Sorrow Comes to Cabin Home
T HAT night Polly Crockett sang as she cooked supper. She was cooking over an open fire in the great fireplace at one end of the log cabin.
An iron bar was fixed in the fireplace so that it could be swung back over the fire or out over the hearth. The kettles were suspended from this bar by small chains.
Polly pulled the bar and brought the kettles away from the flames. She laid another log in the fireplace and pushed the bar back. The fire blazed brightly. The kettles swayed to and fro. They gleamed in the firelight.
Polly raked out beds of coals, and over these she placed the ovens, in one of which corn pone was baking, and in another a surprise—a real cake.
The ovens used by the pioneer women were about twelve inches across and they were made of cast iron. The lid had a rim around it for the purpose of holding hot coals on the top. The food to be baked was placed in the oven. The oven was then placed on a bed of hot coals and hot coals were piled on the top of the lid.
John and William were sitting in Davy's lap. He was telling the boys a funny story. They were laughing and shouting. They were interrupted in the midst of their gaiety by a call from Polly, "Supper is ready."
As they were taking their places at the table Davy said, "One day I left the soldiers to hunt for food. I could not find any game or even signs of game. But I found a trail that led to an Indian village."
"Did you go alone?" asked William.
"Yes," answered Davy. "I asked one old Indian for some corn. I told him I would give him a silver dollar for a cap full of corn."
"Your coonskin cap ?" asked John.
"Yes, John, my coonskin cap. But the Indian did not want the money. He wanted some bullets instead. I had to give him ten bullets."
"Did you get the corn?"
"Yes, the Indian gave me the corn."
"You have had a hard time, Davy," said Polly as she passed a plate of stew to him. "You are thin and tired, too."
"I am glad the war is over. The life of a soldier is hard," answered Davy, "but whenever my country needs me, I am ready to go."
Early the next morning Davy and his two sons left to go hunting. Polly watched them as they left. She said to herself, "I am glad that Davy is home again. Last night he told the boys many exciting stories. He told me some of his sad and hard experiences. This war has made him a little more serious than he used to be."
Davy turned and waved. She raised her hand and waved to him. Then she walked slowly back to the little log cabin. "I know you were a brave soldier," she said aloud, as though Davy were there to hear her. "I am proud of you, Davy Crockett!"
Davy and the boys walked along a narrow trail. It took them into the forest.
"What must a boy do to be a good hunter?" Davy asked the two boys.
"He must be quiet," spoke up John.
"And he must wait and wait," said William.
"Right! What else can you tell me?" asked Davy.
"Do not let the animal you are hunting see you," said John.
"That's right, too. What else, William?"
"Do not waste your bullets. Wait until you can get a good shot before you fire."
"Good," answered their father. "I see you have not forgotten what I told you. Now walk as fast as you can and follow me. Walk quietly."
Davy walked on ahead. The two boys followed him. All wore buckskin fringed hunting clothes and long hunting moccasins. They all wore coonskin caps, too.
The boys tried to walk as quietly as their father. Whenever Davy stopped, the boys stopped, too. Their father did not need to tell them to stop. They walked in single file for almost two miles. Suddenly Davy stopped and raised his rifle. The two boys stopped and stood motionless. "Boys!" said Davy quickly. "Go over to that big oak tree. Hurry!"
In the tree just ahead of them was a huge black bear. The bear was angry. Davy waited for the boys to reach the oak tree where they would be out of danger. He took careful aim and fired. The bear crashed to the ground.
"Stay where you are! Do not move," Davy called to the boys. Davy watched the bear. He said to himself, "I am in for it. I have only wounded him and the fall has stunned him. He will be up and at me in a minute." Hastily he reloaded his rifle.
By this time the bear was up and standing on his hind legs. With a growl he lunged forward. Davy fired again. The bear was hit but he was not stopped. He rushed at Davy.
Davy had no time to reload his rifle. He dropped it and pulled his hunting knife from his belt. He was ready for the bear. The bear lunged forward and landed on Davy. There was a flash of steel as Davy stabbed his hunting knife into the bear's shaggy fur. Then the bear fell to the ground and lay still.
"It's all over, boys," said Davy as he panted for breath. He brushed the dirt from his clothes. He picked up his coonskin cap and put it back on his head. "You may come and look Mr. Bear over now. He will be good."
"Oh! He is big!" said John as he tried to measure the dead bear.
"The skin will make a fine rug for your mother. We will salt the meat and it will last for many days," said Davy.
Davy took his sons with him on many hunting trips. They were eager to learn all about animals and how to follow their trails. The boys learned many secrets about animals.
"They will be good hunters," Davy said to Polly one night.
"They should be," she laughed. "They have the world's greatest hunter for their teacher."
Busy days followed for Davy and his family. He cleared trees from the land to make new fields for crops. He planted the crops in the spring. And in the fall he harvested them. He hunted as often as he could, too. The Crocketts had little money, but they had plenty of food, clothing, and a warm comfortable cabin. And the boys had a little sister now.
"We will call her Little Polly," said John. "When she grows up she can go hunting with us."
"Girls do not go hunting," said William.
"Oh, yes they do, boys," said their mother. She came out of the cabin and sat down on the stool near them.
"Don't you remember when your father was away fighting the Indians and I went hunting by myself? I had to get the food."
"Your mother was just as much a soldier as I was," said Davy as he joined the family group. "At first she did not want me to volunteer. But when I told her how important it was she was glad to have me go."
"Were you really a soldier, Mother?" asked the boys.
"Your mother is a pioneer woman," said Davy.
Polly Crockett, young and pretty, was a pioneer woman. But Polly had courage, and she knew how to meet the dangers of a wild and unsettled land. She and thousands of other wives and mothers helped their husbands to settle and conquer the wilderness.
"The wife of a pioneer must share his adventures and dangers," said Davy.
"I am used to danger, Davy," smiled Polly. "And I am happy."
But Polly Crockett did not have to share the adventures and dangers much longer. In a few months she became ill. There were no doctors or nurses nearby. Davy tried as best he could to take good care of her. His brother and his brother's wife came to the cabin from their home in East Tennessee. They all tried to nurse Polly back to health.
But one night Polly died. John, William, and Little Polly did not understand. But Davy understood. For the first time a great sorrow had come into his life.
Polly was buried in the forest near the little cabin home that she loved so dearly. Davy and his brother placed a crude marker of limestone rocks over her grave.
"We will leave you here, Polly," Davy said as he stood by the grave. When he was alone he knelt and whispered, "Good-by, my Polly. My brave, gentle, and happy Polly, I will never forget you."
Davy did not forget Polly. All his life he remembered the happiness they had shared. He often told his children stories about their mother. "Your mother," he would say, "was the prettiest, the happiest girl in all the world. She was a true pioneer wife and mother." Then he would turn to Little Polly and say, "Little Polly, you look like your mother. I hope that you will be as good and sweet and brave as she was."
1. What did Davy tell his sons about hunting?
2. Draw a picture of Polly's fireplace showing the bar and pots and kettles that she used.
3. Describe Polly Crockett. Do you think she was a real pioneer wife and mother? Why?