Submission Guidelines Galway Press is Oghma Creative Mediaâ€™s western imprint, and Saddlebag Dispatches is our quarterly e-magazine. We are looking for short stories, serial novels, poetry, and non-fiction articles about the west. These will have themes of open country, unforgiving nature, struggles to survive and settle the land, freedom from authority, cooperation with fellow adventurers, and other experiences that human beings encounter in the frontier. Traditional westerns are set left of the Mississippi River and between the end of the American Civil War and the turn of the twentieth century. But the western is not limited to that time. The essence, though, is openness and struggle. These are happening now as much as they were in the years gone by. Query letter: Put this in the e-mail message: In the first paragraph, give the title of the work, and specify whether it is fiction, poetry, or non-fiction. If the latter, give the subject. The second paragraph should be a biography under two hundred words. Manuscript formatting: All documents must be in Times New Roman, twelve-point font, double spaced, with one inch margins all around. Do not include extra space between paragraphs. Do not write in all caps, and avoid excessive use of italics, bold, and exclamation marks. Files must be in .doc format. Submit the entire and complete fiction or poetry manuscript. We will consider proposals for non-fiction articles. Other attachments: Please also submit a picture of yourself and any pictures related to your manuscript. Manuscripts will be edited for grammar and spelling. Submit to email@example.com. Put Saddlebag in the subject line.
CONTENTS Saddlebag Dispatches Columnists Hold Tight, Cowboy
Back In The Day
Heroes & Outlaws
Best of the West
D us ty Richards
J.B. Hoga n
Vel da Broth er ton
Jo h n T. Biggs
Rod M iller
Fingernail Moon Pam e la Fo s te r
The Unlawful Adventures of Boomer, Cyclone, and Rosie Red Bonnie Tes h
The Hair & The Heart S ter ling Benne tt
A Funeral Ain’t The Place Dus ty Richar ds
11 33 91 99
Out of A Job, Not Earning A Dime Dus t y Rich a r d s
Canyonlands Jo h n T. Big g s
Dr. Gatling’s Demonic Machine
The Art of the Draw The Art and Faith of Western Artist Dawne Michelle Smith Pame la Fo s t e r
Go r d o n L . Ro t t m an
The Passing of No. Sixteen
Ro d M iller
irst thanks for your submissions and your support of the first Saddlebag Dispatches edition. I have to tell you, last spring when I sat down in the Atlanta Bread Company with my cohorts, I never expected to see the Saddlebag Dispatches copy we produced for our first issue. I went to Sacramento WWA Convention last June all geared up, and thanks to my friends at WWA and elsewhere for their support, we completed the first one. But my partners are the miracle workers to get it all wrapped in such a great package again. Casey Cowan and others under the company banner have taken a handful of writers to new heights in their careers and the number keeps growing. But we aren’t out to get all the writers in our stable—physically and financially we can’t. However we can show the folks who want to read your book where to get it—which is so important to your work. That is my goal in the end as editor: to get my magazine’s supporters’ books into the readers’ hands, the people who pay to read our books. I know many writers that work long hours at Facebook, blogs, and a million other efforts to publicize their latest book. My question was: How many of these efforts reach the western reader? I really doubted in my case that I was doing much good for all the effort. So I spun a dream: Make a magazine that western readers could get free and then we can advertise our books in it. I know it will take time to build an audience, but we are climbing that mountain rapidly now. I don’t know how many right now, but by the next issue I will have a count for you. One thing is certain: an ad in this magazine is sure going out to real western readers. Our game plan is to entice the western reader to come read our fiction, articles, and history. Then we can advertise your book in our pages, and soon we will start a directory with a bio of you and a list of your books for them to come look at. We’re like a wobbly-legged
newborn colt, but we are finding our way. We don’t have anything but some sincere unpaid volunteers helping us to get the word out and we love them. You can help by telling your friends about us. I want a list of great western events in your area in our next issue. Say for the spring issue, send us your April, May, June, and July events. Rodeos, cowboy gatherings, writer conferences, chuck wagon races, cowboy days. Event, dates, and a line or two why a reader should attend that event along with contact information is enough. I plan to be in Lubbock Texas June 2015 for the Western Writers Convention. That convention is open for outsiders to take part in. Simply check Western Writers of America on the web. I have to say WWA has been a wonderful outfit for me to belong to since I joined in 1985. If you have any inkling to write a western book, song, or poem, you need to invest that week in west Texas at the WWA conference. The various members of Oghma Creative Media, our parent company, will be glad to talk to you about your future book projects at the writers conferences we will attend at various sites. Submission directions on how to submit your manuscript online are in this issue. We also can work with you on your book or business advertising. Our publicity services are available even if you already have a publisher. Professionally-designed business cards, stationary, and ads make you stand out more. We design and illustrate super book covers that really stand out too. To sum up the year, we started a magazine and it became a reality six months later. The next issue # 3 is in spring when the blue bonnets carpet Texas. Thanks for your support. I hope you and yours have a wonderful Christmas holiday and New Year. God bless America and all of you.
Brotherton Bridges Eras With Heartfelt Rowena It’s not often that a novel is able to bridge a gap between the era in which it is set and a situation that is relative to the present day. Velda Brotherton did exactly that with her novel, Rowena’s Hellion, the second part of the Victorian Series. She takes compelling characters used to the refined society of Victorian England, sets them in the American West, and works through the difficulties of what we today call PTSD. Rowena is one of the Duncan girls, one of three women rescued from a Catholic orphanage in England by Lord Blair Prescott. By the time we get to this second installment, a lot of history has passed between the Duncans and Blair. The focus of this novel is Rowena’s love and support of Blair, and Blair’s resistance of that love due to demons he faces from the war. Blair suffers from PTSD—what was then called “nostalgia” or “soldier’s heart”—and despite a budding relationship between Rowena and him, he tries to protect her by keeping his distance. Complications in his plan arise when he is unable to stay away
ting as well as the language, clothing, and societal norms to convey the differences between worlds. Second, she wants to show what daily life is like for a veteran with PTSD, particularly in a time when it was often overlooked and untreated. Blair’s visions, dreams, and reactions give a vivid and heartbreaking portrayal of the horrors these men went through, what are veterans are still going through. Finally, Brotherton wants to give readers a poignant and powerful love story. And she does exactly that. The way Rowena is able to breakdown Blair’s defenses is as moving as Blair’s fear of hurting her and need for her Rowena’s Hellion captivates the audience from the first page and takes them on a journey through compassion, fear, disaster, and healing to the ultimate destination—a realistic portrayal of love. If you enjoy historical romances, you’ll love and must rely on her more than ever. This book attempts several things, all Velda Brotherton’s latest installment in her with great success. First, Brotherton wants Victorian series: Rowena’s Hellion. to paint a picture of what the West was —SD like to English nobility. She uses the set-
Richards Opens a New Ranch in A Bride For Gil Dusty Richards is an author who goes right for the heart of the story, and A Bride for Gil is no exception. Gil Slatter is the jinglebob boss for the TXY Ranch in Texas, but gets a promotion when the ranch foreman, Hank Thorpe, dies in the saddle of a heart attack just as they’re about to start their spring roundup. Once the roundup is over, Gil pays a visit to Hank’s daughter Kate, who asked he come by when they were both at the funeral. When he arrives, he finds she’s set her cap for him. Impressed by her preparations, he accepts her proposal that she be his wife, even though he doesn’t find her particularly attractive at first. But while Kate may lack some in looks, she more than makes up for it in enthusiasm, wooing Gil quickly into the married
life. Their honeymoon is a trip to Fort Sill to buy horses, and Kate quickly proves herself as able as any man when outlaws attack their camp one night. Helping Gil hold them off, she has no qualms about carting the bodies to the nearest town marshal. As he did in Texas Blood Feud, Dusty shows us the operative word in the term working ranch is the word ‘working.’ Running the TXY makes a lot of work for Gil, but he’s willing to take it all on. He has the skills to do it, though. Grimes has full faith in him, faith that only increases over the course of this short but fully satisfying novel. The ranch’s fortunes are on the upswing, and Grimes knows who’s responsible for that: Gil Slatter. But it’s not all ranch work. There are bad guys aplenty here, too. Men like Kiley
Masters, the spoiled son of a rich rancher. Kiley makes the mistake of drawing on Gil and finds out just how fast the ranch foreman is, causing a mess of trouble. Then there’s a man named Waldorf who buys up land right where the ranchers drive their cattle to the railhead. His plan is to charge them for every head of livestock and cowboy that crosses his spread. On top off all that, Gil has to teach Kate how to dance, and then get her to dance in public with him. Told with Dusty’s usual lean directness, A Bride for Gil may have only one fault: that it won’t be long enough to satisfy his many fans. We have it on good word, though, that Gil and Kate will be back. —SD
Why I’m a Member of WWA Bill Markley
estern Writers of America is the friendliest and most helpful organization I have the privilege to be a member of. If you write about the west, let me tell you why you should consider joining. In 1953, a small group of traditional western fiction writers founded WWA to promote the literature of the American West. Today, WWA has over 670 members, including not only fiction writers, but also historians and other nonfiction authors, young adult and romance writers, poets, songwriters, and screenwriters. Its motto Literature of the West for the World ® reflects the essence of WWA promoting all forms of western literature and actively presenting it to the world. One major aspect of WWA’s promotion is the annual presentation of the prestigious Spur Award in over sixteen fiction and nonfiction categories. WWA announces the Spur winners in March and presents the awards at its annual convention. The next convention will be held June 23-27, 2015, in Lubbock, Texas. As I said, WWA is the friendliest organization I have ever belonged to. I attended my first convention in 2002, in Helena, Montana. I arrived at the convention not knowing a single soul, and left with lifelong friends. If you write or aspire to write about the west, I strongly encourage you to consider joining WWA. I would not be as advanced in my writing career today if it was not for WWA. I also strongly advise attending this year’s convention. The sessions will range from Texas history to marketing strategies, and there will be a session where attendees can make one-on-one appointments with publishers and agents. On top of this, it is a great way to network with writers and folks in the publishing business. In addition to the convention, WWA membership includes a subscription to Roundup Magazine. Published bi-monthly, each issue contains valuable information, including publishing and marketing news, book and movie reviews, historical articles, features on notable writers from the past, profiles of current WWA members, and more. You may also benefit from WWA’s participation throughout the year in regional, state, and local conferences, book signings, and other events geared to audiences interested in all things Western. WWA promotes its members on its Website, Facebook group, Twitter account, and its newest feature, a mobile application, Wild About the West, which can be downloaded to your mobile device and provides information on members’ books and other writing. I’ve asked fellow WWA writers to tell you why they remain enthusiastic members of WWA. “WWA provides writers with a network into the publishing
world of editors, agents, archivists, book reviewers, and most of all, fellow writers. I published my first book before I became a member of WWA and the other thirteen through connections I made as a member of Western Writers of America. I create films and multimedia exhibits for museums and visitor centers across the West as a direct result of a connection made as a WWA member. To say it has furthered my career is an understatement. Add to the publishing successes is the fact that most of my very best friends in the world I met through WWA.” — Candy Moulton, WWA Executive Secretary. “The benefits of WWA membership? It’s hard to describe them in only a few lines. When I first heard of the organization, I thought it was probably just an online listing of western authors. Then I went to my first WWA convention, and it was like coming home. What an unexpected joy it was—and is—to sit among all those smart people and talk about subjects dear to my heart! The history panels, the music, the meetings with publishers and editors—all of these make convention week so exciting. The connections I’ve made through WWA have truly made my career, but what I really think about all year are my wonderful WWA friends.” —Nancy Plain, Spur Award Winner, and current WWA Board Member. “Being a WWA member has been one of my more enjoyable experiences. It is not always easy to find folks who enjoy writing and reading similar literature as yourself. The camaraderie, fellowship, and good times will be with me for the rest of my life.”—Cowboy Mike Searles, Author, and longtime WWA Member. “Everything I have had published, except some early poems, can be linked directly or indirectly, but definitely, to my membership in Western Writers of America. People I have met, contacts I have made, opportunities I have learned about through WWA led to books, magazine articles, and publications in anthologies. Western Writers of America and its members work to keep the West alive through literature. Without the organization, I think writers would have a more difficult time finding opportunities to connect with readers. The interest in the West may wax and wane, but it will never go away as the story of the West is the fundamental story of America. WWA helps us keep writing, and reading, that story.” —Rod Miller, past WWA Board Member, and past Membership Committee Chairman. “Since joining WWA in 2009, we’ve made every conference. I’ve been to others, but none of them had the high level of valuable contacts, whether fellow western writers or publishers. And we’ve made some best friends since ‘09 and continue to.” — Monty McCord, Award-Winning Author, and WWA Member.
istory has fascinated Bill Markley from the time he was a boy growing up on the family farm near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Moving to South Dakota in 1976 to work for the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Bill immersed himself in local history, leading to participating in films such as Dances With Wolves, Son of the Morning Star, Far and Away, Gettysburg, and Crazy Horse. Bill has a master’s degree in environmental engineering from Virginia Tech. He worked in Antarctica for two field seasons, traveled the South Pacific, kayaked and backpacked in Alaska, chaperoned a Boy Scout troop to Japan, and has camped, hiked, and rode horseback through the West. Bill and his wife Liz make their home in Pierre, South Dakota. Bill’s latest work is a historical novel, Deadwood Dead Men that tells the tale of a string of murders that happened in Deadwood, August 1876. Western Fictioneers selected it as a finalist for 2014 Best First Novel. Bill is a member of Western Writers of America, served on its board of directors, and is currently Membership Chairman.
“All I can tell you about WWA, I would not be a selling writer today if I had not become a member in WWA. With all the networking, things I learned about the business and writing from men like Robert Conley, Jory Sherman, and Elmer Kelton, plus a hundred others, I’d be sitting around reading other folk’s books and wishing I was writing my own. The spirit that exists, the cow camp friendliness we have for each other is a great tribute to everyone of us and a reason to become a member.” —Dusty Richards, WWA Past President “Surrounding yourself with a quality literary community like Western Writers of America can be one of the most important things you can do for your writing career. The WWA community is a great place to meet new people, make connections, exchange ideas on writing, and absorb new information and knowledge. (You could even make a new friend!) Despite the fact that writing is often such a solitary act, there’s no escaping the fact that we need each other, we need a literary community to keep ourselves going. We need support.” — Krista Rolfzen Soukup, Literary Publicist, and Agent. As a member of Western Writers of America, I have had the privilege of meeting many inspired authors who have gladly shared their talent and expertise. I’ve learned a great deal about the craft of writing and made life-long friends. The experience has been invaluable.” —Chris Enss, New York Times Bestselling Author. “I joined WWA because my publisher suggested I join a writer’s organization. I’ve learned over the years that WWA is way more than just a writer’s group. Many of the people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting are now close friends. We meet each year at our annual convention and it’s a big family reunion! Writing is a solitary occupation, but I never feel alone because I know I have my WWA family for the good, the bad, and the ugly in western writing genre!” —Sherry Monahan, Current WWA President. So there you have it from members themselves, why you as a writer should join Western Writers of America. In August 2008, I participated in the Fort Pierre to Deadwood Trail ride, taking seventeen days to traverse 250 miles. That ride started out with most folks as complete strangers to each other, but it soon became a traveling community, everyone helping each other to make it to Deadwood. If there was a break in equipment, people were on it to fix it. If someone couldn’t ride due to an injury or sick animal, others insisted that person ride in their wagon. It was the American “Can Do” Spirit helping each other achieve their individual and community goals. That’s what I see Western Writers of America as—a community of writers helping each other reach their individual and community western writing goals. You can discover more about Western Writers of America at www.westernwriters.org.
EllEn MassEy Dusty Richards Editor-in-Chief
estern literature lost a great friend of late. I met Ellen Gray Massey in 1985. She was a straightbacked Missouri schoolteacher who always pronounced words like she was still teaching school. In those days, many writers new and old in the Ozark region were part of Jory Sherman’s Army camped at Branson, Missouri. At that time, we all belonged to Ozark Writer’s League, commonly called OWL. When I served as President of OWL, Ellen helped me many times. She was gracious and always had a smile, and if she heard about a book signing or launch party, you could count on her showing up to support you. As he did with many fledgeling writers over the years, Jory encouraged Ellen to become a member of Western Writers of America, and she went on to attend many
WWA conferences. In fact, this one-time single schoolroom teacher ended up being a perennial contender and won three Spur runner-up awards during her time in the organization. So I was very excited when her book “Papas Gold” that won the 2013 Spur. Unable to go California for the event Duke accepted it for her and presented it to her. Shortly after that Ellen left us last summer at 93. . She said 50 publishers had turned down that young adult book in her long career of published books. She was a serious inspiration to writers not only of westerns, but of all genres. To all her friends and all the folks she helped in their writing and nurtured in their careers we have lost a very loving lady. But I am sure we all know we’ll meet her in that big pasture in the sky, straight backed and talking very distinguished like the Ozark school teacher always did. God bless her.
Ellen Gray Massey
MOON Pamela Foster
ingernail moon. A white man name for the nights mother moon hid all but a slice her face. The boy allowed himself one more moment under the night sky and then he squatted, worked his way under the building, careful not to bump the new wounds that crisscrossed his shoulders against the underside of the sleeping quarters. Tears ran hot on his cheeks. He could not remember the true name of this thin crescent of pale light, the Osage name for the moon that hid hunters and warriors alike, the moon under which braves rode to steal the horses of the intruder Cheyenne and the women of the enemy Kiowa. In this sterile place where he was taught to hate his Osage ways, trained to walk and talk and read like a white, for almost seven years now in this place of death and pain, the words of his people had been beaten from his mind. “You will be a prophet to your people,” Brother James insisted when he grew tired of the endless memorizations from the white man’s book. “Because of your intelligence and strength you have been chosen by God to bring the salvation of Our Savior to the Indian.” Brother James’s face would shine when he said these lies, lit as though from within, his hand like a talon on the shoulder of the boy he called John. The boy tilted his head upward so that his face pressed against the underside of the wood floor. The stink of lye sent his heart racing and his hands to shaking. “I am Montega.” His voice soft as the night’s sweet breath through buffalo grass. “New Arrow. Like my spirit animal the bear, I am sharp clawed and fierce. I give ground to no man or animal.” He squeezed shut his eyes, did his best to connect with the spirit of his people. The Osage hid from the Blue Coats, eked out an existence and died in the canyons and hills that were once their own and now belonged to farmers who tore at mother earth and destroyed the land they stole. His people had fought and lost, were all but destroyed. The boy did not fear the rod or the box or any of the inventive punishments Brother James
claimed he concocted to raise the Indian boys in his care above their savage origins. What Montega feared was that the admiration of whites, even false admiration, grew more enticing with each year he spent with the brothers. Each season, he surrendered a little more of his soul to the teachings of the naked white god who hung helpless upon a tree. Each year his Osage spirit grew smaller until his true self was no more than a hard pit scraping, tearing at his heart. Now was the time to run. Now, before another winter covered the ground in snow and glittering ice snapped the limbs of once-strong oak trees. Now, before another lashing with the rod robbed him of the strength he would need to find the remnants of his people. Now, while the fingernail moon hid its meager light behind rushing clouds. Now, while he still knew himself to be an Osage warrior. He swiped at tears. When at four he had missed a shot at a strutting turkey and an older boy’s arrow killed the bird, Grandfather found him weeping beside the river. The old warrior sat beside him in the dancing green light of a maple tree, touched the tears that shamed him. “It is better for pain to flow free than to become a dam, like that of the beaver that blocks and kills the spirit of the water.” He wished he had known that would be his last day with Grandfather. Montega and his twin sister, Niabi, were up early that fall morning, gathering hickory nuts with mother under the last of a full moon. His child’s arrow had pierced a waddling porcupine, a fat creature whose quills would decorate Mother’s dress and whose flesh would make a fine stew. The dead porcupine swung on a short branch between him and his twin sister, both of them struggling with the weight of the animal. At the first shots, he dropped his end of the stick. Niabi stood a moment longer, as though struck with the knowledge of what was to come, and then she too followed Mother back into the woods. Hunkered in the dark, under the boys who slept above him, Montega licked his lips, tasted salt, saw again the wasted
12 porcupine lying crumbled on the ground as he and his sister were led away that day. He remembered other crumpled bodies, but shut his eyes tight and forced himself back to the night, back to his plan to rescue Niabi and finally make good their escape. Under the slatted floor of the windowless room the black robes called the sleeping quarters, he shifted his position slightly. Bare knees knocked against his chest. The last flies of summer tickled the raw stripes newly laid across his shoulders. He would not survive another winter in this cold and unforgiving place. From above him came the soft snores and farts and murmurs of sixteen young Indian boys, a tiny remnant of the once mighty Cheyenne and Kiowa tribes. Over the seven cold and barren winters of his imprisonment, there had been six Osage brought to the Society of Jesus School for the Education and Salvation of Indian Boys. Like him, they were stolen from small groups of his tribe who hid in the mountains, evading the blue-coats who shot them or forced them into packs like animals at Fort Smith, promised them a new life and then marched them away, never to be seen again in this life. Like him, each Osage boy arrived dirty and frightened, with ribs like that of a starving dog. Like him, they had been instructed by their elders on how to escape the white man’s influence. One by one, there came a moment when, after a particularly vicious blow of the Black Robe’s stick or the last day they could endure in the box, the final Osage word beaten from their minds, they simply hid their spirits. Oh, they did not die right away and the brothers continued to beat and starve and imprison them while pouring white falsities into their ears, but there came a moment when the eyes of each Osage boy went dark, and it was then they began their return to the ancestors. If it were not for his sister, he too would be gone, sitting again at the feet of Grandfather, killing his first elk, sleeping each night with the smell of the forest, the sound of wind in the oak and maple. Did he remember this life truly, or did he only imagine that he had once slept beside a fire of sweet hickory? Was the feel of a horse moving freely between his knees under a warrior’s moon no more than a dream? The smell of bear grease and acorn mush waking him from sleep no more than a trick of his mind to escape his trapped body? He would be gone already, returned one way or the other to his people, but the Blue Coats who killed Grandfather and herded Grandmother and Mother away with ropes around their necks, had been careless. Niabi had been mistaken for a young boy, and she too had been brought to the Jesuits. The Black Robes had no interest in educating a girl, and when her sex became known, his twin had been put to work in the kitchen. To prevent her from running and, as Brother James explained,
to save her soul from temptation, they had sliced through the backs of her heels so that the sister who once beat him at every race through the woods, now shuffled from place-to-place, head down, back bent in submission. This cutting away of freedom was rarely done to the boys at the school who the Jesuits taught were closer to God than girls could ever be. Still, the only reason Montega had so far escaped this safeguard from temptation himself was that early on, Brother James, the chief Black Robe, had singled him out for training, believed him destined to be a prophet to his people. Besides, Montega had a gift with horses and the chief Jesuit had use of that talent. Each spring the cavalry at the Fort Smith held a horse race. Brother James traveled to this race, told everyone who would listen that it was his only vice. With no desire to care for the horse himself, he assigned Montega the job of feeding, grooming, and exercising his personal mount, a dark, leggy gelding that had bitten, kicked, or thrown every other boy assigned to his care. The horse was guarded at all times, of course, especially when Montega exercised the animal by riding in a senseless circle. Jethro, a hired hand with a quick trigger finger, stood in the center of the endless loop swirling one of his Navy Colts. Jethro liked to call out to Montega as he rode around and around. “Go on,run, you sumbitch. Ain’t one ah you little Osage bastards possessed ah the spirit of a damn rabbit. I’m so tired ah that blank face ah your sister looking up at me, I done took to flipping her over ‘fore I get down to it.” Montega’s gift with horses, as well as brother James’s belief that he would one day bring the lies of the slaughtered god to the tribes, had spared him from being hobbled for the Lord. But after his last attempt at escape, the head Jesuit promised that his next run would be his last. This night would bring either freedom for both he and Niabi or it would end in their passing into the world of their ancestors. Either way, tonight, before the falsehoods of the whites became any more enticing, before he forgot even his true Osage name, they would escape. Above him, a door creaked open, and hard-soled shoes tapped from bed to bed. They would find him missing now. He had run before, and he had been educated with each slice of the rod, each endless day in the box. Last week, he volunteered to help move the outhouse, a place of filth where whites hid behind a door and shat, not onto the good earth, but into a growing pile of the waste of others. The building was not much bigger than The Box and sickened him each time he was forced to enter, but the work was just to the south of the school and had allowed him the freedom of movement he needed. Every chance he got, he sneaked away from the crowd of boys digging the new hole and moving
Photo by Casey W. Cowan the old, stinking building. He had opened his pants and pissed along the path that ran to the creek, even squatted and left a strong scent for the dogs in the shade of a beautiful hickory whose leaves rattled like laughter in the afternoon breeze. Yesterday at lunch, he stole a small box of pepper from the kitchen and he wandered from the group of working boys long enough to plant one of his hated shoes along the creek to the south. Whites loved to put a hardness, a barrier, between themselves and the spirits of the world. They hammered iron onto the hooves of their horses, tied their own feet into thick, hard coverings that bit and pinched and separated the spirit that flows from sole of foot to earth and back. The dogs would lead the Black Robes south, while he gathered Niabi and the two of them ran north sprinkling pepper at every crossroads in order to confuse the noses of the dogs. In spring, when last he tried to escape, he found signs of Osage living in the deep canyons and hills the whites called the Boston Mountains. Under a yellow slice of moon, he found a broken arrow, an abandoned campsite whose smell of burnt acorn mush and deer hide tanned with urine and ash had brought him to a stop, tears streaming down his face. From above him came the sound of running feet, hard soles on well-scrubbed planks, the spirit of the oak felled to make the floor long ago scrubbed away by the busy hands of young Indian captives. Montega relaxed the muscles in his thighs, rolled
his shoulders, lifted his hands as far above his head as his hiding place would allow, and asked the spirit of the great bear, Wasape, to bless his escape. It was hard to crouch there in the dirt below his bed and breathe and pray and wait. But if the Jesuits had taught him nothing else, they had taught him patience. Angry shouts came from the Black Robes quarters, men whose dreams, or self-flagellation, or the spilling of their seed into their own eager hands was disturbed once again by a runaway Indian boy. It had been his punishment after his last escape to clean with his hands only and on his knees, pellets of river gravel gathered from the creekâ€™s bed and scattered over the stone floor of the chapel. He still bore the scars of the tiny pellets that ground like glass into his knees. But he had learned of an alcove that day, just big enough for a ten-year-old, half-starved Indian boy, to wiggle into, squat, and listen to the confessions of the men who held him prisoner. In this way he learned that those who were his masters where in no way his superiors. In the darkness under the boyâ€™s sleeping quarters he envisioned the Great Bear, Wasape, rising on her hind legs, teeth bared, great claws swiping the air. Still, he crouched and waited. He knew his sisterâ€™s pain, knew she must lie awake each night, praying for death or for salvation. This night he meant to give her one, or the other. The shouting came now from the south and mixed with the baying of dogs on a trail. He smiled, squinted, shuffled out
14 from under the floorboards and stared into the larger night. Legs numb after so long in his cramped hiding place, he waited for strength to return. At the first step he stumbled, could not afford to waste a moment, recovered and edged along the wall of the quarters. A short burst, an all-out run, carried him to the edge of the woods beside the corral. Another quick trot and he slid along the side of the barn, peeked between the wide doors. The smart course was to run, simply run. But he would not leave the man who raped his sister to see another dawn. In the thin light of a lantern, Jethro sat propped against a stall about twenty feet inside, bottle in hand, holstered Colts hanging on a rail a few feet to his right. Just as he hoped, Niabi’s tormenter had been left to guard the school, while the priests ran off into the woods in search of the fugitive. He did not give himself time to think, inched the door open enough to allow him to slip inside, feet already running hard toward the man who bragged of raping his sister. “What? What. . .” Jethro struggled to his feet, arms reaching for his pistols. Montega got there first. He swung the heavy holster sideways with both hands aiming his blow at Jethro’s swaying head. One of the pistols caught the man across the face, knocked him onto his back. Blood ran from his nose. Montega leaped astraddle the fallen man, pulled a colt and slammed the pistol’s barrel, brutal and hard, into the hired man’s mouth. Teeth broke and more blood flowed. He leaned his full weight onto the gun, ached to pull the trigger, knew that to do so would bring the Jesuits back, doom Niabi to a life of imprisonment. While he might kill this man, another, and another would follow as long as his twin’s fate was in the hands of those for whom she held no value. Jethro choked, gagged, and fought to escape the hard intrusion of the Colt’s barrel. Montego jammed the gun deeper down the man’s throat. His hand, finger pressing the trigger, sliced by broken front teeth, the gun’s site tearing the roof of the man’s mouth – wounding, gagging. Jethro wrapped huge hands around Montego’s narrow wrists. Despite the strength of his hatred, the boy was no match for this grown man. Jethro bucked under him. Montego squeezed the trigger. The shot exploded in the barn. The gelding screamed. Montega stared at what remained of his sister’s tormentor. His carefully laid plans destroyed, he slung the holster over his shoulders, turned and ran. He must get to Niabi before the dogs and the Jesuits returned to investigate the shot. Fear and anger tightened his chest, closed his throat. An image of Grandfather came to him. Dark eyes crinkled at the corners, mouth cut deep with the grooves of wisdom. “You are protected by the Great Bear. Go, Grandson, gather your twin and seek shelter in the hills of our people.”
