A shot in the dark

Continuing with Gerald Nathan Hodgson’s Northwest family narrative, with thanks to Michael Howard Hodgson:

There was one story about chicken thieves that I remember only vaguely. The one about horse thieves, that one I remember quite clearly. It seems that Dad and Granddad were traveling with a team of very nice horses and a buggy through some portion of the central states. Before entering a certain area, a man noticed their team, inquired where they were going, and warned them that the region was full of horse thieves and that they would be very lucky to get through without having the horses stolen.

Somewhere along the way, they stopped for the night at either a private place or a small inn. Dad said that the proprietor of the place aroused his suspicion at once so he and Granddad kept a wary eye out. The proprietor disappeared early in the evening. I don’t know where Granddad slept, but Dad made his bed down in the manger next to the horses. Sometime during the night, the horses raised a commotion and roused Dad. He grabbed his pistol and strained his eyes though a large crack in tile manger and saw a man’s legs along side of it. Dad thrust his pistol through the crack in the manger and between the man’s legs and pulled the trigger. He could tell by the sounds that more than one man had hastily got out of the barn.

He later found that one of the horses had been untied. Anyway, he followed them outdoors and fired the pistol a few more times to speed them on their way. I do not remember whether it was this case of the case of the chicken thieves where the ground was frozen and he could hear the pound of running feet for a long time afterward.

At any rate, the proprietor of the place came up after awhile, breathing hard, and said, “I was just over at the neighbors playing some cards and I heard the shootin’ and I wondered what was up?” Dad explained, but was convinced that the man had arranged the raid.

The other story had to do with an incident that occurred after Dad and Mom were married. By present day standards, and by any standards for that matter, it would seem to me unnecessarily risky and foolish but this is the story as he told it: Dad had been away somewhere and had gotten home in the late evening and had just tied his horses up without putting them away for the night. He and Mom were sitting on the front porch in the dark when two young and partly drunk neighbor boys came driving by in a buggy, singing dirty songs loud enough to be clearly heard. Dad rushed out to his buggy, drove out into the road, whipped up his horse and began chasing the boys down the road and, as soon as he got close to them, he began shooting his pistol in the air over their heads. The poor kids were scared to death and drove as fast as they possible could to get away from him, but he stayed with them till they made a dangerous right angle turn into their home lane.

The next day, Dad met a group of the neighbors in the course of his work, and one of them asked him, “You didn’t really mean to hit the boys, did you?”

“Hit them! Of course, I meant to hit them. If a man can’t act a white man, he shouldn’t be treated like one!”

The father of one of the boys spoke up and said, “Well, Del, that the most scared pair of boys I ever saw. You don’t need to worry about them driving by your house singing dirty songs again.”

Dad tended to brag about risks he had taken but he never encouraged me or my brothers to take chances without reason, or even to fight, for that matter.


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