(Note: The events comprised in this play cover a longer period of time than is suggested here.)
SCENE: An open woodland. Place, the Blue Lick Springs, Kentucky, 1778. Trees right, left, and background. A slightly worn path leads to background where the salt springs are supposed to be. Tall poles with skins on them. A large kettle swings over the fire in right foreground. Near it are other kettles, iron saucepans, and sacks for salt. In center background a hollow tree with swinging moss covering its opening. A fallen log near the kettles serves as a seat.
The play begins by young Allan Rigdon coming out of woods, left, with a few fagots which he feeds to the fire, bending over it, and looking in the kettle. James Colby comes by the half-worn path from background, carrying a bucket of water.
COLBY (calling). How comes the salt, Rigdon? If ’twere not that these licks give it in such abundance, ’twould try a lad’s patience sorely. ’Tis like a girl’s work—tending kettles! And hardly a man’s work—carrying water from a spring. (Puts down pail of water.) ’Faith, my arms are stiff, and my fingers also! If an Indian sprang at me from a thicket I could not so much as cock my gun! What shall I do next? Carry more water? The rest are still drawing it—more girl’s work, if you’ll leave me call it so! (As a slight sound is heard at left.) Heaven’s mercy! What’s that? (Seizes gun.) Is it Indians?
BOONE (quietly approaching from left). And if it were, would your work be only girl’s work, Colby? It shows you but a foolish lad to speak of it thus lightly. With all Boonesborough in need of salt, with our cattle and horses half-perishing for the want of it, with the way that lies to the licks a very wilderness road for danger, ’twould hardly be called girl’s work to tend these kettles—brave as our frontier women are. ’Tis men’s work, Colby, although you be but lads who do it.
The wilderness makes men of lads right quickly; does it not, Master
BOONE (seated on log). Aye, that it does. If it were not for the stress of the times, and the scarcity of men to keep watch, you should be back in Boonesborough, and not here, my lads. But ’twas for your courage and skill that I chose you. How comes the salt, Rigdon?
Finely, sir, finely. And the hunting?
BOONE (shaking his head). Scarce enough to keep a fox alive. I must start forth again. There should be plenty of bison fat and deer meat for the days that are coming. (Enter Kenton with bucket of water. He puts it down, and salutes Boone.) Well, Kenton, what news from the springs?
KENTON. The same as ever, sir. Blaize Pritchard and Edward Bryan stand guard while the rest of us carry water. The camp is as you see it. There’s not been a sign of an Indian since you left us yesternight.
You do not ask what I’ve brought back with me, Kenton.