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A Dead-Game Sport

A Dead-Game Sport

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A Dead-Game Sport

465 Seiten
7 Stunden
Oct 17, 2014


Dayton Shannon had made two promises. One was too protect his little brother and the other was to earn enough money to get to the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. Both seemed unattainable when his abusive father arbitrarily shipped him off to his uncle in Lexington, Kentucky to learn the horse trade. He soon discovered the horse trade was in fact bookmaking and he needed a sheet writer. He was a quick study and soon caught the eye of a famous Kentucky plunger who offered him a job as a commissioner. It wasn't long before he was rubbing elbows with the rich and famous at Coney Island where the difference between being rich and desperately poor was decided by a field of horses. Here he witnessed some of horse racing’s most celebrated clashes, both human and equine and in the process learned the value of money, honor and friendship.

Based on the lives of Charles Riley Grannan and George “Pittsburgh Phil” Smith.
Proofed August 2014

Oct 17, 2014

Über den Autor

Born Elmhurst, Illinois 1945 My path to writing was a circuitous one. In my twenties I was musician and Navy Journalist. My eclectic thirties included editor for a music magazine, disc jockey and retailer in a tourist town. My forties and fifties were dedicated to post-secondary education. Through it all I continued my love affair with the sport of horse racing which began in 1955 when I saw Nashua beat Swaps at Washington Park in Chicago. That experience and many subsequent seasons of racing are the basis for my Billy Six novels. The authors who have most influenced me are Raymond Chandler, John MacDonald, Kenneth Millar, James Ellroy and James Lee Burke.


A Dead-Game Sport - WL Racherbaumer


Part I

Uncle Tom

Chapter 1

Riley Grannan napped in a chair outside Rickard’s saloon, tilted back on two legs, his right foot on the railing. He was thinking about daffodils and the promise of spring.

Wake up Riley! I brought somebody to see ya.

He blinked open his eyes and saw his itinerant friend; the narrow shouldered Reverend Knickerbocker. He rolled his neck and let the chair fall forward as a distant rumble rattled the windows behind him as the preacher steadied himself on a nearby beam.

How in heaven’s name can you sleep whilst our brethren wage war with the earth?

Riley vigorously rubbed his gaunt face.

Why are you roustin’ me Herman?

Better start sleeping at night dear friend. Cat naps will not suffice, he cautioned, then motioned for a stranger to step forward.

Riley squinted into the stark Nevada sun dancing through swollen, dark clouds that intermittently shone a spotlight on the muddy, deeply grooved road. There was snow still clinging in the shadows. Today the wind carried grit that bit the cheek and penetrated even the hardiest soul in Rawhide. An earnest face unfettered by experience and tittering on the edge of disappointment came into view. The lad dropped his eyes, respectfully removed his straw boater and fiddled with the brim. Riley liked a bowler himself, but in this town, such an affectation earned no special favor. Herman made an introduction.

This here is Sam Dunn. He’s a reporter from San Francisco.

Riley was still somewhere betwixt here and there, so his friend’s stentorian voice sounded distant. He became transfixed by a dust devil as it swirled down Main Street and he recalled the day he defeated another boy named Sam in horseshoes. That was the day he learned of his power. He mumbled.

It’s never about money Sam…never.


A voice he didn’t recognize shuttered the past and focused his eyes on the face of the fair haired man too young to shave. His spritely, soft brown eyes were wide with confusion. They reminded him of another boy in his past. He took in the brown briefcase he clutched against his chest like a shield as Herman squeezed the lad’s shoulder.

You’ll have to excuse him Sam. His mind tends to wander when he doesn’t get enough sleep.

Riley acknowledged his friend’s benevolent admonition with a nod and then asked.

What day is it?

The young man named Sam quickly answered.

March 29th, the year of our lord 1908 sir.

Reverend Knickerbocker smiled.

Well, there you go. I’ll leave you two to get acquainted. I’ll expect to see the both of ya for Sunday service. Don’t forget. Nine o’clock sharp.

After the preacher departed the young man proclaimed.

It is an honor to finally meet you sir.

Riley squinted. You say your name is Sam?

Yes sir. Sam Dunn at your service.

Riley extended a hand and Sam gave it a pull.

I knew another lad named Sam back when I was but a wee tyke.

Sam flared an askew smile.

