The Incredible Journey of Thomas Johnson


Copyright© 2017 – Nicholas Hall


Chapter Twenty-Three


"Come, ye thankful people come,

All is safely gathered in,

Ere the winter wind begin."

(Henry Alford)


How Pleasant the words, "Reflection and Thanksgiving"

The first flakes of snow were drifting down from the grey, thick clouds above, being pushed toward us on a slight northwest breeze, as I gazed out through the windows of the front parlor of Chapman House. Although not our first snowfall, this one could portend the real start of winter! Cold began setting in around mid-November just about the time the corn harvest was done and in the cribs; ice was beginning to form and stay on the ponds throughout Chapman's farms, and in the back bays and sloughs of the Des Moines River. Christmas was but three weeks away and it was a time for reflection on the very busy spring, summer, fall, and now early winter I, along with all residents of our household and small community had.

My life, as I now knew it, changed dramatically since the thunderstorm, my seeking shelter in the rocks, and being transported back in time in early April this year, but much has also happened since early August and our rescue raid south of the border to what our mixed family referred to as the "Dog House" not only because of the four-legged creatures found there and used for guarding and bestiality, but the proprietor, his associates, and the customers who existed as, in James' words, "a pack of wild, feral dogs who deserved to be exterminated!"

The local newspapers reported the fire as "tragic," destroying a profitable business, frequented by many local notables, and an asset to the community. Little did they know what was actually happening there; or did they? The body of the proprietor, according to the newspapers, died in a valiant attempt to warn his customers and save his precious pets! The gathering that evening was to celebrate the birthday of one of the notables in attendance- no names given!

I chuckled to myself concerning the situation causing the "demise" of the proprietor; only Chapman and I knew how and why he died, deservedly I thought! Just before we left on our mission early that morning, Chapman took me aside out of hearing of the others, and said simply, "Kill the son-of-a-bitch who'd do such a foul deed and burn his fucking house and buildings down! No one, and I mean no one, fucks with one of Chapman's own!"

I did it with pleasure, thank you very much! It was also that day my reputation was enhanced as a man who believed as Chapman did; don't fuck with one of our own! Those on the raiding party knew that fire didn't start by itself, James most assuredly, but no one said a word, just looked at me and smiled their thanks!

The trip home, Caleb handling the team pulling the carriage with the children inside, seemed to be long, but, perhaps it was the darkness or our anxiousness to return to safety, it's hard to say. The children, still naked, were covered with blankets James found somewhere and were huddled together keeping each other warm. Jubal and Rachael were bundled together under one blanket, Rachael snugged up tight, back to front, on Jubal. Every now and again I would notice a slight thrusting on his part, a moan, and a soft "yes" from Rachael, leading me to speculate they were doing more than just staying warm on the way home! Given his increasing size as he continued to mature, I mused to myself how in the world that small aperture into her body could accept such a massive phallus, comparatively of course! By the time the sun was peeking through at dawn and our closeness to home, I was certain she had to be wide open and dripping fluid, knowing how prodigious voluminous his ejaculations were!

On our return, I handed Chapman several ledger books I'd retrieved from Mr. Sam's safe before I set the buildings on fire. Mr. Sam was an excellent record keeper, especially the names of his clients; how much they spent and what particular sexual delights or deviances they enjoyed and participated in! According to what I'd read, there was nothing forbidden or not engaged in at the "Dog House." He also had extensive holdings as a result of his despicable activities, including blackmail. Mr. Chapman decided; one, pick up some of those holdings for little or nothing and, two, use the list of names when and where it was advantageous to us!

"I'm probably on some similar list," he admitted, "because of my penchant for hairless, young maiden cunt, but at my age now, I could give a shit!"

All the children we rescued, except one young boy and two girls, were reunited with their families who'd been frantically searching for them. We'd heard nothing of children disappearing; I'd hate to think it was just a matter of lack of communication due to times, rather than because the children were black, but I fear that may have been the case! The girls each found a home with Jacque and Gabriel and the boy, Robert, took a shine to Hiram in the shop and was soon his sidekick and welcomed into their home!

