TABLE OF CONTENTS
COVER STORY SHORT FICTION
HIGH ENERGY PHYSICS: W. MICHAEL FARMER by George “Clay” Mitchell ...
MAKING HAY by Richard Prosch .............................................................
37 51 59 67 98 105 113 123 135 147
COUNTED NOT AMONG THE DEAD by Anthony Wood ....................... THE DEATH OF GERONIMO by W. Michael Farmer ............................. MILLER’S DAY by Velda Brotheron .......................................................... THE LAST RIDER: PART FIVE by J.B. Hogan ..................................... WHEN IT RAINS by Dennis Doty ............................................................ ANOTHER DAY IN PROVIDENCE by Ben Goheen ............................... INNER WARRIOR by Kyleigh McCloud .................................................... I KILLED WILD BILL HICKOK by James Janke .................................. WHEREVER LIFE LEADS by Nancy Smith Gibson ................................
COWBOY... by J.B. Hogan ..................................................................................... HUNTER’S MOON by Marleen Bussma .............................................................. A COWBOY’S LIFE by Karen Newport ................................................................ DRIP DRIED IN THE BLUES by Michael Lee..................................................
THE ORIGINAL LADIES OF RODEO by Velda Brotherton ..................................... WESTERN SIDEKICK: SMILEY BURNETTE by Mike Koch ............................... FEUDING WOMEN by Fred Staff .................................................................................
BEHIND THE CHUTES by Dennis Doty ................................................. SIX-GUN JUSTICE by Paul Bishop ........................................................ TRIBAL PASSAGES by Regina McLemore ............................................... A COWBOY’S SPOON by Michael Lee .................................................. HEROES & OUTLAWS by Velda Brotherton .......................................... LET’S TALK WESTERNS by Terry Alexander ...................................... INDIAN TERRITORY by John T. Biggs ....................................................
24 48 148 154
26 42 142
6 10 18 86 156 158 162
SUBMISSION GUIDELINES We are now taking submissions for our Summer 2022 issue. This issue is due out July 4, 2022. DEADLINE IS FEBRUARY 1, 2022.
Saddlebag Dispatches is seeking original, previously-unpublished short stories, serial novels, poetry, and non-fiction articles about the West.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 between the end of the American Civil War and the turn of the twentieth century. The western is not limited to that time, however. The essence is openness and struggle. These things 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 https://www.shunn. net/format/story.html. 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 email@example.com with your name in the subject line.
ELL, IT’S DECEMBER. THE canning is done, the hog’s in the smokehouse, the cattle have been driven down to their winter range, and the firewood is cut and stacked for winter. It’s been one heck of a year for most of us. Seems like every industry has experienced supply chain challenges and unpredictable delays. Many have found new careers or new ways of doing business. And like cowboys have always done, we’ve cowboyed up, met the challenges head on, and gotten the job done. But it hasn’t all been tough news. Thanks to a group of truly outstanding writers, Saddlebag Dispatches and our parent company, Oghma Creative Media, harvested a crop of award-winning stories that we think would make our dearly departed founder, Dusty Richards, proud. We started out with Rod Miller’s short story, “Black Joe” (Saddlebag Dispatches/Summer 2020), which won the Western Fictioneers’ Peacemaker for Short Western Fiction. Two more of our contributors were finalists. Regina McLemore for Best First Western Novel with her
