Saddlebag Dispatches—Summer, 2020

Page 1

contents SUMME R 2020

columns behind the chutes by Dennis Doty ...................................... six-gun justice by Paul Bishop ........................................ indian territor y by John T. Big gs ...................................... best of the west by R od Miller .........................................

short fiction vengeance is mine by Bob Giel .......................................... snakebit by Sharon Frame Gay .............................................. the turd wagon by Terr y Alexander .................................... the revolt of emmy carson by Vicki Stevenson ................. a train encounter by Regina McLemore ................................ a bullet for the horse by David Bowmore ............................... trouble in lonely valley: part two by D.N. Sample ................ the last rider: part two by J.B. Hogan ................................ shades of splinter run by Neala Ames .............................. thursday nights at the occidental by John Keyse-Walker ....... fingernail moon by Pamela Foster ..................................... cottonwood grove by Joan Leotta .................................... the stranger by Barbara J. Warren .................................... one arm of the law by Gar y R odgers ................................

4 6 192 198

13 25 49 59 77 85 95 123 135 141 147 159 175 183

poetry one long stirrup by R od Miller .......................................... a western woman by Marleen Bussma ..............................

10 190

features dr. quinn, doc susie, and the reality of colorado’s women doctors by Doris C. McCraw . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . a western bad boy: ror y calhoun by Michael Koch ................. american chestnut by Dr. Michael Lee ................................ kicking “as,” taking names by Pamela Foster .................... goodbye, peter fonda by Terr y Alexander ........................ never a dull moment: susan cabot by Terry Alexander .................. cherokee lawman: sam sixkiller by Regina McLemore ..........

23 42 72 106 90 112 166

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES We are now taking submissions for our Winter 2020 issue. This issue is due out in late December, 2020. DEADLINE IS AUGUST 1, 2020 Galway and Tiree Press are Oghma Creative Media’s western and historical imprints, and Saddlebag Dispatches is our semi-annual flagship publication. 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 on the frontier. Traditional westerns are set west 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 nonfiction. If the latter, give the subject. The second paragraph should be a biography between one hundred and 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, or docx format. Fiction manuscripts should be in standard manuscript format. For instructions and examples see Submit the entire and complete fiction or poetry manuscript. We will consider proposals for non-fiction articles. OTHER ATTACHMENTS: Please also submit any pictures related to your

manuscript. All photos must be high-resolution (at least 300 dpi) and include a photo caption and credit, if necessary. Manuscripts will be edited for grammar and spelling. Submit to, with your name in the subject line.


saddlebag dispatches


T’S BEEN AN INTERESTING and challenging few months since our last issue. All of us have had to change the way we do things. Working and attending school remotely is now the norm. Buying our groceries and other necessities on-line has been a new experience. We’ve accustomed ourselves to

seeing more folks wearing bandanas than on an 1860s cattle drive. Many of us have started to ask ourselves how bad it will get and when will it end. To answer that, we need only look to our history. This is not exactly our first rodeo, nor our first pandemic. Most of us, by now, are somewhat familiar with the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918-19. That one resulted in 500 million confirmed cases and 20-40 million deaths worldwide. It was said to be the deadliest epidemic in history. More people died in a single year than in the Black Death Plague epidemic of 1347-1354. In modern history, we’ve seen seven Cholera Pandemics. The first struck in Bengal 1817 and killed hundreds of thousands of Indians and over 10,000 British troops. By 1820 it had spread to China, Eastern Europe, and Indonesia, where it killed 100,000 on the island of Java before dying out in 1824. The second Cholera Pandemic lasted from 1829 to 1837. It originated in Russia but soon spread world-wide. In California,

saddlebag dispatches

it devastated the Native American Pomo tribe in and around Sonoma county in 1833. The Pomo were hit again in 1837 with a smallpox epidemic. From 1846 to 1860, a third pandemic struck. It too, began in Russia but quickly spread worldwide. In the U.S., it took the life of former president James Polk and ravaged pioneers on the Oregon, Californi,a and Mormon Trails killing an estimated 6,000 to 12,000 hardy settlers and 49ers. By the fourth pandemic—which lasted from 1863 to 1875—doctors had begun to recognize the connection between cholera and contaminated water, yet it still took nearly 600,000 lives worldwide including 50,000 Americans as it spread outward from New Orleans along the river systems. The fifth, from 1881 to 1896, was the last to have a major toll in Europe due to improved sanitation. The sixth, which struck in 1899, was largely confined to the Philippines and far east. However, an infected steamer did land in New York. Health authorities acted quickly and limited the death toll to 11. That pandemic lasted until 1923. The final Cholera Pandemic struck in 1961 and lasted until 1975. It was largely confined to North Africa, Pakistan, Indonesia and the Soviet Union. The take-away here, I think, is that pandemics have been with us since the dawn of human history. They are never over in a few weeks or months. It takes years for them to run their course. Meanwhile, advances in sanitation and medicine—along with safe practices such as social distancing and the wearing of protective equipment—are our best hope of combating them. We’ve been through this before and came out the far end a stronger and more united people with great advances in science and medicine which we might not otherwise have discovered. We’ll come through it again this time. Until then, be safe, be alert, be considerate of others. And take some time to think about your own welfare... like taking a break to leaf through the latest issue of Saddlebag Dispatches. Until next time....

—Dennis Doty Publisher



saddlebag dispatches


ANY OF THE MOST cherished images of the Old West are of the lone lawman pursuing and ultimately apprehending criminals. The image has been exploited effectively by novelists and filmmakers. In fact, such is the influence of fictional accounts of lawmen in the West that the truth, though no less interesting than the fiction, is not well known. Recently, my passion for Westerns has turned toward collecting and reading vintage TV tiein novels connected to shows from the golden age of TV Westerns—when six-guns and shoot-em’ ups dominated the small screen, making toy gun and holster sets, lunch boxes, Western ranch and town playsets, board games, and other items associated with the most popular Westerns a guaranteed source of income. The earliest Western TV tie-ins appeared in

the ‘50s. Shows such as Wagon Train, The Deputy, and Boots And Saddles were popular enough to justify a publisher taking a chance on an original tie-in novel. However, because this hybrid of western paperback and TV show was a new phenomenon, publishers were unsure how to promote them—did you sell it as a western novel, or did you hype the western TV show? Some publishers were bold enough to use the title of the TV show on the cover. Other times nonspecific titles were chosen with the show mentioned only in tiny print— sometimes even relegated to the back cover. Instead of the photo covers that would become the norm, publishers hedged their bets by using bland illustrations, which were barely recognizable as characters from the show. It was as if

saddlebag dispatches

the publishers thought potential readers might not buy the book if they didn’t like the show. Among the earliest western TV tie-in novels, were three Wagon Train paperbacks—Wagonmaster, The Scout, and Wagons West—which were published between 1958 and 1959. These were penned by longtime pulp writer Robert Turner. In the Early ‘60s, Rawhide and Wanted Dead Or Alive got their own single shot tie-in novels, both of which were written by journeyman scribe Frank Robertson. The cover of Rawhide had a reasonable painting of the shows stars on a yellow background. This was a trick copied from the pulps, which often used bright yellow covers to make an issue pop on the newsstands. There was also a paperback edition published with a generic cover. Today, the edition with the tie-in cover will push you upward of $100. There were also two editions of Wanted Dead Or Alive released at the same time, one with a cover drawing of a character who might or might not be Steve McQueen as Josh Randall—the more collectible edition—and the other with a generic cowboy on the front. Neither edition made any mention of its tie-in to the show.

In 1960, the first of two Have Gun, Will Travel (HGWT) tie-ins hit the spinner racks. It was titled after the show, but had a truly awful illustration of Richard Boone on the cover. The second was published in 1963, with a much better cover featuring a photo of Paladin (Richard Boone). Veteran writer Frank Robertson, (Rawhide, Wanted Dead Or Alive) wrote the second entry, A Man Called Paladin. Another veteran pulp writer, Noel Loomis, wrote the first HGWT tie-in. He would go on to write the first Bonanza tie-in (1960)—a show that was so




saddlebag dispatches

popular, the tie-in was also published in hardcover. As benefiting Bonanza’s popularity, Loomis’ tie-in was the first of a dozen or more such tie-ins to be inspired by the series—the two latest being published in 2017. The long running Gunsmoke was arguably as popular as Bonanza. As a result, Gunsmoke produced a remarkable number of tie-in paperbacks. The first appeared in 1957. Simply titled Gunsmoke, it was a collection of ten novelized scripts. This approach was also used for Tales of Wells Fargo written by another famous pulpster (who also created the show), Frank Gruber. Another Gunsmoke standalone was published in 1970, followed by an authorized four book series in 1974, written under the pseudonym Jackson Flynn. A three book series written by Gary McCarthy—a prolific and entertaining writer—came out in 1999, followed by an excellent six book series by top western wordslinger Joseph West in 2005. All of these are readable and collectible. As TV tie-in paperbacks proved popular, many other TV westerns generated paperbacks—The Rebel, The Restless Gun, Lancer, Cimarron Strip, The Iron Horse, The Outcasts, How The West Was Won, Bearcats, High Chaparral, and others. Each had its own unique story behind its publication, the minutia of which tie-in collectors such as myself revel in. No column on western TV tie-ins would be complete without mentioning the wonderful, and highly collectible, Whitman Authorized Editions and Big Little Books from the same company aimed at juvenile readers. While Whitman produced tie-ins for other shows, their westerns were the most popular, including Maverick, Cheyenne, Bat Masterson, Have Gun and of course Gunsmoke and Bonanza, and others. Surprisingly well written by experienced wordsmiths, the Whitman juveniles should never be written off as kid’s stuff. —Paul Bishop is a novelist, screenwriter, and western genre enthusiast, as well as the co-host of the Six-Gun Justice Podcast, which is available on all major streaming platforms or on the podcast website: www.sixgunjustice. com/


saddlebag dispatches

one long

stirrup ROD MILLER poetry by

4-time Western Writers of America Spur Award Winner

SA D D LEBAG poetry

He rode with one long stirrup, wind-streaked beard and grayshot hair. You might never see ol’ Port, but Rockwell was always there. A shade amongst the shadows, a dark whisper in the night. He rode with one long stirrup,

Sawed-off Colts charged with buckshot in the pockets of his coat. When those pistols came to hand, hip and thigh of foe he smote. Fought with the strength of Samson grown in that Missouri jail, blessed by God or the devil; his assailants doomed to fail. Walked the thin line of the law, left boot prints on either side. Guiltless and guilty alike, by Rockwell’s hand they did die. Ol’ Port died with his boots on. Ol’ Port, he died in his bed. He rode with one long stirrup till they found ol’ Rockwell dead. From Big Muddy to gold mountains, listen to the sound of the blood of his victims, crying from the ground. He rode with one long stirrup across the wild frontier. Ol’ Port, he is still here. Rockwell is still here.


OUNDING HEAVILY ON THE floor, their shoes created thudding noises that echoed slightly in the lengthy corridor. They walked slowly, the man in the cheap suit and his companion in the dark blue uniform. making their way toward a door at the far end. The pace was set by the man in the suit. He had difficulty maintaining anything more than his current effort. The grimace on his face indicated the pain he experienced and, while he doubled his attempt at speed, his gait remained the same and a slight limp worsened the harder he pushed himself. The man in the uniform silently stayed with him. As they passed the dim electric lamps mounted at intervals on the walls, the suited man’s features became visible. Lines in his long, gaunt face spoke not only to his advanced age, but to the pain and difficulty he suffered. Somewhat round shouldered, the man was tall and slim. Small vertical folds of skin hung loosely under his chin and the corners of his thin mouth drew downward grimly. His nose was long and straight and the sad light blue eyes were deeply set, all but hidden by lids and massive white brows. Also white, his hair was noticeably thinning at the

temples and forehead and was slicked straight back. The full white mustache accompanied a well groomed beard running along his jaw line and under his chin. He made the effort to refrain from hunching over. The uniformed man remained at his companion’s side, seemingly ready to give aid if required. His shoulder patch identified him as a guard at the New Mexico State Penitentiary. He wore a captain’s insignia. Their journey ended at the door marked warden. The guard tapped his knuckles. “Come in,” a voice called from beyond the door. The guard opened the door and allowed his companion entry. He leaned in. His voice was gruff. “Hultren, sir.” The warden, a slight man in shirt sleeves and a four-in-hand tie, looked up from his desk and cracked a half smile as the man approached. “Sit down.” The warden gestured to the chair in front of the desk. Doing as instructed, the man sat and stared expressionless at the warden, waiting. He sat patiently while the warden finished perusing papers in front of him. The warden looked up. “Your last day, Hultren. In


saddlebag dispatches

a few minutes, you’ll be on your way back to life as a free man.” “Yes, sir.” Hultren’s voice was hoarse with age but retained its strength and depth. “I’ve been going over your file. You’ve accomplished a lot since you came here, helping other prisoners, teaching them to read and write. You even helped to put down a riot three years ago. And now, sadly, you’ve been paid back in a most unkind way.” “Yes, sir.”

“Right. You still maintain your innocence, that you were framed?” “I do. It’s time to settle that once and for all.” “Nothing against the law, I hope. Sick or not, you could find yourself back here if you break the law.” “What I’m going to do is completely legal.” “I sure hope so. I’d hate to see you come back here to die.” “Oh, I won’t be back here, Warden, I can promise you that.”

“Cancer, isn’t it?” Hultren nodded. “Are you going to seek treatment for it?” “I don’t see the value in that, Warden. The doctor says I don’t have much time left.” “What will you do then?” “I’m going back home. I’ve got some unfinished business there.”

The warden studied Hultren for a moment and moved on, producing an envelope from a desk drawer. He held it out to Hultren. “Besides your suit of clothes, the law requires that each prisoner be given ten dollars upon his release. You’ll find a bit more than ten in there, courtesy of the guards.” Hultren opened the envelope and counted out fifty dollars in small bills. He guessed that all those times

saddlebag dispatches

he had helped and supported the guards in their work was now bearing fruit. He smiled at that. “Thank them for me, will you?” “I will.” The warden signed an official looking document and folded it, presenting it to Hultren. “This is your release paper.” Hultren placed the sheet into the envelope with the money and inserted it in his inside jacket pocket. The warden got up from the desk and crossed to the window. “One more thing.” He motioned for Hultren to join him at the window. Hultren rose with great effort and went to the window. “The driver of that motor car down there has been instructed to take you anywhere in Santa Fe you choose to go. My gift to you.” Hultren peered out at the bright blue 1910 Overland automobile sitting outside the main gate. The corners of his mouth turned up in a slight smile. “Never rode in a motor car before. Thank you.” The warden extended his hand. “Enjoy it.” They shook hands and bid each other goodbye. Hultren left the office to rejoin the guard captain and to be escorted to the main gate. He was handed his thirty year old faded white cattleman’s hat that had been stored upon his arrival, and received the well wishes of several of the guards, before stepping through the opened gate into freedom. He breathed free air for the first time in twentyfive years and, as he walked the concrete toward the waiting automobile, he savored this. It didn’t smell any different from the air inside the prison, maybe a little less stagnant was all. His mind drifted back to the origins of his lot in life. In reality, he had been thinking about this a lot lately. It began last year when he successfully appealed his fifty year prison sentence to the new governor and was granted a lesser term. The letter from the governor, received after an impassioned plea and the support of the warden, cut his punishment in half. At the time, that gave him one more year to serve before his slate would be considered clean. Then he began reaching back to the time when it all started. Before the governor’s decision, he’d thought little about the incident. It was too painful and did him

no good since he could not clear himself from behind bars. During the trial he exhausted every possibility of proving his innocence. The older the incident became, the more remote any hope became. Then, when freedom became available in one year instead of twenty-six, he considered settling the score. He would need to formulate a plan. That required remembering all the facts, so he forced his mind to reenact the specifics. It went all the way back to 1886. His ranch flourished and became the object of Jason Cleary’s desire. Indeed, Cleary had made no less than three offers to buy it that year. Hultren refused them all. The place had been in his family for over twenty years. He grew up on it, learned the business from his father, buried both his parents on it, and was not about to let it go, especially to a speculator like Cleary. In retrospect, he should have done something about Cleary then, but the ranch consumed all his time and he had little interest in anything else. Cleary grew his little empire unchecked. Soon his name was on many concerns operating in Blue Valley, whether it got there legally or not. Then, in 1887, after a drinking bout in town, Hultren was visited by Cleary and the town marshal. Cleary accused Hultren of horse theft. He claimed he had witnesses that would swear they saw him, in a drunken rage, pistol whip a Cleary ranch hand and run off ten prize stallions. Hultren denied it, but Cleary insisted that the marshal inspect Hultren’s stables. The search turned up the horses in question and Hultren was arrested. The rest of it went according to Cleary’s orchestrations. The marshal and the judge were obviously in Cleary’s employ, although that could not be proven. The trial became a sham. Appearing with the appropriate bruises, the beaten man identified Hultren as the assailant. Hultren’s only two witnesses, who could establish his alibi, never showed up for the trial and were never heard from again. Cleary’s judge sentenced Hultren to fifty years without parole. Now, with twenty-five years under his belt, he dared to concoct a plan of revenge. Now, even though this cancer he carried with him had a terminal prognosis, this could still be pulled off.



saddlebag dispatches

The automobile ride was a pleasant diversion, delivering Hultren to the railroad station. After thanking the driver, he purchased a ticket south to Sorocco and waited for the train. He thought it notable that his last train ride took him to the prison. In Sorocco, he boarded a bus bound for, among other stops, Blue Valley. It was a dusty ride in the open conveyance, but Hultren began feeling more at home as the country changed into open land. Upon arriving at Blue Valley, he was amazed at the changes, new buildings, concrete sidewalks, paved streets, even a few automobiles. But, through it all, he noticed Cleary’s name on many businesses. Had he dealt with Cleary when he had the chance … No matter. He’d do it now. After thoroughly scrutinizing the town, Hultren visited the hotel to book a room and went on to the livery stable to rent a horse and saddle outfit. He had not been on a horse since his incarceration. Embarrassing for a cattleman. Mounting and riding caused him pain, but he forced his way through it. His destination would be worth the suffering. Once he left town, the roads were more recognizable. He found his way across country to land that once belonged to him. A familiar trail led him to a knoll on which gravestones sat. These were the graves of his mother and father, which he expected, but what was that third stone? He rode closer to see his own name on that stone and the date of death, 1890. Initially flabbergasted, Hultren collected himself and pieced this together. This was probably Cleary’s handiwork, his way of getting the ranch after Hultren’s conviction. Not important. Cleary would be dealt with and this wouldn’t matter. But there was still something eating at him. What if there was someone buried in that grave? He had to know. Two things needed to be done first. He needed some work clothes and tools and he needed a gun. The clothes and tools were for the grave. The weapon, a short barreled Colt Lightening with a shoulder rig, was for later, part of his plan. He left it in his room and returned to the gravesite. Digging up a twenty-five year old grave was no mean task for a healthy man half his age. For Hultren, it was grueling, back breaking work that took most of the afternoon and several long periods of rest. He

persevered, finishing close to dusk, but he found no coffin. Exhaustion was taking over, but he was determined to know what it held. A few more shovels full and he struck something. Putting the shovel aside, he scratched at the dirt until he uncovered the item he hit. A bone! More scratching revealed more bones, then a skeleton, then another. The clothing these bodies were buried with was in tatters now, but an object stuck out from the remnants of a pocket, a metallic object. He reached for it and identified it as a pocket watch. Instinctively, he opened it to see the face and saw an inscription. The cover bore the name of one of the witnesses who had failed to show up at his trial. Cleary again. He’d had them killed and buried and then had the grave camouflaged as Hultren’s. All right, he had his answer. He pondered filling in the grave, but decided to leave it. Even if Cleary found it, the plan would preclude his acting on it. Wearily, Hultren returned to Blue Valley and collapsed into bed. Sleep consumed him for about ten hours. When he finally awoke, his body was racked with the pain from the labor and the cancer. The disease progressed at a faster rate than he’d expected and all that work most likely aggravated it. He needed to tough this out, to last. Cleary had to pay. Forcing himself out of bed, he cleaned up and shaved. That was exhausting enough, but enduring the painful ordeal of getting dressed and strapping on the shoulder holster was almost more than he could bear. He found the folded papers containing the powdered painkiller given to him by the prison doctor in his jacket pocket. Taking this stuff put him off because it slowed the mind, but he mixed one into a glass of water and gulped it down. Sitting on the bed, he loaded the revolver. Lost in his thoughts, he sat for almost an hour holding the gun while the muscles in his hand reached back over twenty-five years to familiarize themselves once more with its structure and heft. Then, with a jerk, he came back to reality and found that the medicine had worked, leaving his body somewhat more pliable and less painful. This allowed him to perform a few practice draws. Slow as molasses, he thought, but adequate enough for his purpose.

saddlebag dispatches



saddlebag dispatches

The saloon across the street from the hotel also bore Cleary’s name and was fairly active for a late morning weekday. Hultren attributed the interest to the advertised free lunch as well as the availability of several card games. Hultren’s glimpse through the front window told him the stakes in those games were high and the players were dead serious. His entrance into the establishment went completely unnoticed. He perused the occupants and listened to their conversations without drawing their attention, allowing him to quickly close on a particular individual. The person of interest was a young, blond haired man with a sneering expression whose conversation revealed his name was Suter and he worked for Jason Cleary. This prompted Hultren to concoct a quick plan requiring his participation in the card game. His method was direct, a question to the blond man, “Mind if I sit in?” The man shrugged absently. “Sure. Your money’s good as anybody’s.” Hultren sat and produced all thirty-two dollars of his stake. The money was changed to chips and play resumed. Ten minutes into the game saw Hultren double his money. Suter, obviously a bad loser, glared at him. Hultren recognized the signs and increased the pot. Suter responded by calling and covering the bet. Hultren won the hand.

The deal came around to Suter. Hultren watched closely as cards were distributed. Bristling at having lost a good deal of money, Suter, rather clumsily, allowed a card to enter the game from the bottom of the deck. It fell on his own cards. “That last card came from the bottom,” Hultren said sharply. Suter glared at Hultren for a second before speaking. “You saying I’m cheating?” “I’m saying that last card did not come from the top of the deck.” Hultren spoke slowly and distinctly. Suter pushed his chair back from the table, his face beet red. “Nobody calls me a cheat and gets away with it.” His voice was low and threatening, spoken through clenched teeth. Hultren stayed calm. “I just did.” Suter rose quickly, upsetting the chair. He made a telegraphed move for his holster. Hultren’s hand was closer and faster. Before Suter could clear leather, Hultren’s Colt was leveled on his middle. “Don’t even try it!” Suter dropped his hand to his side. An embarrassed look crossed his face. “Now take what’s yours and get out.” Suter nervously reached into the center of the table and separated his chips from the rest. Awkwardly, he scooped them up, dropping a few. Hultren waved the gun to emphasize his last order. Suter stepped

saddlebag dispatches

around the other players and went to cash in. Hultren holstered the pistol. A few more hands ended the game with Hultren the owner of seventy-four dollars. More satisfying, however, was the way his encounter with Suter played out. He returned to the street and leaned against the outside wall of the saloon watching people go by. This brought to his view a meeting down the street between Suter and a well dressed, stocky man. They completed an intense discussion and the stocky man dismissed Suter and approached the saloon. Watching the man’s gait and studying his features, Hultren recognized the man. Jason Cleary. The face was chubbier as was the frame, but this was definitely the man Hultren sought. He knew the jowls, though they were more pronounced now, and he knew the wide set tiny eyes as well as the slight limp that Cleary always had. The corners of Hultren’s mouth curled into a bit of a smile as the man reached him. “Afternoon, Mr. Cleary.” Cleary glanced at the source of the words, but did not stop. “Afternoon.” “Nice day, isn’t it?” “Yeah, I guess.” Cleary’s answer was vague, inattentive, as he brushed past Hultren and entered the saloon. Hultren stood there for a long moment, then followed Cleary inside. Staying off to the side but still visible to Cleary, Hultren watched intently. As Cleary greeted customers, conferred with the bartender and signed some papers in his office at the back of the room, Hultren made sure he was never out of Cleary’s sight. Cleary became more uneasy as this went on. By the time he left, he appeared visibly unnerved. Hultren stayed with him. For the next several days, Hultren was a constant accessory to Cleary’s daily routine. And, with each day and each sighting of Hultren, Cleary displayed more anxiety. He stopped Hultren on the street. “What do you want, mister? Every time I turn around, you’re there. Now what do you want?” “Nothing.” Hultren pushed his hat back on his head a little. “Then what are you hanging around for?” “Nothing. I’m just walking is all.”



saddlebag dispatches

saddlebag dispatches

“Well, walk somewhere else. I don’t want to see you.” “Sure.” Hultren readjusted his hat and walked away, leaving Cleary bristling. Checking over his shoulder, Hultren waited until Cleary started walking and then continued to follow him. This same scenario repeated itself several times over the course of a week. Hultren’s next appearance in Cleary’s vicinity was interrupted by a scrawny little man who, because of his manner of dress, appeared more to be a preacher than a lawman. But the badge, prominently displayed on his coat, said he was, indeed, the town marshal. “You seem to be making yourself a nuisance, stranger. What are you up to?” His voice had a sneering quality to it. “I’m not up to anything, Marshal, just walking.” “What’s your business here?” “As a matter of fact, I’m looking the town over. Might want to open a business.” “Well, do your looking where Mr. Cleary ain’t. You’re making him nervous.” “Whatever you say, Marshal.” “Well, move along then.” Hultren moved for the moment, but continued to annoy Cleary. He remained well in the background, but he was there. He was not staring, not following; but he was always there. And he made sure Cleary was well aware of it. He noted Cleary’s increased disquiet as this dance progressed. Then Suter joined the game, following Hultren as he followed Cleary. It took less than an hour for Hultren to recognize this new development. Making certain that Suter had him in sight, Hultren moved away from the area where Cleary was walking and headed into an alley. Suter followed and, once inside the alley, drew his weapon. He stepped cautiously past some crates and moved toward the far end of the alley. Hultren rose from behind the crates and moved toward Suter. He swung his Colt, barrel first, across the back of Suter’s head. The gun met bone through Suter’s hat with a dull clack. Instantly, the man caved and slumped to the ground, senseless. Hultren dragged the limp form behind the crates and left the alley. A day passed during which Hultren followed Cleary without the presence of Suter. Late that af-

ternoon, a knock on the door to Hultren’s room interrupted him finishing a wash-up. In his undershirt and trousers with suspenders dropped to his sides, he toweled off and went to the door. “Open up! It’s the law!” Hultren opened the door to admit the marshal. “I’ve had another complaint about you. Now, I’m ordering you to stay away from Mr. Cleary.” “Am I breaking the law, Marshal?” Hultren threw the towel aside. “Well, no, not exactly, but you’re causing Mr. Cleary a lot of upset.” The marshal seemed flustered. “All I’m doing is walking on the street, Marshal. Seems to me, if Mr. Cleary is upset with me doing that, that’s his problem.” Visibly confounded, the officer looked around the room. His gaze settled on the shoulder rig hanging from the back of a chair. “What do you need that gun for?” The inquiry sounded duly official. “This is still wild country. I keep it for protection. Is there a law against it?” Hultren tried to sound cooperative. “Look here, mister.” The marshal showed signs of anger. “I know there’s more to you than you’re letting on and I want to know what that is. What’s your business with Cleary?” Hultren turned away and thought for a moment. He could not drag this out much longer. Things needed to come to a head now, but according to his plan. “Well?” The lawman’s demand displayed impatience. Hultren faced the man. “You’re right, Marshal, there is more.” “I’m listening.” Hultren needed this to be informative, but obscure at the same time. “There’s something I need to discuss with Mr. Cleary. I’m going to have that discussion at nine o’clock tonight at his saloon. Be there then and you’ll know what this is all about. That’s all I can tell you right now. Everything depends on the outcome of that discussion.” The marshal tugged at his chin. “That’s a tad too cryptic for me. What’s the discussion about?” “It’s a business discussion, just business. Come to the saloon tonight and you’ll know.”



saddlebag dispatches

The marshal had an apprehensive expression on his face. Hultren expected more questions to come and sought to end the conversation. “That’s really all I can tell you right now. It’s just business.” The marshal let out a harrumph. Hultren eyed him as he turned for the door, hoping he put the man off, but, at the same time, whetted his appetite for what would come later. “I’ll see you tonight,” the lawman said with a snarl. — AT TEN OF NINE that night, with a full saloon, Cleary stepped out of the back office. He surveyed the house. The absence of his stalker brought a smile to his lips. It remained there as he approached the bar. Then Hultren stepped through the front door. He walked purposefully to Cleary and stopped in front of him. Thoroughly fed up with this, Cleary took the initiave. “What the hell do you want with me?” The demand was loud. “You might want to step outside with me before I answer that.” “You can say it right here and right now.” “I don’t think you’re going to want this overheard.” Cleary thought for a moment. He wanted to know what this pain in the ass was up to, but, mostly, he wanted it to end. He called the bartender over told him to send someone after him if he was not back in

ten minutes. Then he led the way outside, followed closely by Hultren. Silently, they entered the dimly lit alley. Hultren positioned himself so that he faced the light coming from a street lamp outside. “All right, mister, talk,” Cleary said in a growl. Hultren shook his head in apparent disbelief. “You really don’t recognize me, do you?” “What? Why should I recognize you? I don’t even know you. Now, tell me what this is all about.” “Maybe you’ll recognize my name. Hultren.” Then it registered on Cleary. He could feel his face and his eyes show it. “Yeah, you know me. Hultren, remember?” Cleary was sweating, a cold sweat accompanied by trembling. “You can’t be here. You’re—” “In prison? Naw, that’s over. They cut my sentence in half on appeal. Twenty-five years of a fifty year sentence. I was released two weeks ago and the first thing I did was to come here … for you. You took everything from me, Cleary. You don’t get to walk away from that.” Hultren stared at Cleary. Cleary knew his facade was crumbling. His confidence was gone, replaced by fear, blind fear. He tried to convince himself he was safe. What could Hultren do to him here. This was his town, his law. Hultren couldn’t prove his innocence back then and he had no chance at it now. But that didn’t allay his fears. They just got worse. Hultren smiled, obviously seeing the mounting panic Cleary couldn’t hide. Cleary looked around. He needed a place to run, to hide, but he found nothing. There was only him and Hultren, facing each other in this alley. “Long overdue, Cleary.” Hultren took a step forward. “You’re going to pay. But I’m going to give you a chance, a chance you never gave me. You’ve got a gun. Use it.” “No, I … I won’t.” Cleary raised his hand, palm forward, hoping to make this go away. “Come on, Cleary, draw! Use the chance!” Hultren sank his hand inside his jacket. “No!” Cleary backed up a step. “Fight, you son of a bitch.” Cleary was frozen in place. “Draw or I’ll shoot you down.”

saddlebag dispatches

“All right!” Cleary’s hand went to his holster and brought up the revolver. He fired once, the sharp report splitting the night silence. The slug doubled Hultren over and forced him back a few steps, but it did not fell him. He grunted and forced himself to straighten up. Laughing until he choked on his own blood, he staggered forward. Cleary fired another shot. It hit Hultren in the chest and propelled him back off his feet to a position spread-eagle on the ground. Cleary watched this in fascination. He stood transfixed over the body. His hand dropped to his side, loosely holding the gun. A hand reached from behind him and pulled the weapon from his grip. “I’ll take that,” the marshal said. Brushing past Cleary, the lawman went to a knee next to Hultren’s body and examined it for signs of life. He shook his head. Cleary came back to reality as the marshal stepped in front of him. “Mr. Cleary? What’s going on here?” Flustered, Cleary searched for words. “He… eh … he tried to kill me.” The marshal stared. “I ain’t seen anything like this in twenty years. Did he draw on you?” “Yeah, yeah, he drew on me.” “And you had to kill him?” “Yeah, I beat him to the draw. Self defense. I had to kill him to protect myself.” Cleary watched as the marshal turned and crouched at Hultren’s body for a closer examination. He was still trying to get a handle on what just happened when the marshal faced him again. “I’m going to have to arrest you.” “What do you mean arrest me? This was self defense. I got him before he got me.” “That’s going to be hard to prove. He had no gun.” “What?” “There was no gun. You shot an unarmed man.” And then, as suddenly as the gunshot, it all became crystal clear. Hultren had engineered this whole thing. He’d boxed Cleary in just as surely as Cleary had locked him away twenty-five years earlier. Cleary would pay the ultimate price. For Hultren, vengeance was his.


B ob Giel


ob Giel was born in New York City and now lives in New Jersey. He has been in love with the Western genre since he was a kid, and absorbed so much of the period through books, movies, and television that he feels as though he could easily have been there himself. The grit and the determination of the people who carved a way of life out of the frontier have helped shape the way Bob lives his what he starts, and he is a true friend. While he was always interested in writing, life got in the way, that is, until he retired. With the decks cleared, he began writing and never looked back. A Crow to Pluck, was published

Fictioneers 2020 Peacemaker Award for Best First Western Novel. His next novel, Shawnee, is due out in Western adventures. featured in Saddlebag Dispatches, but he has served as Senior Editor for the magazine for over a year.



saddlebag dispatches



’M ABOUT TO DIE from snakebite. The snake and I were both surprised. Of all the things I thought might kill me, this was pretty far down the list. But not as far as gettin’ hanged for rape, so I guess if you look at it that way, maybe this won’t be half bad. My forearm and leg are turning red, purple, and black. That rattler must have had a helluva lot of juice in him, is all I can say. Things are feeling bad right about now, and I admit to feeling foggy and graysighted. I think it’s what them bible thumpers say a person’s whole life spins out in front of their eyes before God or the Devil comes to lay claim to their sorrowful soul. I’m part Navajo Indian. Part somethin’ else. My grandmother Shimasani laughed and said that the Navajo part must’ve been what went over the fence last, because sure enough, the Federal Government called me an Indian. My mother ran off and left me in a birthing hut down by the Colorado River. Then Uncle Sam left me on the reservation with Shimasani, to be raised up as a Navajo.

I don’t know who my daddy was, but I suspect his name’s Peter, because that’s what everyone calls me. Pete. Injun Pete. I was born in 1902, a time when the U.S. Government dreamed up this hare-brained program to send us Indian children to white man schools, away from our home and families, so we could learn to read and write. The whole idea was to teach us the “American Way,” even though nobody stopped to think the Navajo way was part of this country long before the white men settled it. They say history’s written by the victors, and I believe it’s true. I was swept up into a new vision for this land and set down somewhere I didn’t want to be. When I was seven years old, I found myself lookin’ out the back of a broken-down wagon, hitting every pothole and rut there was into town until I thought my bladder would bust. They crammed me and ten other boys in a dormitory at a boarding school. We weren’t allowed to talk Navajo. They cut off our braids and made us wear uniforms and shoes. Going to the white man school was confusing to us Navajo kids, and especially to me, because I was half white myself. I couldn’t seem to find my compass. I didn’t


saddlebag dispatches

know on what side of this world I belonged and had no way of knowing which side I wanted. In town, I sure enough was an Indian then. People looked at me as though I might scalp ‘em, and half the time I wished I could. Not one person ever cared or asked if I was part white. I was Pete Drinkwater and that was that. As soon as I was old enough to grow into my legs,

That’s what I always wished I was—a warrior, instead of some loser who walked the railroad tracks at dawn, looking for anything I could eat, sell, or trade. Over the years, I’ve begged for jobs, slept on the ground, and lived with an empty stomach. I’ve licked the booze out of old tossed-away bottles, and learned that the burn in my belly matched the fire in my head. I never stooped so low as to steal, but sometimes my

I walked out of that damned school and never looked back. Wasn’t missed none, either. I just headed down that same rutted old road back to the reservation, where I lived for a while with Shimasani. She showed me the old ways, the best ways, the Indian way. How to track a deer, make a fire, or gentle a horse. We talked in the Navajo language, and she told me stories about the ancient ones, the brave warriors, and Eagle feathers.

hands itched to grab at something and run like hell. But then I thought of my grandmother, so I held my head up and paid no attention to the growling in my gut or the hollowed out part of my soul. It was hard to find work back then. Times were tough for anybody, much less an Indian. I considered myself one lucky sum-bitch when I got a job on the railroad. I did all the grunt work and took the abuse, liftin’ the heavy stuff the white boys didn’t want to

saddlebag dispatches

carry. They tripped me and cussed, but come pay day, we were all alike. I took my coin like everyone else, and ate and drank every Friday night in whatever town the railroad took us. I never made enough money to save much, but I’ve got a gold tooth in my mouth for a rainy day. Figured I’d pull it out if I’m starvin’. It oughta buy me a few rounds of whisky and a loaf of bread or two. In

wasn’t even enough money to buy a ticket home to Shimasani and the reservation. I slept outside behind the only church in town while I thought about what to do. The preacher found me one morning, and instead of kickin’ me off the property, he gave me a job paintin’ the clapboards and weeding the cemetery. He said I could sleep in the church on a pew if I kept out of trouble.

the winter, that damned tooth’s cold as hell when I run my tongue over it, and in the summer, it’s warm like desert clay. I worked the rails for five years before the Depression hit. Then, when the bottom dropped out of this country, the railroad decided that white men were the only ones who got to work. The rail boss left me high and dry in a chaparral town in New Mexico, with just a couple of bucks in my pocket. It

The church was quiet at night, except for the rustlin’ of the wind through the trees in the graveyard. Sometimes I thought maybe it wasn’t the wind at all, but the sighs and sobs of the dead. I wondered if they were happy with how their lives turned out, or if regrets haunt ‘em every time the wind whistles over their graves. It was confusing to figure where I belonged and what I should do. I even had a notion I might stay right there in that town, instead of walkin’ away.



saddlebag dispatches

Looking back, it was clear I was headed plumb to hell through no fault of my own. And it was just because I have darker skin, and my hair’s the color of a raven. I shoulda stayed among my own kind and give up any dream of being something more than what I was. But that damned gold tooth and a few bottles of whisky got me thinkin’ I was startin’ to channel the white side of me. She was just a girl in that high desert town. A gal who slaps your food down in front of you in the cafe and walks away. The kind of girl who for sure seen better days, bloomed out before she could even ripen, her eyes already saying goodbye a few steps ahead of her. After a while she started talkin’ to me at closing time, and I’d hang around until she turned off the lights and locked the door. Well, one thing led to another, and one night I found myself pouring her over the top of the counter and givin’ her what for. Looking back, it was an act of desperation for both of us. One of us wanted to fly, the other to belong. It felt good enough to me, and I suppose for her, that my feet found their way back there about every other night or so. Things were going along okay until her boss walked in on us one night. Right away, she started cryin’. When he asked if I’d raped her, she hung her sorry head and said yes. I fumbled for words as I fumbled for my fly, and all I could think of was that I was about to die. I tried to run for it, but the man hit me in the back of the head and knocked me cold. The next thing I knew, I was bein’ dragged out of that cafe by my hair and down the street like a dead deer. It was at this point I found my feet, and with a quick jerk, I busted loose from the men who had me. I kicked ‘em in the crotch with my steel-toed railroad shoes, butted them in the head, and took off like a bat out of hell. Now I had assault added to the rape of a white girl. I’d swing like a wind chime. So there I was, miles from nowhere, wandering around the desert when I saw a dead rabbit lyin’ under a bush. The flies had already got to it, and its eyes were picked clean out of its head. Hungry as I was, there’s no way I’d eat it. But finding that carcass gave me this crazy idea to get me some Eagle feathers. That way, when they lynch me, I’ll have ‘em wove in my hair as a sign of bravery.

