Freckled Venom: Copperhead by Juliette Douglas

Fall 1878

Shod hooves echoed dully on the wooden expanse of bridge over the White River. The dry road muffled four hooves when they hit the dirt, creating tiny billows of dust. Noting the change in tempo, hands gently tugged on the reins bringing the big grey to a standstill. The horse shook its head in protest making the leather creak as the grey shuffled impatiently; the bit in its mouth jangled reminiscent of keys on a metal ring. Crows cawed in the treetops at the disturbance. The warm sight, smells and sounds of a dry Indian summer surrounded the pair – pungent aromas of sun-warmed grasses and dried leaves rattled against each other in the slight breezes. A rich earthy smell of one season coming to a close filled the air, all mingling with the soft burble of water flowing around and under the bridge. As the boy struggled to push himself off the grey’s neck, he gazed through bleary eyes towards the main street of the town. He tapped worn boot heels to the grey’s ribs, urging her forward. Memories rose through his tired brain of how he had turned to flushing fugitives out of the brush. He remembered reading a newspaper tacked to a board outside the newspaper office in that same town. His eyes drifted toward the wanted posters tacked there. A hand reached up, ripping them from the nail. With that action, another bounty hunter was born. That had been nine years ago, the boy thought as he continued to ride through his old hometown. He noticed the clapboard buildings had weathered over the years, the whitewash fading into the grain of the wood. Items remained outside as they always had at Ezra’s General Store, even after all this time. Rolls of wire, kegs of nails, a barrel of brooms, shovels and rakes. Metal and wooden buckets sat outside the double doors as did stacks of grain-filled burlap sacks. Bow saws hung on the exterior walls. A bench to sit and chat under one of the big plate glass windows showing displays of items within the store’s interior. The store still resided across the street from the log building housing the town marshal’s office.

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