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Three Coon Clown
Act 4 of The Knights Trace in Awes West
© 2022 James LaFond
“His limbs are long and strong, his look dread.”
-First Jest, Second Chant
“You won, son!” exclaimed Saddler as he patted him on the back.
He then shoved Sharp Shoe Brown by the shoulder in a good natured way and feigned anger, “Boy, you shoul’ ‘ave done fer dis lumberin’ sot! ‘Til I can hatch anotha o’ ye outta yer sister’s snatch, you second to dis one, despite rank—are ta see to ‘is ass not getting’ scalped, skewered er whore-boozled; ye be ta him what Prayin’ Trigger Tim be ta me, yer goo’ ole Sarge.”
“Aye, Sarge,” agreed Sharp Shoe Brown, as he was handed a boot that he stepped into with one hand like a praying mantis, none the worse for wear.
Saddler then looked to the two of them as the rest of the men placed coins, trinkets, shot, powder charges and feathers into Brawn’s hat, which had been lost and recovered somewhere in the fray. As he received this, and looked down into the contents of his hat, it began to fill with blood, to which Saddler crowed, “Well, gut me runnin’ Lille Buffalo Breed, I lent ye my fresh draft ‘orse en ye run ‘im through the hawthorn thicket! Don’ think yer trifflin’ ass ‘bout to put dis hard rode stallion ‘way wet! Ged ‘is ass ta da Farrier Sergeant!”
The duties of the Farrier Sergeant, who worked as healer of horse kind, extended to the tending of wounds and healing of maladies among The Ranks, as well as flogging men guilty of crime. Executions were a matter for the Stone Deacon. Among the Higher Ups The Factor served in the healing doctoral capacity.
Sharp Shoe put his lean arm around Brawn’s broad shoulders and led him out through the gatehouse door to blunt acclimation and back-slapping, into the yard where the boys waited to cheer their recent leader, now elevated to an altogether superior class.
The Farrier Sergeant was already heating his stitching needle as they sauntered across the court, grinning at the boys, Sharp Shoe helping him stand in his drunkeness and hissing in his ear, “Sorry fo da head kicks. But Ole Sarge swore me ta gives ye my best and hardest licks. En ta hell if I were gonna stand toe-ta-toe wit yer thick-set ass.”
Brawn just nodded and slurred, “Oh, daz alrigh’ Sharp Shoe—lease ways dem shoes as sharp as dey say.”
Sharp Shoe assured him, “I done cleaned yer saddle gun—Sarge stole it from a German gun-monger a back in Saint George while I foot fought some French Injun ‘fore the gun booth. Sucker’s got two barrels, called an ex-par-eh-ment—say da King o’ Prussia gonna conquer da worl wit da double-barrel, en ye gots da first, what woul’ ‘ave been kept by Sarge if I had whooped ye.”
Brawn was roped in the side ties like a horse being shooed, leashed about his neck. This was not an offense, but a ritual of initiation undergone by each ranger upon his first sore wounding. Saddle Dillon gave the occasional dark look over his shoulder at Brawn, but dared no take his eyes off the mountain and canyon for long, as Praying Trigger Tim shared the gate tower with him in astute silence, scanning the approached to their post.
Pitch mixed with salt water was used to flush and ointment his nose, stinging like hell and sobering Brawn up a bit. The ear was stitched back on, as was the flap of forehead skin that hung down over his brow. Both of the stitched wounds were dry-salted and pitched. Farrier Sergeant felt his wind and right rib where the boot toe print already shown purple and exclaimed in admiration, “Shoot, Brawny you is. Dis ‘ere rib should a been sheared clean off wit dat mule kick.”
“How’d he fare, Sharp Shoe?”
Sharp Shoe cooed, “Drove out ma wind wit a slam, like I were a bag a sand.”
The horse tender negro unhitched Brawn from the ties as the Farrier Sergeant checked the thin brown ranger’s spine for injury. “Good en supple still, must be nice ta be young.” he declared.
“Don ye shirts, we got injun company a comin’ en we don’t want dem thinkin’ you too be lost kin to haggle ova.”
They stood side-by-side and eased on their buckskin shirts, placing their brown slouch hats upon their heads, Brawn’s topped with a blonde shock of bowl-cut mop and Brown’s with a black wool kept two inches from the head.
“A double-barrel saddle gun?” wondered Brawn.
“Wheellock at dat—no flint, no siree!” answered Brown.
A whistle was heard from Tim, who nodded to Farrier Sergeant, who barked at the gathered boys of the yard, “Get ye coons a clown. We gotz a wild Injun visitin’ en he needs ta know what in the Christian worl is to be his place.”
The boys then hustled off to their paint pots and other props, mostly kept for entertaining visitors and on occasion, the men at grog-time.
Brown looked at him, not having been in the yard with Tim, asking the question with his eyes, “Comanche, comin’ in alone.”
“Oh, Lord hang me,” hissed Brown, hoping his utterance had not been overheard.
Sergeant Saddler had been fetched by Brown, who had been relived of duty to rest. Saddler, kept Brawn by his side, weaving slightly, trying to recover from the drunk.
“Son, we downright poisoned yer ass—what ta give Sharp Shoe a chance seeings I dear wanted dat double-barrel wheelock fer my own self.”
