Boone - the Early Years
Chapter 3

Harrisburg

After Boone sees everyone in the camp is properly set out for their first night in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania he goes over to the cooking fire for the Gray contingent, asks for both Olive and Nellie to walk with him, and walks toward the horses. He stops short of the rope corral they’ve put up for the stock, turns to the two young ladies, and says, “A couple of weeks back your mother told me both of you want to be my wife, and have insisted I’ll be your man for some years. Is that true?”

They both look at him for a moment, glance at each other, and nod their heads yes. When both go to speak at once Boone holds up his hand, and says, “It would have been a good idea to speak to me back then. But I won’t worry about what has been. I now have two good friends who want to marry me, and are sisters. If I choose one over the other I upset a good friend, and I may damage your relationship with the other. I’ve spoken about this with Gran and Heidi, and thought it over while on the trail. I’ve no intention of choosing between the two of you.” Both look stunned and hurt, until he adds, “So, you two now need to make a decision, and answer this question. Can you get along as sister wives if I marry both of you?” The eyes of both women go very wide while they gulp, turn to look at each other, and shrug their shoulders. It’s clear to Boone they hadn’t thought of this option. “Talk it over, and give me an answer in the morning.” He turns, and walks over to the horses.

Boone enters the corral, and stands there while he cuts up an apple. He soon has both his hands out feeding Brownie and Morgan apple pieces. After feeding two apples to the horses Boone goes to his wagons.

The next morning Boone is visited by Mrs Gray, Olive, and Nellie while he eats his breakfast. Mrs Gray has a big smirk on her face, Olive is a little angry, and Nellie looks a little confused. Olive says, “Boone, I don’t think you fully understand...”

She’s cut off short when Boone stands, and says, “No, Olive! I don’t think you fully understand the situation. I’ve no intention of choosing between you. I’ve offered you both what you want. If you choose not to accept it, then you’ve made the choice, not me. If you’ve an issue due to what the preachers have said about one man and one wife, I’ve checked the Bible from cover to cover. There’s nothing saying a man must have only one wife. And there’s many cases of important people favored by God having multiple wives. Thus a religious argument isn’t any good. The federal laws don’t prohibit such a marriage, so you can’t say it isn’t legal. Also, this state recognizes Common Law Marriages, and it has no limitations on the number of people involved. So it comes down to what you want, and what you choose. Make a decision!”

It’s clear Olive didn’t expect Boone to undercut all her arguments so quickly or so thoroughly. She stands there, and seems to be dithering, so Boone decides to press the issue for a clear answer. He says, “When I finish my breakfast I’m going back into town. Both of you will be ready to ride in with me to find and approve a minister to conduct our three way wedding. Is that clear Nellie?” He turns to her, and she nods yes while smiling. He turns to Olive, “Is that clear, Olive?” She looks him in the eye. For a moment it looks like she’s going to argue, then she drops her eyes, and nods yes as well. “Good. I’m glad that’s settled. Olive, although you’re the younger sister I expect you to be the senior wife. So you have to be ready to run our household, and to provide Nellie with direction, but not be a bully to her. Understand?”

Olive gives a weak smile, nods yes, and says, “Yes, Boone.”

Mrs Gray says, “Well, not exactly how I thought it would go, but I’m glad you’ve got that sorted out, Boone. I need to go into town, and I’d like you to ride with me, as well, please.”

He smiles, and says, “I’ll be ready as soon as I finish eating my breakfast, Missus Gray.”

The three ladies leave, and Boone turns around to look at the big smiles on the faces of Mary and Heidi. He simply shrugs his shoulders, and says, “I couldn’t think of any other way of not upsetting one or the other. What else could I do?”

His grandmother smiles, and says, “Nothing else. Now you have to find a minister to agree with you.”

“I think I will. After all, there’s Quakers, Mennonites, and Amish in the county, somewhere.” Both ladies laugh, and they all go back to the food they have ready for their breakfasts.

A little later Boone and the three Gray ladies ride into the business district of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The first stop is a livery where Mrs Gray hires a horse and buggy. While the man harnesses the horse to the buggy he answers Boone’s questions about churches and ministers. Mrs Gray also arranges to have the ladies’ horses left at the livery while they use the buggy. So Boone unsaddles the horses for them, and puts the horses in the stalls the stableman indicates for them to use.

Then it’s off to talk to the ministers of religion. The fourth man they talk to is happy to do the three person wedding for them at the Baptist church where he preaches, so they make arrangements to be married after his service on Sunday May 26th. Olive opens her mouth to say something when Boone sets the date, but a quick glance from him has her staying quiet, and her mother giggling at their interaction.

