Monday, December 19, 2011

Entry Two: The Orderville Pants Rebellion (Excerpt)

The little boy ran out of the twilight, stomping clouds of dust from the road.

“Scoot ‘em, Pa!” he yelled as he ran. “Scoot ‘em, Pa!”

He ran at random down the road, weaving, bouncing from one side of the street to the other, here turning a block, there returning, darting down a side street, reappearing on the main, darting again, all the time calling “Scoot ‘em, Pa!”

The sunset, a smear of light behind the hills, brighter at the end of the long valley.

As the boy passed, calling, there were other footfalls. Quieter, heavier footfalls also stomping the dust from the road. Men. Men with bundles, leaving homes quietly, latching gates. Men with dark lanterns, some running, some walking swiftly, walking, running from the town, up to the canyon, up to the canyon called Skutumpah.

Two men rode into the town.

“You hear it, right, Thomas?” one asked the other.

At the other end of the tiny town, the voice still shrilled in the darkness: “Scoot ‘em, Pa!”

“Damn,” the other said. A badge on his lapel caught a bit of moonlight.

“They run like rats,” the first said. “Ever chased them?”

“Yeah,” the other said. “Doesn’t do much good. They know the land here better than we ever could. Chased one up the canyon a few weeks ago. Was on horseback and lost him in a stand of brush you couldn’t hide your mustache in.”

I leaned against the side of the Fort, in shadow provided by the roof and rain barrels. The two men sat on their horses not thirty feet from me. From where I stood I could see two, no, three, men of the order also hiding in shadows. Priddy Meeks hunched on the porch of the Big House. President Chamberlain watched the Big House – his house, home to his five wives – from the Relief Society Hall. Why he had not fled I could not know – but the call had been late in coming. And Alma Porter lay in the shadows near his forge, and from the smell of it, his leather apron was beginning to char.

“Ready here, Amos.”

That was HK – H. Kimball Leithead, my best friend in the priesthood and in devilry. We blessed the Sacrament on Sundays and the rest of the week, well, did things. That tonight’s thing should involve white robes we made from linen we stole from the laundry and a few pounds of gunpowder probably should tell you something about the things we did.

I pulled a robe from my vest, quickly put it on and clambered to the top of a barrel of flour HK and I had moved to the square a half hour before the marshals rode into town. The marshal with the mustache must have heard my feet scrape the barrel as I climbed it, because he turned to look at me about half a second before HK set off the first pile of gunpowder.

“Holy, holy God,” I shouted” -- it would have been better had my voice not cracked, but the marshals didn’t seem to notice – “we believe that thou art God, and we believe that thou art holy!”

More gunpowder and the marshals’ horses were jumping in panic. They tried to rein them, but the noise HK and I were making grew worse.

More gunpowder and there was HK and a few of the other boys he’d been able to round up, all clad in white robes, all parroting my speech.

“Holy God, we believe that thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by the wrath down to hell; for which holiness, O God, we thank thee!” I shouted. My acolytes intoned my words.

“Hell’s bells!” the marshal with the mustache shouted as his horse whinnied and pranced, backing slowly out of the square. “Thomas, we –“

Marshal Thomas’ horse had already bolted. The marshal with the mustache wheeled his horse around and they pounded out of the square.

“Amos,” HK said.

“Wait, HK, wait until we know they’re gone!”


“Shut up, HK!”

Someone pushed me violently from behind. I picked myself up only to be dragged across the square by HK and another boy in a white robe as the rest of them scattered.

An explosion behind us rattled windows.

I turned to look.

The barrel I had been standing on was shattered in pieces, most of them burning.

“Sorry, Amos,” HK said. “That last bit of gunpowder caught the barrel on fire. Flour inside it blew up.”

“Fire! Fire!”

President Chamberlain and Priddy Meeks appeared in the square with buckets. They doused some flames, calling “fire!” all the while, and soon others came with buckets, forming a line from the well to the square, dousing flames. A few of those with buckets, I noticed, had white robes stuffed into the backs of their trousers.

I still had my white robe on when President Chamberlain stomped up and ducked me with a bucket of water.

“Amos Cox,” he said, “That was a foolish thing to do. And nigh on blasphemous! The Rameumptom speech! Amos, if those marshals knew the rest of it, why, they’d think we’re more devils than they think already!”

I smiled despite his anger, despite the water dripping from my hair.

“They’ll tale more wild tales, down in Kanab! ‘Those wild Mormons in Orderville, they’re the worst of the bunch! Polygamists and devil-worshippers besides!’” President Chamberlain wailed.

“Don’t they say that already?” I asked.

President Chamberlain sucked in a great breath of air and his face grew even redder. Then he expelled his breath and a smile cracked the corners of his round face. “I suppose they do,” he said. Then laughed, slapping me on the back. “Yes, I suppose they do.”

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