Obadiah And The Angel Of Death

“Obadiah, go fetch me some water!” his ma called.

Rising up, he grabbed the wood pail and headed for the crick. Dropping down on one knee, he lowered the pail into the cool, flowing water. Just as he lifted it out of the water, he heard a slight commotion in the bushes around him. Rising to his feet, he was startled by a hand being clamped over his mouth and his arms being pinned to his sides.

The first thought that crossed his mind was “Indians!”

He struggled to break free but was held too tight. He watched as the war party slowly crept toward the cabin. With a loud cry, they rushed it. He watched as his ma was drug from the cabin, tomahawked, and scalped. His sister, Mary, was carried into the bushes and his baby brother, Zeke, was swung by his heels against a tree trunk, crushing his tiny skull.

He began to cry. With his mouth clamped shut he choked on his tears and almost vomited. The warrior loosed his grip on his mouth and he bit him. The warrior yelped and slapped him upside of his head. Other warriors saw what happened and began laughing and taunting their friend. All it did was make matters worse for Obadiah.

In moments the cabin was ablaze. Now the only thing on their mind was getting away. They had salvaged a few things from the cabin, his pa’s other rifle, blankets, and an iron kettle. Now they left the clearing in a quick trot. He was forced to carry the kettle. He glanced at his mother’s body as they filed past it. Already flies were traipsing across her bloody head. It was all he could do to keep from gagging. He noticed one of the warriors carrying a piece of cloth. It was Mary’s homespun dress.

As they hurried through the woods he thought about his pa. That morning he had saddled old Bertha and said he was going to the trading post. There were things he needed; powder, flints, and maybe a plug of tobacco. The settlement was only four miles, as a crow flies, from their cabin. Surely someone would have seen the smoke by now and would be coming. If he knew anything about his pa he knew he would be coming for him. All he had to do was stay alive.

The war party set a blistering pace. He was barefoot, as most frontier boys were, and his feet were as tough as shoe leather. They could handle almost anything. That is anything other than the course the war party set. They picked the hardest terrain they could find. They knew a rescue party would be mounted and chose their route accordingly. They went over rocks, through streams, and through bramble bushes that ripped his feet to shreds. After what seemed like an eternity they stopped for a few minutes. One warrior watched their back trail while the others ate something from their pouches. A stream was nearby where they could drink.

Obadiah’s feet were a bloody mess. A warrior noticed them and brought him a hollow reed container with a putrid concoction inside. Using hand signals, he told Obadiah to spread it on his feet. He held the container to his nose and gagged. He knew part of it was bear grease. He had smelled it before. He had no idea what else was in it. He sat down on a log and began smearing it on his feet. Whatever it was helped. The pain began to go away. Now if he just didn’t have to carry the kettle. It was heavy and he felt like his arms were going to fall off.

It seemed as if he had just sat down when the warriors motioned for him to come. He gingerly rose to his feet and fell in behind the warrior he had bit. From time to time the warrior would look back at him, wave his tomahawk, and leer at him. Obadiah knew he had to be careful.

Meanwhile, back at the clearing, a search party had been formed. Mounted, buckskin-clad men were watching as a man knelt by the woman’s body. They sat silently as he mourned the loss of his wife and family.

“Pastor Brown, we need to go if we are gonna have any chance of getting Mary and Obadiah back. Our women folk will tend to Lucille and baby Zeke. There are enough of us here we can protect them while the rest of us go on.”

He nodded yes, “I know my Lucille’s with the Lord, and Zeke is right there beside her. I pray the others are still alive.”

“Pastor, you know the Indians like to adopt white children into their tribe. I reckon that is their intention”

“I cannot bear to think of it. My children raised as heathens. By the Lord Almighty, I will get them back. Let us go,” he sobbed while mounting Bertha. He had his favorite rifle with him. He called it “The Angel Of Death.” Many’s the deer, turkey, and wild hog it had brought down. And more than a handful of shooting matches had been won with it.

Finding where the war party had entered the woods, they had traveled no more than fifty yards when one of the party noticed something. Turning off the trail he stopped, took a look, and signaled for the others with a shot from his rifle.

“What is it, Rafe?” called the pastor.

Pastor rode up on Race holding Mary’s naked body in his arms. Pastor dismounted, took Mary in his arms, and sobbed.

