Snowing to beat the goddam band, but at least it wasn't bitter deadly cold. Just cold enough to snow like they ain't no tomorrow. And the trail wasn't bad...some rough spots, but even with leading a pack horse with the extra camp gear and supplies for the trip, I was still makin' calvry troop time, maybe better.
Sure was glad I got that telegram from Sepp a'fore I left. Woulda felt like a dirt-eatin' fool to have gone all the way to see him in St. Louis, only to find he'd been sent to take a set a green troopers up to Fort Sully, 'bout 23 miles north o' Ft. Pierre. So Sepp an' me figgered we'd meet at Ft. Pierre. Actually was mighty damn pleased about that, lot's less of a trip to go there.
So I din't have all that much further to go--I'd got on to the trail that the stagecoach follows on its way between Yankton 'n Ft. Pierre, when I rounded a turn an' saw up ahead one o' the Fort Pierre line mail coaches. Twas right by the trail, settin' there all forlorn, buttoned up with neither mule team nor teamsters to be seen, and well trimmed with snow, lookin' for all the world like one o Willi's choklit cakes dusted with powder sugar. I come up on 'er real careful-like, full well expectin' at any moment somthin' of a decidedly unpleasant nature to impose itself on m' attention, but all I found was a very cold lil' family inside the stagecoach.
The young gent interduced hisself in a mix o' english an some kind o' what sort o' sounded like dutchman's talk--which from years of dealin with Sepp an' his kin, I got some reckonin' thereof--he was called Izreal Abrammowitz (I think somethin like that). The gal was his missus, by name o' Rebekka, an' they had their lil boy with 'em, a fine bright -eyed young'un about five years old who was called Itzak (as far as I could tell). Seems the driver had got off the road, losin' the track in the snow, got 'er stuck, AND cracked some spokes on one o' the front wheels to boot. The driver 'n the guard, 'long with four o' the other passengers had unhitched the mule team an took off, tellin' Izyy to set tight an they would send help to fetch 'em.
Yeah. Right. My granmother's balls, they was gonna send help.
So anyhow, them heartless cockchafers all done took off in the direction o' Ft. Pierre, and was purty much outta sight...tho' I think Izzy an his lil' famly hadn't been a-settin' for too long before I found 'em, bein' as they warn't in too bad a shape as of yet.
Well, I figgered it made more sense to take 'em back to the last coach station which was about 6 miles back, rather than pushin' on to Ft. Pierre like the other folks had, as that twas the greater distance, an night would set on a'fore too turrible long. So I put Becky an lil' Zak on the pack horse, an' set off back down the trail with me 'n Izzy takin' it by turns to ride m' saddle horse or walk an' lead the pack horse with the gal an' young'un. O' course first off, I took my belt knife an carved a direction arrow an' other signs onto the side o' the coach (the goddam Ft. Pierre mail line can send me a sonofabitchin' bill if'n they wants to) to show which way we went, just in case anyone should come seekin after 'em (me bein the wild-eyed goddam optimist that I am).
So walkin' an' talkin' I larned that Izzy was from way off in Proosia or Roosia or some such goddam place, an' he had him an Uncle who was runnin' a sutlery out of Fort Sully. Seems that ol' Unk o' his had sent him the funds to make the journey to America, as for some reason or t'other, Proosia or Roosia or wherever the hell it was warn't safe for 'em, bein' they was "chillun o' Abraham" as grandad used to say, an' back in their homeland they was some kind of goddam pograms or "progroms" or some such goin' on. Warn't too sure what Izzy meant by this, but it din't sound like it was anythin' too good fer folks like them.
We made our way to the stagecoach station well enough--I shan't bore y'all with the details, but I been thru worse. Took me a wee bit o' my well-known elequent vocabalary to convince the mis'able tightfisted ol' mud-eatin bastard what run the station to put Izzy an his family up fer a spell, but I showed 'im the error o' his viewpoint...'nuff said on that.
Well, I got the gal an the chile bedded down to warm up, an' we all passed the night an' part o' the next day comfortable enough. I wanted to put on a good feed a'fore I set out agin--not willin' to go forth on a empty stomach, as I am gettin' way too old for this shit--so I had talked that ol' rascal of a station keeper into lettin' me make use o' the farplace to be cookin' up some venison stew, an all of a sudden I hear a poundin' at the door! But just as I'm a layin' hands on m' Spencer, I hear Sepp's voice callin' out. An' God bless that thickheaded ol' one-eyed dutchman, if'n he din't then come a stompin' in with two other fellers--army scouts, in fact, a colored gent by the name o' Moses Williams, an' a Crow warrior called Clouds on Big Mountain. Seems when the stage hadn't showed at Ft. Pierre--I gather it had already been considerable behind when it finally got broke down--and Sepp (who was o' course waitin' for to meet me there) an' these two army scouts had volunteered to set out an look for it. They hadn't found the other folks an' the teamsters an' the mules (got no goddam idear where THEY wandered off to), but they did find the coach an' m' signs I'd carved into it. So they come up, found us at the station, and decided to pass Christmas there, rather than settin' back out. I think after hearin' how the other folks from the stagecoach had abandonned Izzy an his lil' family they kinda determined to leave the outcome o' things for them folks to Providence.
And we done had us a tol'able good time! We sung all kinds o' songs--Izzy an his young missus knowin' some right nice ones we had'nt none o the rest of us heard a'fore, and the station master proved a right decent sort once he was properly inebriated, and them two scouts was right grand fellers. Finding out that lil' Zak was havin' him a birthday whilst we was there, Sepp done made him a present of a five dollar gold piece, an Moses done give him a steel-case pocket watch he said he din't have no need fer, an Clouds on Big Mountain give the boy a fine lil' knife with a nice beaded sheath.
And o' course Sepp an' me had some fine nights there, takin' the loft fer ourselves, and sort o' settlin' ourselves into a nest o' buff'lo robes an puttin' our spare duds into Sepp's mattress cover he had with him fer somethin soft to have under us...an well...let's just say we had a us a right ol' goddam merry holiday.
Well, finally the snow let up, an' time come to have us a partin' o the ways. An' Sepp had to set off back fer St. Louis, an' Moses 'n Clouds on Big Mountain took on the task o' committin' to convey Izzy and Becky and Zak up to meet the Uncle who was a sutler...
An' when we was wavin' faretheewell to 'em all as they set off back up the trail, Sepp kinda laughed 'n tol' me that Izzy had said I was some kind o' goddam angel o the Lord. An' I laughed 'n said where did he git such fool notions, and Sepp said well, he had asked Izzy about what had he done when them feckless turds had up an left him an' his famly in that coach...and Izzy tol' Sepp that he had set to prayin to his Lord God o Hosts fer to preserve his lil' family from starvin' or freezin'.... an' lo 'n behold, ere too turrible long, I done showed up...an' damn if Izzy's first thought wasn't that I was a angel sent to their aid.
I tol' Sepp that I found it mighty funny fer an ol' freethinker like hisself, who hadn't believed in no religion since ..well, ever... to repeat such piffle. An Sepp jus smiled, an' said if'n there was such a thing as angels, he hoped they was a bit like me, 'cept mebbe not quite so foulmouthed.
Ain't that just the damndest thing you ever heard?