Cherokee Clay (Fife Press/Young Dragons Press) and John T. Biggs for Short Western Fiction with “The Last Photograph” (Saddlebag Dispatches/Summer 2020). Summer also saw our first winner in our own Mustang Award for western flash fiction. The competition was fierce with multiple award-winning authors submitting their work. The top eight entries were published in our Summer issue. In the end, Andrew Salmon’s “High Stakes” took top honors and a cash prize. October was a busy month with judging for another Dusty and Pat Richards Memorial Oxbow Award for short fiction from Ozark Creative Writers. The winner was Nancy Smith Gibson, and her winning story, “Wherever Life Leads,” appears in this issue. Mid-October saw our authors and staff attending the Will Rogers Medallion Awards in Fort Worth. Paul Colt’s riveting novel, Grasshoppers in Summer (hardcover 5Star, paperback and eBook Oghma Creative Media, 2020), collected a respectable 4th Place in Western
Fiction as did Regina McLemore’s Cherokee Clay in Western Young Readers. In the Short Story category, Darrel Sparkman’s “Holy Sabbath Morning” from his novel, Hard Times (Galway Press/Oghma Creative Media) took top honors while Anthony Wood’s, “Not So Long in The Tooth” (Saddlebag Dispatches/Winter 2020) collected 4th, and Sharon Frame Gay garnered a 5th with her “North Star” (Saddlebag Dispatches/Winter 2020). If you missed any of these great stories, they are available through your favorite bookseller, and back issues of Saddlebag Dispatches can be found on our website. These are some seriously good western writers and well worth following. If you have or do read them, remember the best way to show your appreciation to any author is to leave an honest review. The Mustang Award for Outstanding Western Flash Fiction will be open for submissions beginning February 1st and will close on March 1st, 2022. There are no fees to enter, and submissions are open to any writer worldwide who writes in the English language. Winning story will receive a $25 cash prize and publication in the Summer 2022 issue. Runners-up may also be published depending on space availability. Entry constitutes permission to publish with first world-wide publication rights. Rights revert to the author upon publication of the Summer 2022 issue except for non-exclusive electronic rights in perpetuity. Submissions must be no more than 1,000 words. Manuscripts should be double-spaced with
BRINGING HOME THE HARDWARE. REGINA MCLEMORE STANDS WITH YOUNG DRAGONS PRESS PUBLISHER CHRISSY WILLIS (TOP RIGHT) AFTER ACCEPTING HER MEDALLION, WHILE PAUL COLT CELEBRATES WITH OGHMA CREATIVE MEDIA CEO CASEY W. COWAN (BOTTOM RIGHT) AFTER ACCEPTING HIS AWARD. —PHOTOGRAPHY BY OWNBEYPHOTOGRAPHY.COM.
IL L RO GE RS EA RN ED TH RE E W ES CH AT SP DI G BA HAT TR IC K. SA DD LE ARDS CEREMONY IN DS DURING THE AW AR AW ’S ER ISH BL MEDALLION PU N. Y BY CASEY W. COWA BER 23.. PHOTOGRAPH TO OC ON TH OR W FORTH
one-inch margins in Times New Roman 12 point font. Please, do not include any identifying information in the manuscript except the story title. Author’s name, address, telephone number, and email should be included in a one-page cover letter. The cover letter should state that the story is submitted for the Mustang Award competition, the story title, author identification, and a 150-200 word third person bio to be used in the event of publication. Only electronic submissions will be accepted. Mustang Award should be the subject of your email. Submit to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The judges for this year’s contest have not yet been determined but will be announced on the Saddlebag Dispatches website prior to February 1st. With all the news about awards finally “dispatched” with—you see what I did there?—it’s unfortunately time to turn to a couple of losses to the western publishing world this year. We were saddened by the announcement that Charles Williams, co-founder of the Will Rogers Medallion Award, has retired from his position as Executive Director of the organization (though he will continue to serve on the board as Emeritus Director).
QU IT E TH E TU RN OU T. SA DD LE BA G DI SP AT CH ES AN D OG HM A CR EATIV E ME DI A WELL-REPRESENTE W ER E D AT THE WILL ROGE RS MEDALLION AW ARDS CEREMONY IN WORTH, TEXAS IN OC FORT TOBER. BACK ROW FROM LEFT, GEORGE & MICHELLE MITCHE LISA &ANTHONY WOO LL, D, FRONT ROW FROM LEFT, AMY & CASEY COWAN, DYLAN & DE HALE. —PHOTOGRAPHY REK BY OWNBEYPHOTOG RAPHY.COM.
