He had timed it
about right. He had planned to be there at first light but it had been a two
hour trek through the hollers and gorges between his mountain and this one and
he almost got lost once. But when he found the footbridge across the creek and
the huge hickory on the other side, he knew he was on Jubal McKinney’s land.
Now on the other side, the trail became even steeper. His back hurt and his
calves burned but he had a job to do. He pressed on. And then in the faint
light of the new morning he saw the clearing and the cabin. He sat down where
the trees met the cleared land and caught his breath. Looking and listening. He
could see the glow of a lantern through the only window. Jubal McKinney was
known for being a hard man, even for these parts. People said he hunted and
trapped on other peoples land, that he would steal your chickens, kill your
livestock and butcher them right in the field. A couple of barns had
mysteriously burned in the last year or so. Most folks looked at the old man.
The boy sat there and thought about his older brother, Jebadiah, who was at
home still healing from getting his foot caught in a steel trap. A trap that
was on their land. He would have lost his foot but the Old Woman of the
Mountains came and mixed up a salve out of herbs and plants. Told his mama to
dress Jebadiah’s foot three times a day. Yes, the boy thought, he's going to be
alright, but that trap should not have been there. The boy was only fifteen and
proud his daddy had given him this job to do. And now it was time. He stepped
into the clearing and walked toward the cabin." Jubal McKinney", he
shouted," My pa sent me to give you something." A long minute passed,
then the creaking of the cabin door. The boy took his rifle off his shoulder
and put it in his right hand. The old man stepped onto the porch. The boy could
see he was limping hard on his right leg. He looked at the boy. "Who are
you and what do you want." I'm Tom Wilson, Elijah Wilson’s last born and
my Pa sent me hear to give you something". His hand tightened around the
rifle. "But first I want to ask you something." The old man said nothing.
"Did you set that steel trap on our land? It almost crippled my
brother." "Don’t know what you're talking about, Tom Wilson, but I'll
tell you this. There's a lot of things can hurt a man in these mountains. A man
has to look where he's going and pay attention to where he's at." The old
mans voice lowered, "Or he might not make it back home." Silence.
"Well you said your Pa sent you. Get on with it!" The boy reached in
his coat and untied the rope from around his waist. A heavy bag fell to the
ground. "We killed a deer yesterday, me and Pa. After supper Pa cut up a
ham and some backstrap.Told Ma to put get a couple of bags of grits and corn
meal. He sent me here to give it to you. We know you got the gout. The Old
Woman of the Mountains told us. Ought to be enough in there to feed you and
your daughter a couple of days. Maybe three." The old man said nothing.
The boy took a couple of steps and placed the bag on the edge of the porch. He
turned toward the clearing. "Tom Wilson." The boy stopped.
"Cain't say I'd do the same for you, but tell your Ma and Pa I won't
forget it." The boy smiled with his back turned. The trip back home would
be much easier! Moral: Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you. It
has a greater reward!