Editor's Note: This is an ongoing series which runs each Thursday morning titled the Richland Chronicles Volume 2, by author Paul Lintern. It is set in the summer of 1831 and tells the story of Richland County through the eyes of young people. This is the second in a three-book trilogy. Volume 1 was Amelia Changes Her Tune.
“And what delicacies have you brought to market today?”
Wolf Paw's grandmother asked as he and Isaac walked up to her.
“Fine furs, wonderful stew, clever jewelry and a pretty penny,” Wolf Paw said. “It all just needs a little attention from you.”
He opened the bag to her.
“Ugh. Go clean those up before you bring them around my goods. You’ll scare away the customers.”
Wolf Paw and Isaac had walked up the long hill from Rocky Ford where they had been hunting, into the center of Mansfield, a village of about 300. It had been carved out of the forest about 20 years earlier, on a gentle slope of land between two creeks, each of which provided water power for millers to grind corn and wheat, and to saw wood.
In the middle of the village the square was lined with old cabins and new frame buildings all around the outside, facing a pasture with a straight path passing through the middle. On the north side of the park was the new two-story brick courthouse, pride of the village.
The only other structure in the park was the long, narrow market house, along the road on the west side, where farmers and others could rent space to sell their wares every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning.
Wolf Paw's grandmother and Mrs. Big Rivers had traveled with him from the Wyandot reservation about 30 miles west of there, to sell moccasins and crafts, corn meal and herbs, fragrant oils and salted fish. They would sell in the morning, work on their crafts that afternoon and the next day, then sell one more morning before starting home.
This time they were staying the whole week.
That gave Wolf Paw time with Isaac, as long as they appeared industrious.
“I don't expect you to do squaw's work,” she would say, “But you had better be preparing to do the work of a man.”
Squirrel hunting fit the bill.
Her name was You Man Ree Hoo, but no one called her that. To Wolf Paw, she was grandmother. To everyone else she was Widow Tallman, because her husband had died years ago, even before Wolf Paw's parents had died. She told Wolf Paw that his height had come from his grandfather.
“The Great Spirit has given me a grandson that reminds me that my son and husband are with me, too,” she said.
Isaac noticed Wolf Paw stood taller when she said that. As the boys approached the village, they were talking about news they had heard, of a steam powered engine that had pulled wagons along a set of parallel iron tracks, actually going 12 miles in only 25 minutes. It was called a railroad.
“That’s faster than any horse could take you, at least for such a long time,” Wolf Paw said.
That reminded Isaac that someone had called it an “iron horse.”
“I wish I could go see it,” Isaac said.
“Maybe it will come see you,” Wolf Paw replied. “If it is like other white men's inventions, soon it will be everywhere, like canals, only without the water.”
As they walked into the village, though, railroads seemed as far away as the moon. Everything was just like it always had been, in Isaac's mind. Messy, muddy and mixed with manure, the park and the roads seemed to carry none of the elegance of the faraway American cities they read about in their schoolbooks - New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Charleston - or the great foreign cities, such as London, Paris and Rome.
They had to trudge past a herd of cows and step around a dozen pigs before reaching grandmother. It was just about noon as they arrived and the women had been closing up for the day.
The boys helped them carry their goods down the hill to the north, to their campsite in the woods. The land actually belonged to Mr. Day, whose house was on the south side of the square, but he had given them permission long ago to stay there whenever they wished.
As a result, a nice lean-to was built and a cache of cooking utensils, firewood and bedding was nearby, making it easier to travel back and forth to Upper Sandusky, without all the extra baggage.
As Grandmother and her friends fixed lunch, Isaac and Wolf Paw walked away from the camp a few yards to skin the squirrels. It was a messy job, made better by the efficiency they were learning.
They made several piles -- one with scalps off the top of the heads, one with the small furs after they skinned them, one with paws that would be used for decorations on clothing, and one with the meat and bones that would go to Aunt Peggy for stew.
The messy pile of guts would feed Mr. Day’s pigs. Very little remained. As he handed the furs to Grandmother, Wolf Paw said he would spend the night at Isaac's home, as they wanted to take the squirrel meat to his Uncle Jacob, who owned the Oakland Inn, a few miles farther north.
“If you are going there, Isaac, please take these herbs to your Aunt Peggy. Some are for medicine, and some for her dinner meat.”
“Will she know which is which?” Isaac asked.
“I hope so, but if she puts the wrong one on the meat it will give them a stomach ache and then cure it at the same time.”
Isaac grabbed the package; the boys set out. On their way Isaac asked Wolf Paw if he ever thought about his parents.
“Only when I am not thinking about something else.”
“How often is that?”
“Most of the time.”
“I think about my father a lot, too.” Isaac said. “Do you get mad that it's so unfair that we don't have them?”
“It is not fair or unfair, it just is,” Wolf Paw said. “Everything else can be fair or unfair, depending on how you look at it.”
“What do you mean?” Isaac asked.
“How unfair it is that I am so handsome and strong, and you are you.”
Isaac could feel his blood rise and his fists clench. His eyes fired darts at Wolf Paw, until he saw that silly grin, and he knew the discussion was over.