In the Backcountry Ep 123

Drums of Autumn

Chapters 14-15

Week 9

“Into the Backcountry”

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With much haste, they leave Cross Creek by night to take Pollyanne to safety. They ride until dawn. Claire learns a new method of tick removal. They come across a spooky abandoned Indian village. They make camp near a stream. Myers tells the story of the Tuscarora. Claire hopes Pollyanne will be accepted by the Indians. Myers and Young Ian part with Jamie and Claire to take Pollyanne north. Jamie and Claire head southwest to survey the offered lands. Jamie fights and kills a bear. Claire tends his wounds. They become acquainted with three native hunters.

Inside the Chapters:

Part Five: Strawberry Fields Forever

Chapter 14: Flee from Wrath to Come

August 1767

Pollyanne had been hiding in a tobacco shed on the edge of Farquard Campbell’s property. Claire notes the lavender sky and the ghostly nature of the woman as she exited the building cloaked. Pollyanne is frightened of the horse and refuses to take the reins. Claire offers to have the woman ride with her, so she feels safer. It’s difficult to swap her to Claire’s horse, but eventually, they get it done. The poor woman is terrified. She clings tightly to Claire. The woman shivers behind Claire as if chilled. Poor sweetie. She’s new from Africa, and now she’s to be given to the Indians (Native Americans) for her safety. The appearance of Rollo adds another dimension of fear for Pollyanne and Claire’s horse (p277, Nook). Claire and Jamie try to determine if she understands where they are taking her. Not knowing what tongue she might understand, Jamie reaches out, squeezes her foot, and says freedom. This she understands and sighs in relief. (1:20)

Myer’s leads them in an unspoken urgency. Pollyanne is becoming accustomed to the riding and feeling less afraid. She even dozes, leaning onto Claire’s shoulder occasionally. Claire is tired and being lulled by the sound of the horse’s hooves and the forest surrounding them (p279, Nook).

At dawn, they stopped to rest during the light and heat of the day. They woke covered in ticks. Though Claire, as usual, doesn’t attract the appetite of the 18th-century bugs. She did, however, carefully checks Jamie and everyone else after they slept. Pollyanne has a different method of tick removal (p280, Nook). The seeds she chewed are called paw-paw and are toxic if swallowed. Pollyanne’s stature reminds Claire of African fertility images. After dinner, Pollyanne is willing to ride on her own. She is more comfortable with Claire and excitedly communicates the best she can. Claire understands her better than she understands Claire. Apparently, Claire isn’t so skilled with body language communication.

They enter a clearing with grassy mounds. Pollyanne is disquieted. She believes this place is evil. Myers explains this place likely used to be a Tuscarora village. He isn’t sure what happened. Illness or warfare could be the culprit. They rode on. They are climbing higher into the mountains. The landscape changes to chestnut trees, oak, hickory, dogwood, persimmon, chinkapin, and poplar. The air is lighter and fresher. They have left the smothering heat and humidity of the lowlands. Claire is connecting with nature with every joyous breath.

On the sixth day, they are deep into the mountains when they come across a large waterfall. Young Ian is surprised to hear Myers say it’s not the biggest one he’s ever seen. They camped near a stream hoping for a dinner of fresh trout. Pollyanne brings a bucket of water to make a batch of corn dodgers. They are delicious when fresh and edible for a few days though they lose flavor.

Pollyanne is not her normal exuberant self. This is the last night they are all together. Myers will take her into the Indian territory the next day. Maybe she is worried about her uncertain future. Pollyanne makes the batter; Claire tends the fire, Myers goes to smoke a pipe, while Jamie and Young Ian continue fishing. Claire wonders what type of place Pollyanne is from and what things could be going through her mind. It’s a great unknown.

Rollo joins them by the fire. He noses both Claire and Pollyanne. Pollyanne is not wanting his attention, turns and spit in his eye (p285, Nook). The corn dodgers are cooking, filling the area with comforting smells. The fire seems a place of refuge in this wild place. She wonders if the fire had held back jungle darkness protecting Pollyanne and her people from leopards. Was it comfort in her land or just an illusion of safety? It had to be an illusion since she was taken and brought to the Colonies. Claire dared not ask.