Charles co-founded WRMA in 2002, when he and Margo Metagrano received permission from the Will Rogers Foundation to start a Cowboy Poetry Award in Will’s name. Under Charles’s expert guidance, that award, it’s prestige, and the number of categories it now honors has grown exponentially in the two decades since its establishment. Charles is the author of the award-winning “Dust From Distant Trails” cowboy poetry book and the recipient of WRMA’s first presentation of the Golden Lariat for Lifetime Achievement— an honor he richly deserves. We here at Saddlebag Dispatches wish to extend our profoundest gratitude to Charles for his dedication, passion, and service to Western writing and publishing—to say nothing of being an all-around good guy. While we’re saddened to see him step out of the limelight, we know WRMA is in good hands with the selection of his successor to the Executive Director position, the inimitable Chris Enss.
Finally, we were disappointed to hear of the recent demise of the venerable Rope and Wire magazine. Rope and Wire has served and entertained western readers for many years, and editor and head honcho, Scott Gese, provided a ready market for some outstanding writers. We’re sad to see any outlet of great western writing ride off into the sunset, but we salute Scott and wish him the very best. We hope that some of the writers who have lost this valuable resource will consider submitting their work to Saddlebag Dispatches. In this issue, we have another great collection of stories about gunmen and farmers, prospectors, and Native Americans. We hope you enjoy them. Until next time, we’ll be right here, Behind the Chutes. —DENNIS DOTY Publisher
ARLIER THIS YEAR, MY wife and I were able to spend a few days in Death Valley National Park, which straddles the California– Nevada border, east of the Sierra Nevada. With its diverse environment of salt-flats, sand dunes, badlands, valleys, canyons, and mountains, Death Valley is the largest national park in the contiguous United States, as well as the hottest, and the driest. It also has the lowest elevation of all the national parks. It was my first visit, and we had a great time. I became enamored of the stark, yet beautiful, desert landscape, the shifting sands, the borax mines, and the history Death Valley has played in the Western genre. The visit led directly to the Death Valley full-length episode of the Six-Gun Justice Podcast in which my co-host, Rich Prosch, and I talked at length about the many movies, TV shows, and books inspired by the Death Valley. One of my discoveries, however, was special enough to deserve a column of its own. I have no doubt, most Saddlebag Dispatches readers are more than familiar with the haunting country and the western hit song “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” The words and music have probably started running through your head with the mere mention of the song title. But there is a great story behind the song I want to share with you, including the series of serendipitous events that led Stan Jones, the man known as “The Singing Ranger,” to pen the iconic
tune that opened the door to his remarkable career as a songwriter. While in the park, I had the opportunity to read about the amazing career of Death Valley’s famous Singing Ranger, Stan Jones. A 1947 article in Arizona Highways describes Jones’s birth this way... One June evening in 1914, while Pancho Villa was busy shooting up a border town, a newborn citizen lustily joined in the din from a little Arizona ranch house about 200 yards away. Stan Jones had just arrived. Interested to know more, I took the opportunity to visit the ranger station, which was the residence where Stan Jones and his wife were living when he wrote “Ghost Riders in the Sky” while on assignment in the park. To say it was primitive doesn’t do it justice, especially when you take into account the stark realities of the desert and the intense heat in the Valley of Death. The ranger residence is a short distance inside the entry to the park, near the desolate outpost of Stovepipe Wells. With its two-pump gas station, small motel, restaurant, and gift shop, Stovepipe Wells is the last vestige of civilization before the long, long miles of tarmac leading to the two resorts nestled in the heart of the Valley. Another well-known resort in the Valley is Scotty’s Castle located at Furnace Creek. However, it has been closed for several years due to flash flood damage but is set to reopen in 2022. Stan’s parents, John and Berta, had roots in the