Jefferson's recovery was relatively quick according to medical practices and standards of the time and, although weak and unable to work in the fields, was up and walking around in less than two weeks. I knew he was feeling better the day I walked in to check on him and saw the bed covers covering his torso bobbing up and down! His eyes were squeezed tight, a smile on his face, hands on someone's head under the covers, encouraging the blowjob! He began moaning, raising his hips up from the bed, and fired his load! His seed spent, he opened his eyes saw me standing there, flipped the covers back revealing Colin still nursing the chocolate candy stick!

"I think you can return to your own room now," I said, "Momma Celeste may need her sick room for someone who's really, really sick!" and smiled. I did check Jefferson's wounds and wondered how or where in the world Celeste learned to stitch up a wound like that and prevent infection. If, as she had said, her father was a doctor, he must've been a damned good one to be so up on relatively modern concepts of medicine!

Jubal was off to school out east within two weeks of our rescue mission. We all hated to see him leave, but leave he must; Rachael was the most stricken by his departure and he as equally, knowing they would be absent from each other until the holidays or summer. Not only would they miss the intimacy of sex, but the intimacy of just being together, enjoying, sharing life as two but one!

"I'll miss everyone," Jubal confessed to me, "but Rachael even more so. Mr. Jeansonne, I know I'm big, but after the first couple of times when it was difficult to get inside her, I fit, clear to my balls! Oh, it takes some wiggling, pushing, and shoving back, but once I'm in, her insides seem so warm, so moist, and sort of squeeze me as I fuck! It's got to be the best feeling ever! First chance Momma Celeste says I can, I'm going to marry Rachael- I hope next summer!"

I know well how he feels; the night after we came home with all of the children,him and Rachael, although tired, I couldn't hold Benjie or Henri close enough or long enough! Benjie's love tunnel has the same effect on me; tight, warm, moist, contracting, relaxing, as it massages my stiff prick moving in and out. That particular night, instead of me sucking him off (although I did later), Henri mounted me while I was fucking Benjie. His noodle inserted as deeply inside me as possible, thrusting as I did, brought all of us to orgasm at one time. I felt, if not mistaken, some little emission inside me when he did, but I couldn't have been certain!

Although Rachael missed him terribly, her days were filled helping Momma Celeste, as she now called her, and when school started, her school work in the evening, along with household chores. Rachael was Celeste's constant companion when home during the week and on weekends helping her gather herbs and medicinal plants which they concocted into elixirs, potions, ointments, and other infusions for use in the treatment of illness for our growing family and community. She was a fast learner with an excellent memory according to Celeste and would make a fine healer, as well as wife someday.

Our plans for James teaching when school started changed rapidly. We recognized we had a commodity on our property the railroads need to operate- coal! With the spur line, switch, and loading platforms we'd built, we could make coal available to sale to the railroads, as well as ship to other sources. However, I urged caution in signing any agreements until we were able to establish, through the advice of mining experts, the amount and quality of coal available on our property. From my view, there was sufficient quantity of the mineral available for our own use, including the community, but I was uncertain how long the deposits would last if we mined in great quantities. Coal was important to the economic resources in Southeast Iowa, but the Anthracite coal from other parts of the nation, in the future, would have even a more significant impact. In addition, I also knew there'd be a series of strikes or walkouts from miners in this part of the state in the future and the lives of both blacks, who would be brought in to work the mines, and whites would suffer. Frankly, I was more interested in shipping livestock and other commodities from our "window to the world" than coal, but would take temporary advantage of a profitable business venture.

James was rapidly becoming our business agent, acting on our behalf to negotiate contracts, seek land purchase opportunities, and other business ventures, traveling north, east, and west (rarely south) sometimes accompanied by Caleb, but not often since they had the Twins to care for. This wasn't to say Parnell and Gervais were left unattended, their "Uncles" Jefferson and Colin were quick to care for them, guarding them closely, intending to protect them from all harm, and spoil them rotten besides! Between Caleb and James, they seemed to be able to sniff out bargains and spot phony investment schemes in a heartbeat. Caleb could spot a con quickly and would warn James off. His street experience while younger paid off handsomely for us.

