Hassy

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Hassy is the next chapter in The Misadventures of Pogue Jeffers, the first chapter being Crilly Crick Spring.

Submitted: October 05, 2016

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Submitted: October 05, 2016

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Hassy 

A few years after the Jeffers family lost Geether they up and moved from their little farm to the small town of Alton, about twenty miles away. Mr. Jeffers started a whole lot of good payin carpentry and land clearin work for a well-to-do family who'd just a bought a big bunch of land northeast of town. The Jeffers then moved into a small house right off the main road leadin directly west of Alton. At first Pogue was awful homesick for the farm where he was borned, the place he knew so well, where Geeth and all the siblings was borned. But with the passage of time he kinda growed familiar enough with Alton. Folks there was poor like the Jeffers cause everbody had nothin just like everbody else.

In the early fall of that year, shortly after Pogue turned fourteen, he went to school in Alton. He'd walk a little better than a mile to an old boardin house where Mrs. Jewel Douthit taught five students, countin Pogue. They'd attend their school in the main room on the bottom floor. Sometimes the boardin guests would stomp on down the creaky stairs plowin straight on through the room whilst Mrs. Douthit was teachin letters. The old lady would just smile, on account her sister was gettin a little money from them for boardin. But mostly there was an awful scarcity of boarders cause nobody ever came to Alton, cept maybe once in a while a man in a fancy suit lookin to trade on some land. Pogue could smell 'em long before he saw 'em, on account of their shavin water.

One day in late September Mrs. Douthit announced to the class that a new student would be startin in a few days. Everbody was surprised cause as far as anybody knowed Alton still had the same folks as always.

" Her name is Miss Florence Hastings and she is thirteen years old. We will all get to know her when she arrives."

The very next Mondee Miss Florence Hastings was sittin straight up on one of the short three-legged stools. She'd been there long before anyone got to the boardin house, cept Mrs. Douthit. The old teacher and her new pupil sat directly across from one another in the middle of the room, as the others showed up one at a time. Pogue was the last to straggle through the big double doors and took his place a little ways behind the brown-haired girl who sat facing Mrs. Douthit. After everbody settled down the teacher stood to address the class.

"Boys and girls, I'd like to introduce you to Miss Florence Hastings."

After a funny silence Mrs. Douthit bent over to whisper somethin in the new girl's ear. After sayin "oh" in a hushed voice, the girl stood slowly, turnin around suddenly to face the class, hands still tightly clenched in her lap.

It was then that Pogue saw her face for the very first time. He could hardly believe how homely she was. Her eyebrows was thicker than he'd ever seen, her jaw was heavy and yet her mouth was thin, and her eyes was small, like tiny brown stones atop fresh snow. Her hair was pretty though, barely fallin to her shoulders ,in a way uncommon, with light brown waves, a little bit upturned at the ends. She was about as tall and thin as Pogue and mostly well-built. Her legs was long but the rest of her was short. She seemed stronger than a lot of folks with a special way of lookin straight ahead like she was mighty sure of where she was goin.

 " I am pleased to meet you. Most people I know just call me Hassy."

Mrs. Douthit then had everbody introduce themselves. Pogue was the oldest so he went last. Standin up suddenly he looked directly at Mrs. Douthit and blurted out " I'm Pogue Jeffers, but folks I knows just calls me Pogue." All the others laughed but Mrs. Douthit just smiled and thanked everbody. The teacher then told Hassy to sit with the rest of the students, right next to Pogue, cause now she was the second oldest.

  *****

Pogue got up early that next Sayrdee to go fishin on Alton Creek. His fishin spot was just under the thick shady trees next to the creek and right beside the road leadin directly out of town. A short ways futher to the east the road passed over the covered bridge that crossed the water flowin down out of the north. Pogue mostly caught his cats a little ways from where the creek turned sharply back again to the west. From the muddy bank where he dropped his fishin line he could see the bridge high up on the road. It was plenty dark as tar pitch in yonder but when anybody was comin through from the other side Pogue could hear the planks creak and groan somethin fierce.