Shimasani told me how to go about it. She learned from her great-grandmother, a Cheyenne who lived on the Great Plains. One night, after tucking a chaw of tobacco into her cheek, she leaned back against a Palo Verde tree and peered up at the stars. “There’s a way to get them eagle feathers, Pete, but it takes some work,” she said. “You snare a rabbit, wring its neck, then dig a deep hole in the ground. Drop yourself in like a lost spirit, then cover up the opening with sagebrush, sticks, and tumbleweeds. Set the rabbit on top, above your head, then sit and wait. Chant and pray that the Eagle sees the rabbit and swoops down after it. Then, just as he reaches out for that meat with his talons, poke your hands through the sage and sticks and grab his legs. Then hold on for dear life until one of you gives up. He’ll try to hook your eyes out, and you’ll do your best to hold him down and grab at them feathers.” She spit some juice into the dirt, wiped her mouth, and laughed. “It won’t be easy, but what in this life is?” She patted my shoulder, her hand as soft and worn as old deer hide. That night, I sat under the tree long after Shimasani went to bed, thinkin’ about what she said. So when I saw the dead rabbit, I figured it was a sign from God, and this was the right time. The same boots I used for kickin’, I used for diggin’. It took me a while to make that hole, but it was a sight to behold when I finished. I found old twigs and sagebrush for the cover, then dropped myself in the pit and built the trap over head. I crouched in there so long my legs went numb. The sun rose and set, and still I sat, sweatin’ and thinking of that girl, and the men lookin’ for me. I thought about my ancestors, the reservation, the U.S. Government and Shimasani. I remembered the white man school I went to, bare feet forced into leather shoes, walking in two worlds the way a ghost would. And I wondered if I would die brave. The sun was straight overhead when I saw a shadow slippin’ above me, goin’ right for the dead rabbit. I tensed and peered up through the brush, but didn’t see much. Then, without warning, a rattler dropped right into the pit with me. We stared at each other for a second, then he coiled himself up in the corner, movin’ his head like one of them Egyptian dancers I once saw in a side show at the circus.

saddlebag dispatches



saddlebag dispatches

saddlebag dispatches

I knew I was as good as snakebit, so I reached down and tried to grab him, hopin’ to fling him out. He struck first and fast into my left calf. I barely felt it, I was so full of fear and such. I grabbed at his head and wrapped my fist around it, but not before he got me good on my arm. Then I shook the hell out of him and tossed him out of the hole. He didn’t move much, limp as day-old bread. I think I broke somethin’ because he didn’t slither away. But he got his revenge. My arm and leg swelled up, and the pain shot through me like a shaft of sunlight, right between the eyes. So there I was, about to become a dead man, and that damned snake didn’t care what color my skin was. No judgment there. That’s when I heard a cry from way up above the clouds, and when I peered out from under the sagebrush, I saw him. There in the sky was a great Golden Eagle, his wings so wide they blocked the sun. He tucked ‘em in like an arrow and shot straight down at this little scene in the desert; me, the rabbit and the snake. Quicker than the venom gallopin’ through my blood, he grabbed that writhing snake off the ground and flew up into the blue. That Eagle was gone before I even had a chance to laugh. In the white man school, they’d have called this irony. Partin’ the twigs and brush, I stood up and looked around. The rabbit was still there, still dead, and nothin’ else but sand for miles. But there in the dirt was an Eagle feather. It fluttered on the ground like a living thing, golden and soft, the way it looked in my dreams. I cried, thinkin’ about Shimasani, that girl in town, and all the things that walked into my life, good and bad, that brought me here. Strugglin’ out of the pit, I picked up the feather and stuck it in my hair for bravery. Lyin’ here on the ground, I’ve stretched my good arm out like some sort of half-breed sundial, pointin’ towards home. I’ll rest awhile, then chant for my spirit guides to take me up and set me back where I belong.


Sharon Frame Gay


haron Frame Gay lives in Washington State with her little dog, Henry Goodheart. She grew up a child of the highway, playing by the side of the road, and spent a lot of those years in Montana, Arizona, Nevada, North Dakota and Oregon. Interested in everything Western, and in horses in particular, she Although she is a multi-genre author, she has a special fondness for writing Westerns. Her Westerns can be found on Fiction On The Web, Rope And Wire, Frontier Tales, Typehouse Magazine, and will soon be appearing with Five Star Publishing in an upcoming Western anthology.She is also published in many anthologies and literary magazines, including Chicken Soup For The Soul, Crannog Magazine, Lowestoft Chronicle, Thrice Fiction, Literally Stories, Literary Orphans, Adelaide, Scarlet Leaf Review, Indiana Voice Journal and others. She has won awards at The Writing District, Owl Hollow Press, Women on Writing, and has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. as "Sharon Frame Gay-Writer" on Facebook, and Twitter as sharonframegay.



saddlebag dispatches



DR. QUINN, DOC SUSIE AND THE REALITY OF COLORADO’S WOMEN DOCTORS Taking in the years 1870 to 1900 Doris A. McCraw


HIS ARTICLE DISCUSSES THE experiences of Colorado’s women physicians from 1870 to 1900. For clarification the following parameters are used; having graduated from a regular medical school, or after 1881, held a license issued by the state of Colorado. The idea of the lone woman doctor fighting for social and professional acceptance is both true and an exaggeration. The reality is that women physicians were accepted by society and, in some cases, the women worked together to achieve their goals. A majority lived and practiced in the larger populated areas. A few settled in smaller towns. Even before licensing began in Colorado in 1881, if women were qualified, they could establish a practice regardless of their gender. Of course, for most people, the discussion of women doctors in Colorado usually begins with the television show, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. The show aired from January 1993 to May of 1998, and two movies after the series ended. The show was developed and produced by Beth Sullivan, according to the credits.

There are many who say the show was inspired by the Virginia Cornell book about “Doc Susie,” the story of Dr. Susan Anderson and her life in Fraser, Colorado after 1907. While Dr. Quinn was a brilliant show, the setting was Colorado Springs in 1867. In reality, Colorado Springs did not come into existence until 1871, and from the beginning, was planned as a cosmopolitan/ resort town. While Dr. Susan Anderson had a career with many challenges in Fraser, Colorado, she did not attend medical school until the 1890s. She received her Colorado license in 1897. You can read more in “Doc Susie” by Virginia Cornell. So, where did the idea of women struggling to be accepted start? A look at early medical societies and education may help. In 1846, the American Medical Association was formed to establish a higher level of competence from doctors. Prior to the AMA’s formation, various states’ medical societies fulfilled that purpose. The Massa-


saddlebag dispatches

chusetts Medical Society stated in part: “A person who is engaged in the practice of medicine or surgery in this commonwealth, not being a fellow or licensate of this society, nor a Doctor of Medicine of Harvard University, shall be deemed by the fellows of this society an irregular practitioner...” You will note there is no mention of women and in the case of Massachusetts, a requirement was to be a graduate of Medicine from Harvard. It was not that women hadn’t attempted to attend medical school, they were simply denied entrance. That started to change with the admittance of Elizabeth Blackwell to Geneva medical college and her subsequent graduation. Dr. Blackwell, graduated in 1849 from the above mentioned college, establishing her as the first woman in the United States to get a degree from a medical college. Making her achievement even more interesting, was Dr. Blackwell had found the idea of studying medicine abhorrent when younger. In her autobiography, Blackwell tells of a dear friend, who suffered greatly during her treatments. She quotes her friend, “You are fond of study, have health and leisure; why not study medicine? If I could’ve been treated by a lady doctor, my worst sufferings would have been spared me.” At the time, Elizabeth told her it was an impossible suggestion, that she could not stand the sight of a medical book. However, the idea began to take root, and soon, Elizabeth was considering medical school. She methodically set about finding out all she needed to know to pursue that course of education. Upon finding that the cost to attend college would be around $3.000, she took a job teaching music at a school in Asheville, North Carolina. At that school, the principal, Rev. John Dickinson, was a former medical doctor. She began a trial study of IN CONTRAST TO MODERN PERCEPTIONS, WOMEN PHYSICIANS IN medicine with Dickinson. After accumulating THE 1800S WERE ACCEPTED BY SOCIETY AND, IN SOME CASES, THE the $3,000, she returned WOMEN WORKED TOGETHER TO ACHIEVE THEIR GOALS. to Philadelphia. which was considered the major medical learning center. Elizabeth was unable to secure admittance to any of the medical schools there, so she broadened her search. She applied to and was accepted at Geneva Medical College after a vote of the student body agreed to admit

saddlebag dispatches

her. In her autobiography, she speaks fondly of classes, the school and the professors, but makes mention of the fact that the women of the town felt she shocked Geneva propriety. The women, as Elizabeth stated, “felt she was either a bad woman or insane.” Following graduation, she learned that her admittance may have been a lark, but she does not give much credence to it being a problem for her. While Elizabeth Blackwell may have been the first woman to graduate from medical school, she was not the first woman doctor. There were some like Dr. Harriot Kezia Hunt, who practiced in Massachusetts in the 1830s. Dr. Hunt is noted as the first woman to apply to Harvard Medical School. To become a doctor, she studied with another doctor, as was normal at the time. She did a great deal of self-study also. Dr. Hunt began her studies after her sister Sarah became ill. It was out of desperation for Sarah’s health, Harriot turned to the English couple, Drs. Elizabeth and Richard Mott. Elizabeth Mott specialized in treating women and children. As Harriot said in her autobiography “the doubt, uncertainty, and inefficacy of medical practice had been our portion; and the best physicians had given up an only sister!” She continued studying with and working beside the Mott’s until Richard’s death when Elizabeth returned to New York. From that point on, Harriot continued to build her practice, focusing on women and children. Hunt, also, was involved in social reform, specifically abolition of slavery and women’s rights. She attended the 1850 women’s rights convention in Massachusetts. Dr. Hunt also corresponded with Dr. Blackwell on at least one occasion. Dr. Hunt states in her autobiography, “after my experiences with Harvard College, first the professors, then the students who played the same game with different men, it was truly encouraging to hear that Elizabeth Blackwell had graduated at another college, had been to Europe to perfect herself in her profession, and returned to New York to commence her practice. My soul rejoiced—I poured out my feelings in a letter and gave her the right hand of fellowship; it was acknowledged in an answer worthy of the writer.” In 1853, Hunt was awarded an honorary degree from the Female Medical College of Philadelphia. As the stories of Elizabeth Blackwell and Kezie Hunt show, some may have questioned a woman doctor in the early 1800s. By the late 1800s, that was not the case.


A look at the status and roles of female physicians in Colorado in the 1870s also questions the idea of the lone woman doctor heading out on her own. Research suggests that female physicians in the early 1870’s tended to establish practices in urban areas. What was the reality of life for women as doctors in those early years? Colorado became a territory in 1861. Prior to that time, Colorado had been part of the Kansas territory. In 1859, there were approximately 18 doctors practicing there, all male, based on current research. By 1867, there were 14 doctors in Denver alone; although there is no record of female doctors. That all changed on January 8, 1873, when Denver’s Rocky Mountain News carried the following advertisement: “Mrs. E (Eliza). A. Gillett, (Gillette?) MD. Office and residence: Curtis Street between I and K. Special attention given to Obstetrics and diseases of women and children. References: John Major, MD., Dr. C. Wakefield, Bloomington, Illinois: R.A. Gunn MD., H.D. Garrison MD., L.S. Major MD., Prof. Bennet, Medical College, Chicago.” City directories and newspaper advertisements show Dr. Gillett was in Denver for approximately two years. Dr. Gillett had community and professional supporters, if her advertisement is correct. But who were these professionals she cites? Dr. C. Wakefield of Bloomington, Illinois, was a patent medicine maker. The Chicago, Illinois, city directory shows Gillett as rooming at 902 W. Lake in 1867, and she is listed as a widow of G. W. Gillett. She may have been studying medicine at that time. The listing of Professor Bennet may be a verification of that fact. Additionally, L. S. Major, R. A. Gunn and H. D. Garrison were in Chicago in 1870, although Garrison is listed as a druggist in the city directory. In 1876, when California began licensing physicians, Dr. Gillett received her license, #5, stating she received her medical degree from the Eclectic Medical College in Ohio. So, how did Dr. Gillett go from Illinois to Ohio? After the Chicago fire of 1871, other medical schools advertised in the Chicago papers that they would take medical students at no cost into their school so that they could finish their education. This may have been the case of Dr. Gillett. After leaving Denver, records show Dr. Gillett moved to New Whatcom, Washington, then to Butte, Montana.


saddlebag dispatches

Dr. Alida Avery arrived in Denver in 1874, with impressive credentials. She graduated from the New England Female Medical College in 1862 and from the Boston University of Medicine in 1863. Prior to relocating to Colorado, Dr. Avery had been a professor at Vassar College from 1855 to 1864. In 1864, Matthew Vassar wanted all female professors at his new college, but there were not many who could qualify. He did locate two: astronomer Maria Mitchell and Dr. Alida C. Avery, physician and physiology professor. Dr. Avery, along with Miss Hannah Lyman, the school’s first principal and Dr. John H Raymond, president of the college, were called by some students ‘The Trinity’ for their power in the institution. She was also known on campus as one who zealously upheld the cause of women. Dr. Avery’s arrival in Colorado, two years prior to statehood was announced in The Rocky Mountain News in June 11, 1874: “The well-known professor of physiology and hygiene, at Vassar College, Alida C. Avery, M. D., has arrived in Denver and taken up residence on 20th St., corner of Champa. She has been the resident physician of that institution from its opening in 1865, having usually under her care the health and habits of some 400 young women from every part of our country.” The Poughkeepsie News, in announcing her resignation, makes mention of the remarkable fact that not a single death occurred among the pupils under her charge, during her eight years of administration.... Dr. Avery also devoted her efforts to Women’s Suffrage. At the 1876 annual meeting of the American Women’s Suffrage Association in Philadelphia, Dr. Avery was listed as the president of the Colorado Women’s Suffrage Association. In 1877, she made application to the Denver Medical Association, but the application was indefinitely postponed. While Dr. Avery may have been the first female physician to remain in Colorado for an extended period of time, she was not the only one. Women physicians continued to make their homes in Colorado during the 1870s. Colorado Springs, a new town founded in 1871, was home to Dr. Julia E. Loomis, an 1870 graduate of the Cleveland Women’s Homeopathic College. This institution was one of the female medical colleges established to offer education

to women who wanted to pursue medicine. It and other women’s medical colleges were a result of the work of Drs. Elizabeth and Emily Blackwood and Dr. Maria E. Zackrzewka who began a hospital in 18561857, that offered hands-on education and experience to women in a practical setting. Although Dr. Loomis may have been practicing medicine prior to her two years at Cleveland’s college, she went to school after the death of her only daughter at the age of 52., Family stories have her living in Colorado as early as 1876. Documents, such as ads in the local Gazette newspaper, show she definitely was living in town by 1878. Manitou, a near neighbor and also new town, was home to Dr. Harriett Leonard. Like Dr. Loomis, family histories place her in the region in 1876. Dr. Leonard graduated from the Keokuk School of Physicians and Surgeons in Keokuk, Iowa. This school was one of the first co-ed schools in the nation. Originally located in LaPorte, Indiana, in 1849, the school moved to Keokuk and began classes in November 1850. The school was the Medical Department of the State University of Iowa, located in Iowa City, Iowa. As a result of this association, when the University became the first publicly supported university to be co-educational in 1870, the school in Keokuk, by mandate had to accept female students into the medical program. Other early female physicians to the Pikes Peak Region were Dr. Esther B. Holmes, in 1878 and Dr. Clarabel Rowe, in 1879. Dr. Holmes was born in 1844 in Rhode Island. She received her medical license in 1882. Born around 1833 in Massachusetts, Dr. Rowe received her license in 1881. Dr. Rowe, also active in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, gave talks and traveled on behalf of the organization. Were these women and Dr. Loomis friends? Quite possibly. Like Dr. Loomis, both women were graduates of the Cleveland Women’s Homeopathic College a year later. Additionally, the death certificate for Dr. Loomis was signed by E. B. Holmes. In 1888 both Dr. Rowe and Dr. Holmes traveled together through Southern California. While Dr. Loomis was building her practice and caring for her extended family in Colorado Springs, and Dr. Leonard was working as the proprietor at the Manitou Spa, in the town of Leadville, Dr. Mary Helen Barker Bates was making her mark on the town in its early days.

saddlebag dispatches

In the 1879 Leadville City Directory, Dr. Bates is the only woman listed among the towns thirty-four physicians. She had settled in Leadville with her husband George C. Bates, an attorney. The two remained there until his health forced the couple to move to Denver around 1881. In Denver, Dr. Mary Helen Barker Bates made history as the first woman in Colorado to be appointed to the staff of the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in 1885. Dr. Bates went on to serve as a member of the Denver Board of Education, as Vice-President of the Colorado Medical Society, and as Colorado’s Delegate to the 1904 Pan-American Medical Congress. In 1878, Dr. Julia A. Adams left New York to take up residence in Chaffee County, Colorado at the Cottonwood Hot Springs. Dr. Adams and her husband the Reverend J.A. Adams purchased the Cottonwood Hot Springs near present day Buena Vista, Colorado. Shortly after this purchase, half interest went to George K. Hartenstein, a Buena Vista attorney and the son-in-law of Dr. Adam. They invested around $50,000 to build a hotel/resort on the property as a health resort. All materials were hauled to the site over the mountain from Colorado Springs as no train ran through that area. The Rev. and Dr. Adams, after leaving the region became involved with Mary Baker Eddy and the Christian Science movement. Some records say it was Rev. Adams who coined the DR. ALIDA C. AVERY, M.D. A GRADUATE OF THE BOSTON phrase ‘Christian Science.’ UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AND A PROFESSOR Unlike the accepted idea of the lone FROM VASSAR COLLEGE, WAS ONE OF COLORADO’S female physician, facing prejudice, ColFIRST PRACTICING FEMALE PHYSICIANS. orado’s pioneering women physicians were accepted into and licensed by the State of Colorado Medical Association after 1881; they practiced and were part of medical organizations; they served on professional boards; many were married with families. They made their mark on the area they lived in. But how did they interact with their male counterparts in this time period? How were they perceived in Colorado? The Colorado Medical Society, formed in September 1871, initially was an all-male institution. Previously, in 1860, there was the Jefferson Medical Society, which ended as the Civil War began about a year later. In 1864 the Denver Medical Society formed, but it also folded after a year. In 1868 the Colorado Territori-



saddlebag dispatches

al Medical Society was formed, again only lasting for approximately a year. In April 1871, the Denver Medical Society was formed, which is still in existence. In 1872 the Colorado Medical Society was formed and was affiliated with the American Medical Society, which began in 1847. In Women Physicians in Colorado, Mary De Mund noted that women were initially rejected for membership in the medical organizations. However, further research shows that women had supporters from within the organization. The seventh president of the Colorado Medical Society, Dr. W.H. Williams, 1876-1877, a former Confederate soldier and graduate of Tulane University, pushed for the State Board of Health to reorganize and for laws to regulate the practice of medicine, including recognizing the ‘female practitioner.’ This included the idea that just having a diploma and saying you were a doctor or having a diploma from a questionable school was not sufficient to practice medicine. Williams also advocated that women should be allowed A CLOSER LOOK AT DR. SUSAN ANDERSON AND HER CONTEMto attend medical schools. PORARIES WILL SHOW THEIR STORIES WERE DIFFERENT FROM At the time, Dr. Williams’s THE CONCEPT PEOPLE MAY BELIEVE WAS THE LIFE OF WOMEN ideas were not far-fetched. In PHYSICIANS DURING DR. ANDERSON’S TIME IN 1890S COLORA1876 the American Medical Association welcomed its first DO. THESE PHYSICIANS WORKED IN LARGE AND SMALL TOWNS, female member, a delegate BUT THEIR GOAL WAS TO MAKE LIFE BETTER FOR THEMSELVES, from Illinois, Dr. Sarah THEIR PATIENTS AND THE POPULATION IN GENERAL. Hackett Stevenson. Williams’s ideas were initially rejected, but in the annual meeting of the Colorado Medical Society in June 1877, a motion was made that women who had attended a regular school of medicine should be allowed to attend and participate in the meetings of the medical society. This resolution was tabled by a vote of ten to four. At this same meeting, it was decided that Dr. Alida Avery, who was endorsed by a Dr. McBeth, an Irish born physician who had come to Colorado in the 1870s from Ohio, could not be admitted, as she was not a member of a local society. This was not a win for Dr. Avery or the female physician, but it was a crack in the bastion of male doctors. By 1881, the state of Colorado, then just five years old, began licensing phy-

saddlebag dispatches

sicians. At that time, men and women were licensed equally. That same year, forty year-old Dr. Edith Root, license number 89, became what is believed to be the first woman to receive a medical license in the state of Colorado when the state began the process in that same year. Dr. Root along with Dr. Avery and Dr. Bates were admitted to the Denver Medical Society around the same time. In 1888, Dr. Rilla Hay, at the time practicing in Pueblo, Colorado, was admitted to the Colorado Medical Society. In 1887, another of Dr. W. H. Williams’s ideas came to fruition with the graduation of Dr. Eleanor Lawney from the Denver School of Medicine. After graduation, Dr. Lawney was on the staff of St. Luke’s Hospital in Denver, Colorado. A closer look at Dr. Susan Anderson and her contemporaries will show their stories were different from the concept people may believe was the life of women physicians during Dr. Anderson’s time in 1890s Colorado. These physicians worked in large and small towns alike, but their goal was to make life better for themselves, their patients and the population in general. Dr. Susan Anderson, arrived at Barry, Colorado, later Anaconda, in the Cripple Creek/Victor mining district, in 1892, along with her father, brother, and step-mother. In September 1893 Susan left to attend medical school at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Graduating in 1897, she returned to Cripple Creek, and worked to establish a medical practice there. According to her biography, there were 55 physicians and 10 dentists for the 30,000 people in the district. Dr. Anderson stayed in Cripple Creek for three years, then moved to Denver, then to Greeley, and finally, after 1907, to Fraser where her legend grew. In Fraser she was the only doctor for miles. Not accepted initially, she went on to care for the loggers, ranchers and then railroad workers on the Moffatt tunnel. She became the county coroner. All of this from a woman who went to Fraser to either die from her tuberculosis or cure herself. Her story was told in newspapers and magazines. Her alma mater, the University of Michigan, included a short piece in the Michigan Alumnus in which Dr. Anderson was quoted as saying, “it took a while for people here to realize I was competent. I had

two reasons why I simply had to make good. First, I had to prove a woman could be a good doctor. Secondly, I graduated from a great school. I couldn’t bring shame upon the school….” A look at the other women practicing medicine during the 1890s to 1900 also offers a broader perspective on the female medical practitioner. Although women physicians continued to come to Colorado, the 1890s saw an increase in the number of women doctors arriving in the state. City and business directories bear this out. The 1894 Colorado Springs directory lists five women physicians, where only two were listed in 1879. In the Cripple Creek 1900 city directory, there were over 50 physicians listed in the Cripple Creek/ Victor mining district, including at least five women. Due to the fluidity of movement of the population in the mining district not all physicians were included in their directories. A look at some of Dr. Anderson’s contemporaries reveals that these women set about to not only practice medicine, but to make significant social and political changes while doing so. Before Dr. Anderson took a child with appendicitis on the train from Fraser to Denver and confront the on-call doctor in that city, women had been working at and with hospitals long before that date. One of the most controversial was Dr. Mary Elizabeth Bates, who arrived in Denver in 1891. She had been the first woman intern (18821883) at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. She received that position after a grueling exam in which she beat out a number of male candidates. She studied in Vienna from 1883-1884. Returning to Chicago, she was a professor of anatomy at the Woman’s Medical College in Chicago from 1884-1889. In Colorado she was involved in the Woman’s Suffrage movement and was part of the group that affected the passage of the 1893 referendum which gave Colorado women the right to vote. Dr. Bates also championed a strict adherence to the state’s liquor and gambling laws. Of the nineteen months Dr. Bates served as an intern in Chicago, she stated she worked in the morgue, and took part in fourteen amputations and later said of that time, “the first six months were hell, the second six months were purgatory, the next six months were heaven; when it came time for me to



saddlebag dispatches

leave, I wept bitter tears.” In 1909 Dr. Bates developed a comprehensive bill “The (Bates) Colorado Law for the Examination and Care of Public School Children”. This bill provided for the testing in the first month of each school year the sight, hearing and lung capacity of each child in Colorado schools. It also included a provision for referring children with remedial defects to a competent medical professional. This bill passed in June 1909. Dr. Josepha Williams, from Virginia, and Dr. Madeline Marquette, a graduate of the Gross Medical College in Colorado, opened a private hospital and sanatorium in Denver in 1889. In 1892 they added a nursing school to the hospital-Sanatorium. In failing health, Dr. Marquette moved to Evergreen, Colorado, and in 1914 she opened offices in Denver where she continued to practice on a limited basis until 1932. Dr. Ida Putnam, born in Wisconsin, began her practice in Chicago, after graduating from Herring Medical College in that city. In 1898 she moved to Colorado, receiving her Colorado license that year. She moved to Telluride, San Miguel County, Colorado, and set up a practice. Beyond the fact that her 1896 application for medical license shows her age as 33, her life story remains a mystery at this time. Dr. Genevieve M Tucker wrote Mother, Baby and Nursery: A Manuel for Mothers, a 160-plus page book in 1896. Her reason for writing is best explained in the preface, “The aim of this book is to be a guide to mothers, particularly young and inexperienced ones. It proposes to teach and help a mother understand her babe, to feed it properly, to place it in healthful surroundings, and to watch its growth and development with intelligence, and thus relieve in a measure the undue anxiety and nervous uncertainty of a new mother.” Dr. Tucker was appalled with the rate of infant mortality, and to that end, as she wrote in her introduction, “Decrease in infant mortality will be brought about more by strict hygiene and prevention of sickness than by any treatment of disease already begun, no matter how skillfully applied.” She practiced in Pueblo, Colorado. Around 1898 she was elected president of the Colorado Homeopathic Medical Society. The feeling was that Dr. Tucker could do much to unite the sometimes-divided forces on

the practices used by various physicians within the society and promote the cause of homeopathy. Two other women physicians made huge impacts on Colorado and the world at large: Dr. Florence Sabin and Dr. Rose Kidd Beere. Dr. Florence Sabin did much to advance medical research. Born in Central City, Colorado, in 1871, Sabin became the first woman to be admitted to John Hopkins School of Medicine, in 1896. In 1917, she was the first woman appointed professor of histology at John Hopkins. In 1925, she became a full-time staffer at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research. After retiring around 1939, Dr. Sabin returned to Colorado. Dr. Sabin was known for her research on blood cells and the lymphatic system. Her research also helped scientists to understand the bacteria that was a cause of tuberculous. To many, she was known as the ‘First Lady of American Science. Dr. Rose Kidd Beere participated in the Spanish-American war (1898-1899) and in World War I (1914—1919). At the time of the Spanish-American war, the Army would not take women doctors, so Dr. Beere served as a nurse along with seven additional women from Red Cross organizations of California and Oregon in that conflict in the Phillipines. Originally from Wabash, Indiana, Dr. Beere married an attorney from New Mexico. She had three sons, all born in New Mexico. Her husband passed away in 1889 and she returned to Indiana, attending Northwestern University Women’s Medical College and graduating in 1892. She arrived in Colorado around 1894 and began her practice in Durango, Colorado. Three years later she took the position of Superintendent of the State Home for Dependent Children in Denver. There is a story, recounted in her hometown newspaper, that her father, Meredith, an Army major, who at one time commanded the 10th Calvary in Kansas, wrote to Rose about how disappointed he was that the 1898 conflict was the first war in the country’s history that would have no family member fighting in it. This story is one reason given for Rose going to the Philippines. It is said she was the first woman to go to war in the Philippines, arriving on the USAT Arizona. While there, she would at times go onto the battlefield to treat both American

saddlebag dispatches

doctors who might have been in the state prior to and Filipino soldiers. In 1900 she was appointed 1881 are hard to determine. After 1881, the names are to the Colorado State Board of Arbitration and in 1912 was appointed superintendent of the County easier to locate. The following is a partial list of women doctors who came to Colorado from 1881-1900. Hospital, possibly the Denver County Hospital, the first woman to have that position. At the time of Their stories and accomplishments are too numerous to include in this document, but their names are just her retirement from the hospital “the staff of one hundred physicians and surgeons passed resolution as important as those already discussed. Below is a to the effect that her administration had been the sample of the women who applied for a Colorado most efficient, economical and satisfactory that the license after 1881. hospital had ever known.” This look at Dr. Anderson’s contemporaries would WHILE MANY WOMEN PHYSICIANS FOCUSED ON TREATING not be complete without Dr. WOMEN AND CHILDREN, OTHERS LIKE DR. ANDERSON, WHO Katharine C. Polly. Dr. Polly ALSO SET BROKEN BONES, TREATED BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, resided in the Cripple Creek/ AS DID PHYSICIANS WHO ATTENDED SOLDIERS IN COMBAT SETVictor mining district during TINGS LIKE DR. ROSE KIDD BEERE. THERE WERE THOSE WHO the time Dr. Anderson was working there. Dr. Polly and WORKED IN MENTAL HEALTH FACILITIES, LIKE DR. MARY ALICE her husband, Dr. John B. PolLAKE. REGARDLESS OF THE TIME OR SITUATION, THESE WOMEN ly, applied for their Colorado DOCTORS DID WHAT THEY WERE TRAINED TO DO. license in 1896, receiving license numbers 2307 and 2306 respectively. They had a resiSome of the early arrivals are: Elnora Anderson— dence and pharmacy in Elkton, Colorado. According to the 1900 Cripple Creek city directory, Katharine Ellen J Bell—Flora M Betz—Mary Bradner—Henrietta had an office in Cripple Creek. In early 1900, Dr. L Buckner– Kate C Bushnell—Stella M Clarke—Clara Polly was associated with the Teller County Medical A Cox– Martha E Cunningham—Sarah Edson—Lizzie E Joy- Julia G McNutt –Celestia D Messinger— Society and the Colorado Department of Education, Caroline L Parker—Sarah E Somerby—Eleanor Van as the superintendent for Teller County. While many women physicians focused on treating Atta—Rilla G. Hay After 1890, during Dr. Anderson’s time, the parwomen and children, others like Dr. Anderson, who tial list includes: Genevieve M Tucker—Eugenia Realso set broken bones, treated both men and women as did the physicians who attended soldiers in com- inhardt—Josephine L Peavey—Josephine Paddockbat settings such as Dr. Beere. There were those who Hannah Taylor Muir—Sarah A. Goff—Jean Bailey worked in mental health facilities, like Dr. Mary Alice Clow—Louisa T Black—Sara E Bacon—Frona Abbott Lake. Regardless of the time or situation, these women —Doris A. McCraw is an Author, Speaker, and doctors did what they were trained to do. Historian-specializing in Colorado and Women’s History. Why did female physicians choose to practice medicine in Colorado? Some, such as Dr. Anderson, came She is a member of National League of American Pen seeking a cure for tuberculosis. Others, such as Julia Women, Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, Western Fictioneers and the Pikes Peak Posse of Loomis and Dr. Leonard, may have chosen Colorado for the option to practice without the prejudice they Angela Raines. She is a regular contributor to Saddlebag may have experienced further east. Dispatches, focusing primarily on the role of women in There were others who chose Colorado as the shaping western history. place to practice their craft. The names of women



saddlebag dispatches

SA D D LEBAG f e at u r e

A WESTERN BAD BOY The ruggedly handsom, blue-eyed, and 6’3” tall actor known as Rory Calhoun starred Hedda Hopper as “one of the handsomest men in the industry, all male.” But his personal life was no less colorful than his career. Michael Koch


big mistake by stealing an auto and driving it across HE ONETIME MATINEE IDOL and state lines. He was arrested and convicted. He served Western movie star was born Francis just over three years at the United States Medical Timothy McCown in Los Angles, California Center Federal Prison at Springfield, Missouri. on August 8, 1922. He was of Irish ancestry and grew One newspaper reported he had served this time up in Santa Cruz. His father, James, was a professional at the federal reformatory at El Reno, Oklahoma. gambler who died when Francis was only seven Nonetheless, he was paroled shortly after his twentymonths old. This made life difficult for his mother, first birthday. Anna, and her children. Anna remarried and Francis Trying to start a new life for himself Frank began occasionally went by the name Frank Durgin, his working at various odd jobs. He took jobs as a boxer, stepfather’s last name. lumberjack, truck driver and even a cowpuncher. In By age thirteen, Frank became restless and began committing crimes. He was apprehended for stealing a 1943, he met actor Alan Ladd, while riding a horse in handgun, convicted and sentenced to serve a brief stint the Hollywood Hills. Alan’s wife, Sue Carol was a movie at the California Youth Authority’s Preston School agent and she landed the young man a one-line role in a Laurel and Hardy comedy, , where of Industry Reformatory at Ione, California. There he was educated in being a professional criminal. he was credited as Frank McCown. Shortly after that, While at an adjustment center jail, Frank escaped. Once sprung, he went IN SPITE OF A CHECKERED PAST AND A “BAD BOY” on a robbing spree of several jewelry stores as the “ice” was easy to sell for REPUTATION, THE HANDSOME RORY CALHOUN MADE quick cash. However, he soon made a QUITE A NAME FOR HIMSELF IN HOLLYWOOD.


saddlebag dispatches

the Ladd’s hosted a party which the young actor attended. Also, at the party was an employee of David O. Selznick, Henry Willson. Willson was a Hollywood talent agent known for helping young, handsome and marginally talented actors. Willson had played a large role in developing the beefcake craze during the 1950s with actors like Tab Hunter, Guy Madison and Rock Hudson. He took a liking to the tall and handsome Frank McCown, but not his name. Willson signed the young actor to a contract and changed his name to “Rory Calhoun.” Willson immediately began to groom his new client by having him escort actress Lana Turner to the premiere of Alfred Hitchcock’s new Selznick production Spellbound in 1945. The couple’s

appearance attracted Hollywood’s paparazzi, and their image appeared in newspapers and fan magazines. Selznick began to loan out his contract player to other studios. This gave Calhoun exposure in three films starring established actors; Rhonda Fleming, Edward G. Robinson, and Shirley Temple. By 1947, Rory’s career began to gain momentum due to being seen in three films, followed by one more the next year. In 1949, he co-starred alongside Guy Madison in the western, Massacre River. The plot was about two army officers competing for the hand of a colonel’s daughter, which changed when a Native American tribe attacked making the rivals become brothers-in-arms. The exposure brought Rory to star in more westerns, musicals and comedies. He

saddlebag dispatches

co-starred in flicks with Gene Tierney, Susan Hayward and two films with Marilyn Monroe. Willson dominated his rising star by arranging his social life and even ended his engagement to French actress Corinne Calvet. In 1955, Willson disclosed Calhoun’s years as a criminal and the fact that Rory had served a prison term to magazine. In exchange for this tidbit the tabloid would never publish a story on the secret homosexual life of Rock Hudson. This didn’t seem to have a negative effect on Calhoun’s career and seemed to solidify his “bad boy” image. That same year, Rory starred alongside rugged and prematurely greying actor Jeff Chandler and sexy Ray

Danton in The Spoilers. The next three years saw Calhoun in ten films, mostly westerns. One non-western worth watching was a suspense noir called The Big Caper. In this action film, Rory played a bad guy who is transformed into a hero at the end. Rory and his partner Victor Orsatti formed Rorvic, a production company, in 1957. Rory made and starred in two films; The Hired Gun and Apache Territory. The following year Calhoun co-produced and starred in the CBS western television series, The Texan, which could be watched on Monday evenings. He portrayed fast-gun hero Big Bill Longley in the series.



saddlebag dispatches

The series only lasted until 1960 due to Calhoun’s desire to solely concentrate on films. Rory continued to produce and write screenplays throughout his career, and he became an astute businessman. He owned several bars, a hotel rug business in Beverly Hills, and owned a huge ranch in nearby Ojai. This turned out to be Rory’s low point as a screen personality. He made several stinkers from 1960 to 1964. It appears he took on roles that just didn’t fit him. Realizing this, he went back to what he knew best, westerns. His daughter Athena stated, “I suppose, if my father were not an actor, he would have been a cowboy, because he loved the outdoors so much. He did not like enclosed areas. He loved the freedom the outdoors offered.”

