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Chapter 1

1634: Home on the Hudson

How long? How long? The future hung over him like a boulder with gravel crumbling from under its margin. Thank God, it was spring. The leaves were out in the Hudson Valley. The daylight hours grew ever longer. His land, just below the river twist that would someday be West Point (or might never be West Point) was like a freshly killed bear.

He could stand over its body and count a success, but if his family were to eat, he had to skin the bear, gut the bear, hang the meat to dry, cut it up, and cook it. He was waiting for something to happen: something to happen. Nevertheless, in the meantime he had a bear to skin, in the form of a homestead that would require his work, day and night. Land for his home and garden site had to be cleared. He preferred a longhouse to a cabin. He knew how to build a longhouse. Arrow knew how to build a longhouse. In the past, however, each of them it had a village to help to cut and to carry. There'd been plenty of hands to share the work, then.

The frame of peeled saplings had to be lashed together. The bark had to be peeled from large elm trees and soaked in hot water before it could become walls and roof. The nested cooking pots that he'd thought to sacrifice, from very large to skillet to a small pot, were all in use all the time. The biggest one would be used for soaking elm bark sections, rendering, and perhaps soap making.

All the bark sections had to be lashed in place with many ties. His time in Europe had almost ruined him for life as an Indian. He chided himself for falling back on the American word. His family had no tribe, only themselves: Eliezer, Arrow, and their daughter Thunder. Even that would change. Arrow so enjoyed love-making that she was probably already pregnant again: if not now, soon; three plus one; perhaps more later. Children were the bright arrows in a man's quiver.

He and Arrow would need a sleeping shelf. Thunder, though she was still an infant, would need her own before long. Their many household goods would need shelves as well. Grantville came back to haunt him. Theirs would be the only longhouse with a Smith-St. Clair stove. There'd be no smoky open fires inside. During the time when he'd been possessed by the Grantville library, he'd read that smoky indoor air has probably contributed to the deaths of millions over the centuries. Arrow would also love her stove's cooking ability.

He didn't deceive himself. It would be her longhouse, her stove, her storage shelves. An Iroquois woman would accept nothing less. The men of the Five Nations hunted, fished, crafted hardware, and made war. Nevertheless, they only made war with the women's permission. Women selected the leaders and oversaw torture of enemies. A man owned only his paints, clothing, weapons, and tools.

They'd chosen a flat area with few big trees, back from both the river and a creek that emptied into it. Both their tribes would have struggled to fell those big trees. Flint axes chipped and ruined quickly; hatchets were too small. Trees could only be notched, and then the notch had to be burned out. Wild grapevines would be dragged back and forth on a layer of sand to cut through the porous charcoal and ash. Hatchets would work to deepen the notch, and then all had to be repeated.

Finally, the tree would fall. That represented no final victory, however. A man still faced cutting off the thick trunk to the length that he wanted. Then, he had to split that trunk, after barely notching its end with hatchets. His peoples’ best wedges were hardened hickory. No matter that the wooden wedges came from the hardest tree in the forest, few wedges would survive to see the trunk fully split. Each wedge represented more than an hour's work to make, and hickory was scarce on the cold Hudson.

Smoothing the halves of the trunk took time and sand. A half could make a child-sized shelf or a storage shelf. Both halves would be needed as a bed for Arrow and himself. The shelf-trees couldn't be elm; elm doesn't split. Red oak was best because of its straight grain, but other oaks and maples could be used. The Hudson Valley forest held all the winning positions against any encroaching humans, as long as the humans were armed only with flint, fire, and wood.

To their downfall, the trees at West Point had never met a blacksmith with a steel broad-ax, a saw, a blacksmith’s hammer, and steel wedges. They fought back, but they were up against a relentless foe with better weapons. The uptimers held to the idea that a days work was eight hours, or perhaps ten. Eliezer was again breathing the free forest air. A touch of the sea even crept up the Hudson when an Atlantic storm clawed at the coast. He rose each day before the sun and went to bed in the twilight. He needed no other clock.

