Shannon McNear lives in the LowCountry of South Carolina with her husband, eight children, a dog, a cat, a ferret, a goldfish, and a host of trained roaches. She’s been writing on one thing or another since third grade and is currently at work on two novels, a historical set in 1780’s South Carolina and a fantasy, the story of her heart. She has also served in worship and women’s ministry and as ACFW Southeast Zone Director and president of her local ACFW chapter. Glimpses of her life can be found at http://shenandoahdawn.blogspot.com.
“What kind of story shall I tell you today?” Grandfather Will asked.
I, Will the younger, tucked my feet under my legs Indian-style, scratched my knee, and considered. “The one about the wicked Captain Hook.”
Grandfather snorted. “It wasn’t Hook, youngin’, but Huick. Dutch. Nowadays folk just call him Huck. Christian Huck—or Huick—was his given name.”
Could he not just tell the story? “Yes, yes. The most feared Royalist of the Revolution.”
Grandfather smacked his gums, but I waited, tugging on my ear.
“Fine, then. It was the summer of 1780, and I was but a sprout like yourself.”
“And Huick was the terror of the Carolina backcountry.”
“Aye, a right evil man. Bloody Ban Tarleton had nothing on him.”
“And Huick had said—”
“Huick had said that even if rebels was thick as trees, and if Jesus Christ Himself became a rebel, they couldn’t stand against Huick’s men.”
Huick hadn’t been the only one who spoke so foolishly. Captain Patrick Ferguson, himself a colonial and a Royalist, had died on King’s Mountain after a similar declaration. But I held my tongue and Grandfather went on.
“So naturally, the Presbyterians of the backcountry being God-fearing men, this became a holy cause. From that moment on, all the men of the rebel side—”
“Don’t you mean patriot side, Grandfather?”
“Of course.” He winked. “All the men on the patriot side begged to be let at that wicked Huick. But for weeks, not that old gamecock, Sumter, or even the fox Marion could best him. Until—until the day—”
I leaned up. Finally he was getting to the good part.
“It was July, four years after the Declaration of Independence was signed. And hot? Oh, it was hot here in the backcountry.” Grandfather’s voice grew heavy with memory.
I smiled. Backcountry no longer, we were one of the strongest and wealthiest states of the Union. Our place might not compare to the bigger plantations, but we could afford a handful of slaves to help work it, and buy the sugar and coffee imported to Charleston, in the lowcountry.
“My papa had ridden away to find more men to fight the old boy. So it was just Mama and me, the slaves, and my sisters when the Royalists came to call. Huick strutted into the house, fine as you please, and finding Papa gone, insisted Mama cook dinner for him and his men.”
A chill crossed my skin at the thought.
“Mama sassed him a bit, of course. One of Huick’s rougher men, showing off, I guess, threatened to cut off Mama’s head with a
sickle from the barn. But Captain Adamson from Camden, he was a good man, though a Royalist, made the man stand down, wouldn’t let them touch her.”
“So. Huick ranted and threatened, and at last hauled himself off. When dark came, after sending word to Papa, Mama took my hand and we sneaked to the next plantation over, to warn them too and because, as Mama said, there was more safety in numbers. Weren’t no one home but old man Williamson and his daughters-in-law. What should we find, however, but that Huick had set up camp between us and Williamson’s that night. Stuck fast, we were, but Huick barely set a guard, so sure was he of his position. Mama and I slipped past without a bit of trouble.
“The next morning, several of the womenfolk gathered at Williamson’s to pray. I remember how old Mr. Williamson got down on one knee to beg God for the defeat of this terrible Huick. No sooner did he say ‘Amen’ than the first gunshot came.”
I hugged my knees and rocked back and forth.
“There was a terrible battle outside. Being high summer, the fireplace was cold, so Mama made me sit inside it, while she huddled in front of me, holding my hand. Every time a musket ball hit the walls of the house, Mama would flinch. But I listened, and I watched, and in the middle of the firing, one ball slipped between the chinks of the wall and came rolling across the floor. Before Mama could stop me, I scrambled out of the fireplace and snatched it up. It nearly burned my palm—still hot from the powder, it was—but I held on to it even as Mama grabbed my other hand and dragged me back to safety.”
Grandfather’s voice quieted. “That ball, I figure it could have wound up in any of us, but God and His angels kept it from doing so. In just a few minutes, the battle was over. We heard that Huick had taken two shots to the throat, right off—it was a question of two different rifleman who had the killing shot, so they gave them both credit. But we all knew God had fought for us that day, and Huick was not strong enough to withstand Him.”
Silence hung over us for several moments. “Do you still have the musket ball, then?”
Grandfather cleared his throat. “You know I do, son.” He dug in a pocket and produced the slightly misshapen hunk of lead, then dropped it into my hand. I rolled it from one palm to another, savoring the feel of it, cool and heavy against my skin.
“Now, we weren’t done with the British, by no means. It was another year before they’d leave the backcountry, longer for them to leave South Carolina. But when my Papa came in, found us safe, and heard how this ball rolled across the floor, well, we took heart.”
I looked up. “Was all that really true, Grandfather?”
I’d heard the story so many times I’d begun to view it as little more than folklore—old men’s wistful tales of the past.
Grandfather tapped his cane on the floor and glared at me. “Of course it’s true.”