The fishing is very good. Jamie and Young Ian are ecstatic for their catches (p285, Nook). The mere mention of Indians by Myers has Young Ian asking questions. The conversation turns to the abandoned village they’d passed through earlier. Myers explains about the Tuscarora War from forty years earlier. The result was a devastation to the Tuscarora nation with only seven villages left.  The Mohawk had adopted the Tuscarora, or they would have been completely wiped out. This helped the Tuscarora because they were allowed entrance into the Iroquois League. Jamie wants to know why the fierce Mohawk would want to adopt an ailing tribe (p287, Nook). Myers explains further how the Indians cannot hold their drink. Even the first drop is too much for them. Also, their numbers need replacing, so with their similar languages, the Mohawk took in the Tuscarora. These are the people Myers means to have Pollyanne adopted to as their own.

Claire asks if the Tuscarora have seen a black woman before. He thinks there are many who’ve never seen a white person before. He thinks they will like her just fine (p289, Nook). Claire and Jamie aren’t sure if this exchange would be a good thing or not. They have eye conversation about it. Jamie speaks up and puts a hand on Myers (p289, Nook). Young Ian jumps in and says he’s going with Mr. Myers to the Indian village. He told him. He didn’t ask for permission. The clever boy knows Jamie can’t say it’s too dangerous or why are they taking a woman and leaving her there?

The mating ritual is in full swing between Myers and Pollyanne. Without words, she blatantly invites him to bed with her. As they all bed down for the night, Claire wonders if she would do differently? If she was dependent upon a man to get her to safety, would she not do anything to ensure he protected her? When a snapping sound alarms Jamie to take his hand from under Claire’s shirt, then replace it with a squeeze of her breast knowing there’s no danger, no difference at all. Her future isn’t certain either, and she depended upon Jamie, a man bound to her in part by a desire for her body. She describes the cool night, the wind, and the sky. Ultimately, there were differences between her dependency on Jamie and Pollyanne being with Myers. She and Jamie were bonded beyond the flesh, and above all simply for the fact that she had chosen to be there.

Chapter 15: Noble Savages

After making plans to meet in ten days’ time, Jamie and Claire turned southwest, while Myers, Young Ian, and Pollyanne turned to the north. Claire takes in the vastness of this place. Beautiful, rich, and wild. Claire said nothing to Jamie about her worries about anyone being able to live in such a place. She simply followed along behind him. When something new is going to happen, her thoughts are often filled with all the what ifs, the things she’s scared of before she comes to a sense of okay. She must allow the chaos and worry to make itself known before settling into the certainty of a decision.

They make camp near a stream. It’s twilight. The fireflies are out. Jamie loves this time of day. It’s when he would leave the cave after Culloden (p292, Nook).  Claire remembers Father Anselm from the Abbey. He always said there was a time of day when time seemed to stop. He thought it could be the hour one was born. Jamie thinks the Father is right (p292, Nook). Claire doesn’t know the hour of her birth. It wasn’t written on her birth certificate. She knows when Brianna was born though, 3:03 a.m. Jamie is surprised to learn Claire was awake for the birth because she had told him of twilight sleep (p293, Nook). After hearing this, Jamie explains all the ways he’s almost died; he’d be okay dying in his sleep, in bed next to her when he was very old.

Jamie tended to the fire while Claire went fishing. It was dark when she returned with the gutted fish. She asks Jamie what he thinks it’s like to die (p294, Nook). Jamie set to cook the fish. Claire thinks about the hours she has sat where time stops. It’s peaceful without a name. If death lies there, she’d be okay with it. Her eyes were closed; she feels Jamie brush her shoulder. Then she hears Jamie eight feet away exclaim from cutting himself (p295, Nook). It is a large black bear. Jamie was brawling the bear. It is quite a fight. Jamie is holding his own. Jamie tells Claire to run. She must do something. She finds the fish that had been flung into the clearing. She thought she was hitting the bear on the nose with it. The bear notices Claire, and it goes after her with Jamie clinging to its neck with a death grip. Claire moves fast. She heard growling and Gaelic screeches among the rolling mass.  She was yelling for Jamie. She smells blood in the air. Jamie finally crawls into the clearing (p297, Nook). Yes, she had hit Jamie in the head with the fish, not the bear. Claire assesses for injury. There’s nothing broken, but he has terrible bruising. Claire goes to calm the horses. When she returns, Jamie has the fire rekindled. He does have scratches on his back from the bear claws.  As she looks at his back, they discuss why a black bear would attack. Usually, provocation caused them to do so. Claire peels his shredded shirt away to see four gouges (p299, Nook). She needs to cleanse the wounds. She remembers seeing arrowhead by the stream. She gives him a bottle of ale, he assures her he’ll be fine, and goes to get the medicinal plant.

