An American Story (Part 16)

Vann had leaned back completely against the support post and closed his eyes.  I gave him a few minutes of rest as I ran through the part of the story I had just been told.  I had to admit that I had been pulled into this tale completely and had a persistent tick in my mind driving me down a road filled with unanswered questions.  I glanced over and could tell Vann was starting to breath more quietly, drifting off, which I just could not allow for the moment.  I spoke more loudly than I had previously, just to be sure I pulled him back.

“Did anyone actually ever look for Tom?  Or did they just assume he was dead?  When they went to scuttle the boat, is that when they pulled all the stuff off of it, all of those items you said you saw?  How long did it take the railroad to take his land?  What about the ….”  Vann, eyes still closed, held up his hand.

boat being scuttled courtesy dailymail.co.uk 4-26

boat being scuttled courtesy dailymail.co.uk 4-26

“Easy, my friend, easy.”  He breathed a deep sigh and then rubbed his face roughly, shaking himself awake I supposed. After another sigh he continued.

“Yes, when they went to scuttle the boat they did take the items off although that was not really part of the usual process.  Mostly they would have taken off anything of real value, and maybe in some cases the personal effects if they knew someone to give them to, next of kin or whatever.  In this case they had no information as to whom Tom might want any of his effects to go to.  The first search of the boat had given them a pretty good idea of what valuables might be aboard, and they surely intended to take those.   They had aboard a local Duluth man though who was a bit of a history buff.  He had spent much of his time in the area researching just how that part of the territory had been explored and settled.  He was curious when the first reports had come back and intrigued by what he heard about Tom’s strange collection, and managed to get himself aboard for the return trip.  By the time they arrived at the wreck he had convinced the captain of the boat that they needed to remove all of the items aboard so he could keep them, use them for his research.”

“And the captain agreed to that?  Aren’t there salvage rights to the captain and wouldn’t he have wanted some of that stuff for himself?”

“He did, I think anyway, I mean that’s part of the payment for doing work like that.  But in the end the historian bought him off with the fifteen silver coins.”

“That’s it?”

“Well, that and a few pieces of the boat the captain wanted, the sail and stuff like that.  But yes, basically just the fifteen coins.  He was a fairly persuasive man I guess.  He wrote about it later, some of the things he surmised had happened, a few random details that he came up with along the way.  He was fairly passionate about it, however he died before he could really get too much into the story.”

The sound of coyotes howling started up right then, off somewhere in the distance, a usual sound in Arizona but slightly unnerving when you are outside the usual security of city and home.  When I turned back Vann was drifting off again.

“Why did they have to scuttle the boat anyway?  It was just grounded so I figure they could have fixed it up?”

“Not really.  Apparently the damage that Tom couldn’t fix had become considerably worse in the few days it had sat on the sand bar.  They determined it just couldn’t be saved, or wasn’t worth the cost.”

“Did this historian guy ever figure anything else out?”

Vann shook himself awake again.  “A few more things.  He goes on for a bit in one of his papers about the picture of the chess piece on the side of the boat.  It was after reading what he thought and learned about that I ended up going off on my own little side journey into the history and meaning of chess pieces.  It’s quite a trip,” and here Vann shook one of his bony fingers at me, “and I suggest you avoid it.  I don’t think that it has anything to do with, well anything really.”

In my own mind I still thought that this was a rather large loose end but I realized that Vann was unlikely to be swayed in his thoughts on the matter.

“That’s it?”

“More, yes there is more.  He did some of the preliminary research on Tom’s background in the area and left some good notes on that.  He also searched for Tom, actually trekked up to the northern parts of that area and asked around, visited a few Indian tribes, even tried to track down Mashkikiikwe but no luck.  He did find John Beargrease who apparently claimed he knew nothing about Tom at all, which would have been unlikely, so read what you want to into that.”

“Did he keep all of that stuff he took off the boat?”

“Yes.  That’s where the inventory came from and he kept really good track of it, which is part of the reason the provenance is so good on the items.”

“Who was this guy?”

Vann’s eyes settled on me for a moment and then he smiled, just the same way he had when he finished brushing his teeth, then he shrugged and waved his hand loosely in the air.

“I can’t quite remember.  You could find it out pretty easily though.”

I kicked my foot against the ground, a little frustrated with that answer.  After tapping it a few more times I asked him about the railroad’s seizure of Tom’s land.

