|Artist: Maria Fanning|
Bearded men cast cold eyes upon lands our fathers left us.
“Now it is ours,” they claim.
The beat of drums turns angry.
Beaded flutes go shrill.
Stanza from the poem “Echoes of the Flute” by Mark Wildyr
Autumn 1831 along the Allegheny River
BUT FOR improvident fate, angry, boiling clouds would have unleashed nature’s cold fury upon this Yankee river valley the day he buried his ma and pa. Perversely a rose-hued dawn washed the tall forests and granite bluffs in a warm autumn glow.
Prosperous Tory farmers, his forebears rallied to Benedict Arnold’s American Legion during the Rebellion of the American Colonies, participating in the raid on New London. Their lands confiscated, their very lives at risk, the family joined the migration of a hundred thousand Loyalists to Canada and the Mother Country upon the Crown’s surrender to the victorious Continental rebels.
At the turn of the century, his pa brought the little family south from Toronto to unsuccessfully petition for the restoration of their prosperity, but old hatreds die lingering deaths, and Tories were subjected anew to high prejudices with the burning of the President’s House in the War of 1812. The Marquis de Lafayette’s return to these shores in August 1824, and the old revolutionary’s warm reception by James Monroe, the last American president to fight in the Rebellion, put the barm on the brew, sentencing the family to hard labor merely to meet the cain on farmland that once was their own.
Life doubly rocked the slender young man with hair the color of sandy soil and hazel irises shot with brown and green and gold when the tragic deaths of his parents in a farmhouse fire followed hard on the heels of a doomed affair with the daughter of a family of Patriots who had no use for Tories—real or reformed. The discovery of a hundred carefully hoarded gold English pounds in the ashes of the family’s cabin confirmed his determination to abandon this hateful land and retrace the footsteps of his boyhood idol, Jedediah Strong Smith, the legendary trapper and explorer of the Far West.
Spring 1832 at the edge of the Little Island Mountains, the Dakota country
FROM OUR place of concealment, we silently watched the tribesman ease cautiously out of the draw and press up a steep slope littered with broken boulders and sparse-leafed mountain scrub, exposing himself to two warriors on sturdy Indian ponies methodically working the rims of the coulee below. One threw up a long gun and shattered a stone near the fleeing man’s shoulder. A third brave, nearer his quarry, loosed a wild yell and wheeled his pony, raising a tomahawk as the pinto churned awkwardly across the sharply pitched ground. His prey evaded the hatchet and snagged its wicked head, bringing down both man and mount.
The two adversaries tumbled in a dog-fall over the cruel, stony ground. Only one, the fugitive, staggered to his feet, swiped a bloody knife on his slain foe’s leggings, and broke for the scrambling pinto. A second shot roared. The pony screamed in pain and flopped to the ground, sliding in the loose scree.
The runner dropped behind the downed beast and clawed a weapon from beneath the heavy body. We watched silently as he eased the barrel over the horse’s side and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. Abandoning the useless musket atop the dead horse, the brave slithered on his belly to the sanctuary of a narrow fold of rock and began a slow climb up the escarpment. The other two Indians, most likely believing their prey now armed, dismounted and carefully approached the fallen pony.
Hidden by a thin, serrated outcrop of granite crowning the ridge, we witnessed the deadly drama unfold below us. The lone Indian, clad only in breechcloth and moccasins, slipped through the thin cover of the slope, gaining significant advantage over his cautious pursuers in this ghastly game of hide-and-seek with human lives in the forfeit. I held strongly to the view red Indians are human, even though this brought me into conflict with much of society. I had the same opinion of black slaves. Neither conviction was oft voiced aloud.
Beyond the promontory we occupied, the high plains stretched below puffy thunderheads to the northern horizon broken only by a distant, barren mamelle. These broad, short-grass champains cut a swath through the country four hundred miles wide from Canada to Tejas, interrupted by occasional ranges such as the Little Islands at our backs and the Great Shining Mountains rising well to the west.
Splitlip Rumquiller surveyed things with an expert eye on my far right. Wild Red Greavy lay in the middle, taking in events through mere slits, and I anchored the left, shivering with excitement and a modicum of fright.
The runaway, making clever use of scant cover, was now close enough to distinguish his features. He was tall, appearing to be over six English feet, and well formed, putting me in mind of a statue called David I had once seen pictured in a book. The Indian, who was probably no more than my own twenty-and-one years, glanced up suddenly. I froze. To move was to invite discovery. In that brief moment, I was struck by how likely he was. Comeliness was not something I equated with the natives I encountered back east.