When James would find what he thought was an opportunity for us, we'd meet and discuss it; with me adding the economic and fiscal impacts, James the future business opportunities, political, and other implications; and Chapman having the final say on all matters! It was an excellent working relationship and profitable for Chapman, as well as us since he did share bonuses with us when we were successful. As his second in command, if he wasn't available or gone, I could and did make decisions on his behalf. With my pre-knowledge of coming historical events and James diligence, personal efforts, and wide range of experiences and acquaintances, we expanded and diversified Chapman's investments; investing in land and mineral rights in Pennsylvania, rich Iowa farm land, several small packing houses, railroad equipment, and more farm machinery manufacturing. I hesitated in investing outright in rails any more than Chapman already had. He still hadn't sold his shares in some of the railroad stock he owned and I wasn't certain he was going to. Instead, we concentrated our efforts in equipment manufacturing. I knew, and convinced James and Chapman, there'd be a demand, as the country expanded and new products and inventions came up, there'd be a need!

Continually cognizant of the looming gold crisis in 1869 caused by Jay Gould and James Fisk when they tried cornering the gold market, I cautioned paying too high a price for gold bullion and instead, accept gold coin for payment. Prices on gold would skyrocket as the two men hoarded their own supplies, but would plummet when the government sold gold on the open market. Even though I was strong on gold, knowing it would rebound after "Black Friday," September 24, 1869, still four years away, I still urged Chapman to keep a quantity of greenbacks on hand, just in case. We could sell any gold bullion we held just prior to the crash and make out like bandits! I suppose in the modern world where I came from this might be considered "inside trading," but what the fuck, this is more than a hundred years before and no one around here ever heard of such a term!

The summer and fall were busy with crops, out little expedition, mining coal for winter, and getting Jubal ready for school out East. We added on to our own school to accommodate the increase in students anticipated, added an another teacher, built five new houses for the settlers who decided to stay with us and work in the area, built a small house next to the school for teachers to live in if they needed housing and; increased the size of the cave (root cellar) we used to store ice, frozen meats, and fresh meats; the second cave, where we stored root vegetables such as potatoes, fresh fruit, pickled and home-canned vegetables. There'd some vegetables such as cabbage which would keep quite a long time if hung upside down in a cool place and the cellar (cave) served that purpose as well.

The ladies of the household had been busy, as well as the men and children, caring for, picking, and preserving the fruit from the orchard. As each variety of apple, pears, cherries, plums, apricots, berries, or grapes ripened in season, the fruit was preserved in jellies, jams, preserves, or dried. We were never without fresh fruit pies, muffins, streusels, tarts, or sweet cakes during the spring, summer, or fall. The jellies, jams, and preserves, because of their sweetness, were put hot into glass jars and sealed with paraffin or bee's wax to keep them from molding. Apples became apple cider (hard as well with a significant alcohol content), vinegar, apple butter, and dried apples. Excess grapes became raisins and other excess fruit was dried as well.

In the past, fruit was dried outdoors in the sun or in the house near a hot stove. Celeste and I decided a "sun" dryer would work better than having to work around the muslin covered frames of fruit in the house or bring them in at night and rainy weather.

"Mr. Jeansonne," Celeste asked one day, "do you think if the sun works heating water with that contraption Hiram built for you, do you suppose something like that would work to dry fruit and vegetables with?" In the back of mind I thought she already knew the answer to the question, but I did suggest it was a great idea and had Hiram build one. Built of wood with the glass-covered front angled to permit maximum sunlight penetration, with cloth covered vents at the top to release heat and moisture, with cloth-covered intakes holes along the bottom to allow air to enter, the large number of muslin covered frames, stacked on racks, allowed us to dry our foods quickly and more efficiently. Dried foods, if stored properly, will keep a long time. Celeste ended up drying not only fruit, but vegetables such as tomatoes, peas, squash, almost any type of vegetable we grew, she tried drying and with great success!