Almost as soon as he dropped his line he was startled to hear the ol bridge creak and groan. The awful sounds echoed all along the creek bottom and probly scared downstream whatever fish Pogue was figurin on catchin. He listened for the long low groan of a plank nearest the side facing him cause he knew it wouldn't  be long before whoever was comin through that bridge would all of a sudden pass from the dark insides out into the broad daylight.

When all of a sudden there they was. A small black buggy drawn by a big black horse. Reins in hand sat a gentleman dressed in a dark brown vest over a snow white shirt. Next to him sat Hassy Hastings. She was lookin straight ahead with that special way of her's. Perched atop her head was a funny lookin hat with a long bill over the forehead. As the buggy rolled on by Hassy looked to her left and could see Pogue at the bottom of the creek bank, holding his fishin pole, staring back at her with wide open mouth. She raised her left hand and waved to him, mostly with her fingers, like girls sometimes do. Pogue watched as the buggy made its way on down the road to Alton. He heard the thin echo of the buggy whip slicin through the cool mornin air as the big horse set to snortin loud and clear.

Pogue stood there so deep in thought he hadn't felt the sharp tug on the line, or saw the bob jump up and down, or watched it sink sideways before finally pullin under. Pogue seemed lost in a daydream. He hadn't even knowed he'd caught a fish.

 *****

Everbody in Alton soon heard the Webster place had been sold to a man from Virginy by the name of Hastings. Over the years the property was abandoned and lapsed into decay after ol man Webster passed away. In its heyday the land produced barges of cotton and corn but some bad storms during a couple rainy seasons had rendered the acreage awful pitiful to behold.

Mr. Jeffers quickly found that Raleigh Hastings understood precious little about farmin. As far as he was able to know , Hastings was a businessman from Virginia who'd made a lot of money buyin and sellin property. He'd hired Jeffers mostly to help clear some land, but after hearin he'd had decent enough carpentry skills Hastings soon wanted Jeffers to build and repair on the old property. Wasn't long before Hastings wanted Jeffers to hire on as foreman and property manager. The money was good so Jeffers moved his family on up to Alton for a job he hoped and reckoned might be for the long haul.

Pogue's daddy respected his new boss. Before long he strictly thought of Hastings as a good man tryin to do best by his family. But the one matter Jeffers couldn't figure out was why Hastings was married to the woman who arrived shortly from Virginia. Jeffers didn't know at the time but the woman was Hasting's second wife and that her boy was his stepson. Neither did he know that the youngest girl was Raleigh Hasting's only child from a previous marriage.

To Jeffer's way of thinkin, Dorthea Hastings and her husband appeared to be two very different folks. He was good-natured friendly yet she didn't look to be familiar with anybody. He was fair and honest but she seemed shady and connivin. It didn't take long for Jeffers to thereafter know the Hastings as a much divided family.

*****

The week after Pogue saw Hassy and her daddy on the Alton road he got to know her a lot more by watchin her at school. Ever once in a while he'd stole a peek of her writin on the little chalk slates everbody used. Her letters was the finest he'd ever saw. She was almost as smart as Mrs. Douthit. She was always very sure of herself when sayin things in front of everbody. Mrs. Douthit had her recite from the books on long ago stories or on figurin numbers. And when she recited, nearly all the words was dolloped with big spoonfuls of that high-cotton Virginy talk.

One day shortly after school Hassy sat down next to Pogue on the splintery bench under the oak tree in front of the boardin house. He always sat down there better to tie-up his shoes before the walk back home.

 "My daddy told me your daddy is Mr. Jeffers."

  Pogue didn't look up at her as he kept on lacin his shoes.

 "Well, I like Mr.Jeffers. My daddy speaks of him as a fine man."

Before Pogue could say a word Hassy was up and runnin. She jumped inside the black buggy just as it was pullin away from the low white picket gate.

*****

The very next Sayrdee Pogue got up early again to go fishin on Alton Creek. The little town looked sleepy in the early mornin light as he made his way east on the main road. Before long he was at the straight stretch leadin out to the covered bridge. When Pogue reached the little trail and was halfway down the bank, he looked up and couldn't believe his eyes. There right next to the water stood Hassy Hastings casting her fishin line into the deep hole in the turn in the creek. And with a finer lookin fishin rig Pogue ever laid eyes on. It was the store-bought kind and was flashy shiny in the bright mornin light.

