Before Al could answer, I piped up, “Let’s set some ground rules before we talk about the amount of reward.”
Mr. Hawks gave me a discussed look and grunted, “What ground rules?”
“Well,” I continued. “In return for $10 U. S. script…” (this brought the greedy host to the edge of his seat with a look of amazement) “we and our horses get to stay here tonight. In the morning we get breakfast and will be allowed to climb up your property on the mountain behind your house and view the traffic on the Valley Road. Plus, you will give us your insights as to how the flow of traffic is during a weekday and also during Saturday and Sunday. And last and most important, you will keep all this to yourself and not tell anybody we were here and I mean you don’t tell ANYBODY. Do I make myself clear?”
The avaricious man just about broke his neck in nodding in the affirmative.
I continued, “We will make other trips to your home to get information in the next few months, which will also result in further rewards.”
The man’s eyes narrowed and fairly glistened. It was all I could do to keep from smiling at the monetary desire that emanated from his being.
I brought out a $5 U.S. script and handed it to him and chimed, “Half now and half, when we leave.”
Mr. Hawks took the five dollars with both hands with the reverence of accepting the Holy Grail. He sat looking at the currency for a full 30 seconds before he uttered, “And y’all will be a-coming back?”
“Yes, we will.”
“What’s cha want to know ‘bout tha traffic in the valley?” he asked.
We sat up for another hour getting his perspective of movement in the valley, both civilian and military traffic. Al, Tom and I asked all the questions we could thing of, and when we finally fell silent, Mr. Hawks told us to stoke the fire and lay down in front of the hearth to keep warm during the night.
We gathered our bedrolls from a pile Tom had deposited on the floor. Our cayuses had been put in a small shed out back with just enough room for them and Mr. Hawks’ animal to share a roof over their heads. We all took our brogans off and bedded down on the wooden floor with our feet toward the fire. In my estimation, if one can keep his feet warm, he will sleep well. The three of us slept soundly due to the exhaustion of the day’s travel and stress of being in enemy territory.
We really were comatose, because neither of us woke until we heard the frying of bacon and boiling of coffee early the next morning. We all felt foolish because Mr. Hawks could have taken advantage of our exhaustion and killed us, but I guess the promise of more lucre ruled in our favor. It was cold, but I felt the urge of nature.
I got up and Mr. Hawks chirped merrily, “Time to rise and shine.”
I smiled and asked, “Where’s the outhouse?”
“Go out tha backdoor and to tha right down tha hill.”
I nodded, put on my brogans, got my trusty newspaper from my bedroll, donned my coat and went out the door. The air was downright cool and I could see my breath. The sun was just breaking over South Mountain to the east as I trekked down the hill to the 19th century’s answer to the portable toilets we use to utilize during our Civil War Reenactments.
It didn’t take long for me to do my business, and as I labored up the hill to the cabin, I happened to stop at the animal shed to see how our horses made it during the night. While rubbing Stonewall’s jaws, which always put him in a trance, I happened to see what had to be Mr. Hawks’ means of locomotion.
Stonewall jerked abruptly when I tensed and whispered, “Oh, my Lord.”