During the fall, I fell witness, for the first time, to the great migration of Passenger Pigeons heading south through our part of the state. There were millions of them and harvested with impunity in most parts of the country. I will say this, we did harvest many, many of the small, beautiful, and entirely delectable birds. We ate them roasted, fried, stewed, smoked, and even dried some of the meat for jerky. It was a sight I savored because I knew, as the others didn't, the poor birds would be slaughtered to extinction. I must admit, as much as I cautioned preservation of the species, I did not turn down the opportunity to savor their taste. I wasn't alone in such cautioning, Celeste did as well.

Fall also brought the waterfowl migration with ducks and geese being added to our meal table and larder. Squirrels and rabbits were abundant, as were quail and turkeys, so they too graced our tables. Benjie and Henri, along with many of the other youngsters, if given the opportunity to hunt, readily and proudly did their best to "bring home the bacon" for their families.

When Colin wasn't busy building new hives for his bees or working on learning the carpentry and cabinet making trade, he was building new pine boxes about two feet square and two feet deep. When I asked him why, he replied,

"Ms. Celeste wants ice from the spring rather than the river or the ponds to use for lemonade and other drinks during the summer. She claims the other ice is dirty and full of some kind of bugs that'll make us sick, so Hannibal has these boxes, once soaked shut, filled with water at the spring during the cold of winter. Once the water is froze into solid ice, he says we dump the ice out, store them in the cold cave, and refill the boxes to make some more."

Curious, I thought!

The only little disturbance we had after our mission south occurred a couple of weeks after school opened in September. We tried to coordinate our school term opening with other schools throughout the county and surrounding area. We now had a two room school building; one room was for grades one through four and the other room for grades five through eight. We didn't offer anything beyond the eighth grade, but we decided if a student wanted to go beyond, we'd try to make some sort of arrangement. The only ones we knew for certain who'd be were Benjie, Henri, Rachael (since she'd want to be with Jubal), and Gervais and Parnell.

Shortly after lunch one day, two riders approached the house, dismounted, walked up the steps, and one of them rapped loudly on the door! When I greeted them, they identified themselves as county officials and were here to discuss the "unapproved school" down the road.

"The school in your little settlement," began the chubbier of the two...

"You mean Chapman's Corner?" I interrupted.

"ah, well, yes, isn't part of our county school system and we're concerned your teachers aren't qualified to teach or adhering to our county educational program." As an afterthought, he asked, "Are you Chapman?"

"No, I'm his second and when he's gone, which he is now, I'm in charge. I'm Mr. Jeansonne; perhaps you've heard of me through Captain Randolph or other government officials who I'm well acquainted with and have served well (not really a lie because I did serve Captain Randolph and Lt. Andrews brandy on more than one occasion)."

Evidently they did because their aggressiveness seemed to abate somewhat!

"And you are, sir?" I asked the portly gentleman addressing me.


With that the thinner of the two spoke up; "All our county schools have standards that must be met or we close them down!"

"And you are, sir?"

"Harris is the name, Mr. Jeansonne!"

I invited them in, showed them to Mr. Chapman's office and offered them chairs while I perched behind Chapman's desk, trying my best to look quite authoritative and began to explain our school and who it was originally built for.

"Our school is not a county or public school, but a private school built for the resident's and workers here at Chapman's Corner, therefore not under your jurisdiction or control. I assure you both of our teachers are well trained, college educated in fact rather than normal training, and serve our children admirably."

"So you say," Harris said abruptly, "but there seems to be more than just those in Chapman's Corner going to school there. I noticed both n..., ah, black and white children playing outside when we came by."

"That's correct; our school is open to anyone who'd like to attend and if not a resident here, with the payment of a small fee, can attend.

"What might that tuition be?" Harris asked, challenging me.

"Well, until you decide to enroll a child in our school, it would be none of your business!" I responded abruptly.

Harris' name was familiar to me and he was soon going to find out how familiar if he kept up this particular vein of attack and inquiry!

With a "harrumph!" he stood and motioned Squires to join him.

"I see no reason for that school to be open," he growled, "when we have exceptional county schools for the children to attend. I'm going to see it closed!"

I smiled, stood up from behind the desk, raised a hand and asked, "Mr. Harris, my I speak to you privately, please?"

Squires grumped but left the room!