The horsemen, remounted now, crisscrossed below him, secure in the knowledge that he held no long-range weapon. The youth would have breached the ridge in a clump of mountain mahogany twenty paces to our right had not one rider suddenly urged his spotted pony straight up the slope, forcing his target into the shelter of a small draw leading to where we lay hidden.
The second brave reined his mustang left to box in their prey. Then both deliberately worried their way up the slope, no more than two hundred yards behind the man on foot. Within seconds, slight noises came from directly below us; strong red-brown hands grasped the upright granite, and the brave vaulted over the crest with his eyes scanning the slope behind him.
In an instant Split was on him, tumbling the Indian onto his back in the dust. Red vaulted atop the savage, leaving me to grab a flailing right arm. It was all I could do to hold on. The fugitive tossed wildly before my weight gained the advantage. Split grunted a few guttural words, and the Indian settled down. Red, caught in the bloodlust of the moment, raised a knife high above his head. Without thinking, I thrust myself between them.
“Whut th—” Red was barely able to slow his killing stroke. I seized his wrist in both hands. Even so, the blade drew blood from my left breast.
The man beneath me stirred not a muscle, although I trembled with belated fear. Sweat popped out on my forehead.
“Don’t kill him!” I implored. Men slew one another, sometimes for no reason, but I did not cotton to being a party to it.
“Billy, you damned fool!” Red raged quietly. “That siwash’d lift your crown, he git half a chance. Now git outa my way.”
Splitlip’s quiet rumble brought us to our senses. “You don’t stop squabblin’, we’ll be in for it right quick. Them other two’s gittin’ mighty close. Red, keep a eye on this feller, but don’t do nothing rash.” Split beckoned me away from the ridge and silently signed for me to hurl a stone off to the left and below the horsemen. I gave it my best heave.
A moment later we returned to where Red sat atop the fallen Indian with a knife tip threatening the tribesman’s exposed throat. A quick look showed my companion had not given in to a murderous impulse in our absence.
“They’s taking the bait,” Split informed us in a whisper. Both he and Red spoke a form of English that was almost foreign to me, although my ear was becoming accustomed to it. “But it ain’t gonna fool them for long. They ain’t gonna be able to bring the horses straight up, so they’ll look for another way to the top. We’s hightailing it, and we’ll take this ’un with us. Ain’t gonna leave him for them to find and git curious. Let’s move!”
“Ya crazy old galoot!” Red grumped. Nonetheless he stowed the Indian’s knife in his boodle and came up with a set of manacles. Where they came from, I didn’t know and was afraid to ask. After securing the prisoner’s hands behind his back, Red fixed a rope to the chain and handed me the fag end. “You favor him so much, you kin nursemaid him.”
Mutely accepting the chore, I followed our shackled captive as he trailed Red into the pine forest on the high side of the ridge. Split tarried to erase our sign. After a short distance, I stopped casting about for hostile Indians and studied the one in front of me. Thick black hair, worn loose, tumbled over wide shoulders and cascaded down a muscled back that tapered to a waist no bigger than mine despite his larger frame. Firm buttocks, only half-covered by a leather apron, flexed with each step. Suddenly embarrassed, I realized I was studying a near-naked man the way I’d admired Abigail on the rare occasion she deigned show a spit of flesh. That was a queer thought for a Christian-raised gentleman, one I dismissed as excitement over my first proximity to a pure quill Indian.
Split joined us shortly before the light failed and picked a thick copse of locust for our camp. Nights were chilly at this altitude, but it was colder in the grave, so we dared not risk a fire—not with two armed and mounted warriors in the vicinity. If the flames failed to give us away, the smoke most certainly would. More than one immigrant party had been betrayed to hostiles by such carelessness. We took a cut of a meal, jerky and hard tack, me sharing mine with the Indian.
After we ate, Split sat cross-legged in front of our prisoner and talked gibberish for a while. Splitlip Rumquiller, who took his byname from an old hatchet wound, had pre-eminence among us by dint of superior experience. Nearing fifty, he spoke several dialects and knew the tribes to avoid and those who would do business with the white man. He had walked this particular route north of the Santa Fe Trail twice before. The Indians called him Splitrum.