The old man smell of tobacco and earth rose like smoke from his memory and he remembered squatting beside a morning fire, stirring ash with a stick to uncover the hidden embers below. He breathed deep, gulped back tears, ran hard. At Niabi’s door he screamed her name. Surprised to find the bloody Colt still in his hand, he beat at latch with the butt of the pistol. The door broke open and he raced inside. Niabi stood beside the bed, eyes wide, shivering in a thin cotton nightgown. “Come!” His twin did not hesitate. She shuffled to him. He handed her the pistol, swept her up, cradled her in his arms, and ran. Her small body was light. He felt not burdened but completed. The barking of the dogs grew stronger. He ran harder. At the woods, he turned left, to the west. If he could make it across the creek there were caves on the other side in which to hide. The shouting of the Jesuits stabbed the night, rose above the excitement of the dogs. With luck the men would linger over the body in the barn. Montega ran. At the creek, he slipped, Niabi falling into the water, and rising on her own. He took the gun from her, slid it into the holster with its mate. Her hand tight in his, he shuffled across the slick rocks and pressing water. On the other side, he lifted her again into his arms, her wet body shivering against his chest. He fought his way up the rocky ground, fell, rose, kept climbing. “Put me on my feet.” It had been over six years since he had heard her voice. The two of them kept apart, so that he saw her occasionally across a room, but had not spoken with her since they arrived at the school and it was discovered that she was doomed to a life of misery far worse than that of the boys. “I cannot run, but I can climb as well as you.” The sound of her voice blinded him with tears. His hands and feet found rocks and roots to cling to, scramble up, push off from. He followed his sister up the rocky side of the creek. The barking of the dogs grew muted, men and dogs inside the barn. A rock crumbled in his hand and he slid, slammed into a tree trunk nearly losing the rifle, gripped a root and kept climbing. Pebbles scattered down from Niabi’s efforts above him. Each flurry reassured that she was still there, still climbing. The barking grew louder. The hunters had left what remained of Jethro and were now headed north. Montega kept climbing. “There is a narrow ridge.” Her voice came from just above and to his right. Fingers gripped a smooth edge and he pulled himself up beside his sister. Rifle balanced in the crook of his arm, he sidled sideways along the rock wall, the day’s stored-heat warming his back.
15 “Keep moving,” he whispered. “Do not stop until you find a cave or some other hiding spot. I’m going to slow them down.” Men and dogs were close now. Very close. Almost at the creek. She found and squeezed his hand. Then there was empty air beside him. Bereft and then, in the next breath, angry, he waited, let Niabi get a few yards further along the ridge. He exhaled into the night, slipped a revolver from the holster slung around his shoulder. The heavy pistol extended in front of him in two shaking hands, he waited. The yellow glow of a lantern stained the black night, the snuffling of dogs and scramble of men over river rock provided his target. The men stopped directly below him. Dogs milled in a confused knot at the edge of the creek. The voice of Brother James came like a stripe laid across his back. “Don’t forget he’s got Jethro’s . . .” He squeezed the trigger again and again, until metallic clicks found his ringing ears and forced him to holster the empty Colt. A man screamed. Dogs yelped. The yellow light of the lantern shattered. “Montega, here!” His sister’s voice carried over the shouts from below, came from a few yards away. “A cave.” He edged along the rock, toes and half his feet in mid-air on the narrow ridge. His size, and Niabi’s, would work to their advantage, at least for now. The ledge wasn’t wide enough for a grown man, their pursuers would have to climb straight up the rock face, make easy targets for the second Colt. His hand found the entrance to the cave, and he entered a space instantly colder, damper. Shouts and barking from below grew muted. He stood, waited for his eyes to adjust to the deeper darkness. There was a wild, familiar smell inside the cave. An odor he could not place but which called up in him both comfort and terror. “Niabi?” “Here.” Her voice, like the cooing of a dove, brought a smile to his face. He followed her deeper into the cave. “I think I hit one of them.” The shouting from the creek ended. Even the dogs hushed. Montega found his sister’s small hand in the dark, squeezed once and turned back to the mouth of the cavern. “They have not given up. Not yet. Stay there.” He pulled the second pistol from the holster. At the entrance, loaded revolver dangling from his hand, he strained to hear what was happening below. Shoes scraped on rock, water splashed, murmurs and whispered instructions floated up to him. Behind him the familiar smell that
he could not name grew stronger, quickened his heart and covered his arms in bumps of fear. There came a shout, a loud splash. Thin moonlight reflected on water rising from a man fallen and scrambling to rise. Shadows shifted, and a man cried out. He fired into the darkness and some of the shapes retreated back across the creek. One kept coming toward him. “Leave us,” he called out. A rifle shot split the darkness. Fragments of rock flew like bats across his vision, exploded in the night. He lifted the pistol and fired toward the running forms. A scream came sharp from below him. The revolver’s hammer clicked on an empty chamber. He retreated deeper into the cave. “Montega! This is Brother James. You cannot win, boy. You’ve killed Jethro and wounded Brother Ignacio. Come down, accept what the Lord decrees, and I’ll see that your sister does not suffer for your deeds.” Niabi’s answer came from behind him and to the left. “I prefer death.” Even as he retreated clutching the empty pistol to his chest, he heard in his twin’s voice the acceptance, perhaps even the welcome of returning to her ancestors. “We are not yet dead, sister.” He breathed the cave’s musky, rank smell that both swelled his heart and weakened his knees in terror. “Men with rifles before us, and behind us a Great Wasape. Brother we will not live to see dawn.” Wasape! The remembered name like a lightning strike in the center of his chest. That was the rank stink that both terrified and comforted. They had found the home of The Great Bear. Rocks skittered against one another in a small avalanche and he turned toward the cave’s mouth. A man-sized shape, darker than the night at its back, appeared, rising from below, pushing itself up and striding into the cavern. Wind fluttered the black robes at the figure’s ankles. Montega cringed, felt again the stripes laid across his back, wounds still bloody and sticking to the coarse fabric of his shirt. He fondled the empty revolver, cursed his fear of this man who was both mentor and tormentor. “It’s over, boy.” Brother James said. “You will not shoot me.” Montega lifted the pistol, steadied the empty gun with both hands. “Go back. I have nothing more to lose.” “Perhaps not. But if you kill me, your sister will be found and punished for your sins.” A scream exploded the darkness, shook the ash from his soul. Niabi howled her answer to the black robes offer into the night. “Fire the gun, Montega. I will die with a smile on my face.” A great cry of pain and courage filled the cavern, tumbled out into the night, a prayer for salvation that awoke the gods.
wenty-one years ago Pamela Foster married her hero. The author’s husband is a disabled Marine, Vietnam vet, and a man who would walk through fire for her without ever acknowledging that he ignited the flames. Accompanying her hero on his quest to escape the dull gray of life-after-combat, Foster has lived in the redwoods of the Pacific Northwest, on the side of a volcano in Hawaii, in the Yucatan beside the Caribbean Sea, the stark desert of southern Arizona, the jungles of Panama, and the Ozark Mountains. Amidst these many adventures, Foster has found time to pen the novels Redneck Goddess and Bigfoot Blues, as well as the memoir Clueless Gringoes in Paradise, My Life With A Wounded Warrior, a heartfelt and brutally honest collection of essays chronicling her struggles as the spouse of a disabled vet. Her latest works include the literary Western Ridgeline, the Southern comic novel Noisy Creek, and the psychological thriller, The Perfect Victim.
Montega fumbled the empty gun, turned to stare at Niabi. At their backs, from deeper in the cave, a rumbling erupted, like the growling of the mountain itself. Brother James edged backward, closer to the mouth. His voice trembled. “Now, children. Do not force me to shoot you.” Niabi’s laughter echoed. “Come, bring your dead white god to meet Wasape, Protector of the Osage People.” At the very lip, Brother James called out. “Daughter, you speak with the ignorance of your sex. Come now, trust me. Let us all return to the safety of the school where we may pray for your soul.” The air filled with the stink of the Great Bear awakened from slumber and moving fast in their direction. The soles of Montega’s feet shivered with the shaking of the animal’s approach. He stepped back, found Niabi’s hand, the two of them shuffling, pressing against the cold rock wall. There came a roar like thunder. The ground shook, the air itself sucked from the cave. A huge dark blur raced from the bowels and directly at the white priest. Montega pressed his back to the wall, feared his heart would explode in his chest. The Great Wasape ran at the white man silhouetted in the thin light of the fingernail moon. Brother James cried out, lifted his rifle to his shoulder, and fired. The bear did not slow, was upon the priest while the shot still echoed. A swipe of one paw, and the Black Robe flew through the air, hit the rock wall, and bounced to the ground screaming the name of his god. The back of Montega’s head tapped against stone in a drumming of terror. The growling, the crunching of teeth on bone and the screaming of the priest grew so loud that he knew he would hear it always in his dreams. “Come, brother. Let us find our way from this darkness and back into the light.” Niabi’s hand was warm in his. He squeezed his sister’s fingers, followed her deeper into mother earth, trusted her instincts at each twist and turn, his only contribution the sprinkling of black pepper onto the winding floor. No matter what happened, they would not return to the Black Robes. If there was no way out, he and his sister would die as Osage in the home of the Great Bear, and they would die happy. He slid one foot in front of the other and allowed Niabi to lead him deeper into the belly of the mountain. “There, brother.” Montega lifted his gaze, followed his sister’s pointing finger to freedom. Set in a field of bright stars shone a thin crescent. He did not hesitate, lifted his sister in his arms, and ran toward the fingernail moon.
‘Thank God. That’s very good news for me.” He looked he marshal’s office had many wanted posters. Buck Long had found the one for man who’d shot his bride. relieved. Dailey clapped him on his shoulder. “It’s been a tough four Cyrus Connors. His shadowy picture on the paper hardly looked like the man who had shot at Dailey and killed days. I’ve been so eaten up by her being murdered that I’ve been on the edge of screaming. But I have that in hand now, I Heidi. But it all matched. Cyrus’s brother Tye was in the Method- think. I have to go find Cyrus and either jail or kill him.” “I understand your need to resolve this. Take supplies from ist cemetery, and there was a hundred-dollar reward coming for him and the other robber, Lane Burgess, who lay in a coffin the store, and if you have to have money, wire me. I want you to come back, live with me, and be a part of my business after beside him. “You aren’t a bounty hunter, Dailey,” Buck said. “This man this is over.” He nodded that he would. They cooked their supper togethis a known killer, and just because he missed you once don’t mean he will the next time. He knows your face, and he’ll re- er, realizing unsaid that they’d never do anything to match her wonderful cooking. Later he tossed in the bed, recalling having member it when you come calling. Let the law find him.” “Looking at the list of crimes they have him down for, they her in his arms, all wrapped up in her nightdress and he never undid a button. If he had he would have had at least a taste of aren’t catching him very fast.” Buck nodded. “I can’t talk you out of it. I can see that. But her. His stupid resistance by doing it cost him that treat of enjoying her body. He closed his eyes but sleep evaded him, then the Hurley needs you now worse than he did before.” “I know. But I won’t sleep well until her killer is behind bars ugly face of Cyrus Conners was back in his dreams shooting at him. He wanted to reach out and strangle him. or dead.” His two packhorses loaded, the reward money in his pocket, “I wish I could jail you, but I couldn’t keep you in here forhe went by the cemetery and knelt to pray on her fresh grave. ever. It would only stall your hopeless chase.” “I’m going to go find him.” In the short while he’d know He hoped God heard him as his words for her silently slipped this man, he appreciated and admired his skills at his job, but off his lips—“Dear Lord. Take the love of my life to your home. She was such a wonderful person. I want her happy with you. Buck didn’t know his powerful urge to resolve this mess. Forgive any of her shortcomings, for she was a pure person, Buck nodded. “May God bless and protect you, son.” and I miss her so.” “I hope so too.” He squeezed his eyes shut, but it was too late. The tears ran Telling Hurley was tougher than his conversation with Buck. down his cheeks. When he looked up, Marshal Buck Long was He joined him when he was closing the store. standing by the gate in his black suit. “I’m sorry, I’ve been no help to you,” Dailey said. “Hurley said he gave you the reward money out of his pock“We’ve been dealt a terrific bad deal. I know what she meant to you, and I understand your need to settle this matter. I never et. I know he hopes that you come back and help him.” “I owe him for all this gear too.” He pointed at his packhad a son. You were the son I wanted. But I also know you horses. won’t be satisfied until he’s run down.” “You need help that I can give, wire me. God bless you, son.” “Can you get some help? You will need a housekeeper and They shook hands. He gave the man a hug and then left. help at the store. I know you tried some before but now you It was a long two days’ hard ride to Wichita. The livery stable must hire them.” where he dismounted in the dark was run by a night-swamper Hurley agreed. “I’ll find them.” “I plan to leave shortly. I think he may have headed for and the two of them put up his horses. His panniers and gear Wichita. I’ll need some panniers. I’ll use the outlaw horses for were placed in a storage room and he went to find a meal. On the main street, he found a café still open and went inpack animals.” side. A tall rawboned blonde woman waited on him. “What “Get what you need.” would you like?” “No, the reward money—” “Supper and coffee.” “I’m going to pay that to you. You’ll need money to search She smiled. “You look plum tuckered out mister.” for him. It may be months coming.” “Dailey.” “I can’t—” “Lorrie’s mine. I have some beef roast, mashed potatoes, “Listen to me. Heidi was my daughter. You almost became my son-in-law. I want you for my son. I have no one else. When gravy, and green beans.” “That sounds good.” you settle this business come back here and we’ll make this “What are you doing in town?” store grow.” “Looking for a killer.” “Hurley, I’ll do that. You have my word.”
21 She frowned. “Who’s that?” “Cyrus Connors. Do you know him?” She looked around, then bit her lower lip before her guarded word spilled out. “You know he’s a real killer ?” “Yes, he murdered my bride a week ago.” She shook her head to dismiss her words. “I’ll get your supper.” “You know where he might be at?” “I’ll have to think on it.” “Thanks. I need any help I can get finding him.” In a short while she delivered his supper and more coffee. Filling his cup, she said under her breath, “There’s a bartender at Red Bull named Tom Hogan. I trust he might tell you where Cyrus is at or if he’s even around here.” “I won’t mention who told me. Thanks.” “Conners’s a deadly man.” She shook her head and headed back to work. He tipped her when he paid for his meal. “Thank you.” Then he went out in the night. It was too early in the year for Texas cattle to arrive for delivery, so the saloon business was slow. The Red Bull only had few customers at the bar and a table of card players on the side. Dailey went to the back and stood at the bar. When the bartender came by he ordered a beer and asked if Tom Hogan was there.
When he paid, the bartender asked for his name to tell Tom. “John Dailey.” “He’ll be by to see you.” “Thanks.” The taste of beer did nothing for him, but he felt he needed an excuse to hang out there. Tom Hogan came by. “What can I do for you?” ‘Tell me where Cyrus Connors is at.” The man frowned. “You serious?” “Dead serious.” “If he’s here, he’s across the river in their camp. But he may be down in the Indian Territory.” “How do I find their camp?” “Just go south out of here. There’s a bunch of shacks over across the river house with a bunch of his kind.” “Sounds dangerous.” The man agreed with a serious nod. “Anything to do with Connors will be dangerous.” “He shot my wife-to-be a week ago at our wedding.” Hogan nodded. “I’d want his hide, too.” “Any other ideas?” “How to find him?” “Yes.”
23 “He’s on the run, wanted by the law, and avoids arrest.” “I know that. Thanks.” Dailey had a small lead and he considered it that. This chase would be the challenge of his lifetime. “Mister, I don’t know how tough you are, but that sumbitch is tough.” “I know that. Give that beer to some guy needs it.” He indicated his glass. “Sure. Nice to meet you. I hope you get him. He shot my father in a robbery ten years ago,” “I’ll get him,” Dailey said. “I really hope so.” He left the saloon. Better wait till daylight to go across the river. He’d find a room or sleep in the hay at the livery. No matter, come sunup he’d go look for his man over there. The next morning, he found Lorrie waiting on all the workers who were eating breakfast in the café. “You never go home?” he asked her. “Short-handed. What’cha need?” “Scrambled eggs, potatoes, ham, and pancakes. “Three?” He frowned. “You want two or three pancakes?” She was amused. “Three, thanks. I talked to your man Hogan.” “He help you any?” “He talked to me. Yes, thanks.” “I get off at three. Come by, I can cook you something fresh at my place.” “If I’m back. I need to go check out things.” “Fine.” He ate his breakfast and paid her before leaving. “Where do you keep your horse?” “North Side Livery.” “If I learn any information, I’ll leave you word there.” “I’ll try to keep your invite in my mind.” She wrinkled her nose. “It ain’t important.” “No, it was kind. See you.” He crossed the shallow Arkansas on horseback and headed for the rambling set of shacks. There was little order to this place. Cur dogs, loose chickens, and some downcast women looked hard at him, their naked children around their dress tails. Some of the females were obviously Indian women who’d taken up with the men who lived on the edge of the law and with some who were wanted. The saloon sign said Beer and Whiskey on the peeling paint. He dismounted and entered a room full of cigar smoke and sour smells. He found a spot at the end of the bar to watch the half dozen other customers either leaning on the bar, or drinking at the side tables. “Who ‘ta hell are you?” a drunk at the table asked, blinking at him from his never-never land of alcohol.