“They took it all almost right away.  It was before the story about his stranded boat even made it back to the area.  They were already in the process of leveling everything on his property when they received that information.  I figure it just served as another justification for the land seizure.  They kicked off all the tenants, except the Acre like I told you before, and got busy building.”

I remembered something Vann had said near the beginning of his story.

“So, that’s how these candlesticks survived a murder, a shipwreck and a fire all in the space of a year.”

“No.”

“That’s what you said, that was their big story I thought.”

“It is, but that fire at Tom’s wasn’t the one I was talking about.”

…to be continued

An American Story (Part 12)

I guess that I was not exactly surprised when he said that, although the concept of stealing an exhibit or any items kept by a historical society of any kind would not have been something I could have done.  Maybe it was just my own reverential viewpoint on history, its facts and tales, the lessons it can teach us, that would have kept me from doing such a thing.  Or perhaps it would have been my belief in karma that would have stopped me.  Vann apparently had no such limitations even though he did seem to share my historical bent.  That was a lesson for me on the relative inconsistencies of how people’s similar beliefs or interests translate in the real world.  At least I could clarify that.

“And that doesn’t bother you?”

“Not really.  I spent a lot of time in the area and I used some of their resources when I was picking through this story, trying to put it together.  I guess that I feel badly that I went behind old Jim Stover’s back to take them, but overall it doesn’t bother me.  I don’t think they really understood the magnificence of this tale, or the real impact it could have on framing the history of that area.  The candlesticks were just random items collected up in a box and labeled ‘Tom Sexton Property Box 3’.  There is no appreciation in that.  I looked at every item in all of those boxes, read the notes on how they were found, checked the provenance details.  I gave them some much needed attention, and those candlesticks, well they just seemed to draw me in, so I kept them.”  He paused for a moment then held up his hand as I started to form a question.  “And before you ask, Jim Stover is the curator of the society.”  I took a deep breath and asked the actual question I had been beginning when he interrupted.

“Don’t you think that you could have helped them understand it?  You seem to have done quite a bit of research.  Maybe they just never got around to all of this info on Tom Sexton.”

Vann scoffed.  “They never got around to the details of the life of what was basically the main pioneer of the area?  Shabby if you ask me, a shabby excuse.”

“I’m sure there is much to tell about the area, and really how big is this historical society anyway?  It doesn’t exactly sound like a major population area.  It’s probably two guys working out of their garage.”

“True, close to correct actually, but still, shabby.”

I waved that argument off and prompted a return to the story.

“So, he actually ended up in a shipwreck?  Was that in the same boat he had purchased after the railroad had all of his land except for those four acres?”

Vann winked at me and got up, starting to walk off into the night again, muttering, “such an impatient one,” over his shoulder as he went.  I did jumping jacks until he returned to warm back up and when he did we both sat down.

“Yes, getting back to the story.  Once Tom saw that blood on his cuffs, and considering that those two murdered women were most definitely dead and mutilated on his property, he knew that he had to act fast. I guess some people might say that he should have stuck around and fought it, should have kept standing up to the railroad, but I just don’t think he had one ounce of energy left for that.  Plus, he had to have been in a state of some shock and panic, and it certainly had been a rough couple of weeks since that terrible beating he took that almost killed him.  Now, Tom did leave info on how he found things when he got to the cabin, however he never wrote anything about exactly what he did at the point when he realized it was over for him in Two Harbors.  A few things can be surmised.  The dog was never found and it wasn’t not on the boat so either Tom put it down or, as unlikely as it may be, it jumped off the boat when it wrecked and sank or swam from memory.  Also, the bodies of both women were found inside the cabin, lying next to each other on the floor and each covered with a blanket.  The fire never touched either of them although pretty much everything else was at least charred.  He must have spent at least a few minutes gathering up items he wanted to take, personal items and the things from the pit that were found with the wreck.  The boat was pretty well provisioned when it was searched, one of the reasons some people, including me, think he had been planning to take off anyway.  Still, I don’t think he ever got to the point where he really thought he was going to be forced to leave, especially not on his own terms, so he must have had some last minute gathering to do.   And then, of course he set fire to his shack, imperfectly as it turned out.”

“Why do you think he did that?”

