DIFFERENT COLORED STONES

DIFFERENT COLORED STONES
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DIFFERENT COLORED STONES Å Don Lewis Wireman, Sr. Chapter 1 THE TIPS of Alexander Standish's long fingers slowly worked the holes of his red-lacquered bagpipe chanter as he played a snappy tune. His bare knees methodically moved up and down with the loud music as he marched in place on the long, green grass, to a Scottish highland composition. The brisk May breeze firmly pressed his hardy middle-aged body slightly backwards as it suddenly whipped through his red beard and rustled through the patch of his red hair that protruded under his stylish Scottish tam-o'-shanter. For this brief ceremony every spring, he was always dressed in the customary tartan wool plaid and kilt that his family's Scottish Sept had proudly worn for many centuries in faraway Scotland. His twelve-year old daughter, Ellen, matched his ca- dence at his side, in her pretty, blue and white dress and black leather jacket. She didn't know why she stubbornly marched in place; that was just the way it had always been since she was a little girl, whenever she and he had come there, like now, to their high hill that overlooked the river valley on their huge southern Idaho ranch. She vaguely remembered that they had always per- DON LEWIS WIREMAN, SR. formed the ritual bagpipe ceremony after the daisies had thor- oughly spread their beautiful violet carpet across the vast valley. She ardently loved to see the large meadows, filled with their bright-violet blossoms, quietly stretched out below. Some- times she would slowly ride her palomino pony, Mandy, down to the bottomland along the silver river where the daisies were thickest, then joyfully walk through them, pick several and ea- gerly smell their delicate scent. She always liked to take a hand- ful home to her brother David; and this time, since it was her mother's birthday, she desperately wanted to take a bunch home to her, too, but she had already learned from sad experience that her sullen mother would throw them into the trash as soon as the stems gently touched the palm of her firm hand. Then she would sharply chastise Ellen for wasting time picking them. Alexander eventually finished his annual musical march to spring and let the chanter of his bagpipe rest freely against his chest. He stood still, looking out over his healthy valley, and then again out over the wide Bear River that was slowly snaking its way down through the fertile bottomlands, far below. He occasionally thought of the unfathomable sea lochs, precipitous cliffs and dense thickets that had forever insured the grandeur of the rugged landscape near his old, but grand, stone home in Scotland. He occasionally thought how different the land in Idaho was from his native Scottish Highlands—and at the same time, in many ways, the same—but he'd never regretted his decision to join up with the poor missionaries and boldly bring his middle- 2 DIFFERENT COLORED STONES aged wife and young family of twelve, across the rough Atlantic by sailing ship to America, then by train to Idaho. After arriving in Idaho, he'd immediately invested his considerable wealth wisely, in the same way his father had in Scotland. Already, five years had quickly passed since they had immigrated—it was now the spring of 1928 and he was ex- tremely rich by any standard. From where he and Ellen stood at the north end of the valley, he owned all of the lush land on both sides of the river, as far as the unaided eye could see toward the south. The hundreds of head of fat beef cattle that now eagerly fed on new spring grass in the luxurious meadowland below were also his, as were the thousands of healthy sheep that fre- quently could be seen grazing along the forest timberline on the far side of the river. Sheepherder camps dotted the grassy hillsides. A lazy haze of blue smoke from their campfires aimlessly drifted among the trees, which protected the smoke from being scattered by the breeze. The low-lying smoke made the early morning air in the valley look heavy. Ellen held tightly onto her new flat-band yellow straw hat as the soft breeze vigorously tried to tear it from her grasp, quickly roll it to the next county. The ends of the red silk ribbon, that delicately ran under her youthful chin and securely held her hat down, flapped wildly in the light wind. "Papa—why is mother so angry all the time?" she asked, not taking her eyes from the broad valley below. 