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Epinetus Birdsall sat back as he finished telling Esquire George Parks about his grandfather’s search for a new homestead. After being rather quite for a minute or so he continued.


“So Mr. Parks, how did you find your way here to the Preston Manor Home? You were here before, were you not? The home master said that you wanted to interview me about some relative of yours.”


And the second visit between “Mr. Esquire George Park” and Epinetus Birdsall had started.


“His name again, please? Ah yes, your father-in-law Jean Guilliame de Besse! Remind me again, how would I have come to know him?”


Esquire Parks had to remind Epinetus that Jean Guilliame de Besse was his father-in-law. Parks had married de Besse’s daughter. The esquire had not yet lost patience with Epinetus; he realized that he was getting rather old and had been in the home for the indigent for quite some time.


“Oh, the Frenchman, John Bessac! Yes, yes. I knew of him well. He lived up-river from Grandfather. That was fifty or sixty years ago. I was born two years after his death in 1824. Even though I was only a boy I do remember the many conversations Grandfather and other neighbors had regarding Mr. Bessac’s French Language books and the stories about his life.”


The esquire appeared to be losing interest as Epinetus rambled on.


“I know, I know. You asked me about him at the initial interview. However, I do need to finish Grandfather Birdsall’s story so that you can better understand how Mr. Bessac’s story fits in. Patience, young man, patience. We will get to your Frenchman shortly.”


Esquire Park nodded and smiled; as if he understood.


“Let me think now. Oh yes. Grandfather had promised to purchase that special parcel of land from Esquire Garnsey. They stayed one more night at Mr. Juliand’s home in Greene. The next morning they parted ways. The Esquire headed for his full-time home in Norwich and Grandfather returned to Salem on the same path that he had travelled on a few days earlier. That was eight months before Grandfather made his first payment to Esquire Garnsey and twenty months before the family moved from Salem to Greene.”


Epinetus continued telling George Parks the story.


“As Grandfather made that return trip home he encountered those cold nights and dry warm days of early September. The ride was at a brisk pace, for the most part, due to the familiarity of the trail. As he rode along Grandfather thought about his conversations with Esquire Garnsey and weighed them against the Quaker precepts that he had learned in the weekly Salem meetings. The traveling ministers had left these impressions on him.”


Precept 1: Keep thine heart always open to the Light that is Christ.


Precept 2: Love they wife, but beware of the snares and curses that thy comforts could prove.


Precept 3: In conversation with strangers, mark carefully what thou open thine mouth to say. Hide thy own mind. Mark well what others say or do. Open sparingly, as the matter will let you.


Precept 4: Be niether a manufacturer, seller or user of alchohol; avoid tobacco in all its forms.


Precept 5: Be neither a pessimist, lest though judge all men to be depraved, nor an optimist, lest though replace God with man.


Precept 6: Collect and pay all just debts owed to you or that thou owest to others.


“Grandfather quivered in his saddle as he realized that he had violated a precept. In doing so he may not have made the best business deal. His own words echoed in his ears ‘My own Hudson River Estate!’”


“Grandfather berated himself. ’How foolish of me to let my thoughts be known. Could it be that my sins started because of this trip itself? I did become prideful and very optimistic of my own ability as I followed the map through the Katskills.’ He thought about Esquire Garnsey’s advice to take the Susquehanna Turnpike from Unadilla to Katskill-on-the-Hudson. Grandfather was pleased with his decision not to take the turnpike. He had good information that was gathered from traveling ministers in the Society of Friends Meetings. The turnpike was no place for a Quaker to travel alone. The taverns suffered from an abundance of inebriates and questionable women. Fornication, gaming and taking oaths were commonplace. Grandfather had also been informed that local road thieves abounded. And, if they were caught, other local accomplices would give false witness against the traveler; accusing him of thievery.”


George Parks was silent as Epinetus sat deep in thought. It was obvious that he was grappling with a poor memory. Minutes passed as George sat patiently. Finally Epinetus put some pieces together.


© wtomosky