sufficient for all of our stock, the year around. If we settle here, we will, in the course of a few years, grow rich with development of this matchless country. I believe it will take us but a short time to regain our lost fortunes here.”
All of the other men, except Colonel Tyler, were of Ratliff’s opinion and decided to settle there.
“Perhaps all of you are right in your opinions of the country,” replied the Colonel, “but I differ with you. There is no timber here for building fences. No logs or lumber with which to build houses. There is but little firewood and no running water.
“There is not a post-office, grist mill, or doctor within fifty miles of this place. No railroad market nearer than a hundred miles. I cannot subject my family to the hardships that will follow if I should settle here.
“I am going to head back eastward and travel until I find more timber and some marks of civilization. When I locate, I will write and give a full description of what I find, so that, in case you decide later to move from this part, you can follow me, if I have found a better one.”
Pathetic farewells were exchanged the next morning, and Colonel Tyler and his family drove back toward the rising sun.