3 DON LEWIS WIREMAN, SR. Alexander unhurriedly located his briarwood pipe and pure tobacco, leisurely turned his back to the annoying breeze, and eventually lit up. When he finally turned around, he again vigilantly looked out over the colorful meadows far below. "Your mama does neu have any ill will for ya, lass. Her illness cloods her mind. It makes her irritated and angry," he answered in his deep Scottish brogue. "Now, it's a sight too cold for a young lass like yourself ta be oot here sae lang. We best be makin' oor way back hame." Ellen slowly took one last look out over the winding river, quickly stooped and picked a few straggled daisies for David, lovingly smelled their fragile sweetness, and then quickly followed her papa back to their expensive shiny black buggy with the four red wheels with varnished wooden spokes. Their beautiful chestnut thoroughbred horse with a white spot on its reddish-brown chest stood patiently awaiting their return, inten- tionally jiggling his harness bells as they approached. Her little brown and white dog, Trixie, came running to meet them. Alexander climbed into the driver's seat of the elegant buggy, carefully stowed his flexible bagpipe and quickly picked up the horse's thin leather reins. Ellen's silk dress and full petti- coats fluttered wildly in the light wind as she noisily stepped up into the buggy and sat down firmly on the passenger's seat by her wonderful papa, with fluffy Trixie in her arms. She immediately snuggled closely to her beloved papa, found the buggy blanket, tenderly put it over their exposed legs. Being born in Scotland and having lived there until she was seven, she understood why a man proudly wore a kilt even though his unprotected legs got 4 DIFFERENT COLORED STONES cold—but she knew her new American friends didn't exactly per- ceive it the same way. Alexander put his heavy jacket around her shoulders, and then suddenly made a clicking sound with his tongue, lightly flipped the reins down against the horse's rump. The obedient horse immediately responded and they were directly off for home. "I want to go to the movies and see Steamboat Willie. Can David and I go, papa—please?" As he leisurely puffed on his warm pipe, the gray smoke curled back around his large reddening ear. "What is so special that ya can neu wait ta see this Steamboat Willie?" "It has Mickey Mouse in it. I just have to see Mickey Mouse, it's his first movie." "Why do we neu get ya a Winnie-the-Pooh book, in- stead?" "I'm to old for Winnie-the-Pooh, papa." Alexander slowly dug his fingers into the money pouch he always carried under his wide belt, quickly brought out a shiny silver dollar, cheerily handed it to her. "That should let ya buy the tickets, some popcorn—and soft drinks, too." "David's only five. He doesn't need a ticket to get in— but I bet he would really like a Winnie-the-Pooh book instead," she said. Alexander glanced at her with a twinkle in his eye and smiled broadly. "I'll bet he really would." 5 DON LEWIS WIREMAN, SR. As their buggy finally pulled up in front of their sprawl- ing ranch-style mansion-like home, one of the younger ranch hands gently took hold of the bridle, waited for Alexander and Ellen to get down, then put the draft horse and buggy away. As they entered the elegant drawing room, a young maid in a white apron took their wraps. Trixie quickly ran ahead of them. Where is everybody? Alexander wondered and then he remem- bered his other children were working on a church project for the poor. His wife, Alfreda, was staunchly sitting in a rocking chair, by a tall, narrow window, crocheting a doily. "Where in the name of God have you two been—? I had breakfast taken away. It was cold—and—get that filthy dog away from me" "Tha's neu way ta treat a man, a young girl and a dog on a fine cold morning like this. Tell the cook ta come here," Alex- ander said, to the maid. The confused maid immediately started toward the kitchen. "No By God, you'll eat at the proper time around here or you won't eat at all—," Alfreda barked, boldly wielding an angry finger at the maid. "Go on about your business, girl." Alexander resolutely took Ellen by the arm, led her into the well-equipped kitchen. Trixie hastily followed. "We'll be aboot making oor oon breakfast, lass. Ya get six eggs while I go change me clothes." 