Frontier Highlanders: Interlude with a trapper

Boone and Adamson

The man dressed in animal skins sat spread-legged on a rotting tree trunk, his second-favorite chair, carefully cutting into a plug of Virginia tobacco. He’d been rooming here a while at Palmer House, a handsome timber building almost hidden in the trees around Port Bath.

palmer house 2
Palmer House in Bath, NC has changed little since Boone stayed  there for a while in the 1700s.

It would be a damn sight more convenient if he could chew and spit indoors. But the place didn’t belong to him. The home was the property of the colony’s Surveyor General, now loaned to the famous trapper Daniel Boone while he sold his skins in the port town.

Boone sighed. He had several reasons to return home, to his homestead on the Yadkin River more than 250 miles west. Those reasons took the the form of a wife and a passel of children. He missed them. Quiet, pretty Rebecca was a fine mate and mother, far better’n he deserved. And he’d promised all of them he’d return in early July. 

Yes, his growing family was a treasure more valuable than hammered gold…

db ring

He glanced at the heavy ring on his forefinger, the one with the initials DB that someone had returned to him only hours ago.

Someone. A boy who refused to be called David Boone. 

“Call me Adamson. A true son of Adam.”

A twenty-year-old stripling with golden hair and severe blue eyes had turned and walked out of Palmer House and into the sentinel pines.

The boy was his first-born, a product of love and loneliness, a child without benefit of a married mother. With no mother at all, actually. His beautiful Ruth had been the innocent victim of a random pack of Shawnee renegades with firebrands and no brains at all. They’d left her dead, but in their haste, thank the Lord, had left a two-year-old child sitting in the still hot ashes of the log home he’d built for them…

Boone sighed again. As soon as David left this morning, his chastened father had hurried into Port Bath in search of him. He’d taken along his trapper partner George Patterson to help find him.

Clearly, a tall handsome man with blue eyes  and flaxen hair would be noticed in this place of black- and brown-skinned men—slaves and Indians—and among colonists who mostly looked like round-shouldered shop keepers.

He and George had prodded and bribed a hundred people, to no avail. David had flown, like his angel mother, to some heaven, safe from a father who wanted the boy’s love but not his embarrassing history.

He spat tart brown juice and stood, then began to pace the narrow gaps between trees.

blue at midnight flipHe had one hope, and that hope was a mere sliver festering under his thumbnail. Along the pier in Port Bath he’d found a young Tuscarora Indian who called himself Sky. The boy, barely sixteen or so, talked like a by-God Englishman. How had he learned the settlers’ tongue so well on the little island of Ocracoke, half an hour downriver?

If he could dress the young man in Boone-skins…provide him a letter claiming to be his father…pay him for his service… Could one clever young man find another?

It was a  hope born of desperation and guilt.

quakerHe glanced at the ring again. EIghteen years past, he’d taken the boy and the ring to Philadelphia, to the print shop home of his great-aunt Mary, the wife of a well known printer, the Quaker Adam Campbell. And there he’d left the boy, along with the ring, telling old Adam the gold was David’s birthright. He asked the printer to give David the ring and tell him the story on  his twentieth birthday. Boone thought that was long enough for his father to grow a set of balls; long enough for David to understand why he’d abandoned him and then come in search of Dan’l Boone.

He spat again.

David had not accepted his abandonment, and he’d spurned the valuable ring.

What hope did he have that a slender Indian youth living with his own family would help an old whiskered trapper? The boy was to return within the week, to accept or decline his offer. All he could do now was wait, and hope—and ponder what in tarnation he’d do if David actually returned.


I may post one or two more preview chapters of Erin O’Quinn’s series novel Frontier Highlanders. The novel should be finished in the months ahead. The first chapter starts here, on  this blog; then follow the prompts:


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