“I’m looking for Cyrus Connors.” His words drew frowns and unbelievable looks on faces of the saloon residents. “He ain’t here.” One man stood up a little unsteady and defiant acting. “Get your hand away from that gun if you want to go on living.” Dailey kept his voice soft, but the tone warned the man. “All right, all right. Who are you?” “My name’s Dailey. I’ll pay ten dollars for the man in here tells me where I can find him.” “What the hell you going to do with him?” the drunk asked, weaving some on his heels. “Do what I am going to do to you when you grab for that gun butt. Go ahead. It’s a great day to die.” Every muscle in his body tensed. In the next thirty seconds, the damn fool would draw or he’d sink back in his chair. His choice—then with a warning scowl he went for his gun. Not fast enough. Dailey’s hand drew, cocked, and shot his pistol before his opponent even cleared leather. Gun smoke boiled in the room and men fled, choking on the bitter fog. “Damn fool drunk,” He shook his head and went out the batwing doors to get out of the smoke. He started for his horse at the hitch rack. “You want Connors?” an unshaven man asked him. Dailey stopped. “Damn right. You know where he is?” “He’s over on the Grand River in the Territory.” “Got the name of the place?” He had already mounted Brody to ride off. The big horse checked, he waited for an answer. “Sandy Point.” “That a town or a place?” “They can get mail.” “Here’s two dollars. I find him I’ll pay you the rest.” He tossed the money one coin at a time to the man. “How many men have you shot?” the man who caught the money asked. “That makes four.” Dailey swung Brody around and watched the dark-eyed men. None of the others looked brave enough to shoot at him “Before you get him,” the man he’d paid shouted, “I bet you have a longer list of dead men. That stopped Brody. “I may do that. Was that guy in there kin to Connors?” “Yeah.” “Shame.” He gave the men a salute and headed back to Wichita. She’d be getting off work soon. No one acted worried about the dead man on the floor of the saloon. One guy who had came outside had reported to them he was dead. Back across the river, he put Brody up at the livery, and walked the block and half to the café. He went around back and took a seat on the stoop to wait for her.
24 “Oh, you’re here,” she said sounding pleased when she came out the door. “Did you learn anything down there?” “His drunk relatives can’t out draw me.” She frowned. “Who was that?” “I never caught his name. He was drunk and went for his gun.” “Oh.” She sat down beside him on the step. “They say Connors is down on the Grand River. That’s Indian territory.” “You going there next?” “I better if I want to find him.” “Let’s go to my place. It isn’t much.” “I’m not much either.” “Did shooting that guy down there today do that to you?” “It ain’t my usual thing that I do in life. Guess I’ll get use to doing it before I find him.” They stood up. She hugged his shoulder like one of his sisters would have when he was down at home. Just a human touch, but afterwards he didn’t feel so damn alone with her. “I imagine you will.” Her words were soft and healing. They walked up the alley Several blocks farther, they went through a yard gate and up to the small house’s front door. There were some planted flowers that had not yet bloomed. They entered the house and it was very neat and clean. He sat down and took off his boots. “You would do that for my house?” She folded her arms and frowned at him “I’d respect it.” “You shot a man down there today, and you come in my shack and you take off your boots. Dailey, you’re a strange man.” “Tell me about Lorrie. I’m fine.” “I ran away from home when I was fifteen with man who I thought would marry me. He didn’t. He abandoned me in Ogallala. I was pregnant by then, and had no money. The baby died at birth, and I went to work in a house of ill repute. I didn’t like one night in that place. I left there when I had saved some money, bummed around, and ended up down here because of the cattle boom and got a job being a waitress. So I am a past shady lady. Does that bother you?” “I can understand that.” He nodded. “Until two weeks ago, I was an unemployed cowboy, stopped a robbery in a store, met a young lady, and we were to be married. A man wanted me dead. He shot her coming down the aisle to marry me. She died.” “How terrible.” She looked about to cry. “We all have sad stories.” “No, that was a terrible disaster in your life, Dailey.” “No worse than your story. An innocent woman was swept away, lost a child, and was forced to become a dove or starve.” “Let’s set that aside. I want to cook you some supper. I have some ham and potatoes. Anything you would like?” “Your cooking would please me.”
She shook her head like she was disappointed he didn’t have any other demands for her, and went to fix some food for them. Seated at her table, he enjoyed watching her deftly making yeast rolls. She acted cheerful and teased him some about his ways. “You’ve always been a cowboy?” “Since I was maybe fifteen. I went on a cattle drive. Then I became a Ranger.” “When was that?” “During the war. I liked it, but the carpet baggers shut it down after they took charge.” “Shame. I bet Texas could use men like you.” “They don’t need anyone. They have black soldiers instead.” “Couldn’t anyone up there in Kansas talk you out of this pursuit of her killer?” He shook his head as she put her rolls in the oven. She rechecked with him and he said, “No.” “I didn’t think so.” She shook her head like it was waste to even try. “If I could find you a respectable housekeeper job in a nice home in a small Kansas town would you like to go?” he asked her. “Why do you say that?’ “Her father needs a housekeeper.” She made a concerned face at him. “Why me?” “Because you’re so neat. His house is neat. He’ll treat you nice.” “I’m—I’m not looking for a job.” “Hurley would treat you nice. You can start all over up there. Call yourself a widow and forget all the past. It you don’t want to find someone, you’ll have a good job. Hurley has no interest in women, but he might wake up.” He laughed. “Will you go back there someday?” He nodded. “I plan to return and help him in his business.” “How will I get there?” “I didn’t ask you to wait for me.” “When I saw you come in the café the other night, I set a star for you. I’ve lived a rough life out of my need to survive. I’m not the prettiest woman in the world, but if you’d have me I’d never disappoint you in anyway.” “The last woman did that was shot by an outlaw.” She shook her head. She always stood straight tall, and with her blonde hair piled on her head, she looked even taller. “I may not come back for you. He may kill me.” “I can pray.” “Won’t hurt none, but I don’t know if God helps killers of men.” “Oh, yes, he forgives us all.” “If Hurley hasnt hired anyone, will you move up there?” She nodded. “I’ll go wire him, and I’ll be back in a short while. He’ll answer me quickly. Then we’ll know what to do.” He hurried to the telegraph office and sent off his message. If you don’t have a housekeeper, wire me. I found you a good one. Dailey.
25 He went back to her house. She was putting it on the table. Ham, fresh doughy rolls and butter, German fired potatoes with onions and green beans. Her coffee was robust, and he could hardly wait for his answer from Hurley. “Is it a nice town?” “Like all places there are good people and not so good. They’ll treat you nicely. Your food is wonderful. He has a good business and works hard at it. You need to make him hire more help at the store.” “Sounds like I’ll have lots to do if he wants me.” “That’s why I am sending you there. You literate?” he asked. “Yes.” “Good. He is educated, and smart too.” Enjoying her food so much, he knew Hurley would be proud of her. “You’ll be good as his housekeeper. He’ll be pleased with you.” “When will you leave here?” “As soon as I have you on your way to him.” “What if he has a housekeeper already?” “We’ll cross that river tomorrow.” “Men can give such short answers to such large questions.” She dropped her square shoulders, and shook her head as if she was put out with him. “I only have one bed,” she said. “I can go to the livery and sleep in the hay.” Her blue eyes narrowed sharply. “What if I rather that you didn’t?” “Well, why didn’t you tell me that then?” “You’re going to make me cry.” He stood up, reached for her, and hugged her shoulder. “I’m sorry. Too many things are flying around in my mind.” “I want you to remember me good or bad. I’m not some innocent girl. But I still don’t consider myself so bad I can’t hold my head up.” “Lorrie, I don’t consider you anything but a nice woman. That’s why I wired him.” She got up crying. He moved his chair back to reach for her. With her on his lap, he hugged and kissed her wet face. They shared her bed, and he shared her body that night. * * * Hurley’s answer came quickly. Send her. I can hardly wait. Dailey found a man with a farm wagon and team who would take her personal things up there for thirty dollars. Then he bought her tickets for the northbound stage. She had to transfer to another line. Then by wire he told Hurley to send a buggy for her at the Waylon Stage stop. The coach didn’t go by Willow Grove, but they stopped at Waylon five miles west of there. She’d be there on Saturday around dark, according the stage’s schedule.
They packed her things in crates and two old trunks. The man hauling it all had a tarp to keep her bed, dresser, and other furniture and couch dry. And the mover told her he’d be up there the next Monday, and he’d stop at the store to ask for his directions. They slept together in his bedroll on the floor of her house that evening. After breakfast and her crying over parting with her friends at the café, he put her on the stage, with some more crying on her part. “How will I know you’re even alive?” “I’ll mail you a letter or send a telegram.” “Will I be able to answer you?” “No, I will move on. But remember, Lorrie, I love you. I really do.” “I know.” She hugged him so tight. “You must. Paying my way and all to go up there. You be double careful—I want to share my life with you. Maybe we can even have some kids together.” He kissed her, and then he helped her on the stage. After the coach went rolling off north, he mounted Brody and took his two pack horses south for the Indian Territory. Lorrie would be a completely different woman for him than his Heidi, but she was stout, a good cook, and would do him well. All he needed was to find Cyrus Connors down in the Indian Territory, and he could go back and tend with her and Hurley in his store in Kansas. Sounded easy enough, but he had no idea what he’d find down in the Indian Territory to stop him from getting Heidi’s killer. In three days he was in the Grand River area and asked several bloods about Sandy Point. None seemed to know about this place, but Indians didn’t always answer a white man’s questions, thinking he was the law and might arrest them. He wasn’t sure that was it or they simply distrusted most white men. He met a man who looked like a cattleman driving a buckboard on the road. With a wave to get his attention the man stopped his rig and nodded to him. “Can you give me some directions?’ “Sure. Where are you headed?” “Spring Point if you can point it out.” “That’s a tough place to go. Most folks steer clear of there.” “Or they won’t tell you where it’s at.” “You don’t live around here.” The man laughed. “If I might ask, who do you need down there?” “The man who killed my bride up in Kansas. Cyrus Connors.” The man nodded slow like, digesting his words. “That sounds tough. Cyrus Connors hangs out there a lot, but he seems to avoid the marshals sent there to arrest him.” “I won’t simply arrest him if he gives me any trouble.” “Does he know you’re coming?” “I imagine so.”
26 “You’ll be taking one helluva big chance riding in there.” “I am not stupid, mister. I just want him either arrested or shot, makes no matter to me which way.” The man made a pained face. “Them Connors are clannish.” “I know that well. I’ve shot two of them since this all started—a month ago.” “I guess no one can keep you from going down there. Go back two roads and take it south. It goes down in the river bottoms from there. The Connors live about three miles west of that ferry. Not many men go in there alone and come out alive or are ever heard of again.” “I am much obliged for those words sir.” “Where you from, Texas?” “I came from there. I live in Kansas now.” “Be damn careful. They’ll shoot you in the back if they get the chance.” “I’ll remember that. My name’s Dailey. “ He reached out and shook his hand. “Sam 0rr. I ranch up here. Married to a Shawnee woman. Folks will tell you where I live upstream. I’m near Seneca, Missouri. You survive your trip, you’ll be welcome to come to my place.” “Thanks. Good to meet another cattleman.” They parted, and Dailey rode across the rolling prairie studded with groves of post oak. The road turned south and he followed it. Two ruts in the sod and some sinkholes of mud in the center of the road in a place or two that folks had went around to avoid being stuck in. He came off the high point, and could see the river shining silver through the gnarled cottonwoods lining it. He pushed Brody on. There were neat cornfields in these bottoms. Good looking corn about to tassel, and rail fences protecting them. They’d been cultivated and hoed so few weeds grew in the rows. Some real farmers must tend them. He stopped an old Indian woman walking down the road with her head under a shawl. “Am I close to the Connors farm?” “Close enough,” she said. “Where is it?” He searched around then he went back to look at her. “There.” She pointed at some buildings across a hay field toward the river. “Thank you.” She grunted something, and shuffled on her way. He checked his six-gun. Five loaded chambers and caps on those nipples. The cap-and-ball Colt .45 was well oiled and he cleaned it after each time he used it to save it from getting pitted and stiff. The loaded barrels were plugged with lard to prevent it cross firing. Holstered, he hoped he didn’t need it when he turned Brody and his pack string up the driveway that went to the cluster of
log and raw lumber buildings. Tree hounds began barking at his approach. A dark-eyed woman held her hand up to shade her eyes and peer hard at him. Her long, wild black hair was upset by the midday breeze from the south. “It’s the gawdman law!” she screamed. “The law’s here!” There were some shots. With no idea where they came from, he whirled Brody around. Horse and rider with his packhorses headed for the road in a flat out run. Folks were still screaming and firing guns back there when he struck the main road and headed east as fast as his horses could go. Trip one to find his man had ended in a disaster. Connors obviously had a wellarmed camp down there. He’d need some new plans if he was ever going to get him. He wondered about Orr. Maybe he would help him. He might not, too. He had to live in this country. That was why he had an Indian wife. You had to be married to one to farm or ranch on their tribal lands. It was near dark when he located Sam Orr’s place. The man came out and invited him to eat supper with them. “I just need a place to corral my horses for the night. I didn’t come to bother you.” A tall Indian woman came out. “Tie up your horses. The food will get cold.” “Yeah, we can do that later.” He took off his hat and scratched the top of his head. “You sure I’m not going to be trouble to you?” “Absolutely not,” his wife said, and waved him to come on with a large smile. “We aren’t afraid of trouble. He gets in it all the time.” Then she showed him inside. He really liked her. “Did you find your man?” Sam asked. “When I rode up a woman came out and, when she saw me, went to screaming, ‘He’s the law.’ Their guns broke out, and they went to shooting. I left quick as I could.” Sam chuckled. “It’s an armed camp, huh?” “Oh, they sure enough went to shooting after her screams.” “What will you do now?” “I’m not giving up. I want him for killing my bride.” “My name’s Bee,” his wife said. “Busy Bee he says. You sit down over there. You can talk about those outlaws while we eat.” Dailey smiled at her and did as she said. He could see how she ran her house as he sat down. There were pork chops on a platter, mash potatoes in a big dish, a big bowl of gravy, and a mix of squash, onions, and tomatoes. He loaded them all on his plate. “I know of some men who hate them, and would help you get into his camp,” Sam said. “Could I hire them?” “You mean the Turkey Brothers?” Bee asked her husband. Sam nodded. “They’ve been having war with them for sev-
27 eral years. I’ll introduce you to them tomorrow.” “Good. I could see that with them shooting at me, I sure needed help.” “There are men around here who will work with you, especially those brothers.” “I’ll sleep better tonight knowing that.” “Sam said he shot your bride?” Bee said. “Yes ma’am, I was a Texas Ranger once, before the carpetbaggers shut them down. I’ve been working ranches since them. Making cattle drives, I was coming across Kansas and happened to be out of matches, so I went in this store to get some. Two men were holding him up. I shot them before they shot me. One was Conners’s brother. The storekeeper had a lovely daughter. We decided to get married, and Connors rode up in the middle of the ceremony. He aimed at me and she ran to protect me—no way to stop either of them. Then he rode off in the confusion and she died.” “That sounds very sorry.” “It was. I want him tried or shot.” She agreed. He enjoyed her fine food and the company of them both. Obviously they had no children. Easy to see Sam was her senior by some years, but they had a good relationship, and the
house was a warm place. After a long, disappointing ride to their place, he felt much better seated in their company and eating so well at her table. Sam helped him put up his gear and saddle in his tack room. They turned his horses out in a lot with feed and water, then they went back to the house. She showed him the bedroom in the back of the house for his use later. She made popcorn and they sat around eating it and talking about ranching. “Will you go back to Kansas?” she finally asked him. “I intend to,” he said, not mentioning Lorrie being there. “If you want to meet those brothers tomorrow, we better get some sleep.” “When do you get up here?” he asked her. “Before the chickens crow,” she said and laughed. “I will wake you for breakfast.” “I don’t know how I’ll ever pay you all for all this.” She shook her head, smiling. “We enjoy your company.” He slept hard, waking twice from a dream about being shot at by Connors. The main thing he hoped was they weren’t dreams that came true. After one of her big breakfasts, the two of them rode all day to reach the Turkey Ranch down toward Tahlequah. The brothers
28 were home, and came out to greet Sam. Both were very hardfaced Indians, but gave friendly smiles as they shook hands. “Cyrus Connors killed his wife up in Kansas,” Sam explained. “He wants some help capturing him.” Tom, the older one, shook his head. “They protect him. And he must have spirits warn him.” “I was a Texas Ranger for two years. We caught lots of bad Indians and outlaws.” Tom nodded at his brother Able. “He may be the one we have needed to help us. See, Connors killed our uncle and aunt a few years ago in a robbery. Then he murdered our middle brother Adam at a stomp. That sumbitch did that to show us he could.” “You have any plans?” Able asked. “Ride in there with rifles before sunup while they sleep like Rangers did.” “We can get three more men to ride with us. When can you go in there?” “We all need to go up there one by one so they don’t get word what we’re doing,” Dailey said. “If all of us ride up there and they get word, they’ll be prepared. We need to take several days to get assembled, and then swoop in on them.” Able agreed. “I think you’re right. We all rode up there to-
gether the last time. He was gone and I bet they knew we were coming and they were fortified.” “Can we meet at your place?” Tom asked Sam. “Yes, but you all need to come in the night before so no one suspects what we’re doing.” “When should we do it?” Able asked. “Next Tuesday morning alright?” Dailey asked them. Tom spoke up, “We’ll be at your house before midnight on Monday.” “Good. Do you feel better now, Dailey?” “I feel ten times better.” “Time to eat,” Able said. “Come.” He and Sam slept in their bedrolls and rode back the next day. Bee welcomed them when they arrived there late at night. Both were plumb saddle weary when they rode in. She fixed them food after they put up their horses. “Did you do any good?” Bee asked them. “Not a word,” Sam said, “but we’ll have a posse here shortly.” “I never dreamed this would happen, but it sure is.” Dailey felt really good inside and out. He was going to be in their camp with a force strong enough to capture Heidi’s killer. “Good. I hope you get him.” “If he’s there, we’ll get him.”
29 “I bet the Turkey Brothers are pleased too?” “They’re going to help us,” Sam said. “Dailey has woken up all the good people around here. This will show them how to handle killers and bad guys.” “Oh, men. Now Dailey, I have felt sorry for you. That was a terrible mean thing to do to you. He’s hurt some Indian families, too.” “Tom said he robbed and killed his aunt and uncle, plus his brother at a stomp.” “His uncle was once a rich man. I bet they got lots of money and gold.” “I bet they don’t have a dime left of it either,” Sam said. “How many over there have rewards on them?” Dailey asked. “Good question. But if they took them to Van Buren to the federal court down there, they’d probably turn them loose.” “I’m not going to turn him over to none of them. I want him to hang in Kansas.” Sam agreed. Then they sat down and ate. Waiting for the time to come, he helped Sam check on some of his range stock. His friend ran several head of Texas steers. He’d bought them as weaned calves and raised them on grass to be long twos and threes, which was what the corn farmers in Illinois wanted--a full frame steer to fill out. Overall, they were doing good on the bluestem grass. Then he reshod one of the packhorses that needed it in Sam’s blacksmith shop. He had lots on his mind about what he’d do if Connors wasn’t there. He hoped Lorrie was at Willow Grove and getting settled. If he ever got back there, he had plans for her, too. But his memory of their short time together was a good one and she had lots of heart. The night before, riders quietly began to gather at Sam’s. Bee had a big pot of beef stew on the stove, and a great cowboy pot of coffee ready and hot. That and her homemade bread, butter, and strawberry jam made some tough faces smile and thank her. Tom and Able introduced him to the half dozen as they drifted in. Most were Cherokees and obviously had some grudge against the Connors. “What if he is not there?” Tom asked him. ‘Then we need to find out where he went. I’m not giving up this soon on getting him.” Tom nodded in the light coming on the porch from the window. Squatted on their heels, the men talked about who else might be there. The list was long but Tom explained those men they named all had rewards on them. “Will you have to take them to Arkansas to collect the reward on them?” Dailey asked. “Some the Cherokees will pay for the delivery to them at Tahlequah. Others, yes, will need to go to Van Buren. And they will pay you in script that you can cash later on.” “How long later on?” Dailey asked. “Oh, in six or nine months, but you can take a discount on that paper and get money then.”
“That buying federal script is big business in Van Buren and over in the Fort Smith,” Sam said. “I hope you make a fortune.”“We hope you get Cyrus.” Heads bobbed in the night and the yes’s rolled out. Under the stars, they set out for the Connors place. Tom took half to come across the river from the south. Able was riding with Dailey and Sam to come in down the driveway. They cautioned every man not to shoot their own. There was only a sliver of a moon and lots of stars as they trotted for their destination. Split up at last, they were coming down the drive, having given Tom and his men enough time to make it around to the south side. Dogs began to bark, but they were in place on their horses. Several of the men went to watch the back doors. “Who the hell are you?” A sleepy woman came out wrapped in a blanket and tried to see them. “Tell all the men to come out hands up or they will die and any woman takes up a gun can expect to die too. I have fifty men out here to arrest all the men in this place.” Dailey set Brody down, holding the Colt in his fist. There was a shot fired behind the log house and a man screamed. “Get him?” Dailey shouted. “Yes. He’s wounded,” the man shouted. “Any more of you want to die?” “You better get out here or we’re torching this place. I’ve got two cans of kerosene and matches.” He lied about the kerosene, but he had plenty of matches. Men began to come out of the buildings with their hands high. Babies cried and a woman or two cussed—then spoke angry in some tribal babble he didn’t understand. “Where is Cyrus?” he demanded of the first prisoner. The man shook his head. Dailey cocked his pistol and put it to the man’s temple. “Where is he?” “Gone.” “Where did he go?” The man shrugged. “Maybe Texas.” “Check every place he could hid. All you prisoners come over here. Able, check them for weapons, and make them sit on the ground.” Were they lying to protect him? They’d soon know if he was there. The men were scouring the whole camp, forcing women and children to go outside and sit on the ground. There was lots of crying and women cussing them. But it was better they were moved out in the open than be stabbed in the back by one of them. The sun was peeping up and if Cyrus was there, they’d find him. Dailey’s hopes were dying fast, however. He wasn’t there so far. Tom had a youth that came with them to write down the
usty Richards grew up riding horses and watching his western heroes on the big screen. He even wrote book reports for his classmates, making up westerns since English teachers didn’t read that kind of book. But his mother didn’t want him to be a cowboy, so he went to college, then worked for Tyson Foods and auctioned cattle when he wasn’t an anchor on television. But his lifelong dream was to write the novels he loved. He sat on the stoop of Zane Grey’s cabin and promised that he’d get published. And in 1992, his first book, Noble’s Way, hit the shelves. Since then, he’s had 140 more come out. He is a sought-after speaker and master of ceremonies, and has served as President of Ozarks Writers League, Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc., and Western Writers of America. If he can steal some time, he also like to fish for trout on the Buffalo River. Find out more about Dusty and his many books at www.dustyrichards.com
names of the men who were wanted. In a short while they had seven on that list. Some of their women had bandaged the man’s arm who had been shot trying to escape. He was on their list of, course. One shot fired and his army had taken seven men with bounties on their heads. Even if the rewards were only fifty dollars apiece, that would pay his posse men well for their long ride. Tom acted very satisfied. “We’ve looked high and low. He’s not here. He must have left when you tried to take him and were run off. I bet he left them then. We plan to get his woman up here and have her answer some questions. She cusses a lot and may spit on you, but she knows we can be tough on her, too.” Tom shook his head as if full of dread over the deal. Then he said, “Bring his woman up here.” They brought her by the arms with her trying to shake them off and stomping her moccasins. “Let go of me! I’ll stick a broom up your asses. Let go of me.” Tom faced her down. She wasn’t tall, and her wild long hair was in her face. “We’ve no time for your tantrums. We’ll go stick your head in the river if you don’t quit cussing and tell us where he went. Won’t take much of that to make you wish you’d told us everything.” “How the hell should I know where he went?” Tom pointed south. “Take her down there and drown her.” The two Indians holding her nodded and spun her around. “All right, you bastards. I’ll tell him what he wants to know.” They brought her back. “Where did he go?” “Ft Worth, he said.” “Where in Ft. Worth?” She shook her head. “He may have a whore there. How would I know that?” “What’s he going to do down there?” “Rob banks or stages, I guess.” Tom looked at Dailey. “What else do you need?” “Nothing I guess. I’ll go look for him down there.” It was bittersweet. They had broken up his gang if the federal judge acted on their cases. He had more trail to ride. Ft Worth was big place to find anyone, but an Indian might be easier found there than a white man. “I owe all of you a big thanks. Collect the rewards. If you are ever in Willow Grove, Kansas, come by the general store. I plan to join her father in his store when this is over.” He spent his last night in troubled sleep, concerned he’d never find his bride’s killer. Hang tough, partners! The action continues in March.