With the wedding organized their next stop is a seamstress to have a new ‘Sunday go to Meeting’ dress made for each of the girls to wear as a wedding dress. Boone thinks of himself as lucky when they agree on a style of dress, material, and measurements are done within an hour.

Mid-morning the four are back at the camp with the buggy stopped right beside Mrs Gray’s wagon while she supervises Boone shifting four lock-boxes from her wagon to the buggy. She places some old blankets and several bags of old clothes over the boxes to hide what they are. Then they head back into town. All three ladies have loaded shotguns beside them while Boone rides behind the buggy.

Once back in the main business district they stop at the bank Mrs Gray wishes to use. Mrs Gray goes in to ask the manager to provide help to carry her deposit in. Soon seven men walk out of the bank. Two of them step to the side of the doorway with rifles in their hands ready to use, clearly guards; one man in a nice suit is directing everything, obviously the manager; and four men grab the lock-boxes to carry them inside. Mrs Gray is right behind them after saying, “Boone, you and the girls take the other stuff to the minister, return the buggy, collect the horses, and I’ll see you back here.” The three of them nod acceptance of their orders, Boone mounts Morgan, and they move off down the street.

On the way back to the bank, after collecting the horses, Boone has them stop at the Telegraph Office to send a message to the gunsmith he knows in New Haven, Connecticut to ask for the current prices on more of the guns so he can buy some for Olive and Nellie.

At the bank they go in, and find Mrs Gray in an office watching while a teller is counting the coins from a strongbox. Both Olive and Nellie are put to work watching two other tellers counting while Boone is told to open an account. He doesn’t know why, but he does as asked, then he waits outside the bank to watch the horses.

Mrs Gray and the girls leave the bank over an hour after their arrival, and Mrs Gray says, “Boone, I deposited the dowry for both of the girls into the account you opened, so you’ve got some extra money to spend on things to take with you. I’m sure you can make good use of sixty thousand dollars.” On hearing the amount all three youngsters turn to stare at her, and all she does is grin at them.

Boone sighs, and says, “I’m sure we can. The first thing is to make two more wagons for the extra living space and freight space. Let’s go back for lunch.” The others agree, so they mount up, and go back to the camp.

After lunch Boone returns to town to look for a place to make the new wagons. After asking a few people about available places, and looking at two, he rents a large barn owned by a shipping company. They previously used wagons to move things, but now most shipments are by rail, so the barn is not needed for the horses and wagons they don’t have.

After he returns to camp Boone, Mary, and Heidi pack up their gear and move to the rented barn. They’re soon established on one side of the barn with Morgan and the ten mules comfortable in the stables section. All are happy to be out of the weather for the night.

On the next morning of Sunday May 19th, 1861 Boone is up early to do a few chores, and have a wash before he goes to church at the one he’ll be married in next week. Mrs Gray and her family are there as planned. At the end of the service the minister welcomes them, and announces their wedding is to be held at the church the next Sunday. Because of the number of parishioners who talk to them Boone and the Gray family are late back for lunch with Mary and Heidi, who stayed at the barn.

After lunch Boone returns to the campsite with the Gray family to help them with moving to the ranch of Mr Mark Luke, the husband of Mr Gray’s sister, which is their destination. Mrs Gray’s staff have spent the morning packing their gear and cleaning up their part of the site, so they’re all ready to move out as soon as the Gray family change into work clothes. Boone feeds Brownie an apple, and talks to him while he waits for the others. Then they move out.

Although the Luke Ranch is only a little way out of town they take a bit over an hour to get there at a walk. Mr Luke’s staff direct them to the fields to use, and the one for Brownie is obvious by the three-sided barn in it, so Boone leads him there. Once in the field Boone feeds Brownie another apple, and tells him to check the field out, which results in the horse racing around it for a few minutes before checking out the barn.

A young woman walks up, and asks, “Are you Boone?” He turns to look at her while he nods yes. “Good, I’m Laura. I was told you’d be the best person to introduce me to the special horse. Why’s he special?”

Boone replies, “He’s a perfect example of the Morgan Horse, and a good stud stallion. However, he was seriously abused in his younger days, so he’s afraid of people. Never try to touch him, unless he makes it clear he wants you to. Talk softly, and never move fast. Missus Gray and Olive will give you more details, later. But I’ll do the introduction now. After he sniffs your hand feed him the apple pieces.”

He gets out another apple, his second last, and cuts it up. Brownie soon comes over, and stands near them. Boone says, “Well, Big Fellow, I’ll be over to see you now and then, but I have to go away soon, and not come back. Until then Olive and Laura here will be looking after you, and when I leave Olive will be going with me. So Laura will be the one to look after you. Olive and I will miss you, but we have to go to a place where you can’t come along. So come over and meet Laura.”