Now back in the saddle, Rory made five westerns from 1965-1966. The best of these was Apache Uprising, released just after Christmas in 1965. The cast included John Russell, Corinne Calvet, Arthur Hunnicutt, Johnny Mack Brown, Jean Parker, DeForest Kelley, and Lon Chaney, Jr. Rory was the hero who fought Native Americans and crooks who had planned a series of stagecoach robberies in what’s been described as a routine western. He also defended the honor of a woman wrongly accused of having a poor reputation. Interestingly, DeForest Kelley played a crazed gunman in his pre-Star Trek television role. Also, in 1965, Rory had one more chance at a new television western series as he was considered for the lead of James West in the series, The Wild Wild West,

saddlebag dispatches

but the producers were not impressed with his screen suit was settled in Los Angeles Superior Court for an undisclosed sum of money. test and instead chose Robert Conrad. In April of 1971 Calhoun married Susan Langley, Calhoun, like many actors of the 1960s, appeared a journalist. They had one child and divorced five in several films in Europe. One to note was The Colossus of Rhodes, the first film by Sergio Leone, who years later. In the end Rory had starred in over 80 motion would gain fame for his spaghetti westerns. By the late 1960s, Rory’s career as a western film pictures and was in 1,000 television episodes. “By and star was in decline. He began to accept minor roles large, I suppose my image is Western,” he told The LA Times in 1979. “If the two or three dozen Western in meaningless projects such as Night of the Lepus and features I made didn’t do it, the 79 episodes of my Revenge of Bigfoot. television series, The Texan, certainly set it. You could However, in 1980, he was offered a part in the campy horror flick, Motel Hell, which is now say there were more B Westerns than A Westerns, but considered a cult classic. He followed that by playing even so, I always enjoyed putting on the hat, strapping western hero Kit Carson in Angel in 1984, followed on the gun and feeling like a kid again.” by Avenging Angel, the following year. “I SUPPOSE, IF MY FATHER WERE NOT AN ACTOR, HE WOULD HAVE Calhoun continued to appear in television and BEEN A COWBOY, BECAUSE HE LOVED THE OUTDOORS SO MUCH.” movie roles during the —ATHENA MARUS CALHOUN 1970s and 1980s, which included; Hawaii Five-O, Alias Smith and Jones, and Calhoun had several connections in Nevada. Before Starsky & Hutch. Rory starred in a regular daytime soap opera called Capitol, which he had accepted becoming an actor, he mined silver near Reno. In April, 1981, during a low point in his career, he came after regrettably turning down a part on CBS’s huge to Las Vegas to coach a team of female mud wrestlers television hit, Dallas. against another team, which was coincidently coached Rory’s final role was that of a rancher in the movie by hard luck actor Adam (“Batman”) West. Calhoun’s Pure Country in 1992. Rory Calhoun was married twice and had five team won the event held at the Imperial Palace. Rory Calhoun passed away on April 28, 1999, in daughters, three by his first wife Lita Baron, and one with actress Vitina Marcus, and one with his second Burbank, California, at the age of seventy-six from complications resulting from emphysema and diabetes. wife, Susan Langley. Calhoun’s career is recognized by two stars; one Lita Baron was a Spanish-born American actress on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Blvd. and singer. She and Rory married in 1948 and their relationship lasted until she sued Calhoun for divorce. for his contribution to film and a second star on Vine Street for his work in television. Lita was tired of his adulterous relationships and even named, actress Betty Grable as one of seventynine women her husband had had an extramarital —Michael Koch a member of The Tulsa NightWriters, Ozark Writers League, relationship with. Rory replied to her charge by saying, “heck, she didn’t even include half of them.” Echoes of the The couple were granted a divorce in 1970. In 1966, an actress named Vinita Marcus filed a Ozarks, Mysteries of the Ozarks, Frontier Tales, Wicked East Press, and the Southeast Missouri State paternity suit against Rory. She claimed the couple had a child together, Athena Marcus Calhoun, in University Press. regular contibutor to Saddlebag Dispatches. 1959. Both were married at the time of the suit. The



HE JUDGE SAT ON the upraised dais. He stared down at the three men on trial for attempted robbery. “Mr. Prosecutor, call your first witness.” A spindly man rose to his feet. He removed his spectacles and glanced toward the witnesses. “I call Curly Burleson to the stand.” A tall cowboy rose to his feet amd ran his hand through his sandy-colored hair as he approached the witness chair. He stood awkwardly before the judge. “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, as God is your witness?” “Yes, sir,” Curly gulped. “Mr. Burleson, you’re in the employ of Gus Kerch of the Kerch Ranch?” The spindly man hooked his fingers in his fancy vest. “Yes, sir, Bob, I’m one of the cowboys he keeps on the payroll.” “Can you recount the events that occurred two weeks ago?” Bob asked. “What’s recount mean?” He turned toward the judge. “Can you remember what happen two weeks ago?” the judge mumbled.

“Yes, sir. Me and Pete and Jolly was out on the north range for Miss Hannah.” Curly’s face reddened. “She told us to take the turd wagon up there and get her a load of manure.” A chorus of laughter rose from the crowd packed into the tiny courtroom. “Objection, Your Honor, what kind of wagon did the witness take to the north range?” The defense attorney jumped to his feet. “Objection overruled, Roscoe. It’s a turd wagon. I don’t think a detailed description is necessary.” This led to another round of bawdy laughter. “Curly, is this part of your normal routine?” Bob asked. “No, sir.” Curly shook his head. “Miss Hannah sent us up there special. She needed some fresh manure for her spring garden, and she said the turds on the north range was the best she ever used.” The entire gallery roared with laughter. “Order, order in the court.” The judge banged his gavel on the podium. “Everybody needs to be quiet or I’ll clear this courtroom.” The court room gradually grew silent.


saddlebag dispatches

Bob glanced at his witness. “Would you please tell the court what happened as you were returning to the ranch house.” “We had a full wagon load of manure and was on our way back. I drove the wagon back. Pete and Jolly was riding about twenty feet on either side because the load stunk so bad.” A few chuckles rose from the audience. They were quickly quelled by a stern look from the judge. “What happened then?” Three fellas came riding out of the brush. They was spurring the hell out of their animals and shooting at us. I slapped the reins over the teams back and pulled the double barreled from the seat.” “How far did the riders chase you?” “About a half mile or so. Them horses ain’t built for running, they can pull a wagon all day, but they can’t run for nothing. We had to stop by Rainey Creek and take cover.” “What did the attackers do then?” “They tied their horses to the bushes and told us they wanted the gold.” Curly released a long breath. “Jolly told them we only had five dollars, and they was welcome to it, if they’d quit shooting.” “And did they take the money and stop shooting?” “No, sir, them varmints started pouring lead in our direction.” Curly shook his head. Roscoe jumped to his feet. “Objection, Your Honor, the word varmint gives the jury an unfavorable view of my clients.” “Jolly and Pete called them a lot worse than that.” Curly added. Despite the judge’s order the cowboy’s comment brought gales of laughter from the crowd. “Order, order.” The judge banged his gavel. “I will have order in this courtroom. “ He turned to the lanky cowboy. “Mr. Burleson any more shenanigans from you, and I’ll hold you in contempt.” “It’s the truth, Judge Proctor. Jolly and Pete was cussing a blue streak when them outlaws was shooting at us.” Curly’s face held a dumfounded look. “Objection, Your Honor, it has not been established that my clients are outlaws.” Roscoe pounded the table. “Both objections are overruled, Roscoe.” The old

saddlebag dispatches

man’s spite filled glare swept the audience. “If I hear even so much as a chuckle from anyone, I will clear this courtroom. Do I make myself clear?” The packed room grew quiet. No one uttered so much as a whisper. “Alright, Bob, continue.” Proctor nodded to the prosecutor. “Curly what actions did you and your friends take when you were under fire?” “We shot back, but all we had was some shotguns and our pistols. Them boys had rifles. We would have been cooked, if them fellas from the Sweet Molly hadn’t showed up.” “I take it you mean the guards from the Sweet Molly mine?” Curly nodded. “Yes, sir, we would’ve been treed if not for them.” “Were they on the way to town to deliver a shipment of ore to the train station?” Roscoe’s face reddened. “Objection, Your Honor,

the witness can’t possibly know what the outriders for the Sweet Molly were doing that day.” Spittle flew from the attorney’s mouth. “Objection sustained.” The judge waved his gavel at the prosecutor. “Change your line of questioning, Bob.” “No further questions Your Honor.” He turned to Roscoe. “Your witness.” Red streaks mottled Roscoe’s cheeks, as he approached the witness. “Tell me Mr. Burleson, why were you and your companions, carrying shotguns that day? Are double-barreled ten gauges standard issue at the Kerch ranch?” “No, sir, they ain’t.” Curly’s eyes narrowed, he watched the attorney closely, Roscoe Pryor had a shady reputation in the small community. “Greasy asked us to bring back some fresh rabbits for supper. Said he had a stew recipe he wanted to try out. Greasy is a good fella, but he ain’t much of a cook, if you know what I mean.” “Isn’t it more likely that the defendants saw



saddlebag dispatches

you and your companions with the shotguns and believed that they were in danger and therefore attacked your group?” “That don’t make no sense atoll.” Curley shook his head. “That’s the most fool thing I ever heard tell of.” “Don’t bandy words with counsel.” the judge interrupted. “Just answer the question.” “Judge Proctor, I can’t make heads or tails of that. Why would anyone think we was after them when we was riding the opposite way and not toward them fellas.” Curly jumped to his feet, wagging his finger at the defendants. “They thought we was the ore wagon. They was gonna waylay us and steal everything they could carry.” “You tell ‘em, Curly,” An unidentified voice shouted from the rear of the court room. “They was aiming on killing the lot of us.” “Order, order!” A crimson flush covered Judge Proctor’s face. “Sheriff, take Mr. Burleson into custody at once. He’ll serve two days in jail for disrupting my courtroom.”

The pot-gutted sheriff rose to his feet. He brushed his thick mustache away from his mouth. “Judge, I’ve only got one cell. I don’t think it’d be smart to stick Curly in there with those three.” Pete jumped up, wagging his finger at the Judge. “That’d be like putting the fox in the henhouse.” “Order in my court.” Judge Proctor glared at the cowhands. “You’re right, Sheriff. I can’t place these cowboys in the same cell as those brigands. If anyone laughs or makes any offhanded remarks for the duration of this trial, I’ll fine them ten dollars.” His eyes swept the courtroom. “Is that understood?” “Objection, Your Honor. You just used the word brigand to describe my clients. How can they expect to receive a fair trial now?” “Roscoe, this has been a trying day for me, your objection is overruled. Now do you have more questions for this witness?” Roscoe bowed at the waist. “None at this time, Judge Proctor.”

saddlebag dispatches

The judge turned to Curly. “You’re excused.” The cowboy hurried to the gallery. Proctor’s gaze centered on the prosecutor. “Call your next witness.” “Yes, Judge. I call Lee Garza to the stand.” A tall dark haired man with swarthy skin rose from the audience. He walked purposely down the center aisle and stopped at the witness stand. Proctor stared at the tall man. “Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God.” “I do.” Garza’s voice carried a trace of Spanish accent. He took a seat in the witness chair. “Mr. Garza, you are one of the outriders hired to protect ore shipments from the Sweet Molly mine to the railway station?” “Yes, sir, I am.” “To the best of your recollection, please tell the court what happened on the day in question.” “We heard gunshots, as we were coming down the

road that flanks the Kerch ranch. Victor and I rode ahead to see what the trouble was. We saw those three men shooting at the cowboys. Scared one of them so bad he jumped in the back of the wagon with all the shi… Please excuse me, manure.” The court room exploded in laughter. “Sheriff, Sheriff.” Judge Proctor banged his gavel. “Everyone present is fined ten dollars. I trust you will collect the fines and add them to the city treasury.” The laughter continued. “Damn it, folks.” Sheriff McConnell rose to his feet. “I want all of you to quieten down, right now. Or else I’ll have all of you shoveling horse droppings from the street.” The crowd grew silent. One of the robbers banged his shackles on the table. “Damn it, I’ve had all this I can stand. Manure is how we got here in the first place.” Anger colored his face as he leaped to his feet, rattling the chains around his wrists and ankles. “Shore we wuz gonna rob the ore shipment.”



saddlebag dispatches

saddlebag dispatches

“Bull, you need to sit down and be quiet.” Roscoe grabbed his client’s arm and attempted to force him in his chair. The big man shoved the attorney away. “I want this finished. Our bad luck these fellas went out that day for a wagon load of fertilizer. It’s bad enough to be charged with attempted robbery of a turd wagon, but to listen to this tottering old fool and these two educated idjits. It’s more than I can stand.” “Roscoe, control your client, or I’ll hold him in contempt.” Proctor slammed the gavel on the wooden surface. “I heard you was a good scrapper when you was younger.” Bull stared defiantly at Judge Proctor. “If I didn’t have this iron weighing me down, I’d whip the lot of you.” “Is that so?” Proctor glared at the thick man. “You’d like to have a try at me?” “I could whip a handful like you and watch the gate at the same time.” Bull thumped his chest, jingling the chains around his wrists. “Then I have a proposition for you and your accomplices. I’ll give you a try at me. Should you win the charges will be dismissed.” Proctor stared at Bull’s smiling face. “But if I win, you and your cronies will each serve five years in the territorial penitentiary.” “Damn right, I’ll do it.” Bull’s smile stretched from ear to ear. “Judge, do you think this is a good idea? You’re pushing sixty and Bull has seventy pounds on you.” McConnell eyed the older man. “I believe I can handle myself, Sheriff.” “I don’t like this, Bull.” The smaller of his companions pulled the big man away, whispering in his ear. Bull pushed the smaller man away. “I can take him. I know I can.” “What about you two, do you agree with this arrangement?” Proctor demanded. “Judge, I object. This is not proper courtroom behavior. You can’t leave the sentencing of men who haven’t been found guilty, balancing on the outcome of a common brawl.” Roscoe banged his fist on the table. “Shut-up, Counselor. I find your clients guilty of the crime of attempted robbery. Now, Boys, do you accept my offer for sentencing?”

“Bull says he can take you, that’s good enough for me,” the third member of the group spoke for the first time. Proctor nodded his approval. “Sheriff, we will adjourn to the street for sentencing.” “Five to one on Bull,” a voice screamed from the rear. “Offering five to one.” The crowd immediately surged into the street, forming a crude circle. McConnell grabbed the chain. “Come on, boys.” He jerked on the links. “If anyone of you jaspers tries anything, I’ll cut you down like a rabid dog.” He led the three men outside. The judge rose from his padded chair and removed his robe, folding it neatly and laying it on the chair. He followed McConnell and his prisoners outside. The sheriff pulled a key from his vest pocket and fitted it into Bull’s manacles. “Try to run and I’ll kill you. This is gonna be a fair fight. Cheat and I’ll kill you.” His flinty eyes centered on Bull’s face. “You got all that?” Bull returned the stare. “I catch you with them guns off, I’ll whip you like a yellow dog.” McConnell removed the hammer strap from his pistol, resting his palm on the smooth grip. “Have at it.” Judge Proctor calmly rolled his shirt sleeves to his elbows. He walked toward Bull, placed his right foot forward and curled his hands into fists, holding them before his face. Bull grunted. “I seen a boxing match once, old has been, didn’t impress me much.” He rushed forward, swinging a tremendous roundhouse at Proctor’s head. The wily judge ducked under the punch and loosed a solid blow to Bull’s heavy gut. “Get him, Bull. I ain’t wanting to serve five years in prison.” McConnell jerked the prisoner’s chain. “Shut-up.” “Five to one on Bull. Offering five to one on Bull.” Bull staggered back, his face reddened. He drew a deep breath into his lungs and charged the judge, swinging wildly. A clubbing blow struck Proctor’s shoulder. The old judge staggered, a solid right to his jaw sent him tumbling to the ground. “What about it old man, you had enough?” Bull



saddlebag dispatches

waved his fists in the air, sucking air through his open mouth. “Not hardly.” Proctor climbed to his feet. The big man charged in, swinging vicious haymakers. Proctor moved to the side and struck Bull’s rock solid jaw three times with his left. “That ain’t gonna do you any good.” Bull wiped

A smile touched McConnell’s face. “I told you boys to be quiet.” Bull shook his head, chasing the cobwebs from his brain. He licked his blooded lips and approached the old man. “Didn’t figure you had this much sand.” He copied the judge’s movements and jabbed at his opponent. Proctor sidestepped the futile attempt. His

blood from his lips. “Sooner or later I’m gonna catch up with you.” He moved forward, more cautiously this time. He launched a wide left for Proctor’s jaw. The judge stepped back, the blow missing by a fraction of an inch. He countered with a straight left. Aided by Bull’s weight and forward momentum, the solid punch sent the big man to his knees.

eyes held a determined glint, as he landed a savage blow on Bull’s ear. “Oh, damn it. That ain’t right.” The big man stepped back, cupping his face. Proctor stepped forward and landed a solid jab of his own. The wide nose flattened, gushing blood.

“Get up. You can’t let that old fart whip you.”

“Come on. You’ve got to whip this old man.” Bull jumped forward, his right foot coming down

saddlebag dispatches

on Proctor’s instep. The old man ignored the pain. He lashed out with a left right combination. Bull fell back, waving his arms frantically to maintain his balance. Proctor limped forward, and his right hand shot forward smashing the point of Bull’s jaw. The big man grunted and went down. A dust cloud puffed around his prone body. Bull rolled to his stomach. Pushed himself to his knees and slowly climbed to his feet. He sleeved the blood from his face, glassy eyes attempting to focus on the old man. He plodded forward on unsteady legs. Hands clenched into fists, Bull swung at Proctor’s jaw. The old man slapped the blow away and stepped close, driving a hard right into the other man’s unprotected belly. Air burst from Bull’s mouth, he bent at the waist, gasping. The judge stepped back, measuring him for the telling blow. A savage left uppercut struck Bull’s unprotected face. He wilted like a flower in August and sank to the ground. “Get these boys in jail.” Proctor drew a deep breath. “Schedule the prison wagon to pick them up.” “You surprised me, Judge. I didn’t know you could fight like that.” McConnell slapped him on the back. “Bare knuckle fighting put me through law school. I got the idea after I met Abraham Lincoln. He was one of the best wrestlers I’ve ever seen.” He ran a hand through his gray hair. “Now, get these turd wagon thieves in jail.”


Terry Alexander


erry Alexander and his wife Phyllis live on a small farm near Porum, Oklahoma. They have three children, 13 grandchildren and one great granddaughter. Terry is a member of The Oklahoma Writers Federation, Ozark Creative Writers, Tahlequah Writers, Western Writers of America and the Western Fictioneers. He has been published in various anthologies from Airship 27, Pro Se Press, Pulp Modern, Big Pulp, and several others, and has won multiple awards for his work. story to appear in Saddlebag Dispatches. He feature writers, and writes a regular column entitled “Let’s Talk Westerns” in every issue, where he shares his voluminous and esoteric knowledge of classic Western pop culture, entertainment, and esoteric trivia nobody else could possibly know... and it’s likely he made up.




HANKS TO THE FULL moon, the wellworn path from the house to the road at the edge of the farm was brightly lit. Emmy peered into the darkness. She tensed when she saw nothing, then relaxed at the nearby sound of a horse’s nicker. “Luanne?” she whispered. “Over here,” came the hushed response. She moved quickly toward the voice, and then saw her friend astride the Gilmore family’s big bay mare. “Are you certain that Dinah can carry both of us?” Lu smiled. “Easily. My father rides her almost every day, and he weighs more than the two of us combined.” She pulled her foot from the left stirrup. “Give me that carpetbag. Then hoist yourself up behind me.” Emmy raised her skirt above her waist and clutched the material to her chest with her right arm. She put her left foot in the stirrup. Lu took her left hand and pulled her upward. She landed on the horse’s back with a thud and rearranged her skirt. They were ready to begin their clandestine journey.

At five and a half feet tall, Emmy’s slender frame and innocent demeanor gave no hint of the intense, determined woman within. Her unruly light brown hair fell loosely around her shoulders. Her dark blue eyes betrayed none of her feelings. They rode for five hours at a deliberately slow pace. At first light, they came upon the railroad crossing in the town of Independence. After a short ride alongside the tracks, they finally reached the train depot. Emmy waited while Lu went inside and bought a ticket. The next train to Kansas City was expected in less than two hours. Unbeknownst to the people that would soon be searching for her, Emmy Carson would be on that train. Lu gave her the ticket. “I’m worried. So many things could go wrong.” “If anything goes awry, I’ll simply have to think of something else.” She frowned. “No matter what happens, I refuse to marry that dreadful man.” Lu nodded. “I have to leave you now. I have to make it home in a few hours.” She winked. “I wouldn’t want to be late for your wedding.”


saddlebag dispatches

Emmy laughed. “No, I’m sure you wouldn’t want to miss…whatever happens.” “This is goodbye, then. Oh, Em, please write as soon as you can. I need to know that you’re safe.” As tears appeared, she turned, mounted her horse, and rode away. Emmy waited at the side of the building. Only when the train approached nearly two hours later did she move to the platform. The trip was short. Although Kansas City was only ten miles from Independence, the difference between city and country was such that it might as well have been a world away. There were good jobs for young women. From repeated telling, Emmy knew the story well. In recent years, the Fred Harvey Company had established a chain of hotels and restaurants, called Harvey Houses, along the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. As a result, train travel in the southwest had become immensely popular. In the last few years alone, Harvey Houses had provided respectable employment to hundreds of single women aged eighteen to thirty. In Kansas City, the Harvey Company office was adjacent to the depot. Emmy entered and pulled a slip of paper from her handbag. “I’m here regarding the notice in the Kansas City Star,” she told the stonefaced woman behind the counter. When the woman didn’t respond, she continued. “I’ve come to seek employment with the Harvey Company.” The woman glanced at the notice, then scrutinized Emmy. “And you are?” “My name is Emily Carson. I come from a farm a few miles east of Pleasant Hill. I am twenty-four years old, unmarried, and I have a high school education.” Less than two hours later, employment contract in hand, she was on a westbound train to Raton, New Mexico. Soon, she would be a “Harvey Girl.” — WHEN LUANNE RETURNED FROM the train station in Independence, she found that her father and her older brother Burt were already dressed and ready to leave for the wedding. She changed her clothes at lightning speed, and the three of them set off in the

saddlebag dispatches

flatbed wagon to attend the wedding of Emmy Carson and John Ellis. It was obvious that something had gone terribly wrong. The entire wedding party was milling around in front of the church. Mark Gilmore, accompanied by his two adult children, approached the group. “What’s happened?” “She’s missing. The bride. She isn’t here.” “I thought we might begin the search with you, Luanne.” The voice belonged to John Ellis. He was seething with anger. Lu looked him in the eye. “And why do you say that, John?” “Because you’re her best friend, it would be easy enough for you to hide her.” He stepped closer and his eyes bored into her. “I’m warning you, if you’re the one who’s helping her escape, you’ll regret it.” Mark stepped between them. “Since you’re a relative newcomer in these parts, I don’t know you very well, John, and I don’t know if you’re in the habit of threatening women. But you just threatened my daughter, and I won’t tolerate that. Now, I believe you owe the lady an apology.” John clenched his fists, glared at Mark, and shouted. “Never!” He spun around and stormed away. Mark was dumbfounded. He reached for Lu’s arm and drew her outside of earshot of the other guests. “Luanne, what do you know of this? To hear John tell it, Emmy was somehow being forced to marry him.” Lu shook her head. “She wasn’t being forced in the physical sense. But her parents have put a great deal of pressure on her to marry John, because he promised them that the union would resolve the irrigation feud. The Carsons’ only access to irrigation water runs through land that John Ellis purchased last year. He wants Emmy as his wife, and unless he can have her, he’ll ruin the Carsons.” “Then Emmy can’t possibly love him,” Mark said. “No. In fact, she hates him for what he’s done to her family.” — EMMY SPOKE TO THE young woman seated opposite her in the Pullman car. “I’m Emmy Carson.”

“Hello, Emmy. I’m Ruth Singleton. How far are you going?” “All the way to New Mexico. I’m going to be a Harvey Girl.” “Me, too!” Ruth relaxed visibly. “Shall we stay together all the way?” Emmy nodded. She began to feel safe for the first time in a long while. It was unlikely that those she had left behind could find her now. She leaned back and closed her eyes. — IN THE DAYS THAT followed, they settled into a routine. Compliments of their new employer, they enjoyed delicious meals at Harvey House restaurants all along the way, endured uncomfortable nights in the train’s cramped sleeping quarters, and marveled at the ever-changing landscape as their train continued westward. Six days later, the conductor announced that the next stop was Raton. Emmy had arrived at last at her new home, ready to embark on her new life. Two weeks later, accustomed to the rigorous demands of the job, Emmy was confident about her future as a Harvey Girl. It was her first day off and her first chance to venture outside since arriving in Raton. She had glimpsed the millenary, the general store, the livery stable up the street, and a few of the other stores that were housed in the nearby clapboard buildings. Emmy looked forward to exploring them firsthand. She walked north, slowing to glance inside some of the stores. Passing the bank, she entered the post office next door. She bought a stamp for the letter she had written to Luanne. Pleasant Hill, Missouri, was a small town, and the origin of incoming mail was sometimes grist for the gossip mill. Thus, the return address bore the name E. Jones. The clerk provided sealing wax, and affixed the stamp. Her letter would be on the morning train headed east. With less than two dollars and her first payday still weeks away, Emmy dared not spend any money unless it was absolutely necessary. She bypassed the remaining stores and returned to Harvey House.



saddlebag dispatches

— JOHN ELLIS WASTED NO time after learning from the loose lipped Postmaster that Luanne Gilmore had received a letter from E. Jones in New Mexico. The following morning in Kansas City he boarded the westbound train. Although he didn’t know precisely where he might find Emmy in the little town, he intended to conduct a thorough and methodical search. Once he found her, she would be dealt with appropriately and then brought home to complete their nuptials as planned. The train made regular meal stops along the way. Occasionally, John observed the young women who staffed the restaurants and wondered if Emmy might be associated with the chain that operated them. If there was a Harvey House in Raton, it would be one of the first places he would search. — JOHN ELLIS’S SUDDEN, UNEXPLAINED trip to New Mexico was the main topic of speculation in Pleasant Hill. When Luanne heard the news, she sent a wire immediately. RATON NM HARVEY HOUSE E CARSON PLEASANT HILL MO L GILMORE JE FOUND YOU LEFT ON TRAIN TODAY HEADED THERE — EMMY REALIZED THAT HER only hope of evading John Ellis was to get protection from Harvey House. If they couldn’t or wouldn’t help her, there were no realistic alternatives. Her hand trembled as she knocked on her supervisor’s door. “Enter.”

“Hello, Mrs. Scott.” “Hello, Emmy. What brings you here today?” She took a deep breath and plunged in. “I’m in trouble and I need your help. When I came here, I wasn’t exactly running away from home.” “No. After the age of eighteen, that would be technically incorrect. You’re beyond that, obviously.” “However I did leave at a very… delicate time.” Mrs. Scott raised an eyebrow. “Delicate?” “I left my fiancé on our wedding day. I went to Kansas City, got hired as a Harvey Girl, and boarded the train coming west.” She looked down at Mrs. Scott’s desk. “A friend who was there wrote and told me what happened that day. Everyone showed up for my wedding... except me. The repercussions were disastrous—especially for my parents.” “Did your parents understand what had happened?” “Oh, yes. You see, Missouri is into its third year of a serious drought. Without irrigation water, my parents can’t hold out for another year. They’ll lose their farm.” Mrs. Scott asked, “How does this relate to your wedding?” “It hasn’t rained at all in fourteen months, and there’s no rain forecast for several more months. John Ellis, my ex-fiancé, controls the only remaining water in the area. There’s a small lake on his property. It isn’t nearly as large as it once was, but it’s enough to save the livestock and most of the crops in the region for another year. He can route that water wherever he chooses.” “Then there shouldn’t be a problem—at least not an immediate problem,” Mrs. Scott said. Emmy grimaced. “If John Ellis were a sane, decent, honorable man, you would be correct. Unfortunately, he isn’t any of those things.” “Are you afraid of him?” She placed her palms on Mrs. Scott’s desk and leaned forward. “Everyone is afraid of him. He uses that water to decide which of his neighbors will survive. He drives horrible, impossible bargains. Everyone knows he’s quite mad, but nothing can be done to stop him.” Mrs. Scott’s face froze. She said, “Emmy, were you a part of one of those bargains? Did Mr. Ellis offer your parents his water in exchange for you?”

saddlebag dispatches

“Yes.” “And did your parents agree to this?” “Yes.” Mrs. Scott stood, turned away, and bowed her head. Her eyes were moist when she returned her gaze to Emmy. She looked away quickly. Emmy said, “I’ve just received a wire that he’s coming here to force me to return to Missouri with him. He got on the train in Kansas City this morning.” Mrs. Scott said, “If he left today, he won’t arrive here until next Tuesday. So we have until then to work out a way to deal with this.” “Then you’ll help me?” Emmy asked. “Of course. This situation is far more common than you might imagine. Company policy is to prevent unwanted suitors from abducting our employees. If we were to turn a blind eye to the problem, we would never have a stable work force.” — MRS. SCOTT SOUGHT OUT Michael Murphy. As Manager of Raton Harvey House, Mike oversaw the activities of the entire staff. “One of my girls is being pursued by an unwanted suitor,” she told him. “We’ve gotten word that he’ll arrive here from Kansas City on Tuesday’s train.” He nodded. “Bring me the man’s name and description. I’ll notify the other supervisors, and I’ll assign a couple of men from the kitchen staff to meet the train and follow his movements.” “Thank you, Mike.” She stood abruptly and left. Two men were assigned to watch the platform when John’s train arrived. Mrs. Scott briefed all of the Harvey Girls on what to do if he were to approach them. They were ready. — AS THE ONLY MAN traveling alone who brought luggage off the train, John Ellis was an easy one to identify. Two men who had been waiting on the platform slipped behind him and followed him into the restaurant. John dropped his suitcase just inside the front



saddlebag dispatches

saddlebag dispatches

door. He glanced into the counter area, then turned left. He gave his reservation slip to the waitress, one of the older women working in the dining room, and she led him to a table. “I hope you can help me,” he said as he took his seat. The woman smiled. “Yes, sir.” “I want information about a girl who works here.” The woman frowned. “I’m sorry, sir. We don’t provide such information to customers. It’s company policy.” She looked up and nodded almost imperceptibly at the two men standing at the entrance of the room. “I’m looking for Emmy Carson. I want to know where I can find her.” His tone had turned hostile. “I’m sorry, sir.” “Since you won’t give me what I want, I insist on speaking to your supervisor,” he said. “You’re rude and uncooperative.” “Yes, sir. I’ll bring Mr. Murphy at once.” The two men remained at the dining room entrance. John stayed seated. He tapped his forefinger absentmindedly on the white linen tablecloth. After a few moments, a man approached. “Sir, I understand you wish to speak with me. I am Michael Murphy, manager of this establishment.” John stood and extended his right hand. “I am John Ellis. You must tell me the whereabouts of a young girl who works here named Emmy Carson. You must tell me immediately.” “I’m sorry, Mr. Ellis. We don’t give out—” “I said immediately,” he screamed. His voice drew the attention of the other customers. The two men at the entrance walked quickly to his table. Mike said, “If you’ll accompany me to my office, Mr. Ellis, I’m sure we can unravel all this confusion.” They escorted John to the small office at the rear of the building. Mike indicated that he should sit in the guest chair opposite his desk. He said to the men, “I’m going to speak with Mr. Ellis briefly, in private. Then I want you to escort him to the front door and help him with his luggage. After that, you may return to your regular work.” Mike closed the office door and sat in the chair behind his desk. He looked at John for several seconds,

then said, “Your motives are transparent and your methods are unacceptable.” John pounded his fist on the desk. “My fiancée is here and I’ve come to take her home. My motives and methods are none of your damned business.” “Mr. Ellis, it’s my responsibility to protect all of the women who work and live at Harvey House. That means no woman will leave here against her will.” He leaned forward. “So I must warn you. If you try to take any woman from here against her will, I’ll notify the Sheriff and you’ll be charged with kidnapping.” John’s face reddened. “We’ll just see about that, Murphy. You don’t know who you’re dealing with.” As he walked around his desk and opened the door, Mike said, “My employees will see you out, Mr. Ellis.” They escorted John to the restaurant entrance. They assured him that there was no room for rent at Harvey House. They suggested that he try the Cachuma Hotel, one block up the street. They placed his suitcase on the sidewalk and shut the door behind him. — “JOHN ELLIS IS QUITE a handful,” Mike said. His elbows rested on his desk. He made a tent with his fingers and drummed his fingers together. Vanessa Scott, still in the Harvey Girl uniform she had worn when she’d served Ellis, sat on the other side of the desk. “He comes from a poverty-stricken area where he’s relatively prosperous and powerful. He’s accustomed to having his demands met without question or interference.” “He’s also delusional,” Mike added. “Yes, I noticed that.” — WITH ONLY SIXTEEN ROOMS, the Cachuma Hotel didn’t warrant an attendant, although there was a small lobby. It was furnished with a writing table, an upright wooden chair, and an old couch with torn dark green upholstery. A faded reproduction of the classic portrait of George Washington hung on the wall over the couch. A sign over the writing table directed guests to



saddlebag dispatches

register at the Brass Bucket. John dropped his suitcase and went next door to the saloon. The bartender, a rugged middle-aged man, nodded. “Help you?” “I want to rent a room next door.” “Okay. I’ll help you with that.” John signed the register and paid a week’s rent, then returned to the hotel. He unlocked the door to Room Nine. It was minimal, but it would serve his purpose. There was a badly scarred metal bed frame with a lumpy mattress and a threadbare blanket. The sheets, although heavily stained, were clean. A small table with an oil lamp sat a few feet from the bed, next to an old rocker. A battered chest of drawers stood against the wall. There was one window. He peered out at the wall of the neighboring building and at the cluttered alley. He shook his head in disgust. It was time to press on with the mission. He stepped into the hall, locked the door, and headed back to the bar. A lot of the regular customers thought the Brass Bucket felt more like a museum than a saloon. The walls were covered with mounted animal heads, Indian artifacts, old mining tools, and even parts of some early pioneer wagons. There were photographs of almost everything imaginable. The favorite subject by far was the railroad. Engines, coal cars, cabooses, cattle cars, and passenger cars were represented in every possible configuration. Photographs of railroad crews and individual workers proliferated. When the Civil War had ended twenty years earlier, hundreds of men from both sides had come west. While many of them still harbored grudges and bitter memories, in the minds of most westerners the war was simply an unpleasant episode in the country’s history. That history was amply represented by dozens of photographs of both Union and Confederate soldiers that hung on the walls of the Brass Bucket. John Ellis took a seat at the bar and ordered a bottle of beer. He stared ahead, observing the room in the reflection of the mirror that spanned the back of the bar. There was a different bartender. Kenny, the one who had rented him his room, was seated at a table with another man. They were watching him.

