Jacey Cameron in the Lost State of Franklin(Excerpt from the book,)
© Copyright 2020 by Judith Nakken
(Excerpts from Chapter One)
The taxi waited outside, honking. Beep, beep, beeeeep! Darn. I thought I could get my Davy Crockett report finished before it got here. I didn’t know why I had to go see Grandma alone, especially now that she was so sick. But Dad said it was best if I went in the taxi, and he gave me two five-dollar bills for the cab fare. . . .
“You are wondering about the new feather in the glass case,” Grandma said in the same, serious tone of voice. She squirmed clear up against her white pillows while she spoke. “I’ll get to that in a minute. For now, I have speak of the legacy I am giving you.”
“You will come to no harm and always return if you keep it safe, but there are still a few who would take it from you. You will know them when you see them.” Grandma paused, deep in thought about “them.” Then she went on.
“You will know when it is your time to pass it on, also. I thought I would be entrusting it to your mother, but things and times have changed since the first Jane Cathryn Cameron received this Celtic gift. Now I want you to repeat after me: ‘I will make a difference, and something will always come home with me.’”
I wondered if her mind was getting a little cloudy. What was she talking about? “They” wanted to take it from me. Who were ‘them?’ What was ‘it?'” I decided to play along with her.
“I will make a difference,” I repeated. “Something will always come home with me.”
Grandma really struggled then, to reach under her pillows. I leaned over to help her, but she told me to sit down. “I have to hand this to you myself,” she said.
She began to slide something small from its hiding place beneath the pillows. I held my breath, wondering what ‘it’ could be.
Then I tried very hard not to look disappointed.
It was just a box. A flat, beat up, wood box about eight inches square. The lacy gold clasp that fastened the top and bottom together was kind of pretty, though. I smiled at Grandma Jane. “I like it, Grandma,” I said as she stretched to put it in my hands. It felt smoother than it looked, and cold.
“The feather, Jacey? The feather on the top shelf? I’ll tell you about it now. Chief Sitting Bull gave me that feather last week.”
We got to the Crockett settlement about noon. At least, what passed for the sun was nearly straight overhead so I figured it was noon. I didn’t see Limestone Creek, just the river. There were six small log cabins clustered at random, about the same distance from the banks of the Nolichucky as Mount Pleasant house was. They all had identical front porches already crowded with people. I had my hands full keeping the little ones in the wagon until Trace stopped and parked.
A black man turned a ten-foot spit in the clearing. It was chilly, but sweat ran down his neck as he stood so near the hot coals. Five wild turkeys turned on the spit, already brown. I could smell the spice that Bella rubbed on turkey in our kitchen. All of a sudden, breakfast seemed longer than three hours ago.
There were a lot of people there, and I worried that I might run into one of “them” and have to protect my necklace. Protect how, I wondered?
The governor stepped out of his carriage without even a nod to his guest, Andrew Jackson. He went to the cluster of men in the middle of the clearing. They all seemed glad to see him. Bonny Kate gave instructions for the unloading of the wagons and then came to me.
“I will take Samuel with me until the children settle down, Jane,” she said. “And Ruth will stay with me until she feels better. You watch that George Washington and Catherine do not run away from the clearing.”
She waved a greeting at some settler women while she finished her instructions. “Trace, you put these baskets of food on the tables there. Nancy and Rebecca, you come help me with the gift baskets. We will take them to Mrs. Crockett’s cabin.” She was beautiful in a brown dress with real lace at the neck and sleeves. Polly’s little blanket had matching lace.
So I had only Joanna, George Washington and Catherine to watch for the moment. As I went to lift Joanna down from the wagon, George escaped me and ran to the gathering of men in the clearing. “Come with me, quickly,” I told Catherine. We followed him.
The group was telling tales of past and recent adventures. And there was a giant in the center of the group! He was at least seven feet tall, head and shoulders above every man there.
Andrew Jackson tied his horse and joined the group. The governor made introductions.
“Mr. Andrew Jackson, you all, late of South Carolina. He has just been granted a license to practice the law in Washington, Sullivan and Greene counties.” Introductions to John Crockett and the other men followed. I noticed that the governor no longer suggested that Mr. Jackson should stay in Franklin.
John Sevier reached up and patted the giant on the shoulder. “This little man,” he laughed in Jackson’s direction, “is Joseph Greer. There were many unnamed heroes at King’s Mountain, but we will always remember Giant Joseph. Tell us the story, Joseph, of carrying the message of our victory to the Continental Congress.”
His hands were huge and callused, and he clasped them behind his back. “I was only twenty years old,” he began.
He’d told the story many times since the battle. That was obvious. I gathered my charges together near the warmth of the spit because I didn’t want to miss a word.
“They picked me to take the message because I had been so much among the Cherokee. My pa, he was a trader with them and I went with him when I was a lad. But they were fighting for the British now, and I had few friends among them. I knew the woods, so Colonel Sevier gave me a compass, two horses and a musket. Off I went, north to Philadelphia.”