That’s kinda what I’d like to talk to you about. I am writing an article about famous gamblers like yourself. It’s a kinda recollection piece.

Gambler you say. Never thought of myself as one.

Sam set his brief case down and pulled at his stiff, sweat stained collar.

Pardon me sir, but there’s a long trail of ruined bookmakers that say different. Word has it you beat them out of more than a million dollars.

Riley coughed and cleared his throat.

Hmmm…yes. Well, I sure as heck didn’t win that much all at once.

A couple dressed for church walked by and greeted Riley generously. He returned their salutations and then became distracted by Clancy Gallagher wearing a long, muddy slicker trying to recruit passersby to help him push his Stanley Roadster out of a rut. He chuckled.

That would never happen to a horse. How old are you?

Twenty-one sir.

Twenty-one, Riley repeated and rolled the sound of it over his tongue.

Well, that makes you old enough to address me as Riley. I believe a man should never defer to another no matter his station or age.

Yes sir…uh…Riley sir.

Riley readjusted his seat.

How in the world did you get such a high opinion of me?

Why, you’re a legend. Every sporting man has heard of your exploits.

Riley smiled. Are you a sportin’ man?

No sir, but I’ve read everything about you.

You shouldn’t believe everyting you read.

Exactly my point sir! This is your chance to set the record straight.

Riley appraised the man child named Sam.

So, you’re the man whose gonna write me life story. Sure didn’t figure on it happenin’ dis soon. You must be on a mission from God.

Sam grinned. I have heard my editor called many things, but never the All Mighty.

Two miners with a buckboard full of supplies pulled by two mules clattered by. The one riding shotgun recognized Riley and shouted.

You won’t regret it Mr. Grannan. We’ll make good. The driver waved in accord.

Riley returned a half-hearted wave, pushed himself out of the chair and then stepped out from the shade of the roof. He turned his face to the sun, closed his eyes and took in a long, deep a breath of the cold morning air. A coughing spasm followed and raised the young man’s concern.

Sir…uh…Riley. Can I fetch you a glass of water?

Riley shooed the offer away, walked into the empty saloon and took a chair next to a potbellied stove.

What’s your pleasure?

Sam quickly took the chair next to him. A beer would be fine.

Riley threw two fingers up in the direction of the bartender and in less than a minute, two steins were set on the table. Riley took a long pull and said.

What do you want to know?

Sam Dunn excitedly scrambled to open his briefcase, pulled out a notebook, pinched a pair of round spectacles onto the bridge of his nose and grabbed a pencil.

Let’s see…you were born in...uh…

He paused to refer to some notes. …Paris, Kentucky… uh…third of six children to Joseph and Anna Grannan. Is it spelled with an a - n or o - n? I’ve seen it both ways, he asked earnestly.

The sound of his parent’s names sent Riley back to the time when cardinal song and mourning dove cooed outside his bluegrass home. Sam prompted.

Mr. Grannan…Riley?

It’s a – n.

Very good. And your father was a clerk of some kind…correct?

The face of Riley’s father flashed into his mind’s eye; it still filled him with sadness.

He was a tailor.

A tailor, good…that’s good, Sam said, flipping his notebook to another page.

Then you left to work as a bell boy?

The memory of the day he broke free from the confines of Bashford’s General Store feeling like a young colt filled him with joy. Then he remembered the years of ill-fitting green uniforms and catering to the whims and fancies of the swells. He never resented serving the rich like the other lads. He watched. He listened. He learned. Always mindful of the votive pledge he had made to his father.

I’ll get it back Da. I will.

Riley took another long pull.

Yes, it twas a most suitable education. I met Edward Botay because of it.

He was the form man you spotted for?

Riley nodded assent and gazed hypnotically at the beer stein sweating on the table. His eyes felt like they were going to fall out. Sam Dunn laid his pencil down.

I’m sorry Mr. Grannan. I’m afraid my zeal has gotten the better of me. Would you like to do this another day?

Riley slapped his hand on the table and declared.

I know just what we need!

He stood and crashed through the swinging doors with renewed vigor. Sam gathered his papers and chased after him. Just what they needed turned out to be a miner’s breakfast of eggs, beans and potatoes, topped off with a cup of thin black coffee. Refreshed Riley asked.

So… Where were we?

Sam Dunn leaned over to retrieve his notes, but then stopped and folded his hands on the table.