BOOMER, CYCLONE AND ROSIE RED Bonnie Tesh
y grandmother’s brother, Silas T. Parker, a successful attorney in Arkansas, took pity on my mother and tried to turn me into a passable lawyer. I apprenticed under him for eight months before he dropped dead at the young age of ninety-seven. His advice to me the week before his demise: “ You might make a meager living defending petty thieves and strumpets, but don’t try anything that has to do with arithmetic, medicine, or business. You ain’t got the brains for it.” He left me $157 and a collection of law books that I pored over by candlelight, a bottle of his fine imported whiskey by my side. A few evenings after Uncle Si passed on, I wandered over to the Black Hole Saloon. A big burley fellow walked up to me. “Are you the fella that’s taken over Silas Parker’s practice?” His dark eyes bored into mine. I backed up a couple of steps. “Yes, I am. What may I do to help you?” I did not want to help this man, but Si’s fortune would not last forever, and I did not want to start selling off his stock of expensive liquor. “My partner got throwed in the hoosegow last night. He needs a lawyer.” “What are the charges?” I asked. “Blowed up the sheriff’s outhouse.” This, I concluded, was a case lost already. “That might be hard to defend. Perhaps you need to seek a more experienced…” The big man picked me up by my tailor-made lapels and pulled me to within an inch of his hairy face. “You best get on over to the jail and talk to your client. Court’s in the mornin’.” He sat me down and brushed at my lapels with his big paws. “His name is Boomer James.” I thought about my options, then walked over to the jail. I was not anxious to defend Mr. James, but neither did I want his unpleasant friend after me. The guard opened the cell door. “Hey, James, your lawyer’s here.”
A man lay sprawled on a cot against the wall. He turned and looked at me, then covered his face with his worn felt hat. “Mr. James?” I stood as close to the cell door as I could, with an eye on the guard. “None other,” he answered. “A friend of yours approached me at the saloon, said you needed a lawyer.” Boomer removed the hat and looked me over. “Nice suit,” he said. “I always fancied vests. Had one once, but my ma put it on my uncle for his buryin’. Never did get another.” “Sorry that happened to you.” I certainly did not offer him mine, although I knew I would not fight him for it. He sat up and grinned at me. “Don’t worry. I don’t want your vest. It’s a little too frilly for me.” I was offended. “It’s the latest thing brought in from St. Louis. Embroidered silk.” “How much?” Boomer barked. I looked down at my vest. “I don’t know, sir. My uncle paid the tailor.” He slapped his leg and guffawed. “Not the vest. How much to defend me in court tomorrow?” “Oh,” I hesitated. “I don’t really know. I need the facts of the case to estimate how difficult it might be to defend you.” I had no idea what to charge. Silas had not covered that part of my training before he died. Boomer stood up. “You don’t remember me do you?” “No, sir, I don’t believe I do.” “I’m a friend of Gert Hebbers. I sat in court with her over them damn chickens she lost. You defended the thief. I watched you whirlin’ around that courtroom like a dad-blamed cyclone. I figured if I ever hired another lawyer, it’d be you.” I remembered the case. Uncle Si sent me to defend the alleged thief. I ran around the courtroom chasing live chickens,
34 to show how difficult it would be to catch them without their collective squawks waking the occupants of the house. Feathers flew all over the place. The judge had a sneezing fit and dismissed the case. He said there was no proof my client stole the chickens except Gert Hebber’s word. He warned me not to resort to theatrics in his courtroom again. I held my ground by the cell door, back against the wall and fingers curled around the bars. “Do they have proof it was you that blew up the outhouse?” Boomer ran a hand across his face, then combed his hair with splayed fingers before he answered. “The sheriff’s wife was in the crapper when I blew it up.” I let go of the bars and paced across my side of the cell. “Oh, my, did she see you? Were there any witnesses that you did it?” “Her stupid dog was sitting in front of the door waiting for her to come out. It barked its head off at me” “Do you have any witnesses that will swear they saw you elsewhere that night about the same time the outhouse blew up?” “Yeah, Rosie Red. She said she’ll swear I was with her all night.” “Aha! And where might I find Miss Red?” “About three cells down. They drug her off the stage headed west early this morning. Some tenderfoot said she cheated at a poker game and stiffed him for a bunch of money. She said she’d tell the judge I was in her room all night. She’s taken a likin’ to me and wants me to go to California with her.” “So, your only witness is in jail?” “Looks that way.” I reflected on that for a moment, then curiosity got the better of me. “May I ask, what is your reason for doing such a thing?” He shrugged. “I just like blowin’ things up.” “Have you considered pleading guilty? Paying a fine?” “I ain’t got no money to pay a fine, and if I end up servin’ time in this jail, Rosie Red will be long gone with some other maverick. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. She’s got the money to pay you and get me to California too. I need you to win this.” It was getting late, and I had missed my supper. I could feel the need for a good stiff drink. I looked to see where the guard was, then pulled a large bottle from the deep inside pocket of my coat. I offered it to Boomer first. His eyes lit up and he took a healthy swig, then passed it back. I took a long draw, then passed it back to Boomer. He downed another swallow, and
passed it back. After a few passes back and forth, he swiped a shirtsleeve across his mouth, squinted his eyes, and motioned for me to move closer. “You are a mighty fine lawyer, worth every penny you get out of Rosie Red. You need to see her before she gets too far into her sleep. She might get cranky if you wake her up.” He winked and grinned. “Give her a swig out of that bottle. That will sweeten her up.” I nodded in agreement. The whiskey gave me enough courage to attempt a conversation with Miss Red. I tipped my hat to my client and called out to the guard. “Zir, could you please assist me?” The guard sauntered down to the cell. “Ready to leave?” Before I could answer, Boomer yelled out from behind me. “Take Cyclone here down to see Rosie Red. He’s her lawyer too.” “Is that your business with Rosie?” The guard winked at me, as though he was suspicious of what my “business” with Rosie might include. Alcohol on an empty stomach went straight to my brain and clouded my good judgment. I slurred an agreement. “Yezzsir, it is.” The guard sniffed my breath as I squeezed past him through the open cell door. “I would almost wager that I detect the essence of alcohol.” Caught red-handed, I reached into the big inside pocket, and surrendered the bottle. The guard opened it, took a long swallow, and handed it back. “Follow me Councilor. I’ll take you to Miss Red.” “Hey, Rosie, your lawyer wants to see you.” “My what?” The coarse, raspy voice was one some might attribute to cigar smoking and excess consumption of alcohol. “Your lawyer, he wants to see you.” I introduced myself, my speech slow and distinct to reduce the alcohol-induced slur. “I am George W. Johnson, Attorney at Law, at your service, ma’am. Mr. Boomer James sent me. He said you needed an attorney.” “Sure, let him in.” There was nothing rosy about Rosie Red. She was swarthy with dark hair and eyes. Red ruffles, swirls, and curlicues covered the huge dress she wore. Her enormous body spilled over the cot on which she reclined. She peered at me in the dim light, then motioned me closer. “I think I smell whiskey.” I reached into the big pocket, hauled out the bottle, and handed it to her. She chug-a-lugged it and handed it back empty. “Got another one stashed somewhere?”
35 “No, I don’t. That’s all of it. I would like to talk to you about Mr. James’s defense. He said you are a witness to his whereabouts the night of the outhouse incident.” “Go get some more.” She glared at me. I started to refuse, but decided I should not get on the wrong side of Rosie Red, for my own and my client’s sake. “I guess I could tell the guard I have to get something from my office for notes. I’ll give it a try.” The guard believed my story. As I passed Boomer’s cell, I heard: “Better bring two.” The guard walked me to the outside door. “Might oughta bring three.” I thought I might ignore the whole situation, but when I left the jail, Boomer’s gnarly friend stepped out in front of me. “You takin’ care of Boomer?” “Oh, yes. Things are going well.” He wasn’t going anywhere except to follow me back and forth to the jail, and then to the courtroom. He intended to be my constant shadow. I grabbed four bottles of whiskey and headed back. We drank all night, plotting their defense. The guard, Harold, and I were on a first name basis by dawn. Harold herded Boomer, Rosie, and me into the courtroom with great fanfare. He introduced each of us to the judge several times, and told him what a fine fellow I was for sharing my liquor with the three of them. Rosie fell out of the witness chair. It took five men to get her onto her feet. The sheriff and his wife showed up with the dog, which proceeded to bark and growl at Boomer, then run under the table, sink its teeth into his leg. and hang on until the gnarly friend showed up and shot it. The judge turned red in the face, banged his gavel, and told me never to return to his courtroom. He had us arrested, including Harold, and sentenced us to rebuilding the sheriff’s outhouse. Rosie dumped Boomer for me. She said she might need a lawyer in California. We bought enough bags to pack the rest of Uncle Si’s fine whiskey, and then headed west. She bought a big house with lots of bedrooms, and started a new business that does from time to time require my services. I pore over the law books at night with a bottle of Uncle Si’s fine imported whiskey beside me. On occasion, I hear him whisper in my ear, “ Don’t do anything that has to do with arithmetic, medicine, or business.” I laugh, pour another shot of whiskey, and read on.
onnie K. Tesh is an award-winning author who lives in the Missouri Ozarks. Several of her stories have been published in anthologies. She is the co-author of I’ll Push, You Steer, an inspirational nonfiction book with Ronda Del Boccio, and is currently working on a new novel, Monarch Moon. Bonnie is also active in several writers groups in her region. She serves on the board of Ozarks Writers League and the Kimberling Area Library Authors Day Committee, and is a member of the Northwest Arkansas Writers’ Workshop. Boomer, Cyclone and Rosie Red won first place in the 2013 Ozark Writers League contest, Judges, Jailhouses, Lawyers and Gumshoes.
or a small Ozark Mountain town in Northwest Arkansas, Fayetteville has had an interesting, often complex history. It has produced or been home to politicians, architects, and writers of state, national and international renown. During its nearly 200-year existence, Fayetteville has seen many changes – some good, some not so much. But very often, these changes and the history that came along with them have been remarkable – especially considering the city’s small size. Created on America’s western frontier in October 1828, Fayetteville was originally named Washington Courthouse, but to avoid confusion was renamed the following year because another town in the Arkansas Territory (the territory would not become a state until 1836) was already named Washington. How Fayetteville got its name is the subject for another essay, but suffice it to say that the town had hardly begun settling in when it experienced a year of such significance that it would reverberate for decades to come. The year was 1839, and three separate incidents during those early days would have a major, lingering impact on Fayetteville and the local area. The first of these occurred on Sunday, January 13, 1839, when a contingent of some 1,100 Cherokee, led by John Benge, moving westward on the infamous Trail of Tears, passed through. They camped to the west of town, near where
Fayetteville High School stands today and even though it was a Sunday they came back to the Square in search of liquid refreshment. The William Wallace family owned a grocery (where whiskey was sold in the old days) on the west side of the Square, and they chose to break the Sabbath and open their doors to the travelers. As might have been suspected, many people ended up getting drunk, and a wild brawl ensued. In the melee, one of the Cherokees, a man named Nelson Orr, was stabbed and killed by William Wallace’s son Willis. Luckily for Willis Wallace and the town of Fayetteville itself, a Cherokee leader intervened in the post-fight chaos, calmed everyone down, and kept the incident from escalating into a small war. Next day, the Cherokee moved on to what would become known as Indian Territory. As for Willis Wallace, he was acquitted of the killing a few months later by a local jury. Just two weeks after his May acquittal for killing Nelson Orr, Willis Wallace shot and killed a local man,and nearly stabbed to death yet another. At this subsequent trial, Wallace was again acquitted, the latest killing being deemed “justifiable homicide.” The Willis Wallace acquittals did not set well with one man living in Fayetteville at the time, the former child evangelist turned lawyer and author, would-be vigilante A. W. Arrington. Incensed by such murderous behavior and the court’s deci-
39 sion to set the perpetrator free, Arrington organized a group to bring Willis Wallace to justice. The so-called Arrington-Wallace War (no shots were fired) ended after a confrontation on the Square in which Willis Wallace managed to get a couple of small cannons and aimed them directly at Arrington’s vigilantes. After the standoff, Willis Wallace departed Fayetteville for the wide open spaces of Texas. A side note: about two to three years after this second violent incident, Riley Wallace—Willis’ brother and whose rescue in the grocery had led to Willis’ killing of Nelson Orr—stabbed and killed the same man who had survived the stabbing by Willis Wallace. Brother Riley chose to leave town too, and so he followed his brother down into Texas. In June 1839, two more terrible events occurred. The first, on June 15, was the slaughter of five members of the Wright family of Cane Hill, which led to a witch hunt-like atmosphere in search of the unknown killers. The Cane Hill Independent Regulating Committee, 36 members strong and under the command of a prosperous local farmer named Mark Bean, took charge of the case and eventually four men were accused of and hung for the murders. Not everyone was convinced of the men’s guilt, however, and A. W. Arrington once again led a vigorous condemnation of the Regulating Committee’s actions. One week after the Wright murders, hostilities broke out between warring factions of the displaced Cherokee. On the night of June 22, 1839, agents connected to Chief John Ross’s National Party assassinated three members of the Treaty Party, which bore the blame for the suffering of the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears. Major Ridge, his son John Ridge and nephew Elias Boudinot, all of the Treaty Party, were assassinated within hours of one another. Major Ridge was killed just inside the Arkansas State line, while his son and nephew died in the Indian Territory. Stand Watie, Boudinot’s brother, was warned of the attacks and was able to defend himself and survive. In the aftermath of the Cherokee killings, John Ridge’s widow Sarah moved to Fayetteville for her and her family’s safety. Her home, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, still stands on West Center Street in Fayetteville, and is owned and cared for by the Washington County Historical Society. Accompanying Sarah Ridge to Fayetteville was Sophia Sawyer, a missionary teacher for young Cherokee women. Miss
E. C. Boudinot Sawyer established the Fayetteville Female Seminary within sight of the Ridge home on West Mountain Street. The Female Seminary flourished even after Sophia Sawyer died in 1854, but it could not survive the ravages of the Civil War. E. C. Boudinot, Elias’s son, did not come to Fayetteville immediately after the killing of his father and the other “Treaty” men. But after attending school in the East, “Boodie,” as the locals called him, returned and during the mid- to late-1850s, was a lawyer, newspaperman, and Fayetteville city councilman. He became prominent enough to be elected Secretary at the Little Rock secession meetings in 1861. After the war, he remained part of the local scene well into the latter 1880s. Sources: Desperadoes of the South-West, A. W. Arrington, 1847; Goodspeed’s Washington County History, Washington County, Arkansas, 1889; 100 Years of Fayetteville, W. S. Campbell, 1928. “Cane Hill Murders, Part 1 and Part 2,” David Malone, Flashback, Vol. 47, No. 4, 1997 and Vol. 48, No. 2, 1998; “Fuss at Fayetteville” and “Reverend Alfred W. Arrington,” David Malone, Flashback, Vol. 48, No. 2, 1998.
The approach to Canyonlands National Park along route 131 is extraordinarily scenic in its own right. It’s difficult to believe things will be more beautiful within the park, but they are.
In 1961 the U.S. Bureau of Reclamations loved building dams. They’d been doing it since the beginning of the 20th century and Commissioner Floyd Dominy had no reason to believe they would ever stop. The American west was thirsty country. The population was growing quickly and people in the desert states needed water and electricity. Politicians found hydroelectric projects irresistible. Remote regions in western states were full of canyons cut by rivers flowing through relatively impermeable rock. Civil engineers knew how to block those canyons with concrete and steel and convert the power of the rivers into electricity. The projects provided high paying jobs for thousands of workers, created real estate bonanzas in the desert, and offered a source of clean seemingly endless energy. The reservoirs supplied water to developing urban centers and created recreation areas that attracted thousands of visitors. Dams seemed to be a foolproof way to get votes. The Bureau of Reclamations had already dammed the Tuolumne River and flooded Hetch Hetchy Valley in northwestern California. They did this in 1923 to supply water for the city of San Fransisco. Hetch Hetchy was a protected area within the borders of the Yosimite National Park but that hardly slowed the project down. Neither did protests from Native American tribes who had lived in the valley for thousands of years. If the bureau could flood a sensitive area like Hetch
Hetchy, they could probably get away with damming any river west of the Mississippi. By the time John F. Kennedy took office in 1961 a number of new hydroelectric projects were underway. Glen Canyon dam was being built near Page Arizona. It would run the Colorado River through turbines to produce a massive amount of electricity and as an added benefit it createed a large reservoir and recreational area—Lake Powell. That project wouldn’t be finished until 1966 but it was moving along more or less on schedule and no one seemed to be having second thoughts. The Curescanti project had been approved in the 1950’s. Three dams (Blue Mesa, Morrow Point, and Crystal) were planned along the Gunnison River in Colorado to generate electricity and store water for recreation and agriculture. There would be a few bumps in the road on those projects but Rocky Mountain water politics was for them, and no one—at least no one with any power—was opposed. When Floyd Dominy, Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamations, flew over southeastern Utah with newly appointed Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall he pointed out the site he’d picked out for the for the next big dam project. They were on route from Glen Canyon to Denver, Colorado, flying over a part of Utah the Bureau had in its sights for some time. It was the politically perfect spot. Highway 70 hadn’t been completed so this sparsely populated region of Utah was dis-
43 connected from concentrations of voters outside the state. There were few people living in the area so the government expected few complaints. There weren’t enough locals wouldn’t make serious demands on the water trapped in the reservoir, or the electricity generated by the turbines. The Bureau didn’t expect much litigation over land that had such minimal agricultural potential, and aside from the Sierra Club environmentalism didn’t exist. Floyd Dominy pointed out the window from 10,000 feet above the desert at a spot just below the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers. It was probably the biggest mistake the commissioner ever made. Stewart Udall was enthralled by the Canyonlands spread out below him in all it’s glory. He’s quoted in the National Park Guide as saying, “I thought God Almighty. If that isn’t a national park then I’ve never seen one.” The prospects for a dam ended then and there. It was a big disappointment for the Bureau of Reclamations and the growing populations on the west coast who stood to profit from the inexpensive water and power. When Udall got back to Washington, he started looking for
other people who wanted to preserve the Canyonlands. He found an ally in Bates Wilson, the Superintendent of Arches National Park, who had been lobbying for the preservation of Canyonlands for years. Even after plans for the dam were scuttled, Udall and Bates had a struggle on their hands. Utah’s citizens were understandably less than enthusiastic about the federal government converting 1,200 square miles of state land into national park. The Canyonlands were not suitable for agriculture or urban development but there were several active uranium mines in the region. Other minerals were also present in the Colorado Plateau, and there was the always the future potential for oil and gas exploration. Utah’s governor George Dewey Clyde and senator Wallace Bennett fought to allow multiple use of the land and to drastically reduce the park’s size, but they ultimately lost to the combined efforts of Udall and Wilson. After three years of political wrangling Canyonlands National Park was established and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on September 12, 1964.
Swirls in sandstone look like rock art but they are the product of wind and water erosion. (en route to Canyonlands)
Stunning canyon views begin at the visitors center and continue for a 34 mile round trip around the sandstone mesa that comprises the Island in the Sky district.
This section of the canyon was cut into the sandstone of the Colorado Plateau by the Colorado River.
View from the Green River side of the Island in the Sky mesa.
The southeastern part of Utah is still a remote area. If you visit this spectacular park, Moab (population 5,046) is the closest and most reliable place to find gas stations and hotels. Once inside the park (entrance fee of $10 / vehicle) there are no services. Canyonlands is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but the visitor center has variable, somewhat unpredictable operating hours. Unlike the Grand Canyon and Canyon de Chelley there is no contemporary indigenous population living in the park. Ancestral Puebloans (popularly known as the Anasazi) once lived in and around the canyons. Most of the artifacts they left behind have been taken by looters but hikers can still see ruins of their dwellings and petroglyphs. Newspaper Rock is an easy-to-reach destination near the Visitor Center. Some of the petroglyphs reach well into the pre-Columbian era. More recent rock art depicts men on horses that were introduced by Spanish explorers. Navajo call Newspaper Rock, Tse’ Hone’, which translates as, “rock that tells a story.” Unfortunately you may also see modern rock art—graffiti—in the park. Five hundred years from now, the park service may Primitive switchback roads go down into the canyon have a different attitude, but for now it’s not art, it’s vandal form the Island in the Sky district. Some of these roads ism and a federal crime punishable by fines up to $500, and are remnants of the uranium mines that were active unup to six months in jail. til the land was converted to a national park.
48 Some of the formations in Canyonlands are reminiscent of the ones found in Monument Valley.
The paved road ends at the Grand View Lookout but the foot trail continues.
The Mesa Arch is about a h of the Island in the Sky dr are no signs warning visi climb it, but perhaps there
half mile off rive. There itors not to e should be.
51 Canyons within Canyons seen from the Grand View Lookout—the end of the road on the Island in the Sky drive.
Some of the petroglyphs on Newspaper Rock feature horses introduced during the Spanish exploration of the region. Others are even older. The Navajo name for the rock, Tse’ Hone’ translates as, “rock that tells a story.”
