Summary: At the end of “A House Divided”, have you ever wondered why Adam wasn’t farther along to join the cause before Little Joe caught up with him? Adam had emotionally left the night before Ben‘s encounter with Frederick Kyle and Joe in town. Me… I don’t think it had anything to do with Adam’s response to Joe during the closing scene, “That lake really gets under your skin.”
A Seedling’s Challenge inspired short story. The prompt was the word gray.
Rating: K+ (800 words)
The final page contains reviews/comments left on the old BonanzaBrand Library.
SETTING THE COURSE
Frederick Kyle. I can’t believe how close the man came to tearing our family apart, all for the sake of what… gold? No, it was something more than gold… Honor? Fighting for a way of life that was a breath away from dying?
Drab, dreary, dingy, characterless, indistinct, dull, plain, colorless, pale, insipid, bland, indeterminate…
There was nothing indeterminate or vague with the man’s plan. He used my little brother’s love for his long deceased mother to stir up feelings of kinship in hopes of encouraging Joe to convince Pa and other mine owners to side with the Confederacy in the burgeoning War Between the States. He knew exactly what he was doing in his toneless speeches.
Looking back, there was nothing remotely toneless to his words if you truly listened to the man. Factual was his ploy, nothing rabble rousing or overtly passionate in his character. He knew the people of the west felt themselves immune to the cause, but still… The gold of the Comstock could sway England to join the South in their fight against the North’s war of aggression towards a way of life that had successfully supplied material to the growing industries in the north for generations. Cotton and tobacco were a few of life’s necessities that meant commerce and prosperity on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.
That line, an invisible fence, people were either on one side or the other. However, there were two kinds of people who straddled that fence. Those out to make a profit from both sides, playing one against the other, and those who chose to remain neutral, claiming it was not their fight. And our father declared our neutrality, he would not have the battle that waged in the east re-enacted in our home. He did not want to see or hear brother against brother.
I love our father dearly; however, I cannot understand how he can be so blind to the consequences… Whether he wants to or not, the war can and will come to the Washoe. Pa said he found the newspaper articles uninteresting, I’m sure it was an effort to close the subject. The stories weren’t uninteresting, they were words describing the dream of watching your sons grow up and one day, their lives become a nightmare… and then snuffed out. In his eyes he slowly watched the light fade from green eyes, blue eyes, or brown eyes as blood seeped from mortal wounds as the body lay in a battlefield until the only thing left was insipid death.
I know I broke Pa’s heart when I rode away that night, no longer being able to live in the house of my father. A country divided, a house divided, a soul divided. I wanted to get as far away from the Ponderosa as possible and join the cause; after all, my grandfather still lived in the North and there was where my mother was buried.
I camped out my first night away from home and thought of my feelings and why I was acting so much as I had always claimed Joe to irrationally act… Joe, would he ultimately storm from his father’s house, claiming he too would fight for the cause?
Stars and Stripes vs. Stars and Bars. Red, white, and blue… North vs. South. Blue vs. Gray. Vivid green eyes turned pale, their flame extinguished… The image of the two of us lying on the same battlefield in death was a sobering vision. With dawn’s early light, I realized the two sides would wage their war and my contribution would be paltry at best. But Joe… I couldn’t ignore the desire to see that my youngest brother lived to grow up… and that was a cause my heart couldn’t pass over. Turning Sport westward, I knew my course was set.
This story inspired by A House Divided: written by: Al C. Ward