— “HEY, THAT’S THE NEW guy in town, isn’t it?” asked Luke. Kenny nodded. “He looks familiar.I’m sure I know him from somewhere. Can’t quite place it, though. I’ll have to think on it.” John slid off his barstool and walked to their table. “Mind if I join you?” he asked as he pulled out the empty chair and took a seat. Luke said, “Actually, we’re expecting my brother shortly, and that’s his seat. But stick around anyway. Maybe he’ll know why you look so familiar to me.” John tensed. “I’m not from around here. I just arrived today from the east.” “What’s your line of work?” Luke asked. “Doesn’t matter,” John huffed. “I’m here to look for someone. When I find her, we’re going home.” Kenny said, “I’m not so sure you’d want to go home with any of the women you’ll be seeing in this place.” “Maybe not,” John said. “What’s her name—the woman you’re looking for?” Luke asked. “Emmy Carson.” “Are you serious? You’ll never see Emmy in this place. She’s a Harvey Girl.” “Shut up, Luke,” Kenny snapped. John leaned back in his chair and smiled. “Well now, that’s very interesting. That narrows it down for me. Maybe I’ll see you gentlemen again sometime.” He stood suddenly and strode toward the door, colliding with a huge mountain of a man who was heading toward him. “Watch it, buster,” he growled. The big man looked at John curiously then moved to the chair that he had just vacated. “What’s that dude’s problem?” he asked as he sat. Luke said, “I don’t know, brother, but doesn’t he look familiar? I think we know him from somewhere.” Tiny shook his head. “Can’t say. I didn’t get a good look at his face.” “You’re right about one thing,” Kenny said. “That dude has a serious problem. And he is a problem, too. He’s been here for less than a day and already gotten thrown out of Harvey House. They think

saddlebag dispatches

he plans to kidnap Emmy Carson. He rented Room Nine at the hotel.” “So is he dangerous, crazy, or both?” Tiny asked his brother. Luke said, “Beats me, but he surely does remind me of somebody I used to know.” He frowned. “I just can’t recall exactly.” — THE STREET LAMPS HAD been lit for almost an hour when John emerged from his hotel room. He ambled up the block and stood across the street from Harvey House. The dining room officially closed at nine o’clock. The last of the stragglers left at twelve minutes after nine. The kitchen crew was gone by nine-forty. The lamps were out by ten-fifteen. He emerged from the shadows and walked toward the hotel. The noise from the Brass Bucket was the only sound he heard. He would get a good night’s sleep, then proceed with his new plan. He had solved the problem of how to get Emmy back. Of that, he was certain. — THE FOLLOWING MORNING, THE stationmaster notified Mike Murphy that John Ellis had purchased a train ticket to Albuquerque. An hour later, two railroad employees saw him board the train moments before it departed. John had paid a week’s rent in advance for Room Nine at the hotel. The housekeeper reported that his belongings were still in the room. They watched and waited. Four days later, John stepped off the incoming train from Albuquerque and walked up the street toward the hotel. He carried a small parcel wrapped with twine in his right hand. A large manila envelope was tucked under his left arm. — TO THE ANNOYANCE OF the other patrons of the Brass Bucket, Luke Tyler had become a man obsessed. Mumbling interminably about where he had seen

John Ellis before, he paced behind the men at the bar. With his head bowed deep in thought, be paced along the side wall past the ever-growing collection of memorabilia and old photographs. “Can’t you relax for just a few minutes, Luke?” one of the men yelled. He stopped pacing and looked up. His eyes fell on a familiar photograph. It was his old outfit from the Civil War, taken early on, when the boys were still healthy, smiling, and optimistic that the war would soon end in their favor. The three Tyler brothers stood together—himself, Tiny, and Jimmy. It was before the deserter in their midst had made his presence known. In their very first face-to-face encounter with the enemy, the bastard had grabbed Jimmy and used him as a human shield as he retreated backwards into the woods. Then the damned coward dropped Jimmy’s dead body and ran away. He was never caught. They searched for him after the war, but eventually gave up. Luke looked again at the photograph. The miserable coward stood there, looking boldly at the camera, with his elegant handlebar moustache and his perfectly trimmed beard and his…. “Tiny, come over here quick!” Luke shouted. “What’s wrong?” Tiny asked as he hurried over. Luke pressed a trembling finger on the photograph next to the deserter’s face. “Take away the beard and moustache. Add twenty pounds and twenty-five years. Who do you see?” Tiny’s eyes widened. “Oh, my God. I think you’re right. Oh, my God!” “It’s him,” Luke said. “It’s John Ellis. I remember some of his mannerisms from back then. Since I started following him, I’ve noticed some—” “You’ve been following him?” Luke nodded. “For the last couple of nights, since he came back from Albuquerque.” “Where did he go?” Tiny asked. “Both times to the same place—across the street from the bedrooms at Harvey House. He went down there at around nine o’clock and hid in the shadows. I didn’t stay there much after ten-thirty, but I think he’s planning to make a move. And soon.” Tiny frowned. “What time is it now?”



saddlebag dispatches

“It must be close to midnight.” “C’mon, brother. Let’s take a walk down there and have a look.” — DESPITE HIS DARK CLOTHING, John’s form was easily discernable. He clung to a large vine on the wall

of Harvey House, about three feet below a second floor windowsill. Tiny’s voice boomed into the darkness. “John Elliott, you are under arrest. Come down and raise your hands above your head.” John jerked violently. There were three loud popping sounds as the trellis that supported him snapped and he fell to the ground. They ran to him.

He lay on his back at an awkward angle. Even from several feet away, they knew his neck was broken. They knew he was dead. The trellis, with its vine still firmly attached, now lay in two pieces on the ground next to John’s body. A woman screamed. Tiny looked up and recognized Ruth Singleton, Emmy Carson’s roommate. “That man tried to follow me,” she shrieked.

“It’s all right,” Tiny called back. “He can’t hurt you now.” To Luke he said, “Go for the Sheriff.” — EVERYONE AT HARVEY HOUSE was awake by the time Sheriff Ron Nicholson arrived. Nicholson peered down at the body. “Who was he?” he asked Tiny.

saddlebag dispatches

“His name was John Elliott. He was a Civil War deserter. Nowadays he calls himself John Ellis.” “How do you know him?” Nicholson asked. “He was responsible for the death of my brother.” Nicholson nodded. “So… revenge?” “I won’t deny that I might have killed him if I’d had the opportunity.” He gestured at the broken trellis and John’s body. “But as you can plainly see,

cash and a Certificate of Marriage stating that John Ellis and Emily Carson had been joined in holy matrimony one week earlier, on the eighth day of October in the year 1885, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Reading over the Sheriff’s shoulder, Mike Murphy raised his eyebrows. “That certificate looks real,” Mike said. Nicholson ran his fingers over the paper. “It’s real,

this man fell to his death while trying to break into a lady’s bedroom.” “I can verify that,” came Mike Murphy’s voice from behind them. “John Ellis made several attempts to abduct one of the Harvey Girls. This was his latest— and his last, obviously.” When Nicholson unbuttoned the dead man’s shirt, he found a body wallet fastened around his waist. Inside was almost four-hundred dollars in

all right. It’s not easy to fake this engraving and the embossed seal. This is the real thing.” That means it belongs to Emmy Carson now,” Mike said. “I’ll be seeing her shortly. I can pass it along to her.” Nicholson looked up. “I don’t know. It doesn’t seem exactly— ” “C’mon. You know I’m not going anywhere, and this document really does belong to Emmy, don’t you think?”



saddlebag dispatches

Nicholson hesitated. He trusted Mike Murphy and owed him a lot for past favors. Reluctantly, he handed Mike the certificate. He looked around. “I see nothing to contradict what all of you have told me. I’ll have the Coroner specify accidental death on his Death Certificate. What did you say his real name was?” “John Ellis,” Mike said. “He may have used other

BY MIDMORNING, MOST OF the town had heard the story about the man who had died during the attempted break-in. The dining room at Harvey House was filled to capacity with curiosity seekers. The housekeeper at the Cachuma Hotel cleaned out John’s room and delivered his belongings to Sheriff Nicholson. In addition to clothing and the usual personal items, there was a box of hand

names at other times in other places, but here in Raton, he was John Ellis.” Sheriff Nicholson took custody of the body. The rest of the activities associated with John’s death would wait until daybreak.

weapons, mostly knives, and various lengths of rope and other restraints. It was clear that John had not expected Emmy Carson to accompany him willingly.

MIKE ASKED VANESSA SCOTT to join him in his

saddlebag dispatches

office. “There’s an interesting development. I’m not certain where it might lead,” he said. “What development?” “A Marriage Certificate was found on John Ellis’s body. It states that John and Emmy Carson were married in Albuquerque on the eighth of October. I believe it’s genuine.” “That’s not possible.” Vanessa sat upright. “I know for certain that Emmy never left Harvey House on that day.” Mike shook his head. “I don’t mean that the marriage took place. I’m referring to the certificate itself. There are three possibilities. First, John could have paid someone to create a forgery. But that could be exposed rather easily, and it would get him into serious trouble. Second, he could have bribed a government employee to record a false marriage and issue the Marriage Certificate. Third, he could have paid someone to impersonate Emmy and actually participated in a marriage ceremony. The last alternative would have been the safest, so I think it’s the most likely.” “Why would he do that?” Vanessa asked. “The housekeeper at the hotel found several ropes and knives in his room. I think he intended to take Emmy by force back to Missouri. Once he was on his home turf, where he has a great deal of influence, he would have been able to do whatever he wanted with her. But while they were on the train, he needed a way to hold her captive. If Emmy claimed that he had kidnapped her, he would simply show the authorities that Marriage Certificate.” He shrugged. “A man can’t kidnap his own wife.” “And the Territory of New Mexico would verify that the marriage had been recorded and the license was genuine,” Vanessa said. “But now that John is dead, none of that matters.” “If John left no will and has no heirs, then his estate would become the property of the State of Missouri,” Mike said. “Yes, and that’s a possibility.” “Except for the ‘interesting development’ I mentioned. The legally valid Marriage Certificate and John’s legally valid Death Certificate prove that Emmy is John’s widow. She could claim his entire estate, including his farm.”

“Oh.” Vanessa was stunned. “There could be ethical issues.” “Yes. If John has heirs, it’s clear-cut. His estate would go to them. Otherwise, it’s complex.” “I’ll present the facts to Emmy. She needs to work it out on her own.” — WHEN MRS. SCOTT FINISHED, Emmy was in a quandary. The discovery of the Marriage Certificate was incomprehensible. The reality that she could successfully represent herself as John’s widow and claim his estate was overwhelming. In addition to releasing John’s precious irrigation water and saving her parents’ farm, she would be able to provide much needed relief to dozens of farmers in Pleasant Hill. She found a secluded place and deliberated for several hours before she reached a decision. If it were found that John had a rightful heir, she would not pursue the matter. Otherwise, she would move ahead with the plan. — THREE WEEKS AFTER JOHN Ellis’s death, Mike Murphy received a letter from his attorney in Albuquerque. Per his request, the Pinkerton Agency had completed its investigation. John Ellis had no heirs. In fact, John Ellis had no past at all. There were no clues as to his previous identity. Apparently he had appeared out of nowhere with a large fortune and made several lucrative investments. As John’s widow, Emmy Carson could claim his estate. Mr. David Rhodes, Esq., of Kansas City had been thoroughly briefed on the matter and would, if requested, fulfill all legal requirements. — MRS. SCOTT SUMMONED EMMY to her office and maintained her usual stern demeanor for a few moments before breaking into a smile. “According to Mr. Murphy’s attorney, the Pinkerton Agency has determined that you are the sole heir to John Ellis’s estate. Congratulations, Emmy.”



saddlebag dispatches

“Oh…oh. I wasn’t prepared for this. Not really.” “Have you changed your mind?” “Oh, no. I want to go through with it. I want to save my parents’ farm.” Mrs. Scott said, “I’ve made arrangements for you to return to Missouri. When you reach Kansas City, you can complete the legal business associated with John’s estate. Harvey Company policy requires that you be employed for at least a year before you qualify for train or meal passes. Since you haven’t been with us that long, you will be required to reimburse the company for your trip. That won’t be a problem for you, once your estate is settled.” “Thank you, Mrs. Scott. When am I to leave?” “Whenever you wish.”

with his head for her to follow him. A block away, an enclosed carriage waited for them at the curb. He put her luggage in the rear compartment and helped her inside, then climbed in and sat in the seat opposite her. Emmy said, “I’m almost frightened. I’ll be happy when all of this is behind us.” “You brought your Marriage Certificate and your husband’s Death Certificate with you, correct?” Charles asked. When she nodded he said, “That’s all we’re missing to complete the transfers. It won’t take long.” The carriage stopped in front of an elegant brick building in the prosperous central business district. Charles helped her out, retrieved her luggage, and paid the driver.

— — PLEASANT HILL MO L GILMORE RATON NM E CARSON JOHN ELLIS DEAD AS HIS WIDOW WILL ARRIVE THERE ONE WEEK TO SETTLE ESTATE — EMMY BOARDED THE EASTBOUND train late in the afternoon. Several days later, when she stepped onto the platform in Kansas City, she saw a well dressed young man with an inquisitive expression who held a crudely lettered sign over his head that said, “Mrs. Ellis.” The man looked at her and raised his eyebrows. When Emmy nodded, he smiled and approached her. “Mrs. Ellis?” “Yes.” He relaxed. “Excellent. My name is Charles Rhodes. My father sent me to find you and take you to his office. He’s the attorney who’s been retained to handle your legal affairs.” Charles picked up her suitcases and motioned

DAVID RHODES, A SLENDER, handsome man in his late forties, introduced himself and proceeded to lead Emmy through the procedures necessary to implement her plans. “First, Mrs. Ellis, please sign these documents. They give you sole title to all of your late husband’s assets.” Emmy hesitated and seemed about to speak. Then she bent her head and signed the name Emily Ellis on each document. “Excellent,” Mr. Rhodes said. “Next, please sign these three documents. They transfer the funds in your husband’s three financial accounts into your own personal account, which will remain in your maiden name.” He paused, then added in a gentle voice, “That’s certainly understandable, considering the circumstances.” Emmy signed without hesitation. “I want to release some water from the Ellis farm and route it to another property— my parents’ farm. When can I do that?” she asked. “As Mr. Ellis’s widow, you’re entitled to do that whenever you wish,” Mr. Rhodes said, He shuffled some more papers on his desk. “The final requirement is to pay for the cost of completing this business.” He handed Emmy two bank drafts. The first

saddlebag dispatches



saddlebag dispatches

saddlebag dispatches

covered his fee, which was considerable but, Emmy thought, well worth the money. The second draft was to establish a holding account, from which Mr. Rhodes would pay future invoices that were billed to the Ellis estate. The account would also be used to reimburse Mr. Michael Murphy for his expenditures to date, including Mr. Rhodes’s initial retainer and the search by the Pinkerton Agency for John Ellis’s heirs. It occurred to Emmy now—and it made sense when she thought about it—that substantial expenditures had already been made. She signed the drafts without hesitation. Mr. Rhodes smiled for the first time. “Thank you for your cooperation. Our business is concluded.” Charles Rhodes said, “If you’ll come with me, I’ll make sure you get a carriage back to the train station.” Two hours later, Emmy was on the feeder train for the relatively short trip from Kansas City south to Independence.

Vicki S tevenson

— SHE WAS MET BY the entire Gilmore family. Luanne’s father Mark drove a flatbed wagon. Lu and Emmy sat next to him, and Lu’s brother Burt rode in the rear. They went directly to the Ellis farm, where Mark Gilmore and his son set to work routing water to the Carson farm. Emmy and Luanne explored the main house while Emmy told the remarkable story of how she had come to own the Ellis estate. They mounted the Marriage Certificate in a frame and, giggling like school girls, hung it in the parlor. It was the first of hundreds of changes that Emmy intended to make to the Ellis property in the coming years.



icki Stevenson toiled for years as a software engineer, systems analyst, and eventually

Industries in Los Angeles. Finally striking out on her own, she became a consultant to Intel Corporation in Chandler, Arizona, where she worked as a designer, writer, and trainer of manufacturing automation for semiconductors. She has a BA in Economics from UCLA. As a kid growing up in California, Vicki was fascinated by the many remnants of Old West history

Old West, triggered a lifelong interest. Now retired, Vicki has come home to roost in Southern California (the San Fernando Valley to be exact). She is the author of six published novels and Vicki’s hobbies are daydreaming, snacking, and procrastination. How sweet it is. story to be featured in



saddlebag dispatches


OPE MCKEEN WAS BORN with two strikes against her. She was taller than most men, and she showed her Indian blood. She thought back to a social she once attended in her hometown of Elgin, Illinois. A nice -looking man finally seemed to look past her beige skin and politely asked her to dance. As soon as she stood up and towered above him, he walked away. She had six more years until she was out of her twenties, but people already called her a spinster. That’s why she was sitting by her dozing mother on a noisy train to Saint Louis instead of sitting by a warm fire with her own husband and children. Her mother’s bright blue eyes popped open, and she sat up straight. “How long have I been sleepin’? “ “About an hour or so. Saint Louis is still a way off.” “It can’t get there fast enough. What time will we get there?” “We are supposed to arrive around three o’clock this afternoon.” Hannah McKeen rummaged through a satchel at her feet and brought out a small, soft, blue blanket. “I can’t wait to take a long, hot soak in a real bathtub to-

night! But right now, I still have enough time to make some progress on the baby’s present.” Hope returned to Jane Eyre. “And I have enough time to finish a few more chapters.” Hannah clicked a disapproving tongue. “You should be puttin your time to better use.” Hope turned another page. “I’m no good at things like knitting, so I spend my time reading about people with interesting lives.” A few minutes later the book flew out of her hand as the train came to a shuddering stop. “Oh, my lord! What’s happening?’ Hope patted her mother’s hand. “Don’t worry. Probably stopping for a cow on the track.” She looked up to see a sweating conductor standing in the middle of their car. “Folks, you need to keep calm and quiet. We are fixin’ to be robbed, and all you can do is keep your mouths shut and give them what they ask for.” Amidst the gasps of alarm, a rough-looking old mountain man, who was sitting across from them, calmly brought out a battered rifle. “How many men? This could even up the odds considerable.”


saddlebag dispatches

The conductor frowned at him. “Put that away, old timer. There’s four of them, and you don’t stand a chance.” A well-dressed businessman, sitting behind him, spoke up. “Yes, put it away before you get us all killed.” The other male passengers murmured their agreement except for a quiet Indian who sat at the back of the train. Hope saw him look up for the first time during their trip and watched his dark eyes flash around the train, seeming to take in every inch of the passenger car. Her mother’s firm voice startled her. “Listen to me, Katrina Hope. Keep your eyes down. Don’t do anything to draw attention to yourself.” Three dirty, unshaven men suddenly appeared in their midst, grinning and brandishing their pistols. The one who seemed to be their leader grinned as he looked around their car. “Why, pleased to meet you, folks. This here’s Slim and Tubs, my comrades. Now, nobody needs to get hurt today. Just deposit all of your money, jewelry, and other valuables in one of the bags these boys are takin’ around the car, and we’ll be out of your way in no time.” Hope sat with her eyes cast down, peering at the men from under her long eyelashes. The passengers were emptying their purses, wallets, and pockets into the bags that were thrust in front of them. At first things went smoothly, and then an elderly Indian woman hesitated when told to remove her wedding ring. The bandit called Slim slapped her hard across the face and jerked the ring off her finger. “You better do what I say, squaw!” Hannah gasped and whispered, “Quick, help me get my wedding ring off. It’s stuck!” Hope tugged frantically at the ring, but it wouldn’t budge. Slim suddenly hovered over them with a long, sharp knife. “I can help you with that, darlin’, if you can’t get it off.” “No, please just give me a minute.” Hope took out a tin of salve that she carried in her pocket to treat minor injuries. She rubbed the salve on the ring and around her mother’s finger. Feeling it loosen, she breathed a sigh of relief, yanked it off, and raised her eyes to the outlaw’s face. He grabbed the ring and pulled Hope to her feet.

saddlebag dispatches

“Why, looky here what I found, boys! A long-legged, brown filly to give us a ride!” Her diminutive mother stood and gave him a hard shove that landed hm on the floor. “Don’t you dare touch my daughter, you hooligan!” About that time the old man stood up, aimed his rifle, and shot the outlaw in the head. The leader immediately returned the fire, and the brave man sank to the floor with a gaping hole in his chest. “Tubs, come back up here, and get that rifle. Sit down, old lady! And you, young woman, you just cost me my best man. You’re goin to have to pay for that.” He grabbed her arm and pulled her close to his chest. Looking up at her, he whistled. “You are a big gal, ain’t you? Well, don’t worry, sweetheart. You won’t look so big when you’re layin’ under me.” Hope winced as he gave her right breast a hard, painful pinch. Hannah looked frantically around the train, trying to catch someone’s eye. “Won’t somebody please help us?” Hope noticed that the conductor, the businessman, and all of the other men sitting in plain sight, dropped their eyes to the floor. She was a strong girl. Maybe if she pulled hard enough, she could free herself. The outlaw laughed at her struggles. “Why, you are a feisty filly! I’m goin to really enjoy breakin’ you in. Hurry up now, Tubs, get on to the back and get our loot. I’m anxious to get gone.” Tubs grabbed up the bag his partner had dropped and handed it to his boss. When he took one of his hands off to snatch the bag, Hope attempted to break free again, and Hannah stood up to help her. The leader shoved her mother down and put a gun to her forehead. “If you or your daughter give me any more trouble, I swear I will blow a hole clean through to your brain!” He raised up when a thudding noise came from the back of the train. “What’s goin on, Tubs?” He threw Hope down beside her mother. “You stay here, and remember what I just said.” Putting the rifle across his shoulder, he turned his back on them as he walked away. While the two women huddled in fear, Hope screamed when she heard another gunshot. What now?



saddlebag dispatches

saddlebag dispatches

A minute later, the tall Indian, a knife and pistol in hand, stood beside her. “It’s all right. He’s dead.” People quickly gathered around him and began offering their thanks. The conductor motioned for them to stop. “Wait a minute, folks. Don’t you remember, I said there’s four men? One is waitin’ outside with the horses. He’s liable to be in here any minute wantin’ to see what’s goin on.” The businessman smirked. “I believe we can handle one outlaw.” Hannah stood up. “Can you now? Where was all that courage when I asked you to save my daughter. Not one of you would look me in the eye then.” He blushed and dropped his head. She motioned toward the Indian. “Now, that one. That one, I believe could handle another outlaw.” The Indian gave her a slight smile, and she grabbed his hand. “What is your name, sir?” “My name’s Alex Christie.” She shook his hand. “Well, I am mighty pleased to

meet you, Mr. Christie, and I thank you for savin’ my daughter today.” Alex pointed to the body of the old man. “I didn’t do it alone.” “No, you didn’t. He was a brave man too. I will have to ask the conductor his name so I can learn who his people are and give them my thanks.” “You ladies stay here until I tell you it’s safe.” Alex put his knife away, cocked the pistol and handed the old man’s rifle to the conductor. They walked off the train with the other men following close behind them. Hope jumped when a gun sounded outside. “I hope Alex is all right.” Her mother smiled. “Oh, it’s already Alex, is it? You know he puts me in mind of your father. A tall, dark, handsome Indian.” “Yes, but with my luck he is probably married.” The elderly Indian woman spoke up. “No, he isn’t. Indian women have been in short supply, especially in Indian Territory where me and Alex come from.”



saddlebag dispatches

saddlebag dispatches

Hannah frowned. “And why is that?” Seeing the woman’s hesitation, Hope spoke up. “Mama, I believe it’s because of what some of the tribes went through on their way to Indian Territory. I have read about it in the newspapers. Most of their old people, children, and women either died in the holding camps or on the trail a dozen years or so ago.” The woman nodded her head. “That’s right, young woman.” She peered closely into Hope’s face. “You look to be an Indian. Are you?” “Yes, I am part. My father was Osage, Cherokee, and Scottish.” “Ah! That Osage and Scottish blood explains why you are so tall.” “True, but she’s part Dutch, too, from my side, even if you can’t see it. We’re going to get on a stagecoach at Saint Louis, and from there we will travel to Indian Territory. My son’s got a place near Fort Gibson. We’ll be livin’ with him and his family.” The old lady chuckled. “I have a feelin your girl won’t be livin’ there long if Alex Christie has somethin’ to say about it.” Hannah smiled big and patted her arm. “From your lips and in God’s ears.” Eight months later, Hope giggled as the baby stirred inside her. Gently patting her stomach, Alex whispered in her ear, “What’s so funny?” “That old lady must have been a prophet.” “What old lady?” “You know. That one on the train.” His hand couldn’t cover his big grin. “Oh, that old lady. Yes, Aunt Oma has been known to dabble in Cherokee medicine from time to time.” “You never told me she was your aunt!” “You never asked.”


Regina McLemore


hen my Cherokee ancestors arrived in Indian Territory, it was not a choice. Their names are included on a muster list of the Trail of Tears, and their strength has inspired me to write the stories that they might have told. My own story began in Stilwell, Oklahoma, where I have lived most of my life. By twenty-four, I was married with two children, teaching language arts at Stilwell retiring as the librarian of Siloam Springs Middle School in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, in 2010. Even though I returned to work temporarily as a part-time library clerk at Stilwell Public Library, I found time to pursue my passion, writing. For the next seven years, I was published in Guidepost Magazine, the Oklahoma Genealogical Society Quarterly, the Green Country Anthology, the Starwatch Anthology 37, and in various newspapers and newsletters. I am happy to say that I have completed a trilogy of Cherokee Clay, Cherokee Stone, and



IS EYES ARE TWO THIN slits as he stares into the setting sun. Two long shadows are cast in the dust. He tilts his Stetson, but it does little good. In silence he leads the horse by cracked leather reins. The horse with its head low, limps beside her companion. Blood coats the hoof of the left foreleg. Flies buzz. The stable is one of the first buildings on the edge of town. The smell of fresh horse-dung fills him with hope—the place is clean. “Anyone here?” he calls out. “What?” comes the reply, from behind one of the stalls. An old boy with grey stubble steps into the sheltered yard, his cheek bulging with a wad of tobacco. “My horse needs help, there a Doc in town that can deal with this?” he asks, indicating the lame leg. “Cheaper an’ kinder to put a bullet in the creature than use that drunken butcher,” replies the stable owner, bending down to look at the injury. “I’m all out of bullets.” “I can spare one for a nickle.” The stable manager smiles and spits a long streak of juice into the corner. By the light of a lantern and with the help of the

chaw chewer, he washes the wound. Fortunately, no maggots have set in, although an unpleasant smell turns his stomach over. Taking the knife from its sheath on his left hip, he pops the back off the bullet. He bends the horse’s leg up and takes the weight as she leans against him. Carefully, he pours the powder into the raw hole, creating a thin dark layer. Her flank quickly becomes slick with sweat, as she starts to panic. “Easy girl,” he says, stroking her nose and looking her in the eye. “We’ve been through a lot you and me. This has to happen.” He looks at the old man to check if he’s ready. “Hold her steady.” They both press her body against the stable wall. “You’re not paying me enough for this.” “Just hold her.” He strikes the match on the woodwork and touches it to the gunpowder in one fluid movement. With a bright flash, and an almost silent fizz, the gunpowder catches alight and a second later has burnt itself out. In the time it takes the powder to do its magic, he’s released his hold on the leg and they’ve


saddlebag dispatches

saddlebag dispatches

scrambled out of the confined space. They lean on the half door panting for breath, as she rears on her hind legs. Her cries of pain set the other horses neighing and jittering. In their panic, they’re kicking at the stable walls making a thunderous and almighty ruckus. Soon, she begins to calm, and stands with the hoof raised off the floor. Steam rises from her body. The smell of burnt hair fills the air. “Give her water, and the best feed you have. I’ll be back in half an hour.” He returns with fresh linen, smears iodine all around the wound, and bandages it as best he can. He will do the same tomorrow and change the dressing daily. Should the horse survive, it will be weeks before she’ll be shod again. “I need a place to sleep. Do you have a spare room?” “What’s wrong with the saloon?” “The soup.” “Dollar a night, including food. Ma does a mean stewed rabbit.” “Prices like that, I’ll need work.” “Sheriff’s looking for a deputy.” The stable owner laughed like a mule and spat more juice into the corner. “I’ll pay him a visit in the morning.” “Welcome to Tombstone, son.”


David B owmore


avid Bowmore has lived here, there and everywhere. Currently, he lives in Yorkshire with his wonderful wife of twenty years and a small white poodle called Floyd. He has worn many hats in his time. Notably he was a chef for many years, before finally turning to teaching the magic art of kitchen survival to up-and-coming young chefs. David started writing in 2017. His first published story ‘Sins of The Father’ won best in book in Vortex: The Inner Circle Writers’ Literary Anthology 2018. Since then his stories have appeared in more than a dozen anthologies and magazines published by Clarendon House Publications, Zombie Pirate Publications, Black Hare Press, Fantasia Divinity, Blood Song Books and Dastaan World. His first collection of short stories, ‘The Magic of Deben Market’ published by Clarendon House Publications is now available from Amazon. “A Bullet for the Horse” is his first short story to be featured in Saddlebag Dispatches. You can find out more by visiting his website at



saddlebag dispatches

SA D D LEBAG f e at u r e

AMERICAN CHESTNUT (CASTENEA DENTATA) An American Phoenix Rising from the Ashes Dr. Michael Lee


TRAGEDY OF BIBLICAL proportions occurred silently in the American heartland after the importation of Chinese Chestnut trees, which were brought in for an exposition in New York in 1904. American Chestnut trees were the apex trees in our forests at the time. One in every four trees were Chestnuts. It was said that a squirrel could travel from Maine to Georgia without ever touching the ground. During a full bloom in the summer, the forests were wreathed in snowy, white pollen, becoming white, undulating ocean waves from Canada to the southern Alleghany mountains. This wonderous specimen of hardwood tree hosted and sustained thousands of creatures from nematodes, to forest creatures, to man with its nourishing nut and strong, smooth-grained, long-lasting, chestnut-brown wood, for tens of thousands of years. These were the monarchs of the eastern forests, often rising over 100 feet high, boasting a girth of over 22 feet and a bole of over six feet.

Native American tribes used the wood for bows, for building shelters, rib wood for canoes, smoking pipes and firewood. The nut was unusual for a tree nut. It had little oil, but was rich in vitamin C, selenium, protein, carbohydrates and fiber. It was used similarly to grain or beans. After gathering, the nuts were left in a cool dry place for several days, allowing the carbohydrates to turn to sugars. The shell was sliced open to allow for steam to escape while roasting over open fires or over coals or they would explode like mini hand grenades. They could also be boiled. These methods allowed for easier peeling of the shell and the bitter dark brown membrane encasing the meat of the nut. What you had left was a large creamy white solid, sweet nut meat useful for eating out of hand, adding to stews, baked with other meats or vegetables in the fire pits, or making a sweet nut cooked in maple syrup or honey. Chestnuts could be dried and ground into flour, then used in porridges, soups and a kind of gluten-free bread or cake, similar to a bean cake or simply stored


saddlebag dispatches

for wintertime use. The taste has been described as carroty tasting, the texture was smooth and pleasant. Captain John Smith reported in 1612, that the local tribes “boiled the nuts for four hours to make broths and bread for feasts.” Early American pioneers used the tree for its nut, it’s wood and its shade. They enhanced their meager diets with this “famine” food as it stored up

to six months in dry storage. The nuts ripened later than other mast trees, so the food supply lasted longer. Deer, boar, elk preferred Chestnuts over acorns as the bitter tannins were less prevalent in the nut and did not take so long to process as acorns. A heavily producing Chestnut was a good place to find game in the fall. Pioneers loved the tree, using the wood for building cabins, furniture and fence posts, as the


saddlebag dispatches

wood was rot resistant. They took the nut one step farther than the local Indians and soon discovered they could make a beer out of the pulp and even whiskey. The nut developed a brewing sugar of eight percent after boiling or roasting. Later, as land was cleared and grain farming became more prevalent, corn and barley became the main grains for alcohol production. The chestnut was the thread that bound the eastern forests together for insect, man and animal. That all changed after the exposition in 1904 in New York city. A fungal scab was detected on a Chestnut tree across the street from the exposition. One of the biologists who walked past the tree every day noticed it on his way home. He gathered some samples to take back to his lab for examination. Crytophonectria parasitica or endothia parasitica was the isolated culprit. Asian chestnuts had developed immunity over thousands of years of natural selection. Castanea dentata did not. Imagine the light grid we see on TV, of all of the millions of homes being lit by our electrical power grid. Now imagine watching each of those lights winking from bright to black with the epicenter in New York, spreading ever faster outward like a forested tsunami wave. By 1950, over four billion chestnut trees in the eastern forest were dead. Laid end to end, these trees would have stretched one and a half times around the world. We could not stop it. Nothing could be done. The ecosystems around these trees disintegrated. Life forms that depended on these trees for their survival vanished without a whimper or much notice by the public. Deer population plummeted. Bee populations dropped. Without a single sound, an entire way of life



saddlebag dispatches


had vanished right before our eyes and there was nothing, we could do to stop it. The U.S. government tried different ways to fight the blight. None of their experiments worked. In about thirty-five years, an entire species had disappeared from our forests. Towering dead giants stood frozen in time as rotting monoliths. It was one of the largest, fastest extinction events in history. Our history books seldom mention this event. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire is a fairy tale we hear at Christmas. Children ask, “What are chestnuts?” Maybe, you have seen them in the market during the holidays, but didn’t try them, because you didn’t know how to prepare them. I still remember chestnut venders on the Circle in downtown Indianapolis, while I held my mother’s hand as we walked along, doing our Christmas shopping. They were like peanut vendors with

roasters and cone shaped paper sleeves that they put the mildly sweet charred treats in so you could carry them with you, peeling the nuts as you went. This scene is vacant from our lexicon these days. Charles Burnham was an accomplished plant breeder and hybridizer. He saw the government efforts at developing an immune tree failing and realized they were approaching the problem from the wrong direction. To develop a tree with immunity to the blight, he knew, would take a great effort and a very long and patient process. It had never been done before with trees,because it took time for the trees to reach breeding maturity and be able then to see how the next generation hybrid trees reacted and which ones were showing signs of resistance. He started his program to breed immunity by crossing an immune Chinese Chestnut parent with an American parent. He

saddlebag dispatches

mixed pollen and flowers, males and females and kept careful records. Castanea dentata was still stubbornly trying to eke out life. As the huge trees toppled, saplings sprung from the roots and stumps of the dead trees. These sapling trees grew quickly and started producing after four years, but the blight would finally get them. At best, these struggling spirits of the forest would last about fifteen years, before succumbing to the persistent blight. There were a few trees over thirty years old in isolated places around the country, that seemed to have a natural immunity. These survivors were used in the cross-breeding effort. The American Chestnut Foundation is working with Dr. Burnham. Other breeders around the country are also using some of the trees that seem to have natural immunity in an effort to keep the American Chestnut 100% genetically pure. The ACF has developed trees 15/16 genetically pure in an effort to build on the immunity of the Asian chestnut invader. They have started breeding nurseries around the country in an effort to build strong trees that respond to local conditions. These trees developed from back breeding of one generation to the next, appear to be the solution. They have trees surviving for decades. The blight may still attack, but the trees seem to wall off the infection and keep growing. This work is on-going and still has years of research to go. There is much hope. Experimental orchards have been planted in different parts of the country as some varieties do better in the South, others do better in the North, East or West as well. The trees can be grown almost anywhere but prefer an acidic clay soil with dry roots. Orchards are springing up from Maine to Florida and as far west as Texas. ACF is sending out seeds as they are developed to members to plant and report back on their development. A plan is in place to begin introduction back into the National Forests. Time will tell if they will regain their Monarch of the forest status again. Chestnuts are again being presented in our markets as fresh, canned or processed into flour. Many of these orchards are the Asian varietals. The Dunston chestnut is a popular tree for orchards and nut production. Deer populations prefer the chestnuts over their old

favorites, acorns and even corn. The Midwest has a number of producers of the American variety, which has a smaller sweeter nut. Look for the labeling as to where your chestnuts are coming from. Store your chestnuts in a dry cool place, they will mold and rot if kept sealed or allow dampness on the seed. Whether they are Asian or American varietals, check to see that they are grown in the U.S. I recommend you try this new old food. Here are many ideas for preparing chestnuts: Roasting over an open fire; After gathering, let the nuts rest for several days to develop their sugars. The drier they are the sweeter they are. All chestnuts need to be roasted, baked or boiled, so they can be peeled. It is difficult to get the inner membrane off without these steps. Slice an x into the shell or cut a slice across the mouth of the nut so it will open like a clam. Bake at 450* until the nuts open and the shells pull back away from the meat. Fire roasting adds a welcome dimension of flavor to the taste of the chestnut. Slice open the shell before boiling as well. Peel when cool. The freed nut can be eaten as is or chopped to put in stews, meatloaves, savory pies, casseroles. This is an easy way to explore how you like the flavor and how they fit in with your meal plans. You can use the ground flour to flavor cakes, puddings, smoothies and shakes. This nut is as useful as the soybean. You can make a pasta from it and eat like any pasta product. You can use it like a non-gluten flour. Europeans mix it with chocolate to make glaces’ and cakes. Pureeing lends itself to frozen ices, cremes and puddings. These are usually blended with chocolate, a traditional favorite. A long-time favorite is the nut sliced in half and cooked down in a sugar bath and candied. I hope I have piqued your curiosity about the All-American nut, Castanea Dentata, fighting to rise from the forest floor, back to its rightful place in our woodlands and on our tables. Be food curious. —Dr. Michael Lee is a contributing correspondent for Western Writers of America “Roundup” Magazine. as well as Saddlebag Dispatches. His fresh voice paints detail and gives historical authenticity to a frontier-life coming of age saga. He lives in Branson, Missouri.