What he had, which many an American would have wished he had, was a help-mate who ascertained that Eliezer ate well. She cooked; she fetched wood; she carried a baby on her back as she broke ground for their garden with a heavy hoe that he'd bought in New Amsterdam. Iroquois gardens belonged to Iroquois women, though she would look favorably on any help her husband offered. Hers was a race against the warm days. The Three Sisters - corn, beans, and squash - wanted warm, broken ground. She called potatoes the Fourth Brother. Eliezer had acquired some in New Amsterdam, but they weren't as common there as they would someday be. Each cut potato had gone into the ground as soon as they had a spot to plant it. Eliezer had talked to German friends in Grantville, though it seemed so long ago, and found out how that they kept potatoes through the winter. It was only a matter of some wrapping insulation, such as the right kind of bark, in a pit below the frost line. Arrow would baby her potatoes more carefully than she did even her favorite crops, because every spud that came out of the ground would be a seed potato for the spring of 1635.

She wove the branches, from the trees that Eliezer had felled, into fish traps. The river and creeks swarmed with an apparently unlimited supply of small fish. The family ate the big fish together, but every four-seeded hill of corn [one for the blackbird; one for the crow; one for the cutworm; and one to grow] would begin over a dead minnow, a fish head, or a handful of fish guts.

Together, they piled dead wood and debris over the stumps blocking the sites of the longhouse and garden. They had no plow, nor an animal to pull one. Eliezer would never be a man who'd walked behind the south end of a horse, plowing his land. From their first meeting, he and the horses had come to a lifelong mutual distrust. You couldn't convince him that those big, yellow teeth might not be used on something besides grass and grain, such as a careless Pequot.

She tended the fires as he chopped elsewhere. She'd spread the ashes where her crops would grow. Thunder watched her great, new world from Arrow's back. Babies were so beloved among the Iroquois and the Pequot that children lived secure. Native babies seldom cried.

If full-sized trees couldn't stand before Eliezer's axe and saw, saplings had no chance. He harvested them in groups and peeled their trunks. He warped their green lengths into the arcs that would support the walls and roof of the longhouse. They'd be lashed together with green cedar roots, but he planned to invest some of his steel wire at the principal joints.

Every large elm anywhere near their land lost bark as high as he could climb on a homemade ladder. The trees would die from that loss, but he hoped that he might float the peeled elm logs down to New Amsterdam. A sawmill could reluctantly handle elm; its non-splitting nature could be sawed. Given a year to die, dead elm wood would finally split.

Arrow objected to the time he spent building a lean-to outhouse. A privy seemed less than essential, with so much other work before them. After all, the forest was only a few steps away. Eliezer (bravely) withstood her. Their bacteria demons wouldn't escape to harm others, nor would he position his outhouse in such a way that the unseen disease-makers could seep over into the well that he'd dig over the next years.

The family could wash clothes and bodies in the Hudson or the creek, but too many Dutchmen now lived upstream for the water to be entirely safe for drinking. For the next years, it was a certainty that they’d be carrying water from the spring-fed creek.

No matter how tired they were, Arrow was insistent about love-making. She'd been the sex-slave of many other men, but she was now a free, married woman. She would decide when she wanted sex. As it turned out, she wanted it regularly. They were both young, essentially alone in the wilderness, not long from their first honeymoon blaze. Nightly was satisfying, but when summer rains kept them in their tent, once wasn't enough.

By the time the garden was ready for planting, she admitted that it was almost certain that she'd conceived again. Her garden might not have been a field so full of crops that it could support a whole village, but it called for its owners to work there daily. Weeds never gave up. Stumps gave up on their own after twenty or thirty years. If you wanted corn or beans, you had to hoe the grass from between the plants. To be rid of a stump, you had to burn it. Then, you had to burn it again. Then, burn it again, and you'd still have a spot of burnt wood you couldn't plant this year. The garden rows snaked erratically around a field of stumps, still in the process of being eradicated. Planting in rows was a new idea to Arrow.

The longhouse went up slowly, but it did go up. Arrow helped Eliezer assemble their stove. A second person was needed to hold the heavy hammer, whose head would act as an anvil for the smashed rivets. That took a full day, with much grunting and sweating, and occasional threats by the female member of the crew to brain the male member. Even in place, the stove didn't create its own chimney. At first, they left one end of the longhouse unfinished. The stove, not really needed for heating, could live a while with stovepipe only. The weather was warm now, and a chimney needed mortar for its rocks. He wasn't yet confident enough to attack the "mortar" problem.

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