52 Glen Canyon Dam, near Page, Arizona, was completed in 1966, about two years after Lyndon B. Johnson signed the legislation giving Canyonlands national park status.
53 Canyonlands is the largest national park in Utah with 337,598 acres of breathtaking scenery in the heart of the high desert. Beautiful vistas are easily accessible from the paved road in the most popular Island in the Sky district of the park. The 34 mile (round trip) drive over the sandstone mesa offers scenic overlooks into the canyon floor 1,000 feet below. There are suggested driving tours of the Island in the Sky district that vary in length from two to eight hours. Three other districts (the Maze, the Needles, and the Green and Colorado Rivers) are more remote and much less popular. No roads within the park directly link the park districts. High clearance four-wheel drive vehicles (that can be rented in Moab) are required for some roads in the Needles District and all roads in the Maze. The Canyonlands National Park is a must see destination for anyone driving through southeastern Utah. It’s difficult to believe anyone ever wanted to turn it into a reservoir.
John T. Biggs
The Blue Mesa dam was one of three dams built along the Gunnison River in Colorado to create reservoirs and produce electricity.
ohn Biggs has two dilemmas: he’s seen the magic that surrounds everyone, and he can’t stop writing about it. Born in Herrin, Illinois, John fell in love with Oklahoma when looking for a job. It was nothing like the movies had led him to expect. The dust bowl was over. Cowboy hats were as popular as ever. Horses too, but people mostly rode around in cars or pickup trucks when they had serious traveling to do. Oklahoma had a diverse population, and he knew he’d have to write about it sooner or later. One of John’s stories, “Boy Witch” took grand prize in the 80th annual Writer’s Digest Competition in 2011. Another won third prize in the 2011 Lorian Hemingway short story contest, and another took top honors in the 2012 Oklahoma Writers Federation Inc. annual conference. He had thirty-five short stories published in one form or another before releasing his first novel, Owl Dreams, in November 2013. His second, Popsicle Styx, hit shelves in December, 2014.
56 Gatling guns have long been depicted in Western movies and portrayed as having been employed in the Civil War. Just how much action did Gatling guns see in the Old West? The hand crank-operated, multiple-barrel Gatling gun was invented by Dr. Richard J. Gatling (1818-1903) in 1861 and patented in 1862. Dr. Gatling was a medical school graduate who never practiced medicine. He only undertook the training in event his family needed treatment. Gatling mainly designed agricultural equipment, which gave him the necessary engineering background to design a deadly effective weapon. It is said he invented the deadly weapon for humanitarian reasons, hoping to reduce the carnage of war. However, that was never directly attributed to him. These heavy weapons were usually two-wheel carriagemounted, although some smaller models had a tripod. Gatlings were employed more like direct-fire artillery pieces than modern machine guns. Calibers ranged from .30-caliber to 1-inch. The guns were available in a variety of black powder calibers, although smokeless powder cartridges began to be used in the early 1890s. The first model unsuccessfully used .58-caliber paper-cased muzzle-loading rifle cartridges. Most had six barrels, but later smaller caliber models had ten. Early guns fired 300-400 rounds per minute, but later models could reach 1,200 with improved gearing. The guns were gravity-fed by hoppers or open clips. The donut-shaped Accles drum magazine seen in many movies was not available until 1883 and was highly prone to jamming. The much more effective Bruce feeder of 1881
was preferred. The US never widely used the Gatling in combat, but Britain and Russia made use of them from the 1880s, as did other European armies, mainly employing them in their colonies. Gatling’s gun was initially difficult to sell to the US Government, which was skeptical of new weapons that usually failed to function as advertised. Gatling contracted a Cincinnati, Ohio factory for six guns in 1862, which were lost to a fire. In 1863, another firm completed the first 13 guns, essentially handmade weapons. The only Gatlings used during the Civil War were privately purchased, and they were expensive at about $1,000, a great deal in the 1860s. Major General Benjamin Franklin Butler (1818-93) used two at Petersburg and mounted eight more on river gunboats during the New Orleans campaign. Major General Winfield S. Hancock (1824-86) employed twelve and Admiral David D. Porter (1813-91) used one on a gunboat. These were six-barrel .58-caliber paper cartridge M1862 guns. While seeing limited use, they proved effective and attracted a great deal of interest in the new weapon “worth a hundred riflemen.” The US Army did not formally adopt the Gatling battery gun until 1866, a year after the war. This was the M1865. It was called a “battery gun” as one gun could fire the same amount of lead as a battery of light artillery firing canister. Over the next 40 years the Army used no less than nineteen different models, many with just minor differences, all produced by Colt. The first models were 1-inch throwing an 8-ounce lead bullet as well as canister versions. Most were .50-70 Government, the same round used in trapdoor Springfield rifles. In the mid-1870s they were rebarreled to .45-70 Government used in the improved trapdoor Springfield. The M1893 Gatling and later models were .30-40 Government as used in Krag rifles. The last model used by the US Army was the 10-barrel .30-40 M1900. These were converted to the M1903 by rechambering them for the short-lived .30-03 cartridge and then to the new .3006. Gatlings saw limited use in the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection. The US Navy also made limited use of them aboard ships for defense against torpedo boats and for landing parties.
57 The world’s armies soon supplanted Gatlings with the Maxim gun (the first effective automatic machine gun developed in 1884) and other true machine guns. In an effort to prolong the life of the Gatling, a battery-operated DC electric motor system was developed in 1893, firing 1,500 to 3,000 rounds per minute, but this only made the big weapon heavier and less mobile, to say nothing of the reliability problems of the era’s batteries. The Gatling Company folded soon after the inventor’s death. Colt produced the last Gatling gun for the Army in 1911 and they were declared obsolete in 1915. Lore has it that the 7th Cavalry Regiment’s 1876 disaster at the Little Big Horn could have been averted if Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer (1839-76) had not ordered two attached Gatling guns left behind (thought to have been .50-70 M1866 or M1871 guns). Custer felt the heavy guns and their caissons would slow down his fast-moving column. His decision was based on the earlier experiences of Major Marcus Reno while on a scouting expedition. The guns slowed Reno’s column on rough ground and one overturned, injuring three soldiers. They were temporarily abandoned, being retrieved on the patrol’s return passage. There were also complaints of frequent jamming. Custer’s dispersed column was struck by surprise from the A 10-barrel .50-caliber Gatling gun as depicted in the 1877 Army manuflank as a mass of Indians charged over a rise. An estimated al, Service and Description of Gatling Guns. 1,200 Indians overwhelmed the 207 cavalrymen in a sudden rush. Many troopers fled in panic downhill afoot; there was no time to establish even a modicum of an organized defense, and certainly not the last stand defensive perimeter so often portrayed in movies and paintings. If Custer had taken the Gatling guns, Reno’s battalion arriving on the battlefield the next day would have found them still limbered to their caissons with the four condemned cavalry horses used to draw each gun dead in their traces and the dismembered crewmen scattered about. In fact, there was very little use of Gatlings during the Indian Wars, even through the Army possessed a few hundred. Follows is an excerpt from the sequel to The Hardest Ride, Ride Harder, in which Gatling guns play a key role: * * * “First Sergeant,” the major shouted sudden like. “Sir.” “My compliments to Lieutenant Hampton. He is to fall in the battery gun detail for a demonstration.” He told the first sergeant to have coffee brought for his guests. The major asked me more questions about that hard ride while we drank coffee from fancy cups. Behind the camp I saw my first Gatling gun. It was bigger than I’d of thought. It sat on two wheels like a cannon. Behind
A 10-barrel Gatling with one of the many types of magazines. Ideally a Gatling was served by a four-man crew, the gunner, and Numbers 1, 2, and 3. Two men at a minimum could operate it, however. (Pearson S. Foreman) Opposite Page: A 1-inch six-barrel Gatling battery gun (without magazine). Gatling gun doctrine was under the proponency of the Artillery School.
A diagram of a 10-barrel .42-caliber Gatling showing the arrangement of the spiral cam and firing mechanism showing the firing sequence and movements of the 10 bolts arranged from left to right. it was what they called a caisson, also with two wheels, and it carried the ammunition. The gun was mostly brass, polished like only soldiers can make it. Except the ten barrels were steel. I could see it was heavy. Five soldiers stood round the gun and a corporal told us what all the parts were. Said it weighed two-hundred pounds, just the gun. Some other soldiers, I guess with nothing to do, showed up to watch. So it fires ten shots all at once and then you reload it. I guess it could replace ten riflemen, but you’re shooting all ten barrels at the same place. Certain to make a fella dead. The major said, “Commence the demonstration, corporal.” The corporal shouted, “Take equipments!” and the soldiers ran about readying the gun. “Prepare to fire!” The crew all stood at stiff attention. “Load!” A fella picked up this brass arm and stuck it in the
top of the gun. Another fella had two twenty-round cartons, tore the bottoms off, and just as slick as can be, racked them into that arm one atop the other with them pointing forward like the barrels. There were forty .45-70 cartridges in the arm’s two grooves. “Hostiles, two-hundred yards, prepare to engage!” Way off, three foot-wide planks were stuck in the ground, about five feet tall. Beside them was a fence post about as tall. A soldier behind the gun bent over and sighted. He turned some little wheels under the gun. “Ready to fire!” He took hold of a crank on the right side. “On my command,” yelled the corporal. “Commence…firing!” The soldier cranked the handle like on a cistern chain pump and the barrels turned. Nothing happened at first and then a round cracked off and it was one shot after another faster than I could count. Another soldier racked in two more cartons of
A 10-barrel .50-caliber Model of 1876 Gatling gun displayed at the Fort Laramie National Historic Site, Wyoming. Gatling guns, cannons, and wagons of the 1800s were painted olive drab. cartridges while the shooting was going on. Looked like he was cranking as fast as he could. It was a constant rattle of shots with empty cartridges flying out the left side. The planks and post two-hundred yards away turned into splinters, with dirt and gravel flying all over. There wasn’t anything left standing. I looked silly with my mouth hanging open. “Cease firing. Secure piece.” “The crew just fired eighty rounds in ten seconds. One gun can fire up to five-hundred rounds per minute,” said the major over the shot’s echoes. “That’s why it’s designated a battery gun. One Gatling can generate as much firepower as a four-gun battery of 3-inch artillery firing canister shot. It can easily range from eight-hundred to a thousand yards.” Clay whistled. I couldn’t say anything. We walked down to the planks. They were just pieces of wood peppered with finger-size holes. The six-inch fence post was cut
down and pieces of it had holes all the way through—straight through six-inches of blue oak. “Gentlemen, you can imagine what just one of these guns could do if turned on American soldiers or citizens.” “I see they shoot the .45-70,” I said. “That is correct, the .45-70-405, the same as used in our Springfield carbines. However, one of the stolen guns is of greater caliber. It is a 1-inch.” “A 1-inch, like a whole inch? That’s an awful big bullet.” “Indeed. It has two type of ammunition, a solid lead projectile weighing half a pound, and a canister round with twentyone .45-caliber lead balls. One can well imagine the mutilation such a weapon could inflict on infantry or cavalry. The 1-inch solid projectiles could halt an oncoming locomotive.” * * *
Gordon L. Rottman
The wall here is unusual in that it is so thin. Note the lighter colored wooden “gringo blocks” set in the edges of the door and window openings to which frames will be attached.
ordon Rottman lives outside of Houston, Texas, served in the Army for twenty-six years in a number of “exciting” units, and wrote war games for Green Berets for eleven years. He’s written over 120 military history books, but his interests have turned to adventurous young adult novels—influenced by a bunch of audacious kids, westerns owing to his experiences on his wife’s family’s ranch in Mexico, and historical fiction focusing on how people really lived and thought—history does not need to be boring. His first western novel is The Hardest Ride, to be followed by more. The Hardest Ride, A Western e-novel, Taliesin Publishing Peacemaker Award Winner, Best Western and Finalist, Best First Western Novels Spur Award Finalist, Best Traditional Western Novel Tears of the River, YA survival e-novel, Taliesin Publishing
The best-known engagement involving Gatling guns occurred during the 1898 Spanish-American War. It is not common knowledge that a 1st Lieutenant John T. Thompson (later brigadier general—1860-1940), while in command of an ordnance depot in Tampa, Florida in 1898, was approached by 2nd Lieutenant John H. Parker (later brigadier general—1866-1942), who asked to be issued four .30-40 M1895 Gatling guns stored at the depot, without higher authorization. The formation of the unprecedented Gatling Gun Detachment was eventually officially approved, but not necessarily accepted. Thompson not only provided Parker the guns and large ammunition stocks, but helped “Gatling Gun Parker” to surreptitiously ship the guns to Cuba, where they made history. Thompson would later design a submachine gun that bore his name, but became famous under another—the iconic Tommy gun. Over a dozen Western movies depict Gatling guns in use, typically in the hands of the bad guys. There is no record of their use by civilians of the era. Some of the better known movies portraying Gatlings include: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966), The War Wagon (1967), Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969), 100 Rifles (1969), Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970), The Outlaw Josey Wales (1975), Rooster Cogburn (1975), Young Guns (1988), Bad Girls (1994), and 3:10 to Yuma (2007). By the way, actual hand-operated Gatling guns are not considered true full-automatic weapons and are not prohibited by ATF regulations. There are companies producing operational Gatling guns ranging from scaled down .22-caliber to full-size. The sand of the desert is sodden red,— Red with the wreck of a square that broke;— The Gatling’s jammed and the Colonel dead, And the regiment blind with dust and smoke. The river of death has brimmed his banks, And England’s far, and Honour a name, But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks: ‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’ Vitaï Lampada (The Torch of Life), Sir Henry Newbolt, 1897 This article is based on an article in the author’s e-book, The Big Book of Gun Trivia: Everything you want to know, don’t want to know, and don’t know you need to know (Osprey 2013). http://www.amazon.com/The-Big-Book-Gun-Trivia-ebook/dp/B00GQA26C8
n 1881 Fayetteville, Arkansas was a small village, and one with a reputation of being as wild as any town “out west.” Much of Fayetteville had been burned by soldiers on both sides during the Civil War. But the beginnings of this tale go back before the war. Three brothers John, George and James Reed, sons of Richard Reed, all natives of the county, were known to be industrious and respected. John went off to serve in the war and returned a quiet man when sober but a bully when drunk. After defying authorities on more than one occasion, he became known in most circles as a bad man. That reputation would be confirmed when Deputy Sheriff John R. Sorrell arrested a close friend of the Reeds in February of 1879. That friend, John Rutherford failed to pay his bond, and so was on the verge of being jailed when John Reed arrived. Already in his cups, he demanded his friend’s release, yet refused to come up with his bail. The jailer opened the cell door to throw the prisoner in and Reed hit him on the head with a bottle of brandy. Sorrell drew his weapon and shot Reed, after which he was promptly arrested and charged with homicide. At his trial, however, his actions were ruled justifiable and he was set free. John’s
brother, George Reed, swore vengeance for the death, but since George wasn’t of the same persuasion as his wilder brother, no one thought much of it. It was well known, though, that George feared the local marshal, going so far as to beg him not to shoot him if he ever got in trouble. Of course, Marshal Stirman wouldn’t make such a promise, so Reed later drew down on the lawman while mounted. Reed was promptly dragged off his horse and beaten. Nothing more came of this, so everyone forgot about George’s promise to avenge John’s death. But this wouldn’t be the end of this fracas. Some people just don’t forget when they think they’ve been wronged. Marshal Stirman retired in 1881 and was replaced by William Patton, whereupon George told friends he was going to try out the new marshal. Obviously, he didn’t fear Patton like he had Stirman. One day he rode into town and deliberately picked a fight with Patton, drew on him, and was shot and killed by the marshal, who was promptly acquitted of any charges. Now we have two Reed boys shot down by local lawmen, and friends and family were up in arms demanding someone be punished. They became so vocal about it that Patton feared for his life, believing he would be shot down on the street. He did everything he could think of to prevent it, but on a dark
63 Saturday night, about 9 o’clock, July 2, 1881, while Patton and his deputy John Mount were talking on the public square, shots came out of the dark and both were instantly killed. Though no one could ever prove who the assassins were, everyone was certain they were friends of the Reed Family. Thomas J. Churchill, Governor of Arkansas at the time, offered an award of $500 for the arrest and conviction of the assassins. No one was ever arrested, even with the almostunheard of sum offered as a reward. Meanwhile, Mount’s family received an anonymous bundle of money and a note that he wasn’t meant to be killed. The mysterious benefactor was never identified. In looking into John Mount’s service record, he was the true hero of this piece. He served as a private in Co. G, 16th Arkansas Infantry Regiment, Confederate States Army, from the fall of 1861 until the end of that brutal war in April, 1865. He enlisted in the at the age of 17, was captured at Port Hudson, Louisiana on July 9, 1863. After the war, he married a woman named Catherine and eventually joined
the Marshal’s Service. When he was killed, Mount left behind not only his wife, but four children as well, the youngest about one year old. In those days a woman left in this situation had few choices, the best of which was to find another man to marry. Often it was a man who had been widowed himself and left with small children. Some women would find menial jobs they could do, such as taking in washing and ironing, cleaning houses, and the like. With smaller children and nothing resembling day care, they could not go out and find work, scarce as it was for women. In 1903, after moving closer to her brother for support, Catherine applied for a widow’s pension on the basis of her husband’s service in the army of the Confederate States. Her application was approved. In those days pensions ranged from $10 a month to $40, scarcely any more. It was not only men who were heroes in the old west, but the women who supported them, bore their children and kept a good home. And those like Catherine Mount, who carried on when widowed.
first came across the work of artist Dawne Michelle Smith at the library in Lincoln, Arkansas. A group of Oghma Creative Media authors were spending the day visiting with patrons and selling a few books. Smith’s drawings, most with Native American themes, were displayed along one wall. One picture in particular, of a young Native American woman, stopped me in my tracks and left me staring as though I could enter into this girl’s mind and heart and share her thoughts and joys and fears. Eventually I turned my gaze away and studied a drawing of a mother buffalo and her calf. Another called The Bear and the Brave depicted a Native American rite of passage. Two drawings of Indian dancers, all swirling movement and the flutter of feathers, drew me into the wild joy of their dance. I stood for a while, soaked up the beauty the artist had captured. Then, because I am a writer, and know beyond doubt that no one pays any attention to that old adage, don’t judge a book by its cover, I went to find someone who could lead me to the artist. Because any one of those painting would make a striking western book cover. And, in fact, Dusty Richards’s new book, A Bride for Gil, will indeed have a cover by Dawne Michelle Smith, and Rachel Fawn’s debut middle grade book, The House of Secret Treasures, features a striking design by Smith. So, when I called the artist to set up an interview I was familiar with her work. Or thought I was. PF: I was struck by the power of your art, Michelle, when I saw your work at the library in Lincoln. Can you tell me a little bit about the particular pieces that were displayed there, please, and about how they came to be exhibited?
PF: What other art do you do? DS: I go through phases where I don’t paint at all for months. During those times I love to explore other mediums to express myself – sculpting, jewelry making, carving, creating ugly Christmas Sweaters. Sometimes I find interesting articles that need repair, so I fix them and sell them. Recently I had the idea to use dowel rods, tassles, curtain tie-backs, sculpting clay, and paint to create toys I call Whirly Girlz. They spin so that their skirts flare out. I like to do landscaping, too. It ties my love of nature into my creative spirit. I’ll go outside in the morning, get busy on a project and before I know it, the sun is down. In the summer here in NW Arkansas, I sometimes head on down to the river and just sit by the water, enjoying the sounds of nature – wind rustling through the trees, water trickling over rocks, birds chirping from limb to limb – sometimes a blue heron stops by for a visit. My creativity needs solitude. To others a day sitting beside the river might seem lazy, but for me, it’s a necessity to connect with nature. PF: Wait now, I understand the need for solitude in nature, but Ugly Christmas Sweaters and recycling old articles? Dawne laughed, a hesitant giggle, as though used to having to explain herself to people who stare in disbelief and shake their heads at the way her mind works. Being familiar with this reaction myself, I couldn’t help but laugh with her.
DS: August is Lincoln History Month DS: Well, as for the Christmas sweaters, I buy and Dianne Payne, the director of the Lincoln “Praise” previously used plain, simple sweaters, and add Library, put out a request for local artists to exsequins, blinking lights, reindeer, Santa, Christhibit. I brought in several of my prints, including Repose, Fancy Dancers, and The Bear and the Brave, which is mas tree appliques – whatever appeals to me really. one of my favorites and personifies a Native American rite of PF: So, the goal is for the sweaters to end up so ugly and passage. Man, those guys are courageous. tacky that they’re beautiful in their own unique way? PF: Have you always lived in NW Arkansas? DS: Well, the goal is to have fun, and make a little money to keep a roof over my head and some food on the table. DS: Mostly, yes, Northwest Arkansas is home.
67 I laughed. Nothing like the truth to knock the pretentiousness out of an interviewer. PF: Okay, what about recycling articles? What does that mean? DS: Sometimes I’ll just see something – a lamp, a bowl, could be anything really – and even though the article itself is broken or chipped, I can see what it might be. So I buy it, bring it home, and make it into something else. PF: Okay, I’m going to need more detail, please. DS: My last project was this bowl I found for a quarter. Chipped. Really bad glaze. I repaired the chip, painted it with this technique I’d been wanting to try, tied feathers and twigs and. . . well in the end it was this beautiful little bowl. PF: You have so much creativity! When did you first know you were an artist? DS: My family is Cherokee, Choctaw and German. Dad was a photographer. Mom often had her easel and oil paints set up in the living room. She’d jack her earphones into the stereo, listen to her favorite albums while she painted. I grew up with a connection to the earth and a desire to create. In kindergarten I wrote and illustrated my own book, The Lion Who Loved to Eat People. PF: That sounds like a book I’d like to read. If I wanted to track you down and see your newest creations, where could I find you? DS: The Northwest Arkansas Native American Artifacts takes place at the end of January or the first part of February. I’m almost always there with my paintings and my jewelry. PF: I’ve seen some of your Native American pieces, it’s how I fell in love with your art, but do you paint other subjects too?
68 “Keeping Tradition”
DS: I love to do Indian topics, and there’s a large market for that work, but my favorite works are fantasy driven – dragons, elves, exotic creatures. The cover art for Rachel Fawn’s The House of Secret Treasures features a tiger with children peering through an open door into another world. PF: You also do commissioned work, right? Special paintings to commemorate anniversaries or birthdays? DS: Yes. In fact, I had a couple celebrating their anniversary that wanted a drawing done from their wedding photo. That was fun to do, and they loved the way the work turned out. I can do almost anything from painting to sculpting but my personal favorite is drawing. I don’t get so involved in the medium itself with sketching, can just concentrate on the essence of the work. PF: If you could live any life you wanted, no financial worries, no responsibilities, what would that life look like? DS: I daydream about a cabin snuggled against a small hill in an open field. A flowing stream with a small waterfall. Everything surrounded by a few tall, slender trees. No machine noises. Just me on the front porch in my rocking chair, sipping hazelnut coffee, my Bible on my lap. Maybe a cat or two relaxing nearby. Flowers tucked in beside my rock and mineral collection. Nothing but the marvel of God’s handiwork! PF: Sounds a bit like heaven. DS: My goal with all my artwork is to lift people up to God, remind them of the goodness and mercy and love of God so that they are led to peace in Jesus. Which is an interesting goal for Dawne Michelle Smith, given my own moment of connection when I stood in the Lincoln Library all those months ago, and entered into the beauty of her paintings.