Never giving Harris a chance to utter a word, I said very evenly, calmly, and with a touch of threat in my tone, "All you want is to take possession of the building and property, tax for it, and control us! Your bigotry shows through and that appalls me, not unlike your attendance at a certain birthday party in Missouri in August!"

His name was in Mr. Sam's ledger books and Harris particularly liked little boys under the age of eight, black, white, or any color. I wasn't certain he was even at the party that night but when his face blanched, he swallowed, and broke out in a sweat, I knew I'd hit the jackpot!

"I'll cut to the quick," I said as I reached into my pocket, extracted my switch blade knife and flicked it open to casually pretend to trim my fingernails, "you and I know about the `accidental' fire that killed the proprietor of a certain road house and some others who may have been there to enjoy `certain party favors.' It'd be a crying shame hate to think something that tragic might happen around here and the names of the guests be released from both parties! Wouldn't you agree?"

He nodded never taking his eyes off of the knife!

"You know, Mr. Harris, I think you'll support our little private school and do all you can to keep it open, won't you? After all, we wouldn't want any eight year old boys or younger around here not to have a place to go to school, now would we?"

He knew I knew and also knew if he even farted somewhere, I'd know it! If he didn't think I had special connections before, he did now and wouldn't take long to quietly tell others within his group about it! They'd avoid me like the plague and look over their shoulders more than once a day wondering where I was!

Thanksgiving was a joyous time; Jubal came home for a few days (train travel was marvelous he thought), before having to return and the Thanksgiving dinner was held in Chapman's house, at his insistence, in the very large dining room, or parlor as he referred to it. It was a first since the families usually celebrated separately, but one family each year would invite Chapman to dine with them.. The Doucet's, the Davis', Absalom, Malik, Isiah, Caleb, Benjie, Parnell, Gervaise, Colin, James, and I were included. Chapman declared we were all "his family" and "families should celebrate great feasts together." Lincoln, in 1863, declared the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day and we celebrated!

It was a fun day, all of us gathered together, laughing and reminiscing about what we had to be thankful for. The side table was loaded with roast wild turkey (five in all), smoked passenger pigeon, roast beef and pork, corn bread stuffing, pickles, fresh dinner rolls, roasted vegetables, potatoes and gravy, jellies and jams, and for dessert, pies, cakes, and tarts. Both kitchens, in the Doucet house and in Chapman's received quite a workout the day before and during Thanksgiving Day preparing the meal and desserts!

Although the weather was chilly, we were still able to spill out onto the porch after dinner to enjoy our coffee, tea, or brandy (as each person desired). Isiah, Malik, Caleb, James, Chapman, and I stood and visited concerning the things we were thankful for. I couldn't say, prior to my arrival much about the year, so I kept silent about it. However, I could say I was thankful for how fortunate I was to be living and working here at Chapman Farm and for the dear friends I'd made!

"Especially Benjie and Henri," I added, giving each a hug as they walked out and stood beside me. "They are the loves of my life."

"I agree with Mr. Jeansonne," added James, "but my life was only complete with Caleb and now more so since we have Gervais and Parnell."

He paused for a moment, looked puzzled and asked, "You know what Caleb? I don't know your last name!"

Before Caleb could reply, Chapman chirped out happily, "Why he's a Chapman, just like Absalom, Malik, and Isiah; have been since the day they came home with me!"

After Thanksgiving we began butchering the hogs and cattle we'd need to carry us through the winter and into the next fall, if possible, when we would do it again. The cold helped preserve the meat while the men and women processed it; hams and bacons were cured and smoked with a cold smoke method to preserve it and impart flavor; tongues, pig hocks, and other cuts were pickled and set aside in crocks or covered jars and put in cold storage in the cold cellar; other cuts of beef and pork were, once frozen in the winter air in large wooden caches high above ground on sturdy poles so critter wouldn't get to the meat, wrapped in muslin, and hung in the cold cellar, where once it was refilled with new ice and insulated with sawdust, would remain frozen for some time.

Sausages of pork or beef were made from cleaned gut and stuffed with spices, salt, and pepper, smoked and hung cold storage for us to use; jerky from beef and the several deer the men harvested from the surrounding woods, was made and stored in muslin sacks hung in cold storage as well. It was a busy time of the year, but necessary if our little community was to survive and prosper.

