I ran my hand over the silver cup once more. The light of the flickering fire caught a flaw in the metal work. That would signify a new chapter in my life, one of rivalry and hardship. I had once thought that hunting a coon had been the hardest thing in the world. I was soon to be proven wrong…
One ugly boy after another appeared in front of me cornering me in the dingy alley with no way out. "So, the dog boy has come back to town", the ugliest of the group jeered. He was missing two teeth in the front, had a torrent of yellow hair that looked (and smelled) as if he hadn't washed them in a year or two, a pair worn, oversized boots, and a nasty scar running down the length of his face from his ear all the way to his lower jaw. I recognized him immediately as Ugly #1; the one had given so graciously a bloody nose. Behind him, came Ugly #2, Ugly #3, and all of the rest of the members of the gang that had assault me on my first time into town. "Liked that bloody nose?" I laughed. "This time," Ugly #2 said, "I wouldn't be so cocky. The marshal won't be here to look after you." The rest, emboldened, called out their insults.
"Dog boy ain't so brave now!"
"Where are those damn-god ugly dogs that you had?"
"Got killed by the first coon they saw?"
"Or are they just hiding in fright at the sight of some real dogs?"
I simply couldn't stand their insults and jeering. Launching myself at them, I caught two with my fists and a further third with my leg. Momentarily caught off guard, they looked at me funny, until their leader roared, "Get the dog boy!"
Just when I thought I was going to be pulverized, I was pulled out by a pair of rough hands. By the time I escaped from the melee though, I had received a bloody nose, several nasty welts, a cracked nail, two black eyes, and several deep cuts, not to mention my shirt virtually torn into shreds. The looked me over once, then without a trace of emotion grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and dragged me to the marshal. "This," the man said, "is what I found tangled up with seven other boys."
The marshal laughed, "It's you again! What are you doing in town again?" Looking at the other man's puzzled expression he said, "This is the boy that your son William and his friends beat him up last time, but they didn't get away easy." Reverting his attention to me he asked, "How those fine coon hounds doing? Heard they won first place in that hunting championship!" I replied, "My hounds were torn up fighting a mountain lion that would have killed me. My family and I came to town using the money that the hounds earned for us." I said this all in a monotonous tone, trying my best not to show that an old wound had just began hurting again.
Upon hearing this, the marshal said, "I'm sure that those dogs will live on forever in your heart. They were some of the best hunting dogs I've ever seen. We'd best get you to the doctor first though. Being cut up like that isn't exactly the best situation you can be in." It was then that I noticed that I was almost sitting in a pool of shallow blood. Just seeing so much of my own blood, was enough to trigger many painful memories of another time when there was so much blood in one place. The memories overwhelmed me and I knew no more.
I awoke with the aura of freshly baked cookies hanging all about. Drowsily, I opened my eyes to see my mama hovering about me anxiously. Seeing me arouse, she immediately began scolding. "You foolish boy," she lamented, "You have been out for almost five hours now! Five! Why couldn't you have just stayed out of trouble for one day? Why? And now you have got the whole family worried over you! We've just moved in and you have already made quite a few enemies with the boys around here! You could have just-" She trailed off as someone knocked on the front door. The murmur of indistinct voices drifted into the room. Half an hour later, mama arrived back in the room, still muttering to herself.
Seeing me she said, "We need to talk about this, immediately. Moving into town is more complex than I thought it was" Only minutes later, mama, papa, and all my little sisters filed in all looking grim. Papa was the one to break the silence. "Billy, I wished you had told us about this earlier. If we had known we had enemies in town, we might have not moved here at all. But now we're here we will have to deal with it. School's starting tomorrow, and I want you not to rile those boys and make some good friends." Mama chimed in, "Billy, I know this will be hard but please try to not anger those boys and further. Here's how you do it…"
The next day at school I was had not even made it to the playground before William (aka Ugly#1) and his friends was there barring my way. "Wanna fight again you dumb hill-billy?" he taunted. I ignored him. "You sure those dead dogs really did die from a mountain lion? Or did they just die in fright?" I let his brazen disrespect pass. He seemed to feel angry at the way I pay no heed to him. He started to say something much worse, but by some fortuitous stroke of luck a teacher came by and said, "You lot there, you stop bullying that poor boy and get over here now!" With hatred flashing in his red eyes (sounds like the devil, doesn't he?), he spat, "You'll soon wish you'd never been boy you little hill-billy." With that he was dragged away by the teacher.