deep South. After marriage and beginning a family in Texas, they moved to Mexico where their family continued to grow while John Jones worked as a clerk for a copper mining company. Civil unrest in Mexico sent the Jones family across the border to Douglas, Arizona, to the home of Berta’s brother, Grover Davis. Born there in Arizona, Stan was the youngest of seven children. His father was forty-seven at the time, his mother thirty-nine. A surprise to say the least, Stan was termed an “afterthought” baby by one of his nephews. His coming into the world probably played a part as the catalyst for John Jones abandoning his family while Stan was still an infant. His mother would soon obtain an uncontested divorce but discreetly listed herself in the city directory as a widow to avoid the social stigma of the day associated with being a divorcee. As Stan grew up, he spent much of his free time roaming the surrounding desert and mountains near his home, often “borrowing” STAN JONES, THE SINGING RANGER. THE SONGWRITER BEone of the local donkeys. He also HIND THE WESTER CLASSIC “GHOST RIDERS IN THE SKY.” made a name for himself among his peers for his ability to tell ghost stories. This may have been a latent gift from his father, who had entertained Stan’s older siblings by playing guitar and storytelling in his deep baritone voice. By age 15, Stan and his “widowed” mother were living in Los Angeles with his older sister Jeanne and her family. Stan went on to attend UC Berkeley in the early 1930s, riding the rodeo circuit during breaks to earn his living expenses. This was followed by a short stint in the peacetime Navy. While his time in the Navy was brief, the honorable discharge he earned would later prove to be a valuable asset. After the Navy, Stan bounced around working at a
variety of jobs including mining, logging in summer, snowplow driving in winter, and fighting fires for the National Park Service, but none of these occupations seemed to strike him as a career. In 1944, however, he heard about an open ranger position at Mount Rainier National Park. Being an actual park ranger was something Stan saw as an opportunity to return to the same type of free range adventuring he had loved as a youth. Here was a chance to use his hard-earned wilderness skills, and his honorable discharge status gave him a major advantage when applying for the job. Once employed as a ranger, Stan started in Mount Rainier but would eventually be assigned to parks all over the western United States—a life that was a perfect fit for his temperament and interests. During WWII, Stan served as the field director for the American Red Cross in Bend, Oregon. While there he met another Red Cross volunteer, a schoolteacher named Olive. They were married a short time later, and it was Olive who bought Stan his first guitar—a Martin tenor—for a birthday present. The instrument opened up a whole new world for Stan, and from then on, the guitar—and Olive—went everywhere with him as he filled the long nights at remote postings by writing songs. From his days telling ghost stories to the other kids around Douglas, Arizona, Jones had developed into a natural storyteller. Olive encouraged Stan to combine his musical talents with his love of Old West legends and tales. Following her advice, he began to transform his cowboy stories into cowboy songs. In 1945, after the war, Stan returned to Mount Rainier with both Olive and his guitar. There, they quickly became popular and active members of the local community. Stan needed little encouragement to take out his guitar to strum while singing his ev-
er-growing repertoire of original cowboy songs. It seemed Stan had finally found his two natural callings—serving as a ranger and music. But he was yet to discover the amazing doors those callings would soon be opening. The job of a ranger in the ’40s meant doing everything from mundane maintenance chores to dangerous rescues. During his first year as a ranger, Stan dealt with a visit to the park by President Truman, a postwar flood of visitors, mountain rescues, problems with bears, crowds of winter sports enthusiasts, snow removal on roads and rooftops, even crafting innumerable cedar signs for use throughout the park. Good rangers needed a core of inner confidence, common sense, and a commitment to duty, as it was up to them to accomplish any task the remote areas where they were assigned might throw at them. With his diverse mix of hands-on and wilderness experience, Stan rose to any occasion. His warm, open personality, and a true connection to the outdoors, helped him to overcome any adversity making him the epitome of what the National Parks Service saw as the ideal ranger. In 1948, Stan and Olive opted to leave the snow and cold of Mount Rainer winters for a new assignment closer to Stan’s desert roots—Death Valley National Park. After moving into the small domicile designated as the Emigrant Ranger Station, the couple again began to make friends with many of the locals, including miners and ranchers from around the area. Stovepipe Wells, which was a short distance from the ranger station, was the first stopping place for visitors to Death Valley. It’s also where they would often find Stan in his ranger uniform ready to greet them and entertain them with his guitar and his story-based songs. Along with his more prosaic duties—which in-