Strong, growing boy arms hugged me from behind, bringing me back to the present (as if there is such a place for a person such as me) as I stood watching the increasing snow fall. I needn't look to know it was Benjie. I turned, grasped him in my arms and said simply, "I love you!" He just grinned and hugged me back. He and Henri were growing more each day and becoming more and more handsome.

"Making a Christmas list?" he giggled.

"Nope; made that long before Thanksgiving!"

"What am I going to get?"

"You mean besides giving you a long, slow rogering?"

Benjie nodded and smiled, knowing full well what my answer really was going to be!

"Not going to tell; you'll just have to wait until Christmas and be surprised!"

Earlier in the week, actually three days previously, James and Caleb took a wagon to Keokuk to pick up some supplies for the kitchen (including flour, salt, and sugar to replenish our supply and keep some in reserve for winter needs), brandy for Mr. Chapman along with several cases of wine, various presents that'd been ordered for Christmas gifts including the ones I'd special ordered for Henri and Benjie.

The sun was fading fast, the snow falling with a bit more rapidity, and I paced the floor nervously awaiting the arrival of James and Caleb. Shortly after five, much to my relief, I spotted the lights from the carriage lanterns reflecting on the snowflakes as they came down the lane and neared the front steps of the house. I hurriedly slipped into my greatcoat, gloves, and hat to assist them with unloading!

The various presents were offloaded at our house and stored in the closet in my office. The remainder of the cargo was carted to the storerooms in the Doucet House. In addition to those items Celeste ordered, they also picked up an extra twenty gallons of lamp oil and two big boxes of candles. Although we thought we had plenty, with the dark or winter coming on, it'd be nice to have some extra.

The Christmas celebration was held in the Chapman main parlor where we'd celebrated Thanksgiving. All who were present that day were here again shortly after breakfast on Christmas Morning. Everyone received something from Mr. Chapman; adults received a twenty dollar gold piece; children toys and games, and of course, clothes.

"Children always need warm clothes," Chapman mused and was delighted at the excitement of the youngsters as they opened presents and expressed their thanks to him. Gervais and Parnell each straddled a knee and sat there, held by "Grand-pere" as they opened their presents. It was a Christmas like they'd never had before and every time they opened a present, they clapped and giggled and gave him a kiss. The highlight for children and adults, as strange a s it may seem, were brightly colored candy sticks!

Benjie and Henri, almost beset with curiosity concerning my gift, had to wait until almost last before I gave them to them. They both received switch blade knives identical to the one I carried. The knife maker had examined mine, made sketches, and marveled at the mechanism that made it work. He did an excellent job in duplicating the knife. The boys were old enough to understand the dangers of such a weapon and old enough to use it if they had to.

Christmas dinner was served buffet style in the same room and the dining room, once we set up tables and put the presents in safe places where their recipients could take them when they left. Dinner consisted of ham, several in fact, along with all of the various side dishes and desserts. By days end, we were well stuffed and pretty well worn out. Everyone still had chores to do before dark, so the day ended early so eggs could be gathered, chickens and livestock could be fed and watered, and coal brought in so the numerous parlor stoves and cook stoves could be fed and banked before retiring to bed.

Early in the evening, wanting to work off some of the food I'd ingested earlier in the day, but not wanting to go outside in the cold, I wandered over through the breezeway (which we enclosed for the winter) to the Doucet House. When I entered the kitchen, I overheard Celeste humming what I thought was a very familiar Christmas song as she worked at one of the kitchen counters.

"That's a beautiful song," I began intending on commenting further, but she said, almost immediately, quickly, "Yes, it is! It's a song my mother used to sing at this time of the year and I loved it!"

I smiled, wished her a Merry Christmas, and walked back toward my office.

I sat down behind my desk and to no one in particular, muttered, "Bullshit; Irving Berlin wrote `White Christmas' in 1940 and Bing Crosby first sang it in a film in 1942!"

To be continued.


Thank you for reading "The Incredible Journey of Thomas Johnson" – Chapter Twenty-Three.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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