Author Harold Raley will speak about his new book, Louisiana Rogue, at the Friendswood Public Library on Monday, June 17 at 7pm.
Below is an excerpt from Harold Raley’s Louisiana Rogue: The Life and Times of Pierre Prospère-Tourmoulin:
Part III: How Peter descended from the heavens and was reunited with Father Branigan; his seminary studies for the priesthood; how He and Lawler Adkins were cleverly relieved of their funds and left holding a braying ass; and how they parted ways.
Far, far from Memphis I flew in fair Caroline’s balloon. Hours passed as the south wind moaned and the basket swayed and creaked, carrying me with immeasurable velocity along the serpentine course of the Mississippi. Occasional river craft greeted my passing with their deep-throated horns, and I could make out the ant-like figures of passengers waving their tiny arms at me.
The day finished and night passed as the balloon continued its uncharted celestial trajectory. As morning broke again, I perceived that my curious conveyance had descended alarmingly from its once majestic career. Only then did I espy the bullet hole from which the captured gas was escaping. It was too high for me to reach, and even by some unlikely maneuver I should attain it, I had no means at my disposal for stanching its wound, nor of knowing whether the bullet had torn another hole opposite the first. A desperate thought crossed my mind that by discarding the coins I might gain time and distance, for a survey of the landscape now revealed only a featureless expanse of swampy desolation. This alternative I rejected out of hand: it was better to fall rich than float poor.
But upon closer inspection of my purloined fortune, it appeared that float or fall, I would not do so as a rich man. The sum was vastly inferior to my expectations, barely exceeding two hundred dollars. Indeed some of the coins---sixty or seventy unless my memory fails---were Spanish milled dollars, but the others---greater in number---were inferior American coins worth much less. I cursed Pollard anew.
By noonday I was riding at treetop level, and before another hour passed the basket touched ground, at first with a mere brush, then with rude bounces and the crashing of branches and slapping of grasses. I was reconciled to ending my flight on this contemptible terrain when a gust of wind lifted me momentarily above the trees and carried me towards what appeared to be a forested creekbed. The balloon swooped into the dark void, made a valiant effort to clear the opposing slope and with a stunning thud slammed into profuse underbrush. The basket was demolished by the impact and I, thrown clear of my craft, rolled several meters towards the water. The chemise and cravat were stained by dirt and grass, and I abandoned them with a momentary sadness.
Like a dying behemoth, the balloon billowed and rippled as it strained to lift itself from the ensnarling branches. But its life was spent, and gradually the valentine heart settled to its death, draped across the scrub. My flight had ended. I had come to earth again, though I knew not where or in what circumstances.
Shedding my dress, I strapped my coins and other possessions around my body, then slid and stumbled my way down to the creek bed. No doubt I exaggerate by giving such a wholesome appellation to the paltry stream I discovered there. For in truth it was but a sliver of water meandering from pool to pool amidst sandy banks. On these I perceived a multitude of animal tracks, but ignorant of nature and lacking the hunter’s eye, I could not discern whether they were of beasts placid or predatory. Nor found I any human trace amongst them.
I was ravenously thirsty and hungry. I slaked my thirst in one of the pools, but the prospects for food were so unlikely as to conjure up before me the fearful specter of starvation. I saw fish darting about in the deeper pools, but without hook and line or spear to snare them or fire to cook them, I could fathom no means of converting them into sustenance. Searching further downstream, I discovered a few late-season blackberries that I devoured in frenzied haste.
The berries and water abated my appetite sufficiently for me to consider my options with a clearer head. My earlier aerial survey of the landscape afforded me no clue of human habitation and dispelled any profitless thought of abandoning the creek bed for the forested plain.
As I pondered these dreary possibilities, I thought to perceive human voices, but listening intently for a time, I saw no one and decided with some concern for my health that my mind, weakened by all that beset me, was playing tricks on me…