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  • Writer's pictureFrank Romans


I first witnessed him in the shadows of the tree line, the one across the meadow. It startled me, and I wondered who might be traipsing around our land late in the day like that. Now, I have a good view from my bedroom window, and watch as he leans against a tree, or sometimes just kneels, watching towards the house. It’s risky living out here alone, with any manner of critters who might consider you a food source. Anyhow, I go to get my shotgun, it’s a pump action 12 gauge, and by the time I get back, he ain’t there. Well, I went back inside, and let me tell you, I think I slept with one eye open most of the night.

The next morning, I make my coffee and step outside. Everything seems normal, and I got a lot of chores to do, so I decided that later on that afternoon, I’ll go take a look around the woods over there. You know, to make sure there ain’t no hobo makin’ himself a little camp on my land.

I collected the eggs, filled up the water bowls and trough, then spread some feed. Then I had to work on filling the wood box. That was all before I even got to the animals. I spent the rest of the day tending the garden, until time to rustle up some supper. A bachelor supper is pretty simple, fried potatoes and onions, boil some green beans, and fry a steak. Nothin’ fancy, but good eatin’ all the same.

After supper, I had a pipe on the porch, then picked up my shotgun and headed to the woods. I saw tracks where the fella was standing, and thought, “You’ve got some little feet, buddy. Hmm, wonder if it was some kid?”

I kept pokin’ around down there until I came upon a campsite. Sure enough, it looked like some bum was camping. They were clever; had one of them holes dug in the ground for a fire to help hide it. Two holes really, it’s an old Indian trick where the holes are connected by a dug-out hole between them. The air from one hole feeds into the other where the fire is and keeps it burning. Like I said, pretty smart. There were a couple of empty spam cans by the hole, but no sign of anyone still around.

I figured I’d head on home and come back tomorrow to put up some of them ‘No Trespassing’ signs around the woods, and some ‘No Hunting’ ones, too.

I was about to go to bed and opened the curtain for a peek and there he was again. Just standin’ there big as you please, staring toward the house. I ran to the porch with my gun just in time to see him skedaddle into the woods. I know, you’re thinking I should have gone after him right then and there, but hear me out, I don’t know if he’s armed, dangerous, or whatnot. I didn’t think it wise to run out there stumblin’ around in the dark. Best to stick to the plan. The signs will go up tomorrow.

The next morning I walked over there to his little campsite, and he had policed up all the litter and stuff. There was no sign of him again, and I was thinkin’ at least he’s tidy, when I got a sense of someone there, behind me. I whirled around with my shotgun raised, and there stood not a man, but a girl, a young woman. She was dressed in men’s clothes, which is why I mistook her for a man.

“Don’t shoot, mister. I haven’t done anything.”

“Well now, I suppose that depends on how you look at it. You are trespassing on private property.”

We stood there for a minute, me pointing a shotgun at her, stupidly acting like I had the drop on the FBI’s most wanted criminal, and her, with her head bowed like a kid that got caught raidin’ the cookie jar. She looked up and said, “Could you please lower the gun? It’s making me nervous.”

I lowered the gun and she smiled. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t the brightest, prettiest smile I had ever seen, at least for a very long time.

“You got a name?” I asked.

“Myra. What’s yours?”

“Mine’s Andrew, Andy.”

“Well, I am pleased to meet you Andrew, Andy,” she extended her hand, and I took it automatically. Her hands were soft, and I was suddenly aware of how rough and calloused my own were.

“Myra, what are you doin’ here? Where’s home?”

“I don’t want to answer that. Not because I don’t want you to know, it’s just better if you don’t. I hitched a ride to get away from a problem, and this is as far as I got. The woods here seemed to offer some protection.”

“Well, that’s where you’re wrong. These woods have got bears, bobcats, and such. It ain’t safe out here unless you’re armed. If you’re willing, we can walk up to the house. It ain’t much, but it's shelter, and we can talk more about this situation. I expect you’re hungry, and I’ve got food.”

“Ok, Andy. But no funny business, right?”

I start to laugh at that remark, and pretty soon she is giggling along with me. I said, “Myra, you’re safe with me. No funny business.”

