When the Night Falls
Robin Renee Ray
Time and time again the people of Gains County had been warned to stay away from the Kenney’s land, but many ignored that warning to cross the creek to gather the wood that was used to warm their homes in the freezing winters. All the land on the south side had been cleared for crops that never came and all who stayed were now trapped in the blanket of a white winter that allowed none to leave.
The men had gathered at the make-shift church on the edge of town to discuss who would venture out and bring back enough wood to warm one home and cook several meals with what little beef that was left. That was until they would have to start killing off the horses in the stable, then look to the family pets for the survival of the children. It was the Kenney’s who had plenty of what they needed to feed their five sons, three daughters and seven grandchildren. Not to mention all of their kin that moved onto their land before the curse was laid upon the earth.
“None of ya will ever touch my land and cross this here creek and live to tell about it, you mark my words,” Ed Kenney said as he spit into the murky water of Eagle Draw.
“It wasn’t my family that killed your wife and unborn, Ed Kenney. Please, we need the wood to survive the winter,” Gavin Beaver pleaded, with his two year old son in his arms.
“You’re coming here and pissin’ all over this land was her undoin’. You and your kind thinkin’ you could come in here and tear down these trees, spread your filth all over and grow what weren’t meant to be grown on this earth, was what took my Beth from me, and her carrying that baby.”
“Please, Ed, be reasonable. Beth wouldn’t want you to let my little ones starve. Weren’t no doin’ of theirs. We was just wantin’ a better life for our own,” Carol Beaver pleaded.
“No matter the warnin’ that were given ya, woman. You was told this land was sacred and ya paid no mind. You was told no food would grow before you took down the bones of those who were placed on this here land long before your people came snoopin’ around these parts. But ya didn’t take heed, ya didn’t listen,” Ed turned and began walking up the bank on his side of the creek. “Cross this creek and ya won’t make it back to tell the tale. You’ve been warned.” Then he disappeared with his family in the undergrowth of the lush forest his neighbors wished to cut down.
The town folk was left standing with their mouths ajar. It was that encounter that brought them to the meeting at the church that very night. Someone had to go, someone had to bring the wood back and they better not get caught or all would be lost.
“I’ll do it,” Gavin said with his hand held high.
“No, John and I will go. You got a family ta care for.”
“Yeah, Sam’s right. We can bring back enough wood from the far south side of that old man’s property. I ain’t never seen any of them down there.”
“He’s right, and the swim ain’t half bad from down there,” John concurred.
“I’ll go with them,” the old barber spoke up. “Can’t do much else, the least I can do is watch their backs. If we can get enough wood to cook a few meals and warm the old Tanner’s place for a few nights, then we could make another run before the first big storm hits.”
“And what if they don’t come back?” Allen Lyle asked, pulling his heavy weight out of the chair by what little fire burned in the fireplace at the back of the small church. “I’ve been the banker in this town since it became a town and I for one know that Kenny fellow has been trouble, and more than one has come up missing on that man’s property.”
“I think you should be keepin’ talk like that to yourself, Allen.”
“Yeah, or you’ll be the first to cross that creek and see if what old man Kenny says is true,” John snapped.
“Don’t you threaten me—”
“And don’t you go threatening him, old man.” Gavin stood, putting his hand on Allen’s round stomach. “I think we all need to stick together, not be at each other’s throat.”
The plans were made and there was no further argument from the old banker. Gus, the barber gathered a few things as the brothers, John and Sam, went to their bunks down at the county barn to grab a dry change of clothes for after they crossed the creek, and a bag to put them in. The last thing they wanted was to get hypothermia before they could gather enough wood that was scattered on the ground to take back across before getting caught by the Kenny clan.
To Be Continued…