Woods Runner - By Gary Paulsen Page 0,3
as he almost flowed through the forest.
But his mind was still on the man who had brought the sheet of paper the night before.
In the year 1776, the fastest form of travel for any distance over thirty or forty miles was by ship. With steady wind, a sailing vessel could clock one to two hundred miles a day for weeks on end.
A horse could cover thirty, maybe even forty, miles a day, although not for an extended period without breaking down.
At best, coaches could do a hundred miles in a twenty-four-hour day by changing horses every ten or fifteen miles, but only if the roads were in good shape, which they almost never were.
A man could walk twenty or thirty miles a day—faster for short periods, but always depending on conditions of land, weather and footgear. Fifteen miles a day was standard.
So there was no fast and dependable way to transmit information in those years—no telegraph, no telephone, no Internet, no texting, no overnight delivery services.
It might take five or six days for knowledge of an important event to move just ten miles, carried by a traveler on foot. Settlements were twelve to fifteen miles apart. And information was carried by hand from person to person on paper or, in most cases, shared by word of mouth.
Samuel had returned home from the forest the night before and found his parents sipping tea with Isaac, an old man of the forest who stopped by their cabin every few months while he was hunting. This time, though, he had news. He carried information about a fight in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, where militia had fired on and defeated British soldiers. The battle had happened months before, all the way back in April of 1775.
Isaac seemed to be made entirely of scraps of old leather and rags. He was bald and wore a ratty cap with patches of fur that had been worn away. He was tall and thin and for many years had lived in a cabin some twenty miles to the east. He was so much a part of the forest that even his brief visits with Samuel’s family caused him discomfort.
He’d decided to move farther into the frontier when a wagon, pulled by oxen, came into the clearing near his cabin. The family was traveling westward, looking for a piece of land to farm, and had chosen a spot not far from Isaac’s place.
The family was, Isaac said, “a crowd. And I knew it was time to move on, seeing as how I don’t do particular good with crowds of people.”
As he was taking his leave from the small shack where he had lived, the family had given him the scrap of paper, soft with wear from all the hands it had passed through, so he could share the news with fellow travelers he met on his journey. They told him of other events they had heard of along the way. He tried to remember the details, but admitted that he wasn’t much for conversation.
“Since they was so much noise from the sprats as it seemed a dozen of them, my thinker fuzzed up like bad powder and my recollecter might not be all it could be, but I think they said they was another fight at a place called Bunker Hill and the patriot militia got whipped there and sent running when they saw the bayonets on the British soldiers’ muskets.”
He sat, quietly sipping the evergreen tea he always carried, a brew made from pine and spruce needles. He swore it cured colds, and he said he preferred it over “furriner tea from outside, but thankee, missus.”
The paper he’d handed to Samuel’s father, Olin, was a single sheet that had been folded and unfolded so many times it was near to falling apart. It had been printed on a crude press with wooden block letters and was smudged and hard to read. But there was a brief description of the fight at Lexington and Concord and a drawing of figures firing muskets at some other figures that were falling to the ground.
As Samuel studied the paper in his father’s hands, he thought: Everything in my world just got bigger.
Two other families, the Clarks and the Overtons, pulled up in wagons. Isaac had spoken to them on his way to Samuel’s place and they wanted to hear what Olin had to say about Isaac’s news.
Samuel looked around the small cabin on the edge of the woods that was suddenly filled