We walked on back to the house where I set her up with eggs and bacon and told her to make herself at home. I left to do my work and hoped I had not made a mistake.

I needn’t have worried about her, because when I came in that evening, she had made herself at home for sure, and had a nice supper ready.

“Do you want to wash up before dinner?

That wasn’t my usual routine, but I obliged her and just said, “Yes, ma’am.”

She made cheeseburgers in a cast iron skillet, two for me and one for her, and some potato wedges all seasoned up and baked in the oven. She added some summer vegetables from the garden, and I don’t know when I had a finer meal.

We mostly small-talked through that dinner, and I offered to help with dishes when she started to clear the table, but she shooed me away to the porch. Later, when she finished, she joined me outside and said, “Your pipe tobacco smells good. I don’t suppose you have any cigarettes, do you?”

“No. The truth is, I prefer that, too. This pipe is my dad’s, I have several that he left me when he passed. I use them because I have them, but would just as soon have a cigarette.”

“What about your mother? Is she deceased as well?”

“Yeah, Mom went first with cancer. Dad only lasted six months after her, and some said he grieved himself to death.”

“I’m sorry, Andy. How long since you lost them?”

“I was away in the army when Mom got sick, and by the time I was discharged, she was pretty bad. Didn’t even look the same. It’s been a little over two years, and I just kept this place going because I didn’t have nowhere else to go.”

We just sat there quiet for a while, me smokin’, and her just starin’ at the sky. I said, “Myra, we need to talk about your situation.”

She said, “Ok, Andy. You seem like a nice man, and I am eternally grateful to you for inviting me here this morning. If you want me to leave, I’ll be on my way.”

“Now, hold on. I wouldn’t be much of a man to turn you out at night. You’re welcome to stay here, but I need to know what’s up with you. It’s only fair.”

“All right, I will tell you my abbreviated life story. After you hear it, you might want me to leave.”

She pulled a chair over by me and began what turned out to be a pretty sad story.

“My name is Myra Kirby, and I was orphaned when my parents were killed in an automobile accident. We lived between Frankfort and Lexington, and after the accident, I was sent to live with my Uncle Buck and Aunt Sarah in Buckhorn. Sarah was my father’s sister. The first couple of years were decent, although I was picked on by my three cousins, Eddie, Timmy, and Billy. Uncle Buck was mean, and the whole family was scared of him. If you made him mad, and that was easy to do, he’d get after you with the belt. I even saw him whip Aunt Sarah a couple of times.”

I said, “He doesn’t sound like…”

“Shush,” she said. “Let me finish, if I stop I won’t be able to start again.”

I shut up and waited for her to continue.

“After I started to develop a bit, my cousins took notice. They would burst into the room while I was dressing, grab my clothes and run around laughing. All I could do was try to cover myself. Anyway, the reason I ran away is Eddie and Billy, the two oldest, grabbed me one day and pulled my clothes off. Eddie got totally naked and was on top of me while his brother held me down. I would have been raped that day if Aunt Sarah hadn’t walked in and caught them red-handed. But, that’s not the worst of it. They all blamed me for seducing their innocent boys. Uncle Buck was the last straw. He made me take off my clothes and took the belt to me. The look on his face was frightening, he was enjoying himself, but the worst was what he said. He will deflower me himself the next time I misbehave. So, I ran, hitchhiked a ride, and made it this far. From here I had no other plans.”

Well, how in the hell do you respond to a story like that? We kinda sat there for a bit, neither of us moving or talking, and I said, “Damn, girl. No wonder you’re running. I’ll tell you what, you stay here tonight, sleep on the couch in there, and we’ll talk some more in the morning and figure this out.”

“I don’t know your name, your last name.”

“It’s Andrew Porter. How old are you, Myra?”

“Seventeen. I’ll be eighteen next month.”

“That makes you a minor runaway. That’s a problem.”

“How old are you, Andy?”

“I just turned twenty-five.”

I gave her my old room, I had moved into my parent’s room after they was buried. I laid there that night thinkin’ about how I could end up in jail for helpin’ her, but what could I do? There ain’t no way I’m turnin’ her over to that uncle of hers.

- to be continued -

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