"I'm smart enough to know the fish are hereabouts cause it's where I saw you last week."

Pogue stopped dead in his tracks as her high voice echoed sharply along the creek bottom.

" Sometimes the cats is here and sometimes they's up where the creek goes south shortly before gettin down yonder to the bridge."

As soon as Pogue quit talkin Hassy stood up on a  large round stone a little futher out in the creek water.

" My daddy says most folks don't like girls fishin but I don't hardly care."

It was at that moment she cast her line so hard she came awful close to fallin off the stone and into the water. Pogue thought it was mighty funny, but somethin inside him told him not to laugh.

" My momma use to fish with me and Geeth and daddy up on Crilly Crick when I was a youngun. She mostly caught more fish than daddy."

Hassy laughed out loud at that. It was the first time Pogue knowed her to laugh.

For the rest of the fine mornin they fished and talked and twice heard the covered bridge creak and groan. Pogue even got to mess with Hassy's fancy fishin pole, the only store-bought pole he'd ever held in his hands. Both of them caught a couple of fish and Pogue thought Hassy fished almost as good as Momma.

*****

That next week at school Hassy Hastings was nowheres to be seen, or heard. With each passin day Pogue worried a little bit more. He kept tellin himself she must be real sick cause of her likin for school. Mrs. Douthit never said a thing, mostly leavin Pogue to fret and wonder. When Sayrdee finally rolled around he got up extra early to finish his chores in order to get down to the fishin hole. 

As he bounded down the short trail off the Alton Road Pogue looked both this ways and that. Hassy wasn't there. He thought, "maybe she'll be gettin here directly." Nothin left to do but fish, so Pogue fished his heart out. As the hours passed the covered bridge creaked and groaned only once. Mr. Stillwell was just gettin back to town from some fencin work for somebody somewheres. As the long wagon rolled slowly by Pogue saw him r'ar back to spit his chaw and heard the sharp slap as the black tobacky hit that big mule square on the hindquarters. "Gety-up Sorry." Sorry picked up the pace as the wagon jangled louder. They was on their way back to Alton.

Pogue better be gettin on his way too. He'd hardly got as much as one bite all mornin, cept skeeter bites. Maybe the cats was holed-up on the other side of the bridge, maybe they was nowheres at all. Maybe they was backed-up into that muddy bank lookin up at a frowin Pogue stompin up the trail leadin to the road goin home.

After Pogue reached the road he commenced walkin like he was walkin in molasses. He never moved so awful slow. Must've took him a frightful twenty minutes to pull athwart that big alder stump just a short ways down the road. Creak. Maybe he oughta pick up the pace like Sorry the mule. Creak, groan. Maybe he? Did he hear the bridge creak and groan? Pogue spun around on a dime and started walkin back. In the dim light comin from the innards he could just make out somethin movin towards his end of the bridge. Before he could get as far as the trail, Hassy Hastings, lookin a bit peaked and sittin bareback atop a brown pony, came suddenly into the full autumn sunlight.

" Hello there Pogue Jeffers." A thin smile crossed her face. Pogue dropped his fishin pole and folded his arms.

" Where ya been all this time?"

" My daddy went back to Virginia for a spell. My stepmother Dorthea thought it best to keep me home doin chores for her."

Pogue couldn't think of nothin to say so he just stood there lookin up at Hassy. She sat atop the pony with that special look in her eyes and kept fidgetin with the reins. After what seemed like the longest time she turned and looked at Pogue.

" My stepmother is tryin to make me run away from home."

Pogue gulped and got wide-eyed.

" Her and Colbert want me to go away so they can more of daddy's money. They've been tryin to make my life so miserable that maybe I'd leave before daddy gets back from Virginia."

" What've they been doin Hassy?"

" Tryin to work me to death and keepin me locked-up in my room. They sent poor Myrtle our housekeeper home just so she wouldn't sneak me food. I do Myrtle's work and then some. They got me doin all the barn and yard chores. Colbert watches me all the time. I managed to get away this mornin by crawlin out the window when Colbert fell asleep. It was all I could do to get Sweetpie from her stall and away down the road."

