I had it all planned out. A nice trip to town, a delicious picnic lunch packed by Momma, then back home again. A great chance for Mary and Jesse to spend some time together, getting to know each other with nobody around to interrupt.
They’d left Lewis and his disapproving looks behind them. They had a pleasant ride in to town. Well, I’m assuming so. In truth, I skimmed through that section, jotting down quick notes in a rush to get to town. Mary was looking forward to a friendly conversation with Mr. Gump and then hurrying on their way to enjoy a lovely picnic.
From dreams to reality
Daniel Brown dreamed of building something big and becoming the county seat. Calhoun Village never grew to his expectations. It actually never became a real town. In 1870, there were only a handful of businesses. This is what I’ve managed to piece together of the defunct town.
There was Castle Thunder, the saloon run by William Rose. I see no evidence that it was anything more than a watering hole. His wife, Lucy, was one of Daniel Brown’s daughters. Their family records show no word of the saloon.
A gunsmith named Richard Ennis ran a gun store there for nearly two decades. Just locating his first name was a task. The family seems to have suffered quite a few losses, including a son who died a POW at Andersonville Prison in Georgia after being captured at Taylor’s Ridge.
William Meech and his son Harrison sold their mercantile in 1870. My best assumption is that they sold it to the grocer, John Gump, who opened up shop around that time. He was in his early sixties, and seems to have left very little trace of himself between his birth and his time in Calhoun. He then seemed to have moved on without a trace.
Lastly, near the edge of town there was a schoolhouse. The teacher was Walter Houston. Laura Bell absolutely adores him. In her opinion, he’s such a great teacher that she is certain he’d make a wonderful husband for Mary. The real Mr. Houston has proven to be just as elusive as Mr. Gump.
A wrench wasn’t on the grocery list
It’s a shopping trip to an almost nonexistent town. Easy. Into Gump’s grocery to purchase some needed items. I expected Gump to be the new pop-in character that I’d devote the most time and energy into building. The rest would be more peripheral — perhaps a hello to a neighbor, a couple ladies giggling in the corner as they discuss the fabric laid out before them, or a gentleman talking quietly with the shopkeeper.
Purchases secured, Mary would retrieve Jesse from Castle Thunder, where she’d sent him to have a drink. But, of course, that’s not how it went. Mary was on her way into Gump’s store when the wrench showed up and everything went awry.
Just throw a wrench in it
The wrench just so happened to be walking out of the store at the precise moment that Mary arrived at the door. He offers to help Mary chase off the undesirable creature who appears to be following her. She jumps to Jesse’s defense with quite the tongue lashing only to embarrassingly discover that the wrench was merely teasing an old friend.
Who is this wrench? I really don’t know. He’s offered to buy his old friend a drink, and Mary is left standing, mouth agape, covered in a deep blush. And I’m left trying to figure out who this fella is and just how he affects the plans to show Jesse the mounds on the McDonald property that just may be the perfect place for a picnic and possibly that kiss Mary is still impatiently hoping for.
This wrench, he needs a name. He needs a reason. He needs to have come from somewhere. What’s he doing in this wisp of a town that never became what Daniel Brown dreamed it could be? How does he know our dear Jesse?
Jesse’s history doesn’t make this easy. His was a nomadic life from the start. His parents moved him and his siblings around, possibly following the work. Jesse joined the 1st Regiment Nebraska Volunteer Cavalry in 1864. At times, they served with the 7th Regiment Iowa Volunteer Cavalry. Perhaps I can find a somewhat local gentleman who may have fought the Indians with him in Nebraska. Then, of course, there’s all the work he’s done for the railroad after the war ended and he mustered out of the Union Army.
Name that wrench
The possibilities of who this wrench is and where he comes from are endless. What brings him to their quiet little farming community? Is he truly friend? Or will he prove to be foe? All of this, I need to figure out. But first, he’ll need a name.