For six long years Orlando Sackett survived the horrors of a brutal Mexican prison. He survived by using his skills as a boxer and by making three vows. Read more...
- Publisher: Books on Tape
- Date: Aug 2007
From the cover
We Sacketts were a mountain folk who ran long on boy children and gun-shooting, but not many of us were traveled men. And that was why I envied the Tinker.
When first I caught sight of him he was so far off I couldn't make him out, so I taken my rifle and hunkered down behind the woodpile, all set to get in the first shot if it proved to be a Higgins.
Soon as I realized who it was, I turned again to tightening my mill, for I was fresh out of meal and feeling hunger.
Everybody in the mountains knew the Tinker. He was a wandering man who tinkered with everything that needed fixing. He could repair a clock, sharpen a saw, make a wagon wheel, or shoe a horse.
Fact was, he could do almost anything a body could think of that needed doing, and he wandered up and down the mountains from Virginia to Georgia just a-fixing and a-doing. Along with it, he was a pack peddler.
He carried a pack would have put a crick in a squaw's back, and when he fetched up to my cabin he slung it down and squatted on his heels beside it.
"If you reckoned I was a Higgins," he said, "you can put it out of mind. Your Cousin Tyrel cut his notch for the last Higgins months ago. You Sacketts done cleaned them out."
"Not this Sackett. I never shot 'ary a Higgins, although that's not to say I wouldn't had they come at me."
"Tyrel, him an' Orrin, they taken out for the western lands. Looks to me like you're to be the last of the Sacketts of Tennessee."
"Maybe I will and maybe I won't," said I, a-working at my mill. "I've given thought to the western lands myself, for a man might work his life away in these mountains, and nothing to show for it in the end."
The Tinker, he just sat there, not saying aye, yes, or no, but I could see he had something on his mind, and given time would have his say.
"You're the one has the good life," I said. "Always a-coming and a-going along the mountains and down to the Settlements."
There was a yearning in me to be off the mountain, for I'd lived too long in the high-up hills, knowing every twisty creek to its farthest reaches, and every lightning-struck tree for miles.
Other than my cabin, the only places I knew were the meetinghouse down to the Crossing where folks went of a Sunday, and the schoolhouse at Clinch's Creek where we went of a Saturday for the dancing and the fighting.
"Tinker," I said, "I've been biding my time until you came along, for come sunup it is in my mind to walk away from the mountains to the western lands."
Filling the mill's hopper, I gave the handles a testing turn, then added, "If you've a mind to, I'd like you to come with me."
Now, the Tinker was a solitary man. A long-jawed man, dark as any Indian, but of a different cast, somehow, and he'd an odd look to his yellow eyes. Some said he hailed from foreign lands, but I knew nothing of that, nor ought of the ways of foreign folk, but the Tinker knew things a body could scarcely ken, and held a canny knowledge of uncanny things.
Beside a fire of an evening his fingers worked a magic with rope or yarn, charming queer, decorative things that women took fancy to, but the likes of which none of us had ever seen.
"I have given it thought, 'Lando," he answered me, "but I am a lone man with no liking for company."
"So it is with me. But now it is in my mind to go to the western lands and there become rich with the things of this earth. You have the knack for the doing of things, and I have a knack for trade, and together we might do much that neither could do alone."
"Aye ... you have a knack...