To my “Posse” of 2018 thanks for following me into 2019 and to those of you who have visited my site via Facebook in 2019, welcome to the club, your presence is truly appreciated.
I want to take a moment to share my thanks to those of you who did visit audiofilesoftheblackwest.com in 2018 and purchased the Buffalo Soldiers T-shirts, hoodies, water bottles, and coffee mugs. You made the right choice to wear and use those items that commemorate America’s finest fighting men she ever produced to aid in the expansion of the American West. Of course, there were those of you that found some of my other more fashionable items, i.e., women’s suede and slick leather motorcycle jackets, designer sweaters, and bracelets etc. more to your liking. I’m appreciative of your time and your discerning taste in unique items that I was fortunate enough to provide for you. 2019 will be even more interesting and full-filling. See, I have a few surprises up my sleeve in store for all of you.
Instead of coming to my website just to buy “stuff”, I’ve decided to make your stay just a little more worthwhile. My site is named audiofilesoftheblackwest.com for a reason. Now when you visit, I’ll have a little story to tell you about unknown pioneers, cowboys buffalo soldiers and mountain men each in a three-part series. Of course, if you want to know even more about the men and women of the Black west, you can download my latest audiobook, “Once Upon a Time in the Black West”. Go to Amazon.com type in the title and you have it. The audio version of the book is also on iTunes, Kindle eBooks, Audible books.com.
The first installment of my three-part series is about Edward Rose, an African American trapper and translator of Native American languages. His story is fascinating because that’s not how he started out. His destiny in the early 19th century led him to become a go-between in the Ohio Valley for John Jacob Astor and Native Americans. Ed negotiated with them for John to trap in their sacred hunting grounds resulting in making John Astor one of America’s first millionaires. The Old Cowboy talking to his canine companion, Sundown will serve as the narrator for all the stories. I’d appreciate your feedback on these stories so don’t hesitate to let me know.
It was a perfect evening thought the Old Cowboy. After a hearty meal of elk venison, he and his trusty canine companion Sundown set in front of the fireplace of his old log cabin. They enjoyed the solitude, although it was occasionally interrupted by a chorus of chilly winds stubbornly blowing at the front door and windows. Winter had arrived in the Ohio Valley. The cheerful cracking of fresh firewood challenges those chill winds with their warmth and comfort adding to the pleasure and friendship the two of them shared for many years. Sundown could always sense when his master was about to tell a story. First, he’d light his old corn-cob pipe, take a long draw on it, lean back in his rocking chair, blow smoke out of his mouth slowly, rock three times, then begin.
Sundown, in the 1800s the Ohio Valley was overflowing with beavers, bear, mink, otter, and fox. The skins of these animals were worth a mint, they were prized by city folks back East and in Europe. As a result, white men from all over journeyed up the Mississippi River to seek their fortune trapping these animals. This was a dangerous business for white men because most of the animals were found deep in the hunting grounds of Native Americans. A white man needed help getting in and out of that land in one piece. To help them, African American guides and trappers escorted the white hunters. See, Black hunters lived with the Native Americans and knew their ways the land and the language, so they acted as go-betweens for the white trappers. One of these African Americans trappers had a great reputation throughout Native American territory. He was a big burly fellow named, Edward Rose.
From what I gather Sundown, Ed Rose was born in Louisville, Kentucky. By 1800 he was a full-grown man. He stood taller than some trees, had shoulders like a buffalo and he was narrow at the hips. One day, while Ed was packing his bags preparing to leave home, his mama looked up at him like she knew she’d wouldn’t see him for a long time.
“Why you leaving son?”, she asked holding back her tears.
“Mama, I’m a grown man now, “He said while putting his belongings in a knapsack.
“I got to find my own way, and it ain’t in Kentucky.”
“Do you know where you going?” she asked.
Ed stopped what he was doing, he knew by the questions his mama was asking, she was just trying to make small talk.
“I been talking to some of the boys in town, I’m going to hitch up with them. They talking about going to New Orleans.”
“Son, you got no trade, what in God’s name are you gonna do in New Orleans? His mama could see by the look on her son’s face his mind was made up. Her tone changed and she became more supportive.
“When you were a little baby you couldn’t sit still for one hot minute. I suppose you know what you want. You keep yourself safe and don’t let no man run over you, you hear me, Edward?
He just looked down on her and smiled.
“I’ll be alright mama. I’m like you, stubborn and tuff as nails when it comes to that”.
They ate supper together but early the next morning Ed was up before dawn thinking he leave before saying goodbye. She was waiting at the door. As I recollect, they hugged for the last time. She waved to her son and that was the last time they saw each other.
Filled with excitement and a devil-may-care attitude, Ed felt he was ready for whatever adventure New Orleans threw at him. But, New Orleans back then was quite different than what Ed had dreamed up in his head. He found that out the day he arrived.
TO BE CONTINUED
Thank you for your responses to the episodic adventures of unknown pioneers, mountain men cowboys and the future saga of the Buffalo Soldiers. As always you’re welcome to browse my other site, www.thinktops.network and of course audiofilesoftheblackwest.com.
The first installment of this series ends with Ed Rose leaving home headed for New Orleans. We pick up with the Old Cowboy continuing his story to Sundown.
“Before Ed and his traveling buddies got to New Orleans they pulled their boat over and tied it alongside the dock of a Mississippi River town. The three men had been taking turns rowing all day and were pretty hunger and in need of some “spirits” (alcoholic beverage). Once on land one of them pointed in the direction of a saloon.”
“See that saloon? That’s where I’m going!” he said.
Ed and the other two men smiled and couldn’t wait to join him.