“I daydream about a cabin snuggled against a small hill in an open field. A flowing stream with a small waterfall. Everything surrounded by a few tall, slender trees. No machine noises. Just me on the front porch in my rocking chair, sipping hazelnut coffee, my Bible on my lap.”
“The Bear and the Brave”
“I love to do Indian topics, but my favorite works are fantasy driven – dragons, elves, exotic creatures.”
“In Loving Care”
ohn Parker was certain he had things under control when he built his church in the middle of Comanche country back in the early nineteenth century. He invited his son Silas and his daughter-in-law Lucy to uproot their little family from Illinois and join him. Of course they did. John Parker was the patriarch of the family and he had things well under control. He was building an enclave of civilization and Christianity in the wildest territory of Texas. The Parker family was changing the way the future would play out in the American southwest. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? The Reverend Parker was well qualified for the job. He was a former Indian scout and had connections with the army and the Texas Rangers. He was a minister and a missionary for the Primitive Baptist Church. In a few short years he built a respectable place of worship and a nearby garrison with the intention of bringing the refinements of white American culture to the region of the country known as Comancheria. If God didn’t protect the family, the soldiers and lawmen surely would. Parker even signed treaties with most of the tribes in the area so they’d be on his side if there was trouble. Unfortunately, things didn’t go the way he planned. The Comanche had established a military and trade empire in Comancheria when they spread out from Wyoming in the early 18th century. They vastly outnumbered the Texas Rang-
ers and the soldiers at Fort Parker, and while local Indians might be friendly to the white settlers, there was no way they would stand up to the fiercest warriors on the southern plains. On May 19,1836 the Comanche mounted an attack. They overwhelmed the garrison’s defenses. They killed a number of settlers and took several captives including patriarch John Parker and his nine-year-old granddaughter, Cynthia Ann. The Comanche wanted revenge for the wholesale slaughter of the buffalo, the introduction of smallpox into the region, and the unrelenting war the cavalry waged against them at the behest of the white settlers. It’s difficult to count men on horseback, riding in circles, so it is hard to say how many warriors attacked the garrison. Some of the survivors estimated six hundred Indians (probably a gross exaggeration). Others put the number closer to one hundred. Cynthia watched the warriors rape the adult female captives, and then torture and kill the men. The Comanche saved her grandfather for the last. They castrated him and stuffed his genitals into his mouth. Before John Parker died, his captors scalped him so his spirit would be refused entry into the Happy Hunting Grounds. After witnessing this horror, Cynthia and the other captives were led away into Comanche territory. Texas Rangers quickly mounted a rescue force. One young
75 teenage girl escaped during the pursuit but the Rangers eventually lost the trail. Most of the other captives (including Cynthia’s brother) were released over the years as their families paid ransoms, but there was something special about John Parker’s nine-year-old granddaughter. She stayed with the Comanche for nearly twenty-five years. Cynthia was beaten and abused at first, but eventually she integrated into the Nokoni (Wanderers) tribe. A Tenowish Comanche couple adopted her. They named her Naduah (Someone Found) and raised her as their daughter. She survived by erasing the memory of the trauma of her capture along with most of her white ways. Within a few years, she spoke the Comanche language and lived the Comanche life in every way. The Parker family made several ransom offers, but tribal elders refused to release Naduah, allegedly at her request. Her value and prestige to the tribe increased dramatically when a famous Quahadi Comanche chieftain took her as his wife. She gave Peta Nacona (Lone Wanderer) two sons, Quanah (Fragrant) and Pecos (Pecan), and one daughter, Topsannah (Prarie Flower). The first photograph of Cynthia Ann Parker as she nurses her daughter Some years after her marriage, Cynthia Ann’s older brothTopsannah. She has cut her hair as a sign of mourning for her lost family. er, John, is said to have met with her and asked her to return to her white family. She refused, saying she loved her husband and children too much. There is some doubt about the accuracy of this story because by the mid 1840’s, Cynthia no longer used her Euro-American name. She had forgotten most of her English, and probably could not carry on a conversation with John unless she had an interpreter. Naduah was totally assimilated into the Comanche Culture, a high status woman married to a chieftain. Her husband was so devoted to her that he took no other wives even though polygamy was expected of tribal leaders. The Parker family never gave up hope of rescuing Cynthia Ann, even if she no longer had any interest in returning to white society. The Texas Rangers didn’t actively search for her, but they followed leads whenever they heard rumors of Comanche tribes holding white captives. In December of 1860, a group of Texas Rangers led by Lawrence Sullivan Ross surprised a Comanche hunting party at their camp on Mule Creek (a tributary of the Pease River). Most of the warriors were away from camp, and the Battle of Pease River turned into a massacre. The Rangers shot women and children. They routed the few men, and shot at Cynthia Ann Parker after she had been reunited with her white family but before the death of her youngest son, Pecos, and her daughter, Topsannah. them as they ran. Ross and his troops focused their chase on
76 a man and a woman escaping on horseback. As Ross and his men neared, the woman held a child over her head. The Rangers did not shoot, but instead surrounded her. The woman’s male companion was not so lucky. Ross’s men shot him off his horse. Ross’s cook, Antonio Martinez, had been taken captive by Peta Nacona’s Quahadi band. The Comanches tortured him and killed his family. Mendez identified the injured warrior as Chief Peta Nacona. Ross gave the cook permission to finish him off. Lawrence Ross fleshed this story out over the years and used it to promote himself in his bid to become Governor of Texas. Naduah’s son Quanah and many white historians later said that Peta Nacona wasn’t present at the battle of Pease River, and that he died of an infected battle wound several years later. The man Ross actually shot was probably Nobah, an assimilated Mexican slave of Nacona’s who was helping the women escape. When the Rangers got a look at Naduah’s blue eyes, they knew she wasn’t a Comanche. She identified herself to Ross in broken English as Cynthia Ann Parker. The Rangers took her to Colonel Isaac Parker, who confirmed her as his missing niece. It was at this time that the adult Cynthia Ann was photographed for the first time nursing her daughter Topsannah. She had cut her hair—part of the Comanche mourning ritual—because even though Ross assured Cynthia Ann that
her boys had been killed in the raid, she believed she would never see her sons or her husband again. She was right. The Texas legislature appointed Isaac and Benjamin Parker Cynthia’s legal guardians, and gave her a league of land (4,400 acres) and a $100-a-year stipend for five years. She never understood why her white relatives insisted on keeping her from her sons. She never regained a command of English, and she never adjusted to white American life. She tried to escape several times, but was caught and returned to her relatives, who were determined to save her in spite of herself. The Parkers considered Cynthia mentally deranged and unable to make decisions for herself. White society pitied Cynthia Ann. She was tainted by the time she spent as a Comanche’s wife. She had gone from being a chieftain’s high status wife to a crazy woman with a half-breed daughter. Two emotional blows finally pushed Cynthia into deep depression. In 1863 she received word that her youngest son, Pecos, had died of smallpox. Later the same year, Topsannah died of influenza. After her daughter’s death, Cynthia Ann went through long periods without speaking, and sometimes refused food and water. In 1870 she finally died. The official cause of death was influenza, but people who knew her would say she died of a broken heart. She was 43 years old. Cynthia Ann Parker, Naduah, was buried in Foster Cemetery near Poynor, Texas. A hide merchant sitting on a rick of 40,000 buffalo hides.
77 Quanah The Warrior The Comanche didn’t keep birth records. Naduah’s oldest son, Quanah, might have been born in the Wichita Mountains in southwestern Oklahoma, or near Cedar Lake in Gaines County, Texas. He might have been born as early as 1845, or as late as 1852. When Naduah and Topsannah were “rescued” by Lawrence Sullivan Ross at the Battle of Pease River he may have been as young as eight or as old as fifteen. After Quanah’s mother was taken from him and his brother, Pecos, died of smallpox, his only family were the warriors of the Naconi and Quahadi bands. Quanah was the sole surviving son of chief Peta Nacona’s lineage. His people expected great things of him. The southern plains tribes had been fortunate during the early 1860’s. The U.S. government was engaged in the Civil War, and didn’t have the resources to fight hostile Indians. That changed in 1865. The Civil War ended and a battle-hardened military was well supplied and ready for another fight. By that time, Comanche tribal elders had identified buffalo hide merchants as the greatest threat to the Indian way of life. Quanah had gained quite a reputation organizing raiding groups to attack them. When hide traders occupied the previously abandoned Adobe Walls trading post in violation of the Treaty of Medicine Lodge, he decided it was time to give the hunters a demonstration of Comanche power. The plains Indians had driven whites out of Adobe Walls once before; they had no doubt they could do it again. Quanah and Comanche prophet Isa-tai (White Eagle) organized a large group of southern plains warriors (200 to 1500) and led them in a surprise attack. Quanah would provide military strategy, and Isa-tai’s medicine would make the warriors bulletproof. It didn’t look like the Indians
Quanah Parker on horseback.
Quanah Parker with a peyote fan.
The Star House where Quanah Parker lived with his wives and children.
would need magic to win the battle. Only twenty-eight men and one woman were in the Adobe Walls settlement, but good luck was on their side. The central lodge pole that held up the roof of the saloon cracked early in the morning and woke everyone in the compound. Two hunters decided to get an early start on the day and spotted the Comanche gathering for attack. Quanah’s element of surprise was lost, and there was minimal cover in the Texas panhandle. His warriors took heavy casualties in the initial attack, and even more when they underestimated the range of the Sharps buffalo rifles. Isa-tai sat with a small group of warriors on a ridge they assumed would be well beyond the reach of the large bore weapons. Most of the men in the settlement thought so too, and didn’t want to waste ammunition. Billy Dixon, a hunter who had just arrived a few days prior—about the same time as Bat Masterson—decided to take the impossible shot. He aimed and pulled the trigger, and waited almost a full second until Isa-tai fell dead from his horse. Quanah Parker was also victim of the buffalo rifles. His horse was shot out from under him, and a ricocheted bullet lodged in his shoulder. Isa-tai’s bulletproof medicine had reached its expiration date. With no magic and no military leader, the southern Plains Indians gave up hope of taking Adobe Walls. Two weeks after Billy Dixon took his lucky shot U.S. Army surveyors measured the distance at an unbelievable 1,538 yards.
The warriors were enraged at their defeat. Several bands took revenge on weak targets. White settlers in the Texas panhandle called on the U.S. Army for protection, and General Phillip Sheridan was happy to oblige. He ordered five military columns to converge on the Texas panhandle. They encircled the region and eliminated any means of escape. The army maintained a continuous offensive, attacking one band of Plains Indians after the other, keeping them on the run until they were exhausted and starving. Kiowa shaman Maman-ti promised the hold-outs they would be safe in Palo Duro Canyon near Amarillo. The promises of medicine men must have rung hollow by then, but their only option was to surrender to the army and reconcile themselves to living on reservations in Indian Territory. Colonel Ranald (“Bad Hand”) Mackenzie had been ordered to “clean up” the remaining bands of Indians who were still at large. He took the U.S. fourth Cavalry to the rim of the canyon. It was clear the Indians were there along with their horses and winter supplies, but the canyon was rugged and he couldn’t figure out a way to get to them. The southern Plains warriors might have been able to hold out a while longer and hope the army lost interest or found another war to distract them, but Colonel Mackenzie persuaded Tonkowa chief Johnson to lead his troops into the canyon. The Plains Indians were scattered over the floor of
79 the canyon and couldn’t organize a defense. The Indians were routed in a number of small skirmishes. Only three warriors and one white soldier were killed in the battle of Palo Duro Canyon, but Ranald Mackenzie killed 1,400 Indian horses and forced the tribes to surrender or run from the army on foot and without provisions. Quanah and his Quahada Comanche band escaped, but at best their chances of survival were grim. Quanah Parker the Chief Ranald Mackenzie sent physician and interpreter Jacob Sturm to negotiate the surrender of the Quahada—the last remaining Comanche band still at liberty in the tribe’s former empire of Comancheria. By this time, the Indians were starving. Quanah had never been a chieftain, but Dr. Sturm chose to speak to him instead of older warriors because he was “…a young man with much influence with his people.” The fact that Quanah was half white probably figured into the equation as well. According to Strum, Quanah consulted with the spirits before making a decision. He went to the top of a mesa and waited for a sign. He saw a wolf come toward him and then trot away toward the northeast. If that left any doubt in his mind, an eagle settled things by gliding overhead and then flying in the direction of Ft. Sill. After he saw those signs, Quanah rounded up his people and took them to Indian Territory. The official surrender date was June 2, 1875, five years after his mother’s death. Cynthia Ann Parker was never able to readapt to the white way of life, but Quanah, who had never had a taste of it, did quite well. Colonel Ranald Mackenzie appointed him the chief of all the reservation Comanche. There had never been a chief of all the Comanche before, so this caused quite a stir among the elders. Some tribe members resented Quanah’s youth and others believed (probably rightly) that he was being favored because of his white blood. Quanah strained his relations with tribal elders further by learning English. Traditional Comanche considered languages other than their own to be inferior and possibly spiritually damaging. Even with their allies, the Cheyenne and the Kiowa, they communicated with sign language. Concepts such as diplomacy and negotiation were foreign to the Comanche as well. Chief Quanah Parker moved into uncharted cultural territory when he signed contracts and made treaties
with white men, and especially when he started using the last name of his mother’s white family. The tribe must have been mystified by Quanah Parker’s behavior when he moved his mother’s and sister’s bodies from their graves in Texas and to Post Oak Mission Cemetery near Cache, Indian Territory. Traditional Comanche burial practices were simple and unsentimental. The deceased’s body was folded and tied in an approximation of the fetal position. It began with folding and tying the body in an approximation of the fetal position, then wrapping it in a blanket and taking it west of camp (in the direction of the setting sun) to one of the many canyons or washes of Comancheria. They then rolled the body off the horse into a grave, with no consideration for position, and covered it with brush and stones. Personal possessions were broken and tossed into the grave. A horse might be sacrificed so the spirit could follow the setting sun into the afterlife more easily. The idea of headstones, formal graves, and visitation of the remains is common practice now, but in the late nineteenth century it was an affront to Comanche traditions. Warriors never slept inside buildings except when imprisoned in one by white soldiers. The nomadic tribe lived in tipis made of buffalo hides, as did most of the big game hunters of the southern plains. The tipis looked identical, set up in rows, usually with the door flaps facing the direction of sunrise. Instead of sleeping in a tipi, Quanah Parker built a two-story frame house with four stars on the roof (Star House), and lived there until he died in 1911. The Chief learned the white man’s ways of business as well. He opened 400,000 acres of tribal lands to grazing during a Texas drought, and became fast friends with ranchers Charles Goodnight and Samuel Burke Burnett. Cattlemen who left their stock in Quanah Parker’s care knew they could trust him, and that they had nothing to fear from rustlers. Goodnight and Burnett introduced Quanah Parker to senators and congressmen, and stood with him as he lobbied for Indian rights. He met with President Theodore Roosevelt on several occasions, and even took him hunting in what is now the Wichita Wildlife Reserve. Quanah Parker was undoubtedly the wealthiest and most influential Native American of his time. One traditional practice the Chief did not give up was polygamy. He took eight wives over the course of his life. The first one, the daughter of a Mescalero Apache chief, married him well before his surrender at Ft. Sill. After one year she
Quanah Parker’s final resting place since 1957, on the Fort Sill Post Cemetery.
went back to live with her people because she could not learn the Comanche language. His other wives stayed with him. There was a bedroom for each wife and her children in the Star House. Chief Parker and his wives had twenty-five children—some of them adopted. The Comanche valued family relationships above all else, so after the tribe’s resettlement in Indian Territory, Quanah Parker made connections with his white relatives. It must have a strange experience for everyone concerned, but the Parker family welcomed Quanah and introduced him to white methods of agriculture and cattle ranching. A bull gored him on one of his many visits and he developed a serious infection Antibiotics were still more than a half century away, so the family sought the help of a Mexican cuandera. The traditional healer gave Quanah a strong peyote tea, and taught him how to combine its effect with prayer. Whether it was the antibiotic properties of the peyote or the power of Quanah Parker’s prayers, the Chief recovered. His experience with peyote ceremonies marked another major departure from Comanche traditions. The tribe lived surrounded by spirits—as did all Native Americans. Those spirits could be useful or harmful. They could withhold their power or choose to share it, but there was no unified system of rules, and no spirit had the status or the authority of a god. After the peyote healing ceremonies Quanah Parker became a founder and one of the first roadmen (priests) in the Native American Church. That church is now the most widespread indigenous religion among Native Americans in the United States. He said this about the difference between the white man’s style of worship and the Indian’s: “The White Man goes into his church and talks about Jesus. The Indian goes into his tipi and talks with Jesus.” Quanah Parker died of heart failure in his bedroom in the Star House on February 23, 1911. Originally buried at Post Oak Mission Cemetery near Cache, Oklahoma, his body was removed along with his mother’s and sister’s to Fort Sill Post Cemetery in 1957. The inscription on his headstone reads: Resting Here Until Day Breaks And Shadows Fall and Darkness Disappears is Quanah Parker Last Chief of the Comanches Born 1852 • Died Feb. 23, 1911
he breeze flowing through cottonwood leaves sounded like water rolling in a gentle mountain stream. The soft rustle was like a lullaby to the napping Wes Simms, stretched out in the shade
of the trees with his hat propped over his face. Tanner Lambert sat crosslegged nearby, riding glove strapped tight around his wrist and bareback rigging in hand. As he worked rosin into the glove and handhold, the squeaks and creaks sounded like rusty nails pulled out of weathered planks on a barn wall. Absorbed in the work, Lambert barely noticed the approaching thump, thump, thump as the jacked-up red pickup rolled slowly across the fairgrounds until it braked to a stop not ten yards away. The driver cut the ignition, silencing the thumping stereo system and rumbling exhaust pipes as Lambert looked on.
84 The story until now: Number Sixteen, a bucking horse owned by Andy Bowen’s Rough String Rodeo Company, is inexplicably shot and killed in a rodeo arena pen at the fairgrounds. Deputy Sheriff Hugh Morgan is investigating the crime. His suspicions turn to Rowdy Galvin, a rodeo cowboy he finds in possession of methamphetamine—and a pistol of the same caliber used to kill Number Sixteen. Galvin was already in desperate straits, in debt to a drug dealer determined to take his payment from Galvin’s prize money at the rodeo—should Galvin find himself able to win. Standing in his way is an up-and-coming young bareback bronc rider, Tanner Lambert, who, with his friend Wes Simms, finds himself entangled in the mystery. * * *
ou Tanner Lambert?” the driver asked as he slid out of the tall truck and walked toward the young cowboy. Lambert set the bareback rigging aside and nodded. “Word is, you’re a pretty good bareback rider.” Again, Lambert only nodded. “You ride this afternoon, right?” Another nod. Stirred by the visitor’s arrival, Wes Simms sat upright and seated his hat. Sensing trouble, he started to stand. But halfway up, the passenger from the truck, having eased himself around behind, grabbed Simms by the collar of his shirt and jerked him back to ground. “You’d best just stay put, cowboy,” the man behind the hand said. “This ain’t none of your business.” Simms cranked his neck around, knocking his hat askew, and stared up at the too-big man in the too-small black t-shirt, decided his advice was good, and made no further attempt to reach his feet. The driver squatted in front of Lambert as the cowboy said, “Who are you? And what do you care?” After a cold stare that lasted too long, the driver said, “Call me Wolf. I ain’t goin’ to bother tellin’ you why I care. Just know that I do—a lot.” Again, the stare. “So?” “So, today might just be one of those days where your luck ain’t so good.” Lambert furrowed his brow in confusion. “What do you mean?” “You ain’t winnin’ the bareback ridin’ at this rodeo, cowboy.” Lambert repeated the question. “I don’t care if you fall off the horse or get disqualified somehow or do whatever else it takes to see that you don’t win. Just see that you don’t win.” “What the hell? I won’t do no such thing! I came to ride, and to win, and, God willing, that’s just what I aim to do.” Wolf ’s stare discouraged any further argument. “Listen, kid.”
He repeatedly jammed his index finger into Lambert’s chest. “And listen good. You can lose the bareback riding today. Or you can lose a few teeth. And who knows? Big ol’ Bubba over there might just step on that riding hand of yours—on accident, of course— and mash all them bones inside that glove there to mush. Get it?” Now it was Tanner Lambert’s turn to stare. “I don’t get it,” Wes Simms said as Bubba twisted the collar of his shirt, tightening it around his neck. “What the hell does it matter to you if Tan wins or not?” Wolf turned slowly and stared at the restrained cowboy. He stood, took off his backward cap, and raked his fingers through tangled, greasy hair, and plopped the cap on again. “Here’s the thing, asshole. I don’t really give two shits about Lambert here. But he ain’t goin’ to win no bareback ridin’ on account of somebody else has to.” “Who?” “Not that it’s any of your business, but there’s another one of you sorry-ass cowboys who’s needin’ that prize money real bad right now. You probably know him. Rowdy Galvin.” Even the choke hold of a further twist on his shirt collar couldn’t stifle Simms’s laugh. “What’s so damn funny?” Wolf said. Simms grabbed his collar. Bubba loosened his grip at Wolf ’s nod. “Rowdy ain’t winnin’ nothin’ at this rodeo,” Simms said with a chuckle. “Why the hell not?” “Sheriff’s deputy hauled him out of here in handcuffs a couple hours ago. I reckon he’ll be locked up.” Bubba tightened his grip on the boy’s collar and jerked him upright, lifting him a good six inches off the ground and shaking him like the bell on a bull rope. “Bubba! Leave off!” Wolf hollered. The big man dropped Simms, and he stumbled but kept his feet. “Tell me what you’re talkin’ about. And make it damn quick.” Simms told Wolf how Number Sixteen had been found dead in his pen early that morning, shot in the head. And how Deputy Morgan, in the course of his inquiries, found Rowdy Galvin in possession of illegal drugs. And how, unexpectedly, he found a pistol of the same caliber that killed the horse in the cowboy’s possession. And, finally, how the deputy had arrested Galvin for the drugs, and taken him into custody for questioning about the shooting. “Sonofabitch,” Wolf said under his breath. Then, “They think Rowdy shot that horse?” to no one in particular. He strutted around in erratic circles, talking to himself and waving his hands around, acting more like an anxious chicken than his namesake. “C’mon Bubba,” he said after a few minutes of fitful parading around.