saddlebag dispatches


ATE USED THE DARKNESS to mask her from the camp’s sentries as she slipped into the draw a mile upstream. She buckled her gunbelt, tied down the holster, and stuffed Hank’s heavier Russian in her waistband—its close-range stopping power might make the difference in tight confines. A deft touch assured her the Bowie was on her other hip and the boot knife rested safely where it belonged. This was her only chance. Slip into the camp and kill King. With their paycheck gone, the hands would drift. She wished there was another way, but he owned the law. Joining Matt and Dusty in the cabin wouldn’t help in the long run. King would simply starve them out or get Lizzie and use her to force them out. Then he’d kill the whole family. No, this was war. Kill or be killed. By the time she worked her way down the draw, most of the hands lay sprawled in their bed rolls, stars for their roof, a saddle for a pillow, banked embers for warmth. A single officer’s tent, almost as large as the cabin she and Matt shared with their two children dominated the middle of the camp. A bend in the draw, a mere twenty yards from King’s tent, captured driftwood during spring run-off every year. Two years ago, a long, thick log wedged in the space forming a shelter of sorts. Kate slipped behind the log and settled in. An hour remained before moonrise and the added glow of the waning moon would help her navigate the Bar KB camp. So, she waited—and contemplated killing a man. King wasn’t an elk to feed the family. He wasn’t an angry grizzly. Despite his actions, King was a human being. He would be asleep in his bed. Kate was under no delusions—what she intended was coldblooded murder. Yet, in its own way, wasn’t this as much about protecting her family as shooting the cat-

THE CULLING amount last summer? The lion had been in the act of attacking and she shot it. No difference. Could she bring herself to kill King? The moon’s leading edge poked above the eastern mountains. Time to find out. Kate checked her weapons one last time. She eased her head over the embankment, but any night watch was out of sight, so she boosted herself out of the draw. Shifting the Russian to the small of her back, she dropped to the ground, and made her way forward. Soft snores mingled with cricket chirps and the flutter of bats’ wings. Somewhere a coyote barked, and another answered. The camp remained quiet. Smoke from smoldering embers burned her nostrils and stung her eyes. As she belly-crawled toward her target, wetness from the summer-time dew soaked through her shirt, drawing a shiver from her. A loud snort interrupted a random gunhand’s snore. Nature and the camp fell silent. The man sat upright, looking confused. Not five feet in front of him, Kate froze in place. He looked right at her, the whites of his eyes large and bright in the moonlight. Even if he didn’t see her, she was certain her heart would give her away. The more she willed it to be still, the louder it seemed to pound. Surely the vibrations from its thumping would warn the camp. Her mind raced through options. None were good. The man squinted and peered hard in her direction. Had he seen her? Kate stretched for her gun Fingers touched the Colt. Her palm embraced the butt. Her thumb wrapped over the hammer. But then the cowboy-turned-soldier hauled his blanket over his shoulder and laid his head back on a saddle.



saddlebag dispatches

Sagging into the wet grass, Kate forced herself to take deep breaths. She allowed her hand to release the weapon’s grip. She felt the hand shaking. Her heart calmed like a train slowly reducing speed as it approached a town. The cowboy’s soft breathing reawakened the valley’s nightlife. Finally relaxed, Kate inched forward. King’s tent loomed before her. Kate rose. A quick glance at the moon told her thirty minutes had passed getting here—seemed twice that. With her ear to the canvas, she listened. Soft snores filtered through the thin wall. As she reached for the Bowie, creaks and rustles came from inside. The soft, whistling sleep sounds stopped, replaced by earthshaking rumbles. King must have flipped to his back. The sharp edge of her Bowie split the canvas with a single, near silent slice. Kate paused to make sure King’s sleep continued, before slipping through the long slit. Moonlight filtered through the slit behind her, drawing a straight line to his cot. Placing each foot carefully on the rough, uneven ground, she crept the five feet to his side. And stared down at the man who threatened her family. Could she do this? She imagined him with the face of a grizzly. The weight of a buffalo pressed on her chest. The veins in her temples throbbed. She had to do it. Just kill him and be done. She thrust the edge to his throat. He didn’t stir. Kate’s hand shook and the knife tumbled from weak fingers. She couldn’t do it. Cold steel—a gun barrel—poked into her neck. Rage overpowered the tears that threatened to spill. So focused on the task, she’d never heard him. Now what? “Didn’t know if you’d go through with it or not for a second,” Hank whispered in her ear, his foul breath rank in her nose. “Always good to know what your adversary is capable of, don’t cha think? Now, don’t move.” With his free hand he drew his gun from her belt. “I love this gun. Thanks for bringing it back.” Hank took a limping side-step, keeping his gun on Kate, and set the weapon on King’s night-

stand, well out of Kate’s reach. “I won’t underestimate you again, Little Woman.” King sat up. “I told you she’d try it,” Hank said. King swung his legs out of the cot and reached to light the oil lamp beside his bed. As he stood, his shadow wrapped from the wall to the sloped ceiling of the tent. He was a big man, both tall and heavy. Pudgy cheeks and thick waist told the story of a powerful man no longer active, instead using others to do his bidding. Looking down at Kate, his expression inscrutable, he replied, “So you did.” The barrel of Hank’s gun bit into the flesh under Kate’s ear. “Very carefully unbuckle your belt. Hand that hogleg to King.” After she complied, Hank grabbed her wrist and wrenched it behind her back. King glared at Hank. “Tie her up tight. No mistakes this time.” The ranch ramrod grabbed Kate with his other hand and hauled her back. Anger and momentum carried her into a fast spin. She slapped Hank as hard as she could as she wrested her arm from him. The force of the blow stung her palm and pain radiated all the way to her shoulder. Speed was everything. The slit she’d cut represented freedom and another chance. She made it one step. Her long hair pulled taut and

saddlebag dispatches



saddlebag dispatches

the tent floor slammed into her back emptying Kate’s lungs. Before she could recover strong hands flipped her onto her stomach and Hank dropped his weight on her lower back. Piggin’ strings lashed her hands behind her and her feet together. “Should I gag her?” “Let her scream. That’ll draw her hubby out real quick.” Hank nodded his assent and dumped Kate in the corner of the tent. Yellow flame glinted off the steel of her Bowie by King’s bed. Hank retrieved it. Kneeling beside his captive he touched the blade to her cheek. Kate tried to lean away. The tent canvas gave an inch, but prevented her escaping Hank’s advance. With the slow, deliberate movement of a predator stalking its prey, he pressed the blunt side of the point into her flesh and traced the line his pistol barrel had drawn earlier that day. She felt a thin welt raise. “King tells me I can do anything to you I want to get your hubby out of that stone cabin of yours. I can think of lots of things to make you yell real loud.” “I won’t scream,” Kate spat back. “You can’t make me.” Bile rose in her throat. “Oh, I think I can. Can’t wait for sunup.” He tapped the flat of the blade against her cheek. “Rest up. You’re gonna need your strength tomorrow.” Hank laughed and walked out. After he left, King settled into the chair next to his cot. “So, you’ll use a woman to get to her man,” Kate spat. “One could say your husband is using a woman to fight his battles. I don’t see him tied up here in my tent.” “It isn’t like that, and you know it. We fought for this land. Weather. Indians. Wild animals. Long before you ever came to this territory.” “Oh, my dear. You don’t get it. This land belongs to whoever is strongest. Indians took it from weaker Indians. You took it from them. Now, I’m taking it from you. Besides, this territory needs big, powerful landholders, politically connected cattlemen if we ever hope to be a state.” King rose and walked over to her. Staring down at her, he continued, “When I control all this, I can bring the railroad. Bar KB steaks will grace the tables of families all along the east coast.

saddlebag dispatches

You small timers could never hope to do that. Never hope to be strong enough to entice the railroads. Never strong enough to compete against Texas beef. No, this country needs me. And if a few nesters have to die…” He shrugged. “Well, so be it. It’s a small price to pay for progress.” “But we’re not nesters. We have legal claim to this land. We were here and filed on it long before you came. It’s ours.” Kate clenched her fists. Feelings of rage and frustration flooded over her. But she was helpless. She kicked her tied feet at King but accomplished nothing. He laughed. “Settle down. If you scream real loud for me tomorrow, I’ll let Johnnie take care of Hank before he can hurt you. Those two have been itching to get at one another since you escaped them on the mountain.” Johnnie. Kate allowed herself a glimmer of hope. For a killer, he seemed a decent sort. Maybe he would listen. Change sides. Maybe help her escape.

But no. In her heart she knew. Johnnie rode for the brand, and he was signed on to the Bar KB. If she was going to escape, it was up to her. King sat back in his chair and opened a book. At one point he held it up, looking at her. “Machiavelli. Ever read him?” Kate glared back but shook her head. “Too bad. Maybe then you’d understand.” Kate said nothing. King read well into the night. The .38 Colt Lightning had been rolled with her belt and left on a nearby table. The gun was close, if only she could get free. Piggin’ strings bit deep into Kate’s wrists and her hands grew numb. Clenching and unclenching her fists, she tried in vain to loosen the knots. Hank might be the ramrod, but he still knew how to rope a calf. Kate suspected he had no desire to experience King’s wrath a second time. As King read, her eyes grew heavy. She hadn’t slept the night before while helping Mary O’Shaugh-



saddlebag dispatches

saddlebag dispatches

nessy deliver her baby girl. Then, with Lizzie showing up at the door with news of the attack, and all the subsequent events, there had been no time to rest. Exhaustion drained her of hope. For all her bold talk, she knew Hank would have little trouble making her scream. How would Matt react? He would have little choice. But even if he secured a promise of safe passage for the family, it would mean little once King had possession of the deed. And what of the O’Shaughnessy’s? Mary’s husband was in the high pastures tending their herd and wasn’t due back for a few weeks. Would he have a family left? Matt had tried to talk him into abandoning the herd and bringing his family down to Lonely Valley, but O’Shaughnessy wouldn’t hear of it. Was this the end? Kate’s chin dropped onto her chest. — KING’S LOUD SNORES WOKE her from an uncomfortable sleep. Pre-dawn darkness blanketed the tent. Kate’s hands felt thick, stiff. Pain, as if she grabbed barbed wire, stabbed her fingers and palms as she flexed them—she swallowed the groan threatening to rise from her gut. She’d need to free her hands, and soon. But her Bowie was stuffed in Hank’s belt, not far from his reclaimed Russian. Twisting back and forth, she tried to work her hands under her hips. Hank had tied them too tight for that. Kate kicked her heels on the canvas floor in frustration. Her boot knife shifted. A smile curled her lips. Hank hadn’t searched her for other weapons. The knife’s hilt dug through the denim material of her slacks and bit into her calf. She kicked her heels again. The noise caught King mid-snore, drawing it into a wheeze. Kate held her breath, but he rolled to his side, immediately quieting his sleep. She rolled onto her back and tried shaking her legs. The blade didn’t fall. Excruciating pain radiated through shoulders already bent at an awkward angle and now forced to support her entire body weight.

Still she worked at it. The blade, after some initial movement, would not drop. She sat up, relief flooding her shoulders as despair crashed back into her soul. Through the slit in the tent, she watched as false dawn touched the eastern sky. Hank would return for her soon. The knots in her stomach drew tighter than the ones at her wrists. Kate tried to roll to her side, hoping to have another go at retrieving the knife, but now she was stuck. Somehow her wrists had slipped under the edge of the tent floor and caught on something. What? Jerking and yanking got her nowhere. Whatever it was held her wrists tight to the ground. With numb fingers, she probed for whatever the object. They touched something cold, metallic. She thought for a minute. Her eyes widened. A metal tent stake. The edges weren’t razor sharp, but they weren’t blunt either. She sawed her wrists. In desperation, she missed often, opening gashes along her wrists. Blood flowed, wetting the strings, tightening them. Still she worked on. Back and forth. “Time to wake up, Kate. Today’s our big day.” Hank’s loud voice carried from the edge of the camp. She must hurry before he woke King. As if in tune with her thoughts, King stirred. Kate’s pulse raced. Sawing her wrists harder, she felt some slack. Two more tries and her wrists were free. Hank’s voice neared. “Kate, darlin’. Time to wake up. You have a show to perform.” Free of the strings holding her wrists, she kicked and clawed her feet loose. Wobbly legs fought to support Kate. She reached for the tent wall to steady herself, leaving a bloody handprint behind. “Are you all ready for me, sweet Kate?” Lips smacked. Hank was right outside. Short, shallow breaths made Kate dizzy, but she must act now. King sat up and rubbed his eyes. “Hank, you fool. I was sleeping.” Kate took one step for freedom before remembering her gun. Three steps and she grabbed her weapon. Don’t stop. Keep moving. The slit she cut the night before beckoned her. She glanced back as she stepped through, just as Hank opened the front flap.



saddlebag dispatches

Their gazes locked. Lust turned to shock followed by fury. “Son of a bitch.” Hank lashed out at a nearby table. Wood splintered. “Stop her. She’s getting away.” Kate bolted for the draw. Hank’s angry screams scorched her ears. Twenty yards became fifteen. Her heel tangled in a hurriedly discarded blanket. Her breath caught as she fell. Sprawled on the ground. A bullet raised gouts of dirt next to her. Bear crawling, driven by surging adrenaline, each breath ragged in her throat, she fought forward. Ten yards. Shouts stirred the camp. Five yards. A shot rang out. The whine of the bullet passing close overhead sent Kate diving for the draw. She tumbled into the soft sand below. Scrambling to rise, pain shot through her right wrist. It wouldn’t move. Already swollen and numb

from being tied all night, now it was sprained, too. And that was her gun hand. Hunkered under the lip of the draw, she scrambled to crawl behind the driftwood she’d hidden in earlier. More shouts rose from the camp. “Where’d she go?” one asked. “There! I see her,” someone else shouted. “Fools, that’s Slim. Check the stream,” Hank called. No way she could stay here. Not in daylight. “Find that woman,” King Blanchard bellowed. “Two hundred dollars to the one of you who brings her to me. And don’t be gentle. I want her caught.” Quickly Kate buckled on her revolver. If today was the day she would die, she would go down fighting. On her terms. Rising from the sandy bottom, she peeked over the rim. Scrub hid her from sight above, and a bend in the draw hid her from searchers upstream and down. King stood by his tent, fully dressed, carrying his rifle. Stiff fingers refused to bend. She flexed them over

saddlebag dispatches

and over until a small amount of movement returned. It would have to do. She boosted herself up, but her right wrist collapsed under her. Falling forward, she landed on the valley floor. King spotted her as she stood. “There she is.” He swung his rifle and took a few steps toward her as he cried out. All thought left Kate. It was reaction. Pure instinct. Her hand flashed to the gun at her waist, it cleared leather and she palmed the hammer as she pulled the trigger. One smooth movement. Practiced. But her wrist was wrong. Her shot took King high in the shoulder. He grabbed for the wound, dropping his gun. His eyes went wide. She stepped forward and palmed the hammer again. With each shot another step, drawing her closer to King. Slugs from other handguns struck the earth around her, but the Bar KB hands didn’t dare fire too close for fear of missing, hitting one of their friends, or killing her—King needed her alive. Slugs buried themselves in King’s torso, each one twisting him back and forth. In only a few seconds her hammer fell on empty chambers. But the weapon had done its job. King fell face first, unmoving. Dropping to her knees beside him, Kate wept. She had never killed a man before. Couldn’t do it last night, when she had the chance. Relief. Grief. Guilt. Around her, ranch hands hesitated. First one, then others picked up their saddles. “No more paydays here.” Vaguely she became aware of another presence. A strong hand grabbed her by her hair and twisted her face around. Stars exploded in her head and she landed on her back. “I’m gonna kill you, Bitch,” Hank snarled, his fist poised for another blow. Hank’s weight pinned her hips. “You’ve caused me a great deal of grief.” His hands pawed at her. Kate raked her nails across his face and aimed a punch for his nose. He caught her fist and laughed. Bucking her hips, she fought to unseat him. With her other hand she reached out, searching for a weapon. Something. Anything.

“I’m gonna enjoy this. I like a woman with spunk.” Her eye landed on the Winchester King had dropped—just out of reach. He leaned in close. “I intend to get what I was promised.” Rotted teeth and other maladies fouled his breath. This time Kate retched, spewing Hank with what little remained in her stomach. “What the f—.” The ramrod jumped back, away from the spray. The move lifted his weight from her, and Kate was free. She scrambled away, grabbed the barrel of the rifle, and swung it as hard as she could. Hank dodged and the stock splintered on his hard chest. Snatching what remained of the smashed stock, he yanked the weapon from her and snarled, “You’re gonna pray for death long before I’m done with you.” Kate backed away, eyes wide. He drew her Bowie from his belt. “Maybe I’ll send pieces of you back to your husband.” He slashed a figure eight in the air as he stalked forward. Swifter than she imagined possible, he leaped at her, dragging her back to the ground. Knife at her throat his other hand grabbed her hair, forcing her head back. The knife’s edge pressed against her exposed throat. His strength, fueled by rage and lust, grew moment by moment, while hers waned. In that instant Kate understood she would die a horrible death. She had won the war. She killed King. Her family would be safe. But she would die at the hands of this monster. Unless? Flat on her back, Hank’s weight pinning her under him, she lifted her knee out and down, pulling her foot closer to her hip. Kate relaxed. Hank grinned. “Much better. Play nice with me and—.” His grin fell and he looked down. Kate’s boot knife protruded from his chest. He slumped to one side and fell off Kate. “I told you to kill him. Save me doing it.” Johnnie approached from the side, riding a dun with the Bar KB brand. Tears spilled from Kate’s eyes. In the heat of the fight, first with King and later with Hank, she’d forgotten about Johnnie. Exhausted, she closed her wet eyes and waited for the bullet she knew was coming.



saddlebag dispatches

saddlebag dispatches

“I’d have been here sooner, but Hank sent me away early this morning. Sent me to the pregnant woman’s place. Said I’d find your daughter there—that she’d make you much more cooperative.” Kate’s eyes flew open. Lizzie! “Where—.” “Relax. She’s fine. On my way back in I ran into a couple of the men. Said King was dead. So, I deposited her outside your cabin with your husband and son.” Sawing the reins, he turned the horse and rode away. Kate was alone in the camp. She looked up in time to watch Matt, Dusty, and Lizzie walking toward her.

D.N. Sample

— AS THE SUN BEGAN to snuggle behind the western peaks, Kate and Matt shoveled the final loads of dirt over Beau. Kate took a bouquet of daisies from Lizzie, who had, with Dusty’s assistance, picked several dozen. Tears streaked Kate’s face as she laid the flowers over the grave. She scrubbed her cheeks with the back of her hand. “Time we were getting home,” she said. “Tomorrow’s gonna be a busy day. Don’t suppose anyone will object if a few hundred head of Bar KB cattle wander into our herd now.” The four laughed together.



.N. Sample comes by his love of storytelling naturally. From his paternal grandfather, a Wesleyan Methodist preacher who sprinkled his sermons with stories only—cough, cough—mildly exaggerated, to his maternal grandfather—a crack shot

friends over a game of draughts, to Sunday dinners where the whole family gathered to enjoy Mom’s cooking and exchange humorous family anecdotes, he was raised to spin yarns and tell tall tales. Born in western New York, he moved his wife and young son to the Saint Louis area via Conestoga wagon— or a Dodge Shadow—in ‘93, where they still reside along with their two 70-pound pups of questionable heritage. Like many of the old west’s characters, Sample’s trails of a church, rode night herd over 250 rambunctious young men as a college resident hall director, corralled young soccer stars as both referee and coach, wrangled with the IRS as an Enrolled Agent, and rustled grub in two grub-hogs.



saddlebag dispatches


She’s branded as Sexy, Dark, and Gritty. She’s written for newspapers. She’s written for New York publishers. She’s written for more than a few small presses. Her lasting legacy, though, will be in nurturing and inspiring thousands of writers... And at least one publisher. (we just can’t tell you which one.)

story by

PAMELA FOSTER photos courtesy


saddlebag dispatches

SA D D LEBAG c o v e r s t o ry



saddlebag dispatches



saddlebag dispatches

In the winter of 2008... I tucked fifteen copies of the first five pages of a manuscript in progress under my arm and walked into a small conference room at the Lutheran church in Fayetteville, Arkansas. My heart rate was a bit higher than normal and I suspect my knuckles were white around the purple folder I set, with rather desperate bravado, on the table in front of one of the unoccupied chairs arranged around a cluster of mismatched tables. The first person I noticed was a big man in a cowboy hat. His voice boomed out at me. “Welcome! I’m Dusty Richards and I write westerns.” Cocking his head toward a woman with sparkling blue eyes sitting beside him he said, “This here is Velda Brotherton. She’s got a fair number of published books herself.” That first night, Dusty dominated my attention. He was that kind of man. Big. Loud. A man who could, and often did, make his trip to a grocery store into a tale that left you laughing, shaking your head, uncertain how much was fact and how much was fiction, and not caring to sort it out one wit. He was Dusty. Take him as he was, or walk away. Your choice. Over the five years I attended this weekly writing critique group, however, it became clear that while Dusty was the face and the voice of the Northwest Arkansas Writers Workshop, Velda Brotherton was the heart and soul of the group. When Saddlebag Dispatches asked me to interview

Velda, we expected the focus to be primarily on her recent work finishing several of Dusty’s novels and continuing with a western series he began. But Velda is an amazing author, woman, and historian. She is a person who has influenced hundreds, probably closer to thousands, of writers, local history buffs, and, frankly, pretty much everyone blessed to rub shoulders with her in person or through her remarkable writing. So, what you’re going to read here is a sort of mini-biography, penned with great admiration by one of the many authors and friends whom Velda has mentored over her long career as a journalist, historian, author, and speaker. Because I knew Velda began her writing career as a journalist, the first question I asked her was about those early years. She told me she began in 1987 writing articles and stories of local artists and crafts people for the Crawford County Press Argus-Courier. She went on to work as a feature writer for the Northwest Arkansas Times, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and The Washington County Observer, where she turned her writer’s eye to everything from wilderness schools, to the last pony express rider, to memorable stories which resulted in receiving a hearty hug from an enormous boa, or flying in the open cockpit of a small plane. If you’re not already a follower of Brotherton’s blog, do yourself a favor and go—go right now, you can come back to this article, we’ll be right here—to, read a few of the fascinating posts you’ll find there, and click the Follow icon.



saddlebag dispatches

Here’s what Velda had to say when I asked her about those days of collecting stories on the backroads of Northwest Arkansas: Velda Brotherton: Washington County has more dirt roads and single lane trails than most. The danger I faced was getting lost. Taking hubby with me prevented that ‘cause you could drop him in the middle of a hundred mile maze and he could work his way out. However, most of my early reporter days were carried out before he retired and could go with me. I drove a black Thunderbird hung low to the ground, so some trips were extremely tricky in those early days. The day I set out to interview a retired University of Arkansas professor led me on an adventurous journey. The professor gave me directions —remember this was in the days before GPS or cell phones. I had his instructions lying on the seat beside me. Something like this if I can recall: In Elkins, turn left at the grocery store. Drive two miles (Which quickly turned into a narrow, dirt road). At a T, turn right and go till you come to a huge rock on the left and a pasture of white cattle on the right. Turn left. When I made this last turn, the hood of my Thunderbird rose, then hung suspended, high in the air. I could not see down at all, my view was sky and distant mountain peaks. Once I had completed this final turn, I was to go down to a gate which he would leave open for me. I gritted my teeth, hung on for dear life, and let the Ford fall forward and onto a straight, steep lane. I had no idea if I would run into a fence or the gate, but sure enough, the road led into the yard of an old, but attractive home. Just below the house ran a wide creek. Thankfully, I was able to bring the car to a skidding stop before dropping into the running water. The interview introduced me to the professor’s grandfather, a ghost who sat under a spreading tree on the banks of the creek. As we talked, I saw the old man, a Civil War veteran, and I’ll always swear he waved at me. I waved back and my host smiled without speaking. On the way out, I got lost and had to get instructions from a couple of men high up an electrical pole. Later, I wondered if they, too, were out of the past. Pamela Foster: One of the first clues I had that the woman who sat beside Dusty every week at the Northwest Arkansas Writers Workshop had a whole lot of depth was when I attended a meeting of the Washington County Historical Society to see Velda become their 2010 Citizen of the Year.

Velda Brotherton: By the time I received that award, I had written several books of local history, including the history of Springdale, one of Washington County, and a short non-fiction book called Wandering in the Shadows of Time. The plaque is hanging on the wall, and I cannot get up high enough to read it anymore, but I will always treasure it. I went on to write one more non-fiction book The Boston Mountains: Lost in the Ozarks. Based on my first Ozark book, in 2003, a local video company, Multigrain Media, filmed me discussing my writing, then followed me around the county conducting interviews. The film, Velda Brotherton: Living among the Shadows of Time by Jim Lukens, was chosen to be shown at the Arkansas Film Festival in Batesville. It’s available online at Pamela Foster: This film gives remarkable insight into the mind and heart of this gutsy, gentle, fearless woman. “All the stories in the world are worth nothing if they don’t affect people.” Velda explains in this film. “It is the characters in a story—their motivations and emotions, more than their actions—that make us care.” Watching this film, in which Velda is younger than when I met her, seeing her vitality, her effervescence, made me wonder about her childhood. What upbringing allowed her to become the woman she is today? Velda Brotherton: I was born in a small log cabin near Lake Shepherd Springs, which is now part of Lake Fort Smith. My home site sits on a rise above the picnic area along the upper shoreline. My grandparents’ home is a part of an historical trail. We moved to Mountainburg when I was five so I could attend school there. In 1942 we moved to Wichita where my mother went to work at Boeing and my Dad enlisted in the Navy. Velda Brotherton: We moved to New York in 1962 where my husband went to work for Pan American Airways. Both our children were raised on Long Island. We had a small cabin cruiser, both of us attending school to learn how to handle a boat. It was a wonderful experience. In 1972, we came back to Arkansas and bought property about fifteen miles from where I was born. Pamela Foster: It speaks volumes as to who Brotherton is that a young woman from landlocked, rural Arkansas not only stepped foot onto a boat on an estuary of the great Atlantic Ocean, but attended classes so she could pilot that cabin cruiser herself.

saddlebag dispatches

I wondered if she had written during this time as a young wife and mother. Velda Brotherton: I wrote in my head from the time I was eight or nine. Never wrote a thing down though. Just spent my time in those other worlds that I created. I didn’t begin to write them down till I had some time off from work. I started with short stories. I attended a writer’s group at Garden City on Long Island, where Charles Lindberg made the first flight to Paris. I had to give up on the stories then, because I would sit up all night writing, go to work the next morning, then do it again. Finally, I put everything in a box and didn’t write again till we moved back to Arkansas where I stayed at home to take care of cattle, pigs, rabbits, and chickens, plus raising a garden and canning. Yep, we were hippies, but we called ourselves back-to-landers. It was a fun time. I’ve had a fantastic life filled with excitement and adventures. Pamela Foster: The underlying theme of Brotherton’s life is that she enjoyed each and every part of it. I believe the woman was an early practitioner of what my meditating friends call Mindfullness. The first time I read, on that long ago evening at the Northwest Arkansas Writers Workshop, Dusty listened in his usual closed-eyed manner and, when I finished, my heart pounding, a tinny ringing in my ears, the big cowboy proclaimed, “Well now, that’s damn fine writin’, but it ain’t fiction.” I had no idea what he was telling me. It took the soft-voiced woman sitting beside him to translate. Velda smiled. “He’s saying he’d like to hear more action and less narrative.” Velda and Dusty mentored me through all eight of my published books. I hear their voices every time I put fingers to keyboard. Like so many others, I am the writer I am today because of their partnership. I left Arkansas almost four years ago and their advice and direction continue to guide me. Dusty could be gruff. Velda was the peacemaker. The exception being, if someone was rude or mean to another writer during critique. Then, those of us who knew her shrank back in our seats, sucked in our breath, and waited for the inevitable Velda lecture about supporting one another. But long before I walked into that critique group, Velda, her husband, Don, and Dusty and his wife, Pat, were tight friends.




saddlebag dispatches


Velda Brotherton: Dusty and I met in 1985. Neither of us could later remember if it was at Ozark Writers League or Ozark Creative Writers because we went on to get together at both. As I walked into OWL, so nervous I could hardly speak, and carrying my lunch in a paper sack, I saw his cowboy hat above the crowd. At the feet of Jory Sherman, we learned the basics of our craft. We later began to talk about writing and OWL was the only place around Northwest Arkansas for writers to gather and learn. Then at OCW, I walked in and spotted him again. Everyone’s heard Dusty’s story about taking some contracts with him to his first conference, because he was afraid they wouldn’t let him in without proof he was a writer. When we learned we came from the same area, we promised to get together. I was already working with another hopeful writer. We read our work to each other and had no idea what we were doing. So, he, she, and I attended a Poets and Writers group in Fayetteville. That group wasn’t for us. We went to the Romance Writers Meeting. They were so vicious to us, we left with our tails between our legs. At that point, we vowed to begin our own group and treat people like we wanted to be treated. We soon attracted about six other local authors. That’s when Northwest Arkansas Writers was founded. With no

officers, and charging no fees, we began to search for a free place to meet. Whoever could, attended a conference and came home to share what they’d learned. That was mostly Dusty and I ‘cause he had a Tyson’s truck and we could better afford to go. As a group, we’ve met once a week ever since. We’ve gone from twenty-eight attending members to four or five, and back again. Several published writers have emerged from our gatherings. We encouraged always. It wasn’t allowed to extinguish the flame or kill the voice. Some could not take our help and quit. The only time we ever canceled a meeting was when most of us were attending a conference. Dusty’s wife, Pat, was a constant supporter, attending almost every meeting. She and my husband often retired to a corner and visited or each read their favorite book. Now that Dusty is gone, I’m doing my best to continue the weekly meetings which have been moved from Thursday nights to Saturday afternoons. I continue to drive fifty-two miles round trip each week to attend. Pamela Foster: One of my favorite Dusty stories is the one he told about his early days as a writer. He submitted a short story to a western magazine. The publisher sent the manuscript back with a

saddlebag dispatches


note that said, Dusty, this is a helluva story, but we don’t publish anything over ten pages long. Dusty sat down at his Commodore-64 word processer, found his way to settings, and widened the margins, shrunk the font from twelve to eleven, and tightened the top and bottom margins until he produced a ten page manuscript. He resubmitted his story. The publisher sent it back. Again. This time the note read, Dusty, I don’t know what you did, but I can’t publish this. You’ve cut the heart right out of the story. Now, if I had gotten a second rejection like this one, I would have concluded that my writing was not up to the magazine’s standard. But Dusty told this story again and again as an example of why, as writers, we shouldn’t give too much weight to the opinion of publishers. I am willing to bet that he never abandoned that short story. He may have tightened it, added to or subtracted from it, but the essence of the tale he wove, remained, in one form or another. Dusty’s confidence and generosity were as wide as the western sky, as were his personality and ego. That being said, he was not always an easy man with whom to work... as Velda and some of their fellow writers would come to learn.

Velda Brotherton: In the early days, Dusty and I traveled together to conferences and writers’ events. Our spouses were still working. I was very nervous the first time he invited me to go along to a conference, till I learned that his wife, Pat, encouraged it because she worried about him going alone. So, I was to become his keeper and companion for several years before she retired and we became The Threesome Plus. Once he hauled about six of us gals to New Mexico for a conference. That’s when we earned the name Dusty’s Girls. No one could have more fun than “that old cowboy,” as he referred to himself more than once. We would get lost and he’d meander around awhile, joking and laughing, till we found our way back to the route. If one of us knew a way to go, he would give it a try and never fuss if it didn’t work out. Once, in Ten Sleep, Wyoming, we stopped at Dirty Sally’s Country Club. Inside we found no one. Then a voice came from out back. “Look around. I’m stirring choke cherry jelly.” Dusty headed that way. “Let me stir that for you and you can help the girls.” The girls being Pat and me. I still have my t-shirt from Dirty Sally’s. My daughter sewed it into a quilt that holds a small percentage of my t-shirt collection. Hanging on the wall it keeps me reminded of all those years Dusty and I and Pat spent together.



saddlebag dispatches


Dusty knew everyone, and if he didn’t, he soon did. He was the largest, the loudest, the nicest voice in any crowd, no matter where we went. Some few took umbrage at that, but he paid them no mind. Once he got all the members in our group to go together and buy me a plaque that honored my years and work with the group. Ask for his shirt, his hat, his boots, and you could have them. Everyone knows that he was the one who shoved me, kicking and screaming, into a room with a western editor from Penquin for an interview that ended with me getting a four book contract with Topaz. He was bigger than life, and I love him like a brother. I have to stop and cry for a while now because I miss his presence, though he remains with me in spirit. Pamela Foster: The older we get the more we are expected to become accustomed to losing friends and loved ones to illness and to bodies that have simply worn themselves out. But Dusty and Pat died tragically and unexpectedly.

saddlebag dispatches

Velda Brotherton: Dealing with their deaths has been terribly difficult. I’ve tried to deal with it as he would want me to—continue writing and never forget all he taught me. Even now, when I’m writing something western, he peers over my shoulder, just in case I need correction in that special western lingo. He was lying in the hospital bed soon after Pat died, and he asked for me. It was arranged that I could visit him Friday morning at 8 a.m. He left for greener pastures that morning before I could get there. I was his buddy and always will be, as he was mine. Pamela Foster: Brotherton has taken on the job of finishing some of Dusty’s novels. No one knew him and his writing better, but that still seems a daunting task—to complete the work of another author, especially an author of Dusty’s caliber. Velda Brotherton: You’re right, this is a daunting task. I wondered if I could carry through with it. At this point, besides finishing Blue Roan Colt, I have written two books in The Texas Badge series and am halfway through a third. No one has edited that series yet, and I’m really nervous. My name will be on these books

along with Dusty’s, because he created the series and the main characters. I needed to keep his vision of the stories true. Yet, as a writer, I must insert myself in them as well. I asked to create another character to help me do that and it was allowed. Still, I wanted these books to entertain the audience that followed Dusty. I hope I have done that. Only time will tell as they are judged by his faithful readers. The gift this gives me is not only to keep Dusty’s memory alive, but to introduce his readers to my stories as well. That his family and our publisher trusted me to carry out this task gives me the courage to do so. I tell everyone I wrote my first westerns at Dusty’s side. My first one won a contest he sponsored and judged, and as you know, those are anonymous. He was surprised to learn I had written it. At his continued urging, that story went on to be published as a western romance with Penquin/Topaz. One of the tricks I followed in these books was to remember and use the slang words that were Dusty’s favorites. I can still close my eyes and hear him telling me a story. And when I do something wrong, he nudges me and tells me to fix it. I have never felt more honored than to be asked to edit and finish Blue Roan Colt.



saddlebag dispatches



saddlebag dispatches





saddlebag dispatches

As with all his stories, Blue Roan Colt is unique and touches the heart. He was definitely a talented storyteller. He didn’t worry so much about grammar or spelling, but wow, could he spin a yarn. I’ve listened to him tell stories, one after another, as we traveled or spent time between conference meetings. Unlike so many storytellers, he rarely repeated one. He did like to repeat jokes or things that happened to him, but not stories. There were so many of them shoving to get out. The first thing I did, of course, was read what we had of Blue Roan Colt, which was about half. He had finished the story, but it needed that many more words. I set about expanding it, scene-by-scene, remembering how he would describe riding out across the plains, his favorite words, reactions to situations. I could close my eyes, and he was in the room with me. If I told it wrong, he scolded me and made me write it again. When I took something out or changed it a bit, I did the same with him. I was told by readers who knew his work that my words in Blue Roan Colt are so seamless, they can’t tell what is his and what is mine. I am so very proud of this book, because he and I wrote it together.

saddlebag dispatches




saddlebag dispatches


Pamela Foster: Velda is an inspiration to so many writers, to so many readers and historians. At an age when many of us have slowed down, her creative energy still rises and splashes over onto everything and everyone she touches. Her joy in life is contagious. Her ability to find the good in nearly everyone, and the way she takes the time to support the creative spark in others is an absolute gift many of us treasure. Velda Brotherton: I think absorbing myself in the work and hopes of others has helped me to live this long, happy life. That may sound strange, but when I sit down with another author who has hopes for their writing, someone who has put their heart and soul into a story, I feel their desires and their dreams, and I join them in working toward their goals. When that happens, I forget my aches and pains, my disappointments and fears of failure for myself. I think the way to live a long and happy life is to not dwell on our own problems but help others. Their

success then becomes ours. Oh, sure they might fail, as we all can once in a while. But then, together, we can get up and try again. Their success fills me with happiness as does my own. I am so proud of the writers who have taken the reins Dusty and I handed to them and have succeeded in their writing desires. My mother set an example for me I can’t forget. She wasn’t a writer, but she was gifted in other ways. She spent her retirement years volunteering wherever she was needed and was always happy and carefree. I guess it just rubbed off on me, as did Dusty’s generosity and goodness. He made my life better, and I can only hope I did the same for him. —Pamela Foster is an award-winning novelist, educator, veteran’s advocate, and world traveler. Born and raised in Eureka, California, she brings a unique and powerful perspective to everything she writes, and is a regular contributor to Saddlebag Dispatches.

saddlebag dispatches





saddlebag dispatches


HEN MOSE CROSSED OVER into the Territory from Ft. Smith, he had every intention of avoiding the Boston Mountains in the north of Arkansas. He planned to skirt those hard-to-ride hills and the rest of the Ozarks altogether until picking up the old trail in southwest Missouri that led to the one-time prime trailhead town of Sedalia. He hoped there might still be work there. During his first full day out of Ft. Smith, however, his plans changed—and changed quickly. From out of nowhere, an early norther blew up across the flat lands of the Territory and drove him south toward Texas. Riding into the little town of Nopal at daybreak, the norther still on his heels, he headed Buster, his dependable buckskin, for the usual place he figured he could hole up and ride out the weather—the local livery stable. Remembering the kindness of Henry Hallow, the blacksmith and stable man back in Ft. Smith, he hoped the Nopal smithy would run just as friendly an establishment. It turned out be a false hope. “A dollar a night.” The blacksmith grunted, not raising his head when Mose reached his hand out for shaking. “You sleep on the hay and you feed your animal.” “One dollar?” “Take it or leave it.” Mose turned Buster to go. “Six-bits.” He kept Buster moving. “Four-bits.” He reined in Buster and backed him up. “Clean hay for my horse and for me.” “Suit yourself. Four-bits.” He dug down in his shirt pocket and came up with the money. “Put the animal in the middle stall across there.” “That’ll be good.” What a difference between old Henry in Ft. Smith and this character. The man still hadn’t even looked at him, much less introduced himself.