At last the battered old frontiersman turned to us. “Name’s Cut Hand, because a that scar.” Split indicated a long-healed wound on the youth’s left hand. “Tribe’s sorta a cousin to the Sioux. The argot’s near the same. Understands me good enough, though some words is different. Calls his band the People of the Yanube. That’s a river off to the north. Pappy’s the misco, the headman. Cut Hand was off in another camp visiting a gal. Musta been good poontang, ’cause them others flat-out jumped him on the way back home. They kilt his pony, but he hightailed it for the hill country.” Split hawked and spat even though he’d used up his chewing tobacco a week past. “Been trying to shake them for half a day.”
Split turned to Red. “So’s you’ll rest easier, he’s gonna stay with us till we put some distance twixt him and his village. Won’t give us no bother less’n you have another go at him. When we’s satisfied, he’ll take his knife back and head home.”
Red was a small, grum man of rusty hair and crazy green eyes, who tended to rise at a feather. A shanty Irishman from somewhere around Boston, he reputedly had a wife and five carrottopped fry. No one knew why he had taken to the willows and appeared on the Santa Fe Trail five years back, although the set of iron ruffles that now confined our prisoner’s wrists might provide a clue.
“I say we just kill him,” Red proposed. “Ain’t no use taking chances. Then we’s free to worry about them others. Shoulda give them two a lead ball twixt the eyes when we had the chance. Now they knows about us, it’s bound to be harder.”
“Ain’t my way to kill without no need,” Split growled in a low voice.
Red gave in sourly. “Just don’t let him git in my way. And them irons stays where they is.” He shot a thumb at me. “You’re gonna have to watch him. You don’t git no sleep, that’s your plight.” He turned back to Split. “I’d feel better we git some water twixt us and his people. They a river anywheres close?”
“One south a us. Said to be another trail to Fort Wheeler that a way.”
Red spoke to me again. “I ain’t sleeping with him. Find yourself a place off in the woods and chain him to a tree. If them other los come, they’ll take your topknot and leave mine where it be.” I took “los” to be a scurrilous name for red men.
“Ain’t a bad idee,” Split mused. “Them others found our sign by now. If you got chores, best git on them. I’ll find a spot for you to bed down.”
“Chores?” Then understanding dawned. “Oh! Come on, Cut Hand.” I got to my feet. The big youth rose effortlessly, listened to Split for a minute, and then strode off, dragging me along by my rope.
We walked half a league before he found a spot he considered satisfactory. I shrugged. It appeared no different from a dozen others we passed without pausing. The Indian ignored my eyeballing his nakedness as he stepped out of his breechclout, but he spat staccato sounds until I stood on the other side of the bush as he went about his private business. I tied my end of the rope to a sturdy branch to perform my own, fully realizing this was a useless effort as he could easily escape by merely jerking it free.
As we washed in a cold, clear freshet, I was unable to keep my eyes off him. A tight black bush crowned his long, thick manhood. If he noticed my observation, he gave no sign. When we were finished, he was unable to tie his flap one-handed, so I did it for him. As I performed the awkward chore, my hand—necessarily, I thought—pressed against his thigh. My reaction took me by such surprise that I fumbled. I grew excited so abruptly, had I not already passed water, it would have been impossible to do so. My fingers lost their grip, dropping the leather apron to the ground. I bent to retrieve it and found my eyes on a level with his genitals. Purposeful or not, I lost my balance and grasped his thigh to regain my equilibrium. My thumb invaded his freshly washed pubic hair. I scrambled to my feet and aggressively went about fastening his drawstring without daring to meet his eyes.
That task finally done, I cast about for the way back to camp. Cut Hand gave a subdued snort and immediately set off in the wrong direction… leading us straight back to the others.
In our absence Split had scouted a spot fifty yards down the hill, well protected by a grove of hemlock and scrub. I laid out my bedroll while the old man and Cut Hand grunted at one another. Before he left, Split put the prisoner on a blanket with his back to a small, sturdy tree and ran the chain around the bole.
After slaking my thirst from a canteen, I tipped the container to Cut Hand’s lips. He finished drinking and nodded his thanks. I thoughtlessly wiped a dribble of water from his chest. As I touched him above the left nipple, I was lightning struck. My finger caressed his dark aureole independent of my will. My nerve ends jangled. The hair on my arms bristled.
Jerking back, I sat cross-legged in the gathering darkness faintly broken by moonlight filtering through the forest canopy. “I didn’t mean to do that. I don’t know why I did. Never met a real Indian before! That’s stupid!” I gabbled. He comprehended none of my protestations. To get off a treacherous subject, I put a finger to my own chest. “I’m Billy.” I touched him on the sternum, burning my digit. “You’re Cut Hand. I’m Billy!” I droned.