85 The two hauled themselves into the high cab and the motor— and pounding stereo—roared to life. The driver’s door swung open and Wolf ’s left boot dropped to the chrome running board and his head popped up above the door. “You listen to me, Lambert. This don’t change nothin’. You make damn sure you don’t ride your horse today, or it’ll be that last one you ever ride.” And with that he ducked back into the truck, slammed the door and hit the throttle, cranking the truck into a tight turn and spraying divots and dirt as it thundered away. Wes Simms plopped back down on the rolled-out sleeping bag he’d been napping on and pulled on his boots. He nodded toward the bareback rigging. “Put that stuff away, Tan. We better go have a talk with Andy Bowen.” They found the stock contractor in the alley between the catch pens cutting stock—moving the bareback and saddle bronc horses and bulls that would buck in that afternoon’s rodeo performance, now but a few hours away, into separate pens for ready access when each event came up on the schedule. Bowen left the rest of the job to his chute boss and other helpers to hear what the boys had to say, squatting with them behind the bucking chutes in the shade under the announcer’s stand. After hearing the story, he pulled his mobile phone from its handtooled leather holster on his belt, and dialed up Deputy Hugh Morgan. He must have been nearby, for it was only a matter of minutes until his patrol car skidded to a stop next to the arena. The stock contractor sketched out the story for the deputy, who proceeded to pump the boys for details. “He didn’t say why Rowdy Galvin needed the money, then?” “Nosir,” Simms said. Morgan chewed on his toothpick a moment, then said, “Well, I reckon it’s easy enough to figure out. See, this Wolf fellow lives over in Crawford City. Raised as an ordinary town kid, from what I’ve been told. But when the drill rigs started showing up over there goin’ after all that oil and gas, he got into drugs with some of them oilfield boys he worked with. I guess he was bright enough to see there was more money to be made peddlin’ dope than workin’ as a roughneck, so he worked his way into the trade. Nowadays, they say he’s top dog in this part of the country. Word is he’s done away with a few folks here and there to get to that position and stay there, but nobody’s ever been able to pin anything on him that’d stick. Still, he’s on every lawman’s list around here, from the DEA and FBI to the local police. Then again, some say he’s got more than a few cops on his payroll, and that’s why he never gets caught with dirty hands.” After mulling it over a bit, Bowen said, “Then I guess Rowdy Galvin must owe him money—a drug debt—and he wants Row-
dy to win so he’ll get his money.” “That’s my guess. Galvin ain’t sayin’ nothin’, but what you say makes sense to me—that’s the same direction my thinkin’s been runnin’. “Hell’s bells, the man must be stupid,” Wes Simms said. “It ain’t easy to fix no rodeo. Even if Tan don’t do no good, then Rowdy’s still got to ride good enough to win. And if he’s all hopped up on drugs like you say, then there ain’t no guarantee he could make a bronc ride. And with Rowdy locked up and all, there ain’t even no guarantee he’ll get to try.” Tanner Lambert swallowed hard. “How far you think he’ll go—Wolf ?” The deputy pulled the shredded end of the toothpick from his mouth and tossed it into the dirt. “Couldn’t say. But he’s a ruthless bastard, I’m told. Don’t know that he’d kill you, but he wouldn’t hesitate to rough you up good.” “Think he’d go so far as to kill Number Sixteen?” the stock contractor asked. Morgan slid another toothpick from his hatband and gnawed on it a few times before answering. “Don’t know that he’d even think of it. He ain’t no cowboy. Doubt he’s been any closer to a rodeo arena than the bleachers. Can’t see he’d know enough about how a rodeo runs to figure something like that out.” “But he was askin’ about it,” Lambert said. “What do you mean?” Morgan said. “Down at the café. Lady there told us at breakfast Wolf had been in there, talkin’ to some cowboys. Asked them about the bareback ridin’ and who was likely to win it. Lady said those cowboys told ’em I had the best shot on account of drawin’ Number Sixteen.” Another toothpick, this one barely chewed, hit the dirt and was replaced. “I’ll be damned. I suppose it’s possible. But it seems to me Rowdy Galvin’s the more likely culprit. He’d know better than Wolf how much difference the draw makes in rodeo.” “I can’t see that,” Bowen said. “Dumb as Rowdy is, even when he’s hopped up on drugs, he’s still a cowboy. Hell, he’d give his eye teeth to climb on Number Sixteen at any rodeo. He’s won his share of money over the years on that bronc. If he killed him, he’d never get that chance again. I just can’t see it.” “Meth does some pretty strange things to folks,” the deputy said. “Not to mention fear. Wouldn’t surprise me in the least.” “Still, it don’t seem like anything a cowboy would do.” Wes Simms cleared his throat. “What say we forget about Rowdy Galvin for a minute. What about Tanner here? What’s he supposed to do?” “Whaddya mean what am I supposed to do?” Lambert said. “Hell, I’m gonna get down on whatever horse they draw
87 for me and spur the hair off of him. I’m here to ride for the money, Wolf or no Wolf.” “Tan, you saw that stud horse with him. That guy liked to have pinched my head off, and he never even broke a sweat.” “Be that as it may, I’m ridin’ my best. I can’t see them two causin’ me any trouble. If anybody should come after me, everybody knows right where to look for who done it.” “I don’t know, kid. I’d think awful hard on it,” the stock contractor said. “You sayin’ I shouldn’t give it my best?” “No, Tanner—no! What I’m sayin’ is there’s no shame in drawin’ out. Havin’ lost a chance to get on Number Sixteen, nobody’d think twice about it. They’ll just figure you decided to go to another rodeo somewhere where there’s a better shot at the money.” The young cowboy tipped his hat back and thought for a minute. “Naw, Mr. Bowen. I can’t do it. I’m gettin’ on this afternoon.” “That might not be the best idea you ever had, Tan,” Simms said. “He’s right,” Morgan said. “I’d advise against it. Wolf is just too unpredictable.” Tanner Lambert stood up and pulled his hat down tight. “Well, gentlemen, I’m awful sorry, but I’m fixin’ to ride. See you boys at the rodeo.” And with that, the young cowboy headed off across the fairgrounds to the makeshift campsite under the cottonwood trees. “Well, Deputy,” Andy Bowen said as they watched Lambert walk away, “I guess that’s another item to add to your list—protectin’ young Lambert. Boy’s got more guts than good sense.” Morgan gnawed on the end of his latest toothpick and said, “We’ll try to keep an eye on him. But the Sheriff Department’s stretched mighty thin as it is with the rodeo in town. City police, too.” “Why don’t you just arrest Wolf ?” Simms asked. “For what?” the deputy said. “He ain’t done nothin’ yet ’cept talk. Can’t arrest a man for that. You find me some probable cause and I’ll lock him up.” “Can’t you bust him for drugs?” Morgan laughed. “He’s too smart for that. Like I said, nobody’s been able to convict him on anything, yet. Not that they haven’t tried.” “Well, I’ll put the word out among the cowboys,” Bowen said. “They’ll watch out for the boy.” “Might help,” Morgan said. “Just make sure they don’t do anything stupid.” “Back to work,” Bowen said. “I’ve got a rodeo to put on.” Already, rough stock riders were showing up behind the chutes to begin their pre-ride preparations, while timed-event hands were warming up roping and bulldogging horses out in the arena.
By the time Wes Simms made it back to the shade of the cottonwood trees, his friend was zipping his gearbag shut. He’d already peeled off the t-shirt he’d been wearing and snapped on a long-sleeve shirt. “Here, Wes, give me hand,” he passed Simms his contestant number and a safety pin. “Long as you’re doin’ it, do it up right,” Simms said as he pinned the paper square to the back of Lambert’s shirt. “Whatever horse they run in for you, you lay back and kick him high, wide, and handsome. You go on ahead. I’m gonna get me a rodeo burger and I’ll see you behind the chutes in time to stretch your latigos.” Back at the arena, the judges had just gathered in the rodeo office with the rodeo secretary and Andy Bowen to draw a horse for Lambert from the mounts assigned earlier to the re-ride pen. “Buster Brown,” the judge said, reading the name from the unfolded slip of paper he’d drawn out of Bowen’s upturned hat. “Good enough horse,” the stock contractor said. “He’s no Number Sixteen, but I think he’ll buck hard enough to make that kid pay attention.” Bowen left the office and hoofed it to the arena. He grabbed some chute helpers and went out back to the pens to cut Buster Brown out of the bunch in the re-ride pen and move him in with the bareback horses. Then that bunch was pushed down the alley and into the chutes. Cowboys scrambled up and down the back of the chutes to identify the horses, while the chute boss did the same on the arena side, calling out the names of the horses, and reading from his list the names of the matching cowboys. Locating Tanner Lambert in the crowd behind the chutes, Bowen informed him of the draw, and pointed out the horse. “Don’t know him,” Lambert said. “What’s he do?” “Oh, he’ll go out there and jump and kick a little.” A cowboy standing nearby laughed. “Hell, Andy, that’s the same thing you tell everybody.” Then, having seen Buster Brown, or “Brownie” for short, buck a few times, filled his young competitor in on the horse’s tendencies. “He’s a bucker, Tanner. Not a lot of rhythm to him, and he’ll duck and dive some, but if you get past the first couple seconds, when he usually takes a big sideways jump to the left, you’ll do all right. Too bad about Sixteen—hell of a deal, that. But, good luck anyway.” The ride went pretty much as the cowboy predicted. Brownie jumped out and took two stiff-legged hops, then lunged to the left and lit with the force of a pile driver. Lambert felt it all the way to the top of his skull. But then, Brownie lined out across the arena, jumping first to the left and then the right with his front legs, while he twisted and rolled his hind end to the opposite side. The rider found himself reaching for the shoulders with his spurs in fits and starts, as the bronc’s moves were uneven, mixing long leaps with short lunges.
Rod Mil er
od Miller is two-time winner of the Western Writers of America Spur Award—for Best Western Short Story and Best Western Poem—a Finalist for Best West Short Story, and winner of the Westerners International Poetry Award and the Academy of Western Artists Buck Ramsey Award for Best Poetry Book. Author of four novels, three nonfiction books, and three books of poetry, Miller has another nonfiction book and a novel awaiting release. He is also author of numerous anthologized poems and short stories, dozens of book reviews, and many magazine articles. His latest books are the novel, Rawhide Robinson Rides the Range: True Adventures of Bravery and Daring in the Wild West and Goodnight Goes Riding and Other Poems. Rod is a member of Western Writers of America and received the 2014 Branding Iron Award for his service to the organization. Visit him online at www.writerRodMiller.com.
Still, even in less-than-ideal conditions, Lambert’s instincts kept him in the middle of his mount and his spur licks, while irregular, were, as Wes Simms had suggested, “high, wide, and handsome.” When he heard the buzzer through the cacophony that always accompanies a bronc ride, Tanner reached for the front of the rigging with his free hand and pulled himself upright. He opened his riding hand to pull it loose, and the rosined glove, wedged tight in the handhold, jerked loose just as the pickup man rode alongside and pulled the release on the flank strap wrapped around the bucking horse. The cowboy wrapped his arms around the horseman’s waist and slid from Brownie’s back as the pickup man smoothly applied the brakes to allow Lambert to lower himself to the ground. As he walked back to the bucking chutes, Lambert heard the announcer’s call. “The judges liked that ride, ladies and gentlemen—they gave Tanner Lambert a score of eighty-six points, moving the young cowboy into first place in the bareback riding. Let’s let Tanner know how much you liked that ride,” he said, spurring the crowd into wild applause. Wolf, however, sitting on the front row of the bleachers near the bucking chutes, did not join the enthusiastic ovation. He glowered at Lambert walking along the fence, not ten feet away, unwrapping the tie strap on his riding glove. “C’mon, Bubba,” he said, and he and the big man walked away from the arena and into the fairgrounds parking lot. A few minutes later, heads turned in the crowd in an attempt to identify the source of the deep thump, thump, thump and rumbling exhaust pipes as the red pickup truck drove away. A couple of hours later, the rodeo reached its climax with the crowd favorite—bull riding. Deputy Hugh Morgan stood near the narrow gate that allowed the cowboys behind the bucking chutes, and watched the bulls rattle their way between the rails as slide gates slammed shut behind them. With all the clatter, he barely heard the ring of his mobile phone. He listened with the phone at one ear and a finger in the other, then used the same finger to poke angrily at the button on the phone’s screen that said “END.” Fumbling to get the phone under the flap and back into his shirt pocket, he stormed through the gate and bulled through the cowboys crowded behind the chutes looking for Andy Bowen. “He’s out,” he said after grabbing the stock contractor’s shoulder and spinning him around. “Out? What the hell you talkin’ about, Deputy?” “Rowdy Galvin. Somebody bailed him out of jail!” “The hell you say. Well, I hope he’s feeling up to it, ’cause he’s got a bronc to get on this evening.” TO BE CONTINUED...
(A finalist in the 2011 Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Award) Sterling Bennett
lain Duprés, a student of musicology and great passions, son of a wealthy patrician, and a distant cousin of mine, left Paris for Morelia early in 1913 in search of the Claude Laurent crystal glass flute that had belonged to Mexico’s French Emperor Maximilian. That poor man had so treasured the instrument that when he was facing his firing squad on a hill above Querétero, the Cerro de las Campanas, on the 19th of June 1867, he asked Juarez, head of the rebelling power, to have the flute placed on a velvet-covered table to one side, so he could be watching the morning sun fall across its silver keys at the moment the bullets took away his breath. President James Madison had once owned one of these flutes, as had Napoleon and Emperor Franz I of Austria. Alain Duprés loved things that were historical, beautiful, and fragile. He abhorred violence, and was glad to be leaving a Europe that cantered joyfully toward war. That he chose Mexico is not entirely comprehensible, because not far south from Morelia’s central plaza, the rugged volcanic mountainsides were astir with revolution and banditry. Still, he rented a room for a few pesos a week, and looked for a teacher so he could improve his Spanish. He found Miguel Angel, a medical student, who wanted to improve his English. They walked along the old city aqueduct and talked about Cervantes, Rousseau, and Goethe – in a mixture of English, French, and Spanish. After a few months, they spoke only in Spanish. Miguel Angel told him about Claudia, and showed him a daguerreotype of a young woman he said was the most beautiful woman alive and that there wasn’t a poet on Earth who would not fall in love with her. That was when Alain Duprés started to write things down, convinced that he too – since he was so affected by the photograph – must have traces of literary talent. Miguel Angel liked to visit his Aunt Elena in Erongarícuaro, a mostly Purépecha village on the western shore of Lake
Pátzcuaro. Sometimes he and Alain took the train from Morelia to Ajuno, then the Ajuno-Pénjamo line to Erongarícuaro. Sometimes they got off early and walked along beside the shimmering lake through fields of corn, wild cosmos, sunflowers, and marigolds. Miguel Angel rode in the hills, sometimes with his aunt, sometimes with Alain. When he wasn’t riding, he studied the rich bird life near the lake in front of the town. Claudia lived in a large adobe house at the edge of the marsh. Her mother was Mexican. The previous year, her German father had died of tuberculosis. Claudia liked to sit on the balcony of the house overlooking the lake. Men in carriages and on horseback took detours away from the center of town and followed the dirt road between the walls of the house and the marsh, looking up under the broad brim of their hats, hoping to catch a glimpse of her high cheek bones, dark eyes, and light skin. Miguel Angel said they had been brought together by technology. He watched the birds with a marine spyglass, a birthday gift from his father, purchased in an antique shop in Le Havre. Once, following the flight of a lesser black egret, he swept the glass past the big adobe house and caught a glimpse of her on her balcony combing her long chestnut hair. The next time he looked, she was looking back at him through another spyglass, also made of brass and glinting in the sunlight. They stared at each other. He touched his hat, put down his glass, and wrote large block letters in his notebook, with many dips in his ink well, Estoy observando los aves, no espiándole, “I’m watching birds, not spying on you.” He held it up, but she had stopped looking. He took off his jacket and pinned the sign to the back of it, then put the jacket back on. When he looked again, there was a sign propped up on the wall of the balcony, “Do men really carry pins?” Miguel Angel replied with, “Do women carry spy glasses?” He pinned this to the back of his jacket and entered farther into the marsh. He asked his aunt to accompany him bird watching, and
92 she agreed to go because he spoke with such passion about the birds he was painting. But when they had set up his easel and watched the great squawking blue herons and the lesser white egrets for a while, and when she had watched him sketch a heron quite badly, she thought, compared to his usual work, two women – one older and one younger – approached them. In the younger one’s eyes she saw the same intensity she had seen in Miguel Angel’s; and in that moment she understood that she had been invited as facilitator, decoy, and probably most important of all, as trustee of a young man’s love. Over time, and with the help of his Aunt Elena, Miguel Angel began to court Claudia. And over still more time, that young woman gave him a thick lock of her chestnut hair. With a wry look that unnerved him, she said there were other things to give him, but this was what was available now – a token, so to speak, of what would soon be his. In a moment nearly religious for him, he tucked the hair into a vest pocket, where it made a slight bulge over his heart. Miguel Angel liked to ride in the hills above Erongarícuaro. He followed the carriage tracks to the railroad tracks, crossed them, and often continued on up the mountain rather than turning right to go to the station. One afternoon, while riding high above the town and approaching the tracks, he happened on lumber merchant Doña Herminia, who was hauling four of her prized pine boards behind her donkey Burra, dragging them at a slant, their ends bumping over the ties of the railroad and the blue-grey gravel underneath. She was a handsome woman of forty with flashing dark eyes and an ironic twist to her mouth, and the afternoon was bright and hot. She noticed the bulge and asked him whether his heart was swelling and whether it was creating complications. He explained it was a thick lock of his love’s hair. None of which she heard—because she was deaf—but understood anyway, through lip reading and inference. She said that was good, especially since he didn’t have to stuff it somewhere else, which some men sometimes did out of pretense; and that he had discovered the true way to use one swelling to produce another. And the whole time she talked, she stroked Burra’s haunches with her hand, or caressed the tooth marks on her boards that gleamed yellow and new in the afternoon sun. The sound of the bees and the fields of wild marigolds, the pine pitch from the boards, Doña Herminia’s bright teeth and her square goat’s eye pupils, the way she touched Burra and moved her hips when she talked about the connection of one thing to another—all this made it difficult for Miguel Angel. And then she tied Burra to a tree, brought out tortillas and an
avocado and ripe nísperos – loquats – and arranged all these on a Purépecha shawl with stripes in cobalt and cerulean blue, all this in the shade of pirules – pepper trees — in a place overlooking the lake but hidden from the railroad tracks, the station road, and any path. Miguel Angel tied off his horse and sat down to eat with her. She took a níspero, put it in her mouth, and chewed till she had extracted the two of its shiny, smooth, almost indecent looking seeds. She spit them onto her hand and passed them to him, then with a finger slowly pushed them back and forth across his palm. With her mouth full and chewing, her fingers explored first the bulge with Claudia’s hair and then the spot she claimed was influenced by it. All this made the afternoon lie heavy and spinning with first the sound of bees, then the rumble of a passing train, then the sound of hooves moving over trails they could not see—the wind whispering in the upright swaying drying corn. With her large brown eyes fixed on him, she bent his head toward her. She smelled of roasted corn, chewed avocado, níspero juice, wood smoke, and lavender. From her long, smooth, black Purépecha braid, which she laid around his neck, came the smell of burro and something older, much older, that he couldn’t identify. When she laughed, her body jiggled like congealed chicken blood. Globs of tortillas and avocado appeared and disappeared in her opening and closing mouth. Then, beneath him, she packed everything into one cheek and crooned, “She’s my Burra, but you are my burro!” – all this to encourage his snorting, which she could see but not hear. Her own half-choked calls of Jale!—the command for a horse to move forward—drew out and became a soft braying. Soft, because this was still a dangerous countryside to be lying about in and having your mind on something else. Afterward, as Miguel Angel slept a drooling deep sleep, Doña Herminia slipped out the balled lock of the chestnut hair, put some of it in a pocket of her dress, and replaced the rest. The four newly sawn pine boards were for Silvestre Vernal, who was an enemy of the great hacienda that occupied the broad mountain basin three miles above them. This was a Spanish family that had ruled in the area as long as anyone could remember. The revolutionary chieftain José Inés Cháves García also operated around Pátzcuaro in 1913, defying federal troops under Huerta and causing concern at the hacienda, to the extent it felt compelled to raise its own militia. Silvestre Vernal was not a revolutionary. But he was a man with a strong sense of justice. He worked alone, breaking horses and mules for people of modest means. At night, when his sense of justice grew keener, he was a bandalero social who
93 took cattle from the hacienda owners and distributed the meat to the hungry. He was about Miguel Angel’s size, but darker. He cherished his wife and his ten-year-old boy Marco. When he and his son rode bareback together, he would reach back and pat the boy on the thigh and feel a great surge of love for his son. By day, the hacienda’s private troop, federalized by the Huertista government, descended on the town, looking for conscripts – boys fifteen and older – beating those who refused, occasionally hanging anyone suspected of revolutionary activity, and always looking for Silvestre Vernal. Sympathetic railway workers stopped trains and unloaded one or two steers at a time in places where they knew Silvestre was waiting. Soldiers, with their horses and Mauser rifles, began riding the trains, to protect the interests of the hacienda. The leader of this contingent was the handsome Lieutenant Solorio Cortés, the son of the hacienda owner, who felt God had meant him to have the lovely Claudia for his wife. Claudia’s brother Ruben disliked Miguel Angel because he was a medical student with a future more certain than his own, and for that reason he argued for the candidacy of Solorio as his future brother-in-law.