6 DIFFERENT COLORED STONES Ellen hummed a little tune as she joyfully laid her dai- sies on the counter, carefully unhooked a large copper frying pan from the loop of the large selection of pans hanging from the high ceiling in the middle of the kitchen, set it over a burner on the large gas range. She found some sweet butter in the electric refrigerator, plopped a large chunk into the pan and turned on the burner. She warmed her cold hands with the burner's welcome heat for a moment, then resolutely went to the enamel sink, hur- riedly washed them, quickly dried them on a tea towel, got six large eggs out of the refrigerator. Finally Alexander stepped into the kitchen wearing a heavy, navy-blue wool sweater, heavy weave pants and a bright new pair of red leather cowboy boots. "I'll get some green on- ions and chop them," he said. While Alexander was busy getting green onions from the refrigerator, Ellen found a small bowl, carefully broke the fresh eggs into it, beat them vigorously with a dinner fork, added some salt and pepper. "Do you want some potatoes?" she asked. "Neu this morning lass. Neu this morning, but some toast with butter and chokecherry jelly would go good," he said, as he pealed off the onions' outer skins, chopped up a bunch. Ellen popped some sliced bread into the electric toaster. "Oh—I almost forgot the coffee." She quickly opened the tin coffee canister, scooped rich, brown coffee into the coffeepot trap, added water, put the top on, set it to perk over a gas burner. "No sense cooking the eggs until the coffee's done," she said, immediately turning off the blue gas flame under the egg pan. 7 DON LEWIS WIREMAN, SR. Alexander mixed the green onions a few at a time with the beaten eggs, then sat down at the polished curly maple table, reached for the daily newspaper. Ellen stretched herself up, got real china cups and sau- cers from the pale-yellow cupboard, carefully set them on the table, then sat down. "Our family in Scotland was part of a clan, wasn't it, papa?" "Many years ago, lass. Many years ago There's a ru- mor that's come doon from oor ancestors that oor family—the Standish family that is—it was a small but permanent Sept of the McFarlane clan in northern Scotland—but the history books do neu say that. I think oor family was migratory and stayed with the McFarlanes as a temporary Sept for a time, that's all." "What's a Sept?" Alexander was glad she was interested. He enthusiasti- cally laid the open newspaper back down on the table. "A Sept was usually a subdivision of the clan. The Standish Sept and other Septs did all of the work for the clan." "So our family was a family of worker bees," Ellen said. "Aye, that it was—and fighters, too—by the way—the coffee is boiling over" Ellen jumped up, turned off the smoking burner and carefully poured them each a cup of steaming hot coffee. She brought a small pitcher of cream and a crystal bowl of sugar to the table. She turned up the flame under the egg pan, poured in the eggs, and then began stirring them as she watched them cook. 8 DIFFERENT COLORED STONES "Now, the McFarlane clan was neu rich, but their neighbors were—so the McFarlanes 'lifted' their neighbor's cat- tle." "So—our family was a bunch of cattle rustlers, too," Ellen said, dividing the scrambled eggs onto each of two plates, grabbed the warm toast and brought it, the China plates of eggs, butter and chokecherry jelly to the table, got some sterling sil- verware, and then sat down. "Do neu tell that ta yer mother. She still believes we Standishes came from royal stock, and then aristocracy of some kind before that even. I personally suspect oor family did the butchering and cooking, meself," Alexander said. "Aye—the clan march was 'Thogail nam Bo theid sinn'." "What does that mean?" "It means, 'To Lift The Cows We Shall Go'" Alexander said, chuckled, and took a bite of the tasty eggs. Ellen laughed. "To lift the cows we shall go That's a good one." "The clan got so famous for lifting cows that throughoot the Highlands, the moon was known as the McFarlanes' Lan- tern," Alexander said, as he slid some purple chokecherry jelly onto his toast with a table knife. "I would think the neighbors would've gotten tired of that." "Aye—which they finally did, lass. I think it was in 1608, after the McFarlanes got really carried away—killed the Chief of the Colquhouns of Luss—that's when the McFarlanes were ootlawed." 9 DON LEWIS WIREMAN, SR. "Outlawed?" "Aye, lass. That meant they could be killed on sight withoot prosecution," Alexander said, finishing his toast and eggs, washed them down with the rest of his coffee. Ellen finished her breakfast, began washing the dishes. Alexander took up the newspaper again, began reading—and then she heard him let out a low groan. Ellen looked over at him. "What is it?" "It is neu anything. Neu anything." She reluctantly turned back to the soapy dishes, but sus- pected there was something he wasn't telling her. He didn't wish to alarm her, but he'd read the stock mar- ket report. People were still frantically buying all kinds of stocks like the stock prices were going to keep