Saturday, July 20, 2013

Blacksmith scene

Marc Cameron wrote a blog on Western Fictioneers about shoeing horses. Some time ago, in Pitchfork Justice, I wrote of the meeting of two blacksmiths. I wonder if Marc thinks it rings true.


     I climbed off the buckskin and looped his reins over the hitching rail. I motioned for the Norway men to do the same. We strode to Swede's forge, me being the smallest of the three. Swede just kept working that hot iron while we stood there. But I saw a gleam in Bjornsen's eye. He saw that the Swede worked the iron well. 
     I'd noticed Swede laboring alone before. No one worked the bellows for him and no one helped him beat out a rhythm on the anvil. 
     At last, he shoved the piece in a bucket of water. A cloud of steam arose, along with the wet smell of hot iron. He laid the work back on the anvil and looked at us. 
     "Well?" 
     "My name's Ness Havelock," I said, "brother to Garet Havelock of the H-Cross ranch on Silver Creek." 
     Swede nodded that he knew Garet. 
     "I seen you working by yourself the other day, and Bjornsen here says he's a journeyman smith. Thought you might have a few day's work for him." 
     Swede motioned to Bjornsen. The big Norwegian went to the bellows without a word and started pumping them with a pair of arms as thick as a grown man's thigh. Swede took some tongs and turned the work in the coals, making sure it heated to a uniform cherry red. 
     As he pulled the work from the forge, Swede nodded toward the other hammer on the bench. Bjornsen took it up in a ham-like fist and stepped to the far side of the anvil. Swede hit the anvil twice with his hammer to set the rhythm, then those two big men took to pounding that piece of iron one after the other in perfect time. Each time he turned the work, Swede would hit the anvil twice and they'd take up their rhythm again. Before you'd know it, Swede was holding a perfect buggy spring in his tongs. The two had not said a single word to each other. 
     "Good," Swede pronounced. "A dollar a day." 
     Bjornsen looked at Roald, who spoke to him in Norwegian. The big man grinned. He stuck out a huge hand to Swede, who gripped it, sealing the deal. 

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