Think I’ll just listen awhile.

Riley smiled. Sam reminded him so much of his old protégé.

Good lad. Now listen close, ‘cuz I’m gonna tell you about the best horseplayer you never heard of.

Chapter 2

It won’t be long now. Soon he’ll be in Chicago far away from school and…Pap. He has spent every summer working like a slave for that man, but not this time…no siree. Miss Schoenfeld said folks up there will pay as much as a dollar for a good shoe shine and he was determined to get his piece of that pie.

Dayton watched his younger brother kick stones down Main Street, his book bundle slung over one shoulder, the bruise on his upper arm turning yellow.

Whatcha you gonna do this summer?

Bobby sideswiped a rock too big to kick straight on.

I don’t know. Stay out of Pap’s way I guess.

Besides that.

Bobby looked bemused as if there was nothing as important.

You planning on getting us in trouble?

No…I ain’t.

Aren’t, Bobby corrected.

Momma used to do that. Correct him. She said it would improve his prospects, but he had his doubts any gent looking for a shine would give a tinker’s damn whether he was articulate or not.

Suddenly a rumbling under their feet froze them. Dayton recognized the dust swirling above the tree tops and jerked his brother off to the side of the road before the horse and rider came into view. It was Eddie Pinckney hell bent for leather, crouched low on a sorrel’s neck, legs clamped tight on his flank. Bobby peeked out from under his brother’s arm transfixed with a combination of fear and fascination as the tandem blew by like a sudden squall leaving a trail of dust thick as fog. They shut their eyes and waited for the air to freshen before reopening them. When they did the only evidence a horse and rider had passed was the sound of fading hoof beats.

Somebody ought to have a talk with old man Pinckney, Bobby griped, slapping the dust from his clothes.

Eddie’s gonna kill somebody.

I’m gonna have me a horse like that someday, Dayton proclaimed helping his brother out of the gully.

And where do you intend on getting the money for this horse? That was a thoroughbred, not a mule.

I know what a thoroughbred is wisenheimer, he said and pushed him back into the gully.

Bobby climbed back out swinging his fist like a windmill. Dayton skipped backward, pulled a white handkerchief from his back pocket and mockingly waved it in the air.

I surrender. I surrender.

Bobby smiled, lowered his fists and picked up his book bundle.

The challenge by some gent from Crider had already spread like high tea gossip by the time they reached town. His name was Clarence something or other and he had called out Mr. Soller by claiming his roan stallion could whip his sorrel. They set the match for next week Saturday at high noon, but when the Ladies Christian Auxiliary got wind of it, they assembled in front of the mayor’s office to protest the moral turpitude and danger to public conveyance. Their complaints fell on deaf ears. For, you see, Mr. Soller was the mayor. Bobby walked backwards in order to face his brother.

We’re gonna watch it ain’t we?

Aren’t, Dayton corrected.

Bobby shook his head.

We’re going right?

Dayton grinned mischievously. Yep and I know just the spot.

He whispered the location in his brother’s ear and he immediately stared at it. Dayton slapped him on the arm.

Don’t look at it dum-dum.

Bobby tried his best to keep his eyes forward when they passed the Princeton State Bank, but just couldn’t resist and peeked. Dayton slapped his brother again unintentionally striking the bruise on his arm. Bobby yelled in pain and ran ahead to hide his tears. Dayton figured he would apologize when he caught up to him at the outskirts of Nigger Town, but then saw him unexpectedly stop in front of the General Store. He ran and joined him standing amongst a group of men circling a man skinny as a pine sapling holding a dead, headless cat by the tail at arm’s length. One of the men declared.

Looks like ole Big Head got him anudder.

Dayton tried to pull Bobby away by the shirt, but he pulled away.

Whaddaya think Seamus?

An old man with a full white beard ashen as chalk save the two yellow streaks extending from the corners of his mouth pushed himself out of a rocker and shuffled down the steps; his back as bent over as the crooked ash stick he used for a cane. When he reached the headless remains he thumbed up his sweat stained fedora off his forehead, let the cane fall to the ground and leaned his hands on his knees to get a better look.

Yep. Looks like Big Head’s work sho ‘nuff, he judged.

Who is Big Head? Bobby blurted.

The old man turned and stared at Bobby with eyes so shockingly blue they made him step back. The old man grinned and scratched his cheek.