NOPAL, TEXAS After unsaddling Buster and giving him a currying, Mose climbed up to the stable loft and found some clean hay to lay his bedroll on. He dug in his saddle bags for some jerky he’d bought in Ft. Smith and after eating a couple of chunks of it, lay down for a rest. Around dusk, the smith stopped his banging and clanging below and left the stable. Mose tried to sleep, but it was just too early. Instead he closed his eyes and daydreamed about riding a wide, sure-footed trail into a land of high green grass and tall thick trees. He could see a small creek running alongside the trail and there were small mountains, not much more than hills, in the blue distance and a … suddenly, he opened his eyes, quickly out of his daydream. Someone was in the stable below. It had turned dark and he couldn’t see the floor or stables well, but he heard Buster snort and dig at the ground with his hooves. Carefully reaching for his .36 caliber Navy revolver in its holster beside the bedroll, he took the weapon and quietly moved to the edge of the loft. There was someone stirring below. He aimed his pistol at the figure and called down. “Who’s there? What are you doing?” The figure stopped moving, but there was no answer. Mose made a production out of cocking the .36. “Wait, wait.” A high voice cried out. “Don’t shoot. I’m the smithy’s wife.” “What are you doing down there?” “Come to see if you’s hungry. Got some food here.” He heard a scratching on one of the stable’s wood beams and then a match flared. The woman lit an oil lamp she carried and set it on a work table. “Biscuits and bacon.” She called up. “Figured you might like some.” “Yes, ma’am.” He holstered the .36 before hustling down out of the loft.



saddlebag dispatches

In the light of the lamp, the smithy’s wife looked to be several years her husband’s junior. She had long brown hair, flowing wild and free, and sharp, playful brown eyes. Her skin was dark and smooth, with a narrow attractive nose above her full mouth—which seemed always on the verge of forming into a laughing sneer. Her long, form-fitting cotton dress left little doubt as to her womanly attributes. “I reckon you was some hungry.” She watched him tear after the food. From the little curl in her well-defined lips, it looked like she might have more to say on the subject—on any subject for that matter. “I reckon I was.” He took a big bite of the bacon and biscuit and considered that the smithy wouldn’t necessarily cotton to the wife being out in the stable chatting with him after dark—whether it was to bring food or not. “There’s water here, too.” The woman pointed to a small cup beside the cloth she’d brought the food in. “’Preciate it.” He took a swig of water with his last bite of food. “How much I owe you?” “You don’t owe me nothing.” The woman moved up close to retrieve the food cloth. Mose downed the rest of the water and handed her the cup. Her hand grazed his during the exchange. It felt like lightning running through his body. The woman moved closer yet. She was so close he could feel the warmth of her body and the smell of something sweet on her breath. He suppressed an urge to put his arm around her waist. “I better get back up in the loft.” He rose quickly. Just as he did, the blacksmith came banging through the back door of the stable. “What is going on out here?” He bawled. “Whoa.” Mose instinctively backed up. “Nothing’s going on.” “You get back in the house.” The smithy growled at his wife. The woman turned and with a lovely sneer for both men, sashayed right out of the stable as if she were a noble lady strolling in a manicured English garden. The smithy glowered at her retreating figure, and when she was gone, turned his harsh glare on Mose.

saddlebag dispatches

“Stay away from my woman, if you know what’s good for you.” “I wasn’t doing nothing with your woman, and I wasn’t intending to.” “You saddle tramps think you can just come in anywhere and take what you want.” “I don’t think no such thing, and I’d be going easy on the saddle tramp talk.” “I’ll say what I…” The smithy stopped jabbering when he saw Mose square up into a fist-fighting position. “I… just don’t like nobody messing with my wife.” “I done told you I wasn’t messing with nothing.” The smithy looked him up and down, saw the hard, clenched fists, the fire in the eyes, the position ready to strike. He backed away. Slowly, but surely, snatching the lamp off the work table where his wife had left it. When the troublesome man was gone, Mose let out a deep breath and relaxed his hands and body. Seemed like these days somebody was always trying to start something with him. In the dark of the stable he climbed back up into the loft to his bedroll and lay down to try and get a night’s sleep. He kept the .36 nearby just in case. — HE WOKE NEXT MORNING to a commotion in the road outside the stable. Sleepy-eyed and still groggy from his long run on Buster away from the recent storm, he slowly raised himself up and peered over the loft edge. The blacksmith was there already, preparing for his day’s work. “What’s all that ruckus out there?” “You cowboys are mighty slow for rising, I reckon.” “Don’t concern me no how.” “If you have to know, they was a stagecoach robbery yesterday. The guard was winged and a passenger shot and killed.” “My, God, that’s terrible.” “Hmph.” The conversation seemingly over, Mose put on his boots and started gathering his gear. There didn’t

seem to be any reason to stay in this place any longer, especially now that the norther had apparently bypassed the little town. Down in the stable, he fed and watered Buster. The smithy acted like he was busy, but he was keeping track of every movement Mose made. “Leaving in a hurry?” “I don’t see any….” Of a sudden, the doors of the stable swung open and several men marched in. At their head was a big man wearing a star. “Morning, Enoch.” The lawman spoke to the smithy, while giving Mose a quick once-over. “Morning, marshal.” Mose tossed a blanket on Buster’s back in preparation for saddling him. “I reckon you heard about the stagecoach, Enoch?” “Yes, marshal. Got you a killer on your hands. A loner was it?” “One man. Shot the guard, killed a passenger. Rode on toward Nopal, according to the driver.” “Anybody else get it?” “No, thankfully. A woman and man, not together, were unhurt. The other poor fella got it in the neck. Bled to death out there.” Enoch turned his head in Mose’s direction, enough to make the marshal do the same. Mose was tossing the saddle onto Buster’s back. “What about you, young fella, what’s your story?” “My story?” “Yeah, where you from? Where you heading in such a hurry?” “I ain’t in a hurry. I’m just leaving. Ain’t the most hospitable place I seen.” “Where were you late yesterday?” “Riding into here.” “He come in right about after that shooting.” Enoch volunteered. “Come off the trail. He’s a saddle tramp. He might be your man.” “You son of a …” “Easy, son.” The marshal blocked Mose’s path to Enoch. Some of the men with the lawman moved forward as well. “We just need to ask you a few questions.” “It’s him.” Enoch wagged a finger. “I know it is. He paid me with brand new coins. Bet he got them from



saddlebag dispatches

the strongbox on the coach. I knew they was something wrong with him right away. Scared my wife in the night, too. Near raped her, I figure.” “Why you lying dog.” Mose menaced Enoch. The smithy took refuge behind the marshal’s delegation. “Hold up, boy.” Two of the marshal’s biggest men grabbed Mose who started to struggle, then thought better of it. “You’re making a big mistake, marshal. This lying weasel made all that stuff up.” “We’ll decide that over at the office. You come along peaceful, son, or we’ll take you the hard way.” “I ain’t done nothing.” — THE NOPAL CITY JAIL was not much more than a cage at the back of the tiny marshal’s office. There was only one rickety wooden cot with a filthy, lice-infested mattress that could have doubled for a wornout blanket it was so thin. Mose ended up putting the mattress under the cot, finding hard wood more comfortable than the insect-filled padded cloth. Well into late afternoon, after leaving him to his own devices for the better part of the day, the marshal, a thick-headed deputy, and some man named Carlton who had something to do with the local court bustled into the jail with news. “We found your stash of loot, boy.” Carlton blustered, as the three men gathered around the cage. “I ain’t got no stash of loot.” “What do you call this, then?” The thick-skulled deputy held up a twenty-dollar gold-piece and a wad of paper money. “I call that wages.” “Nobody makes that much money.” “We found it among your belongings, son.” “Look, marshal, I earned that money. Ridin’ trail.” “That gold-piece is spanking new.” The deputy turned the coin over in his fingers. “Like it came off that strongbox from the robbery.” “Why you hiding that money, if you earnt it?” Carlton huffed. “Why do you think?” “You stole it, that’s why.”

“I’m on the trail these days, you can’t leave what you got out in the open.” “Where were you headed?” The marshal asked. “Sedalia.” “Sedalia?” Carlton laughed. “Boy, you are a liar. You come in from the north, the smithy seen that. You going the wrong direction if you was going up to Missouri.” “I was trying to outrun the norther. You call me a liar again and I’ll come out of here and knock your head off, mister.” “See, marshal.” Carlton jumped back from the cell. “He’s the one. He’s the killer. He’s threatening to kill me. For nothing.” “Take it easy, son.” “I’m telling you, marshal, I never had nothing to do with no stagecoach robbing nor killing. And I don’t like being called a liar by some cowardly polecat.” “You’ll think polecat.” Carlton backed toward the jail door. “You killed a god-fearing man. A man from this town. People knew him good. You’ll pay for this. People in town will see to that. You’ll pay soon.” “Calm down, Carlton.” The marshal advised. “Judge Winter will be here in a couple of days, he’ll decide.” “There may not be nothing to decide by then.” Carlton opened the jail door. “There won’t be no need for a trial.” “Go on.” The marshal told him. “Mark my words.” Carlton called back from the doorway. “It’ll be settled long before that.” After Carlton, the would-be vigilante, and the lawmen left, Mose tried to calm his nerves by lying down and resting for a bit. He stretched out carefully on the wood slats of the cot, his feet dangling off one end, and closed his eyes. He tried to picture in his mind what his parents looked like, but too many other images from the last ten years of his life gained the forefront, and he could not clearly picture either his mother or his father’s face. He could remember the handful of battles he’d been in when serving under General Shelby in Missouri. Boonville, Waverly, the bitter defeat at Westport. The retreat and collapse of General Prices’ command. The flight into Mexico and the mixed experience in the Carlota colony. It was there ….

saddlebag dispatches

He was startled awake by loud shouting outside the jail. Sitting up quickly, he was surprised to see it had gotten completely dark. The unseen mob was loud and boisterous, but he could occasionally hear the marshal’s voice over the general clamor. He was sure he heard Carlton and maybe Enoch as well. “He killed Bert.” He heard Carlton’s voice in the night. “Kill him.” Came a chorus of angry voices. “Take it easy now.” The marshal counseled the mob. “Bert was our friend.” Someone cried. “He was mine, too.” The marshal allowed. “But lynching this fellow without a trial ain’t right.” “We want him.” Someone else demanded. “Now.” Mose thought it might have been Enoch. The next outburst from the crowd was unintelligible and his attention was then drawn to a nearer, different sound. It was a hissing noise coming from the back of the cell. He got up from the cot and walked back to the barred window to find its source. At the window, he was shocked to see Enoch’s young wife just outside the back of the jail. “What are you doing there?” “I got your horse. I’m gonna bust you out of there before they hang you.” “What? What are you talking about?” Outside the barred back window, he could see the woman had Buster saddled and ready to go. “Here.” She reached the end of a thick rope inside the jail to him. “Knot that around the window bars. This adobe ought to fall apart like dry sand with a good pull.” “Are you crazy, woman?” He held the end of the rope like it was a dirty yellow rattlesnake. “I’m under arrest. I gotta wait for the judge to come. There’s gonna be a trial when he gets here. I’ll be let go. They’ll see I’m innocent.” “They’ll see you’re hung is more like it. You ain’t gonna make it through the night much less till the judge gets here.” He listened to the loud, unintelligible sounds of the vigilante crowd outside the front of the jail. The woman had a point. “You got that rope tied tight to the saddlehorn on Buster?” “I will, on one condition.”



saddlebag dispatches

“Oh, no.” “You gotta take me with you.” “Woman, I’ll be lucky if I make it a mile out of town even if we do pull this window out. They’ll be coming hell bent for me, lickety-split.” “I cain’t stay here. Enoch beats me. He’s a God-awful man, mister.” “If I take you, we both die. Buster cain’t carry the both of us.” “He looks big and strong.” “Not that big and strong.” “Please.” “Listen, lady, I thank you truly for helping me, but I gotta go alone. There’s no other way.” The woman was silent. Mose listened to the mob out front. It was getting louder. There was no time to lose. “Bust me out, woman, or forget about it. It’s dark out there, run off the other side. Nobody’ll see you. That old man of yours won’t know you did it.” “Damn, mister.” “I’m sorry.”

“Damn.” But she made sure the rope knot on the saddlehorn was as tight as she could get it. He hooked his end around each of the two bars closest to where he stood. They looked the weakest. He tied the rope off tight. “Swat Buster on the rear. Hard. He’s strong.” The woman did as she was told and Buster gave a leap forward, straining against the rope and the wall it and he was attached to. The lady swatted the horse again and he pulled hard against his restraints. The barred window pulled out on the side closest to Mose and with a hard kick he knocked two chunks of adobe wall loose. Buster jerked forward again with another slap on the rear and the wall separated enough for Mose to climb through. He was out. Free. “God bless you, lady.” He pulled the knotted rope loose from the window bars.The woman gave him a quick hug, shoved a pistol into his hand and dropped something round and shiny into his shirt pocket. Without another word she disappeared into the darkness.

saddlebag dispatches

He could hear the crowd going wild in front. They’d heard the noise. He didn’t have much time. Sticking the pistol behind his belt, he ran to Buster, clambered into the saddle and dug his heels into the horse’s sides. The spirited animal practically leaped forward, then galloped into the desert night as they shot out of the little town and onto the stagecoach road. Behind them, the mob cursed and yelled, fired wildly and inaccurately in the general direction of the escapees. None of the rounds even came close to them, but he kept Buster at a gallop until sure they were completely out of range. He ran the animal as fast and hard as he dared in the available light. About a mile or so outside Nopal they left the stagecoach road and headed due north toward the Big Dipper, toward the refuge of Indian Territory, toward freedom. When he could no longer hear anything but the normal sounds of night, he reined Buster in and let him cool down at a reasonable walking pace. The night was still, reassuringly quiet. He was sorry he had to leave the lady back there to deal with her vicious husband and the mindless mob, but there was nothing he could do about it. They were planning to string him up. He had to escape. As the night deepened into its darkest hours, man and horse were one in the opaque shadows. Nopal was well in the distance now. Mose kept them on a northerly trail. He never once looked back. TO BE CONTINUED....

J.B. Ho gan


. B. Hogan is an award-winning author, poet, and local historian. A veteran of the U. S. Air Force Security Service and Tactical Air Command, he holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from Arizona State University (1979). For many years he worked as a technical writer in Arizona and Colorado. To date, he has published over 270 stories and poems, as well as ten books. Among his books, all published by Oghma Creative Media, are Time and Time Again, Mexican Skies, Tin Hollow, Living Behind Time, Losing Cotton, and Fallen. His first two books, The Apostate (fiction) and Angels in the Ozarks (nonfiction baseball history) have been acquired by Oghma Creative Media and will be re-released in the near future. He has served as chair and a member of the Fayetteville (AR) Historic District Commission. He also has served as president and board member of the Washington County (AR) Historical Society which in October 2019 honored him with its Distinguished Citizen Award. He spends much of his time researching, writing, and giving tours and lecturing. He also plays upright bass in the family band East of Zion, who play an eclectic mix of bluegrass-tinged Americana music.



saddlebag dispatches


SA D D LEBAG f e at u r e

GOODBYE, PETER FONDA Peter Fonda died of lung cancer on August 16, 2019. He was 79 years old. Terry Alexander


ETER WAS BORN IN New York City to Henry Fonda and Francis Ford Seymour on February 23rd, 1940. He is the younger brother of Jane and the father of Bridget and Justin. His first western role was in an episode of Wagon Train in 1962, “The Orly French Story.” The entry starred John McIntire and Denny Miller and guest starred veteran actor John Doucette as Marshall Jason Hartman. He was escorting Orly French (Fonda) back to Dubuque for trial for bank robbery. In December 1965 he filmed a pilot for a western series, “High Noon: The Clock Strikes Noon Again.” Unfortunately, the show was not picked up. In 1969, he appeared in his most famous role in Easy Rider, directed by Dennis Hopper He directed and starred in his first western feature in 1972, The Hired Hand which co-starred Warren Oates and Verna Bloom. In the film. Harry Collings returns home after drifting with his friend Abe (Oates) for many years. Hannah (Bloom) allows him to stay at her ranch as the hired hand. Harry thought

things were going his way until he has to make a difficult decision. In 1979, he directed and starred in the western comedy Wanda Nevada with Brooke Shields. This film marked the only time he appeared in a movie with his father Henry. The film is a semi-modern take on westerns, it took place in the 1950’s. Drifter and gambler Beaudray Demerille (Fonda) won Wanda Nevada (Shields) in a poker game. She ran away and witnessed two men kill an old miner who was bragging about having a gold mine in the Grand Canyon. She retrieved a bag that the old man dropped and found his treasure map, the two then ventured into the Grand Canyon in search of gold. Hawken’s Breed came to the movie screen in 1987. It’s generally considered one of the worst westerns ever made. The film co-starred Jack Elam and Sue Ann Langdon. In Tennessee, in 1840, a rugged drifter (Fonda) helped a young Shawnee woman, saving her from a rogue band of Shawnee. After a long absence, Peter returned to the western


saddlebag dispatches

genre in the film South of Heaven, West of Hell. He played the character of Shoshone Bill. The movie starred Dwight Yoakam, Billy Bob Thornton, Vince Vaughn, Bridget Fonda and Paul Reubens. Fonda was a support player in this film. Valentine Casey, a US Marshal in Tuscon, Arizona, was surprised on Christmas Eve in 1900 when his outlaw family paid him a disturbing visit. He made Wooly Boys with Kris Kristofferson and Keith Carradine in 2001. A modern day western of sorts about sheep ranchers in the badlands of North Dakota. The sheep rancher and his teenaged grandson visited the big city for a mischievous adventure. In 2007, he played opposite Russell Crowe and Christian Bale in the remake of the classic 3:10 To

Yuma. He played the character of Bryon McElroy. A small-time rancher agreed to escort a captured outlaw to a waiting train for court. Russell Crowe threw him off a mountain trail to his death in the movie. American Bandits: Frank and Jesse James, was released in 2010. Jesse James was wounded in the chest during a robbery and his brother Frank ordered the gang to split up and meet again in the deserted town of Gila Wells. Fonda is the committed lawman pursuing Jesse James. Another sort of western is the 2013 movie The Copperhead. The movie took place in upstate New York during the Civil War. Several farmers are against the war with the south for religious reasons and are WHILE ACHIEVING SUPERSTARDOM FOR HIS ICONIC ROLE given the nickname Copperheads. IN 1969’S EASY RIDER, 1972’S THE HIRED HAND WAS FONDA’S In 2015, Jesse James, Lawman FIRST WESTERN PICTURE. HE CO-STARRED WITH SCREEN was released. The movie co-starred VETERAN WARREN OATES.

saddlebag dispatches

Kevin Sorbo. The mayor (Fonda) of a small town learned that a gang of outlaws planned to rob his town and hired Jesse James to join the gang and stop the robbery. Peter’s final western was 2017’s The Ballad of Lefty Brown. The movie starred Bill Pullman, Kathy Baker and Jim Caviezel. Lefty Brown witnessed the murder of his longtime partner and chased after the killers. After he was wounded, he returned home only to be accused of the crime. At age eleven, Fonda accidently shot himself in the stomach and nearly died. Years later he would tell John Lennon and George Harrison the story, stating that he knew what it was like to die. When he was fifteen, Peter discovered that his mother, Frances Ford Seymour, had killed herself in a mental institution, when he was ten.

He was never a conventional leading man. By the mid-sixties he was a leader in the counter-culture movement, and the more desirable roles became scarce. He won a Golden Globe in 1963 for Most Promising Newcomer for the movie, The Victors. He was nominated for an Oscar for the screenplay for Easy Rider in 1969, and Best Actor for the movie Ulee’s Gold in 1997. He won a Golden Globe for Best Actor for Ulee’s Gold, and another for Best Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film for The Passion of Ayn Rand. Peter had a long and varied career. —Terry Alexander horror writer with a vast number of publishing credits to his name. He’s also a connoisseur of all things related to the Hollywood Western. He and his wife, Phyllis, live on a small farm near Porum, Oklahoma.



WAS FORBIDDEN TO go alone to Splinter Run, but the rain that fell overnight tempted me to ignore my father’s order. Meadowlark calls pulled me over the dips and rolls of the Oklahoma prairie. A quarter mile away I could see the Washita River, trailing coffee-colored ripples through the freshly washed prairie green. Splinter Run had been named by my father when he first came to this land years before. He said the creek split the prairie like a splinter split your skin. I gazed across the foaming water to my favorite thinking spot on the opposite bank. The rising sun behind me highlighted something I had not seen there before. Curious, I leaped the narrow run and bent over the object. It took only a couple of seconds to recognize what it was. It was a bone. Sunk in the soil between tree roots, the end of the bone stuck out from the imprisoning soil only a halfinch or so. It must have been freshly uncovered by the recent runoff. I dug around it with my fingers until I could get a grip on it and pull it free. It was slightly curved, slender, about six inches long with knobby

ends. “Probably a coyote,” I said to myself. But I had seen many coyote bones and this bone wasn’t quite the same shape. Pa would know. I tucked the bone inside my apron pocket and started for home. That evening after supper, Pa sat outside relaxing. I slipped out, sat at his feet and pulled the bone from my pocket. “Pa? I found this beside Splinter Run today. It’s not a coyote bone is it?” He frowned at my admitted disobedience but took the bone in his calloused fingers. The last lingering daylight was settling over the land in liquid pools. There was just enough light to see. He looked at the bone, turned it over, and laid it beside his foot. “This isn’t from a coyote or a fox. Could you find the spot again?” I could tell he wanted to say more. His lips were pressed tightly together to keep the words imprisoned. I didn’t remark on his expression, only answered his question. “Sure. It was stuck between two roots of the cottonwood at the run.” “I want you to show me where you found this. And Zephyr, you know I don’t want you to go near that creek without telling someone where you are.


saddlebag dispatches

I’ve told you before. The banks could crumble, and you could drown. Why did you disobey me?” Hanging my head, I mumbled something about the beautiful dawn. Pa didn’t say anything for a long time. Then I heard his low chuckle. “I understand how the day can beckon you, but Daughter, if I hear of you disobeying me again there will be consequences. Do you understand?” “Yes,” I murmured. I looked up and caught the twinkle in his eyes. He knew me so well! He held out his hand, took mine and pulled me to my feet. After breakfast the next morning we set out for the run. Pa carried his spade. It took only a few minutes to reach the creek. I pointed out the exact spot where I had found the bone. Pa leaped the run and stared at the spot, measuring with his eyes. Then he started to dig. The bones weren’t buried deep, only a couple of inches under the earth. Most of them were tangled in the remains of what had once been bright red calico. The soil had stained it so much it was now colored a bloody brown. From each shoulder of the dress hung three small bells knotted at the ends of blue ribbons. By them we knew the bones had belonged to an Indian. Even to my inexperienced eye I could recognize ribs, some vertebra, the pelvic bone, an arm bone, and a leg bone. The bone I had found was the left collar bone. Nearly all the bones from the right side were gone, probably carried away long ago by varmints. Pa stopped digging once he found the skull. He left it mostly hidden. I saw him frown, lean over, pluck something from the dirt near the small bones of the spine and slip it into his pocket. He shot me a troubled glance. Then he walked a short distance and sat down with his back against one of the willow trees. I sat beside him. “Pa?” He didn’t turn his head or tear his gaze away from the western horizon. “Yes?” “These bones... they aren’t very big, are they?” “No.” He sighed heavily. “They are the bones of a child.” “Way out here?” I gasped. I loved the prairie, the endless space, the wildness. But I was alive to feel the wind. I was alive to marvel at the stars. These bones nestled between the cottonwood roots on the bank of Splinter Run were deserted, alone, lonely. They

saddlebag dispatches

were dead. A heavy and unexpected weight of sadness settled onto my shoulders. Pa turned to gaze into my face. “You know what happened here a long time ago?” “No. What?” Dropping his head, Pa stared at the moist earth between his boots. “There was a lot of killing.” “You mean a battle? Like in the war?” “Not the war you’re thinking of, not the Civil War. This was a few years after. People fleeing the destruction of that war flooded out west here. There were already people claiming this land.” “You mean the Indians,” I remarked smugly. “Yes, the Indians. Mostly the Southern Cheyenne and the Arapaho. They’re all on reservations now. You know that.” I nodded. “Well, in the time I’m talking about, they roamed over this land freely. It was theirs, claimed by their ancestors for generations. But to the people flooding in here from Virginia and Tennessee these were vacant acres, vacant miles, unused by anyone. Whenever two such different ideas hit head-on there’s bound to be trouble. And trouble there was.” “What trouble?” I asked, my curiosity aroused. “Threats. Fighting. Killing. Death on both sides.” “Oh,” I breathed. Out on the prairie the courting meadowlarks lifted into the sunlight, glided, and settled back into the grass. How many more bones did this thick mat hide? I shuddered before I asked my next question. “Pa? The fighting wasn’t right here was it?” “I don’t know. I do know the worst of it was over on the Washita River.” “Then how did this little girl get here?” My father turned to me again. He didn’t speak,

but I saw he knew the answer. I waited breathlessly while the meadowlarks continued to court only yards from where I sat. Pa did something he’d never done before. He reached for my hand and held it tightly. “I’m going to tell you because I think you’re mature enough to hear. You’ve always been the one to search for answers.” I hung my head. Pa let me stew a minute, then squeezed my hand and chuckled lightly. “Tell me, Pa. Tell me how this girl got way out here,” I pleaded. “Zephyr, sometimes, like now, I wish you were distractable.” My father sighed, a long, shuddering sigh. “I think she escaped from the fight on the Washita. I think she was wounded, and this is as far as she was able to go.” “Why do you think that?” I asked. Pa pulled the object he’d found from his pocket. Wordlessly, he dropped it into my palm. It was heavy. It was a bullet. “Oh, no!” I choked. “But—but her mother was with her, or her aunt, or her sister. Weren’t they? They wouldn’t leave her lying on top of the ground! They wouldn’t let her suffer alone.” “I don’t know. You’ve got to remember that a battle was going on. People get confused during a battle. They run without thinking. Children get lost.” Pa’s eyes returned to staring toward the far horizon. My mind wrapped around his words and built a complete picture. From the size of the bones I knew that this child hadn’t been much older than my little sister Ella. I couldn’t stop the image forming in my mind. I imagined Ella hurt, alone, panting with fear and pain, collapsing on the bank of this little slip of a creek to die. From the position of the bones I knew she had curled into a tight ball of misery. To my embarrassment I began to cry. Pa pulled me close and



saddlebag dispatches

let me sob into his chest. Finally, he spoke. “I’ll come out here after supper and gather this child’s bones. If you want, you can come with me. We’ll give her a proper place to rest. Would you like that?” “Yes,” I managed to whisper. My father didn’t say anything else. He got to his feet and pulled me to stand beside him. I dropped the lead ball between the cottonwood roots. We leaped Splinter Run and together walked back to our soddy outlined against the prairie-blue sky. Twilight was beginning to soften the low hills when Pa and I arrived at the cottonwood again. We spent two hours carefully pulling the bones from the soil and laying them together in the old pillowcase my mother had given me. I tore the brass bells from the dress and put them in my pocket. After Pa reverently laid the skull with the rest of the skeleton, he gathered the ends of the material together and tied the bundle securely. He climbed the cottonwood, pulling the bundle with him. There he wedged it between two branches. Carefully he wound rope around the branches to secure the bones. Then in silence my father and I walked home in the silver moonlight. I mourned for that Indian child. I’m sure I didn’t help myself by keeping the bells in my apron pocket. I pressed the story of that little girl so deeply into my mind that I could call her forth, complete, any time of the day or night. I even gave her a name to call her by—Willow Shade.

Sometimes, with Pa’s permission, I’d spend hours with Willow Shade beside Splinter Run. I had never been curious about Indians before I found the bones. I didn’t really know much about their lives. Still, Willow Shade had been a child and I knew about children. In my mind I watched her as she played, running through the fragrant grass chasing the prairie chickens or following the bright butterflies. She carried water from the Washita to her family and helped her mother dig wild turnips just like I had done. She played with her doll. I made her into a child very like my own sister. I didn’t realize the folly of this until I began dreaming. I didn’t dream every night, but I dreamed often. I’d badgered Pa into telling me all he knew about the battle thirty years before. As a consequence, my dreams were filled with details from that time. I could feel the winter wind and hear it howl above me as I lay beside the frozen run. One night I dreamed the thudding of horses’ hooves pounding the ground around me. During the day I thought about my dreams, turning them over and over in my mind. There didn’t seem any way to keep Willow Shade from haunting me. I lost weight, I grew impatient and distracted. My family eyed me and kept their distance. Finally, I went to my father for advice. He listened while I explained my dreams and the connection I felt to Willow Shade. When I finished he stroked my cheek. “I think you

saddlebag dispatches

are bothered that this burial is so anonymous. Can you think of some way to mark this child’s resting place?” I fidgeted on the sack of feed I was perched upon. I felt the bells in my apron pocket resting against my leg. An idea flashed through my brain. I searched my father’s concerned face and nodded. “I think I can, Pa. I think I know exactly what to do!” Back inside the soddy I pulled one of my hair ribbons from my bandbox. Carefully I threaded the bells onto the red satin, tying each one in place. Once I had all six of them strung, I ran outside, found my father tightening the wire fence around the chicken yard and asked permission to go back to Splinter Run. He didn’t question me. He did give me an understanding smile with his nod. I dashed over the prairie, scattering the meadowlarks. Minutes later I stood looking through the large green leaves at the lonely bundle wedged in the cottonwood. I climbed the tree and tied the ribbon to the branch above Willow Shade’s bones. Back on the ground I felt a breeze tickle my body. High in the branches the small brass bells sent forth their music. I laughed in delight. I sat beneath the tree until the summer sun slipped over the western horizon. With a final word of farewell to Willow Shade I leaped over the creek and headed home. I met my father coming for me. Together we walked toward our lamplit home. Someday, maybe I would know why people found it necessary to fight each other. Perhaps then I would understand how a child’s violent death could be celebrated by anyone. But I knew I would never feel any joy about little Willow Shade dying alone on the frozen, wind-swept prairie with no one to comfort her. I pushed the door open. My family looked up from the laden table. It was our time now to live on this spot of prairie. Pa closed the door behind me, shutting us all in tight. Above the soddy, the summer stars began to shine. In the cottonwood beside Splinter Run they lit the bells that marked the lonely remains of an Indian child. The stars shone on us all without prejudice, without judgment, white and Indian alike. Somehow, they gave me hope.


Neala Ames


eala Ames is a retired teacher who has loved to write since she was five years old. While on a family vacation she saw the Washita Massacre site in Oklahoma, and it affected her deeply. Growing up in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, Ms. Ames enjoyed all the television westerns and the American West captured her mind. She loves writing stories about the American experience. Now a resident of Arizona, she is surrounded by the history she loves so well. She lives in the central highlands with her husband and her three dogs. Ms. Ames maintains a Facebook page where she keeps her followers updated on the short stories that find a home. She has recently placed stories with Soteira Press, Ariel Chart, Scarlet Leaf, and Wild Violet. Work on more short stories as well as a full-length novel occupies much of her time. She welcomes all new readers to join her established base. “Shades of Splinter Run” is her first short story to be featured in Saddlebag Dispatches.



saddlebag dispatches

saddlebag dispatches


N THURSDAY NIGHTS, SOME of the boys from around the Powder River Basin get together at the Occidental Saloon to play bluegrass. They wedge in next to the back bar, a banjo, a guitar or two, and someone hammering away at the yellowed keys of the venerable upright piano, with the occasional fiddle or mandolin thrown in. When the boys first started the sessions, it was for their own amusement and that of the Occidental’s regulars, ranchers, town merchants and their wives. Word spread, though, and tourists began to show up, and then the sculptors and poets who’d begun to populate Buffalo as the start of what they called an artists’ community. The boys usually began with some gospel numbers, “Amazing Grace” and such, in deference to the old folks who arrived early and occupied the closest tables so they could hear. Later, when the old-timers drifted away to their beds, the band would pick up the pace. Some folks even danced in the tiny space between the tables, the band, and the bar, the waitresses dodging the fast-stepping couples as the music reverberated off the pressed-tin ceiling.

