Story Hour

 

A Revolutionary Boy: Chapter 2

Where is Stephan?

Note: Chapter One is in the archive… but we strongly urge that you take the time to go TO the archive. There are certain to be other stories in there that will interest you.

In the first story, we are introduced to Nathan and to some of his family. They live at the time of the American Revolution – 1776. Their work begins before the sun comes up. Everyone works, almost from the time they can walk. It’s a hard life. Not even the children think much about that, though, because it’s what they are used to.

Revolt is growing and has been for some years. Nathan’s father is somewhat of a local leader. The children have been kept safe even from the rumors. Nathan has seen mysterious riders who talk with his father quietly outside. Father has also been taking special care to keep his rifle clean and ready. Nathan’s mother seems more nervous than usual. The father took the four boys with him into the village for a special meeting at Abernathy’s, the local blacksmith. A paper had been nailed to the door for all to share. On the way home, Nathan’s father explained, “That was the Declaration of Independence.”


 

WHERE IS STEPHAN?

On the ride home that night, Nathan had much to think about. He’d barely seen the paper nailed to Abernathy’s big door. He didn’t have enough time to read more than just a few words. “ … all men are created equal.”

He wanted to ask his father more. There never seemed to be time for it. As always, Nathan was up before the sun. By then, his father was already up and gone. More and more, Nathan’s older brother, Stephan, was taking on father’s chores. Father still worked hard but was often gone. One time, father was gone for more than a week … with his rifle. When he came back, he and mother went off on their own to talk softly. It was unusual for anyone in the family to keep secrets. However, the children also knew when to not ask.

Father came home from another meeting in town. His own rifle was on a strap over his shoulder. That’s where it always was these days. Even when he plowed the field, the rifle wasn’t far. This day, in his hands was another rifle and a pouch for shot and powder.

“Stephan, you are almost 15. I’ve had to be away lately. This is yours. You know how to use it … and how not to use it.”

Nathan felt a quick pang of envy, but it didn’t last. Stephan was the oldest. When father was gone, even mother turned to Stephan. At 15, it was time for Stephan to be apprenticed to a trade, and to move away from home. It was time for him to think about a family of his own. Instead, Stephan chose to stay at home where he was needed more.

No one talked about it. It just was as it was, and accepted. Life went on. But life was somehow different for them.

Nathan gathered the eggs as usual. His young sister, Sarah, had turned 4 so she would sometimes help. That let Nathan help his other sisters in the garden. Then he would hurry to the barn to help Stephan milk the two cows. With father gone more often, that had become important. Then Stephan could take care of the fields. It was a bit confusing, but needed.

On this morning, the twins, Gunter and Gaylen, were in the garden with the sisters. Nathan rushed to the barn. Stephan wasn’t there. Both cows were mooing loudly. Complaining. Nathan was puzzled that Stephan hadn’t even started the milking. For a moment he thought Stephan must be out in the field, but the horse was in its stall.

Nathan finished the milking and carried the pails to the house. Mother was preparing the mid-day meal, as always, but wasn’t smiling. The meal was quiet. There wasn’t the usual talking and laughing. Father wasn’t there. Stephan wasn’t there. Then Nathan noticed something.

Not only was his father not there, father’s rifle was missing.

Not only was Stephan not there, Stephan’s rifle was missing.

It suddenly occurred to Nathan that when he brought in the pails of milk, a large slab of salt pork was missing from the cellar, along with a piece of cheese curing in its net.

Nathan went back to his afternoon chores. As the sun was going down, he and his brothers and sisters were coming back to the house – but not father, and not Stephan. They weren’t there the next morning. Not there as the sun set.

 

SOME BACKGROUND

Samp is a coarsely ground corn. (Actually, it is maize, a kind of corn, but not the sweet corn you’re used to as corn on the cob.) In the Revolutionary days in America, it was a staple. A main food. It was often boiled and then kept hot in a cauldron in the fireplace. The main part was cracked hominy. The colonists learned much about it from the American Indians. Another version of it is called grits.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samp

The colonists didn’t like what England was trying to do. England, under King George, felt that the colonists owed them. Taxes in particular increased, sometimes suddenly without notice. This led to things like the Boston Tea Party. To keep order, British soldiers and navy enforced unpopular laws, often with violence. More and more Americans (who began to think of themselves as Americans, not just colonists) got together. The Declaration of Independence was written.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Declaration_of_Independence

Eventually, America had a more formal and organized army. Much of it, however, were loose militia scattered across the many small farming communities. Many of those farmers had rifles of various kinds, used mostly for hunting. Local militias were formed. The idea was to be ready to fight, if need be, at a minute’s notice.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minutemen

News then wasn’t like news now. There was no TV or radio, no internet, no telephones. Only larger cities had anything somewhat like a newspaper. The smaller villages had to wait. Even then, paper was precious. A single notice was nailed to a central spot. A larger village might have a town meeting hall. Nathan’s village was like many others. Sooner or later, people needed the blacksmith. This often became the central meeting place.

 


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