“It’s hard to tell for sure, and he never left a clue about it.  It may have been to try to disguise what happened to those women, maybe to burn the bodies so they wouldn’t be seen in such a horrible state.  Maybe it was panic.  Or spite, to make sure that he left them nothing he couldn’t take with him.  He obviously did it in a rush, as at that point he probably figured the railroad had sent someone out to innocently discover what a terrible crime he had committed and arrest him.  And they must have shown up not long after he left because the first reports are dated that same day.”

two harbors shoreline courtesy city-data.com

two harbors shoreline courtesy city-data.com

“Yeah, I guess it’s hard to tell at this distance from the whole thing.  So, he takes off on the boat and?”

Vann held up a hand. “One more thing, and I tell you only in the interest of providing the complete information.  There is an Ojibwa tale that says Mashkikiikwe met him down by the water and asked him to stay, to come back with her to her tribal area and live there. He refused her,  saying that he had to go and make his place in a totally new area.  It’s hard to know if that is true or not of course.”

“And then he left?”

“Yep.  He walked down to the part of his property that touched the lake and cast off in Castle, headed out into the water and away from Two Harbors.”

“Castle is the boat?”

“Yes, I guess I forgot to tell that part of the story.  He named it…,” but I interrupted him, smiling as I did so.

“He thought it was a safe place?”

Vann of course was irritated but played along.  “No.”

“It looked like a castle?” That was out of my mouth before I could stop it.  Vann at least let it go without comment.  I had to pause to think and then continued with, “because he thought he was the king of Two Harbors?”

“No.”

“Damn. Well, how about it was because it was something he had wished for?  Dreamed about?  You know, the whole castle in the air thing?”

“No.”

“Fine.  Then what?”

“It was a chess reference, to the rook.”  He of course left it momentarily at that, probably as some twisted punishment for my impatience.  I dug into my mind to figure out what he meant but five minutes later had nothing but was not about to admit it.  Vann finally had mercy.

“It’s not anymore complicated than that.  He was a keen student of chess and named his boat after the rook.  Actually, if you ask me he probably thought its name was Rook, however the folks that found the shipwreck obviously did not appreciate the game of chess.”

I gave Vann my best ‘what the hell are you talking about face’ and waited for him to stop blowing his nose into some rag he had pulled from inside the Army coat.

“There wasn’t a name painted on the boat.  Just a drawn picture of a chess piece, the rook.”

…to be continued

An American Story (Part 11)

Vann remained silent after stretching and I refused to look his way, knowing that I would betray my impatience.  Finally he looked at me with approval and continued.

“Tom’s out there, digging up that skeleton, which is what he found out it was after just a few minutes of shoveling, and he starts seeing other things come up with his shovelfuls of dirt.  He cataloged some of it, like these candlesticks, a rotten leather bag with fifteen silver coins, two pair of boots, a sextant, some other bones that did not look human.  He kept some detailed lists the first few times he was out there, but after that it is just phrases like ‘more items found’, ‘another of the long metal rods recovered’, ‘an item that was marked with strange letters or markings’ and the like.  I found a few notations that make me think he was still keeping a list but that it was somewhere else, somewhere that I never found.  Still, he kept at it for all those years and by the time he fled that area it wasn’t a hole, it was more like an excavation, and one that he kept hidden with a series of evergreen screens he constructed.  They were cleverly done and you would not have been able to see the site until you were right on it.  Once he was gone, the railroad sent a crew out to level the cabin and start setting the land up for their use.  The crew leader, named Ben Boga, reported back to them a few days later about what he called ‘a hidden area, which we did not see when first walking the land, which was found to contain a large pit with artifacts in it on the north side of the property.’  That report actually got the president of the railroad out to look at the place however the pressures of the moment, making money and all, must have won out, because once he left they just filled the whole thing back in without ceremony.  Pretty much without notice or record either except for a few things I found in Boga’s work journal.  Those are cryptic though as they lack a frame of reference, mostly just short lists of things and poorly described at that.  The only good list is the one he made the day they arrived, probably right along with when he was filing that report back to the railroad.”

“Weird that they just plowed it under like that, unless maybe it wasn’t so remarkable after all.  Sounds like a couple old graves and what, maybe the scattered leftovers of an old explorer camp?”