Will Burrell had been a regular at the Occidental for the Thursday nights of the past year. Will ranched nineteen hundred acres of cattle land in the Bighorn foothills. His high-school sweetheart wife, Ellie, died five years ago and there were those who thought Will might not survive her passing. He’d hunkered down on the ranch, with just the cattle for company, for four years. Then one Thursday night he’d shown up at the Occidental, in his town boots, white shirt and straw Stetson Rincon, his best jeans anchored for safety by a large-buckled belt and red suspenders. Some of the old folks remembered that he and Ellie had been quite the dancers in their youth. Will proved that he hadn’t lost his touch, gliding through the Two-Step and the Cotton-Eyed Joe. Once he began coming, Will never missed a Thursday night. He danced with anyone who would join him. At first, that meant Ellie’s contemporaries, sturdy ranch wives who whispered among themselves that they were just glad he’d decided not to lay down and die. Soon others saw that he danced with a grace that belied his fifty-five years and his partners became more varied—the younger wives in town, tourist la-



saddlebag dispatches

dies—all anxious to swing through the old steps with the courtly man of barrel chest, narrow hips and an easy nimbleness on the Occidental’s old boards. The waitresses took to pouring table salt on the corner of the floor that Will and his partners occupied, to aid his sliding steps. One Thursday night in August, Maya Parr came to the Occidental Saloon for the first time. Maya Parr wasn’t her real name—it was the name she had chosen for herself when she decided she was going to New York City to become an artist, the next Frida Kahlo. She didn’t know then that Frida Kahlo would never have gone to New York City to become an artist, but that hadn’t stopped Maya. And she achieved notoriety over the next thirty years, plying the wealthy who considered themselves patrons at gallery openings, being seen in the right places with the right people, as much a bohemian celebrity as an artist. Maya Parr had rented a cabin outside of Buffalo. She intended to spend three months painting

landscapes of the tawny folds of the foothills colliding with the slate-blue bulk of the Bighorns and return to the city with a show featuring the efforts from her Western season. The gallery on 69th Street where she sold her works had already set aside the dates. Maya had been toiling at her canvasses daily since she’d arrived, so much so that her friend Charlotte, a sculptor, had suggested a break. “Come to town, Maya,” she said. “Buffalo, Wyoming could use a glimpse of New York, New York, you know.” “But what is there to do?” Maya asked. Charlotte arched an eyebrow. “I have one word for you, Maya. Cowboys.” “You are so bad, Charlotte.” For her night at the Occidental Saloon, Maya wore a gray tunic over black leggings and red ballet slippers. A crimson scarf she had hand-painted, and which would sell for four figures in Manhattan, was draped with casual precision across her shoulders. Her hair, a handsome shade of silver-gray the product

saddlebag dispatches



saddlebag dispatches

of a two-hour session with one of the City’s best stylists, fell loosely against her slender neck. She decided she looked as New York as she possibly could, so far removed from the east. The Occidental’s bartender surprised them with two glasses of a passable Sauvignon Blanc when they asked for the house white after settling in at the bar. The band was already fizzing and the postage stamp dance floor crowded as Maya and Charlotte sipped and watched. Will Burrell was in the midst of the crowd, gyrating with Maybelline Black, the wife of Will’s foreman. Maya watched him, pleased with his style and presence amid the less-skilled but equally enthusiastic dancers. The band finished with a flourish of banjo and mandolin. The dancers cleared the floor. Maya had turned to hear a whispered comment from Charlotte when a voice over her shoulder said, “Ma’am?” Now, “ma’am” was a word Maya would have been loathe to hear directed to her in New York

City, where its rare use was reserved for the elderly or sarcasm. But the word floating to her ears over the din of rattling beer bottles and the insect hum of voices in the Occidental Saloon was soothing, respectful and enticing, all at the same time. She turned to its source. “Ma’am, might I have the pleasure?” Will tipped the brim of his Stetson. The gesture was so old-fashioned, so proper, that for a moment Maya thought it was a joke and hesitated. Will, concerned that his request had not registered, simplified it. “Would you like to dance, ma’am?” The band, deviating from the traditional as they sometimes did, struck up “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.” Charlotte nudged Maya like a twelve year old wingman at a junior high dance. Maya took off her scarf and handed it to Charlotte. Taking Maya’s hand, he said “I’m Will.” “Maya,” she said. Her lips hinted at a smile but withheld it just a bit, an expression she had perfected

saddlebag dispatches

for the purpose of inducing doorman, gallery owners, and reporters to do her bidding... and which had never failed to close a sale of one of her paintings. Will inclined his head and smiled back at her, just with his eyes, a thing he did when something—a golden sunrise or the wobbling steps of a newborn calf— gave him pleasure. The boys played the music up-tempo. Will and Maya danced apart. The floor was packed, but the other dancers made a space around them, almost as if they knew something special was happening. Maya abandoned herself to the music, moving to the beat with her eyes cast down and then bringing them up, almost looking to Will but not quite, a mannerism he found enticing. Will first seemed to Maya to be shuffling, almost lazy in his steps, until she realized the elegance of his moves, the big man bordering on balletic, concentrating amid the sound and light enveloping them. The band came to the end of the song and launched immediately into “Wildwood Flower.” Maya found herself in Will’s arms, enveloped, secure in a way she had never felt secure before. She wasn’t sure what was happening. Neither was Will, other than he understood that his arms had been empty for too long. Time passed, and one dance melted into another until Charlotte tapped Maya on the shoulder and excused herself at midnight. Maya stayed. The next Thursday night at the Occidental Saloon, Will and Maya, though arriving separately, had no dance partners other than each other. The Thursday night after that, they arrived together. Last Thursday night, they arrived together, too, Will in his Stetson, town boots and a tuxedo, Maya in her wedding dress. She kicked off the heels she had worn for their wedding and put on her red ballet slippers, just as the boys began to play.


John Keyse-Walker


ohn Keyse-Walker, a native of Ohio, had a thirty-year career as a trial lawyer. After dull decades of writing briefs and contracts, he began writing fiction in retirement and enjoys the creative freedom to “simply make stuff up.” His first novel, Sun, Sand, Murder, won the Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award and was followed by the second novel in the Teddy Creque Mystery series, Beach, Breeze, Bloodshed. His published shorter works have appeared in an anthology, Down to the River, and Writer’s Digest magazine. He is a member of the Mystery Writers of America. He is an avid fresh- and salt-water angler, tennis player, and kayaker. He and his wife divide their time between homes on the shores of Lake Erie in Ohio and Charlotte Harbor in Florida and love nothing more than taking a meandering road trip through the West. Find more about him at and on FaceBook at www. “Thursday Nights at the Occidental Saloon” is his first short story to be featured in Saddlebag Dispatches.



saddlebag dispatches


INGERNAIL MOON. A WHITE man name for the nights mother moon hid all but a slice of 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 plank 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


saddlebag dispatches

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 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

saddlebag dispatches

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-toplace, 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.



saddlebag dispatches

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.

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 the old, stinking building. He had opened his pants and pissed along the path that ran to the creek, even

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,

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,

saddlebag dispatches

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

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

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

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 creek’s bed and scattered over the stone floor of the chapel. He still



saddlebag dispatches

saddlebag dispatches

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 boy’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 sister’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 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 in the dark. And 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



saddlebag dispatches

arms, and ran. Her small body was light. He felt not burdened but completed. The barking of the dogs grew stronger. Montega 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.

saddlebag dispatches

“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. “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, just 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.”



saddlebag dispatches

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. 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, come! Bring your dead white god to meet Wasape, Protector of the Osage People.” At the very lip of the cave, Brother James called out. “Daughter, you speak with the ignorance of your sex. Come now, you must 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

saddlebag dispatches

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 very ground shook, and the air itself sucked from the cave. A huge dark blur raced from the bowels of the earth 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.


Pamela Foster


wenty-one years ago Pamela Foster married her hero. The author’s husband is a disabled Marine, Vietnam vet, and

without ever acknowledging that he ignited the escape the dull gray of life-after-combat, Foster 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 six novels, including Bigfoot Blues and Bigfoot Mamas, the literary Western , and the Southern comic novel Noisy Creek She’s also published the hilarious travel memoir Clueless Gringoes in Paradise, After over two decades of travel, Foster has California, where she wakes each morning to fog




N THE PRE-DAWN quiet, three slim Shoshone boys, their braids tightly fixed, hunting knives at their sides, slid from their dappled ponies to the dusty ground by the trees. They stood together, facing east, a row of cottonwood trees behind them. The cottonwood grove was a propitious place to begin their day of hunting. Water, always scarce, especially in a time of drought, flowed freely from the spring near the place where these cottonwood trees chose to grow. This little clump marked the nearest water source to the path the buffalo took between their spring and summer grazing places. As the sun glided upward in a clear blue sky noting the start of day, each boy offered a clump of sweetgrass to the cardinal directions to bless the new day and their hunt. Their untethered ponies pawed the ground, waiting impatiently to run the buffalo. Still a year away from initiation as warriors, the boys had slipped out of camp with their knives and bows and arrows, in secret, to prove their value

to the tribe. As they prayed, a sudden gust of wind whipped through the cottonwood trees. Their ponies whinnied. The boys sensed danger but before they could react, bullets flew at them from the rocky mound just above the cottonwood stand. Bullets pinged stones, thudded into trees, splayed the ground, and tore apart the dreams and hopes of the three Shoshone boys. The noise of the attack sent the ponies skittering backwards, but the sturdy mounts did not run until the strange men approached, smoking rifles in hand. Only then did the ponies wheel around and pound away. The loyal little ponies ran so quickly that the tall blue-jacketed white men knew it was futile to give chase. One of them, in a half-hearted attempt to catch them, ran the few steps to the trees from the rocks to try to circle around the little dappled ponies, but they were mere specks on the far horizon before he finished making the circle. “Damn!” swore the man who had given chase. A sergeant, he was the leader of the blue-coated marksmen. “They’re too fast for us to catch on Army nags. But, catchin’ them sure woulda made this day worthwhile.”


saddlebag dispatches

saddlebag dispatches

One of the other two men wandered over to the dead boys. “Nuthin’ much here,” he muttered. “These knives aren’t bad.” He reached down and grabbed each boy’s hunting knife. All three of them took a knife, sharing the deed, sharing the booty. The sergeant’s patrol report for that day didn’t even mention the incident. He accounted for the expended ammunition as “target practice.” Back at the fort, many of their fellow soldiers admired their new hunting knives with decorated handles. “Where dija get those?” they were asked over and over again. Each man gave the same answer every time. Knowing that the knives would attract attention, they had agreed upon a common, consistent answer on the ride back to the camp. “We met some Shoshone boys on the trail and won them from them.” No one questioned their answer.

Joan L eotta

AT THE CAMP WHEN THE THREE TIRED ponies finally ambled back into the Shoshone camp without their young riders, worried braves followed their trail back to the stand of cottonwood trees. Their mothers followed. The wails of the bereft mothers echoed their way into the wind. Their tears and the water from the spring dampened the earth enough to allow the braves to dig three graves, narrow trenches. They buried the three boys in those trenches and tamped down the earth over the graves so animals would not dig up the bodies. The mothers walked home without their sons, with narrow trenches in their hearts. After a few weeks, wild grass and flowers began to grow over the place where the boys’ bodies rested. Rain washed away bullets left on the ground, carrying them to and fro in the little rivulets that rain makes on dry ground. Over months, bark grew over nicked places in the trees. In a few years, the wind had worn smooth any pings and scratches on the rocks. But the stain of the deed remained deep within the earth, deeper still in the hearts of the Shoshone people.



oan Leotta is a writer and story performer. She writes in many genres but is especially fond of sharing short stories, poems, and essays. Her work has been showcased in a variety of journals ranging from St. Anthony Messenger to Betty Fedora, Mystery Tribune,, and Kings River Life. Her essays have appeared in the Italian American, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Sasee, skirt, and Eastern Iowa Review among others. On stage, she presents tales of food, family and strong women and has several one woman shows, including one on Narcissa Prentiss Whitman, one on the Civil War spy, Belle Boyd, and a story that deals with George Washington’s youth that is not based on a real person. She loves history, researching and collecting stories, both folk and real. When she is not playing with words on page or stage, she can be found walking the beach, daydreaming and collecting seashells. “Cottonwood Grove” is Joan’s first short story to be featured in Saddlebag Dispatches.



saddlebag dispatches

saddlebag dispatches


SA D D LEBAG f e at u r e

NEVER A DULL MOMENT Remembering the intriguing life—and death—of

Terry Alexander


HE WAS BORN AS Harriet Shapiro on July 9th, 1929 to a Russian-Jewish family in Boston, Massachusetts. Her mother was institutionalized for emotional problems and her father disappeared. During her early life, she lived in eight different foster homes and completed her formal education in New York City. She found work as an illustrator for children’s books and supplemented her income by working in theatre and as a singer. She made her film debut in a bit part in 1947 in Kiss of Death filmed in New York City. She took the stage name of Susan Cabot and expanded into television and commercials. She was noticed by Maxwell Arnow, who convinced her to go to Hollywood to work for Columbia Pictures. She played Moana in her first film On the Isle of Samoa, released in 1950 and directed by William Berke. She became unhappy at Columbia and moved to Universal Studios and was cast in several B-movie westerns and other productions.

She married Martin Sacker in 1944. They divorced in 1951. Susan had a relationship with King Hussein of Jordan in 1961, supposedly he ended the relationship when he found out she was Jewish. It was rumored that Timothy Scott, born on January 27th, 1964, was the illegitimate child of the king. In 1968, she married Michael Roman and he adopted the child. Timothy suffered from Dwarfism and a pituitary gland problem. The marriage to Roman ended in divorce in early 1983 due to Susan’s increasing mental instability and paranoia. Susan’s first western film was in 1951, Tomahawk, directed by George Sherman and starring Van Heflin, Yvonne DeCarlo, and Jack Oakie. Rock Hudson had a small part in the movie. When the U. S. Army discovered gold on Sioux land, they constructed a road and a fort. Susan played Monahseetah in the version of the build up to the Battle of Greasy Grass. In 1952 she played Nona in The Battle of Apache Pass, also directed by George Sherman. The movie


saddlebag dispatches


starred John Lund, Jeff Chandler, Jay Silverheels, Jack Elam and Hugh O’Brian. New Mexico had a fragile peace between the settlers and the Indians during the Civil War. The peace was threatened when a new government agent and a dishonest scout were assigned to the territory. This was the second movie that Jeff Chandler played Cochise and Jay Silverheels played Geronimo, Don Siegel directed Susan in her first movie with Audie Murphy in 1952. She played Dusty Fargo in Duel at Silver Creek. The movie also starred Steven McNally and Faith Domergue. Lee Marvin appeared as Tinhorn Burgess. Luke Cromwell’s (Murphy) father was murdered by claim jumpers. He was deputized by the local marshal and worked to bring the killers to justice. Her second appearance with Audie Murphy happened in 1953, in the Nathan Juran directed film, Gunsmoke. Susan played Rita Saxon, the film also starred Paul Kelly and Jack Kelly. Reb Kittridge (Murphy) a wandering gunfighter was hired to get the deed to Dan Saxon’s ranch. Her final appearance with Audie Murphy

happened in 1954. Ride Clear of Diablo was directed by Jesse Hibbs. Dan Duryea, Russell Johnson, Jack Elam, and Denver Pyle also appeared in the movie. Susan portrayed Laurie Kenyon. A corrupt sheriff and a lawyer murdered a father and son and rustled all their cattle. The last surviving son, Clay O’Mara (Murphy) returned home and asked to be a deputy to find his father and brother’s killer. After he was hired, the sheriff sent him to Diablo, to arrest a gunfighter

saddlebag dispatches

who didn’t commit the crime in the hopes he would be a victim to the fast gun. Her final western was Fort Massacre, filmed in 1958 and directed by Joseph M. Newman. Susan was billed as Piute girl. The movie also starred Joel McCrea, Forrest Tucker, John Russell and Denver Pyle. It was the final film of bit actor Irving Bacons. A sergeant assumed command of a cavalry detail after the Captain and Lieutenant were wounded by Apaches. He must lead the troop to water, which was controlled by the Apaches and find a way to continue their mission. Susan also appeared in two episodes of Have GunWill Travel. She played Angela Demarco in the 1958 episode “The High Graders.” Paladin investigated the death of his tailor, who mysteriously died in his own gold mine. She played Becky Gray Carver in the 1959-episode “Comanche.” Paladin was hired by a mysterious woman to find a U.S. Army deserter who was the son of a general. In 1954, she became dissatisfied with her contract and the lack of good roles and asked to be released from her contract. She returned to New York and tried to resume her stage career. Susan accepted an offer from Harold Robbins to star in his play A Stone for Danny Fisher. She was enticed back to Hollywood by Roger Corman to star in his 1957 film Carnival Rock. Her final movie appearance was as Janice Starlin in the Roger Corman film The Wasp Woman. Her final tv appearance was in 1970 as Henrietta in the episode “One, Two, Three…Cry” of the series Brackens World. On the night of December 10th, 1986, emergency services received a call from Susan Cabot’s home at 4601 Charmion Lane in Encino, California. Her son Timothy waited for the officers on the steps and escorted them inside. Trash bags lay scattered in every room, Newspapers and magazines were stacked in tall toppling piles in the hallway, rotting food lay everywhere. Furniture was overturned and drawers hung open. The body of Susan Cabot was found lying in her bed wearing a purple nightgown. Blood covered the floor, ceiling and walls. The killer had covered her face with bed linen, and human hair, blood and brain matter stuck to the linen. Timothy told the police that he heard a sound from his mother’s room about 9:30 and went to investigate. He said a Mexican

man wearing a ninja outfit was attacking his mother and came after him. After being questioned, several inconsistencies began to appear in Timothy’s story. When he accompanied the police back to his home, he led police to the place where he hid the murder weapon. A blood-encrusted weight bar. His legal team used his dwarfism in his defense. In 1958, an experiment began for children suffering from Growth Hormone Deficiency. Cadaver-derived pituitary was provided free of charge for children suffering with the disease. The experiment lasted for eight years and around 700 children received treatment. It was even hinted that Susan took the drug to hold off the signs of aging. In a bizarre way, her life mimicked her final movie, in The Wasp Woman. Janice Starling used an elixir made from wasp venom. It pushed back the signs of aging, but more and more had to be used each time. Timothy’s attorneys argued that a batch of growth hormone was contaminated with Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (Mad Cow Disease) which accounted for what occurred on that fateful night. Timothy stated that he was attacked by his mother around 9:30 pm. Susan was screaming her mother’s name and went after Timothy with a scalpel and the weight-lifting bar. He took the bar away from her and struck her in the head and kept hitting her until she was dead. They attorneys stated that Timothy kept hitting his mother with the bar due to years of physical abuse and he feared being punished by her. His charge was originally first-degree murder, which was changed to voluntary manslaughter, then involuntary manslaughter. Despite testimony that Susan was attacked in her bed while sleeping. The trial ended after two and a half years, in the end Timothy was sentenced to three years-probation on November 28th, 1989. Susan Cabot is buried at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California. Timothy Scott Roman died on January 22nd, 2003 he was 38. —Terry Alexander horror writer with a vast number of publishing credits to his name. He’s also a connoisseur of all things related to the Hollywood Western. He and his wife, Phyllis, live on a small farm near Porum, Oklahoma.



saddlebag dispatches

SA D D LEBAG f e at u r e

SAM SIXKILLER: CHEROKEE LAWMAN Marshal Sixkiller was cut down by two grudge-holding Cherokees.

Regina McLemore


HEARD THE CONVERSATION that caused Dick Vann to kill Sam Sixkiller. It started during the fair…. Sixkiller was keeping the gate at the fairground and Vann started to ride in. He was drinking a little and Sixkiller stopped him and says, ‘Vann, you have to behave, if you go in there.’ Vann replied, supposedly very nicely, ‘Well, I’m going to behave.’ Sixkiller said, ‘Well, I am just telling you that if you don’t, I’ll put you in the calaboose.’ From that they started arguing, and Sixkiller did throw him in. But when he pushed him in at the door, he kicked him. Van said, ‘Sixkiller, that kick will cost you your life.’” This was an incident related by John G. Hannan, who grew up in Indian Territory, in a 1939 interview for the University of Oklahoma’s Indian-Pioneer Papers. Cherokee lawman Sam Sixkiller, who was born in Goingsnake District of Indian Territory in 1842, was used to hearing comments about his name. The Sixkiller

name is said to have originated when his great grandfather was fighting in the time of the Cherokee and Creek wars. After he killed six Creeks before dying, he was given the name “Sixkiller,” which was passed on to his descendants. The authors Howard Kanzanham and Chris Enss in their book, Sam Sixkiller, Cherokee Frontier Lawman, provide a clear picture of Sixkiller’s life. As a boy and youth, Sixkiller attended school at the old Baptist Mission, near present day Westville, Oklahoma, which was established a few years after the Cherokees were removed to Indian Territory. He helped his father Redbird Sixkiller on the family farm until his father left to join the Union army in 1861, leaving nineteenyear-old Sam in charge. The following year, Sixkiller was persuaded by his neighbors and friends to go with them to fight for the Confederates. He served less than a year under Stand Watie before leaving to join the Union army



saddlebag dispatches

at Fort Gibson, where his father had attained the rank of first lieutenant. If he had known what was going to happen to his family during the war, he probably wouldn’t have left home. His mother, sisters, and brothers suffered great hardship at the hands of guerilla soldiers known as bushwhackers. These lawless men preyed on the defenseless by stealing anything they deemed valuable,

youngest son were killed by bushwhackers during the war. Since Sam was fighting, along with his father… my great-grandmother, Mary, was the oldest child at home, and I’ve often thought how traumatic it would be to have your father and older brother off at war, most everything of value confiscated or stolen, and to have your mother and baby brother lying dead at the door of your cabin….”


including livestock, crops, and household staples. Sometimes they weren’t satisfied with thievery, they wanted to harm the people they were terrorizing. On the evening of July 30, 1863, bushwhackers set fire to the stable and barn of the Sixkiller home. They shot and killed Sam’s mother, Pamelia, while she was shielding Sam’s young brother, William, in her arms. Pamelia and William were buried in the Baptist Mission Cemetery. Sam Sixkiller’s great, great niece, Gayle Campbell, offers some observations about the Sixkiller family and her famous uncle. “Sam’s parents, Redbird and Pamelia Whaley, an English girl, married in Georgia before coming on the Trail of Tears…. Pamelia and their

Sam and Redbird returned home in May of 1865 to a land devastated by war. Survivors gathered in small groups, searching everywhere for food. Even worse, with no one to stop them, deserters, bootleggers, thieves, and other unscrupulous men committed terrible crimes with no consequences. Indian leaders were told to police their own area the best they could. Redbird stepped up and helped organize the Citizen’s Court and the Executive Council of the Goingsnake District to deal with conflict among the district’s Cherokees. He was soon elected judge of the council and went about re-organizing the tribe’s former police force, the Lighthorse Company. Although he supported his father’s work, Sam was more interested in restoring the family farm

saddlebag dispatches

and courting the daughter of one of their neighbors, Frances (Fannie) Foreman. The two married in September of 1865 and moved to Tahlequah to establish their own homestead. Redbird knew that capable men were needed to keep the peace, and he endeavored to persuade Sam to enter law enforcement. In 1874, Sam agreed to be appointed as High Sheriff of Tahlequah. When he accepted the position, he became the head of all of the sheriffs in the nine districts as well as the first warden of the Cherokee National Prison in Tahlequah. In a story about the history of the Cherokee National Prison, in the February 22, 2014, edition of The Tahlequah Daily Press, it discussed Sam Sixkiller’s role in the development of the prison. It is evident that he was on the job by 1876, because the three-story prison was completed in 1875, and Sixkiller ordered the creation of a ten-foot fence, a garden, and mechanical shops the following year. He earned five hundred dollars a year for his services, which included being the treasurer and custodian of the prison. Sixkiller used his farming talents to grow vegetables for the inmates and hay and grain for the livestock. Inmates were required to work in the garden or in one of the shops that were on the grounds because the purpose of the prison included reformation as well as punishment. A minister visited the sick among them and held religious services. When they were discharged, they were provided with an inexpensive, but decent, change of clothes. Despite Sixkiller’s hard work, bootleg whiskey continued flowing freely in the Cherokee Nation in the 1870s. This whiskey was often a factor in many of the crimes committed in the Indian Territory that Sixkiller dealt with on a regular basis. A writer for the November 13, 1879, edition of The Indian Journal in Vinita, Oklahoma, reported such an incident. “John Coats, a white man from Mayesville, Arkansas, was arrested by Dept. Marshal Sixkiller for introducing whiskey. He brought in eight dozen bottles and had distributed most of them when captured. His horses, wagon, and contents will be confiscated, and we hope he will do the state some service in the pen.” Although Sixkiller bought property in Tahlequah,

and his family settled there, his tenure as High Sheriff was cut short due to slanderous charges that were brought against him. Historian D. Bruce Howell discussed the incident in “The Trial of Sheriff Sam Sixkiller,” which appeared in the Vinita Daily Journal on February 15, 2019. On November 21, 1879. when a group of young Cherokee riders charged into town with guns blazing, the streets cleared fast. Hearing the shots, Sixkiller immediately joined other deputies in attempting to stop them. Ignoring their commands, the riders raced away, headed out of town, with the sheriff and his deputies in full pursuit. One of them, Jeter Thompson, turned in his saddle and shot at Sam, who, with his deputies, returned fire. Thompson fell from his horse while the rest rode on out of town. Both lawmen and concerned citizens hurried over to Thompson, who was bleeding freely from stomach wounds. Still conscious, he accused Sixkiller of shooting to kill because he held a grudge against him. According to the Indian Journal, in Eufaula, Oklahoma, dated December 5. 1878, “Thompson died not only of complications from gunshot wounds but complications from pneumonia.” Despite evidence to the contrary, Thompson’s wealthy family contended that Sixkiller had murdered him because of a grudge. They claimed that the rowdy youths meant no harm, and that Sixkiller had abused the power of his office. They demanded that the sheriff be suspended until the incident could be investigated. Sixkiller was adamant that he had done nothing wrong. He argued that he was doing his job of protecting Tahlequah’s citizens from violence, and he refused to step down. The June 11, 1879, edition of the Tahlequah Cherokee Advocate announced that Sam Sixkiller, Cullos Thorne, Richard Robinson, and John Boston had been arrested “upon a preliminary warrant sworn out before the Clerk by the Solicitor of this district…. The preliminary examination will be held on Thursday the 12th.” Retiring Principal Chief Thompson ordered Sixkiller to turn over control of his job to George Downing Johnson. Livid with anger, Sixkiller reluctantly complied.



saddlebag dispatches


Trial evidence showed that Jeter and his friends had ridden through Tahlequah, blasting their guns more than once, and had been warned they must stop, or they would be arrested. It was also shown that Sixkiller and his men had been fired on first and were returning the fire. After a jury couldn’t reach a verdict, the case was referred to the Council Branch of the National Council of the Cherokee Nation. The trial was presided over by the new Principal Chief, Dennis Wolfe Bushyhead. According to a letter, dated November 14, 1879, which was written by Bushyhead, “The Council Branch of the National Council failed to find any proof that would implicate Sam Sixkiller as guilty of murder and malpractice as charged; therefore, the charges were ignored by a majority vote of the body.” Sixkiller asked the Council for five months of back wages and the payment for his lawyers’ fees, which amounted to $1330.50. They offered to reinstate him to his former position but refused to pay what he felt he was owed. He turned down their offer and moved his family to Muskogee. Kazanjian and Enss described Sixkiller’s time in Muskogee. In 1880, Muskogee had a bad reputation for lawlessness. Reportedly, more lawmen were killed within a radius of 50 miles of Muskogee than any other town west of the Mississippi River. Determined to do something about the crime problem, U.S. Agent Colonel J.Q. Tuffts hired Sam for eight dollars a month to clean up Muskogee. One of his first acts was to raid the Hotel de Adams, Muskogee’s most well-known house of prostitution. After he and his deputies were scratched and spat upon, Sixkiller jailed the women and gave them a choice. They could serve jail time or leave town. He won his first battle when the women left town. His many arrests and dramatic gunplay gave Muskogee citizens a sense of security in Sixkiller’s six years of service. According to the website,, Sixkiller had two great advantages over most officers.

He held a U.S. Deputy Marshal’s Commission that expanded his jurisdiction beyond Indian Territory, and concurrently worked as a Special Agent for the Missouri Pacific Railroad. These attributes gave him the ability to pursue outlaws over state lines, and onto any railroad property he encountered. He also commanded 40 men to assist him in his endeavors. Perhaps, Sam Sixkiller’s greatest accomplishment was his defeat of the Glass gang. The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History relates that Dick Glass, a Creek freedman, led a gang, headquartered at Marshalltown near Muskogee, that operated in bootleg whiskey and stolen horses. In 1880, the Cherokee Nation lynched two Creek freedmen for horse stealing. In retaliation, Glass led a raid into the Cherokee Nation, in which one Cherokee was killed. This incident created a diplomatic crisis between the Creek Nation and Cherokee Nation. In 1882, Glass played a role in the Creek Nation civil disturbance known as the Green Peach War. This

saddlebag dispatches

was primarily a factional, political battle in the Creek Nation between the full bloods, led by Isparhecher, and mixed bloods, led by Pleasant Porter. The freedmen, including Glass, sided with the full bloods. Glass led a contingent of freedmen in this clash until U.S. Army troops quelled the disturbance. The Muskogee Phoenix on April 2, 1885, stated that “Dick Glass is getting for himself a name that soon will rival Jesse James.” The incident that prompted this notation by the newspaper was Glass’s killing of two Cook County, Texas, lawmen while they were in the Chickasaw Nation. In “A Troublesome Band of Negro Desperadoes in the Indian Territory Exterminated,” dated June 18, 1885, the Burr Oak Herald of Burr Oak, Kansas, described the scene.... “Yesterday, Captain Sam Sixkiller with policemen LaFlore, Murray, and Gooding, and C.M. McClellan, a prominent stockman of the Cherokee Nation, were in pursuit of a band of negroes, headed by the notorious

desperado, Dick Glass, who had gone to Denison for a wagonload of whiskey and was on his way back to the Seminole Nation….About 7 o’clock the negroes came along… …when within ten feet, Captain Sixkiller stepped out into the road and commanded them to surrender. Instead of doing so, they started to run. After Glass ran a few steps, he succeeded in getting his gun out, and as he turned to fire, the party fired on them. Dick Glass and Jim Johnson were killed… (After the remaining two gang members were chased down and captured) …the bodies of the two dead men and the two prisoners were put into a wagon and brought to Colbert, where Glass was fully identified by a number of parties.” On Christmas Eve in 1886, Dick Vann and his brother-in-law Alf Cunningham were drinking heavily and brawling in Muskogee. Meanwhile, forty-four-yearold Sixkiller, who was off-duty and unarmed, came out of a store they were approaching. They called out, “Sam!’ When Captain Sixkiller stepped toward them, Vann was heard to say, “You’ll never do that to me again!” Cunningham leveled his shotgun at Sixkiller, and at the same time, Vann, who was positively identified by an eyewitness, fired four shots into Sixkiller. He staggered and fell on his hands and knees on the steps. Then to make sure of his work, Vann fired another shot into the body. The two men ran down Main Street, past the billiard hall, and on out of town. In a tribute to lawmen Sam Sixkiller and Thomas Tail, “Two Cherokee Shots: Captain Sam Sixkiller and Sheriff Thomas Tail,” on June 10, 1887, a writer for the Saint Paul Globe wrote, “He was a worthy descendant of the original Sixkiller. How many men he put under the sod is not known, but it is commonly supposed that as an engine of destruction, he could easily discount his fighting ancestor…In the light of his achievements and reputation, his appearance was rather disappointing…. He stood five feet and eight inches in his boots and weighed 230 pounds….With a rifle or a revolver, he was a dead shot. Fatigue, he was a stranger to, and he was afraid of nothing…. Capt. Sam was a terror to evil-doers, and his like may not be seen in the territory for many years.” Gayle Campbell added, “Just to clarify, at the time of his actual death, Sam was Captain of the Indian



saddlebag dispatches

saddlebag dispatches

Police, a United States Deputy Marshal, and a member of the Secret Service of the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company. Hard to believe one man could cover all that territory! Among those present (at his funeral) were many prominent citizens, both Cherokee and white. The procession, which followed the remains to the grave, was one of the largest ever gathered together in this section of the country.” One bit of good came out of Sam Sixkiller’s murder. A new law was passed to protect Indian policemen and marshals. On May 17, 1887, the Fort Smith Gazette explained how the law would do great good in checking crime by decreeing: “Any Indians committing against the person of any Indian policemen…or any Indian United States Marshal…murder, manslaughter, or assault with intent to kill, shall be subject to the laws of the United States and shall be tried by the District Court of the United States….It gives to the Indian policeman and deputy marshal the same protection that is given to whites in the Indian Territory….”

Among the examples cited was Sam Sixkiller’s case. “He was a Cherokee, and in his official capacity he incurred the enmity of Dick Vann and Alf Cunningham, also Cherokees. Knowing that the United States had no jurisdiction over them, they shot him down without warning. Vann has never been arrested for the crime, and Cunningham is in the jail here, awaiting his delivery to the Indian authorities.” Lawman Sam Sixkiller remains a hero to the Cherokee people. Singer Jesse Nighthawk, in his song, “A Prayer for Captain Sam,” sings: Say a prayer for Captain Sam. He was tryin’ to tame this lawless land. Steady as a rock, gentle as a lamb. Say a prayer for Captain Sam. —Regina McLemore is a retired educator of Cherokee heritage. Her great, great grandmother, Susie Christie Clay, survived the Trail of Tears in 1839.


Runner-up Winner of the 2019 Ozark Creative Writers Dusty Richards Memorial Oxbow Prize


EN DODSON RODE TOWARD the ranch house, hoping it was the one he was looking for. A woman stepped out on the porch, holding a short, double barreled shotgun pointed at him. He stopped his horse in front of the house, careful to keep his hands in plain sight, and tipped his hat. “Evening, Ma’am. I’m looking for the Brian Cummings place. Would this be it?” She raised her eyebrows, a questioning expressing crossing her face. “Yes, it is. What do you want?” Tall for a woman, and slender, with shoulder length blonde hair, her blue eyes narrowed and centered on him in a stern, suspicious stare, smart enough not to trust him and lower the shotgun. Being alone out here, she certainly had good reason not to relax. He smiled at her, trying to ease the tension. “Then I suppose you’re Janine, his wife. Is that right?” “Yes. that’s right. Who are you? How do you know my husband and how do you know my name?” She stood straight, shoulders tensed, holding the

shotgun aimed at his chest. No doubt, she’d pull the trigger if he made a false step. He motioned toward the chairs on the porch. “Could we sit down for a minute? I have something to tell you.” Her lips parted, as she stared at him. “I suppose so.” She backed away from the steps and motioned with the shotgun to the chair on the right, waiting until he was seated before easing down into the second one. She sat in silence, watching him, still holding the shotgun, but with the barrel lowered a bit, not pointing it directly at him. Ben paused, rubbing his fingers over his chin. Man, this was tough. Where to start? “My name’s Ben Dodson, and I’m sorry, but I’m bringing bad news. I was riding along a trail when I heard a gunshot in the distance. I’ve never been one to run from trouble, so I investigated.” She took a deep breath, as if fearing what he would say next. Ben hesitated, hating to say any more. Finally, trying to let his expression show the compassion he felt for this woman, he continued.


saddlebag dispatches

“I found a man lying by the side of the trail. He’d been shot, but he lived long enough to tell me his name and where he was from. He knew he was dying, and I promised him I’d let you know what happened.” He leaned forward, eyes connected to hers, holding her attention. “I buried him and then came to find you.” “They killed him.” She leaned the shotgun against the side of the chair and wiped away tears, her shoulders slumped, and head bowed, as if completely overwhelmed. “I was afraid they would, if he found them. He shouldn’t have gone after those three by himself, should have let them have the cattle. We could have replaced the cows. They weren’t worth dying for.” “Them? You know who did this?” She nodded and clasped her hands tightly in her lap, voice quivering. “Amos Sanders, Ralph Baker, and Jake Stevens. They worked here. Two weeks ago, they stole our cattle, drove them away one night. Brian went after them, went alone.”

