The Mockingbird's Ballad (Chapter 5, page 1 of 9)

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Chapter 5

It was about three hours past sundown. The full moon was a quarter way up in the night sky.

"Hold up there! Who the hell are you, pilgrim?" a rough throaty belligerent voice called from the trees beside the narrow road, just west of Decatur, Alabama.

Same as you, Neighbor! A wandering Reb looking for some mess mates and hot food," J. N. responded lightly to the phantom voice, raising his good hand slowly above his head. "Don't shoot. We're friends, trooper."

"Advance and be recognized," the picket ordered. The three riders with two pack mules, slowly moved towards the veiled voice. The moonlight was bright and they could now see one another in the middle of the road.

"Rebels, huh, you all with what unit?" the Confederate corporal said to the three, his musket at his shoulder with its' sights trained on J. N.'s chest. Two other Confederate soldiers with muskets aimed at Alex and Lou emerged from the tree line.

"24th Tennessee Sharpshooters, Sergeant. Who are you folks? Wheeler's boys, I sure hope," J. N. answered.

"Hell, I ain't no sergeant. I'm a working soldier. 24th, you say, then why you ain't over at Chickamauga Creek stuck with Bragg? You near 200 miles from his happy command," the guard responded.

J. N. raised his busted hand, only lightly wrapped now but the salve was fragrant. He had taken off his sling three days ago. "Busted hand got me sent home near three weeks ago to heal up. It's not all the way mended but I can hold a rifle or pistol. We just rode a long way to find you all. Awful quiet and boring at home sleeping in a feather bed and eating real food, don't you know." J. N. smirked.

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