Pogue gulped even harder and walked closer to Hassy until he stood directly beside Sweetpie.

" Are they comin after ya?"

" I don't know. I suppose they think I've run away like they wanted. I'm goin to Alton to post a letter to daddy, then I'm goin back."

" Goin back? " Pogue couldn't believe his ears.

" Those two ain't gettin the better of me. They've been tryin things like this for a long time, Pogue. Maybe my daddy'll listen to me now."

Pogue's head was swimmin with all the things Hassy told him. He couldn't help but think he needed to do somethin to help his friend. But Pogue had no earthly idea what that somethin was.

" Well Pogue Jeffers, I've gotta be gettin to Alton before they figure out I might be postin a letter to daddy."

Hassy kicked Sweetpie into a sudden trot as Pogue stood aside. What in the world could he do to help Hassy stand up to Mrs. Hastings and her good-for-nothin son? His momma and daddy would have scolded him that other folk's affairs was pretty much none of his bidness. But Pogue couldn't just leave it at that. No, it was flat-out wrong what they was doin to Hassy, and it made him mad as hell.

Pogue stood there lookin down the road until he could see nothin more than a thin autumn mist gatherin in the spaces between the faraway trees. It got so quiet the only thing to be heard was a mockinbird somewheres in the brush upstream from the covered bridge. Even the splashin of the creek nearby sounded small next to that mockinbird. So far Pogue counted three mocker songs. But in-betwixt the third and fourth song he heard a little jangle. The next jangle was follered by a cloppity. Then a clop. Then another cloppity. The bridge groaned. It creaked. Turnin round he could see somethin breakin through the yella rays of sun slanting through the higher planks. It wasn't long before that bottom plank nearest the west side commenced groanin long and low.

Rollin out into the open sunlight the Hasting's black buggy bore down on Pogue just about where he stood. As he jumped to the side he got a good look at the driver who seemed not to see Pogue in the slightest. Sittin high up on a cushion was a poor lookin skinny little sixteen year old wearin the same brown vest and white shirt Pogue once saw on Mr. Hastings. Pogue got only a short glance at Colbert's face but it was enough to remind him of the weasel he spotted stealin eggs back on the farm. His brother Geether always said, " it ain't that little weasel's fault them big eggs was so dang easy to steal."

*****

Pogue figured it wouldn't be long before Hassy crossed the bridge on her way back from Alton. Colbert couldn't be awfully far behind. And so at that very moment Pogue commenced to hatch-out a way to help his friend as best he could, right then and there. And he didn't have to cook it up in the slightest, as if all he had to do was foller what someone else was tellin him.

Soon thereafter Pogue heard a distant horse on the road from Alton. "That oughta be Hassy" he thought. Once near the entrance he turned down a steep path leadin directly below to the creek just under the bridge. There down on the narrow bank sat a long black oak limb left behind by high water late last year. It was long enough and thin enough but not too heavy. After fetchin a few big ol globs of fresh mud from the water's edge and stickin it on top of the limb, Pogue grabbed the end and commenced to drag it up the steep trail. He could hear Sweetpie's light gallop just as he and the log neared the top of the path. Lookin up he spotted Hassy disappearin into the covered bridge. He couldn't help but notice that special look of her's. The very last thing he saw. Never had it been so clear to Pogue.

At the top of the path he pulled the oak limb just to the side near the bridge entrance. There he waited for what seemed like forever when, sure enough, he heard the distant sound of the Hasting's buggy making its steady way along the straight stretch of road. Pogue dragged the limb a few feet over to the middle of the entrance where it now blocked the way over the bridge. He then ran the short distance to the trailhead where he lay down on his belly near the road.

By slightly raisin his head Pogue could now spot the buggy slowin down as the big black horse snorted loudly at the log blockin the way. Once at a standstill Colbert stepped from the buggy and made his way towards the thing that lay smack-dab in the road. Now was the moment Pogue was waitin for. He very quietly raised up and tip-toed sneaky-like to where he stood just behind Colbert. In one motion he was able to pull the smaller boy's arm behind his back and reach for the buggy switch in its holster at the front of the cab. Pogue then tripped Colbert to the ground and brought his other arm behind him. With Colbert now flat on the ground Pogue was able to tie his hands together with the buggy whip.