Who’s Big Head? That’s hard to say, but one thing is fer certain. He’s the meanest, most murderest tomcat the world has ever seen.

When Bobby tentatively reached out to touch the headless creature Dayton pulled his hand away. The scrawny man cackled.

What’s the matter? Ya scar’t? He taunted swinging the dead cat inches from his face.

I ain’t scared, he blustered and turned his attention back to the old man stiffly heading back to the porch.

He had forgotten his walking stick, so he swiftly picked it up and ran to give it to him. The old man nodded appreciatively and Bobby followed as if pulled by an invisible string. The scrawny man shouted.

What should I do with it Seamus? He got no answer and tossed the carcass into the street.

When Seamus leaned back into his rocker the congregation of unemployable men returned to the porch to roll cigarettes and stuff pipes. Bobby sensed this was a preamble to something and sat down while Dayton remained aloof. The old man squinted at the boys in turn and cleared his throat.

Some sez Big Head is a bobcat. Others say the juju woman from nigga town charmed a stray to kill his own so she could get innards for her magic potions. I don’t know the truth of it meself, but what I can tell ya is I’m the only man alive who’s ever seen him. That’s a fact.

He spied Bobby with a squinted eye as the sounds of matches and the smell of tobacco filled his dramatic pause.

It was a little after midnight back in eighty-eight and I’d just left a card game when I heard a caterwaul in that alley on the other side of the saloon.

He pointed. Bobby looked. Dayton did not.

Well, me bein’ a curious fella and all, went over hunched low so I wouldn’t spook whatever was causin’ all the ruckus and slipped in.

He illustrated with his hands and then snapped them together. The clap sounded like a gunshot. The scrawny man jumped. So did Bobby and Dayton.

Wham! All of a sudden thar was all kinda crashin’ and a thumpin’. I thought I had walked in on a fight until me eyes got custom to the dark and I saw ‘em. At first I thought my eyes were playin’ tricks, but sure enuff, they he be standin’ over his victim pawin’ blood from his chin. Orange and white he was. Musta weighed fifty pound…maybe sixty. Had a piece of an ear missin’ and one milky white eye. The t’other one was black as coal. But it was his head that took me aback. Big as Madame Tarantelli’s crystal ball.

He spread his hands to convey the size.

Ain’t ever seen anything like it. It sure got my heart to poundin’ I want to tell ya.

He paused again to settle back into the rocker and take in a deep breath.

Well, it took me a lot longer to come to my senses than it shoulda, but eventually, I started backin’ out of thar real slow like and damn if I didn’t stumble over a rock and fall on my ass.

A couple of men chuckled, but stopped short when Seamus glared at them.

I was so durn mad at myself I plum forgot all about ole Big Head until I stood and started brushing myself off. That’s when I saw him. Damn critter had snuck up on me like a whisper and crooked that big head at me. Had to be sitting no further than you are from me right now and I swear he was a grinnin’. He licked his chops and eyed me like I was some sorta museum curiosity. I don’t mind tellin’ ya, I was scart. So, I lowered my head like a beaten dog and backed outta there reeel slow until I reached the street. Then I hightailed it as fast as my legs would take me and didn’t stop until I got to this here porch. He pointed emphatically. When I looked back I saw him sitting at the entrance of the alley. I just know he was laffin’ at me.

Seamus closed his eyes and shook his head swinging his beard pendulously across his chest.

Scariest damn critter I’d ever seen.

Last year Smithson’s hound ran into Big Head and he ain’t been right since. Runs and hides every time he sees any cat now, a man added.

The other men nodded and mumbled their respects to the mighty Big Head. Bobby was awed, but Dayton knew better than to be taken in by such tales and tugged at his brother’s shirt.

C’mon. We gotta go.

On their way out of town Bobbly slowed when they approached Big Head’s alley and then over his shoulder to see the old man wave a warning finger at him. Naturally, Bobby headed right for it and Dayton yelled.

Why the heck would you want to go in there?

I want to see if he’s there.

There ain’t nuthin’ to see, Dayton said and pushed his brother ahead of him until they reached the railroad tracks bordering Nigger Town. Bobby waited for his brother to catch up. He won’t cross by himself because some other tall tales he heard about white boys getting eaten by cannibals in here. Dayton crossed the tracks and Bobby followed.