She wiped her eyes. “I begged him not to go, but he was so angry he wouldn’t listen. This is what I was afraid would happen. They hated him for firing Amos, and I knew they wouldn’t let him live. That’s the kind of men they are.” “He must have found them.” “And they killed him.” She glanced out across the stretch of range land, as if searching for an answer. Her voice dropped a notch. “Now they’ll come for me.” Come for her? “Why would they do that?” “Amos, he’s the ringleader, he’d been trying to get me to take up with him, cheat on my husband. I ignored him, which only made him angry. I threatened to shoot him, threatened to tell Brian.” Her lips tightened as she paused for a second. “Amos made fun of me. He told me I couldn’t get away from him, no matter how I much I wanted to get rid of him. If he left, he’d take me with him. He said I deserved a better man than Brian, and he was the right man for me. He patted his chest and

saddlebag dispatches

bragged he always got what he wanted, and I would be no exception.” Ben felt his expression change, growing hard and stern. His fists clenched in an urge to hit this scum. What kind of man would treat a woman like that? “Did you tell your husband?” She nodded. “He was furious. He fired Amos and the other two left with him. Then they stole the cattle.” Her lips quivered, making her voice tremble. “Now that Brian’s dead, I don’t think Amos will give up. I’m sure they’ll be back.” “And you’re here alone? You don’t have anyone to help you?” She sighed. “No close neighbors, and Brian didn’t take time to hire anyone to replace them. There’s no one I can depend on for help, and I won’t stand a chance against the three of them.” She was a tough woman, but this was more than she could handle alone. If those three came back, she would be in serious trouble. How could he ride off and leave her in a dangerous situation like this? He couldn’t. It would go against everything in his nature to walk away from a woman in trouble. Something he’d never be able to live with. He hesitated, but her expression changed, and he followed her gaze, sensing something was wrong. Two men on horseback rode through the tall grass, coming toward the house. He watched as they approached and stopped in front of him and Janine. One dismounted and walked toward them. Janine stood and raised the shotgun, leveling it at him, her voice rough with anger. “What are you doing here?” “We’ve got bad news. Brian’s been killed, and we’ve come to take you to the body.” She shook her head. “I’m not going anywhere with the two of you. You’re probably the ones who killed him.” He flushed and took a step closer, his face twisted in fury. “Don’t tell me you’re not coming. No woman talks back to me.” Ben rose and stepped closer to the edge of the porch. “You heard the lady. She’s not going with you.” The man reached for his gun, pulling it out of the

holster, but Ben beat him to the draw, shooting him in the chest. He jerked his revolver around and pointed it at the guy still on horseback. “Drop your gun if you want to live.” The man slowly lifted his gun and dropped it on the ground. Ben narrowed his eyes, his lips twisted into a hardened smirk, daring this jerk to make a wrong move. Just one. It would be his last. “Mrs. Cummings mentioned three men. Where’s the third one?” The man darted a glance at Janine and then shifted his eyes back to Ben, licking his lips. “He’s waiting for us to bring her to him.” Face creased in an angry frown, eye narrowed to slits, Ben grated, “And that’s what you planned to do? Well, get this. She’s not going anywhere with the likes of you. Now get out of here before I shoot you, too.” He stood alert, muscles tight, but after a few seconds of flaring tension, the man reined his horse around, jabbed it with his heels, and rode away. Ben watched, making sure he didn’t circle back around, then he turned to face the woman who was still holding the shotgun. She gave him a relieved but questioning look. “You don’t know me, never seen me before. Why are you defending me like this?” “I believe in helping people. It’s the way I was brought up, and it looked like you needed a little help.” Janine raised her eyebrows. “A little? You saved me.” She leaned the shotgun against the wall of the house and slumped down into the chair. “They’d have made me go with them, or worse, if you hadn’t been here.” He nodded at her. “You’re safe now. I’m going to follow that guy and see they don’t bother you again. And I’ll get your cattle back for you.” She stared at him, wide-eyed. “No, don’t do that. They’ll kill you too.” He grinned. “I think I can handle them.” Although he wasn’t really as confident about that as he’d made it sound, he’d do his best to make sure they didn’t come back to harm her. He pointed at the man on the ground. “I’m guessing these were the men who stole your cattle. Which one is this?”



saddlebag dispatches

saddlebag dispatches

“That one is Ralph Baker. The one who rode away is Jake Stevens, and the third one who wasn’t here, is Amos Sanders. He’s the one who makes the decisions.” “All right. You keep that shotgun close and the doors locked. I’ll be back as soon as I can. In the meantime, you be careful and don’t take any chances.” She gave him a direct look but didn’t answer. Ben descended the steps, got on his horse and rode off in the direction Jake Stevens had ridden, trying to stay out of sight. He was leaving Janine with a dead body to dispose of, but from what he’d seen of her, she’d handle it somehow. He had to follow this guy now, before he got away. Jake rode through thick woods a couple of times, as if trying to throw off anyone who might be on his trail. Ben stayed watchful, hoping to avoid an ambush, but nothing happened. The sun set, and shadows lengthened as time passed. After a couple of hours, he ended up in a fairly thick stand of trees with night creeping in. The light of a fire glowed a short distance

away, but he knew better than to walk into another man’s camp unexpectedly. A good way to get shot. He eased closer, keeping an eye on Jake and trying not to make any sound. Ben watched from the shadows as Jake approached the campfire, making no effort to stay out of sight. The man seated by the fire stood up as he approached. Was this guy Amos Sanders, the one who had sent the other two to get Janine? He didn’t seem happy to see Jake. His voice was hard and rough as he glared at him and demanded, “What are you doing sneaking up on me like that? It’s a wonder I didn’t hear you coming and fired a shot in your direction. What are you doing here by yourself? Where’s Ralph and Janine?” Jake spread his hands out and shrugged. “We ran into trouble. She wouldn’t leave, and there was a guy with her. He shot Ralph when he tried to make her come with us. I was afraid he’d kill me, too, but he let me leave.”



saddlebag dispatches

Amos swore. “I shoulda known better than to send the two of you to get her. If there was a way to mess up, you’d find it. Neither one of you is worth the price of a bottle of bad whiskey.” He stood, legs spread, with his hand on his waist, close to his gun. “And he just let you ride away? Why didn’t he shoot you, too?” “I don’t rightly know. I was afraid he would, but I’ve been watching, and I think I may have caught a glimpse of him a while back. He might have been following me.” Jake looked around the clearing, his expression nervous. “And you led him to me?” Amos snarled. “You think I’ll let you get by with something like that?” He drew his gun in one quick motion and fired. Jake dropped like a bag of rocks. Amos whirled and dashed away from the campfire into the dark woods, disappearing from sight. Ben remained motionless, trying to blend into the shadows, not knowing where the killer was, only that he was somewhere out here and had a better knowledge of the area than he did. He strained his eyes, watching for any hint of movement, listening for any sound. Suddenly he jerked, as a gun barrel rammed hard against his back. “Walk toward the fire,” a man’s voice growled. When they reached the clearing, the pressure of the gun barrel eased, and Ben slowly turned around to

face his enemy, hands raised. Amos was a tall man, scruffy, with a short beard. He sneered. “I guess you’re the one who killed Ralph. Did you think you could outsmart me? Lots of luck with that. You’ll not leave this place alive. And after I kill you, I’ll go teach Janine Cummings a lesson she has coming. No woman pushes me around.” A twig snapped in the woods behind them. Amos whirled in that direction, and Ben grabbed his own gun ducking to the side as Amos veered around and fired. Ben felt the bullet whine past his cheek. He pointed his gun at Amos and pulled the trigger. The bullet struck him in the chest, knocking him backward. His gun dropped to the ground, bouncing away from his body. Ben aimed his Colt at the woods where the snapping twig had sounded. “Come out with your hands in the air.” Nothing moved for a few seconds, then the brush slowly began to stir. Janine stepped out from behind a tree, carrying her shotgun and smiling at him. He stared at her, shocked, then lowered his gun. Where did this woman come from? One wrong move, and she could have been shot. “What are you doing out here?” She shrugged. “I followed you. Those men killed my husband and stole our cattle. I have a right to fight back.”

saddlebag dispatches

She followed him? And he never noticed? So much for being careful. “Didn’t you realize you could be killed?” he demanded. “Of course, I knew that. But this is a rough piece of country. I’ve been in dangerous situations before. We don’t have any guarantee of living a long life.” She glanced at Amos’s body and then looked back at him. “What will we do now?” “I’m going to hire a couple of guys to help me find those cows and bring them home. But before I do that, let’s get you back to the ranch.” She tilted her chin and gave him a direct stare. “As long as you understand one thing. I’m going with you to find those cattle.” He shook his head in frustration, knowing he couldn’t stop her. If he rode off without her, she’d just follow him. This was one bull-headed woman, strong as all git-out, and pretty as an early morning sunrise. He’d never met anyone like her before. Brian Cummings must have had his hands full. She was definitely something else. “All right.” He gave in. “But get this straight. After we get the cattle back home, I’m staying at the ranch, and don’t argue with me. You’ll need a good foreman, and I’m available. Now let’s get going.” She frowned at him, then her expression relaxed. They walked through the woods to where they’d left their mounts. He reached his horse first and led it to where Janine had tied hers. Ben mounted and waited as she climbed into the saddle and reined her horse around to follow him. He’d been searching for something all his life, not knowing exactly what, but now he realized what he’d been missing. What a lot of people seemed to have—a home, a family, someone to share the good things with. Glancing over at the woman riding beside him, he had a feeling he’d finally found what he’d been looking for.


Barbara J. Warren


arbara Warren was born and raised on a farm in Southwest Missouri. She loved hiking the surrounding hills and hollows and has since hiked the Grand Canyon three times. She and her husband, Charles, lived in Independence for several years, before moving back to a farm, where Charles had a horse to ride and Barbara had her dogs. Years later, when Charles died, she left her beloved farm and moved to a nearby town on a quiet street with good neighbors. Barbara started making up stories at an early age, and she was always the heroine. She helped novels and a sixth under consideration. She has had stories published in magazines and been a speaker at several writer’s conferences. She enjoys reading, writing, and meeting other writers. Barbara now writes Inspirational Romantic Suspense and her books are available on Amazon. Her short story, “The Stranger,” was the runner up for the 2019 Ozark Creative Writers Dusty Richards Memorial Oxbow Award.



Winner of the 2019 Ozark Creative Writers Dusty Richards Memorial Oxbow Prize

ACKS, COME ON OUT of that jail. Bring whoever the one-armed fellow is with you. There’s no need in you two getting hurt over the marshal. We know he’s in bad shape, so I’m taking my boy home with me. I’ll give you two minutes.” The old man guarding the jail looked at me and grimaced. “That would be Conner Noland out there. It’s his boy, Luke, locked up back there in the cell. Marshal Cates brought him in yesterday for killing a man down at The Thirsty Miner. I can’t let him go, and I won’t let them in here with the marshal. If you want to leave, you can, young man. This really isn’t your fight.” Looking over at the marshal being tended to by the town doctor and back at the jailor, I weighed my options. He was right. I didn’t know these people, and it really wasn’t my fight. But right is right, and I always had a way of getting involved in what was right. “Jacks, is that what I heard the Doc call you?” He nodded his head. “I guess when I found the Marshal out by the tracks nearly beaten to death and decided

to help, it became my business. Doc, how’s the marshal looking? “Not good, he’s got several broken ribs and lost a lot of blood. He might even be bleeding inside, I can’t tell. I didn’t catch your name, by the way.” “That’s because I didn’t throw it. Cory Miller.” Then I decided to lie. “The marshal was in bad shape when I found him, but he was still talking. He deputized me before he passed out on the way to town. Jack’s, do you have another badge laying around somewhere? Looks like I’ll be helping you keep those men out of the jail.” Doc and Jacks looked at each other before answering my question. I could see they were suspicious of what I had just told them. I would just have to trust it would work itself out. “There’s a badge in the top drawer of the marshal’s desk. I’ve known Marshal Cates for several years now and I ain’t ever known him to deputize anyone, especially some stranger.” Jacks was keeping his eye on the men outside but letting me know he wasn’t sure about my story.


saddlebag dispatches

“Maybe the marshal was afraid he wouldn’t make it back into town and wanted someone to hold his prisoner. I don’t know, Jacks. But I certainly can’t leave you here to defend the marshal and hold the jail by yourself.” “If the town folk knew Marshal Cates was going to be okay, they’d be out here running these men out of town themselves. Without him, though, they don’t have enough courage to come outside. So, I guess it’s you and me, Deputy.” Opening the top drawer, I found the badge and pinned it to my trail dust covered shirt. This wasn’t the first time I had worn a badge, but the last time was before the war, before the loss of half my left arm. “I’m going out there to talk to these men. Bar this door behind me. If anything should happen to me, I recommend you use that scatter gun on Luke back there. If the marshal jailed him for killing a man, then we need to make sure he doesn’t walk out of that cell.” I didn’t wait to hear Jacks or the Doc’s reply. I knew they would argue, and I’ve learned, when there’s business needing tended to, its best to get it done. Opening the door, I quickly assessed the location of Conner Noland’s men as I walked out onto the boardwalk. They had all taken up positions on the boardwalk across the street that would give them cover. The townspeople had moved inside in anticipation of trouble. I needed to change the circumstances to my advantage. But one of Conner’s men was in danger of escalating the situation. “Would you look at that, boss? The one-armed man is wearing a badge. And two tied- down holsters. Now why in the world would a one-armed man need two guns?” He strolled out into the street smiling as he began his taunts. “Maybe he plans on taking all of us to jail, boss.” I knew I had to get Conner’s attention quickly, before his long-haired hired gun could encourage the others to join him. “Jacks,” I yelled. “If any of these men makes any sudden moves, you cut that boy, Luke, in half with your scatter gun. Do you hear me?” “I hear you, deputy.” Jacks answered. “Curly, get back over here,” Conner barked. I could see Curly wasn’t happy with being put on

a leash. So, just to keep his attention on me, I winked at him and smiled. “Get back on the porch, boy. Mind your master.” He really wanted to make a play for his gun but didn’t. That told me all I needed to know about Conner’s hired hands. They might be tough, but they didn’t cross the old man. “Deputy, my men do what I tell them to do. But if I were you, I wouldn’t go trying to push…” “I’ll do the talking out here, Mr. Noland. I already heard what you had to say. Now you can listen to me.” He wasn’t used to being interrupted and didn’t like it. But the threat of Jacks and his scatter gun had gotten his attention. “You and your men will ride out of town and back to wherever you call home. Your boy will get a fair trial when the judge comes through next week. The marshal should be up and around by then, and he can testify to what he saw happen at the saloon.” “Pa, he’s lying to you.” Luke’s voice came screaming from the jail. “The marshal is near dead in here. Come get me out, Pa.” Curly stepped off the boardwalk and started across the street. I waited to see if Conner would call him back, then I headed for Curly, walking quickly, never taking my eyes off him. His hand moved to his pistol, but I was too close. Every gunfighter knows when two men are close together, neither one is likely to miss. Then I hit him with a clubbing blow from my hardened right fist, just in front of his left ear. A man gets unusually strong when he only has one arm. He folded like a bad hand at a poker table. Sinking to his knees, his face planted in the dusty street. It had only taken a few seconds. My right hand wrapped around the handle of the Colt as I faced Conner and his men. Several had reached for their guns, but Conner’s arms were outstretched, holding them back. “Mr. Noland, I don’t want to die, and I don’t want to kill any of your men. I suggest you load Curly up and head home. Your boy won’t be getting out of jail today.” The glare of hatred coming from Conner Noland let me know I had made a deadly enemy. His fear of


saddlebag dispatches

Jacks killing his son was the only thing keeping his men from killing me, at the moment. Conner slowly walked off the boardwalk to stand face to face with me. “Deputy, I’m leaving a couple of men in town to keep an eye on you, and on the jail. The rest of us will go back to my ranch, for now. If anything happens to my boy, I will burn this town to the ground.” With that, he started for his horse along with his men while two of them loaded Curly on his horse. As they loaded him one of the men turned and spoke. “I want to give you a piece of advice, Deputy. Leave town, today. When Curly comes around he’ll be looking to find you. As for Mr. Noland, nobody shows him up and lives very long. The marshal tried. You see what’s happened to him. Folks respected the marshal. They don’t even know you.” He climbed on his horse, following the rest of the men out of town. Walking back to the jail, I noticed people were slowly coming out of the businesses along the street. Some giving a slight nod or wave to acknowledge their appreciation of how the situation had ended. I nodded back but kept walking. Not wanting any of them to notice the sweat on my own forehead. “You made yourself an enemy out there, Deputy.” Jacks was the first to speak as I entered the marshal’s office. “That Curly fella is dangerous. He’s killed three men since he showed up in these parts. Marshal Cates could never prove he murdered them, but he had his suspicions.” “I’ve run across the likes of Curly before, Jacks. He’ll have to be dealt with soon enough. I just wanted to buy some time without it costing anybody their life today.” “Well, it looks like the marshal’s fever may be breaking. So, maybe that’s a good sign.” Doc spoke up, sounding hopeful. “That last fella talking to you was Gus Malcolm, the foreman at Noland’s ranch. He’s no gunman, but he’s tough as an old hickory. What’d he say to you?” Jacks wasn’t satisfied. “He just told me to watch my back. Curly would be looking to settle our differences when he wakes up. And Mr. Noland doesn’t like being bested. I had that figured out already.” I checked on Luke as he gave me an earful about

saddlebag dispatches

his Pa and how the town would burn if we didn’t let him go. I just stared at him till he stopped talking. I didn’t have to like him to know I still had to feed him. “Jacks, where do I go to get all of us some dinner? I’m getting kinda hungry. Last time I ate was last night.” About that time, a train whistle blew a ways out of town. I had almost forgotten about the train outside of town. “Dinner will be here shortly. Emma, over at the hotel, brings dinner when she hears the train coming in.” “Deputy, I think the marshal is coming around.” Doc interrupted. “Doc, where am I?” Marshal Cates whispered. “You’re in your office, Marshal. Deputy Miller found you out by the tracks last night and brought you in.” “Deputy Miller? Who are you…?” “Nice to see you feeling better, Marshal. I’m Cory Miller, the man who found you last night. You might not remember too much about it, what with the beating you had taken.” “I remember the beating part, and maybe seeing you. But what’s this about being a deputy?” It was time to confess. “I told Jacks and the Doc here you had deputized me. Only because Conner Noland and his men were here to get Luke and he was making some serious threats, Marshal.” “You lied to us?” Jacks almost screamed. “With what he did to get rid of Conner and his men, Jacks, I think a little lie can be forgiven, don’t you?” Doc answered. “Maybe, but he needs to get that badge off, now.” Jacks still wasn’t happy. “Hold up just a blame minute.” Marshal Cates grunted as he tried to sit up. “Lay down, Marshal. You don’t need to be trying to move around.” Doc eased the marshal back on his cot. “Okay, Doc, okay. But this man held off Conner and his men by himself?” “He sure did and knocked Curly out cold to boot. He didn’t even have to pull his gun. Pretty impressive if you ask me.” Jacks was smiling as he told his version. “Marshal, the whole thing is far from over.” I wanted him to know all of it. “Conner left a couple

of men in town to keep an eye on the jail. I saw them stop Curly’s horse and take him in to the stables with them. I suspect he’ll be back here soon.” Jacks and Doc were quiet since this was news to them as well. But I could see the marshal was putting the pieces together in his head. “Well, I have two witnesses here to see it, so if you’re willing to help, I’m deputizing you now.” We shook hands as I nodded my okay. “Now write these names down, I know some of the men who attacked me. Jacks can help you identify them.” I wrote down the names he gave me, and it was no surprise Curly was one of them. The marshal was certain there had been six men, but he only knew four of them. “I was riding out to the Noland ranch to warn them. The man Luke shot has a brother. He’ll be looking to get revenge; he’s just that kind of man. I don’t know who shot me, but it knocked me out of my saddle, and then they were on me. Kicking and stomping and clubbing me till I was sure I was dead. I even heard one of them say they thought I was dead.” “I took you for dead when I spotted you last night. But when I rolled you over you let out a groan. When I saw your badge, I brought you here.” “Deputy, get your sorry hide out here, me and you got unfinished business.” Curly had come to, ready to fight. “Marshal, it’s legal now, so I need to go arrest a man.” He nodded as I stood up. Walking to the window, I could see Curly in the middle of the street. Wisely, he had chosen far enough away to avoid a repeat of our earlier encounter. Looking more closely, I could see the other two men had taken positions on either side of the street. I started for the door knowing this wouldn’t be easy. “Hold up, Deputy,” Jacks stopped me. “Let me go out first with this scatter gun. There are three of them out there. Maybe I can help a little.” I nodded my agreement. Jacks walked out and positioned himself behind the porch post without saying a word. From the door I could see the other two men looking at each other. The idea of Jacks with a scatter gun wasn’t sitting well. I started talking as soon as I walked out. “Curly,



saddlebag dispatches

I’m placing you under arrest for the assault on Marshal Cates last night.” I kept walking into the street, trying to watch all three men for movement. “You ain’t arresting nobody, Cripple.” His hand was on his pistol. “I intend to kill you and then Jacks. After, I’ll go in there, finish off the marshal and take Luke back to his Pa.” His hand jerked the pistol from the holster. He was fast, but not fast enough. My Colt leaped into my hand and bucked before he ever got his pistol leveled. The forty-five round hit him square in the chest, knocking him backwards. He was dead before he hit the ground. I heard Jacks shotgun roar and turned on the second gunman just as he fired and missed. I didn’t. I looked and could see Jacks reloading, so I walked to Curly to make certain he was dead. There was no doubt about the one Jacks had shot. The third man wasn’t moving. “Noland!” The shout came from the jail.

As I turned, I could see a man with a rifle. He was emptying it into the jail house. I had failed the Marshal. Then I heard the roar of Jacks shotgun again as the man seemed to explode in the doorway. Running back to the jail, I looked inside to find the horrified look on the doctor’s face, and Luke Noland dead in his cell. “That was the brother of the man Luke killed. He wasn’t shooting at me,” the Marshal choked. “I didn’t know that, so he’s dead now.” Jacks had quietly walked in behind me. The sound of horses racing into town filled the air. Jacks and I both ran back out to the street. It was Conner Noland’s ranch hands, without Conner Noland. My Colt was still in my hand as they skidded to a stop in front of the jail. Gus Malcolm was leading them. “Deputy, I don’t know what’s happened here, but some drygulcher shot Mr. Noland out at the ranch as soon as we rode back in. We followed his trail back to

saddlebag dispatches

the railroad. We’re sure he came back here to Vinita.” I could hear anger in Gus’ voice. “Climb down and have a look, Gus. I think you’ll find your killer is dead already. But I have to tell you, he got to Luke while Jacks and I were dealing with Curly and his buddies.” Several of the riders dismounted and walked over to look at the dead body, then peered inside at Marshal Cates. Only Gus walked on inside. “Marshal, I’m sorry about all that’s happened. Luke was a loose cannon and Boss wouldn’t hold him accountable. I want you to know none of my regular hands had any part in this.” Gus’ voice was sincere. “I know, Gus, and I would just ask your men to let my deputy sort all this out. I would, but it’s going to be a while before I can get around.” “Your deputy already proved himself, Marshal. I’ll help him any way I can.” “Well, Deputy Miller, you feel like being the law around here until I get back on my feet?” “I was supposed to be in Kansas City for a position with the Pinkerton Agency. But it can wait. Marshal, I’ll do my best.” I smiled as I held up my good arm. “I guess one arm of the law is better than none.”

Gary Rodgers

G a

ary is a long time resident of Arkansas and currently lives in Pangburn, Arkansas with his biggest inspiration—and wife—Kim. Growing up in a time where children were seen and not heard allowed Gary to hear how a good story is told. He now uses those lessons and stories to write his own tales. Gary is a member of White County Creative Writers and enjoys writing for contests and attending writing conferences. He currently has three manuscripts in the works, two western and more of a hobby than a career at the moment, says getting those ideas into completed works is his ultimate goal. Winning 1st place in the Oxbow Award in Memory of Dusty and Pat Richards in 2019, at the Ozark Creative Writers Conference, gave a writer. He says it has inspired him to learn even has started.



WOMAN Her face is burnished brown like leather well-worn to a shine. Her hat shades eyes that watch life rivet iron to her spine. She’s stacked hay in hot summer sun and mucked out dirty stalls. She’s hunted for the family’s food and worn men’s overalls. She’s helped the stock cows birth their calves in freezing ten degrees and squeezed air into failing newborns’ lungs while on her knees. Her turf lies well beyond the house she helped build with her mate. She’s ridden fence line, dug holes for new posts, and set them straight.

where she is rooted like an old oak tree that proudly stands. A rope and saddle have been tools beneath the open skies. Yet she’ll become all warm and tender when her baby cries. She shares the heavy load of ranching that weighs down the day and she can take the reins when life becomes a runaway. Resilience rides along undaunted where she makes the best of living off the rangeland. She’s a woman of the West.

poetry by


SA D D LEBAG poetry


saddlebag dispatches


Y 1874, THE YEAR Arch Wolf was born, the best days of the Cherokee people were well behind them. The tribe had been moved by force from their ancestral home thirty-five years earlier. They’d been marched across the country and crowded into Indian Territory beside Choctaw, Chickasha, Muskogee, and Seminole. They were surrounded by land-hungry white settlers, and dominated by the U.S. Government, whose courts and soldiers were right across the Arkansas River in Fort Smith. The tribe still had its oral history, but those heroic stories of brave warriors, great hunters and rich farmers in the southeastern woodlands of the North American continent must have sounded like fairy tales to young Cherokee men in the second half of the nineteenth century. Things were bad for the tribes in Indian Territory and everyone could see they would be getting worse. The year Arch turned thirteen, Congress passed the General Allotment Act of 1887 (The Dawes Act). This law authorized taking away land controlled by the Indian Nations, and replacing it with allotments assigned to individual tribal members. The Dawes Commission put the new law in place gradually, on scattered reservations around the country. They held off enforcing it in Indian Territory until they were well acquainted with the reactions they might expect from the five tribes concentrated in that region. The government didn’t start by using force. They encouraged tribal members to sign up for the rolls

and receive title to eighty acres (for a single person) and one hundred sixty acres for a head of household. They underplayed the fact that allotments would be discontinued once the rolls were closed and unassigned tribal land would be available to non-Indians. Traditional Cherokee, the Keetoowah, figured out the downside pretty early. They refused to cooperate with the Dawes Commission. Traditional boys like Arch Wolf didn’t sign up for their allotments when they turned eighteen. They put their confidence in the tribe with its organized government and skilled statesmen who were accustomed to dealing with white politicians. The Cherokee Nation made its case in the courts and with lobbying efforts. They won a number of legal battles and managed to slow down the inevitable loss of their tribal sovereignty, but it did them no good in the end. In 1898, Congress passed The Curtis Act, a law that eliminated the authority of any tribe to enforce any laws they passed. This marked the end to any legitimate tribal government. As a member of a Keetoowah family, Arch Wolf remained steadfastly against the allotments as long as he was able. But he never had to worry about the Curtis Act. By the time Congress passed it, he was already in the custody of the U.S. justice system. THE WRONG PLACE AT THE WORST TIME. Arch Wolf’s family had close ties with well-known Keetoowah statesman, Ned Christie. Most traditionals

saddlebag dispatches

that she take the eighteen-year-old with her. That were well-acquainted with him. Christie was a member was fortunate for Arch, because the posse laid siege of the executive council of the Cherokee senate and a to Christie’s cabin. They kept him pinned down with principal advisor to Chief Dennis Bushyhead. He was a hail of rifle bullets. They followed that with rounds one of the most respected traditional activists in the from a small cannon, and when he still wouldn’t territory, and remained that way until U.S. District surrender, they blew up Christie’s cabin with a charge Court Judge Isaac Parker made him an outlaw with of dynamite. The Keetoowah activist ran out of the the stroke of his legal pen. wreckage shooting, and was quickly killed. U.S. Marshal Daniel Maples had been ambushed When Yoes documented his account of the attack to and killed outside of Tahlequah, the capitol of the receive payment, he made no mention of Arch Wolf. Cherokee Nation, while investigating the illegal That didn’t stop federal prosecutors from tracking sale of liquor in Indian Territory. Armed standoffs the young man down, charging him with two counts between whiskey peddlers and U.S. Marshals weren’t of assault with intent to kill and two liquor-related uncommon in those times, but federal authorities took charges thrown in for good measure. it seriously when one of their own was killed. They Arch Wolf was held in the infamous jail under Isaac quickly arrested a Cherokee man named John Parris Parker’s courthouse for a year while the government but released him after he testified Ned Christie fired built its case against him. He requested a number of the gun that killed the officer. witnesses who could testify that he was not at the cabin Parris didn’t stick around to see how things when the shooting started, but they were all friends worked out, but he’d pointed federal prosecutors of Ned Christie and were understandably wary of the in the direction they wanted to go. The prospect of reception they would get in Isaac Parker’s courtroom. getting rid of a Keetoowah activist was too much for When no one came to testify for Arch, the young them to resist. man pleaded guilty. He was sentenced for one count Judge Isaac Parker put a $500 reward on Ned of assault with intent to kill (instead of two) and two Christie’s head. That got federal lawmen interested. liquor related misdemeanors. Judge Parker ordered Small posses made several attempts to capture the him to serve a total of six years in the notoriously brutal activist, but he got plenty of warning from sympathetic Kings County Penitentiary in Brooklyn, New York. tribal members and was able to hold them off. When it was clear Ned Christie wasn’t going to surrender himself to the court, Parker raised the reward to $1000 dead or alive. That was enough money to attract a large group of determined lawmen. On November 3, 1892, U.S. Marshal Jacob Yoes led seven men to Ned Christie’s cabin. Arch Wolf had the misfortune to be visiting at the time. When Christie saw there was going to be a shoot-out, he sent his wife, ENTRANCE TO THE INFAMOUS KINGS COUNTY PENITENTIARY Nancy, away and insisted IN BROOKLYN, NEW YORK.



saddlebag dispatches


A DIFFERENT KIND OF CUSTODY Life in any nineteenth century U.S. prison was pretty grim, but Kings County was famous for its corruption, mismanagement, and cruelty. It had fallen into political disfavor over the years, and everyone knew it wouldn’t withstand public scrutiny for much longer. Arch Wolf was sent there during its worst period of decline, only a few years before the institution was closed. With substandard food, chain gang work, and a decaying physical structure, most inmates found life behind the walls pretty depressing. Arch Wolf was a Cherokee speaker with no friends behind the walls, and he was already in poor physical condition from the year spent in the basement jail of the Ft. Smith court house. After another year and a half in Kings County he was depressed enough for prison administrators to declare he was insane and petition for an alternative form of custody. There was a Cherokee Asylum for the Insane in Indian Territory, and Arch’s family lobbied hard to have him sent there. It would have made perfect sense for the young man to be held at an institution where they spoke his language, where his family could visit, and he would have access to tribal healers. Unlike most mental institutions of the day, the Cherokee asylum had a reputation as a place where people got better. It was not simply a place to warehouse mental patients out of sight of the public. Instead of sending Arch to the one place where he might actually get some help, the prison system transferred him to the Government Hospital for the Insane in Washington D.C. on August 29, 1895. The admitting physician diagnosed him as suffering from acute melancholia resulting from “prison life.” Arch wasn’t as damaged as most of the Government Hospital patients. Considering the state of care for mental patients in those days, he was fortunate he didn’t need much of it.

His family sent many letters to hospital administration asking for information about his condition and about the possibility of his release or transfer, but received no useful responses even after hiring an attorney to handle correspondence for them. They were understandably concerned, because at the end of the nineteenth century, the policy of most mainstream asylums was to keep mental patients confined indefinitely. After Arch had spent a year in the Government Hospital, the doctors decided he was recovered enough to be released, returned to jail, or transferred to the Cherokee Asylum. They requested a review by the Attorney General. Arch Wolf’s case got as far as the office of President Grover Cleveland where the young man was considered briefly for clemency. Unfortunately for him, Ned Christie’s reputation had grown well

saddlebag dispatches

beyond his deeds in the years following his death and federal agents didn’t want anyone associated with the Keetoowah martyr anywhere near Indian Territory. The Government Hospital held Arch until he could be moved to the first and only federal insane asylum built exclusively for Indians in Canton, S.D. By the time he was transferred on January 17, 1903, he had been away from his family for 9 years—three years longer than his original sentence. A SPECIAL ASYLUM FOR INSANE INDIANS In 1898, the same year Congress passed the Curtis Act, it created a federally funded institution exclusively for mentally ill indigenous Americans. They chose to call it The Hiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians. It took five years to get the project underway, but the institution finally opened its doors in January, 1902. Its first administrator was Oscar S. Gifford, a

lawyer, rather than a doctor. Gifford had served six years in the U.S. House of Representatives, first as a non-voting delegate from the Dakota Territory, and then as a congressman from the new state of South Dakota. He had also been the mayor of Canton, where the asylum was located. From the very beginning of the project, there were questions about whether there were enough “insane Indians” to justify the building of a specialty asylum, but funding fell quickly into place and the institution was completed. When the nay-sayers turned out to be correct about the shortage of patients, Oscar Gifford did what he had to do in order to make the project at least seem to work. He took up the slack with alcoholics, the culturally misunderstood, and people who were vocally opposed to government and business interests. The institution began as a one of the few socially



saddlebag dispatches


saddlebag dispatches

progressive ideas of its time, but like almost every interaction between the U.S. government and Native America, it went terribly wrong. THE END OF ARCH WOLF Since most of the patients in the Canton Asylum were being warehoused rather than treated, no one bothered keeping extensive records on individuals who weren’t causing trouble. That was apparently the case with Arch Wolf. There were record entries that indicated he was doing well, and daily notes on his appetite. There were numerous references to constipation, and nausea—probably reactions to the medications he was given, although it’s hard to be certain because medication logs were kept irregularly. Arch Wolf never had so much as a diagnosis until 1907, when doctors determined he was a terminal stage paranoid with systematized delusions of expansive tendency. Diagnostic notations at that time said he was incoherent but had parole. He caused no trouble, but was potentially dangerous. This was the first time he had been diagnosed as paranoid, but it is hardly surprising this potentially dangerous young man who caused no trouble might have developed the idea there were conspiracies against him. Arch’s case was complicated by the fact that his primary language was Cherokee. According to a 1910 count, only four members of his tribe were in the hospital—and they were all patients. Oscar Gifford turned the asylum into an economic bonanza for the little town of Canton, South Dakota. He purchased supplies locally and ran the medical portion of the institution on a shoestring budget, often refusing to authorize medical treatments. There were numerous complaints of patient abuse while Gifford ran the institution, including one death from the institution’s physician not being allowed to remove gallstones. The final scandal that resulted in Gifford’s forced resignation was the birth of “a full-term bastard imbecile” in 1909, a baby boy who was removed for adoption that never materialized, and who died three months after being taken away from his mother. Arch Wolf lasted at the institution three years longer than its first administrator. It is doubtful he found the change in leadership a positive one.

Gifford was replaced by psychiatrist Harry Hummer. The new administrator seemed an odd choice to lead an institution populated by indigenous people. He was a member of the American Eugenics Movement. He believed no Indian should be released from his institution without being first sterilized, and since the asylum did not have suitable operating facilities for such procedures, he strenuously objected to releasing anyone. During Hummer’s years of operating the clinic, over ninety percent of individuals who left the institution did so by dying. Arch Wolf was one of those patients. He died on July 2, 1912. Hummer sent the following information to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs by mail:

Sir— I have the honor to report that Arch Wolf, an insane full-blood Cherokee Indian, who was admitted to this institution January 17, 1903, died at 8:25 this morning of diabetes mellitus and pulmonary tuberculosis. The remains will be interred in the Asylum cemetery unless I receive Instructions to the contrary.

Very respectfully, H.R. Hummer, M.D. Supt. & Spl. Disb. Agent

Arch Wolf had never been documented as having either diabetes or tuberculosis. He was buried in an unmarked grave—along with 120 of his fellow inmates—in what is now the Hiawatha Municipal Golf Course. Their names are listed on a bronze plaque between the fourth and fifth greens. —John T. Biggs is the author of six novels and hundreds



HIS ONE IS TOO EASY. Every day, when I sit down at my computer to see what the words have to say, sitting on the desk is a worn mouse pad that has been there for decades. My mouse gadget slides around on “The Bucker” by Charles Marion Russell—one of many, many Russell paintings I admire. To my way of thinking, no one else who painted the Old West—despite all the skilled and talented artists we study and appreciate—measures up to Charlie

“Kid” Russell. His more than 4,000 works, including drawings and sketches, paintings in watercolor and oils, and sculptures, capture the spirit and essence of the Old West better than any other works of art. He depicted horses and cattle, wildlife and landscapes, Indians and cowboys, quiet and chaos, and more. I am particularly drawn to his paintings of cowboys. Real, working cowboys. Like any true artist, while there is realism in his paintings, it is Russell’s interpretation of reality that matters. It is the essence,

saddlebag dispatches




saddlebag dispatches


saddlebag dispatches


the spirit, the invisible aspects of cowboy life he captures that make his paintings shine. Sure, he demonstrates skill in design and composition, in light and shadow, in hue and shade of color, in detail and focus. But you can see, in Russell’s paintings, things that aren’t even there—you sense what happened before, and imagine what will happen next. His paintings tell stories. And while he shows us the middle chapter, we can read the beginning and end, as well. It is also evident that Russell knew cowboys. He was more than just an observer. He showed us variations in dress and tack true to the times and places. His horses are horses—not romanticized, mythical, larger-than-life creatures, but ordinary, everyday working cow horses. While he painted quiet times, such as “Laugh Kills Lonesome,” “Men of the Open Range,” and “Waiting for a Chinook,” he created many more action-packed depictions of cowboy work. Horses that buck and absconding cattle are favorite subjects. Which is no surprise, given that “wrecks” are always topics of cowboy conversation. Russell’s paintings seize moments of peak action, but it would be wrong to say he freezes time. Rather, the viewer—especially those with intimate experience of cowboy life—feels the motion, senses the stress and strain, realizes the exhilaration of a dicey situation. Many of Russell’s scenes intimate a pending painful outcome—captured outlaws in “Call of the Law,” gunplay in “Smoke of a .45.” But there is humor in



saddlebag dispatches


saddlebag dispatches

tumult and turmoil as well, as in “Bronc to Breakfast” and “The Tenderfoot.” And there is the adrenaline rush cowboys feel upon seeing paintings like “Buccaroos,” “A Bad Hoss,” and “The Herd Quitter.” Russell was born in 1864 in St. Louis, Missouri. He practiced art from a young age, and his interest in the West came early as well. Books on the subject heightened his interest, as did the comings and goings he witnessed of trappers and traders and cowhands who happened along. He left school at sixteen, bound for Montana and a job on a sheep ranch. Outside of family visits, Montana was home for the rest of his life. Russell soon abandoned the woolies and took up cowboying on a cattle ranch. He unspooled his bedroll in a number of bunkhouses as he learned the cowboy trade, learning from cowboys who migrated to Montana from across the country—and his knowledge of regional variations in cowboy apparel and horse furniture is evident in his art. The cow-killing winter of 1886-1887 found Russell working as foreman on a ranch in the Judith Basin. In response to a letter from the owner asking how

the livestock were faring, Russell returned a postcard with a watercolor painting of a bony bovine, tail frozen off to a stub, hock-deep in snow, and stalked by wolves. The caption, “Waiting for a chinook—the last of 5000,” told the tale. His employer showed that tiny postcard around and put it on display in a store window. The result was commissions for paintings that got Russell out of the cowboy business and launched his career as an artist. Russell was a gregarious sort, and made friends with other Western artists, as well as movie makers and actors. He even employed “The Dean of Western Writers,” Wallace Stegner, as a boy, to mow his lawn. I suspect all those creative types he associated with would agree that when it comes to painting cowboy life, Charlie Russell was the Best of the West. —Rod Miller for the Western Writers of America Spur Award. He is also

poetry can be found at