cluded roaming the vast desert monument in his patrol pickup, rescuing vehicles stuck in the sand or with overheated radiators, chasing lawbreakers, searching for lost hikers—Stan quickly became a friendly and knowledgeable authority figure respected by all. Also adding to this perception were Stan’s regular presentations about the park’s natural history, which he would invariably finish by taking out his guitar and strumming a few tunes for the tourists. There was one rusty nail in what, for Stan and Olive, was a desert Garden of Eden. The officer of the National Park Service in charge at Death Valley was Superintendent T. R. Goodwin—a stickler for rules and regulations with a curmudgeonly personality, which verged on telling everyone to “get off my desert.” But in 1948, the movie studios suddenly discovered Death Valley, bringing in the likes of director John Ford along with actors John Wayne, Ward Bond, and Harry Carey, Jr. The spartan facilities at Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells were taken over as staging areas. While the National Park Service was pleased with the attention from the studios, Superintendent Goodwin was not going to let any violations of Park Service rules occur on his watch. To make sure, Goodwin insisted Stan be present as a technical advisor on any movies using Death Valley as a location. Stan chaffed a little under the purview of the rigid Goodwin, as it went against his easy-going nature. He also quickly found himself bored with what seemed to him to be the tedious and glacial pace of movie making. To keep himself busy during the breaks in filming, he took out his guitar and entertained the crew with some of the original songs he had written—including a little ditty he had penned a year earlier on the front porch of the ranger station called “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” By this time, John Ford and John Wayne had their movie in the can, but Stan was almost immediately assigned as the technical advisor on another film—this one starring Randolph Scott—who was convinced “Ghost Riders in the Sky” could be a hit song. At Scott’s urging, Stan committed to try and get his songs produced. In late August, after vetting another film, this one with Gregory Peck—with whom Stan became fast friends—the singing ranger took his two weeks of annual vacation and headed to Hollywood with his gui-
tar on his back and a satchel full of music. Like many a newbie trying to break into the business, Stan gained little traction as he made the rounds of music publishers. The only encouragement he received was when one producer took a shine to “Ghost Riders in the Sky” and said he would see what he could do with it. When his two weeks were up, Stan returned to Death Valley and his ranger duties. He felt the trip had been a bust and that his music wasn’t going to have any impact outside entertaining visitors to the park. However, the producer who showed interest in “Ghost Riders in the Sky” was good to his word. Through a series of machinations, the song found its way to Burl Ives who released a version of “Ghost Riders in the Sky” on the Columbia label in February 1949. It attracted some mild attention—enough for Bing Crosby to release a second version a few weeks later on the Decca label. However, neither Burl nor Bing had the golden touch to launch the record despite their reputations. But in March 1949, a third version, this time recorded by Vaughn Monroe, was released through RCA Victor Records and suddenly “Ghost Riders in the Sky” took off up the charts like an overcharged bottle rocket. In April, with the song still rising in popularity, Billboard Magazine noted Vaughn Monroe’s version was selling at a record-breaking pace. This caused RCA Victor Records to launch an all out publicity campaign—including flying a dirigible over New York City flashing the record title and playing the record over a loudspeaker. “Ghost Riders in the Sky” remained on the Billboard charts for 22 weeks, including time spent in the lauded number one position. Stan Jones, the singing ranger, was suddenly a sensation. There were articles in Time and Newsweek featuring Stan. And none other than Superintendent T. R. Goodwin was impressed enough to mention Stan in official dispatches when photographers were sent to Death Valley to complete a photospread for Life magazine. The biggest boon for the song, however, came on a Saturday night on the hugely popular radio program Your Hit Parade. The nationally broadcast show played the top ten songs of the week, and on May 21, 1949, Frank Sinatra introduced “Ghost