continually rising for- ever. That definitely worried him. He was a wise man with much experience in such things and knew stock prices could not just keep rising and rising indefinitely. He knew farm prices were beginning to drop rapidly, but steadfastly considered himself a rancher and had invested in land, cows and sheep, plus a prosperous pool hall and well- stocked hardware store in the nearby small town of Riley. He felt uneasy about the skyrocketing market, but even poor people had to eat—so he thought his cows and sheep should continue to bring a good price regardless of what might happen in the future. People were too accustomed to drinking beer and using hardware to give them up, he reasoned. Those thoughts comforted him somewhat. 10 DIFFERENT COLORED STONES In Scotland, when a person bought important things, like land, they usually owned legal title to it, but in America, credit was so plentiful that even Alexander had borrowed a great deal of easily-available money, and of his thousands of acres of land, he actually held title to only a small three-hundred acre ranch up in the mountains two miles from the Bear River. That's where, in the early summer, the sheepherders took herds of his sheep to graze on the rich grass of the ranch's meadows, and on the scrub grass of the surrounding government land. His bankers had told him his vast collateral was what counted, which was in excess of a million dollars, a great deal of money in 1928. Alexander opened the door of his new automobile, a 1928 Du- rant M2 four-door sedan. He'd paid cash for it just a month be- fore. He'd wanted an emerald green one, but Alfreda had put up such a tizzy that he'd pusillanimously bent to her wishes, bought the dark blue one instead. He slid onto the driver's seat, started the engine, put the transmission in gear, lit up his pipe and began the journey to his pool hall in Riley. He turned on the car radio, finely adjusted the tuning knob from one static-riddled station to the next until he found what he hoped was CBS. The announcer's dramatic voice came in quite clearly. "In Germany—the German zeppelin plant has produced the Graf Zeppelin—a rigid airship—772 feet long— who knows—it may someday fly all the way around the world. The Bryce Canyon National Monument has been established as a national park. Cab Calloway is appearing on the Broadway 11 DON LEWIS WIREMAN, SR. stage in the musical, Blackbirds. President Coolidge has once again turned down the farm relief bill—because he opposes gov- ernment involvement in private enterprise. The Chicago Bears play again today at Wrigley Field. In Coniston, in Northern Ter- ritory, Australia—police have killed 80 Aborigines following the murder of a white colonial family at Hornet Bank station in Queensland. That's the news for the moment—now just sit back and relax and listen to George Gershwin's American in Paris." Alexander quickly swerved to miss a huge pig that was languidly crossing the road. "Healthy pig," he said to himself, straightening out the erratic car, then drove on down the dusty gravel road. He waved as a familiar auto whizzed passed. The occu- pants waved to him. Friendly place ta live, he thought. He passed handsome farmhouses and prosperous farms on either side of the graveled road. There were white Leghorn chickens running about—an occasional mongrel dog—a stray cat here and there. Then he passed the familiar spot where a decaying skunk had been run over and every motorist had to suffer the stinking consequences. He motored past the entrance to the dirt road where on many happy occasions he'd taken his family trout fishing at a large pond called Williams Lake. The family had liked to take a fried chicken picnic and make a full day of it there. The younger members of the sprawling family usually finished off the picnic by swimming. Visions of them wildly splashing in the water ran through his weary mind. Only five years ago, even Alfreda 12 DIFFERENT COLORED STONES seemed to enjoy those playful times, he thought. Now, he hardly recognized her as being the same person she'd been in those days. As he wheeled the Durant into the little town of Riley, he lei- surely passed the only gas station for thirty miles in any direc- tion, waved to the gas station attendant, Phil, who courteously doffed his cap in salute. Alexander pressed on up the empty street, parked his car beside the giant apple tree next to his red, brick-faced pool hall and went inside. Patrick, the bartender, looked up from washing glasses, saw Alexander come in. "Hey Al—we got a new coffeepot—want a cup of Joe?" "I thank ya—but neu—I just had breakfast," Alexander