Cattle Today

Cattle Today

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by: Wes Ishmael

Part III

When we left Hooter and Elmo Huggins they were on their way to see Aunt Pinkie. Elmo had told Hooter that his great granddaddy's letter, which told about gold stolen from the Union, also instructed the family to find Aunt Sophie if there were any problems. Since there was no Sophie in the Huggins family, Elmo speculated his kin was referring to Sophia Porter, reportedly a valued Confederate spy who owned what was Glen Eden Plantation on the Red River. That's about 250 miles east of present-day Apache Flats, and Hooter's north pasture where Elmo was digging for the gold.

Turns out, Sophie was kin to the McCormick family, which had tried unsuccessfully over the years to identify the Uncle Stubs she referred to in her hand-me-down papers...

“You know in all this time you've been telling me your great granddaddy's story, I don't believe you ever mentioned his name,” said Hooter.

“Alphonso,” said Elmo. “Alphonso Aluicious Huggins.”

Hooter couldn't help but feel a pang of disappointment. It wasn't the name he was looking for. “That's quite a sobriquet,” he managed. “I thought it might be a bit more common sounding.”

Elmo could sense the disappointment. He reached for his gloves again. “Well, that's what his name was, Alphonso Aluicious. I'm not sure what name he went by, exactly, everybody in our family always refers to him as Stubby. Guess he wasn't very tall.”

“Uncle Stubs!” shouted Hooter. “That's it, that's the name!”

Elmo had never actually met Aunt Pinkie until now, just seen her from a distance and waved. Hooter had told him about her, but not the fact that while Aunt Pinkie wasn't opposed to the young man's mission, she had kept her distance. And, that wasn't like her at all.

Hooter bust through the kitchen door like a bull gone mad, hollering, “Uncle Stubs! Uncle Stubs! We know who Uncle Stubs is!”

Then, Elmo, unable to contain his excitement and hopefulness, stuck out his hand, “It's a pleasure to meet you ma'm. Hooter tells me you knew my great granddaddy.”

The look on Aunt Pinkie's face revealed his blunder, but way too late.

“Look here, young man, I may be getting on in years, but it's not like I scouted for General Lee, savvy? And, what's all this racket about Uncle Stubs?”

“Ma'm, my apologies. I know how that sounded, and I sure didn't intend it that way. It's just been such a long search, and finally hearing that someone might know the answer. And, I guess with everything Hooter's told me about you, I just figured if anyone could make sense of it, you could.”

Aunt Pinkie eyed Elmo for a moment longer, then her gaze softened. “Hmmm…No offense taken. Hooter, you might could learn something from this young man about respect. I'll be pleased to know why you two burst through that door and gave me a scare. After you take off your boots, wash up and come into the sitting room like you've got some sense.”

Meeting Again, After All These Years

Hooter gave his aunt the details in short order. Though she tried to hide it, Hooter could see that Aunt Pinkie was as excited as Elmo at the prospects of finding a long lost piece to the generational puzzle.

“First, I'll tell you what I know. Then I'll tell you where I think Uncle Stubs may fit, now that we know who Uncle Stubs is,” said Aunt Pinkie. She patted Elmo's leg as she mentioned his great granddaddy's name. “I don't know that I can be much help. Mind you, it's all speculation based on Aunt Sophie's papers.”

Elmo was kneading the gloves in his hands like a kid with his first batch of Play-Doh™. “Anything's more than I've got ma'm.”

By now, Hooter had followed his nose back to the kitchen where Aunt Pinkie's weekly baking had been interrupted.

“Hooter!,” shouted Aunt Pinkie, “If I find one sprinkle out of place when I get back in there, it'll be your hide.” She winked at Elmo. “They should be cool enough for us to have a nibble before you boys head back out.

“Hooter! Wipe the crumbs off that overgrown cookie duster of yours and get in here. I'm only going to plow this field once.”

