The Legend of Zacharias Bean
Author: Anne Marie Olsen
Genre: Tall Tale
Synopsis: An unusual friendship develops between an ancient gold miner and a feisty freckle-faced girl.
There once was the tale of Zacharias Bean. He was as old as the hills and had fierce beady eyes that could freeze a squirrel to a lamppost. His beard and mustache were grey and unruly. His brows grew together in one great scowl!
The children of Banner Ridge scattered whenever they spied his bony frame clattering up the road, on his way to town. People said he made a pact with the devil in exchange for a map to the Mother Lode. His claim was guarded by two men from the Orient and a pack of dogs. The men were tall and strong. They had long back braids and swords hung from the sashes at their waists. The dogs were fierce and wild. They snapped at any miner who dared venture too close.
Needless to say, there was great speculation about what that claim held that required such ardent security measures. Zacharias came into town once a week for supplies. He always paid in shiny, gold nuggets.
One day, the men in town tried inviting Zacharias to a fine evening of beer and cards. The old man flung insults at them in such a fiery storm that it echoed up and down Main Street for a week and a day! Sister Mary Theresa Elizabeth spent two hours in confession that week, for musing too long on the colorful language old Zacharias spewed.
Though the old miner inspired fear in just about every soul in town, there was one exception. Little Priscilla Peacock, just ten years old, had a fondness for the old man. She lived on the neighboring parcel with her parents, an elderly aunt, and three little brothers.
Priscilla was a confident, fiery little thing. Her hair was as red as a rooster’s tail and her freckles peppered the top of her head to the tips of her toes. This made her the fodder of school yard jokes and forced her to be tough. A couple of tumbles in the dirt and bullies learned to keep their distance.
Old Zacharias witnessed one such scuffle, on a cool September afternoon, as he was leaving Schaeffer’s Apothecary and Home Goods. Priscilla stood up and the two sheep-faced boys scattered. Her dress was torn and a button was missing from her pink Gingham dress. Her eyes met his. The old miner scowled, then his eyes widened in surprise as the spunky girl stared him down! A thin line of blood trickled from her nose and across her lip.
Without breaking the gaze, she swiped the blood carelessly with the back of her tattered sleeve.
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