Riders in the Sky” as the number one song in the country. He then ripped into it as if it was the song he’d been waiting all his life to sing. The cowboy song, as Stan referred to it, which had started life being strummed by Stan on the porch of Death Valley’s Emigrant Ranger Station, had come a very long way. But musical success brought a new set of challenges for Stan, who was burning through his annual leave in order to handle all the demands. A tipping point was fast approaching when Stan would be forced to make a choice between his career with the National Park Service and taking a chance on the uncertain allure of long-term Hollywood success. When RCA announced Vaughn Monroe’s recording of “Ghost Riders in the Sky” had sold an unprecedented 1,800,000 copies in just two months, Stan took it as a sign and resigned from the National Park Service and—with Olive’s support—headed off to take his chances in Hollywood. Success wasn’t long in coming. Gene Autry championed the song creating a starring role for himself in a movie based on the tune—which of course led Autry to release his own recording of “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” which was rapidly becoming iconic. Some of Stan’s other songs also found homes. John Ford used them on the soundtrack for Wagon Master and Rio Grande, both released in 1950 and featuring Harry Carey, Jr. Rio Grande would also give Stan his first acting experience as a cavalry sergeant. This led to two more brief roles—the first in Gene Autry’s Whirlwind—based on Stan’s song of the same name—and Rex Allen’s The Last Musketeer. Over the next two years, Stans songs would be used in six more films, including The Steel Trap, which was the only non-Western. When Harry Carey, Jr. was hired for the role of Bill Burnett in The Adventures of Spin and Marty in 1955, he remembered Stan with whom he’d become friends while working on Rio Grande together. On his recommendation, Stan began writing songs for the show and performing them on camera. Stan was also given a small role on the show as a character created especially for him. However, his presence was always in the background. He seldom had a solo camera shot, and aside from singing, had few lines to deliver. Stan wrote all the songs sung by the Triple R
campers during the first two seasons of the serial, except for “Slewfoot Sue.” During the third season—renamed The New Adventures of Spin and Marty—more of Stan’s original songs were used along with those written by others. With his soft-spoken, low-key personality, Stan was well-liked by the folks at Disney and would continue to be associated with the company for many years to come. The Walt Disney Music Company even released an album Stan created as a tribute to the National Parks service combining his unique mix of spoken storytelling and music. Released in 1958, the cover displayed images of the Grand Canyon and Old Faithful, along with the official arrowhead insignia of the National Parks Service, a photo of a smiling Stan Jones in his full-dress Park Service Uniform, and a message from National Parks Service Director Conrad Wirth—who was clearly happy to have the NPS represented by the singing ranger. Stan continued to create songs and music for movie soundtracks, including The Searchers, Westward Ho, the Wagons! and The Great Locomotive Chase—two of which were Disney films. He wrote the song heard over the credits for John Ford’s The Horse Soldiers, in which he had an uncredited speaking role as Ulysses S. Grant. In 1960, Stan wrote the music for and acted in a three-part Daniel Boone serial. In the same year, he appeared in the film Ten Who Dared with his Spin and Marty co-stars David Stollery and Roy Barcroft. The TV series Cheyenne was fronted by a theme song co-written by Stan, who also appeared on screen opposite Clint Walker in one episode. His longest recurring role, however, was as Deputy Olson in the initial season of the 1957 television show, Sheriff of Cochise, for which he wrote the theme song as well as several scripts. Stan wrote well over two hundred songs, earning seventy-four published songwriting credits on ASCAP. His first two albums, Creakin’ Leather and This Was the West were released on the Disneyland label in 1958 and 1959. Creakin’ Leather was later rereleased as Ghost Riders in the Sky on the Buena Vista label. “Ghost Riders in the Sky” has become one of the most recorded songs of all time, performed in almost every conceivable musical genre. Johnny Cash,
Willie Nelson, the Boston Pops, Elvis, the Norman Luboff Choir, The Brothers Four, and Lawrence Welk all had popular versions. My personal favorite is by Frankie Laine. However, one of the most unusual versions was performed by the Australian alt-rock band Spiderbait for the 2007 Marvel live action movie based on the Ghost Rider comic book. It’s a fantastic rock-and-roll version that has racked up over seven million hits on YouTube. In 1963, Stan passed away in Los Angeles. He was only 49 years old. His last film, Invitation to a Gunfighter, was released a year after his death. There are two versions of how Stan came to compose his best remembered song. One states he was out riding when a storm came up and was impressed by clouds scudding across the sky that he imagined resembled men on horseback. The second, and the one I think most likely, refers to Stan telling a friend the idea for the song was sparked by a ghost story he remembered being told by an old cowboy when he was twelve years old. Most sources agree the story the old cowhand spun was based on the legend of Stampede Mesa.