Vann nodded back and replied, “I kind of thought so also at first reading.  It was weird enough but like you said, maybe not remarkable.  Then I went back over my notes from the whole thing and found a few things that struck me as really weird.  Tom’s lists of what he found may have been lacking in many ways but the details of how far he had dug were fairly specific.  Like I said, it turned into an excavation, but it was a fairly shallow one.  Wide and not that deep, so what was found should all have been from around the same time frame.  The area was also relatively small, at least on a historical scale, and you would not have expected to find a large mix of items.  The list of recovered objects that I was able to assemble though, some of those things really should not have been found together.  From the few details that I found of Tom’s, and Ben Boga’s one good list, it looks like it was all a mixture of Indian, French and English goods and remains, all in the same area and but some of it not likely to be from the same time in history.  Also, Tom’s notes make it clear that Mashkikiikwe was with him at times while he was digging and it doesn’t quite fit that she would be involved in digging up Indian graves, of which at least three for sure were clearly found.  And then, some of the the items that are described by Boga just, well are really strange sounding, foreign.”

“If you say alien artifacts, I’m leaving.”

He waved me off. “No, not that, just odd descriptions that’s all.  Read ‘em yourself if you ever go there, it’s in the archive.”

“Hmm, maybe.”  Vann had gone quiet and I contemplated some of what he had just told me.  Some parts of it sounded like a bad conspiracy book, the kind I refuse to read, and other parts tugged at my mind and left me incredibly curious.  Other things needed an explanation.

“How do you know that these candlesticks of yours are the ones that Tom had?  I mean, are they really that old?  They hardly look it.”

“They are in pretty good shape, I agree with you there, and especially considering their history.  But they truly are that old, standard three-piece mold candlesticks, which was how they were making them in the 1800’s.  Tom noted his find of these really well as it was one of the first things he dug up near the grave.  He noted them as being found six feet from the north side of the grave, tucked inside one of those pair of boots I told you about before.  He figured all of it belonged to the same person at the time, and if he ever changed that opinion he never made mention of it.  He kept them with him once he found them, and he took them with him when he fled.”

“How do you know that?”

“He made a list of everything he took.”

I could not keep the sarcasm out of my voice. “He stopped to make a list before he fled from the scene of a horrible murder.  Please.”

“Not before my friend.  He ended up having to stop for several hours fairly soon after he left and when he did he wrote an entry in his journal, his last one actually. It included a list of what he had taken with him from the shack.  Those candlesticks were on it.”

I picked both of them up.  “These were on his list?  You know, these are not exactly notable in any way.  I will just accept your statement that they are old, but they’re just plain glass.  There are, or were, probably a lot of candlesticks just like these back then.  For all you know he had other sets of his own and these are just ordinary candlesticks with no story behind them at all.”

Having said that I looked down at Vann, whose face showed a mixture of shock and anger.  His voice sounded like he was scolding a child.

“Has it sounded to you like I don’t know how to research things?  Like I would somehow miss a detail like that?  Tom did have only one set of glass candlesticks, a fact noted in his last journal entry in fact.  It says quite specifically ‘my rescued candlesticks, my only set now, so I guess I will have to use them much as it dismays me’.  Additionally, when he first found them he noted a flaw in the glass of both, ‘three air bubbles in one, and the other with one oval air bubble trapped inside another.  So, if you care to…”  I was already holding them up to the starlit sky and saw the telltale bubbles almost immediately.  I lowered them and handed them back to Vann.

“Point made.  Sorry.”

“Quite alright I suppose.  It’s good to question if what you are being told is true, especially if it is a wild story like this one.  I spent plenty of my time when I was looking into this questioning all of it myself.  One more point of fact.  When the shipwreck was searched they made specific note of items recovered and these were on it.  And from there, even though they changed hands a few times, the provenance is pretty clear, right up to the point they were turned over to the historical society.  These are the same candlesticks.”  He finished with a grin which I thought was going to be followed with ‘Ze-bam’, however I was disappointed in that as he just kept smiling.

There was still an unanswered question.

“So, how did you end up with them?”

Vann did not miss a beat.  “I stole them of course.”

…to be continued

An American Story (Part 10)

I remained troubled by the severity of the crime.

“It sure seems like they went way overboard in killing those women.  I mean it’s a bit extreme to be torturing them, flaying their skin, all of that.  I don’t get it.”

“I felt the same way, however as it turned out all of that happened after they were dead, at least as far as the doctor who examined them could tell.  On their death certificates he listed the cause of death as strangulation and all of the other wounds, except some bruising and scratches on both of them, as postmortem.  The rest of it was staged, probably to terrify old Tom.”

I had a baffled look on my face and asked, “How did that work to frame Tom for the murder then?”

