There was a mule in the shed with our horses, and it had the same slack jawed unassuming stare that I had encountered before. This was the mule of the man whose clothes I stole and knocked out when I first landed in this misaligned universe. I just prayed that he wouldn’t suddenly recognize me!
He had woken up and looked at me just before I knocked him out. Well, if he did recognize me, I would just give him another $5 and say I had been on a special mission and had to have his clothes. However, it did answer one question: I always wondered why this guy hadn’t come looking for me. I guess he had been on a lark in Shepherdstown the night of our confrontation and really spends most of his time in Boonsboro.
I quietly regained my composure, which suited Stonewall when I gave him a few more jaw rubs.
I entered the house and was greeted by a contingent of men eating wherever they could find a comfortable place to sit and balance their metal plates full of eggs and bacon on their laps. I filled my plate and sat on a keg in front of the fireplace and welcomed the warmth.
We finished the meal and saddled up quickly. I advanced on Hawks as he came outside to get his last reward payment. He stepped back and looked alarmed. I smiled and he seemed to understand that I wasn’t going to harm him. Turning to face the mountain behind us I queried, “Is there a way to get over this mountain and the next line of hills to the west so we can hit the Harpers Ferry Road south of Antietam Creek? The reason that I might need to get out of here quickly is that there might be a Yank column come out of Boonsboro today.”
“Naw suh,” he responded, “ya don’t got’s to worry ‘bout no Yank column today. When I was up therah day befo yestaday, they’s still getting ready to move out and probley twouldn’t be ready to go befo two days from now. They’s had lots of trouble with the carriages of tha big guns they’re agonna be hauling.”
I looked at him with a dumbfounded expression, which finally turned to anger. “Why didn’t you tell us this before?’ I exclaimed.
Backing up a few steps, he whined, “Ya said all ya wanted to learn bout was tha traffic in tha valley.”
I looked at him with an exasperated expression and declared, “We need all pertinent information about the area. The information you just gave was very important.”
“Well, I’ll be shore to tell ya everthing I know’d in the future,” he promised.
“Is there any more nuggets of knowledge that you would like to impart?” I said with a sarcastic tone.
He just grinned like a pig in slop and happily stated, “Naw Suh. That’s bout the whole shebang.”
I looked at him for a minute and then breached the original subject, “Is there a way over the mountain? Maybe a coaling road?”
He said, “Yeah, thars one on this here side of the mountin. If’n you go straight up from here, y’all will hit a coaling road that’ll take you north long side the mountin. Then it’ll swing west around the edge of the mountin, which we call Elk Ridge, and hits another coaling road that’ll take ya down to Chestnut Road, what runs between Elk Ridge and the next line of hills. Aftah ya come down offen Elk Ridge, thars a road straight ahead that’ll take ya over the next line of hills and connects with the Harpers Ferry Road.”
I presented Mr. Hawks with the second five dollar piece of U.S. script, which he took gingerly so as not to deface it in any way and saluted with the other. I sort of gave him a halfhearted salute in response. Then we mounted up and headed up the mountain.