By A.H. Völkel

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The redbirds were singing as he walked back to the dugout. At Yellowhammer he had carved two short paddles from an oak plank. He took up one of them and scraped the sandy soil down to the hard-pan, forming a trench alongside the beached dugout. He settled into the crumbling furrow and from across the river came cackling and the beating of wings, a turkey dropping from its roost. The hen was yelping for her poults to join her when the day arrived clean and blue and Africa hot. Exhausted, he rolled the dugout over on top of him.

The fawn awoke with big blinking eyes and though Kau considered slipping its noose he knew that there was no point, that tether or no tether it would never leave this place that smelled of its mother. MORNING. THE REDSTICKS woke late and lazed in the camp eating venison and passing pipefuls of tobacco cut with sumac. The deer meat had begun to ripen in the sun, so a rack was fashioned from green limbs. The hungry fawn went to bleating as they smoked the remains of the doe, and its cries brought a horned owl swooping like some gigantic bat.

LAWSON. THE SLAVECATCHER. The man lived in a cabin near the fort, alone save his mules and a pack of bloodhounds. Kau had seen him only once. A smuggler had a coffle of slaves camped near Yellowhammer when there was an escape. Lawson arrived and had the runaway treed in the river swamp within a few hours. The man was brought in lashed to the back of a black mule, and all gathered to witness his punishment. A coin from the smuggler and Lawson tied the runaway’s hands to the low-hanging branch of a live oak growing behind the inn, then hit him twenty times with a cat o’ nine he bragged as taken from a British tent at Cowpens.

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