I bet Big Head is lurkin’ around in here somewhere, he teased.

It ain’t Big Head I’m scared of, Bobby said, glancing at the black woman hanging clothes on a rope strung from her porch to an elm tree. You think Miss Emma is the juju woman?

Dayton smirked. Heck no. The juju woman wears snakes around her neck and if she ever fixes her eyes on you, they’ll visit you in the night.

Old men weren’t the only ones who could tell tales, he thought as he wiggled fingers on the back of his brother’s neck.

Cut it out. That ain’t funny.

Aren’t, Day corrected and then broke into a run shouting, The juju woman is gonna get ya.

Miss Emma watched the two Shannon boys scamper away and shook her head. When they reached the woods segregating Nigger Town from the white farms Bobby asked.

You think ole Big Head will ever meet his match?

Everybody meets their match sooner or later, Day replied sagely.

Wouldn’t that be something to see? Bobby said, animatedly clawing the air and making cat noises. Dayton changed the subject.

Have you heard back from Maw Maw?

Not yet. I hope she’s okay.

Me too. It sure would be grand if you could go visitin’ her this summer.

Bobby stopped walking and eyed his brother.

What have you got rattling around in that head of yours?

Nuttin’, he said running ahead until their clapboard, whitewashed house he wished would burn to the ground came into view.

While Bobby waited behind the big, knotted oak that partially concealed their house from the road, Dayton peeked into one of the smudgy windows and gave the all clear. He had no money to leave Pap today, so they ate their meager supper quickly. They usually waited until he went to the saloon to bar their bedroom door, but when he sees there’s no money he’ll take it out on them for sure. Once barricaded inside their room Bobby set the apple and crackers he had bundled for their breakfast in two handkerchiefs on their mother’s old trunk. He turned up the kerosene lamp and saw Dayton stash the twenty cents he had made shining shoes to the cigar box under the floor. It was about the time a half moon peeked into their window Pap came crashing through the door.

Sums-a-bitch. Gaul durn piece of junk.

The sound of splintered wood followed and Bobby bolted into Dayton’s bed.

Where are you two? I know’d ya here. I kin smells ya. Wortless youngins, he groused.

Dayton put an ear to the door just as Pap kicked it and caused him to fall on his keister. Bobby ducked under the blanket when he started pounding their door.

Let me in damn it, he mewled. I’m your fodder.

Dayton clenched his hands. He was ready to fight, but he quickly lost steam. That meant Pap was good and soused. He gave the door one, last, listless kick and then shuffled away, mumbling and bumping his way to his room. His home coming soon ended, as it always did, with a chorus of piteous sobbing and fretful snoring. Dayton whispered.

He’s out.

Bobby crawled back into his own bed, balled himself up and fell back asleep. Sleep didn’t come to Dayton as easily. He lay awake adding more string to the ball of hate he kept in his gut and mulled over the promise he made to his mother. It was a promise he thought he’d never have to keep, but everything has gone wrong since she died because of him… everything.

The sun had just peeked over Jackson’s Mound when Dayton shook Bobby awake. They dressed quietly, gathering their books and the breakfast that would have to wait to eat before Pap awoke for his twelve hour shift at the round house. After they crawled out the window they ran and didn’t slow down until they reached town passing the stragglers leaving the bordello. As usual the Shannon boys were the first to arrive at the school house. They sat on steps and ate their breakfast while awaiting the arrival of their teacher.

Ever since Mama died Bobby has been Miss Schoenfeld’s pet so when he suddenly jumped up and ran up the road, Dayton knew why. Bobby had a sixth sense when it came to her. He stood and saw her carriage come into view remembering what the town barber said about setting a watch to her comins and goins. She pulled up her old, gray mare and handed the reins to Bobby.

Are you excited about this being the last day of school? She asked, patting Bobby on the shoulder.

She looked at Day. I know you are Dayton.

Yes ma’am.

Robert dear would you straighten the chairs and get out the chalk and erasers?

Bobby scurried away to fulfill her request before Miss Schoenfeld reached into her woven bag and pulled out a leather bound book.

I want you to have this, she said and handed it to Dayton. He raised a quizzical brow.

It’s a journal. I would like you to write something in it every day over the summer. Don’t worry. I’ll not ask you to read any of it out loud. Write anything you want. Will you do that for me?

