Gather ’round, and I will spin you a tale…
The teenage years were tough. While I applied myself to every task, it seemed that I was not as good as everyone else.
I was a poor runner who was the last to see a herd of deer, noodling fish was impossible, and every boy around had a girlfriend but me.
Dad wouldn’t hear of me courting and made me chop wood every idle moment.
Even my cousin Jacob, a lunatic, could gather more mushrooms and set snares better than me. I suspect that Jacob could smell them because he was the best there was at mushroom picking.
There was one thing in particular I had a passion for;
I had grown in love with the church, and I decided I wanted to be a Preacher Man just like John Eli.
I told the Preacher Man as much and he encouraged me to attend a special meeting at his home church in Northwich.
Well, I asked permission from my parents and surprisingly, they went out to the village elders and obtained letters saying I was a young man of good reputation.
Now, I had never been to Northwich, but my cousin Jabez, who had married Melonie, went on occasion. She was from somewhere near the O’Hagan clans and it was a good middle point to visit her family and go shopping.
Before I went, Jabez brushed me up on my manners and let me know that proper gentlemen wore their shoes all the time and groomed their hair.
I was worried about being bullied, but Jabez shook his head
“Walter, Walter Berengar,”
“You had a few health problems when you were a little boy, but all you do is apply yourself to learning runes, working outside, and wrestling with the Heron boys when they come down.”
“You will have few problems if any with being bullied, I assure you.”
“Let’s be real, Walter. Some city boys have never slept outside or skinned a muskrat.”
“Now stop thinking you are that sickly little boy and go to the church meeting.”
I was shocked, bashful, and a bit incredulous.
Jabez, my older cousin, had it all together.
He ran Uncle Walter’s business, had proper clothes, and was good at everything. He was married to a sweet and beautiful woman to boot.
His compliment to me was meaningful, for I thought the world of him and Melonie.
In preparation, mom cut my hair and plucked some scraggly hair affixed to my chin.
To my surprise, my mother had sewn me a new pair of pants and a shirt with store bought buttons and a large, woolen cloak to sleep in along the way.
I ascertained that it cost them a fortune for the cloth and committed not to let them down.
Dad gave me counsel and the family ax.
“Nothing is free in Northwich, Walter, and we don’t have any proper coin, so you will need the ax to pay for food and lodging. Take it along.”
“If you must stay at an Inn, don’t stay out late. Nothing good happens at night.”
So, carefully, I folded my new set of clothing, packed the food mom prepared, affixed the ax to my ruck, tucked my dagger in my belt, and off I went, scared and nervous about the big city.