The tale takes place in the fall of 1889. Ryker, a tough trail boss, was heading north from Texas, heading for the railheads in Kansas with a thousand head of beef on the hoof. One night, Ryker and his cowboys were looking for a place to camp when they spotted a rider not associat-
ed with the crew cutting out a few head at the back of the herd. When confronted, the man insisted some unbranded cattle from his herd had wandered and become swept up when Ryker’s herd passed by his small homestead. He claimed he was simply trying to reclaim his mavericks. Like his crew and his herd, Ryker was dusty, tired, and cranky and had no patience for this yahoo and told him to wait until morning. There was a storm coming up, and it was promising to be one of those devil-inspired lightning shows filled with lightning, crashing thunder, torrential rain, and howling gusts of wind that, like everything else in Texas, are bigger than elsewhere. When the cowhand complained and demanded his cows, Ryker pulled his gun and ran the bluffer off. Ryker had chosen to bed his herd down atop a little mesa with sweetgrass on the flat and even sweeter water below. It was the perfect place to contain the herd, and Ryker only saw the need to post a few hands as guards, allowing the others to get some badly needed rest. When the storm hit, the worst thing that could happen did—the herd stampeded, but not toward the water below. Rather, they ran toward the cliffs along the other side of the mesa. Before Ryker and his wranglers could get the herd turned in their desperate attempt to stave off disaster, seven hundred head of cattle and two cowpunchers had gone over the cliff like lemmings to smash and writhe in agony before dying on the rocks below. In the aftermath, one of his crew told Ryker that shortly before the cattle stampeded, he had seen the disgruntled rustler—the word well-chosen—who had been trying to cut cows out of Ryker’s herd, waving a blanket over his head and shouting above the noise of the storm, still trying to grab the mavericks he claimed as his own. Filled with anger and a thirst for vengeance, Ryker and his men chased the rustler down. However, instead of stringing him up—the traditional way of dealing with his ilk—Ryker blindfolded the man, set him on his horse, and tied him to the saddle. One of Ryker’s men then blindfolded the horse. Ryker gave the horse a tremendous slap on the rump, the other wranglers shouting and yelling. The terrified horse bolted and
galloped straight over the cliff to his death along with his rider, who suffered the same fate. Without looking back, Ryker and his crew rounded up the remains of the herd and pointed them toward Kansas. A year later, another herd was bedded down on the small mesa with the sweet grass on the flat and the sweet water below. There was no storm rolling across the skies that night, but in the small hours of the morning, the cattle were inexplicably spooked and stampeded over the cliff taking several cowboys with them. What was now known as Stampede Mesa was avoided by every trail boss with any sense. Yet there were those who refused to believe, unable to resist the easy access to grass and water where the mesa was situated. This was the hardest of lessons, as every herd that attempted to overnight there, stampeded for no reason, adding their broken bones—both cattle and cowboys— to the collection on the rocks below the cliffs. There were those wranglers who lived to tell what they witnessed, and they all spoke of the moment before the herd broke loose, when they saw a stranger on horseback shouting and waving a blanket over his head, riding up on the backs of the cattle, trying to cut out the mavericks from the herd and causing the stampede. Some men said they also saw the specters of the dead cowboys arise from the rocks below on their ghostly horses trying to desperately turn the herd before they ran over the cliff, but they never succeeded. And while the haunted mesa was almost always avoided, the days of cattle drives were coming to an end as railroads were built across Texas, and without the cattle drives, the need to overnight a herd atop the haunted mesa became obsolete. But the story of the Ryker herd and the rustler he and his wranglers drove over the cliff on his horse in their blind anger has never been forgotten thanks to the lyrics of Stan Jones’s biggest hit—“Ghost Riders in the Sky.” —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/