“Pastor,” said Rafe, “I will take her back to the women. You go on. I will catch up.”

Pastor Brown mounted up and the party took to the trail. The look on his face was terrible. The men could see the hurt but they also saw something else. They saw rage.

Obadiah was sure his father would come for him. He remembered his father talking to him about it.

“Son,” he had said, “if the unthinkable ever happens and you are captured by Indians, this is what you must do. Stay alive. Do everything you can do to slow your captors down. Just make sure you do not do too much. Do not rile them up and make them kill you. I will be coming for you. I promise it on God’s Holy Word. Watch for me. You will know when I am around.”

Obadiah never forgot it. Now he was intentionally lagging behind. He would stop and lean against a tree until a warrior would poke him with a stick, forcing him back on the trail. He began pointing to his mouth and rubbing his belly, signaling for food. He made sure he did this when he was on a hilly part of the trail. He would set the kettle down and watch it roll down the hill, bouncing off trees and rocks as it went careening down the hill. He tried to pick out the roughest terrain so that it would take longer to retrieve it.

He managed to waste more time when he needed to eliminate his bowels. He intentionally walked off the trail, dropped his drawers, and sat down on a log. Finishing, he wandered off in the opposite direction. He was almost beaten by the finger-bit warrior. Others stopped him from doing it. Nobody wanted to carry the kettle.

Towards evening they made camp. They sent a warrior to watch the back trail. No fire was built. There were still too close to the settlements. Obadiah was tied to a tree. A warrior brought him water and a dried piece of meat to eat. Something told him to start listening for his pa. He bowed his head and prayed.

“God, please help my pa find me. And do not let him be too hard on these Indians. You know Pa’s a pastor. I ask that you forgive him for anything he does. “Amen.”

It was right at dusk when he heard it. The faint whistle of a bobwhite. He knew it was his pa. It had to be. He had heard him do that whistle many times. It was something he did when he was happy. He slowly began looking around him. He knew if he made it too obvious the Injuns would notice. He saw a bush so ever slightly move and he caught a glimpse of his pa. His pa motioned for him to hunker down best he could.

The warrior he had bit rose from his blanket, took out his scalping knife, and approached him. Grabbing Obadiah by the hair, he bent his head backward exposing his neck. He leaned down to slit his throat when the shot rang out. He recognized it immediately. It was “The Angel Of Death.” The warrior crumpled at his feet. Chaos immediately followed. Warriors jumped to their feet only to be cut down by the rescue party. In moments it was over. One warrior escaped into the trees, the rest lay dead, sprawled amongst they’re blankets.

Pastor Brown ran towards Obadiah, cut him free, and hugged him. “I told you I would come for you. Thank God you are safe. Did they hurt you?”

“No pa, I am all right. My feet are in bad shape. Other than that I am fine,” he answered.

Pastor noticed his men approaching the dead braves with their scalping knives.

“There is no need for that. Leave them be. We are supposed to be civilized, let us show it,” he admonished.

“Pa, I saw ma. I was forced to watch her and Zeke die, what about Mary?” he asked.

Tears streamed from his pa’s eyes and he knew Mary was dead. He began to sob, gut-wrenching sobs.

“Come with me. There is something that must be done,” his pa said.

Obadiah watched as his pa knelt over each dead Indian and prayed. He listened as he asked God to forgive him and his men for what they had done. He heard him pray for their souls. He also heard his pa forgive them for what they had done. Finished, he mounted up, pulled Obadiah up behind him, and shouted, “Let us leave this place. There is a burying to be done.”

As they rode he asked his pa how they had gotten around the sentry Indian undetected. His pa pointed at Rafe. Obadiah could see a scalp dangling from his belt.

“It had to be done. Rafe is very good at it. He can smell an Indian fifty feet away,” came the reply.

They rode a short way and made camp. Sitting by his pa at the fire, the enormity hit him. Again he began to cry.

“Obadiah, it is all right. God is in control. He giveth and He taketh away. We do not understand it. We probably never will. We will miss your ma, Mary and Zeke. Miss them something fierce. We live in a violent land, a land that needs the Lord. That is my calling and my life. We will survive. By the Lord God Almighty, we will survive. Do you believe it?”

“Yes, Pa, I believe I do.”

“Good, get some sleep. In the morning we will go home. You will have to be brave. We have a burying to do.”

July 1, 2021