Notes From My Knapsack 5-7-15
A Body in the Well (pt. 6)
Hezekiah Mirk and Job Case paused at the banks of the Pataskala to take off their boots and roll up their leggings.
"Heaven's my witness, I don't know what I'm even going to tell Tirzah Munro," said Case absently. "Her . . . first husband dead in the Avery well, and her second . . . newest . . . um, husband disappeared, and she . . ."
"That's her, isn't it?" asked Mirk. They both looked up from the log they were sitting on, across the river. There where the path from Lancaster crept sideways down Flower Pot Hill to end at the water's edge, a tall woman stood with her fists on her hips.
Case only nodded, then stood and nodded towards her, almost but not quite a bow.
"He tripped." She did not shout, but the words were said loudly, with emphasis, and in the same way she said them again. "He tripped."
"Who tripped, ma'am?" asked Mirk, rising awkwardly to his feet, one boot on, one boot off, a woolen stocking in his hand.
"My Judson tripped Caleb as he flew at him in a rage." The light breeze and gurgle of the flowing water did not mute the clarity of the statement, across a rod's worth of creek bottom. She folded her arms, and went on.
"Caleb heard somewhere on the north edge of town, as he came back, poor soul, from his long trip to Montreal and down and around back to Ohio, that his wife had remarried. He didn't come looking for me for explanations last night, he went looking for my Judson."
They nodded, both feeling at a distinct disadvantage sinking into the mud, one barefoot and the other half so, but also knowing they stood as witnesses to a statement she wanted to make in her own time.
Tirzah, once Mrs. Munro, looked down at the water flowing past her feet, then looked up sharply and continued. "Caleb found him at work at the distillery, took him out, and hit him. Again and again. His face is much battered. Judson's no man of violence."
They both nodded at that, encouraging her to go on. The mud was cold, too.
"They fought, though Judson kept trying to explain what had happened, just blocking the blows, but Caleb would not hear. He simply swung, and swung again."
It was clear to Mirk that a turning point was coming in this tale. He said gently "And Caleb's face, ma'am, was not marked, which supports your account."
For the first time, Tirzah smiled. Both men could see in that smile something that would drive a man through a Great Lakes winter. And the smile faded, as she understood and envisioned what Mr. Mirk had seen to tell her that.
"Yes," she said. "He tried to tell him. But he was backed to the well they'd driven to get fresh, pure water for the workings; Caleb rushed him in a rage again, and Judson stepped aside and tripped him, hoping that sprawled on the ground he could have a moment of pause to reason with him. But the kerb of the well mouth is low, and Caleb hurtled in, head first. Judson stood there, listened a moment, and realized there was no living man to come back out of that shaft, so he came back here to tell me of the tragedy."
There was no love in Tirzah's eyes as she said that, but her emphasis on the word "tragedy" was clearly meant to include all three of them.
"Where is Judson now?" asked Case.
"Halfway to Lancaster, I'll be bound," she replied, letting her arms fall to her sides. "He felt that he should get away, at least for a time. I can call him back if need be."
Mirk and Case looked at each other in puzzlement. What should be done next? Other than putting back on their socks and boots, that is.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him what you'd like to learn about Granville history at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.