Brawn steeled his nerves and chanted inward that he was not drunk, would not remain drunk, would silently banish this curse.
He could tell by Saddler’s grunt, as they waited for the Comanche to make his ambling way up the canyon, that Sarge was pleased with his grit.
“But one horse, dat’s a Comanche has it hard. Listen ‘ere, Son. You a Sharp, damn near a Brash—could ‘ave even been a Brash if I had let it. You destined fer Sergeant. Come many a time when ole Sarge has to sit up drinkin’ and playin’ crabbage wit da men, en ‘ave to wake at dawn damn near drunk ta answer The Man—that Knight dere in ‘is proud tower. Pretendin’ you ain’ drunk when you is, that comes wit ranger territory. ‘Cause witout da men, I got nothin’ fer The Man; en witout The Man, I gots nothin’ fer da men.”
Brawn held strong, queasy, but willed him self to take the day in stride as if it might…
Time was lost; not all of it, but some.
The bucket was not half full, but it had all come up through his gullet, so he felt empty. The Farrier Sergeant patted him on the back, “Now back out wit da Sarge, Ranger!”
A severe looking Comanche warrior—a chief by his manner—stood lance in hand, before his worn out horse, being taken away by the horse tender.
Before the man stood three painted boys. To the side stood the tallest of their number, Dogear Mud, who stood holding the prop bible, slabs of bark enclosing old worn scarps of buckskins all scribbled upon in nonsense and sign—the made-up bible of pony boy kind. This was Dogear’s only happy time, when he played the role of Creed, the Church man what lorded over the rest.
Creed nodded to Penny Breed—for this was ever his part, to play Breed—chalked in red and with a feather in his hair. To this nod, Penny Breed walked to the chest—a small trunk—laid at the feet of Creed. Within it was a toy scalping knife, a piece of buckskin, and a small spade.
Creed gave the hand of open giving to Breed, who plunged his hand into the chest, took out the scalping knife and did a most impressive fancy dance, returning to his place in the Estates of Christian Man.
Creed then gave the hand of open giving to Deed, played by Stock Issue, who had his face chalked white and wore a toy war hat of wood. Deed stepped up, reached into the chest, recoiled from the spade, and picked up the buckskin scrap, marked with scribble. He tried to read, knitting his brows, holding his head in pain, scratching behind his ear.
With a hiss, Creed motioned Deed forward and extended his hand for the taking. The parchment was taken by Creed, read silently, a nod of understanding was given, and it was placed into the prop bible as a page. Creed then took from a hollow space within the prop bible, a small toy handgun, carved of wood, handed it to Deed, and pointed for him to return to his place, where he did so, sternly at attention.
Creed then pointed to Need, played by Rum Weasel Tin, who was all sooted with charcoal and dirt to look the serf part. Need then approached the open chest, looked within, and seeing nothing but the spade, balked. Creed pointed at the chest again and when Need balked, Breed and Deed stepped up beside him and glared ominously.
With a hangdog face, Need then took the shovel and bent painfully over the ground and began to scratch and dig with the comic-sized spade, holding it in two hands and moaning as he worked. All the while, Deed stood sternly at his post over toiling Need and Breed danced the fancy dance, all overseen by bookish Creed.
The Comanche seemed like one stricken with a terrible revelation of The Tribulations, and looked to Praying Trigger Tim in disgust and into Sergeant Saddler with something like understanding tinged with mistrust.
Saddler snarled, “Works like a charm every time, Son.”
He then directed Brawn to advance to visiting arms. Brawn stepped forward, stopped before the warrior, who was almost his height and thrice as old, at attention with his hands behind his back. The Comanche then extended his lance haft, which Brawn took with a nod in his left hand, motioning the right away to the tower door with his right hand, which the Indian took, but not without a probing look into his eyes, a narrow uncomfortable look.
Brawn followed the Comanche as Saddler led, the man still armed with knife and buffalo tail whip club on his belt, but having left his bow and arrows with his pony and his lance with Brawn, his honor guard for this parley.
Tim and Farrier Sergeant mounted the gate tower both as Saddle Dillon dropped the willow grate and those two savvy men scanned the canyon and mountain for treachery.
“Pappa Doc Black O’ Roy say:
‘Hang the wig of the Frenchman from Gibbs Wee Tree!
Bring the head of the Knightman, my boys do beat.
Hang its iron cage face from Gibbs Wee Tree!
Savor the flesh of the Merchantman, Mamma Loi do heat.
Bring the preaching Christman to water Gibbs Wee Tree!
Oh, Drink the blood of this Christman, so cheery sweet—
For you thirsty Mamma, be our Gibbs Wee Tree!” [2]
-1. Taken from the Seminole Tribal legend on racial origins and the Great Spirit, as related by Washington Irving circa 1800.
-2. The Voodooist invasion of Awes South was thus sanctified with the beheading of the tiny band of Half-breed Natchez Knights of New Orleans [3] and the Crucifixion of Archbishop LeAubrey upon the populist Black Oak Mother Tree worshiped by that fiendish lot in mockery of Genesis.
-3. Deserted to a man by their mercenary guard, many of whom lurk at large in their pirate dens along the lower reaches of The Great Heathen River and provide the means by which a Voodooist armada might ascend as far as the Iron Plantation, Hinter Seat of Wester New Ireland.
Sharp Shoe Brown
Red Rock Red

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