The next day it was pouring down rain. The Harvey's never required Harry to work on rainy days, so that was when Harry continued making repairs and rennovations to the Drewry's barn. It was also when he set his traps.

First thing in the morning, Harry would dash out and hurry along to where his traps were. After setting them, he would run back to the barn--often soaked. At evening he would repeat the procedure, purposely springing the empty traps. He would gather the dead animals and remove their hides which he streached on the side of the barn. He planned on using some of them to make winter moccasins; the remainder would be sold.

On a frugal whim, Harry discovered the means of extracting the salt from the earth. He used the 'dirty salt'  to preserve the hides. Once they were cured, he set about teaching the boys the art of moccasin making. James caught on quickly.

"Harry, may I make the rest of the moccasins? I enjoy doing this." James looked eagerly into the older boys face.

Harry grinned, "I don't see why not, James. It will take some responsibility off of me. I was wondering how I was going to get seven pairs of moccasins done before winter set in on my schedule."

With his new found skill, James spent many happy hours working with the hides. Since the moccasins would have to serve for winter shoes, Harry had left the fur on them. He showed James how to turn that to the inside.

James asked during a moccasin stitching lesson, "Where did you learn all this?"

"Oh, an old mountain man. He kind of took Francis and me under his wing. I didn't have any shoes and it was getting cold--rather like now--and he showed me how to make moccasins. I already knew how to tan hides. Pa taught me that when I was younger than you."

"Did Francis get moccasins, too?" James loved hearing about his older brother.

Harry sat back on his heels and push his kepi back. He stared out, unseeing, into the distance. He had loved Francis like a brother and had seen him die. It was hard to talk of him still, three years later.

"Well?" James prompted.

Harry shifted his gaze toward James; he looked just like Francis, down to the serious, though often smiling grey eyes. James tilted his head to one side, "Don't you remember?"

At that Harry laughed. "Oh yes, I remember. Francis wanted a pair, but Ben only had enough leather to make one pair. Francis had shoes, but I didn't; so I got the moccasins. I would have shared with with--only my feet were bigger than his!"

James giggled, then his grey eyes grew sober. "Harry, how did...what happened to Francis?"

Harry stood up slowly and looked down at James. "Jimmy, he was killed."

James returned insitingly, "I know that...but how was he killed?"

"In the line of duty. Bravely."

"That's still not what I meant," James remarked.

Suddenly Harry realized that the whole family was there. Mrs. Drewry said softly, "We were never told exactly what happened. Did he suffer much?"

Harry stuffed his hands into his pants pockets and took a deep breath, "No. He didn't. It was instantaneous." He was resloved not to tell them of the cannon ball ripping through both drum and boy. Nor the fact that he had been covered in his friend's blood and internals. The horror he felt at that time crept back over him as he saw the death of Francis playing through his mind.
Mrs. Drewry caught him by one arm, "You are as white as a sheet!" she exclaimed. "Was it as bad as that?"

"For me," he groaned, unable to stop the tears that forced their way forward. "He never knew what hit him. But oh...Francis was my best friend! It is hard to watch your friends die and know you can't do anything!"

He covered his face with his hands and allowed Mrs. Drewry to sit him down on the bench where James had been. Mrs. Drewry tenderly laid his head on her shoulder and let him weep.

"And it's all my fault!" he cried, "I convinced him to come with me!"

"It is not your fault," Mrs. Drewry said firmly. "You were both crazy boys to run off. But God used it so that you would come and keep us from starving. Francis knew nothing about farming and didn't really care to. He loved his horses. Francis would not have survived this life style because he was sickly. Surely you know that?"

Harry did know it. Francis had been ill a great deal of the time before he was killed. Harry had thought he was going to die from sickness several times before that battle had gotten him.

"I would have come anyway," he protested.

"Would you?" Mrs. Drewry looked him straight in the eyes. "With no father or mother to care for you? Would you really have come back? Or would you have gone to your grandfather in Tenneessee?"

Harry just shook his head; he couldn't answer the question. He didn't really know.

To be continued...

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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"