Laura is standing there with her hand out. Brownie looks at her, he takes a slow walk around her, moves up, and sniffs her hand. When he pulls his head back she slowly takes a piece of apple from Boone, and puts it on her hand. After a moment Brownie takes the apple off her hand. When he’s eaten the first apple Boone hands Laura the last apple and his knife so she can cut this one up to hand it to the horse. When he’s finished with the apple Brownie nods at them, and goes for a drink of water at the stream running through the field. The two people leave the field, and shut the gate. Then turn to lean on the fence while they talk.

A few minutes later Olive and Nellie joins them. They talk for a little longer before Boone kisses his two girls, mounts Morgan, and rides back to town.

Once back at the barn Boone checks it out in fine detail, to make sure it’s secure and they can lock it up properly. The building is like a good sized warehouse with a stable attached to it. The animals are in the one end, and they’ve the wagons in the other. There are a few spots where he has to spend a few minutes fixing up minor holes in the walls or nail some boards back into place. Once sure they can make the place safe he sets about making a safe place for their cooking fire toward one end of the building while saying, “Gran, Missus Gray gave me some money as the girls’ dowry. So I want to take the time to build another pair of the wagons, and to make some changes to these two. That way we can take twice as much gear with us. Do you mind staying here the extra time?”

Mary smiles, and says, “Well, since you’ll be working on the wagons full-time it shouldn’t take so long to make them. But what changes do you want to make to them?”

“I want to see if I can get some of those steel springs I see on many of the buggies, but bigger ones for the wagons. I also want to extend the front cover over the seat a bit more, and to add drop-down canvas rolls to all the sides so we can stop the wind and weather from going under the wagons when stopped for the night, especially during a storm. Plus, I want to make a canvas to cover the area between the wagons when we set them side-by-side, so the stock can be out of the weather when it’s bad.”

“All good ideas, and very useful if the winter starts early or we get caught out in it. In the morning we best unpack the tools you’ll need.” He nods yes in reply, and they all go about organizing for the night.

The next morning is spent unpacking the two wagons. They don’t unpack everything, just what they need to unpack to get out the tools they didn’t think they’d need until the end of the journey. The other gear they unpack they leave out, because they plan to repack the wagons differently when Boone is finished working on all the wagons The rest of the goods will have to be unpacked later, but not right now.

Boone sets up an area to work in, goes to visit the lumber yards and a jeweler, then hires a wagon for the afternoon to carry all the wood he buys. After he unloads the wood in the barn he visits a few of the metal working shops to see about having the springs made, as well as the final metal rims for the wheels. The rented wagon is returned, and he checks at the Telegraph Office. Boone reads the reply they have, and he sends the man more instructions. The rest of the time before dinner is spent getting ready to start work on the new wagons in the morning.

On Tuesday morning Boone readies the wood for the outer rim of the twelve wagon wheels, four for use with two spares for each of the new wagons, plus the ten bows for the wagons, five for each wagon. The boards for the wheels are cut to length and width, the holes for the spokes cut in, the overlapping joint rebated, and he drills holes for the dowel pins before he puts them in a water trough to soak. The boards for the bows are cut to length, and set in the water with a heavy rock on the middle to help them bend quicker. While they soak he gets to work making the spokes and the hubs. The next few days are very busy while Boone spends all day, every day, working on the wagons. A few times a day he bends the wood for the wheels and bows a little more.

Friday Boone takes a short break to visit the jeweler to get the rings he ordered on Monday. Then he spends most of the day finishing the bows and building them into the wagons before rubbing oil into the wood of the two wagon beds he’s made. All day Saturday is spent caulking and varnishing the wagon beds to make them more waterproof. Saturday evening he’s busy getting ready for Sunday. All week he spends part of the evening out at the Luke Ranch visiting with Olive and Nellie.

The Wedding

Sunday is the big day, the church service followed by the wedding, then everyone eating the food Boone asked the church ladies to prepare for lunch, and he paid them for. It’s a nice sunny day, so they eat in the yard of the church with people moving in and out of the church hall to collect the food set out on the tables inside the hall. After a long lunch the new family take a short ride in a buggy to a hotel for the night.

The wedding is well attended by the church regulars plus those who know Boone, the Gray family, and the Luke family. No one comments on the three person wedding, but many do comment on the nice rings Boone paid to have made. The jeweler plaited strands of silver and two shades of gold onto a basic gold band to show three lives intertwined as one. The three rings look the same, but each of them has the name of the wearer engraved on the inside.

