We had no idea our leader was sending professional troops to save us. We didn’t know we needed saving. We didn’t even know there was a problem. Friends got news to us with just five days warning. Our little farming and animal husbandry community had always taken care of ourselves and was happy to lend a hand when our neighbors needed help. Now we were about to be invaded to protect us from a problem we were completely unaware of. We’ve always solved our differences by ourselves. If we had been offered assistance, we would have refused. We were not given the opportunity.
We started by talking to those of us who lived in our small village. We had aspirations of growing and becoming a town. It looked as if our aspirations and our dreams didn’t matter. We sent out runners asking for volunteers as well as details on what could be gathered to begin a defense: food, weapons, horses, hay, grains, volunteers, beer, wine, and any type of medical assistance that could be offered.
In addition to our own community, we positioned three look outs (two women and one man, each with two horses). The first one would camp along the only road from the capitol – three days march away, the second two days march away, and the third just one day away. We did not stop the advance and did nothing to provoke a response. We simply collected details, laid out alternative plans, and devised a way to communicate. Their last encampment was only a short distance from our village.
We were prepared to welcome and listen. There was absolutely zero communication when the invasion began an hour before noon. From the balcony of our simple local inn I looked up from the valley floor and watched their infantry and cavalry forming up. The infantry marched a third of the way down the valley slope and then divided in half thereby leaving an open passage for the cavalry to charge through and gain momentum against any and all opposition from our town. We knew they had no cannon. We could see nothing that looked surprising. We had already guessed they were expecting little or no opposition. Our lookouts saw no movement behind them. Basically there was one trail in and that same trail out. We had no real escape route other than an old path leading further up the mountain. Since this was the start of spring, it was our only real back-up consideration.
Carefully strolling in full view of the enemy on their way to the inn were four women in blouses, skirts, and hats. They were the sweetest women you would ever want to meet. They joined me on the balcony as if they were ready to enjoy a spring parade. With an enemy drum roll, we watched the first rank of cavalry mount their horses, then the second, then the third, fourth and fifth. This attack formation was nothing new. Behind the cavalry was the leader on his horse, which was being held by the bit by the aide.
The four women were game hunters and excellent shots. Their rifles were waiting for them. I reminded them “Shoot the horses . . . one, three, five, and seven.” As the cavalry commander dropped his sword. Each rank spurred their horses forward. We held our fire for ten yards and then four triggers pulled in unison. The horses did not drop. The wounded animals shrieked in pain and bolted sideways and backwards, any way but forward. “Reload, aim for the rumps.” Soon a good third of the cavalry horses were charging sideways into the infantry or back up the hill. Our men and women (dressed like men) stepped together out of the woods lining the valley and road down towards our village. The opposition lost all hope seeing defenders stepforward with weapons (poles the same length as a rifle and painted black).
I gave my last battle command, “Re-load and aim a foot above the leader’s head. Eight shots later the leader had no head, but his body stayed on his horse which now bucked and joined the confusion and retreat. Initially the soldiers all headed back up the hill and the road back to the capitol, but the smoke and explosions from the munitions wagon caused even more panic among the invaders. Fire arrows had been launched at the munitions’ wagon in response to our first volley.
A number of our animal care people rushed in and calmed the horses and tended their wounds. It took several days to clean up the valley. Reports came back several weeks later about the massacre and how we had overwhelmed the troops with outside assistance from paid soldiers and scalawags over the mountains. Rumors spread that we had tortured those who were captured and the bodies were all rolled over the cliffs never to been seen from, again.
Reality was a little different. Fire arrows aimed at the munitions wagon struck on command, buy the fires were put out immediately by us amid the chaos that followed. Every man woman and child was able to pick up a rifle and ammunition for their own protection and hunting. The remainder were cleaned and oiled and put in storage. Food stuffs were divided as well. Two horses had to be put out of their misery from broken legs. All others became farming stock or personal transportation. One member of the cavalry lost his life from a broken neck when he was thrown off his mount. There were no other fatalities. The capitol was correct when they claimed a high loss of life, however. Many soldiers did not return, but chose to stay and live in Morningside. Eligible young women found husbands and just a little over a year later we celebrated an explosion of Morningside babies. Rumors also abound that some older women with property also found younger mates.
Usually it’s the victors that get to write history, but in this case we kept quiet and grew stronger. On Massacre Remembrance Day we all repeat: “Never under-estimate your opponent. Never over-estimate your opponent. Always have a surprise!”
The leader who lost his head? It turned out he was a real dummy stuffed with hay. The only thing found of the real leader-in-charge was his uniform hastily abandoned on the road leading away from Morningside. Now, we hope that a lesson learned will keep the fools away. But, I doubt it.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.