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The Trading Post a frontier story
One of the first things I did when I got to Flint’s Crossing was to visit my sister at the trading post, which was also her home. My name is John Cassidy and I came to this frontier settlement partly because my “big sister” Megan had written to me several times to come and visit. I reached a time in life, a fork in the road, so to speak, when I had doubts about my vocation in life. After several years of study for the Catholic priesthood and assignment to serve as an assistant for Bishop Carroll, the Catholic bishop of the United States. Since I had not taken my final vows, at this stage I was not yet a priest. The bishop concurred that it might be well for me to visit family members before making such an important decision as joining the clergy, which is a lifetime commitment in the Catholic Church. I had also agreed to write to the bishop and tell him about conditions on the frontier and how they might affect the faith.
The frontier was certainly a new experience for a boy raised in the city of Baltimore. Even the trading post was sharp contrast to anything back in Maryland. Before going in, I stopped by the front to study the nature of the building. Rubbing my hand across the logs which were structured to form a wall, I felt clay mixture that formed a mortar between the logs. The door was of a heavy wood. A glass window ran across the front which must have been expensive and difficult to transport so far. It hadn't been so very long that Lewis and Clark had come through here for the first time. When I got inside the showroom of the store, I realized the value of the imported glass. The sunshine gave both a warmth to the skin and to the atmosphere of the place. Instantly I knew it must be something my sister must have insisted upon.
The trading post was built on several levels and appeared to be dug into the hillside. At the top where I entered was where customers for food and household goods entered. Down below were arrangements for boats to dock, load and unload goods.
When I went into the store I looked out the window and could see the river and the keelboats. A boat, which was bigger than the others was starting to anchor at the dock on the lower level of the store. When I went inside the store I saw was a neat display of household goods and supplies on shelves where the customer’s eye was attracted. Yes this was not the work of a man; it had to be the influence of my big sister. “Hello Megan,” I said as I saw the red headed Irish lass that was actually inches shorter than me. . I called her my big sister because she virtually raised my two brothers and me when mother died. She was the oldest. “Hello John. I’m glad the bishop let you come. It’s been a long time since we talked.”
“I’m anxious to meet your husband.” I said. “I’m told he’s a fur trader and the reason for this trading post.” My sister blushed when I said this. Her suntanned and freckled face was flushed. “There is something you have to understand, John.”
I wondered what upset her. She had always been a person who seldom got flustered. “What is it, Megan?”
“Well, Gator and I are not exactly married,” she stammered.
Somehow, it didn’t surprise me as much as she apparently thought it would. The trip getting here with Frenchy and other keelboat men and their stories prepared me, I guess, for all sorts of unexpected things. Truly, she was so embarrassed that I could only take her in my arms and hold her.
“You see,” she said. “I came here and met Gator. There was no priest around, so we couldn’t get married in the church. A circuit riding judge came through here and he married us but we never got the blessing of the church.”
“I think we can do something about that. We can’t have a mass though because I haven’t been ordained. When will he be back?”
Megan looked relieved to hear that. She started to show me the store and tell me of the successes and troubles of running a trading post. River pirates were the biggest problem. She inherited Father’s business sense and they did well, but the pirates were getting bolder and bolder, she told me.
“Gator should be here the day after tomorrow. That’s when the traders and trappers should be here with more furs. We just got supplies in from trading companies that we can sell to the trappers. A few Indians come in as well.”
Megan invited me to come back for dinner and I walked out onto the balcony that overlooked the river. Looking down I noted the boat that I had seen before and it dawned on me that Megan had said there were no traders expected for another two days. Suddenly, it seemed urgent to go in and check on Megan. I didn’t have any weapons but I am a large man and pretty athletic. The attacker had apparently been waiting outside the room waiting for me to leave. When I entered Megan was holding him off with a hunting knife.
The intruder was holding a pistol and threatening my sister. She appeared calm, but a knife against a gun is a poor advantage. I lunged at him and knocked him over. Then I felt a sharp pain on the back of my head and things went blank. When I woke up Megan had the pistol and a man who was dressed as a seafaring man was holding a bleeding arm. The man I attacked appeared to be unconscious. My tackle must have knocked him out. Never the less, Megan seemed to be upset. I told her she didn’t have to be upset about throwing the knife and cutting the man’s arm.
“John, my dear brother. You should know me better than that. Hurting a pirates arm doesn’t bother me. But I was aiming at his heart and missed. You can’t miss your target very often out here and survive. That pirate should be dead.”
If anything, my sister is a survivor.
- The Papist and the Preacher: short story
A story of the frontier between two men of the cloth.One a Catholic Priest having doubts of his faith. The other a camp meeting preacher.
© 2013 Don A. Hoglund