said, as he ambled behind the shiny bar, started serving the thirsty customers who sat on his assigned half of the bar, a cus- tomary arrangement he had with Patrick. An old farmer, who always wore his hair longer than the customary length and who had a long-standing reputation for being a stubborn individualist, sat playing cards with three other men at a round gaming table near the furthermost wall from the bar. "Hey Al—bet you haven't heard the latest news" he yelled in Alexander's direction. Alexander continued wiping the beer glass he was clean- ing. "Neu—can't say I 'ave." "Well—I hear tell the bishop is going to open his own pool hall. That might run this one plumb out of business," the 13 DON LEWIS WIREMAN, SR. old farmer said, shuffling the deck of playing cards in front of him. "Now—Buffalo—don't you go starting no trouble," Pat- rick cut in. "It's just the God's truth," Buffalo said, chuckling to him- self at his own vaguely-religious joke. "I've never heard him say anything of the kind," Patrick said, vigorously setting a cold beer in front of one of the usual customers sitting at the bar. "That's because he ain't never been in here—and you ain't never been in church" Buffalo chuckled. Everyone at the card table laughed. "I 'ave neu heard that the bishop was goin' ta build a new pool hall—but if he does—there's enough room for two in this toon," Alexander said. "Not if he tells all his church members not to come to this one," Buffalo said. "If he does that—," Alexander said, "I'll pull all o' me family oot o' his church." It suddenly grew deathly quiet in the smoke-filled pool hall. Nobody even remotely wanted to get involved in a dispute between Alexander and the crusty bishop. Patrick instantly changed the uncomfortable subject. "Anybody bought any good stock lately?" "I just bought some automobile stock yesterday," one of the men sitting at the card table said. "I figure—the way things are going—I'll be as rich as Al by this time next year." Everybody laughed. 14 DIFFERENT COLORED STONES "Yeah—I borrowed all of next year's potato crop and bought stock in…hell, come to think of it—I don't know what I did buy stock in. I hired one of those new fellas—think he's called a stockbroker." "Yeah—he's called a stockbroker," one of the men sit- ting at the bar said. "Well—it really doesn't matter what kind of stock a man buys—it's all climbing like a crazy eagle," a tipsy man at the bar said, inelegantly raising his beer glass. "I'll buy everyone a beer—that's here Hey—that rhymes" he slurred. Alexander and Patrick set a fresh cold mug of beer in front of each patron. "Hell—I buy my stock on margin," a man in a brown leather jacket said, as he was about to hit the cue ball against the four ball in a corner pocket of the pool table. "What do you mean by that?" somebody asked. "Ya don't have ta pay the full price for the stock. Ya just pay part, then when the stock goes up, ya pay the rest." "What if your stocks don't go up?" Buffalo asked. "Now, you know damn well, Buffalo, that stocks is al- ways going up. Why do you ask such a dumb question?" the man in the brown leather jacket asked. "If Al didn't think stocks was going ta keep going up—he wouldn't let us have any more credit for beer—would ya Al?" As Alexander was about to re- ply, the man passionately continued. "Now, Al's one of the rich- est guys in these parts. If he thinks they're going to keep going up—they're going to keep going up" 15 DON LEWIS WIREMAN, SR. Chapter 2 ELLEN SAT straight up in her ornately decorated Western sad- dle, on the back of her spirited palomino pony, Mandy. She was wearing a typical Scottish riding outfit her papa had brought back from Scotland for her on his last visit to Edinburgh. He'd also brought all his other children expensive gifts, but Ellen and her three older sisters, Carol, Paula and Francine were natural born horsewomen, he'd said, so he'd brought them Scottish riding outfits. Ellen's brother, Raymond, was also older than her, but he was a lethargic bookworm, never went near a fearsome horse. Ellen's riding pants were of sturdy woven wool. Their yellowish color matched Mandy's coat. Ellen sported a white beret, which matched Mandy's white mane and white tail. Ellen's shiny black boots topped out halfway up to her youthful knees, and since her boots went well with her dark maroon satin blouse—that neatly completed the ensemble, she thought. Trixie, being brown and white, blended nicely into the whole riding scene as she friskily trotted alongside Mandy's slen- der legs. Ellen gently urged Mandy out of the large stable yard, applied light pressure to Mandy's tender flanks with