The school day went by without much event. William was put in the back almost immediately for talking back to the teacher, and the rest of his gang seemed frightened of the teacher, so naturally they gave me no trouble at all. I actually made a couple of friends. I chatted animatedly with my newfound friends (they were the saloon owner's son, the marshal's son, the barber's son, and the doctor's son) about every this and that. Suddenly, the witty (at least I thought it was witty) remark I had been about to make stuck in my throat as I saw the gang (I'll call William and his friends that from now on) coming towards me. My new friends were quick to prove their loyalty. They stood up to the gang's nasty jeers and after finding me not so easy a victim; they left to terrorize some easier prey.
Whistling a happy tune, I ambled slowly toward our house. How it compared with our old log house! There it stood with the rickety old fence already covered in blooming roses. The house had been built in 1893 for some 70-year-old lawyer (the name was like Mr. Shugalamrifuria) and had been nearly burnt down in the heart of two conflagrations that had hit the town of Tahlequah. It was situated near the middle of the town with many important places within walking distance. I went on admiring the place for some time not even noticing that I had passed through the front doors. The crown molding and exquisite carvings on the fireplace were being examined and I was praying to thank God for this house when mama came running in.
"Billy," she began, "I don't know how to tell you this. It's a little much for you right now but-, but-; Billy, I think you have to come see for yourself." She led me outside to where a notice had been nailed onto our door. In my reverie, I had completely ignored the notice, but now the messy scrawled letters seemed to jump out of the paper. It readIf you wish to have your little damned Trophy back, meet us alone outside fox
Street on the fifth of June. If you don't
Show arrive, expect never to see your
precious trophy again. By the way,
I would bring some valuables to bargain
With.William and the gang
The notice made me madder than my grandpa had been the time the no-good Pritchards had made fun of him. "How dare they do such a thing? I'm going to strangle my trophy back this instant!" I shouted as I thundered down the street. My quest though, failed. At every door I was met by an unsuspecting parent who immediately told me to go run and play somewhere with less people. After hours of futile searching, I began to home with despair weighing heavily in my heart. Then, an idea struck me. I called upon my friends and they immediately became inextricably entangled in my complex problem.
Back at my house, we became instantly involved in thinking. My room (that I now didn't have to share) became I pot of insults, ideas, and general chaos.
"How are we sure William's responsible?"
"He's the only one that is that. I am positive that he's culpable. Anyways he's already proven himself as Billy's sworn nemesis."
"That nefarious, insidious, black-hearted, prevaricating, self-proclaimed tyrant. He should be sentenced to jail!"
"Enough of this we should we helping Billy find a solution to this problem!"
"I just want to do this!"
"That was my head, stupid!"
This continued for a time before some real good ideas emerged.
"We should steal into his house at night!"
"Or we could set a trap on June 5!"
"Even better, we could do both!"
By the time we had finished plotting, a real plan had emerged.
Today (June 1)
Steal into William's house
Recruit as many friends as we can and confront William
Try to get as many of the gang out peacefully
Same as the 2 and 3
Create a trap for the gang on Fox Street
June 6Tell marshal
The night was cold and I shivered under my jacket. The trees that had seemed so benign in the daylight now ripped at my face. The wind howled an unearthly lament as it whistled through the neighborhood. It was then that I heard the screech owl. Then I heard another. Remembering the bad luck that it had once foretold, I halted a while before gathering the courage to go on.