He never could refuse Miss Schoenfeld anything and took it.

Chapter 3

June 15, 1892

Dayton stared at the date and went into a trance. He wanted to write, but nothing was coming; at least nothing he thought worthy. He heard a cardinal warble overhead and then wondered what was taking his brother so long. He said Miss Schoenfeld needed help in closing down the school, but that was over an hour ago. He looked at the blank page again and cursed her for making him promise. She’d done it on purpose, he thought. She’d given him the darn journal to trick him like his mother used to. She had recited sections of Charles Dickens and made him take notes. He hated how low he felt when he struggled to read them back to her. He never cared much for Dickens. He liked Mark Twain much better, but she said his English wasn’t proper. Darn promises. He huffed and then wrote whatever came into his head.

Yesterday was the big race. There were flags flying everywhere. Mayor Soller headed a parade beforehand and at the tail end of it three old biddies from the Auxiliary carried signs saying thou shalt not something or other. Most people were respectful, but some of the men at the General Store booed. They booed even louder when the Baldwin Heights roan galloped by and then changed to cheers when Pinckney’s sorrel followed. My brother Bobby and me ran around to the rear of the bank and shimmied up to the roof. We had a good view. There must have been over a hundred people along Main Street. Most of them were crowded around the finish line waiting for Sheriff Bender to fire his pistol. The crowd cheered when he did and Bobby nearly fell off the roof trying to get a better look. Some dumb kid ran into the street, but his ma pulled him back before the horses ran him down. During the race the colored boy riding the roan leaned over and pulled one of Eddie’s feet out of the stirrups. Eddie fought back and slapped him in the face with his rein. Then the colored boy tried to push Eddie out of his saddle and the home crowd got mad and started throwing rocks at him. One of them hit the roan and made him swerve into the sorrel. Both of them nearly went down, but Eddie held on and crossed the finish line first a neck in front of the other. Mr. Clarence protested and a few dust ups broke out, but the sheriff settled them down. After we climbed down off the roof we were nearly run over by Jesse and Tim Weathers on their way out of Nickerson’s tailor shop. I knew they was up to no good when they ran to the other side of the street and stopped to watch. When the fireworks went off they skedaddled, cackling like crows as a bunch of ladies ran out of Nickerson’s like they was being chased by hornets. I have to admit it was a good prank. Mr. Nickerson is still chasing them. I took my shine box down to the depot afterward and gave a coupla sports a shine. Made near a dollar and spent a nickel of it on some rock candy. Then I set aside forty cents for Pap and hid the rest.

Dayton reread what he had written and felt pretty good about it except for the penmanship. He wished he could write like Bobby. His writing was neat and swirly like those fellas who signed the Declaration of Independence. He looked out the window. The 10:15 will be coming soon. He quickly hid the journal and headed for the depot even though he knew his chances of making money were slim. Folks weren’t so free with it after the holidays, especially ones as new as Flag Day, but he had to give it a go. The 10:15 came and went with no takers until an itinerant preacher took pity on him and asked for a shine. Dayton refused the nickel he offered. He figured it was better to be in God’s good graces than to take it. Bobby was making cornmeal mush when he got home.

Where were you?

School. Miss Schoenfeld and I moved all the desks and cleaned the place head to toe. Then she took me to lunch and gave me this.

He held up the book setting on the table. The title read Ivanhoe.

It’s about kings and knights.

Is that what you gonna do this summer?

Bobby took offense. You got a better idea?

Dayton pointed to his mother’s books stacked on the floor.

How much do you think we could get for all of these?

They ain’t for sale. Momma left them for us.

Momma’s dead, Dayton shouted.

He slammed the door, climbed the oak out front and sulked in the highest fork in the tree until Pap came home mumbling something about niggers and thieves. Pap didn’t stay long and was soon striding toward town. After he did Dayton climbed down and found Bobby reading his new book; a fresh welt on his arm. He didn’t say a word about it.

Wake up Day.

He groggily sat up and looked out the window. It was still dark and cold.


Pap’s not home.

Dayton flopped back down and pulled the blanket over his head.

C’mon Day. We gotta go get him.

Let him rot.

Day, Bobby pleaded.

Dayton threw off the blanket and dutifully stepped into his britches while Bobby fetched the lantern. In short order they were walking down the all too familiar road north of town to the cemetery, arriving at their mother’s grave just as the sky was turning pink and, like so many times before, found their father passed out, leaning against her grave stone with an empty jar of moonshine in his lap.

