MELNOR’S TOWER

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Chapter 4: BLACKIE AND CAPPY

In only two seasons there were two new warehouses serving the town. Up the hill and inland, there was a horse barn where the blacksmith set up stock. The farmers traded with each other in a small drinking house where they gathered to drink and talk. On the evenings when there was a break in the schedule of planting, repairing and preparing of harvested crops and game meats for storage they held meetings to discuss problems that they had in common. Patch usually stood as moderator. Mostly, it was on the rainy nights that they gathered and their wives gathered there daily after their chores for their sewing circle.

It is easy enough to work a loom but it is slow, boring work and it takes a skilled woodworker to build it. The woodworkers were too busy to make them a loom, so they spent their time making patchwork quilts. They worked the materials that were available while making a blanket or any article of clothing and only detail work required your hands but not all of your attention. The sewing circle was not just a diversion; it provided time to gossip and trade preparation methods. It took the place of school for some young women and helped hold the small community together.

On the far side of the room, older children or injured adults that could not work, kept and taught the children that needed an education. Others that could not work the fields and did not wish to join the sewing circle were welcome. Frequently, the children’s room was occupied by travelers that told stories of their adventures.

Melnor often found himself teaching the children and decoying it. He found that he wasn’t alone. Blackie came by because there really wasn’t that much to do for a blacksmith in a town this small. He had a small run-out for the horses and a small building for his anvil and forge. He also kept a patch of ground where he could stockade the horses that he looked after. It was a poor excuse for a smithy or holding barn but it was the best place in town to keep the stray horse that might wander in with a rider. They were isolated, but not on an island. Blackie had his eyes on the public house because it was right next to his plot and might make a good Smithy.

Surprisingly, Cappy was also there more often than not, teaching the children how to count and reason. He also seemed to have a fair knowledge of the history of the area and seemed to enjoy sharing it. His stories were often funny enough to stick around for, even for the adults.

One cold, rainy day, Melnor sat in on one of the classes that Cappy was teaching. The women were on break and Cappy was telling about one of his trips to the Islands.

“There I was, stranded on an Island where it was a crime to turn down the attentions of a woman.” The men were having a hard time not smiling and the women were poking at each other. The children didn’t see anything funny about the situation and the adults were wondering where he was going with the story as the younger children didn’t fully understand relations between man and woman. Cappy wasn’t known for telling stories that belonged in a drinking house.

He looked around and smiled. Apparently, the children did not understand. “As I was saying, the women were in charge on this island and it would be a full season before another ship was scheduled to arrive. I had to work at something while I was there, so I built grass homes. First, I helped repair a roof or two and then I began helping repair the homes. In every home, there was one room with only one door and no windows. They used this room to store food. The builder showed me a special way to build a section of an outside wall and he used this special way in every house on the back wall of that room.”

“Why did he do that, sir?” A young child asked.

“That is the question I was asking myself. The difference in the appearance of the outside or the inside of the wall wasn’t obvious to an observer or to me as I helped him build the walls. I found out by accident that it was designed to come apart easily and be repaired quickly. I had to leave a home discreetly one time and realized that every home that he had built or repaired probably had this easy access to a storage room. In other words, he had easy access to everybody’s food and tools.”

One of the brighter little hellions whispered over to his friend, “Good hiding place.”

Cappy nodded at the children. He then looked at each of the adults to check that they understood the other ramifications of easy access.

Cappy was known as a man, who did things that were necessary but avoided overt trouble. He could be trusted to help a neighbor or see that a villain was punished, but he did not farm or seem to have a trade. The man arranged trades or favors that kept things around town from falling apart. This was good, as nobody else had the time or the connections that he developed just talking to people. Strangely, he wasn’t resented for his lack of occupation as he filled a need. Trades normally unnoticed happened when he was around. Repairs to boats happened swiftly and everybody got paid fairly and quickly instead of having to wait on crops coming in or finding that you were paid in fish that you didn’t need instead of coin or at least something that wouldn’t go bad in a week. He also spent time in the woods bringing in herbs, roots and game. Many a family had him for dinner just because he walked in with extras. In time of need, he often he came with a complete dinner. In so many ways, the town was as much his as anybody else’s.

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