The Kings of Oak Springs, Episode 2 - Scavenger Hunt on the “Hamby Place”
Creek by the Homestead
Karl and Owen began searching around the burned out homesite
As Karl and Owen began their search for salvable property on the old “Hamby Place,” now the King homestead, about a mile west of Oak Springs, they each were wearing deerskin gloves and they each had an instrument. Karl had a hoe, and Owen had a pike-like pole that he had used his blacksmith skills to create. It had worked well for him as he had searched other burned-out sites across the Oak Creek Valley as well as in Oak Springs. It had a strong hook on one side, a sharp triangular hoe-like surface on the other and a point on the end so he could probe, and pull, and get ahold of materials buried under brush, other undergrowth, and even under burned out wood, boards, and other materials.
This was the spring of 1876 and the site they were examining had been a farmstead before the Civil War raiders had come through and burned every building in sight. Mostly, people had left the land in a rush, and took few things with them... if, indeed, they had been able to escape. A few in the valley had not been that fortunate. Edmond Gifford, for one, on his farm in the far southeast corner of the township, had been one of the three persons killed by raiders in the valley in 1861 before the mass exodus began. Gifford was murdered in his front yard, in front of his house, and his mules and horses stolen. His wife and children had left the valley immediate to live with other members of her family. Their son, Franklin, 16 in 1860, served in the Union army and had expressed the intent to marry and return to claim the family farm. His mother supported the intent of the son, but expressed no interest for she and her daughter to return. With help from his family, Franklin and Josephine Gifford did return to their family farm in 1867. This was one of several farms were Owen had gone out and spent a couple of days with Franklin, in those first days back, to salvage what they could. They had more than filled a wagon with useful materials they were able to salvage. Owen hoped and assumed this day would result in a similar result.
Since Karl had already identified the house site previously, they decided to probe there first. On other home sites, Owen had been surprised to find some foundations intact or nearly so, and more flooring still useful than he had expected. This place had set for another 8-10 years from some his early explorations, so he wasn’t totally confident of what they would find here. Starting with one corner of the stone and mortar foundation, they began to probe around the outside perimeter. In this case, most of the flooring was burned, rotted and broken, but the foundation, which had been well constructed, was very much intact. This was a pleasant surprise to Karl. Along what appeared to be the back of the house, they came across what seemed to have been a tool shed. The shed had totally burned away, of course, but with some probing and a little digging after shrub removal, they discovered the metal remains of eight different tools.
The Homestead had been burned by raiders
A set of implements were discovered near a line of trees not far from the house site
A couple of days earlier, Karl had located the Hamby Spring House, on the creek, not too far from where the house had been. Although it had been overgrown with undergrowth, it was still intact and was usable with only a few minor repairs. A few feet away, perpendicular to a line to the house from the Spring House, Owen noticed there appeared to be a line of trees that were more mature than the other randomly placed trees around the area. They decided to check that area next. His experience suggested that sometimes farm implements would be stored along that kind of a setting.
They soon discovered that this homesite was no exception. There were the remains of a plow, a harrow, a seed planter, some kind of drag contraption, and three other items they had difficulty identifying specifically. All wooden parts and any leather straps that might have been there were gone, of course. The iron was badly rusted. Owen and Karl collected what they did find in the area to be loaded on Owen’s wagon. He would be able to use all the materials, one way or another. Karl asked if Owen could make the harrow usable again. Otherwise, the rest of the items were useless to Karl. With Owen’s assure that he could salvage a usable harrow, they moved on.
In the process of walking back and forth and around, getting the wagon hooked up again, and taken to the areas to load materials, they stumbled on a number of other old metal parts, as well. Earlier, Owen had brought in his wagon not only the refurbished used plow he had promised, but several other tools and small instruments and implements he though Karl might find useful based on their earlier brief discussion. As the mid-day dinner time approached, Karl and Owen discussed what was in the wagon and what they had found along with relative values they each placed on them. Good old-fashioned barter was still alive and well and worked well for each of them. Also, they enjoyed comparing viewpoints of the values of a number of the items.
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Did Keith want to be a blacksmith?
Mid-day dinner provided lively conversation and allowed the children to fully participate
Karl and Katherine had four children, each anxious to ask the town blacksmith, Owen Olson, their questions as their mother had promised when he first arrived earlier in the day. In the meantime, they each had completed their morning tasks without fussing, today, knowing that this opportunity was coming. Keith, age 14, got to ask the first question: “How old do you have to be to learn how to be a blacksmith?” Owen looked Keith over carefully as he gave his reply. “Actually,” he said, “Age 14 is about the earliest normal age we would consider beginning training of actual blacksmith techniques. A person’s body needs to be close to maturity so as not to cause injuries as the more difficult tasks are begun. In addition, of course, the amount and kinds of work the young person has done previously may plan a big role, as well. Are you interested in the blacksmith trade, Keith?” Keith had his answer ready, “I had not really thought about it until Pa said you were coming. Then, it seemed kind of interesting.”
Owen smiled and replied, slowly, “Well, Keith, if you want to learn more about the trade, perhaps your parents would let you spend a day with me in the shop sometime, and I can help you learn a little more about it. Making a decision like that is a big one. The more you know, the better decision you can make.” Keith was smiling from ear to ear at the attention Owen had given him. “Thank you, sir. I’ll sure talk to them about that.”
Kate, just recently turned 12, got to ask the next question. “Do you have a wife and children?” Owen smile broadly behind his snow white beard, “Yes, of course. My wife is Anna. She is the Postmaster in Oak Springs. My daughter is Allison, she runs the General Merchandise store across the road from my Blacksmith Shop. My son, Liam, is also a blacksmith but is also an artist, as well. You can see his work at my shop.” “Any grandchildren?” Kate asked, tentatively. “No, not yet,” Owen shook his head and smiled at the question.
Kent, now 10, smiled as he asked his question. “We just arrived here in this valley a few days ago. How long have you been here?” This question caused Owen to break into a full laugh. “A long time ago, for sure. Anna and I came into this valley, on foot, in 1833, just weeks after the very first settlers came here. We were very lucky that they all welcomed us and made us feel a part of the community. Colonel Patton, especially, took us under his wing and taught me everything I know, I do not hesitate to say. We worked very hard, but we owe everything we have now to the good-will of the people across the valley.”
“That reminds me,” Owen looked to Karl and Katherine, “I heartily encourage you to participate in the “Fourth Sunday” community event each month here in the valley. It is where we get to know each other, share what we are doing, what we may need others to help us with, and plan the next month’s activities. It is a wonderful tradition that has been going on here for, what? 43 years, now is it not? Amazing!”
“We will be sure to do that, Owen. Thank you!” Karla, what is your question for Mr. Olson?” 5 year old Karla, anxious but still a little timid, looked at Owen. “Ma said you are not Santa Claus, so... can I touch your beard?” With a big, “Ho, ho, ho,” Owen replied, “Of course you can.” So, as she beamed brightly, she did just that. “Thank you, Mr. Olson.”
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Owen was not Santa Claus, but had a white beard
Introductory note from the author
This is the second episode of a new short story series set in the Ozarks Mountain setting of “The Homeplace Saga” family saga of historical fiction. This story begins in 1876, following the time period (1833-1875) of the forthcoming “Founding of the Homeplace” collection of short stories. Some of these earlier stories are published on The Homeplace Saga blog, found at the links, below.
“The Homeplace Saga” is the creation of the author, William Leverne Smith, also known as “Dr. Bill.”
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All all you want to know about the characters and place of "The Homeplace Sage" series of historical fiction family saga stories, on multiple writing platforms.