PATRIOTS ARE BORN An Original Short Story by John Conway
It is May of 1775, and our young brothers, Andrew and Morgan Worth, their big black dog, Boson, and a passenger, wealthy statesman Alexander McDougall, have taken a raft of timber down the Delaware River to Philadelphia, where McDougall is hoping to persuade New York’s representatives to the Continental Congress to vote in favor of independence. They have just pulled over for the night when they are surprised by a group of armed men, presumably the same men who had been pursuing McDougall…
We had just finished our supper, and the three of us were sprawled on the ground talking about the relative merits of declaring independence from England, when Boson sprang to his feet and began barking at the darkness.
We rose, but before we could react further, what must have been a dozen men advanced toward us from all sides.
“You’ll do well to remain still and not make any sudden movements,” one of the men said as he walked toward us. “You’re surrounded.”
Boson stood firm, eyes riveted on the man, and his barking turned to a low growl.
“Who are you and what do you want?” Morgan blurted out.
The man moved a bit closer, his musket fixed on McDougall.
“It doesn’t matter who we are,” he said. “We know who you boys are, and we have no quarrel with you. We are willing to let you be on your way. We just want this here traitor.”
“You know nothing of being a traitor,” McDougall said in a raised voice.
“Why don’t we let the local magistrate decide, then,” the armed man said. “That’s where we’re taking you, to Mr. Robert Land.”
I noticed that Boson’s growling had changed a bit and found it odd that his focus had shifted from the man with the musket to the brush to our left. I couldn’t see anything, but it sure seemed like he sensed something was happening there.
Suddenly, an ear-piercing war whoop broke through the night, catching all of us off guard. The man with the musket turned his attention from McDougall for a split second, looking in the direction of the yell. At that moment, Boson launched his 175-pounds at the man, knocking him down. The man lost his grip on his musket, and McDougall was able to get hold of it.
Meanwhile, two natives, screaming loudly, burst forth from the brush, brandishing clubs, crashing into a number of the other men before they could react. McDougall fired the musket into the air, and the men began to disperse, wasting no time running into the brush. A snarling Boson still straddled the leader, who was flat on his back, one leg pinned awkwardly under him, so that he was not going anywhere.
Morgan wasted little time grabbing his own musket and getting it primed and loaded. I grabbed one of the lanterns, lit it, and held it aloft, providing the dimmest of light, just enough to see who the two natives were who had come to our rescue.
“Ben Shanks!” I exclaimed to the taller of the two. “We are in your debt.”
The long-legged man, clad only in a deerskin loin cloth and waistcoat, bowed in a mocking gesture.
“Happy to assist, Andrew Worth,” he said in nearly perfect English. “As is my friend, Canope.”
The other native, considerably shorter and stockier than his companion, nodded almost imperceptibly.
McDougall stepped toward the two men and spoke.
“My name is McDougall, and I wish to add my gratitude for your actions to that of my friend. I, too am in your debt, as is the cause of freedom.”
“We don’t much believe in causes,” Ben Shanks said. “We believe in people. Andrew Worth is one of our people. We did this for him.”
“Hey, don’t forget about me,” Morgan piped up, advancing from the shadows. He and Ben Shanks exchanged a bear like embrace. “We were lucky tonight that you two were in the vicinity.”
“We are trapping up and down the river,” Ben Shanks said, and Canope nodded. “We have many pelts. Will trade them soon for food.”
“We are on our way to Philadelphia,” I said. “Our raft is over there. Those men have been following us.”
Boson barked at that point, reminding us that he still had the leader of the men pinned to the ground.
“Get this dog off me, he’s breaking my leg,” the man finally said.
McDougall leaned over the man and roughly grabbed his lapels, pulling him up and provoking a growl from Boson.
“Get your treasonous hands off me,” the man told McDougall through clenched teeth.
“So, you are going to take me to the magistrate, are you?” McDougall replied. “I think not. But here’s something you can take to him. You can tell him that the Continental Congress is meeting in Philadelphia and I, Alexander McDougall from Albany, plan to be there advocating for independence. We are the Sons of Liberty, we aim to be free, and you can join us or die!”
At that point, Boson yielded, and McDougall yanked the man to his feet. He reached inside the man’s coat and pulled out a large knife, which he then used to cut the strap of the man’s powder horn, which was slung over his shoulder.
“You won’t be needing these,” he said, holding the tip of the knife directly under the man’s chin. “Now away with you. And don’t forget to deliver my message to Mr. Robert Land. Join us, or die!”
This raft trip to Philadelphia isn’t over yet, and it just might turn out to be the most perilous journey Andrew and Morgan Worth have ever taken. Don’t miss the next exciting chapter of our story, Patriots Are Born, in the next edition of The Hurleyville Sentinel.