My tavern is set with a long bar that runs along the length of about half of one wall with a polished brass bar to rest your foot upon and a well rounded edge to rest your elbows. A few simple stools are set in front of the bar to rest your weary self if you choose not to stand. A fine mirror sets behind the bar so my patrons can check their hair and it serves to make the place look larger. The floor is rough cut stone with saw dust and sand atop it. The walls are simple field stone cut only by a door that a tall man will have to watch his crown. A pair of narrow windows give a decent enough view. The fireplace set on the opposite wall from the bar and a hungry little pot belly stove that I pull out for the winter provide ample heat in the winter and a place to set a coffee pot. A few rough tables and benches that I built allow my customers to rest their weary souls.
Upstairs is the prevue of my wife Mina. A long room cut in thirds with one room is our bedroom, another her pantry a third smaller room is for our adopted daughter and the center room is her kitchen and bakery which is large enough to also entertain and feed our lodgers. There are enough windows to give her the light she wishes in the day and shutters plenty enough to keep the wind at bay. Mina has given her floor a taste of her touch. Lace curtains and such declare our bedroom truly hers. The kitchen and dining room of her bakery also seconds as a room for guests to visit with her. I must confess that I spend only one night in three in the bed beside my Mina. The other night I find myself sleeping upon the bar top after I have chased out the last of my customers. Though as often as not a man or two will sleep upon the tavern floor.
The inn floor is cut into four rooms with two beds each; in a pinch each bed will sleep four men. At a nickel a night a man gets space in a bed and a bit of bread and coffee in the morn. Two bits or a quarter will garner a man sole possession of a bed. Few have complained.
A pair of black cats that my Mrs. Mina calls her own help to keep the place free of rats and other such vermin. I have found that a happy and well fed cat will have fur as soft as silk. Their appreciation of me and my lovely Mrs. Mina has often been a friendly and comforting purr. The two cats split their time between house and stable.
The stable is a well set building of square cut logs and stone. The stable site below the mow and will easily set six horses or mules. The mow is a spacious one with a small but comfortable room I occasionally rent out to young men or teamsters in need of a roof and a square meal.
My Mrs. Mina has a face that I choose to adore, well rounded with age and experience and lines of strength upon her neck make her a handsome woman in my eyes. Any man foolish enough to contest my views is likely to face my wrath. I like to watch her sleep in the waning lamplight with only her face and neck above the blanket. Her beautiful face wreathed in the black of her hair and the dim light provided by candle or lamp soothes my soul and calms my hate like nothing else.
My Mrs. Mina, her cats, our adopted child and the men who call our place their rooming house make my life livable. The crimes of my early life and the death that haunts me still are made worthwhile by this place and this woman I call my own. A man can wish for little more than the woman he holds dear and the gear he needs to protect such. My Mrs. Mina and this place I call my own are all I need to own to be made whole.
In the early stages of the War portions of my Regiment spent time at Ft Abercrombie. The fort sits on the east side of a bend in the Red River on the edge of the Dakota Territory. There is a ferry crossing there and river boats carry trade along it. The memorable thing about that stay was the wind; it never seemed to stop. In the warm weather it provided an ease to the heat but in the winter it cut through to your very soul. In the harshest times it made a trip to the sinks or well an tip to be dreaded. In case of a fire it threatened to spread the flames to the grass an thus to everything else.
Fire was a very real threat and we naturally feared it and did everything in our power to keep it carefully contained and regulated. In our winter their the Colonel put down an order to extinguish all fires after tattoo to minimize the chances of an out of control fire. Such an order did not make him a popular man. Despite the lack of popularity of such an order the lack of shelter created by a fire would have created a brutal hardship and might well have been a death sentence if it had deprived us of all or most of our shelter.
The barracks were a poorly constructed affair and men were constantly detailed to repair and strengthen the construction. It was difficult work repairing poor quality construction but the men doing the work were competent carpenters and did the best they could. After our Regiment went south others carried on the work but in the end the barracks were torn down and rebuilt properly.
Staying warm in the heart of a Dakota winter was a challenge. My own experience in the brutal cold of the Crimea helped some but that the majority of the men had experience with Minnesota winters made all the difference. Throughout the day fist sized rocks were placed next to the fires and as they were needed they could be slipped into a leather bag and placed in a pocket or under a blanket. After tattoo we were allowed a candle for every two men and the men maximized this effect by placing the candles in a tin bucket, placing a pair of bricks on the lip to create an airspace and an upturned bucket above, this created a stove of sorts that would actually radiate a fair amount of heat. With several of those in a room it made the difference. While the rooms were never warm they were well above the outside temperature. We were also lucky enough to have a large number of buffalo robes which combined with our army blankets and greatcoats to make the difference between life and death.
While we were there there was little real worry of an attack by the tribes. The Dakota were generally farther to the south and east with the Lakota and their Cheyenne allies well to the west. The fort had no real defenses other than the men within. Several months after we left and men of the 5th replaced us the Dakota War tore through the region. The fort would pay a price for that lack of defenses. When the War began the ground was very hard and digging works was a challenge, I have been told the garrison made stacks of cord wood to create bastions that defended the garrison. There were at least three major attacks on the fort and for the better part of two months a man took his life in his hands leaving the fort.
The wind of the prairie never stopped and in the fall of 1862 it carried death upon it.
I recently picked up a newly patented panel gauge made by E.B. Tyler. It is a simple but elegant design, the curve of the wood and simplicity add a beauty that I like. I have need of such a tool as I intend to build some table tops and a door or two.
I like the look of fine tools and appreciate being able to actually use them without the fear of damaging them. Functional beauty is something I appreciate and like to see. A good tool is a lot like a good woman. A good quality tool is functional and pleasant to look upon; much like a woman. A tool will treat you right if you treat it right, clean it up and give a bit of praise and she will last a lifetime. A good tool is tough and reliable as well as pleasant to look upon; much like a woman. Like a woman if you truly appreciate a tool it will not only last you a lifetime it will never fail you.