Mid-morning on Monday the three of them take the hired buggy out to the Luke Ranch to collect the personal property of Olive and Nellie, as well as to say hello to Mrs Gray and Brownie. On the return trip they’ve four horses tied onto the back of the buggy, because each of the girls has two horses of her own. Their two saddles are in the buggy with all of their clothes and other things.

After they return to the barn they’ve a good lunch provided by Mary, then they unload everything, and Boone returns the buggy while the ladies sort out the wagon the newlyweds will live in, for now.

More Family

It’s a short walk from the livery where the buggy belongs to the Telegraph Office then back to the barn, so Boone doesn’t take Morgan for the trip. Thus he’s walking back along the boardwalk. Just in front of him is a group of four men walking four abreast while they talk. Boone falls into step about a pace behind them, because he can’t be bothered to step out onto the dusty road to go around them.

A couple of shops later they’re passing the front of a mercantile store where a nine or ten year old kid is sweeping the boardwalk in front of the shop. Instead of moving over a little to walk around the kid the one on the outside gives the kid a shove toward the street. The kid staggers, and spins before falling backward into a horse trough of water in front of the store. Boone is angered by the man, so he makes a quick long stride to shove the man in the middle of the back before reaching down to pull the kid out of the trough.

The kid’s arms and legs are waving because their head is under the water and their shoulders are stuck in the trough. Boone grabs a good hold of the kid’s pants at the waist, and pulls straight up to lift the kid out of the water at the same time the man staggers and turns the way the kid did. The only difference is the man manages to spin all the way around to be facing into the street when he falls over to land face first in a horse apple (a horse shit dropping for those who aren’t familiar with the term).

While he’s standing the kid on the boardwalk Boone reaches under his coat with his left hand to loosen the strap on his left-hand gun, and to cock the hammer. As soon as he lets go of the kid he uses his right hand to do the same with the right-hand gun.

The three men laugh when their friend pushes the kid into the water, then stop laughing when the man falls into the street. Suspecting he was shoved they turn around to see Boone busy drying his hands on his pants after lifting the kid out of the water. Some of the bystanders laugh at the man in the street face first in the horse shit. The man rolls over, gets up, washes his face in the trough, looks up at Boone, and says, “I’m going to kill you for that, shithead!”

Boone grins at him, saying, “The Good Book says, ‘Cast your bread upon the waters, and it’ll be returned to you ten fold.’ You cast this kid on the waters, and got free fertilizer in return.” The bystanders laugh.

The man steps back up onto the boardwalk, and his friends stand at his side. Boone gives the kid a mild push to make the kid move aside, and the kid darts into the store. One of them men says, “Ten dollars to the one whose bullet is closest to his heart.” The others all smile while they lower their hands to their guns. The one who spoke says, “Now,” and all four grab their guns.

Boone moves at the same command. His hands fly up under his coat at the side split to grab his two waist pistols. He pulls them back the inch needed to clear the ends of the holsters. He lifts them and turns the barrels out at the same time. The gun barrels push the front of his coat apart, and he has a gun aimed at each of the middle two men while they’re still drawing their guns out of their holsters. Boone’s hands stop for the fraction of time he needs to pull the triggers, then his hands move the guns further apart to aim at the other two at the moment their guns clear their holsters, and he fires again. He returns both guns to their holsters while the last two men are still falling to the boardwalk. The only evidence he fired a gun is the small cloud of gun-smoke in front of him.

He spins around when he hears a voice behind him say, “I saw it all. They said they were going to kill you, and went for their guns first. So it’s self-defense. All they have on them, and their horses, are now all yours, Mister. But you have to pay to clean it up, and have them buried. Who are you?”

It’s hard for Boone to keep his last meal down, because this is the first time he’s shot someone, but he does, just. He gives a small grimace, and says, “Boone Nichols. I’m in town for a short break, and to organize a few things prior to heading west,” while looking over the man in the doorway to the barber shop beside the mercantile shop. The man has a small sheet over his chest, and soap on half his face. It’s clear he was having a shave when he got up to see what was happening.

“You the guy in the freight barn who got married yesterday?” Boone nods yes. “Clean this up. Young Sam can get the undertaker for you.”

The kid says, “Sure thing, Marshal,” and takes off, running.

Realizing the man is the Town Marshal it makes sense to Boone the man knows a lot about him. So he asks, “Marshal, do you know which are their horses?”

“Sure. I saw them ride in earlier. The four horses tied up in front of that gunsmith shop are theirs. Now pick ‘em clean if you want what they have on them. The undertaker will take it if you don’t.”

