No ice? My thanks, boy. Not sure if what I say’ll be worth the liquor, but I’ll say it anyway.
Grew up in a homestead in Ohio. Lil’ Halcyon we called it. Yeah, right? Don’t know where that word came from. Ma always was a reader. Never passed on to me though. Anyway, life there was simple, hard but fair. Homesteadin’were never easy, but that’s the point. There’s virtue in labour, boy. A truth to it that gets lost in the city. Not judgin’ ya, boy, just sayin’ is all. But where was I?
I tilled the field, fed the stock, did whatever needed doin’. Pa taught me to shoot. Not well, but I could hunt. Dyll was always better’n me, though, so I usually stayed back and did the labour rather’n the hunt. Suited me fine. Ma would teach us what she could. She was a fine teacher. Worked in the schoolhouse every now’n again. Fie took after her. Smart as a whip, that gal. As I say, life was simple, hard and fair. Not borin’ you am I, boy?
Then the men came. City folk, all dressed up, all prim and pretty. Don’t know why, but they wanted our home. Could hear them argue with my Pa. He wouldn’t give it up. They always left Halcyon redfaced and angry. I threw a stone at ‘em once. I was twelve. Got my ass tanned hard for that! Heh. If’n I knew what was coming, I would’ve done more’n that…
They kept that shit up for weeks, but Halcyon was ours. That weren’t goin’ ta change. Then one night, Ma shook me awake, scared. I could smell smoke. My eyes stung. I grabbed Fie and we got out of the house. The kitchen was ablaze. Dyll and my Da were standin’ outside, facin’down a gang a’ masked men. Couldn’t see their faces, but I knew who they were. I knew why they were here. I tried to help, but Da roared at me to get the women out of there, to get the sheriff. I listen to my elders, so I grabbed Fie’s hand headed to town. Then I heard the shots. Never saw Da or my brother again. Never saw Lil’ Halcyon neither. The place was burnt to the ground by the next morn.
The city folk found us the next day. Ma said no, but we didn’t have the money to rebuild and with Da and Dyll gone, we couldn’t say no forever. We knew they were the reason the men attacked, but the sheriff never found anythin’. Or so he said. Nothin’ were right ever again. Ma did what she could to keep us clothed and fed. Taught, sowed, whatever. I started work in the warehouse, unloading wagons and the like to get money soon as I could. It helped, but times were dark.
I was angry and dumb back then. Still angry now, still not that smart now. Wipe that grin off yer face, boy! Graveyards’re full of folk who reckon’d they were smarter’n they were. Those folk’ll get themselves into so much shit, they’ll never shovel back out. Not that city types even know how to handle a shovel. What’re they going to have when the God comes round for them? Ain’t no virtue in a hustle, boy.
Anyway, back then I’d get drunk, get in fights. Never had a week without some new scar or bruise. Like I say; angry and none too smart. One fight went worse’n the others. Real bad. I got a knife through the arm and it went wrong, festered. I lost the whole arm a month later. Just started rottin’ off me until the sawbones took it off wholesale. Would’a killed me, elsewise. How could I earn then? Could work down the warehouse. Couldn’t unload the wagons. Weren’t smart enough to be a foreman. I got nothin’. Fie started getting’ inta trouble too. Remember what I said about bein’ too smart? Yeah, she was always too smart. Could see my Ma just fadin’because of us. Made me even angrier, but I couldn’t do nothin’.
But then, providence. Strangers arrived in town, recruitin’ for some mining job. Through the Breach and all. Well, obviously, right? They asked me if I wanted to do it. Hard work, honest labour, good pay. All that. What good’s a one armed miner, I asked. They said that didn’t matter. They could give me a new arm. Sounded crazy, but they said they could do it and I could pay ‘em back. Well, what else could I do? I do what I can for Ma. She’s ailin’ so bad now. So I do what I can here and I send what I can back home. Been out to the Wastes several times. Never led a gang myself, but I can keep others in line and I pull my weight. Whassat? Miners and Steamfitters Union? Yeah, a’course I heard of ’em. Don’t have any truck with that though. I just keep my head down, do the labour. There’s honesty in toil, boy. Yeah I know I already said that. Bears repeating, that’s why!
Well, why did you want to talk to me then?