Sucked into a mysterious vortex, I flattened my palm against his breast, feeling the thud of a strong heartbeat and experiencing the power of his chest muscles. I swallowed hard and moved my fingers along his ribs and across his belly. Light-headed, giddy, and lacking the strength to resist, I dropped my hand to his groin, an act so heinous my muscles froze. Suddenly, he cocked his head.
“You fellers all right in there?” came Split’s raspy voice.
“Y-yes.” I snatched my hand away.
Split entered our little clearing. “Jest wanna make sure I kin git here in a hurry if needs be. They likely won’t come till first light, but that ain’t something you kin count on.”
“You think they’ll come?”
“Never kin tell ’bout Injuns.”
Cut Hand spoke in a low voice. My ears flamed in the belief my shameful actions were revealed.
“He says they’ll come,” Split explained. “They’s Pipe Stem warriors, long-time enemies. They knows who his pappy be. Be big medicine to count coup on the headman’s son. And he kilt one a them, don’t fergit. Asks you to chain him kinda loose, give him room to move. Do what you’re easy with,” he added, taking his departure.
As I nodded my thanks for not betraying me, Cut Hand lay back on the blanket with his arms confined above his head. I loosened my clothing and settled on the bedroll. My other coverlet went over the top of us. I boldly edged up so the whole of my backside rested against his thigh. Fighting a mysterious list for this strangely erotic plainsman and denying a lewd urge to mold myself to his long frame, I lay listening to the night sounds long after he slept. Too confused for keener introspection, I considered the events that brought me to this strange land.
MY NAME is William Joseph Strobaw, and I have earned no sobriquet except for Billy. Despite my pa’s firm conviction I aspired beyond my station, I managed graduation from a small but excellent college back east. I coveted Harvard, but we could ill afford the three hundred dollars it cost. Moorehouse College was hardship aplenty at half the price.
My parents’ death in a fire and a failed love affair with Abigail, whose Patriot family would hold no truck with the descendent of traitorous Tories, combined to determine me upon foreign adventure. Financing my poorly planned scheme with my dead parents’ life savings, I abandoned the familiar world of intolerance, slavery, and black uprisings for the opportunity of the frontier, a promising place of new beginnings where a man’s reputation was what he painted upon himself by his own actions. Another considerable influence on my rash decision was my hero, Jedediah Strong Smith, rumored to have been killed recently by the fierce Comanche along the Santa Fe Trail.
So it was that I made my way over the long winter to Independence, Missouri where I met Splitlip and Wild Red in an ordinary two months back and learned they were headed to the Dakota country to trap and trade. During a round of drinks, it was somehow propounded that I accompany them to Fort Wheeler rather than undertake the eight-hundred-mile Santa Fe Trail along which my hero died. My rash admission to twenty dollars for the poke was likely the reason for the invitation. In truth I secreted other such pieces in my wallet.
The adventure almost came unraveled before it was firmly knit. Wild Red went on a drunken tear with a sleazy doxy and appeared the following morning still under the influence of strong drink and reeking of sated lust. I managed to overlook his jadish deportment, but when Splitlip went over the edge, ranting like the Marquis de Sade over fascinating and horrifying creatures no one else could fathom, I began to reconsider. Red, once he recovered his own senses, assured me Splitlip Rumquiller was a solid fellow except when he got his hands on a button. It took some inquiry to discern the button in question was hallucinogenic peyote trundled up from the Spanish Territory of Nuevo Mejico by some enterprising trader.
As the old frontiersman appeared entirely sane and sound the next day, and since I did not wish to be cozened out of my twenty dollars, I pursued the enterprise, although I confess to some disquiet because we walked. I am certain my gold piece was sufficient to provide adequate mounts for the trek.
RED WAS no less hostile the next day, nor did Cut Hand rest any easier around him. Nonetheless we made good time, with Split or Red occasionally dropping back to check our rear. Discovering the warriors were on our trail, Split sent us wading down a mountain brook while he turned north, muddying the water and leaving careless prints. Red took us out over a broad stretch of flat rock after a league in the frigid water. Split rejoined us at nightfall.
Cut Hand and I camped seventy yards from the others that night. My willpower was insufficient to prevent me from touching him as he lay shackled to a tree. I stroked his heavy chest and flat belly, feeling his accelerated heartbeat. Anger? Excitement? Like his breast, his stomach was hairless. Loosening his garment, I timidly caressed his bare flesh. His skin was taut, smooth.