"What are ya doin to me?Let me loose." Colbert was pitchin a fit, screamin to high hell, and cryin so hard that Pogue was gettin almost scared. Pogue didn't favor having to do what he figured he had to do, but he didn't have much time to consider how frightul mean it was, or how scared he was, or how awful scared he made the pitiful boy layin there hog-tied and face down in the dirt.

Bein careful that Colbert must not see him, Pogue got the much weaker boy to his feet and marched him over to the oak limb. Pogue grabbed a big wad of the mud he'd packed on the limb and covered both Colbert's eyes with thick gooey globs. After leavin  holes for his nose and mouth, Pogue covered just about all of Colbert's face, and the rest of his head to boot.

Pogue could then move the log out of the way. Next he led Colbert back to the buggy where he placed the sobbin boy flush against the cushion. Once Colbert was in a safe position Pogue got out in front and commenced leadin the horse and buggy all the way to the Hasting's farm turn-off. From there he led the buggy the futher mile to within sight of the farm house. A sharp slap on the hindquarters sent the big black horse, with his mud-faced and wailing cargo, right up to near flush with the front door. Pogue right away made his long way home, mostly along the ol Injun trails skirting the roads and bypassing the town. He counted himself mighty lucky no one had come along on that road whilst he was leadin the buggy all the way out yonder to the Hasting's place.

 *****

Pogue would never again see Hassy Hastings. One day he heard his daddy tellin Momma the Hastings had all of a sudden left the farm. Mr. Jeffers was told in a letter received by the county clerk that Mr. Raleigh Hastings had passed away whilst in Virginia and that his property had been willed to his daughter, Florence. Not soon thereafter Mr. Jeffers heard some gossip that the farm had been sold, but there was no way of knowin.

One thing Pogue's daddy did know was that Mrs. Dorthea Hastings left the property shortly before it had been generally known as regards Mr. Hasting's demise. With her son Colbert in tow she just up and packed themselves off to Greely where they straightaway caught the train goin east. One of the men hired out with wagons to take them to Greely said the Hastings woman, next to her son, sat grim and stone-faced in a black buggy " the whole damn way to Greely." The buggy was pulled by a big black horse who set to snortin somethin awful when they got up to the bridge at Alton Creek.

Mr. Raleigh Hasting's daughter, Florence, stayed on at the farm only a few days longer when word arrived as to her father's sudden passin. Of course right away she took the train out of Greely, only a few days behind her stepkin.

The very next Sayrdee Pogue got up long before the sky brightened and made his way to the fishin hole on Alton Creek. He could see the covered bridge at the far end of the road just as the sun cleared the eastern horizon. As Pogue got about halfway down the road he saw the sun commence to shine clean through that bridge from east to west. For the first time ever the creaky innards of the ol bridge was lit-up from end to end, ablaze with all the glory long deserved.

Pogue reached the trail leadin down the bank and stopped to look around. He then made his way to the creek side and could see the sun throwin it's bright yella light over deep water through a gap in the oak trees on the far bank. His eye follered a long yella beam as it drifted upstream and then struck that same big round stone where Hassy once cast her line in defiance, nearly fallin in the creek.

Somethin was there. First a jittery glitter, a little dancin sparkle, then a beam of shiny metal somewheres near Hassy's rock. Slowly Pogue moved ever nearer, keepin his eyes fixed on the bright tiny glints. He stood up on the stone and there not ten feet away was Hassy's fancy store-bought fishin pole.

In just those few short minutes it seemed like the whole mornin passed as Pogue stood atop the big round stone. He felt an empty hollow feelin pass over him like he'd felt just one time before. It was a feelin he knowed once, and now twice, and somethin awful deep told him he'd likely know it again. It was a heavy feelin settlin in his heart just as it sometimes settled in the plain ol regular things, like the oak trees on the creek bank, the ol covered bridge, the deep water splashin by the big stone.

Pogue heard the bridge creak and groan. He looked up just in time to see Mr. Stillwell sittin high atop his janglin wagon, likely headed on out for a long day of post-holin. Pogue, if on this fine mornin, was gonna catch a big ol catfish, then he better get on to fishin.

 

 


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