The following short story may be a bit risque for some readers I am giving it a PG 13 rating for safety sake.
Davey looked at his brother with a sneaky smile “Out here on the cattle trail I bet we could get dad to tell us a tale about Granddad Nate. After all Mom and Aunt Maryann aren’t here to tell him they’re too racy or bloody”.
“You ask him, Davey, lets see if he’ll do it.” Nate appeared as excited as his brother at the prospect.
Davey shook his head, ”No you ask; you’re the one named after him. Tell him you want to know more about the man he named you after.”
Nathan, hiding his grin from overhearing the conversation of his two sons, tried to sound stern.” What are you two cowpokes plotting over there now?”
“Nutin’ Dad,” Davey from his brother to his dad, “Nate here was just wantin’ a campfire tale.”
“A campfire tale huh? What kind of campfire tale are you two wanting? I know, I’ll tell you about how I met your Uncle Levi.”
Nate huffed “Daaad! You done told us that tale a hundred times. I want a story about famous people. Like Davey Crockett or Daniel Boone or Grandpa Nate.”
“Okay, I guess I can tell you a tale about one of those famous people. Now which one should I tell ya? I’ll tell about how Davey Crockett gave your great grandfather his nick name.”
Both boy’s eyes got big and they scooted closer to the fire to hear better.
Levi Cody glanced over at his boss and best friend “Nathan I didn’t know Nugget Nate knew Davey Crockett. This isn’t one of them tall tales that your inclined to tell the boys sometimes is it?”
Nathan winked at his partner “If it is Levi, then Ole Nate lied to me because he told it to me hisself.”
“Let me see it went something like this:
When David Nathan Ryder was one day from his tenth birthday his father gave him a new hatchet as a birthday gift. Davey, as he was called then, decided he would take his new hatchet and his Kentucky long rifle and go do some huntin’ in the Appylachuns. So he kissed his mom good bye and told is Da he was gonna go prove he was a man by killing hisself a bear.
Off into the hills young Davey went and he walked for miles climbing up hill and down. All the time he was looking for some bear sign. He saw plenty o’ deer and squirrel and even a quick jack rabbit or two but no bear. He was starting to get a bit tired and decided he would set up a rabbit trap for one of those jack rabbits and make camp for the night. He set his trap and started searching for a suitable camp site.
He heard the snap of the trap and smelt smoke at about the same time. Now, being a true son of a mountaineer, Davey knew that his trap had caught something and that someone was already making camp, maybe he could offer to share his catch and share their fire for the night.
Checking his trap Davey saw that he had indeed caught a rabbit in the trap but what amazed him was the second one sitting not three feet from the trap as if trying to figure out what had happened to its mate. Slowly so at to not startle the critter Davey reached down to his belt and pulled his hatchet out and holding it like an injun tomahawk he did just as he Da had taught him the injuns did and he tossed it right at that rabbit. With a solid, thunk. it struck the rabbit and knocked it dead.
Davey quickly gutted both rabbits and tossed their entrails into the woods. As every good mountaineer has been taught he thanked the two animals for their sacrifice to his meal. He knelt and bowed his head and thank the Good Lord for his provision and blessing on the kills made. Davey took a bit of rawhide and tied the rabbit’s hind legs together and slung them over his shoulder as he headed towards that campfire he had smelt earlier.
About ten feet out he stopped and in true mountain manners hollered the camp. “Howdy the fire! I’m armed with a rifle and come bearing rabbits might I share your camp?”
“Come and be welcome partner” came the answer from a deep rich voice.
Well boys your grandfather approached the camp and saw a mountain man in buckskin with a coon skin cap stirring in a pot with a wooden spoon. The man had a Kentucky long rifle that looked well used beside him and he looked your grandfather square in the eye. “Howdy there young feller. Come pull up some log. Thems a cuppla good looking critters you got there on yer shoulder. Skin em up and spit em over the fire iffn ya want. I was just making a bit of beans and bacon myself. I didn’t have much luck today.
“Thanks mister I don’t mind sharing a rabbit with ya seeing as how you is allowin me to share youze camp.”
“Well now that’s right neighborly of ya young feller, they call me Davey Crockett what do they call you?”
Young Davey’s jaw dropped.This mountaineer sitting in front of him was the one and only King of the frontier. A man every mountain man knew of and told campfire tales of. “My name is Davey Ryder, Mister Crockett sir. I have to say it’s a right honor to metcha Sir.”
Oh Davey boy don’t be like that unless you want me calling you Mister Ryder. We’re just two mountaineers sharing a fire ain’t no Mister nothing out here but I will admit it’s gonna be a might strange calling each other Davey. Since I’ve had the name a mite longer than you let’s think of something else to call ya son. What’s your Christian name?”
Young Davey smiled and puffed up as he announced his full name “David Nathaniel Ryder, Mister … I mean Davey.”
Crockett smiled real big, “Well that’s a right big name young Davey. I rekcon, I could call ya Nathaniel but that’s still a jaw full. How about, I just call ya Nate for now.”
Well boys as you can imagine your grandpa was thrilled to be given a nick name by Davey Crockett himself and readily agree. They cooked up those rabbits and had a great dinner of rabbit and beans. Davey told Nate stories about his adventures and even told him a few funny stories from his year in congress. He told him how after his loss he decided to get back to the Mountains he loved.