Inflamed beyond restraint, I put my tongue to him. He smelled fresh and masculine. Grasping him, I stroked in vain to bring him to excitement. Disbelieving what I was doing, I lowered my head and accepted him orally. Working over him awkwardly and inexpertly, I grew astounded by the pleasant sensation this occasioned in my own groin. At length the stomach muscles beneath me tightened, and I shared the excitement of his orgasm. As I lay gasping from the exhilaration of this matchless experience, he remained still and silent except for panting slightly.
Afterward—ashamed yet wildly ecstatic—I contemplated the youth I had debauched. The enormity of my actions struck me. I had corrupted a man. A shiver played down my spine. I was a monstrous hydra, no better than the pathetic creature we called Faggot John back home. Even as I shuddered to recollect the disgust we accorded that abomination, I callously laid aside my apprehension. The morrow might bring regrets, retribution, even damnation, but my only concern at the moment was my own need.
Lying across his strong legs, I tore free of my britches and beat a frantic rhythm until giving myself release, the excitement of the act immeasurably heightened by the fathomless black eyes watching my every move by the weak moonlight. Shaken by powerful, conflicting emotions, I rose, cleaned us both, and restored our clothing. Then I took my life in my hands and removed the iron bracelet from his right wrist to snap it around the bole of the sapling, giving him the length of the chain to maneuver and the full use of one hand, should our stalkers appear. Thereafter I covered us with a blanket and slept.
I woke with dawn tinting the sky above the trees, although no light yet penetrated the glade. Cut Hand’s lips brushed my cheek as he uttered something unintelligible. Seizing my hand, he turned it to the north. I understood. Then he pointed across his body, letting me know one came from that direction. As he did so, his chain rattled. Grasping my ten-pound 1817 common rifle, I rolled silently out of the blankets to the far side of the small clearing where I gained my feet and froze.
Nothing happened except the coming sun built its golden light slowly. Then my peripheral vision detected movement. The brave had almost reached the tree where Cut Hand lay shackled before I was certain. I threw up the gun and fired, dropping the warrior as he pounced. He lay still.
Suddenly a second figure vaulted from the trees with a screech, bringing his hatchet down on Cut Hand. But my prisoner rolled into his attacker’s legs, sending him tumbling into me. I lost the grip on my rifle along with the ability to use it as a club. The buck came up fast, but I clung to him, grappling for control of that deadly tomahawk. Silently we struggled, thrashing around in the grass, crashing against trees. I saw stars. My eyesight blurred, but I stubbornly fought for the weapon. Suddenly he released my right hand to force my left free of the axe. Snatching my knife from its sheath, I rammed it into his side. He continued struggling, and I feared the warrior had shrugged my thrust aside. But gradually he lost strength until he slumped over and sagged against my legs. Badly shaken I looked up to find three figures staring at me through the new dawn. Cut Hand strained against his chain while Red and Split held weapons at the ready.
“You done good, boy.” Split nodded approval. “We best go scare them up.”
“Scare up who?” I gasped, holding my blood-imbrued shirt away from me. Suddenly revolted I snatched it off and stood shivering in the cold morning breeze.
“Horses, boy,” Red answered. “Them two rode horses.”
I had almost finished soaking the blood and its stink from my shirt when Split and Red returned with the ponies, a sturdy mustang and an Indian calico, which whites tend to disdain, although Split assured me they were good horseflesh. We distributed the loot among us. The Pipe Stem braves carried Indian trade rifles and forged tomahawks. One toted a spiked axe; the other, a Missouri war hatchet.
Unaccountably uneasy I bade my companions keep an eye on our prisoner while I wandered off as if on personal business. Out of sight of the others, I grasped a tree limb and stood with head bowed. In the clear light of the dawning day, the beastliness of what I had done descended upon me. I forced a man to submit to my depraved desires. He was shackled, pursued by enemies bent on slaying him. I was his gaoler. He was under my authority. Yet I abused him in an unspeakably disgusting manner. Dropping to my knees, the Christian part of me begged my God’s forgiveness. Somehow Cut Hand must be made to understand my repentance.
About as transparent as my Aunt Felicity’s bobbin lace, I was no sooner back than Split cast an eye on me. “You feeling bad ’bout what happened?” he demanded. Startled and confused and ashamed, I stared like a pole-axed ox. “Damnation, boy!” he swore. “Them two bucks was trying to kill you.”