Bobby set the lantern down and poked him. He groaned and swatted the air, sputtering something about getting even, but didn’t awaken. Disgusted, Dayton took a bundle of fresh flowers from a nearby grave and shook the dew into his face. He bolted upright, gasping and spewing obscenities. Bobby tried to grab his hand, but got slapped for his trouble.

Leave him be, Dayton advised. He knows the way home.

Bobby stubbornly refused to go, so Dayton left and waited for him on their porch until the sun peeked over the horizon and guilt prodded him to go. About half way back he found his little brother buckled under the weight of their father leaning on his shoulders. He grudgingly took hold of his other arm and the two of them hauled Pap back to their property line and dropped him near the well. They watched as he crawled on all fours to the well spout and waved a listless hand for one of them to pump the handle. Bobby obliged with four good thrusts and when the water gushed onto his head, he yelped and shivered like a wet dog. Bobby looked concerned, but all Dayton could feel was contempt. He grabbed his shine box and left his wretched father in the undeserving care of his soft hearted brother.

When he arrived the depot was deserted, so he fished out an old Chicago Tribune from the trash and read about some anarchist named Berkman who shot and stabbed the manager of Carnegie Steel. The accompanying editorial lamenting the state of affairs planted a seed that grew throughout the day. After a gent fresh off the evening train from Nashville gave him a dime for a shine he ran home to harvest the plan. The first thing he had to do was lie to Bobby to get him out of the house before Pap got home.

Aren’t you coming? Bobby asked.

I gotta make sure our money is safe. You go on ahead. I’ll be right there.

Bobby eyed him suspiciously and left. Then Dayton lay the paper open to the story about the anarchist, set a dime under the headline and hid behind the privy. Twenty minutes later Pap entered the house and began yelling about a world full of thieves and murderers, ranting on for ten minutes before setting himself in a chair on the porch with a shotgun. Dayton chortled, ran to their hideout and told Bobby what happened.

What did you do?

Dayton shrugged. Nuthin’. I think he has finally lost his marbles. We better stay here awhile.

The horn owl was hooting by the time they made it back to their room. When they awoke Pap was still on the porch fast asleep, shotgun in his lap and after work vowed to stay on guard until the Pinkerton’s captured every last anarchist. The vow lasted two nights before he abandoned his post and returned home drunk and surly. He took it out on Bobby. Dayton felt bad about instigating the new welts on his brother’s back, but it renewed his pledge to get him away from their father as soon as he had the money.

A week later after playing cowboys and Indians with the Weather’s boys, Dayton and Bobby were walking by Carney’s saloon when two men threw a man out into the street. It was Pap. One of them asked if they knew him. Dayton shook his head, but Bobby ran over and tried to get him to his feet. Dayton had no choice. They hefted him up on their shoulders and dragged their father home under the crushing weight of public disgrace.

The next morning a railroad agent came by the house and threatened to fire Pap if he kept showing up late for work. Dayton watched as their father took the tongue lashing through the crack in their bedroom door. His kowtowing filled him with pleasure and disgust. Yes sir. No sir. Never again sir. After the agent left he pushed Bobby out the window cuz Pap tended to pass on his humiliations.

Around supper time they returned to find Pap sitting at the kitchen table wearing a disconcerting smile. Dayton gave him a wide berth while Bobby made supper and then saw the letter. Pap grinned at him, slipped it into his shirt pocket and announced.

You’re goin’ to Kentucky.

Who sez?

I sez. You’re gonna go work for your Uncle.

Dayton stood. No I ain’t, he proclaimed and stormed into his bedroom.

No way would he leave his brother alone with Pap. He paced. He had to figure out a way to get the dollar and thirty cents needed to get to Chicago. Bobby came to the door.

You can come out now. He’s gone.

Dayton saw the worried expression on his brother’s face.

Whatever was in that letter sure put him in a good mood. He even asked me how my studies were going.

How much money you got?

Bobby picked up his wooden piggy bank and shook out seventy cents.

We need sixty more cents to get to Chicago.

Chicago? We don’t know anybody in Chicago.

We can take care of ourselves. Besides we’ll be rich in no time. Miss Schoenfeld said so.

Bobby looked away uncertain.

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