Raleigh, North Carolina
“Okay, my friends! It’s time to put your backpacks on and to follow me!”
Seven people dressed for a long hike fell into an irregular line behind their guide Jeb Brewster, III. Four men, and three women. All city-slickers. All wearing expensive new gear and clothing.
All out for a big adventure.
“North Carolina is the Pine Tree State,” Jeb said, as he led his clients deeper into a narrow forest pathway.
“We have eight different kinds of pine. My favorite is those loblolly pines on your right.” Nine pairs of eyes briefly swiveled to the right. Thus far, Jeb was the only one talking which wasn’t unusual.
Finally, the woman just behind Jeb asked, “How long until we set up camp?”
“Another hour,” Jeb replied.
There were more than 5,500 acres of woodlands inside the city’s Outer Loop, and Jeb knew them all like the back of his hand. He was raised in these wild woods. His family, the Brewster’s lived in Raleigh since 1800.
Jeb came from a long line of famous guides, and trackers. His reputation brought in a steady flow of clients. He charged more than any of the other local guides, but promised an adventure of a lifetime.
He refused to take a client who wasn’t in good physical shape. He made his clients sign contracts that they would not sue him if something went wrong on the four-day excursion.
Jeb called for a 10-minute break for anyone who had to void their bladder. It was a good time to sit for a short spell. Jeb had set a brutal initial pace to make sure they made it to the first clearing to camp out before night fall.
The group sat around a fire Jeb built and smoked weed. They laughed, ate food, and told scary stories late into the night. Jeb listened, but didn’t contribute to the story-telling. He quietly sipped on a silver flask filled with homemade moonshine.
A Red Wolf howled as the group settled down for the night. Two raccoons watched them from the concealment of the debris on the forest floor. A Bobcat slowly approached the fire but suddenly ran away when Jeb threw a rock at it.
The pace was slower the next day. They were in Cherokee territory when Jeb began pointing out small monuments, and grave sites off the beaten trail. He talked to them about how the white man almost wiped the Cherokee off the face of the earth.
On the second night they camped out near a running stream. This time the group built the bonfire. After listening to the group tell their stories for awhile Jeb spoke up, “I’ve got a story for you folks.”
The little group turned their full attention on Jeb.
“My kin have been up here for over 200 years. The first Brewster to enter these parts befriended the Cherokee people. We even intermarried. My mother was mostly Cherokee. Through all of these years we’ve hunted these woodlands.
“Heck! We still enjoy hunting, but we’ve been running out of game for the last twenty years.”
One of the men coughed, and then passed his pipe to the woman next to him.
“That’s why I decided to start my own guide business. City folk like adventures in the wild and like I told you from the onset, I’ll provide you with the experience of a lifetime. If you live through it, you’ll agree.”
Nine worried sets of eyes latched onto Jeb. “What the hell?” one man asked.
Then the group saw them. They were wearing traditional war paint and carried tomahawks. Their leader came up to Jeb…and they hugged.
“Joseph says he’ll give you a lead,” he told the group. “You have until daylight. If you bear north you just might make it back to Raleigh!”
As It Stands, traditionally native Americans have got the short end of the stick. I thought I’d reverse that for once.