When the three of them entered the saloon, everybody turned in their direction. You thought it was a holdup or something, the place got quiet as a graveyard. Like cold fingers sliding down the spine of your back, Ed and his buddies could feel they weren’t wanted there but decided they were hungrier than anything else. They walked over to the bar.
“Me and my boys are mighty hunger. What you got to eat?” one fellow asked.
“Why don’t you boys have a seat over there in the corner and I’ll be right over “, said the Bartender.
The three of them grabbed a table, Ed made sure he took the chair against the wall so he could see everything in front of him. In those days, Sundown, when a stranger walked into an unknown bar, he’d better be equally as good with his fist as he was with a gun, otherwise, he could be beat-up and robbed. Ed and his two buddies were strangers in a saloon full of white men. Not that it was unusual to see a black man in the company of white trappers in those days because they were often used as guides. But back then, three black men in an all-white saloon in Mississippi, that could be dangerous!
“Something ain’t right. I can feel it,” whispered Ed
“Me too,” whispered the other one.
All of them had good instincts. In those days your life depended on how you sized up a situation. Right about then, the three men began to feel uneasy with the stares they were getting.
“What will you boys have?” asked the bartender.
“Steaks for everybody. We powerful hungry,” the shorter fella said.
By now Ed had noticed two men whose hands had rested on their hunting knives had moved over to the saloon door. A big giant-sized white fellow had moved to the end of the bar close to their table. Shaking like a leaf, the bartender could hardly speak.
“We’re out of steaks, sorry!”
“What do you mean you out of steaks? That man over there is chewing on one!” Ed said.
“We ain’t got no more! Can’t you hear, boy! shouted the giant size white fellow.
Looking as solid as a hundred-year-old oak tree, Ed stood up. His blood was boiling hotter than a Mexican red pepper. He wanted to put the big fellow down. The other two men with him had kicked back their chairs. The shorter one already had his pistol out checking the crowd.
“You boys a bit outnumbered, ain’t ya? Why don’t you just empty yo pockets,” cackled the big white fellow?
Ed never blinked an eye when he said,” Why don’t you just try and make us, mister.”
The giant size white man looked Ed over. He wasn’t used to anybody giving him lip. His size alone made most men tremble in their boots. But Ed stood his ground like he was planted in it.
“You kinda young to die so soon,” the big man said as he took off his coat.
“I’m gonna give you the whopping yo daddy shoulda gave ya ”
Ed just looked at him and smiled as he moved to the center of the saloon, then he said, “Do it!”.
When the giant white man took a swing at Ed, the noise sounded like timber falling in an open meadow and it rocked the saloon. Too bad he missed that looping right hook. Ed saw it coming, ducked, and came back with a right cross. The room shook as Ed’s fist clipped the giant fellow, smack dab on the chin, knocking him over the table and through a side window. Nobody moved. You’d thought a witch had put a spell on everybody, including Ed’s two traveling buddies.
“Boy’s it’s time to hit the road,” said the shorter fellow with his gun still trained on the crowd.
As they backed out of the saloon the men guarding the door cleared a path faster than a jack rabbit running from a hungry coyote.
They continued down the Mississippi. One of his buddies said, “I show didn’t know you could hit like that!”
“I never had to show nobody,” replied Ed.
Once they got to New Orleans, Ed waved good-bye to his traveling companions. He stood there on the levee, his eyes gazed from east to west. He saw more people in one place than he had ever seen in his life. The market place was rich with smells of wild smoked duck strung up on sticks, oysters, fresh fish, bananas, piles of oranges, ears of corn. The variety of food was only matched by the different types of people selling their wares. He saw black men and women of every hue, from dark brown to pecan tan. As he walked through the crowd using his free arm as a rudder stirring him through an ocean of people. He heard so many different languages all he could do was laugh. There was nothing like this in Kentucky!
Ed found the riverboat gambling nightlife in New Orleans fit him like a glove. See, New Orleans was one of a few southern towns that had large numbers of freed blacks. The scent of freedom soon infected him. The idea of working somebody’s land didn’t have the same appeal as those pretty riverboats floating up and down the Mississippi. To Ed, the riverboat was the prettiest vision on the water. Although the riverboat was a pretty site, it was dangerous at the same time.
It wasn’t long before Ed decided the riverboat would be his choice for employment. He didn’t know what he’d do but whatever it took, he’d find a way do it. Besides that, there was always pretty women on those riverboats, I guess it’s no mystery why Ed found that life more appealing than working on somebody’s farm. He worked whatever job his boss gave him and soon earned a reputation as a good worker and an honest man.
Ed had one fault…well, maybe more than one, his temper. Along with his reputation as a good worker and an honest man, he was one hell of a fighter. He’d thrown quite a few drunk men into the Mississippi river who didn’t heed his polite invitation to leave the boat quietly. Everybody up and down the Mississippi knew who he was. When you build a reputation as a fighter you attract all kinds of unsavory characters who want to test you. One night a rumor spread on the riverboat that another fighter was on board, a white man named Mike Fink. He also had a reputation of knocking men out in a matter of seconds. Bets started as a whisper then grew louder than the sound of a tornado. Who was the better fighter, Ed Rose or Mike Fink?
It was hotter than it had ever been one summer on the Mississippi, and the riverboats were overcrowded. Gambling was heavy and so was the drinking. One man, wearing a white linen suit and diamond studs, was winning every hand at the poker table from some poor soul down on his luck.
“You ought to quit now mister, while you still have the shirt on your back,” laughed the gambler.
“You take a marker? the losing man humbly asked.
“Sorry, just cash”, firmly replied the gambler.
The fellow losing took one last chance to win back his money. Scratching his chin, like a hound dog with fleas, he said. ‘’ If you’re truly a gambler, I’ll wager a thousand dollars Ed Rose can whip Mike Fink.”
TO BE CONTINUED