“Ahh, yes, well it may have been that the railroad was not in control of this doctor, however they did manage to get hold of those certificates and they never saw the light of day, at least not in any timeframe that mattered to Tom’s story.  And that doctor never said a word either, maybe they got to him after all.  By the time that anyone with an outside interest managed to read those certificates, Tom was dead, the railroad had their land, and well, it didn’t really matter.”

I nodded my agreement at that just as the second set of candles went out, almost in perfect synchrony.  There was just enough light from the stars to allow me to see Vann snapping his fingers next to the wicks a few times, for no real purpose that I could tell, and then he picked up one of the candlesticks.  After taking a penknife out of his jacket pocket, and starting to remove the wax with measured cuts, he returned to the story.

“Now I have to step sideways on you again my friend because I just realized that you are missing some information.  I kind of got caught up in telling that murder tale, however do you remember the boat?

“Yep, the one you thought he might have been planning to leave in?”

“Indeed. And these?”  He held up the candlestick he was working on.  I nodded and waited.

“Like I had told you, these here were part of the reason Tom stuck around through all that abuse.  I admit, he was as stubborn and tough as they come, however I think even he would have left way before it ever came to murder except for what he had found on his property.  And that,” and here Vann held up up his hand to stop my question, “was something or somethings, that I never did really get complete info on.  If I ever get back that way I am going to make it a mission to get the rest of the details, however here is what I do know.”  He put the candlestick down after wiping off the small amount of remaining wax with his untucked shirt, and then placed the other, uncleaned one next to it.  He waved his hands around for a few moments, silently voicing some incantation I imagined, and then picked them both up.

jack pine stand northern Minnesota

jack pine stand northern Minnesota

“These he found on his property, off in a clearing that lay within the woods that surrounded his cabin, in an area he had dug up, and had been working on, for what had been a considerable amount of time.  Some part of his notes remain in a local archive there and the first mention of what would lead him to that clearing is dated for 1856, a detail about one of his dogs coming home with a tattered rag in its mouth.  Unremarkable right?  Tom even wrote that he was about to toss it into the fire when he realized it had something embroidered on it.  The design was too soiled and torn up to identify, however it sparked his interest and he went out the next day looking for where it had come from.  He found nothing for a week, even after letting his dogs loose and trying to follow them, just to see is they went back to wherever the one had found that cloth in the first place.  Eventually though, he found the small clearing, closely ringed by jack pines, and a shallow hole near the eastern edge with a few other articles of clothing sticking up from the ground.  It was a grave of course, an old one, and Tom wrote that he felt pretty bad that his dogs had disturbed the eternal rest of whomever it was that lay there.  He figured to rebury the fella, for it was a man as far as Tom could tell from the clothing, and after getting a shovel he started on the project.  Along the way though, he started digging up other stuff, including these.”  Vann placed the candlesticks back on the ground, took up his penknife again and began cleaning up the remaining one with wax on it.  He was deliberate enough about it that I realized he was testing me, waiting to see if I cut in with another impatient question.  I remained quiet and started moving around, cold again and realizing that Vann’s story had made me forget it for a few minutes.  When I looked his way again he had stopped working on the candlestick and was grinning at me.

“Pretty cold huh?”

“Damn yes, how the hell are you staying warm anyway.  I mean, you at least have some other stuff to wear but man, it’s pretty chilly and you hardly even seem to care.  You didn’t even zip up that jacket.”

He winked at me, said, “practice, my friend,” and then finished up with the second candlestick.  He placed them both on the ground, then picked them up and changed their positions, repeating that several times in a way that reminded me of maneuvering chess pieces.  Finally he seemed to believe they were in whatever cosmic alignment he needed them to be in and he leaned back to stretch.  I stared out into the night, catching a small moving shadow at the edge of my vision and wondering if it was a coyote come in to ask me just what the hell I was still doing under the water tower with the strange homeless person.

map two harbors area around 1880

map two harbors area around 1880

…to be continued

An American Story (Part 8)

I guess I should have seen that coming.  I let Vann’s comment hang in the air while I looked past the shadowy supports of the water tower.  It was darker now, past twilight and right at the cusp of the true night.  A thin fraction of light remained, just enough to provide a murky contrast in my surroundings.  The sky itself was brilliant as we were far enough from the city lights for the stars to be displayed in all their numbers, Orion hanging directly in my view as I looked west.  I felt the need to relieve myself so I shuffled off into the darkness, trying to judge the proper distance for privacy in a situation like this.  As I walked away I heard Vann get up and when I looked back I could see that he too was making his way into the night.  Hopefully he had not been waiting for me.  When I returned he was just sitting down again, after which he pulled out a black watch cap and put it on with the sides pulled down low over his ears.  I was getting fairly cold also, however had little additional clothing to put on so I tucked my hands in my armpits and spoke.

