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An Odor of Revenge ((1874, Ozark, Alabama) (The Life of Austin Hood))
The smell (background):
We are now in 1874; Sergeant Austin Hood had escaped before entering Andersonville Prison in 1864 when Captain Rosenbaum sent him there to be hanged. Emma Hightower is in her thirties now, and Scip Josh Mason is four, Emma saw him play in her backyard in Shantytown, three miles from Ozark, Alabama, and fourteen miles from the Hightower Plantation, out and about those four years. Lulu Mason is doing well, picking up a few bucks here and there for odd jobs, mostly seamstress work. The Ghost, he still lives on the Hightower Plantation, his son comes to visit him occasionally, in the woods behind his cabin. Ten years have passed since Austin Hood, old Sergeant Hood, saw Rosenbaum; he is 48 now. He gave little, and so far very little thought, to the murder of Sarah Franklin, the woman he killed in 1864, who had dressed as a Union soldier, and he used her to s shooting practice, then turned and killed Corporal Dennis Smiley, of the Smiley Plantation, and Private Richmond.
So the question arises, what has he been doing all these last years, these last ten years? For a time he lived on the “father of the waters,” the mighty Mississippi River, near Memphis in a houseboat, then near Nashville, which sits on the Cumberland River. No long term residency, in Memphis he was in the only hospital in town, for the poor, caring for boat crews and passengers during a spell – most people said it was for a slight venereal disease called “the Clap”.
For most people it seems that this new period of reconstruction has brought excitement, news, prosperity, with its manufactured goods, but for Hood it remains a hostile environment, he runs a small prostitution ring from his barge, with three daughters. Or it did, until recently.
Perhaps I can explain this prostitution business a little better: the term used at the time was “City women”, a term excluding respectable women, such as housewives, in this case, those of the city of Memphis in particular, and its surroundings. . Other than that, he kept them as mistresses, so in this case again, there was no need for a city medical inspector, or medical certificates which cost $2.50, and 10, $00 additional for registration at the mayor’s office; although the money is going to a New City Hospital, for prostitution, it still hasn’t made a difference to Hood, a dollar earned for him is a dollar earned. Often when he came to town, several women who were housekeepers would come to work for him for extra money, not babysitters, because he had all three: Ewa, Agnieszka, and Miss Krysis (Miss Krysis being her favourite; all under thirty). when they had arrived at Mr. Hood’s house, now in their thirties, all immigrants from Poland).
And so, that’s where things are, for now, or were, they’re going to change in a jiffy:
Revenge (The Present):
One could say that past victories often turn into future tragic, even defeated moments, if indeed the noise is not immediately singled out, like a broken hub at a wheel, or in this case, the hanging of Sergeant Hood, when Captain Rosenboum had the opportunity, in 1864, some ten years ago, if it had been, this new event would not have taken place.
The will for revenge often trumps compassion in the heart, in other words, too often, compassion can be very expensive. Sergeant Hood never forgot, or cast aside the thought that he might have sympathy for the old captain who sentenced him; and here is a man, who got himself a dishonorable discharge, on April 7, 1865, two days before the end of the civil war. Can you beat that, for “fault…” and he hasn’t run from the law for ten years. Something was wrong, Hood sensed, just more fuel for the fire, more hate for the Captain.
Now he stood on Stone Bridge, just outside Shantytown, the very setting of the stage a decade ago when he shot Franklin, a long wait, and a return to Alabama, but it was worth it. worth it, he thought.
It was a hopeless ordeal in which Hood raced against a common enemy, his country, it was his battleground, the whole country, so he thought, “What can you expect? as if the captain’s fate was engraved that day, he ordered him to go to Andersonville.
It was the morning of April 9, 1874, 9:30 a.m. Hood was standing motionless on that deck, watching the quails and pheasants, and the birds and the squirrels appearing, emerging in the sun like on vacation, he was a little leaning over the new railing someone had put in the stone side walls of the bridge, but he was holding on tight, it was a picture of a negress’s face, looking at him, looking at him, it was Sarah Franklin, where she was buried, ‘Funny’ he thought, ‘One incident, and it had brought him an armful of trouble up to his elbows, for the rest of his life, God forbid.’
He crouched a bit, though he looked more like he was staring at the woods, with that expression of final triumph. He didn’t even know the words, he just felt the emotion. He had traveled far for this moment, but ‘far’ didn’t matter.
The dull, fierce sun on his iron skull, he visualized Captain Morse Rosenbaum.
“Nothing!” he said, “will stop me from this moment.” Then he hesitated. “Do you think he’ll be at Hightower Plantation where his father still lives?” He hesitated again, he was talking to himself, he clapped his hands, they were full of dust from the road, “Aha!” he is crying.
“Nobody knows he’s got black blood, he won’t be in a slum or at the Hightower’s, he’ll be in Ozark playing a big white man, the vanquished supreme, maybe having a wife-
11:30 a.m., April 9, 1874:
They were facing each other at close range, two arm’s lengths away to be exact, both in a kind of furious pegging, shaking bodies, as dust threw in their faces, Hood shouting “I’m coming to kill you, you bastard of Negro!”
“Kill then! Morse told him. And his voice seemed to descend on Hood like a hammer, a huge hammer, flatten him to his knees down to the very dust of the ground, wind and dust covered their eyes, still clashing, neither one neither the other thawing.
“I curse you Hood,” said the voice of an old man standing in the background, it was The Ghost, Morse’s father, and it was as if he knew what would happen in a heartbeat. eye.
As Hood rose, he shot the Confederate captain, in the stomach, then ran halfway out of his frozen stillness, through town, around the backs of houses, along the path, stopping, looking down the street, as if the old man might be after him. He grabbed a saddled horse, slipped his foot into the stirrup, and the horse began to run, galloping as if seized with wild terror, sinking straight into a clay bank, knocking Hood down like a rag doll, landing in mud, breaking femur and neck.
Therefore, Old Hood lived to a ripe old age, died in 1922, begging on the streets of the Ozark – decrepit, an alcoholic.
No. 746/2-23-2011 (Part of “The Cotton Belt”)
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