Short Stories

Beaumont Lumber

The boy stopped at the sound of his name being bellowed. Turning, he sees the woman’s panicked eyes gleaming with tears. “Don’t go,” she begs.

“I must, for it is my destiny. I must journey west and find my purpose,” he says. A look of determination on his face, he turns for the door.

At the age of seventeen, Jason is no longer a child. The time has come to give up dreams and childish afflictions. The time of carefree living has come to an end. Adorning his horse, he gathers his reins and nudges the animal forward.

For ten long torturous days, he journeys west. Sleeping in a flimsy tent and kept warm with the scraps of blankets he managed to pack. His feet are sore, his backside tense and withered from the leather saddle.

Jason writes with a charcoal pen in his journal. Including the adventures and sights, he’s traveled to. The animals he sees and the excitement that falls upon him as his journey continues. He speaks of the fears and the indecisiveness that clouds his determination.

Knowing soon, he would have to surrender himself to the labors of his uncle’s limber company. In his childhood, he learned to read and to write. He learned to tend to the women and how to use his wits.

Never in his growings did he learn of how to hold a job. How to work long hours in the heat and adhere to rules and regulations. By the power of his own discipline, he’d given himself schedules and adhered to them. Now, he’d have to adhere to another man’s word.

As he grew closer to Hagerstown, he thought of his mother’s representation of his uncle Edward. The man had grown up in the city and had been the son of a limber man. The company was operated and passed from father to son. Edward headed 6 teams of 12.

Men feared his wrath and respected his position. Hagerstown was built in the old ways with the old rules and laws. A constable astride his horse kept those in check. His presence known to pubs and townsmen.

Jason wondered what uncle Edward would think of him. What use he’d be to the company and what he could bring from his small town of Palmerston.

As Jason neared, his horse’s hooves thudded in the dirt. A clopping of sound as he drew closer to his destination. On day ten, he let out a sigh of relief. From afar, he could see the glimmers of light. A row of structures sure to be Hagerstown.

An old sign carved in the towns name assured him he was in the right place. Slowly, he walked his horse closer. “We made it, Maple. Our new home awaits,” he said. The horse huffed and kicked the dirt. He swayed to the right and moved forward as Jason squeezed his sides.

The long journey had taken its toll, he was hungry and his horse was tired. The packs he left with were nearly empty. Only a few parcels of bread and fruit remained. His water jug nearly empty from their last stop at a spring.

The sun was nearly set, the sky dark gray with the lingering of orange in the distance. Candle lit lanterns adorned the porches of the buildings. Looking right and left, he observed his surroundings.

A saloon with music bellowing inside, a darkened apothecary, a store, the post, a lit jail, and an inn. Sliding from his mount, his legs felt of jelly. Grabbing the reins, he steadied his weak frame. The ride had numbed his lower extremities.

Tying Maple to a nearby post, he checked his pockets for the gold his older sister had given him. A row of pieces to start him off. To buy a bed for the night and to eat a hot meal. Jason took the step up on the porch of the inn.

Upon entering, he noted an empty room. A staircase led to the upper floor, dark rugs covered the floor, and tables were set up for eating. A kitchen was nestled in the far side of the room. A woman with red hair and blue eyes gazed at him speculatively. “What are you looking for, boy?”

Jason looked at her with green eyes, “I wondered if I might buy a room for the night. I’ve traveled from Palmerston.”

The woman put a hand on her hip, “What brings you to Hagerstown?”

Jason took a few steps inside and felt the warmth from the fire blazing in the hearth. “My uncle Edward has called for me to work at the lumber yard.”

“Edward. Yes, He’s an honorable man. I’m Anne Marie, I run the inn with my husband, Craig.”

“Pleasure to meet you, ma’am,” he said extending his hand.

Anne Marie stepped forward and took the boy’s hand, “Come. I’ll see you to your room.”

Jason reached in his pocket for the gold pieces, “What do I owe you?”

Taking the steps, he followed her as she said, “For your first night, I’ll take no payment. Edward Beaumont is a respected man in Hagerstown and with undoubtedly pay your fair.”

At the top of the stairs, she turned left and ushered him into a small room. The room was tidy with a small bed, a chest of drawers, and a desk. A lantern lit the room and showcased the window adorned with curtains in frilly white.

“There are towels there, the bath is across the hall, and breakfast is bright and early. If you require anything else, our room is at the bottom of the inn. Just head past the kitchen and you can’t miss it.”

“Thank you, ma’am,” he said. “My horse,” he started.

“I’ll have Giles tend to him for you. He’ll have plenty of hay and we’ve got a barn out back. You can fetch him after you’ve had a rest.”

“That’s mighty kind of you,” he said.

Patting his shoulder, she excused herself and closed the door.

 

In the morning, Jason awoke to the sound of chatter and doors opening and closing. Turning his head, he gazed out the window as he sat up in his bed. With the room lit by the sun, he noted the chair in the corner. Atop it lay a towel.

Taking a deep breath he stood and stretched assessing his sore muscles. Gathering his towel and a fresh pair of britches, he headed to the bath. The tub lay in the center of the room. A bucket of water, now cold, set beside it. Reaching in with his fingertips, he felt the tepid water.

In a quick pace, he removed his clothing, grabbed the soap, and rushed through a cold bath. Shivering at the temperature, he was thankful to be cleaned and to have a hot breakfast awaiting him.