It was not long after this that Miguel Angel invited Claudia ride with him, but her brother Ruben would not allow it. There was no engagement, he said, and there never would be. Besides, soldiers and bandits filled the mountains. It was no place for a young woman of good family; that Miguel Angel continued to ride there showed lack of judgment, and said a great deal about his character. Miguel Angel asked Claudia to be his novia—fiancée—and she put her hand on his chest, above his heart, on the somewhat diminished bulge of her chestnut hair, and nodded her head yes, and then crossed herself – but not before looking around to see who was watching, because such things were still dangerous. The former Díaz government had declared it illegal to practice Catholicism. Plus, she was superstitious and feared that a private act done publicly could bring the civil war to her doorstep, along with yellow fever and cholera and who knew what else that drifted in on the lake’s mist. If they were to be together, said Ruben, it had to be in front of the house, between the lower garden wall and the marsh, where he could watch through the spy glass and that way protect her virtue. And so that was where they walked, beside the
94 lake, each time pressing farther into the reeds, choosing areas where the marsh cane was the tallest and thickest. They found an old dugout canoe that Miguel Angel caulked with tar and kept hidden. The marsh was laced with channels, and they used the canoe to reach a hidden floating island made from a mass of dried cane. It was here they spent afternoons when Ruben was away. They lay on their backs, hand in hand, floating, listening to the rustling of animals they could not see. Once, when they had begun to explore each other, a young Black Angus bull waded nearby, grazing up to his belly in the dark water, snaking his blue tongue out to the lilies he could otherwise not reach. They listened to chickens back on land laying eggs and to burros braying songs of love and distress. Claudia’s long chestnut hair began to replace the power of what was left of the lock he carried in his vest. It had the usual effect on him but also greater because there was so much more of it. And so they placed their clothes in the canoe, where they would be dry, and lay entwined on the floating island. The warm swamp water seeped up to touch their bodies. When she looked up at him, she saw the clear Mexican sky, strange sounds came out of her mouth and brought out in him what
Miguel Angel supposed was the burro – and sent rings of waves rippling far into the marsh. One afternoon, when the sun was warm and the wind in the pines sounded like a distant train, Miguel Angel dropped down from the mountain and came out into a field of marigolds above the railroad line. Far below him he saw the adobe church tower of Erongarícuaro. Closer in front of him, in the middle of the train tracks, he saw Doña Herminia moving south with Burra toward Ajuno, dragging four of her fine boards, with her colt Burrita trotting along behind. Farther to the right, hidden by the curve, he saw the “Porfirio Díaz,” coming from Ajuno, billowing out black smoke as it accelerated on the last stretch before the curve. Burra had stopped, perhaps because she felt the railroad ties trembling. Doña Herminia was upset and pulling on the lead rope. Her back was to the train. Because she was deaf, she could not hear it. She was craning her neck to see if the boards had caught on something. The track made a long curve around the field. Miguel Angel spurred his horse forward. For a few moments, at one point, he was rushing along beside the train. He could see in the windows. He saw Claudia, who was returning from Pátzcuaro. She
95 was wearing Solorio Cortés’s khaki military hat, with its crimson band. He saw her laughing. He saw Solorio sitting next to her. He saw Solorio look across at him. Miguel Angel cut the curve and reached Doña Herminia before the train. He told Alain later, he saw the recognition in her face, followed by her wicked smile. She dangled in his face the piece of Claudia’s hair she had stolen from him. The engineer saw two people, a burro and a horse on the tracks ahead of him, and pulled the brake with all his force. Doña Herminia yelled, “Hey, Burro! Look what I have!” Miguel Angel leaned forward in his saddle to grab her wrist. Delighted, she fought him off and twisted away to keep the hair from his grasp. His horse wheeled and bolted free. The colt trotted away from the tracks. Burra stepped off the tracks. The engine hit the boards, now turned sideways, with the sound of a canon shot, and wood flew in all directions. Miguel Angel’s horse hurtled forward in panic. Doña Herminia disappeared under the train. The train personnel found her under the last of the three cars, where Solorio Cortés’s soldiers rode in one half, their horses in the other. One foot lay by itself outside the rails. Burra and her colt grazed on marigolds that grew beside the tracks. A splinter roughly the size of a machete had passed through the back of Doña Herminia’s head and come out her mouth, giving her two tongues. Her mouth had frozen in a smirk. Clenched in her right fist they found a nest of chestnut hair. Miguel Angel’s horse eventually stopped running and slowed to a walk, then wandered unguided across the mountain. Miguel Angel thought about Solorio Cortés’s officer’s hat on Claudia’s head. That was when Silvestre Vernal, bareback and with Marco behind, rode out of the trees and approached. Miguel Angel knew who he was and was not afraid. He told Silvestre what had happened. They talked for a while and agreed that it was a terrible thing The train personnel carefully moved the train half a car length forward. All fourteen passengers stood around Doña Herminia’s body. People presented conflicting stories, but the dominant one, supported by the driver, was that a man on horseback had been fighting with the woman now dead on the tracks. It had been a heated discussion, and she had broken away. Then he had wheeled his horse and knocked her down intentionally and fled. It was murder. The locomotive driver was concerned for any responsibility he might have in the matter, and so he was relieved when he saw something in Doña Herminia’s hand and, playing the role
of detective, plucked out the nest of chestnut hair and placed it in his own palm. No one said anything. It was not Doña Herminia’s hair. Hers was Indian black, the color of the urraca, the boat-tailed grackle; and as for the other, there was only one person in the town who had chestnut hair. Claudia—who had also been standing there—turned and walked away on a path toward town, by herself, without saying good-bye. The other thirteen passengers watched her leave and discussed what it all meant. Lieutenant Solorio Cortés agreed it was murder. He and his troops threw down the gangplank on the last car, and led off their mounts. Far down the line, toward the station, Silvestre’s son Marco saw them mounting. Both Silvestre and Miguel Angel assumed they were coming for Silvestre. They moved into the trees. Miguel Angel also had a sense of justice, and he suggested they switch hats and vests. Silvestre thanked him, and said they should switch horses as well, for the full effect. Marco said he would ride behind Miguel Angel. And then they spurred their horses ahead. Miguel rode fast toward town. Silvestre raced on toward the station, where there was a trail that slanted up across the mountain. When Miguel Angel looked back, he saw the troops pursuing Silvestre, and he did not understand. He stopped to watch. Marco gave a cry, then jumped down and ran across the fields toward the station. Miguel Angel heard the shots and saw Silvestre go down and cursed God for allowing such a lucky shot. He saw his Aunt Elena’s horse continue for a bit, then stop. Marco hurried on toward the station, leaping the furrows of the last the last ploughed field. A few days later, in Pátzcuaro, Alain Duprés, paid 2 centavos for the Saturday, November 1, 1913 edition of the Catholic newspaper La Actualidad. He found the article he was looking for. The author had not signed his name, probably because he was not sympathetic to the Huertista government, nor to the Huerta–sympathizing officer he was describing. “Erongarícuaro: Last week, on a warm October afternoon, Federal militia under the command of the young, perhaps short-sighted Lieutenant Solorio Cortés captured a man who he said was the cattle thief Silvestre Vernal Blanco. His troops marched the prisoner, hobbled and wounded, through a brilliant carpet of wild marigolds, up to the wall of Erongarícuaro’s train station, where he slumped down to a sitting position, his hat falling forward over his forehead, waiting for the troops to have a late lunch of cold tortillas and avocado. “According to sources, the lieutenant sat off to one side, attended by his orderly, as if he wished to avoid contact with a common criminal. The train from Ajuno, delayed by an accident, finally stopped in front of the station. Four passengers got
96 off. The prisoner sat on the southern side of the station. He did not turn his head. The four passengers looked at him quickly, and then climbed into the wagon that would take them down into the town. “While they ate, not far from the prisoner, the young troops cut the tip off of the one bullet each would soon use, in this manner forming the blunted Bullet of Mercy. When they had wiped their mouths with the backs of their hands, they emptied the bullets out of their magazines, put them away, then levered the special bullet into their chambers, and stood up. “They propped Silvestre Vernal up against the wall he had been sitting against, smoothed his hair, and arranged his hat. The prisoner held a hand over the wound on his shoulder. They saw him gaze left and right along the trees bordering the railroad track, as if looking for someone—where a face did appear, it is said, in a stand of pirules, some distance away, just as a ray of sunlight fell across it, as if God had chosen a boy as witness to what was about to happen. “When the lieutenant saluted downward with his sabre, two of the rifles misfired, but eight others did not, and the Bullets of Mercy danced the bandit Silvestre Vernal against the station wall, and left him sitting again, with a look of surprise, until his head fell forward, as if he wanted to study the marigolds that were all about him. “The lieutenant coughed asthmatically from the blue rifle smoke, waited for it to drift to one side, then walked slowly through the marigolds, in regulation boots, which were highly polished, so that they squeaked when, according to witnesses, he approached the sitting body. It is said the officer held his arm stiffly at his side and that it trembled. Then he raised his it up and pointed the long-barreled Smith & Wesson, nickel plated, at the soft top of the bowed head, took one large step back to keep from soiling his uniform, and pulled the trigger, therewith delivering the coup de grace. “Officer Cortés then leaned over, gripped the man by his hair, and brought up the head to see whether the Bullets of Mercy had hit their target, which was the prisoner’s chest. Then he leaned still farther forward, lifted his round metalrimmed glasses with his gun hand – still holding the Smith & Wesson – looked more closely, and saw that the chest had been ripped open and that there was hair growing on the prisoner’s heart. “It is said, by the same witnesses, that he was at first moved that God had chosen this way to confirm the evil that had been resting in the man’s soul. Then he rambled along about how disturbed he was to see that the hair was chestnut colored and then, indiscreetly, that the man he had executed was in fact the
cattle thief Silvestre Vernal and not a certain medical student from Morelia. “In less chaotic times, this writer would hope that a judicial authority would investigate these matters. But there is no such authority beyond Morelia’s city walls, and humanity is so much the worse for it. That the prisoner had hair growing on his heart, the Church, it is thought, on that matter is unlikely to take a position.” The rest Alain knew because he was there in the back of the crowd when the body was brought into town. It had been tied over a saddle, and the wounds had bled over the face, making the corpse unrecognizable except for what was left of the vest. Claudia was already in front of the Presidencia where the body hung. Friends held her as she sobbed. * * * News had spread quickly that the murderer of Doña Herminia, the medical student from Morelia, had pushed her in front of the train during some kind of lover’s spat and had already met his fate and now hung head-down in the arches so close to the door of the Presidencia that you could hardly enter without brushing against him. Doña Herminia herself lay just to one side on two striped Purépecha shawls of cobalt and cerulean blue, her severed foot placed close to the leg it belonged to and her head on a child’s chair, to accommodate the machete-sized pine splinter that otherwise would have tilted her head forward at an awkward angle. Someone had placed the chestnut hair she was found with in her open palm. * * * People pushed forward to see the miracle of the hair growing on Miguel Angel’s exposed heart, the same hair – one could not help noticing – that could be seen in Doña Herminia’s hand. The famously flirtatious board merchant, everyone knew, was a few months pregnant, and the child inside her – people agreed – was very likely alive inside her at that very moment. Claudia listened to all this, and sank deeper and deeper into shock. She could not comprehend that the man she loved was dead, nor that her hair—a lover’s pledge—seemed to be everywhere. Just when she was about to collapse, the boy Marco came up beside her, pulled at her sleeve and through his own sobs tried to tell her that those were his father’s hands and no one else’s. Then Marco’s mother appeared and confirmed, wailing,
97 that it was her husband Silvestre Vernal who hung in front of them. The women who had held Claudia now held Marco and his mother – who held each other and wept. The crowd ringed them, in silence, and waited while a bowl of water and some rags were brought to wash the corpse’s face to reveal his identity once and for all. And then, just when Claudia saw that it was not her lover, someone tapped her on the shoulder, and she turned to see Miguel Angel standing in front of her, with tears in his eyes. Alain said it was then he learned what passion was, for Claudia’s face turned from pale to blotches of red; and her right hand came out and slapped Miguel Angel so hard that he stumbled backward and had to be supported by the crowd to keep him from falling. Then she turned on her heel and marched home without looking at anyone. She did not talk to anyone for a month. She would not talk to Miguel Angel for a year and only let him approach when she decided that the little girl she had given birth to—with chestnut hair—needed her father. Gradually, she forgave him. He became a doctor. They bought an old colonial house Morelia, with a lovely courtyard garden, and moved in. Alain, visited them from time to time. He lost interest in Maximilian’s glass flute, since the story around it seemed pale in comparison to the one he had witnessed in Erongarícuaro. Claudia and Miguel Angel had three more children, all of them girls, and all of them with chestnut hair. The man and wife grew very close to each other and lived into their seventies. In strict confidence, they sent Marcos and his mother money, and later sent Marco to the Escuela Libre de Derecho, in Mexico City, to study law. Solorio Cortés kept his distance from Claudia after the events described above. The locomotive driver, when deposed, reported, in retrospect, that Miguel Angel had tried to pull Doña Herminia away from the tracks, and no case was brought against him. Two years to the day after Lieutenant Solorio Cortés executed Silvestre Vernal against the south wall of the Erongarícuaro train station, his own body, still uniformed, was found hacked by machetes into four pieces, each of which was suspended by a separate rope from the same beam from which Silvestre Vernal’s body had hung, and this time completely blocking the door to the Presidencia. Someone had stuffed two separate lumps of carefully arranged chestnut hair into his mouth, which led to years of speculation about whether it was, in fact, the original hair that had been found in Doña Herminia’s hand, as well as that which had been growing on Silvestre Vernal’s heart.
terling Bennett has a B.A. from Harvard, a Ph.D. from U.C. Berkeley, and taught German Language and Literature and Global Studies at Sonoma State University in California for many years. He has lived in Mexico since 1998, in Guanajuato for the last ten years. He was a Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction finalist in 2011. Read his stories of Mexico at sterlingbennett.com. The Author Welcomes Contact with Readers: For Sterling Bennett’s blog, Stories from Mexico, and Other Yarns go to: www.sterlingbennett.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ Twitter: @marupa9
AIN’T THE PLACE Dusty Richards
im Glover’s eyes were drier than two sand pits. He reined up and studied the chaparral-clad country. A spiny land of yucca, pear, and mesquite that went in a tilted flat to the base of the Gipson Mountains. Jim knew a woman who had a place at Soldier Springs. He booted his horse out in the short grass open country, and led two packhorses. One carried gear, bedding, and food. The other bore the corpse of Joe Cantrel—his partner. After all these years together in Mexico and all over the southwest looking for gold. A bar shootout with some tough freebooters left them two big mouths dead. They came out unscathed. Fought some Mexican bandits in the Sierra Madres who’d stolen their horses—go them back unscathed and every Mexican was dead when the dust settled. As Rangers back in Texas they’d fought outlaws, Comanche and Kiowa. Why, they even ate Chief Red Hawk’s liver raw down on the Brazos’ Crossing. Jim made the bay trot and the others came along behind. Their hooves turned up dust that soon fogged the air around them. There wasn’t a way to escape the boiling grit. No wind to sweep it away. He pulled the silk kerchief up to filter it from his nose and mouth. Nothing helped his stinging eyes. Besides, he needed them to look out for the damn Apaches. Slicker than sidewinders, the half-dozen bucks had charged out of a draw. Joe Cantrell saw them, drew his long barrel Colt and blasted two of them to hell and gone. Jim joined him with his .44/40 repeating rifle. It was close-quarters fighting. Horses were shot out from underneath their riders. Wounded Indians scrambled for the brush and were sent to hell with his bullets. Two minutes of a raging, screaming nightmare full of earhurting percussion was all it took. Then it was all over. No more Indians screaming and yipping like coyotes, and no more charging horses. The only sounds came from the animals in pain. A hurt horse made a sound like no other animal, and you could hear it for miles. He found Joe on his back in the dry wash sand with two turkey-fletched Apache arrows in his chest. The
arrowheads he didn’t need to see. They were chipped from black obsidian into razor sharp point. Fired from a short bow made of ram horns, they pierced deep into game. Or in Joe’s case, in his chest. Blood already flooded his pard’s lungs. The sounds of Joe’s coughing struggle to breathe cut into Jim’s heart. He put a blanket roll under his friend’s head and fed him whiskey to deaden the pain. Jim’d considered ending the man’s life. No way to save him. A doc couldn’t have done anything. Besides there wasn’t one in forty miles and no way for him get Joe there if there had been. Who cared if he ended his misery that the Chiricuhua had put him in? But he never lasted long. Jim caught their saddle horses and packhorses, then collected the firearms on the battlefield. In his trips back and forth, he dispatched a dying piebald horse and two more ponies with broken legs that limped away from him. His rifle sent them into heaven’s arms. Every attacker was dead. The circling buzzards could have them. With care he wrapped Jim’s body in canvas, but had no shovel. They’d broke the handle out of theirs. Besides, this desolate place of creosote stinking greasewood was no place to lie to rest a partner. Her place at Soldier Springs would do. He rode two hot days to get there. Over by the base of those saw toothed mountains that the heat waves distorted. Nelda Jean would have a shovel. Some men called her a dove. Others an angel. Joe liked her too. But Jim only wanted to borrow a shovel or buy one and lay poor Joe Cantrel to rest. Couldn’t take much more time. He sure needed to be laid away. When Jim came up the draw, his horses’ shoes rang on the water-rounded rocks, each one tumbled and polished until they looked like an egg. As if some assorted prehistoric animals had laid them there. He could smell mesquite wood burning. She’d be there. Nelda Jean was no beauty, but she was kind to look at. To a man
100 who’d been off in the border mountains for six months grubbing around for gold, she might look like one of those French painter’s darlings. At sundown, he rode up to the jacal and stopped at the hitch rail. It was on real sloping ground and her hovel was above that. She came to the door wearing little of nothing but some lacy material. “That you, Jim?” “It’s me.” “Where’s Joe?” “Apaches got him. I need a shovel to bury him.” She made a face. “Why bring him here?” “He loved you.” “Loved me? He never loved any woman in this world longer than ten minutes.” “Naw, he loved you. Talked about you all the time. ‘That Nelda Jean was all right,’ he’d say.” “You’re lying.” “No, I ain’t.” “What we doing with him?” “Going to have to bury him tonight.” “I’ll get a candle lamp.” “Good, we can do it down on the flat. There’s more loose dirt down there.” She brought the light and shovel for him. A reflector with a candle inside. It would help him. He tied all the horses but Joe’s saddle horse and led him down on the bottom. When he began to dig he realized that job would take longer than he had dreamed. Scoop by scoop, he dug out the sand,
then reached rocks and was forced to cut out small boulders. “You ever want to leave this place?” he asked her as she swung her feet over the edge of the grave. “Why leave here? Where would I go? I pay no rent. Owe no one. There’s enough water from the spring to raise my garden.” “What if you could go see San Francisco?” “What would I do there? I ain’t young or pretty anymore. They don’t pay much for my kind up there.” He heaved out some of the rocks that he’d managed to loosen in the floor of the grave. “Naw. I mean live like real folks do. Have a fancy house and a maid. You know and take taxis to social events.” She laughed. He liked her to laugh. There was a lilting sound in her vocal cords that suited him just fine. He worked harder thinking about poor Joe. Poor man would get no rest till Jim had him reposed in this ground. “How would I ever get that kind of money?” “Marrying me.” “Marrying you? Why you’ve never even touched me in your whole life. Why do you want to marry me now?” “’Cause you was Joe’s girl. He’s dead. So now I figure it’s my turn.” “I wasn’t his girl.” “To me you was.” “How’re we going to go to Frisco and live this life on what them horses are worth?” “Oh, girl, don’t you worry about money.” “I have to. Here I can exist. Married and up there I might starve. I don’t want to beg on the street.”
“Don’t worry none about that.” He dug out his ear with his index finger. Something in there itched like hell. Didn’t know what made it do that. “How much money you got anyway?” “Enough to buy and do what I want as long as I live.” She sat close by in the candle lamp’s ring and hugged her knees. “Where did you get that much money?” “We made five trips out of the Madres with real gold. It’s in the bank in Arivipia.” “And you’re going to live up there with those snobs. Why I won’t move up there for no amount of gold.” He stopped shoveling and mopped his face on his sleeve. The grave was chest deep. “I ain’t lying to you. We can go do what we want to do.” “You’re a tempting man, Jim Glover.” Bent over, working to loosen more rocks, he agreed with a grunt. “How many times have you turned down an offer like mine?” “And kicked myself—about half a dozen.” “Why did you do that—turn them down?” “First was a boy who had a homestead in the Dakotas. Too damn cold up there.” He was back to grubbing out another small boulder. “Number two was a gambler. But I figured if his luck went sour he’d use me as collateral. Then a sheep man and he stunk
like raw wool. A traveling salesman who offered to furnish me for the rest of my life with all the Maude Saudy’s Tonic that I’d ever need. Cured everything from bunions to fatal heart attacks. And your ole pard Joe.” “What did he offer you?” “A respectable house to live in up at Preskitt.” Folks called Prescott by that name. He even knew the house Joe intended to set her up in—it would have been respectable. He tossed out the shovel. “This is deep enough for any old devil. Why the hell are you crying?” “’Cause damnit, I told him when he got back from Mexico— if he still wanted to do that I’d go with him.” He scrambled out of the grave. “Help me tote him over here. I know a funeral ain’t the best place to ask a woman to go live up there, but I’m asking anyway.” With care, he unbound the corpse from the saddle. Arms around it, he lowered him to the ground. With him holding up the upper part of the body, she carried the foot end. And they lowered him in the grave. Side by side above him, they began to pray the Lord’s Prayer together and she reached out and closed her hand on his calloused one, after amen, she said, “Reckon I’d do that with you, Jim.” “Good. Now you sing ‘Amazing Grace’ ‘cause he loved that song.” Amazing Grace, how great thou art . . . .
here’s no shortage of lists of the ‘”best” this and the “best” that. Organizations and publications organize and publish such rankings regularly, on any and every subject under the sun. Including all things Western. That’s not what you’ll find here. For one thing, there will be no lists. Just one single, solitary something that, in my collective opinion, represents the best of its kind. But given that I am unable to decide upon just one favorite of just about anything, there will often be, over time, more than one “best” in any given category or grouping or genre. It makes no sense, I know, but “best” can be determined by any number of criteria. So I’ll not apologize if you see, in issues to come, more than one “Best” Western poem or poet, more than one “Best” Western novel, more than one “Best” Western artist…well, you get the idea. As mentioned, these “bests” will be nothing more than my opinion. But it will be a considered opinion, and I will do my best to explain why I think whatever it is is the “best.” You may not agree. You’re as welcome to your opinions as I am to my mine. But I hope, rather than dismiss my choices out of hand because they’re not the same as yours, you’ll give them a chance. Maybe—just maybe—you’ll change your mind. Welcome, then, to the first edition of “Best of the West.” The first words I wrote about the West fell out of my head
in the form of a poem. I have always liked poems, and poems about cowboys and the West have been particular favorites, as I have always liked cowboys and the West. So, my first “Best of the West” is a poet—the best writer of poetry, to my mind, among all those considered “classic” cowboy poets. And that’s Charles Badger Clark (1883-1957), former poet laureate of the state of South Dakota. Although his cowboy credentials are thin, Clark got it right when writing about cowboys. And the myriad literary techniques he used in his poetry elevate it to a higher plane than other poets of that long “classic” era. That era includes some fine poets—Bruce Kiskaddon, Henry Herbert Knibbs, Carlos Ashley, S. Omar Barker, and so on—but Clark is the “Best.” While Clark’s creative use of line and stanza to create interesting poetic form and structure is admirable and, on its own, make his poems more poetic than those built upon the rhyme schemes and stanza arrangements typical of the genre, it his use of language that sets him apart. Listen to the turns of phrase in these examples. You’ll not find any better. I do not recall ever reading a stronger declaration of love for the West’s wide-open spaces than this, from “The Old Cow Man”: I loved my fellow man the best When he was scattered some.
Clark’s classic, “The Legend of Boastful Bill,” features the best bronc-busting bragging ever voiced: “I’m the one to take such rakin’s as a joke. Someone hand me up the makin’s of a smoke! If you think my fame needs bright’nin’ W’y I’ll rope a streak of lightnin’ And I’ll cinch ’im up and spur ’im till he’s broke.” And where have you read a more colorful description of roping than this, from “The Outlaw”? When my rope takes hold on a two-year-old, By the foot or the neck or the horn, He kin plunge and fight till his eyes go white But I’ll throw him as sure as you’re born. Though the taut ropes sing like a banjo string And the latigoes creak and strain, Yet I got no fear of an outlaw steer And I’ll tumble him on the plain. “The Free Wind” opens with a stanza that speaks—vividly— to my youthful experience working in a hard-rock mine: I went and worked in a drippin’ mine ’Mong the rock and the oozin’ wood, For the dark it seemed lit with a dollar sign And they told me money’s good. Finally, nowhere in all of literature will you find a better metaphor for death than these lines from “Ridin’”: When my earthly trail is ended And my final bacon curled That’s but a miniscule selection of the superior language Badger Clark brings to bear in his poetry—a sampling of literary technique that sets him apart from other cowboy poets to earn him distinction as the “Best of the West.” Best of the West columnist Rod Miller writes poetry, fiction, nonfiction, magazine articles, and essays about the West. His latest book is Goodnight Goes Riding and Other Poems. Visit online at www.writerRodMiller.com.
Where stories of the West come to be told.