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Will Jamison and the Black Swan Mine Final Chapter Spring Festival

Story ID:2688
Written by:Nancy J. Kopp (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Fiction
Location:Medlin Iowa USA
Person:Will Jamison
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This is the final chapter of my juvenile novel. Comments on the chapter and the entire book overall are needed and welcomed. It will help me decide what to do with the novel next. Thank you to the readers who have stayed the course with this one.

Chapter 23
Spring Festival

Will sprinted down the road toward the park. He had the bandstand in sight. A few people milled around the park, and he scanned the throng to catch sight of Miss Duncan. He needed to get his paper from her before the program began.

“Pssst! Will.”

Will slowed his steps and cocked his head. Hearing nothing more, he moved on.

“Will, c’mere!”

The voice was Artie’s, but where was he? Will stopped and surveyed the immediate area. He chuckled when he spied Artie peeking from behind a large cottonwood tree. “Artie! Why are you hiding back there?”

“Come over here and listen to this.”

Will noted Artie’s flushed face and his doubled-up fists. Something was worrying his friend. He joined Artie behind the big tree. “What’s wrong?”

Artie sank to the ground and Will followed suit. “I went to the mine early this morning to see if anybody turned in my lunch bucket. I forgot to bring it home, and my mam was fired-up for me losing it. When I got there, I saw Rolly outside the office talking to old Boardman, so I slipped behind the side of the building to wait til they were finished. You won’t believe what I heard.” Artie wiped a dirty hand across his cheek and grew silent.

Will plucked some grass at his feet. “Look Artie, I’ve got to get to the park and find Miss Duncan.”

Artie took a deep breath and words spilled from his mouth. “Rolly told Mr. Boardman that he’d caught Leo setting a booby-trap in the mine, fixing it so a driver would wreck when he hit it. Rolly saw Leo go down in the cage and knew he hadn’t been cleared to come back to work yet. So Rolly followed him. He said he hauled Leo up top and gave him a tongue-lashing, then threatened to call the sheriff if he didn’t ‘fess up.”

Will leaned close to Artie. In merely a whisper he said, “Did he confess? Did he?” Then louder, “That could have been my brother who wrecked if Rolly hadn’t caught Leo.”

“Yep, he did. Rolly told Mr. Boardman that Leo shook in his boots the whole time, Claimed he did it because they’d fired his da. Said the men and boys deserved it ‘cause they’d been mean to him.”

“Mean to him? Like Gran says, that’s the pot calling the kettle black, isn’t it? Seems to me he’s the mean one. What did Mr. Boardman say?

“Old Boardman’s face got redder than my gran’s tomato sauce. He bellowed something awful. Said that good-for-nothing boy had been cut out of the same bad cloth as his father. He shook his fist at Rolly and raved on about Leo being held responsible for Big Mike’s death.”

Will’s heart skipped a beat, and his stomach clenched. Leo caused trouble, but murder?

Artie clambered to his feet. “Rolly hollered back at Mr. Boardman, and then Boardman grabbed Rolly by his suspenders and told him to watch how he talked. Rolly shook him off and looked that old man right in the eye. I tell ya, Will, it was something to see.”

“What happened next?”

A smile crossed Artie’s face. “Rolly told Boardman that Leo caused no death. All he’d done was mischief. Big Mike died because mine owners didn’t make repairs and install safety measures to protect the workers. ‘Are you accusing me of being the cause of that man’s death?’ Mr. Boardman hollered. ‘I am,’ Rolly said. Boardman threw his riding crop on the ground and stormed away. Just as I thought it safe to show myself, he turned back and told Rolly they needed to talk. ‘Bring the union representatives to my house first thing Monday morning. I’ve got some serious thinking to do between now and then.”

Will’s head whirled with all this information. “But what about Leo? What’s going to happen to him?”

“Aw, I bet old Rolly will just fire him and he and his da will have to go on to some other mining town to look for work.”

“Not many who’ll miss him or his strange da either.” Will clapped his friend on the shoulder. “Gotta go, Artie. We’ll talk some more later.”

He raced on to the park, his eyes searching for his teacher but his mind still filled with Artie’s story.

* * * *

Miss Duncan handed Will his essay paper, and he climbed the two steps to the bandstand. The members of the band, miners all, set their instruments on the floor as he turned to face the people of Medlin. He scanned the crowd for some special faces. Gran and Da sat on a quilt, and Uncle Jack stood nearby, thumbs under his suspenders. Emily’s family sat next to them, the contents of their hamper spread across the blanket. Miss Duncan sat with Doc Pettle and his family. She wore her black straw hat with the cherries on it today. Freddie and his girl were off to the edge of the crowd, holding hands.

Finally, he found the one person he hoped would be at the park today. Zena waited far from the rest of the crowd, but he could see her bright shawl, and the sparkle of her earrings as the sun’s rays hit them. This second grandmother had kept her promise to come to Festival Day to hear him read.

Will cleared his throat. His voice shook a little when he read the title of his paper. He never thought he’d be nervous, but his knees shook like jelly. He cleared his throat again and watched Zena move closer to the bandstand. Her bracelets tinkled as she clasped her hands, and her smile reached right into his heart.

His knees stopped shaking, and his voice was stronger as he stepped forward. “I came here to read my essay today, but I’ve been trying to tell my family and my friends some good news all morning, only everyone has been too busy to listen. Doc Pettle hired me to be his helper after school and on Saturdays, so I won’t be going back to the mine to work. I’m going to go to school every day, here in Medlin, and someday maybe I’ll go to college in Iowa City.”

Gran got to her feet and started toward the bandstand, but Da jumped up and held her back. She wilted in his arms, then pulled a handkerchief from her apron pocket and dabbed at her eyes. When she smiled at Will, his heart skipped a beat. It was all right. Gran was happy about this new turn of events. And she’d done what Da wanted just now. Maybe lots of things were about to change.

Miss Duncan hurried to the bandstand. “Oh Will, I’m so very happy things are going to be all right for you. But you’d better get to your paper now. People are waiting to hear why you like school.” A single tear slipped down her cheek.

Will began to read. “School’s about the best thing in my life. My teachers have shown me the world right here in Medlin. Let me tell you what it means to me.”

He’d read his paper, then spend the rest of Festival Day having a good time. There’d be music and games and good things to eat. He’d tell Emily all that Artie had said. They wouldn’t have to worry about Leo any longer, and maybe one day soon the mine would be a safer place for their fathers to work. Life was good again.