Relief made my knees go watery. Amazed my prayer held no confession of guilt for the taking of two human lives, I ran my hand over my face.
Red grinned at me. “Them the first?”
“And the last, I pray.”
“Son,” Split said, his tone sad, “if them’s the last, then you’re a dead man. Sure as we’s standin’ here watching God’s sun rise in the east, you’re gonna have to kill agin afore this trek’s done. And Cut Hand here says to thank you.”
We resumed our journey riding two to a pony with my perversion still hidden from the world. Cut Hand’s arms remained shackled, so I rode in front to control the pinto.
That evening we camped where the trail forked. Our planned route ran to the northwest. The southern trace led to the river and a rumored second trail to Fort Wheeler. I promptly forgot my covenant with the Lord and proposed a split camp, laying it at the door of Red’s hostility.
The redhead laughed. “Fine by me. I ain’t anxious to sleep with him. But you ever stop to consider things is different now?”
“What do you mean?” I demanded.
“What he means to say,” Split interjected, “is that there ain’t two redskins on Cut Hand’s bum. He needed you last sundown. Now he don’t.”
I glanced at the big youth attempting to chew a piece of jerky while his hands were loosely pinioned behind him. There was nothing to keep him from exacting his revenge. “We’ll sleep up in that grove where the stream bends.” I indicated the place with a nod of the head. Cut Hand’s gaze flickered to the spot.
The others had hobbled the horses so they could forage and were making ready for the blankets when we returned from our chores. Cut Hand engaged Split in a short discussion, and once again my ears reddened as I imagined being exposed as a pariah.
“He says to tell you he’ll behave hisself,” Split translated. “I figger he’s beholden for them two bucks. But he wants to know when we gonna let him go.”
“Not yet,” Red said. “I want that river ’tween us, Split.”
“You gotta understand. He coulda left any time he wanted after Billy took care a them two fellers.”
Cut Hand waited patiently in our own grove as I spread our blankets and snapped his manacles around a tree. I recited prayers for half an hour, begging for strength before reaching for him. Such was the sway of this primeval Adonis that the moral shield of my Christian upbringing crumbled, exposing the raging beast of carnal lust. Aware he was free to raise an alarm, I was still powerless to protect either of us from my passion.
“Damnation, Cut Hand, you’ve put some kind of spell over me. What is it you call it? Medicine? You took away my self-control. I’m helpless around you. If I didn’t know better, I’d say it was love….”
Astounded by my conclusion, I bit my tongue!
Abandoning talk, I placed my hand across that broad chest. He did not flinch or call out. I touched his cheek, astonished at the purity of the skin. His face was virtually free of a beard. Gradually—as slowly as my failing self-discipline allowed—I explored every inch of his fascinating body before giving both of us relief. And such sweet relief it was. At least for me. I could not discern his feelings on the matter.
Awed and excited, I sought confirmation this was something other than involuntary muscular contractions. I pressed my lips against his. He failed to respond. I peered at him so closely our noses touched. I kissed his eyes, moved back to his lips, and had my answer. He felt nothing. Disappointed, I muttered apologies and begged forgiveness, though whether from a disapproving God or this reluctant lover, I could not say.
Sleepless, I put aside questions of morality and searched for the perversion that drew me to this man. I had known many comely youths, but the idea of lewd intimacies with them stirred me to illness. With a profound shock, I realized the truth. My heart was lost to an enterprise as hopeless as the pursuit of Abigail Carnes.
My childhood provided no clue to my folly. A loving mother and a perpetually exhausted father raised me on prunes and proverbs. Curiosity about the fairer gender never obsessed me. I was eighteen before I had a leap with a girl, which turned into no more than a pleasant flourish that ruined a budding friendship when I showed no further interest.
There was no undue curiosity about my own kind beyond a shy comparing of yards, as youngsters are wont to do. When I was twelve, an older boy from a farm down the road and I went skinny-dipping in the local crick. I remember him initiating talk—dirty talk—about a girl we both knew. When I refused to participate in such unseemly gossip, he groped my naked flesh. I protested but was not unduly offended until he tried to stick his roger up my bum. I ran away, but in the safety of the woods, I noticed my thing had stopped being a penis and become a cock… it was stiff as a rod.
That was the sum of my animalistic experiences, save for occasional self-gratification. Now I had twice acted the deviant with this comely savage.