“Your story gets more fantastic as it goes.  How did the police ever make someone kill two women?”

possible photo of John Beargrease Robert N. Dennis collection photographed by B.F. Childs

possible photo of John Beargrease
Robert N. Dennis collection photographed by B.F. Childs

“Well, it began on the night that Tom Sexton finally was able to get up and walk around again, having recovered as much as he was going to from that last beating he took.  There was a doctor in the town who told him that he should stay in bed, however Tom had also been being seen by Mashkikiikwe, an Ojibway medicine woman who lived with Mok-qua Bennete.  Mok-qua was also called John Beargrease by the way in case you ever want to look him up…it’s an interesting story.  But anyway, Tom had more faith in the medicine woman and she told him that he was as healed as he was going to get, so he went out, walking all the way down to Whiskey Town.   There’s a local legend that Mashkikiikwe followed him down there in secret, trailing behind him to see that he made it, keep him safe you know?”  Vann’s arms had been moving again and were in full rhythm by the time he finished this part of the story.  He tucked them under his legs as I began to pace around the area under the tower. My feet, barely protected by my favorite Melvin’s,  were starting to get fairly cold at this point.  I also had a question.

“Why the hell would she do that?  I thought you said that she told him he was ok?”

“You’re getting pretty cold, huh my friend?  Wish I had something to offer you.  Maybe you should head off now, or go to your truck over there.  It would be warmer.”

“I’ll be fine, I’ve got the blood flowing.  So why?”

Vann was giving me a look, one of pity I guess and that made me feel ridiculous.  Why was I not going to my truck?  I shot him back my best ‘get on with the damn story’ look, which he accepted with a shake of his head.

“Hard to say.  It’s all just legend but some people believe that there was more going on between Tom and the woman than spiritual healing.”

“You mean more than the usual amount of spiritual healing?”

“Huh?”

“Never mind.  So she followed him, and then what?”  I stopped pacing as the tight circle I made was making me a little bit dizzy.

“I don’t know if she followed him, it’s just a local story.”

“Ok, ok, so then?”

Vann held up his hand.  Apparently my impatience was wearing on him again.  I watched with amusement crossed with fury as he removed a blue comb from his pack, took off the watch cap and carefully smoothed his ratty brown hair back, following each stroke with a look up at me.  After placing the cap back on, and the comb into it’s pocket on the outside of the pack, he pulled another candle out to replace the one which had gone out some time ago.  Once the flame was properly set he continued on.

“Tom had been out of commission like I said for ten days and really felt like showing his face in the town again.  He never had been one to back down and I guess figured that he wanted the railroad to see that he was back in action.  So, he walked all that way and once he was there wandered over to the Half Acre looking for a tug of whiskey.  He knew the owner of course and liked checking up on things, sad as they were, in the businesses on what little remained of his property.  Walked in, took a look around and sure enough, ze-bam!, those railroad thugs were sitting next to the bar just like they had been expecting him.”

I offered a muted chuckle and said, “go figure.”

“Indeed, indeed my friend.  Tom hardly faltered a step, just walked up to the bar and asked for some whiskey.  Then he sat down at a table and looked around at what was pretty much the usual scene.  Small groups of men playing cards, telling dirty jokes and funny stories, women sitting on a lap or leaned up against a fella in the corner, a few odd lonely ducks tucked into dark spaces by themselves, muttering and rubbing their faces.  He tapped his empty glass to get more whiskey and then stared hard at those railroad boys.  I don’t know what might have been running around in Tom’s mind but he could not have felt good on the inside.  He  might be stubborn and brave but I don’t think he imagined he was going to survive another beating.  But he waited, ordering a few more tugs and staring right at those boys.  Finally, they both got up and went over to the bar, walking past Tom on the way but not looking at him.  Both men stood at the bar and took out silver dollars, spinning them on the bar top and letting them ring down as they finished.  This was a well-known custom at the Half Acre, a call for a girl if you will, and it brought several of them over to the bar quickly.  They picked two and headed back behind the bar.”

“Jenny and Mary?”

“Who else my friend, who else?”

…to be continued