The women bustled about, carrying food to the tables set up in the clearing. Joanna started to complain in her high little voice. “Hungry, Jane, hungry.” I picked her up and whispered that we would eat soon, and listened to Giant Joseph finish his story.
He ran into a war party the very first day out, he said, and they shot one horse out from under him. The same thing happened the next day, and he had to hide underwater in a cold creek, using a hollow reed to breath. “Now I was soaked and had just the message in a waterproof poke, the musket and what food I could pack. But I still had my scalp!” He waited a minute for the group to laugh at his little joke.
He told of using the North Star to continue his journey on foot, and crossing about ten icy streams. Then, just as he was about to leave Indian country, he realized that the second war party was tracking him.
“They were close. I could smell them. I knew I could not outrun them into a settlement, so I hid in a hollow log.”
George Washington and Catherine were wide-eyed, listening to the story. Now they gasped. “He doesn’t fit in a log,” they whispered to one another.
“Aha! You do not believe I could hide in a log, little ones?” His voice was kindly. “Well, you have not seen the old growth forests. Men have not yet felled the grandfather trees there. There are logs that would hold two of me in those woods. And now, may I tell the rest of my story?”
The children hung their heads even though the giant storyteller was just teasing them. Then he finished his story.
“I thought I could outwait the war party, and so I did. I stayed in that log for a whole day. Two of them even sat on my log, whispering in their language. When I was sure they were gone, it was night again. I sighted the old North Star and took off.”
“They were not going to let me past the door guard when I got to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia!” He made a muscle with his solid right arm, and waited for the men’s laughter again.
“Ha! I just pushed him aside, marched right down the aisle and gave those bewigged men the message. You know what they said?”
“They said, ‘If they are all like you, Sir, it is no wonder the frontiersmen beat the redcoats.’ And later they gave me a big parcel of land downriver.”
I took Joanna’s hand and we four left the warmth of the fire, the giant, and the hungry-making smell of roast turkey. I thought there might be a snack for the little ones at Mrs. Crockett’s cabin. The frontiersmen were talking about the Indians, glad there was now peace with the Cherokee.
“I do hope Dragging Canoe gives up the warpath soon,” John Crockett said to the group. “But, they have built a permanent town on Chickamauga Creek. Separated themselves completely from the Cherokee. Some bad Creeks have joined them, I hear, and they are calling themselves ‘Chickamauga’ now. We will have more trouble with them, I fear.”
Catherine and George Washington ran ahead and behind the Crockett cabin. I didn’t have time to worry about hostile Indians. That worry was going to come soon enough.
Replica of Crockett cabin.
“Mine, mine! Bang, bang!” He pointed a stick rifle at the bear he was standing on. “Bang!”
John Crockett came from the group in the clearing. “Get off the bear, Davy,” he ordered. “They are for the bear skinning contest. Get off, now.”
“My bear! Mine!” The tot pointed at the other carcass. “That bear is Papa’s!”
Mr. Crockett adjusted his coonskin cap, set his shoulders and scooped up the fifth of his six sons. He tucked him under his arm to take him to his mother.
“Ain’t he a caution,” he laughed. “Thinks he is a woodsman already, and him not even three.”
(From Chapter Eleven)
My little charges jumped and chattered when the pig was uncovered. Its odor filled the air even before the women peeled the hot, hard coat of armor from its carcass. It had been roasting all night, encased in river clay and mud and buried on hot coals in the sand.
“Preacher’s here!” The children all ran, excited to the clearing and I raced after them. The Reverend Samuel Doak had arrived. Jane hadn’t seen him before, and he didn’t look much like a minister to me. He had silver pistols strapped over his black coat, and the hand that wasn’t holding a bible held a late model rifle. He was broad and blue-eyed and swung down from his big horse like one of the frontiersmen.
He handed the reins to a teenager and then laughed, loud and hearty. He had to chase after his horse to put the long gun in its scabbard.
“Ha, ha, ha! Probably do not need to carry the rifle from Salem Church to the settlement anymore,” he said. “But I have chased many an Indian with my rifle since I came to the Tanasi in 1780. ‘God protects them who protect themselves,’” he misquoted, and laughed some more.
I had my three Sevier children beside me at the edge of the gathering of settlers, because it would soon be time for the feast. Most of the riflemen were back from the contest across the creek. Reverend Doak spotted John Sevier.
“Begging your pardon, Governor. It is not the Tanasi today, is it? The Indian name is no longer. Shall we drink, then, to the new state of Franklin?”
The assembled children moaned and began to scatter slowly, in hungry groups of two or three. I knew they were sure it was going to be a while before the prayer and the pig.
had no idea that I was not going to taste the pig at all. . . .
forwarded by The Preservation Foundation.
So, when you write to an author, please type his/her name
in the subject line of the message.)
Judith's Story List and Biography