In return Nate told him that his birthday was the next day and that he had vowed to kill him a bear proving he was a man. Davey looked him up and down and declared. Why Nate I think you just might do it. Which lead to the tale that Davey loved to tell, of how he kilt him a bear when he was only three.
In return Nate told the tale of killing the rabbit with his new hatchet earlier. Davey asked to see the hatchet and told Nate it was balanced just like a tomahawk. He told Nate some of the tales of his time spent living with the Indians as a teen. He showed Nate how to best throw the hatchet as a weapon and had Nate practice till he declared him as good as any brave he’d ever seen.
As they settled in for the night Davey informed Nate that he had seen some bear signs just the day before and as a birthday present would show him where in the morning. Nate thanked the legend and they slowly drifted off to sleep listening to the sounds of the Appylachun’s night life around them.
The next day after a quick breakfast of left over rabbit and beans Davey and Nate broke camp. Davey, true to his word, took Nate back into the woods and showed him the bear signs he’d seen the day before. They noticed the claw marks that indicated a full grown bear was marking the area. Davey took the time to show Nate some of the tricks of moving through the forest that he had learned from his time with the Indians. He also taught Nate some of the tricks for finding grub and forage that the Indians had shared with him.
While they were pickin’ some blueberries from some bushes they had found there was a growl and rustle in the thicket. A huge brown bear charged out of the underbrush headed straight for Davey. Not having time to load his rifle Davey did the only thing he could and turned and ran.
He might have put enough distance between him and the bear if he hadn’t tripped over a tree root. Davey did what came natural with him and rolled over to face that bear. He spun his rifle around and used it like a club. The stock connected with that bear’s face and the ole brown bore rose up on its hind paws and roared. Davey kept swinging that rifle back and forth and that bear let out another roar and swiped it clean out of his hands.
Nate saw the whole thing and when that bear swiped the rifle from Davey’s hands he said a quick prayer. “God don’t let me miss.” He grabbed his hatchet just as Davey had taught him and hurled it at the bear. The hatchet flew end over end straight and true towards the bear. There was a thunk and the hatchet was stuck into the tree right between that boars legs. The bear roared in pain and seemed to forget all about Davey. The bear clawed between his legs where the hatchet was stuck.
Nate didn’t pause a second but dropped to his knee and pulled his powder horn free and loaded his rifle with powder, patch, and ball; tapped it all down tight. He dropped the tamping rod and cocked the trigger, filled the pan with powder and put a firing cap on the hammer. Nate took aim and blew out all his breath and squeezed the trigger. BANG!!! The rifle fired and the ball flew straight and true. It struck that ole bear boar right between the eyes.
Just like that giant Goliath, when David’s stone hit him that bear toppled forward. Davey just barely rolled out of its way. He came to his feet with his knife in his hand. All for nothing that ole bear was dead. Davey noticed something strange though. The bears front end lay flat on the ground blood pooling under its head, but its hind paws seemed to be stuck to the tree about three feet up.
Davey walked over to the tree, turned to Nate who was still in a shooters crouch. “Well done Nate you done kilt yerself a bear. I tell ya I ain’t never seen nothing like this though you done tomahawked his nuggets right to that thar tree. I’m sayin’ you done all but castrated that there boar. Iffn’ that don’t earn you a proper mountain man reputation and name I don’t know what will.”
Davey pulled the hatchet out of the bear and tree and walked over to Nate. He wiped the blood off the head onto his finger and thumb. He drew a circle around Nate’s shooter eye, made a mark between his eyes where his shot had hit the bear and a line on each cheek and chin in Indian war paint still. He said “You done proved yerself a mountaineer today and let everyone call ya Nugget Nate from this day forward. “
He handed the new named Nugget Nate his hatchet and clasped him on the shoulder, together the two mountaineers cleaned, skinned and dressed that bear. They packed it all in their packs and Davey Crockett escorted Nugget Nate home to his parents.
They arrived at the Ryder homestead around dark and Nugget Nate introduced his parents to the legendary mountain man Davey Crockett, who praised the two on raising such a fine mountain man. Davey sat down with Nugget Nate’s Da Liam and told him the tale of how “Nugget Nate” had saved his life that day and gelded and kilt a bear. As they polished off a bottle of Kentucky whiskey Davey stood and said to Liam, “When you’re a ready to send yer son off to ‘prentice let me know. I’ll take him on and teach him how to be a scout and trap,” He turned to Nugget Nate and shook his hand. “Look me up anytime Nugget, I’d be right proud to ride the river with ya any day.” With a goodbye to Mrs. Ryder, Davey Crocket snugged down his ole coonskin cap, picked up his pack and rifle and disappeared into the night.
That my boys is how your grandpa Nugget Nate got his name.”
Nathan took and tossed a couple of logs on the fire. “Now get yourselfs in them bedrolls. We got a long push ahead of us tomorrow and I expect you two to pull your weight. Mister Chisholm don’t like his beeves to be late.”
“Yessir,” the two young cowpokes replied and started for their bedrolls. Young Nate stopped and turned back to his Dad. “Dad is that really how Ole Nugget Nate got his name or was you telling us a tall tale?”
Nathan walked up to his son and tossled his hair. “Well boy that’s what your great grandpa told me and I was never man enough to call Nugget Nate a liar. However if your mama ever asks ya, he got his name from the gold strike he found his first year in the High Lonesome.” He winked and headed for his own bedroll.
Just as the boys were drifting off to sleep, Davey could have swore he heard his Da chuckling under his breath.