Harry worked hard that year and was rewarded with enought money to pay the years taxes. In addition, Mrs. Drewry sold several acres to the Harvey's that fall. It had been a hard, painful decision, but it was finally done. She had promptly put the remaining money in the bank. She knew that without field-hands--even with the able bodies that they had--that the land was useless to her and rather was a financial burden. She sold only a small part because she wanted to retain as much as she could to pass on to her children.

Mrs. Drewry attempted to give Harry some of the money to help pay back his debt. "Keep it," he said gently, pushing the proffered bills away. "Save it for next year's taxes and emergencies. I'm doing alright with those monthly installments." His own bank account was slowly growing. Each weekend upon receiving his wages, he deposited them in the bank to gather interest. Once a month, he payed an installment on his debt.

The gray kepi had been replaced over the summer by a gray slouch hat. Mrs. Drewry had bought it for him with the explaination that it would be a pity for him to wear the beloved cap out. At the rate it was getting worn, it wouldn't last to show his children. Harry had held the old grey kepi between his hands lovingly; his throat tight with emotion. Finally, he agreed to put it back. However, until he had completely broke the new hat in, the kepi continued to hang on its peg by the door.

About a month after the arrival of the new hat, Harry took his kepi down and gently brushed some dust off of it. Smiling rather sadly, he carried it over to Meredith. "Would you wrap this up and put it in your box?" he asked. "I'll still want to wear it for special occasions, you know."

Meredith quickly agreed and she gently and lovingly wrapped it in a linen napkin rescued from the burning house (simply for the fact that it had been tied around James' head as he had been playing soldier the day that Sherman's men had ransacked and burned the house.)  Smiling up a him, somehow sensing that for Harry to put his kepi in a box was rather like putting a friend in a grave, she said, "You'll look quite handsome it in when you are old."

He almost laughed, "Tell me that when I'm old and cripple."

"Thank-you," she replied, "I will."

            ****************************************************************

Life was hard, dangerous and deadly. It became worse once the Radical Republicans gained control of Washington. These haters of the South made life as miserable for the Confederate veterans as they legally could. Justice was mostly diverted or ignored. In many cases, former slaves were used as tools by the Radicals to dishonor and degrade the men who had owned them. In an attempt to bring justice to their weary land, many Confederate veterans joined the Klu Klux Klan. Those initally of worthy aspirations, bad men crept in and distorted the original purpose for the group.

Harry watched, like other Confederate veterans, helplessly,  as these changes and trials decended on his beloved state, on his fellow veterans, and on their families. He keenly felt  it when his citizenship and rights were stripped from him.

"If I'm not a citizen," he grumbled, "I ought to at least get by without paying taxes! But no, I still have to pay taxes--what's more, I have to pay to cover the expense of those Yankee brutes who burned my home! We Confederate veterans--no longer citizens--are forced to pay the wages of those who have destroyed our lives! Didn't we already pay for it during the war? We payed highly to our Richmond government. Why should we have to pay extra high taxes to pay for the Yankee's side of the war? That's what I want to know." He continued to ramble on as Meredith, to whom he was ranting, shook her head. "After all, the people of the South are for the most part left in poverty. We are having to scrape to feed our families...have they no compassion? If there were any chance that it would do any good, I'd start agitating for the South to resort to arms again!"

"Harry!" Meredith pleaded, "Please don't say such things!"

"Alright," he replied grumpily, "but you can't stop me from thinking them!"

Another time, after hearing how a neighbor had been denied justice, he exploaded at the supper table. "They call it 'Reconstruction'! Bah. It's more like continued distruction! Once they completely break our spirits and our backbones--then and only then will 'reconstruction' happen! 'Reconstruction'--a rebuilding of our society on their false philosophies!"

Mrs. Drewry smiled weakly and in an attempt at humor remarked, "I can tell that Reverand Blake has been discussing philosophy and theology with you."

Harry glanced up from his grits with a mischeivous grin, " 'Else how'd an ignant, illerate feller like myself know'd the diff'rence twixt orthodoxy an' transendentalism?"

The Drewry family laughed then--Harry's good humor had been restored. He didn't often get in a funk, but when he did it was unpleasant business.

To be continued...

*note: the discussion of Reconstruction is very thin and weak because I need to do A LOT more study on it...I believe however that the facts I presented are facts. If not, please do not hesitate to correct me. (Though, if coming from a Northern position, I might beg to differ with you on certain topics...within reason of course :D )
 





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    A Gray Kepi

    I saw the opening scene for this story in my head and I knew that I had to finish it. I wrote it over several days. Some of it won't be as intersting or as polished as others.  I even teared up while writing it...but I won't say where.

    The War Between the States and Southern Reconstruction are a period of history that hold a great deal of interest for me. I hope that all my facts are historically accurate. (I rather suspect that as I type it up I shall do some fact checking...)

    Perhaps some day I may be able to turn this into a screenplay...but for right now, I will just post it in sections, or 'parts'. Some will be longer and some will be shorter. And so, without any further ado, here is "A Gray Kepi"