One of the greatest compliments anyone can give me is to tell me they think I was born a couple hundred years too late. If I could choose to live any life other than the one the Good Lord has wisely chosen for me, I’d have to do some thinking on the decision. But one of the first that springs to mind is the life of an honest to goodness mountain man or long hunter. Imagine what it must have felt like to been part of the crew for the Lewis & Clark Expedition.
Even as a boy, I knew the next best thing to living the mountain man’s life was reading about it. A great story can take you away to live in your imagination what can no longer be experienced. To my way of thinking, that’s what a great book does.
A great book which measures up to that expectation is J. Wayne Fears’s Isaac: Trek to King’s Mountain. It’s the fictional story of a mountain man and a 15-year-old boy who are fated to fight side-by-side in the true life battle of King’s Mountain in the Revolutionary War.
Fears painstakingly researched this battle and the true life stories of America’s frontier families to craft this outstanding piece of historical fiction. While Fears’ original intent was to create a novel for teens, the book’s growing following on Amazon has turned out largely to consist of adult readers; lots of them in book clubs. Besides the study of the pioneer life, there are contemporary messages about kinship, family values, responsibility, and the solemnity of war.
Here’s an excerpt that shares part of an exchange between the mountain man (Reuben McGee) and the boy (Isaac Hunt) as they prepare for the dreaded battle toward which they are marching:
Quiet mostly reigned inside their snug shelter. The fire crackled now and then. The knives and tools added their occasional sounds. The rain pounded down outside.
“Mr. Reuben,” Isaac broke the silence. “What will it be like when we find Ferguson?”
Reuben raised his eyes from the paddle he was whittling on. He began to set it down then took a couple more calculated carving strokes while he collected his thoughts. He inspected his work, laid the knife and paddle down, and gazed into the fire. Without looking at Isaac, Reuben began in a low and measured voice.
“I’m told his troops are a mix of Loyalist Rangers and Tories that Ferguson trained himself. Th’ Rangers will probably have red coat uniforms and will be a-using Brown Bess smoothbore muskets with bayonets. They’ll line up in one or two ranks and shoot on commands from their officers.
“Behind them will be th’ Tory militia who’ll dress just like our men. They ain’t as well trained as th’ Loyalists and will probably be used as reserves at least when th’ fight first starts. I’m a-figurin’ they’ll probably be using muskets, too, but most won’t have bayonets. When th’ shooting starts, th’ trained soldiers will fire into us in mass.”
Hearing those words Isaac inhaled deeply. Reuben waited until the boy exhaled again, but never looked away from the fire. Reuben continued.
“They’ll figure on a-takin’ out many of our men who are charging them in that first volley. If they have a second line, th’ first line will be reloading when th’ second line fires. Then th’ first rank will fire again, and then they’ll charge us with their bayonets. They’ll be betting on us breaking off th’ charge and retreating.”
Reuben paused again. Still he gazed deeply into the flames.
“Those are th’ tactics we’ll be a-facing, but I still ain’t answered y’r question, lad. ‘What’s it a-gonna be like?’ There will be more white smoke than ye can imagine. It’ll stink like the eggs your mama’s laying hens hid in th’ woods and you didn’t find for a week in th’ summer. Seeing will be hard, nigh impossible. It’s a-gonna be louder than you could ever think. There’s th’ gunfire, but you’ll hear th’ men, too.
“We use Indian whooping to frighten th’ Brits, and it works! You’ll hear cries and groaning from th’ fallen men. Some will scream worse than a catamount in th’ spring fever. And y’r a-gonna hear the sound of men dying—th’ noise of th’ souls leaving their bodies. Think back to how bad you shook th’ first time you was with me when we kilt a bear. Remember that sound of th’ bear a-dyin’?”
Isaac remembered. Even six years later, his skin prickled goose flesh at the recollection. Reuben looked at Isaac and saw the effect on the boy. He paused for it to pass, but not for long. There was so much more he needed to know.
“Even in all that ruckus, you’ll still hear small things too, like musket balls whizzing past ye, ricochets, and y’r good shots finding their targets just like when your ball hits a deer.
“Laddy, you’ll be a-charging with me. As we near th’ enemy, be focused. Don’t fire until we’re in range. Our rifles give us a big advantage over th’ Brits. We can shoot straight on and farther accurately than those lousy muskets. I’ll tell ye when t’ start shooting. Pick y’r target. Not just th’ man; pick out th’ breast button on th’ man. Make every shot count. Use trees, logs, rocks for protection as we charge. Take every shot ye can from some kind of rest, just like when ye are a-huntin’.
“Once ye shoot, get behind cover to reload, and reload fast. Watch y’r flanks. If our lines break, th’ enemy may run by y’r right or left. If ‘n they get amongst us and ye can’t reload, use y’r rifle’s barrel to push aside a bayonet thrust and use th’ butt of y’r rifle as a club. If th’ smoke gets so thick ye can’t see, get down on y’r knees and use your tomahawk on th’ legs advancing toward ye. That will bring down any man quick.”
At that, lightening flashed overhead followed instantly by a huge clap of thunder. It shook the full length of the ridge around them. This storm was right on top of them. In the silence, other than the heavily falling rain, Isaac shivered. He thought, “War is a horrible thing.”
Isaac: Trek to King’s Mountain is a book you’ll be proud to have your kids read. No zombies. No vampires. A story woven in and around true, critical events in American history. This story inspires imagination that results in inspiration.
You’ll have to order J. Wayne Fears Isaac for your Kindle to experience it for yourself.