the heels of 16 DIFFERENT COLORED STONES her boots, headed the energetic pony toward the road leading down to the bottomland along the river. It was six o'clock in the morning. There was still a slight mist in the air from the early morning fog. Ellen loved the damp mist. It reminded her of Scotland. Not that she missed Scotland a great deal, but she had left good friends there and it was just not the same, writing to them, as it'd been talking to them and seeing them. "Don't run too close to Mandy's hooves" she suddenly cautioned Trixie. "She may be obliged to step right on you" As Trixie carelessly trotted along, panting, she looked up at Ellen as if to say she understood what she'd said. They soon reached the top of the sloping cliff where Alexander had stood and played the bagpipes, then slowly began the descent down a long trail toward the level bottomland, with Trixie happily running along behind—her short legs doing their best to keep up. Occasionally, she barked loudly—mostly, she just yapped. Ellen could see brown and white cattle slowly milling around, peacefully grazing along the riverbank in the thinning, rising fog, and she could see smoke rising from a sheepherder's camp on the other side of the river. Mandy occasionally snorted and briefly exhaled gigantic volumes of steam through her nostrils as the warm air from her lungs met with the coolness of the morning air. As Ellen looked out over the vast valley before her from the new perspective, with the soft mist lying over it, once again it reminded her of her home by the sea in Scotland. The stunning 17 DON LEWIS WIREMAN, SR. valley before her was like a picture from a fairytale book—with the magical mist crawling aimlessly across the lush meadows along the riverbanks, spreading up out of the valley into the magnificent dense forests that stayed mostly green year round on the mountains. Every morning the fleeting fog ritualistically rolled in— like it had in Scotland. She remembered in Scotland the fog had quietly risen as the sun warmly touched it with its golden morn- ing light, exposing vast expanses of valley covered with beauti- ful Scotland primroses. She had the same feeling now she'd had in Scotland, joyfully felt a sense of security and comfort from the view before her. As the trio gradually descended toward the river, the fog was at the height of Mandy's stomach and little Trixie quickly became barely visible as she bobbed along bringing up the rear. Ellen was soon riding through the wet grass of the damp- smelling meadow that edged along the steep riverbank. As she admired the ever-changing reflections on the surface of the wa- ter, she slowly inhaled the pleasing meadow air and enjoyed the smell of its moist aromas. Between bunches of stiff cattails here and there, she could see, what her mother had always sarcastically referred to as trash fish—carp and suckers—stirring up the fine silt on the river bottom as they lazily scavenged for food in the shallows. Her mother had said she would never even be caught dead eating one, but Ellen had learned that some of the poorer kids at school had eaten them. They'd told her cooked carp were bony, but 18 DIFFERENT COLORED STONES okay to eat with some lemon juice and salt if you were very, very hungry. Double-winged dragonflies acrobatically busied them- selves among the brown-topped cattails. Ellen saw a brightly- colored red and brown finch swoop in and eat a dragonfly for breakfast. She saw another finch—bright orange—attach itself to a cattail reed, eat a few seeds and then fly away. She heard the many flutelike notes followed by the chup-chup-chup of a nearby meadowlark. It's probably a mother, building her nest, she thought. She heard the musical croaking sounds of frisky frogs as they jumped off the bank into the water just ahead of Trixie, as Trixie ran along the riverbank intent on trying to investigate them. Ellen became more and more interested in the mysterious sheep- herder's camp, that she could now easily see on the other side of the river—that her mother had frequently warned her never to go near. She'd said sheepherders were a lower class of people who were usually out of work, had little education—and God only knew what could happen to a girl caught by those devils. As Ellen intensely scrutinized the mystifying camp, she saw a man and a young boy busying themselves around a thriv- ing campfire. The boy can't be much older than me, she thought. What harm can there be in saying hello? Her curiosity finally overcame her mother's warnings— she reined Mandy onto the metal river bridge. 19

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