A Ten Pound Bag
Chapter 144: Back in the Saddle
Copyright© 2020 by Emmeran
Editor: nnpdad 19 May 2021
Published: 21 May 2021
It felt good to be on the road again. Honestly, the saddle was starting to feel vastly more welcoming than the comforts and technology my vehicles had offered. We were still in what I would call the ‘St. Louis rural area.’ That area was far outside the sights and sounds of St. Louis itself. Next stop, St. Charles, for one last meet-up with the boats. Then we would be on our separate paths.
I rode with Brin and Sheriff up front, on point. Young Amos, of course, was back on drag, being one of our best riders and a young man in search of action. Even if that action were simply lazy cattle that weren’t in the mood to keep up with the rest of the herd. Amos had a particular job. Any animal that demonstrated a consistent desire to separate would be separated into pieces, for eating on the trip. Now, it wasn’t easy work, but we had plenty of salt, brought along specifically for the purpose.
I wasn’t looking forward to that particular work. But we needed the food and didn’t need the problem cattle. There were always a few and they simply weren’t worth the hassle or the risk they would create. We had plenty of horses on string and they were carrying light loads of about 50 pounds of salt each. We really need salt back home and moving it this way was as good as any other. So the plan was that any problem cattle would be throat cut, strung up, skinned, then the important bits - meat and usable offal - would be chopped into chunks and buried in salt.
The salt wouldn’t care. There isn’t much you can do to salt, short of complex chemicals and plastics. It is simply a compound of two poisons, after all. When combined, they become one of the most integral parts of life. Nebraska, however, is not really a good place to come by salt. I knew there was a small salt marsh up by the Platte. It reflected an ancient saline reservoir, far underground beneath it. On the other hand, we could just bring it up from the gulf salt farms, where it was plentiful.
Life before refrigerators counted on preservatives like salt, vinegar, smoke, and even sugar. The famous ‘Ice Box’ was only useful when you had ice to feed it every single day. That was a great luxury available to only a few, and it wasn’t very reliable. Of course, drying your meat was an option, but it only worked if you had the time and space to do it right.
All of that was just S.O.P. We needed food anyway, and, while the livestock would draw attention, the sound of gunfire from hunting would draw it much faster. I really wanted to limit outside attention, if we could. With that, I felt that we had the short distance between St. Louis and St. Charles to run some weapons drills and possibly teach a few defense tactics. It wouldn’t be easy, with Jeb and me attempting to teach 30-odd men who were basically beginners when it came to the Art of War. We would start crossing that bridge later today.
St. Charles would be a check-in with the boats, but we wouldn’t stay long unless they had a problem. Delaying our travel would be a bad idea, particularly with the summer heat not far in our future. Obviously, my mind was busy as we slowly made our way towards St. Charles. The road was crappy, but clear, and Sheriff was pretty much a silent companion for the first couple hours of the ride.