“Now, about your granddaddy and Aunt Sophie,” began Aunt Pinkie. “Hooter has told you who Sophia Porter was. I'd like to have met that lady because she had more lives than three cats and always landed on her feet. And, that was at a time when everything was more topsy-turvy than any of us will ever know.

“What I recollect of her notes and letters was the mention of Uncle Stubs early on in the war. Things like: ‘Uncle Stubs had to leave his baby back at the rock church; we'll send folks to fetch it when it's safe…We're looking for a ride south for Uncle Stubs and his baby… Found a ride for Uncle Stubbs, but his baby had to stay. We told him we'd keep an eye out…Yanks came by today. Listening to their chatter, I get the idea they may know about Uncle Stubbs' baby.'

“It was all that sort of thing,” said Aunt Pinky. “Finally, the last reference I could ever find was along the lines of, ‘The Angleton boys left today to fetch Uncle Stub's baby, they hope to carry it to the Gulf.'”

Elmo was sitting on the edge of his seat, literally, expecting more, wanting more.

“Then, nothing,” continued Aunt Pinkie. “I've been through her papers a million times, and I can tell you there is no further mention of Uncle Stubs or of his baby. You may find it hard to believe, but I looked as hard as you ever would for more information. Ever since I first heard the story, I wanted to find out, what happened to that baby. I always thought Aunt Sophie was talking about a real one. Now, with this new information, I wonder if she wasn't referring to that stash of gold you say your great granddaddy had to bury. If that is the case, though, like I say, there never was any other mention in her papers. So, we'll never know.”

Elmo had eased back into his chair. Both his look and voice were full of resolve. “We may never know for sure that's what your Aunt Sophie was referring to, ma'm,” said Elmo. “But, when I dig up that gold, we'll know for sure what my great granddaddy said was true.”

“Before you grab your shovel, you might ponder the fact that your great granddaddy's gold has already been dug up years ago and passed around to those who needed it most,” said Aunt Pinkie.

Finding What You Need

You could have hit Elmo in the guts with a sledgehammer and he wouldn't have looked more deflated. “It's gone. They found it?”

Aunt Pinkie patted Elmo's leg again. “Oh, the gold itself may be right where you're digging, or it may not be, maybe it never was, but it doesn't matter.”

She saw Elmo's confusion. “Let me ask you something. How do you suppose it was that your great granddaddy, those that fought with him, all the families back home, everyone, were able to fight so long and so hard, despite the fact that they were so badly outnumbered and out-resourced?”

Elmo thought for a moment. “Well, they were right for one thing, wanting to protect the rights of their states, and the resources of their states that they'd already fought for.”

“Yes,” said Aunt Pinkie. “But, there has to be more to it than that. Just like the folks who founded this nation, and this state. It was right, but there was more.”

Now, Hooter was looking as confused as Elmo. “Since I was knee-high to an earthworm you've told me ain't nobody can ultimately whip a man that's in the right,” he said in an accusing voice. “What do you mean right isn't enough.”

“Don't you see, the two of you? Why would anyone do anything if there wasn't a promise on the other side, if there wasn't hope?” She picked up the bible sitting on the coffee table. “In Romans 8, Paul says, ‘For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.' And, in Hebrews we find, ‘Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.'”

Elmo looked like he wanted to cry. He was trying to find out if his great granddaddy had buried gold in what was now Hooter's pasture, and here was an old lady quoting scripture to him.

“Ashamed as I am to admit it, boys, humans that we are, we sometimes need the hope of things we believe are more immediate than Salvation to spur us on in the battles of life,” said Aunt Pinkie. “What's about Uncle Stub's gold, Elmo? No matter how much it was worth, do you think it was enough to turn the war? And, don't you think them that lived back then understood that?”

“I guess, ma'm, but I still don't see…”

“The hope your great granddaddy brought to the people, with the prospects of that gold, was worth more than the actual treasure ever could be. And still is, though for different reasons I might add.”

After a long spell, Elmo almost whispered, “I think I found what I was looking for without finding it, if that makes any sense.”

“Child, it makes perfect sense,” said Aunt Pinkie.


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