Boone shrugs, and says, “Thanks for the advice, Marshal.” He turns to the dead, takes off their coats, shirts, hats, boots, socks, gun-belts, and belts before he starts going through their pockets. Most of it he puts in a stack beside the men, with the small pocket stuff going into the hats after he stacks the hats up. The loose money goes into his pants pockets, while the two money-belts he finds go into the hats as well.

Sam returns with the undertaker, and Boone says, “Sam, those four horses in front of the gunsmith are now mine. Will you please get them and bring them here for me?” Sam nods yes, and goes for the horses. Boone turns to the undertaker, asking, “How much to dig one big hole to toss the four in without any boxes or fanfare?”

The man looks at them, and says, “Ten dollars.” Boone digs out one of the ten dollar Gold Eagles he just took from the dead, and tosses it to the undertaker. The man catches it, puts it in his pocket, and starts to drag the dead up onto the back of the wagon he arrived on.

When Sam returns with the horses Boone dumps the loose gear into one of the saddlebags, rolls up the belts and gun-belts, and shoves them into the saddlebags, then stuffs the clothes into the bags until he has the bags stuffed, and everything except the boots and hats put away. He loops a hat around the horn of each saddle, ties the laces of the boots together, and hangs them from the saddle-horn on the side opposite to the hat. Boone turns to Sam, hands over a silver dollar, and says, “I’ll wait here while you get changed into dry clothes, then I need your help to get these horses to where I’m living.”

Sam reaches for the reins to two of the horses while saying, “These are all I got. They’ll dry while we walk.”

Before moving off Boone takes a moment to get each gun out, and reload it from the loose rounds he carries in his pocket. On the walk to the barn Boone learns Sam is a ten year-old orphan who has a seven year old sibling to care for. The owner of the mercantile store feeds them both breakfast and dinner while letting them sleep in a shed at the back of the store in return for them doing various jobs around the shop.

At the barn Boone tells the ladies about the four horses while he takes the saddlebags and saddles off of the four horses. He also tells his wives and his grandmother about Sam’s situation and sibling. So when he’s done with putting these horses with their other horses he’s not surprised to see Heidi and he are the only two in the barn. Shrugging his shoulders he gets busy sorting out the booty from the men.

He’s surprised to find five thousand dollars in Gold Eagles in one of the saddlebags, with another five hundred dollars in each money-belt. The coats are worth keeping, so are the boots, belts, hats, money, and guns, but nothing else is worth keeping. He decides to keep the blankets, because they can be used to help pad things, and two of the saddles, too. He’ll give the other clothes to the church, and sell the rest. With the things sorted he goes back to working on the wheels.

Boone thinks about the incident while working. At the time he reacted without thinking about what was happening. He accepts he had to kill them to protect himself from them, but it takes him quite a while to be comfortable about the decision, his actions, and the outcomes. He now knows he can kill, if he has to, and he suspects these won’t be the only ones he’ll have to kill during his life.

When the ladies return they’ve Sam, another kid, and two small bags of things. The other kid is introduced as Lee. Olive says, “The man who owns the mercantile wasn’t happy about letting Sam and Lee leave until I asked if he wanted me to send you around to talk to him.” They all laugh at the image that brings to mind.

Boone asks, “Sam, who’re the best people to sell the horses, saddles, and guns to?”

Sam grins at being asked for information, and says, “Mister Johns, the gunsmith the horses were in front of, is the best place to sell or buy guns. Mister Barnes will give the best price on the saddles. If you want the best price for the horses wait two weeks for the horse sale. If you want a quick sale there’s an Army man with three stripes buying every horse he can. He has a corral about five streets away. He signs papers you take to the bank for the money.”

“OK. Let’s get the saddles on the horses to take them over to Mister Barnes, we can stop to sell the guns on the way, then see the Army man on the way back.” He turns to the ladies while pointing at the pile of clothes, and says, “I don’t think they’re worth keeping. I was thinking of giving them to the church, unless one of you has a better idea.” They all smile, and move to the clothes while Boone and Sam go for the horses.

It only takes Boone, Sam, and Lee a few minutes to put the saddles on two of the horses and to do them up properly. The ladies are still going through the small pile of clothes when the three mount up and ride out with the kids on one horse while Boone and Sam each lead a horse. The guns are soon sold for a fair price, so are the saddles. When they get to the Army sergeant there’s an issue. He likes the horses, but he’s hesitant to buy them all. Boone says, “Look, Sergeant, you like the horses. You set the price on what they’re worth. What’s the problem here?”

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Story tagged with:
Politics / Violence / Historical / Western /