My friends and I stole quietly into the yard careful not to disturb so much as a leaf. Silent as shadows, we snuck in through the window that had been left open to allow in a cool, night breeze. We searched for what seemed hours with the darkness clawing at our faces. Finally, our search yielded some fruit. My trophy (it felt just like it) was there behind a ball. I coaxed it out of its corner, and we left by the window. Giddy at our success, we failed to notice the string around the trophy until too late. As we came about forty paces from the yard, I felt resistance on the trophy. For some inexplicable reason, the trophy seemed to be held by some invisible force. Yanking hard on the trophy, I suddenly noticed the rope. It was then that I heard a yowl come from inside the house. Knowing that we had been duped, we let the trophy go and ran too late. William came running out yelling for help.
Within minutes we were under investigation by the marshal. Instead of scolding us, he actually supported us, saying that William's actions deserved the consequences. All the adults present agreed too. In frustration at being overruled and his success being quenched, William (who had gloating in a corner) came toward us and wordlessly picked up my precious silver trophy and smashed it towards the ground.
I watched in slow motion as the trophy sailed out of his hand. It seemed to hang in the air for an eternity before it began its downward descent. The highly polished silver gleamed as it fell to the ground. My fingers reached out for it a fraction of a second too late. The trophy rolled off my fingertips and hit the ground, bouncing off. On the bounce I was able to catch it and prevent any further damage but my efforts were useless. There was already a large dent in the metalwork. The rest of the inquiry passed without notice, but in my mind the inquiry had been nothing less than a disaster all along.
This incident did nothing to cool the skirmishes that were quickly escalating into battles of a full-out war. Both sides had gained friends, power, and support. Now in class people poked each other in the back, launched rubber bands, and passed threatening notes with such frequency, the teacher almost gave up. On the playground fights erupted here and there from inside the slide to on the field. The number of kids hurt every day reached a record high.
Life continued like this for some time before an event hit that became another turning point in my life. One day as I arrived home from school my sister in a most ebullient tone enthusiastically told me that there was to be a hunting competition here. I checked with my parents. It was true. Old memories, painful and happy flooded into my mind. "Can we watch the competition, papa," I asked knowing we had no dogs of our own. "Better yet," I was told, "Mr. Jordan has some fine hunting hounds. He has agreed to lend them to you for the time being."
Anxious to see those supposedly fine dogs, I bolted off towards Mr. Jordan's house right after my parents were done talking. As he opened the door, I was surprised to see him as our judge for the hunting competition. "Hello Billy", he said with a big inviting smile. Knowing what I had came for; he led me over to his yard where two hounds were busy trying to chase a rabbit. "They haven't hunted for coons in a while, but they learn fast. Good luck!" he said. And with that he swept back into the house, leaving me alone with the dogs.
The rest of my day was spent trying to teach the hounds again in time for the hunt. Mr. Jordan was right they were fast learners. Within an hour, they were already acting like experienced hunting dogs. As I whooped them on and on around the yard, I felt my blood course through my veins in a way that only hunting did. I tried my best to suppress the painful memories inside me.
The day of the big hunt finally came. It happened to be on the night of the last day of school. I could barely sit still as the teachers taught us their final lessons. When the bell finally rang to leave, I bolted out to run home and prepare for the big hunt. The rest of the day was spent preparing for the big hunt. We had to drive all the ways into the woods surrounding the Ozarks some miles away from our old log house.
Arriving at the competition, I found out that I had to be paired with another hunter and his dogs. And who else was my partner but William. He looked at my dogs with contempt and said, "Leave the hunting to me. Don't mess up my chances to win."
As the hunt began, we set off in different directions. My hounds had treed three coons already before we came across William. When I saw him, my face went ashen. A mountain lion only twenty paces away were pursuing him. Seeing me, it stopped chasing William for a new prey. Its yellow eyes pierced me and I stood there transfixed unable to move. My dogs were the first to react attacking the lion and catching it off guard. This time, my hounds fought with such ferocity that the lion retreated hissing back.
William looked at me with such gratitude; I almost felt pity for him. His hounds he later told me had been torn up by the lion, and he would have been too if I hadn't came along. From that day on, he never gave me any trouble. Plus to top it off he "donated" two coonskins to me helping me win the hunting competition.
After my episode with William, I have never had an enemy in town again. In time I became one the best students and friends around town. I was greatly regretful when I had to leave town to begin the next episode in my life…