The stream is cold. As she collected the plant, frogs sang around her, it felt so peaceful, until the stress of what just happened hit Claire. She shook so violently she needed to sit down. Death could come anytime. The thought of losing Jamie in a blink of an eye terrified her. She splashes cold water on her face and heads back to him. She can fight any infection that might occur. His care is in her hands now. As she returns to him, he’s sitting bolt upright (p300, Nook). So, they were correct; the bear had been provoked. The three Indians sized up Jamie and Claire, while they did the same. The men didn’t speak French or English. They rely on gestures and body language. One of the young men mimics a bear. Jamie points to where it lies. Jamie understands they are hunters and have no ill intention. Then he thinks he’s going to faint. Claire won’t let him. The men drag the bear over near the fire. The men are impressed that Jamie killed the near with his bare hands and the dirk. One of them decides he can treat Jamie’s wounds (p302, Nook). Jamie is pale and barely holding to consciousness. He asks for a whisky. This is risky knowing how alcohol is dangerous for Indians to drink. If he didn’t offer to share it, they would just take it. The older man appreciated the bouquet of the whisky. He doesn’t drink from it though; he has another purpose in mind first (p303, Nook). The man then handed the pipe to Jamie. When it was Claire’s turn, she inhaled instead of only allowing the smoke to enter her mouth.

One of the men comes up to Claire to ensure she’s a woman. To her surprise, he reaches out and grabs her breast. He gestures if she and Jamie are together. Jamie says she’s his. They were going to skin the bear, but Jamie claims the right to do so. Before he begins, he says the gralloch prayer. The men were impressed by his praying over the bear. It’s hard work skinning an animal. Jamie offered his knife to one of the men. This meant he is offering part of the meat as well. Claire wants to know what the older man did with the whisky (p306, Nook). Claire forgets how formidable Jamie is and what he must look like to others. She can see the air of savagery in him. It’s not just the English who think Highlanders are barbarians it seems. These men understood quickly he was a fellow hunter and a civilized man.

Jamie was gesturing and acting out the bear attack. He included Claire hitting him in the head with a fish mid-fight. They eat dinner together under the watchful dead eyes of the bear head. They were sharing stories. They exchange names. Claire’s name came out “Klah” which they found exceedingly funny. These men are Tuscarora. One is named Nacognaweto. Jamie asks the names of the items surrounding them. He is quickly picking up their language.

Claire is too tired to stay awake for any more of the conversation. Jamie is well enough. She curls up by his feet under the watched by the dead bear eyes, and she sleeps.

What an adventurous week they’ve had. They take Pollyanne from the near grip of the law to the backcountry. While Young Ian and Myers took her to the Indians, Jamie and Claire headed toward the land the Governor offered him. The bear attack scared the daylights out of them both. This land is wild and dangerous. Death could easily come at any time. Do you suppose people valued the moments more than knowing there were so many ways death could come? I think we believe death is far away in our westernized lives. There is a sense of delayed mortality. We’re always shocked when death or major illness occurs. It’s an illusion of safety just like Pollyanne had in her African village. It’s a good reminder to make time for the truly important things in life. I am always captured by how Jamie and Claire talk about things. Their conversations are meaningful yet seem easy. They’ve fallen back into their voiceless and verbal communication with barely a re-learning curve. I do think the Outlander series is a marriage manual.

What’s Coming up? Chapter 16 and 17 Drums of Autumn (DOA).

How can you participate? Send your comments to or call the listener line at 719-425-9444 by Friday of each week. If you’re reading ahead, you can leave comments for any part of the book too. Join the weekly Twitter chat Wednesday nights at 6 pm PT/9pm ET using the hashtag #ADoO. Comments or messages may be included in the podcast or a written post.

The Outlander book series is written by Diana Gabaldon. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook

All images are Wiki Commons. Featured image – By Thomson200 (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

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