When he wandered down to the kitchen, he looked around at people seated in groups. A few looked up to take a gander at him. He nodded his head and walked to where Anne Marie and a man, he guessed her husband, worked to fill plates.

“Jason, good morning. Here, breakfast is hot,” she smiled. “Craig, love. This is Jason Beaumont. Edward’s nephew comes to work in the lumber yard.”

Craig, a tall man with a lean body and blonde hair, nodded, “Welcome to Hagerstown. A Beaumont is welcome and Edward is lucky to have you.”

“Thank you,” he said. “I trust Maple has been tended to? I could check on him and come back to eat.”

Anne Marie shook her head, “Sit, eat your food. The animal is cared for and fed.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he turned and sat to eat his meal.

The food was warm, eggs were a rarity in his home. He scooped them up and tasted them, thankful to have a full belly. It was sure to be a full day and he wanted to make a good impression.

When he arrived at the barn, Maple neighed in delight. The sight of him must’ve agreed with the animal. “Maple, good boy.” He approached and gave him the apple he hid in his trousers.

A man twice his age and size appeared, “You must be the owner.”

“I am. Thank you for tending to him, he’s an important animal,” he said proudly.

“Strong too,” he said. “I’m Giles, I tend to the animals when I’m not at the lumber yard. I’ve hard you’re Edwards relative.”

Jason gazed at the man with long dark hair and coppered skin. His eyes dark as night and full of wisdom. The man wore brown pants and a light colored shirt. His boots were of material he’d not seen before.

“Yes, sir. His nephew, I’m Jason. I’ve come from Palmerston.” Giles reached up and grazed the nose of the horse whispering something to him.

“Brave boy to travel alone on that road. Come, I’ll escort you to the lumber yard. Your uncle awaits your arrival.”

Walking in step with Giles, he took in the town. People moved about in their routines. Women with children, men, a mangy dog meandered around a few chickens. The structures were wooden and some painted in whites or reds. Horses were tethered to posts. A few carriages were stopped in front of the inn.

He counted easily more than a hundred people on his journey. A step up from the fifty people he’d come to love and learn from.

The lumber yard was loud and people were assembled in groups. A team of men were tying a rope to logs and hauling them up a hill to a pile. Another was chopping trees off in a designated space. A few men stood with horses carrying long sleds with logs piled atop.

A train with cars holding lumber full to the brim sat on the tracks with smoke billowing up into the sky. Its small light in front to guide its way.

The building that housed offices was large and he smiled to see ‘Beaumont Lumber’ carved at the entrance. Giles gestured, “Your uncle will be in there. I have work to see to. You can find your way back, yes?”

Jason nodded, “Yes, sir.”

Taking his time, he gazed at the scenery. The trees were tall creating a canopy over the buildings. Large in number, there were small, wide, skinny, short, and tall trees off in the distance. Men of different ages with sweat coating their faces worked. Jason inhaled a long breath and pushed open the door.

A woman with greying hair and thin-rimmed glasses looked up from a log book. Her pen stilling as she looked at him. “Well, don’t just stand there. State your business.”

“Sorry, ma’am. My name is Jason Beaumont, I’m looking for my uncle Edward.”

The woman put her pen aside and standing. “We’ve been waiting for you. I’m Marjorie, your aunt.”

Edward walked from behind her and his eyes widened. The man was taller than any he’d seen. His cheeks were red and his hair grey. What drew him in were his eyes. His eyes were sky blue and fierce. He understood the fear that men seemed to possess at the thought of his wrath. The man was intimidating.

“I- I’m-Well, I-”

Edward frowned, “Do you stutter boy?”

Jason took a deep breath, “No, sir,” he said. Taking a stronger stance he extended his hand, “I’m Jason, sir. Thank you for the call.”

Edward took his hand in a vise-like grip and shook. “Good strapping young man,” he said. “You’ll do nicely. William told me you were strong enough to haul, but he tells me you have wits.”

“Yes, sir. I enjoy reading and I can write better than most,” he hoped not to sound too confident.

“Marjorie could always use help with the books, are you good with numbers?”

“I kept the books for my mother when she fell ill, sir. I can help if you need it. I’m good with my hands and I won’t complain at a hard day’s work.”

A smile engulfed Edward’s face and suddenly Jason felt at ease. The man was hard and intimidating, but when he grinned, that all fell away and a kind man emerged. A smile that brought joy to his face.

“That sounds fine. We’ll make a man of you yet. When you are old enough, we’ll find you a wife. Now, let me give you a tour. Today we load the trains who will travel to Wisconsin.”

Jason followed his uncle outside and knew his decision to come to Hagerstown had been the right one. Beaumont Lumbers became his place of business and he quickly became a favorite among the men.

A ten day’s journey turned into the best time of his life. Jason grew to take on more responsibilities. He managed the books, managed the men, and gained their respect.

In town, he gained friendships, continued his schooling, learned to cook, and built his own house. In four years, he gained a wife. A year after that, he gained a son.

Ten years later, he had three sons, two daughters, and a portion of Beaumont Lumbers. The company expanded, the town grew, and money poured into local businesses. Soon, he had an imprint on Hagerstown.

A scared boy who trudged through the land atop his horse had begun a journey of the unknown. With determination and hard work, he contributed to growth, gained a family, and was proud to be a townsman.

Beaumont Lumbers grew and he traveled to far off destinations by train with his family always there when he returned home. Jason Beaumont became a man of honor, a respected man as his uncle had been before him. His legacy lives on in his children.

 

by: Ruth Anne Garcia

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