OU CAN’T TALK ABOUT cattlemen and cattle trails without mentioning Jesse Chisholm. Not only did the famous Chisholm Trail bear his name, Jesse himself often served as a bucket of cool water to douse the flames of warfare. He was born in 1805 or 1806, the son of a Tennessee Scottish trader, Ignatius Chisholm, and a Cherokee mother who was related to the well-known Corn Tassel and Rogers families. His parents had two more children before they separated, and Jesse’s mother, Martha, in a group led by Chief Tahlonteskee, moved her children to the Arkansas territory in 1810. Growing up as a Cherokee, Jesse learned excellent hunting and trapping skills and followed the teachings and traditions of his mother’s people. He developed a keen sense of direction as well as the knowledge of several tribal languages. Both of these talents would serve him well in the years to come. Although he received little formal education, Jesse attended classes taught by Sequoyah, the creator of the Cherokee Syllabary. He and Sequoyah developed a close rapport and were most likely related since both were Corn Tassel descendants. Jesse even assumed a sort of guardianship of Sequoyah. It is said that the older Sequoyah liked to drink to excess and tended to become combative when intoxicated. Jesse was known to step in when Sequoyah got himself in hot water. Perhaps because
of their close relationship, in 1845, the Cherokee Council sent Jesse, as the leader of a group of men, to look for Sequoyah after his disappearance in 1843. While looking for Sequoyah, the group was erroneously reported by the Intelligencer in Van Buren, Arkansas, to have been murdered by Comanches. After the June 26, 1845, issue of The Cherokee Advocate printed a letter from the group, signed by all of them, including Jesse, reporting their findings, the Intelligencer reversed itself. “We are glad to hear that Jess Chisholm has got home. Watson, Conner, and others are not dead as reported. Old Geo. Guess, inventor of the Cherokee Alphabet is certainly dead.” Even though Jesse’s uncle, Corn Tassel, Sequoyah, and other Cherokee leaders traveled to Washington from 1824 to 1827 to protest, they were forced to exchange their Arkansas lands for more westward lands. This area, known as Lovely’s Purchase, would become Indian Territory and the future home of the Five Tribes. Jesse is listed on the Cherokee Old Settler rolls as one of those who migrated from Arkansas in 1828. He is believed to have first settled in the Fort Gibson area. He soon met and became employed by the French trading family, the Chouteaus. Another early reference to Jesse can be found in the May 19, 1849, issue of the Arkansas Intelligencer in an article about a 250-mile expedition that he made with the author and 18 other adventurers in 1826. The group traveled from the Arkansas River all the way
to what would become Wichita, Kansas, searching, unsuccessfully, for gold. The author, W.M. Black, described Jesse Chisholm as “a Cherokee, a lad who since became known as a trader and guide on the prairies.” Sometime when living near Fort Gibson, Jesse became acquainted with Sam Houston, who had established a trading post near there, the Wigwam Neosho. At this time, the enterprising Chisholm was buying corn from the Cherokee and Creek farmers and reselling it to the militia at Fort Gibson. In a turnabout fashion, he loaded up his wagon and took goods he bought at the fort out to the Indian settlements to
be sold or traded for goods wanted at the fort. His peddler-type wagon was welcome everywhere, and he ran the Wigwam sometimes in Houston’s absence. While still at Fort Gibson in 1834, Jesse and several other Indian scouts were asked to accompany an impressive military Dragoon force, leaving the fort with some 500 men. Their mission was to conduct an exploratory expedition, which would traverse Indian Territory from Fort Gibson and across the plains to somewhere in the general vicinity of what would become Oklahoma City. They endeavored to make peace treaties with the tribes they encountered, such as the Osage, the Kiowa, the Wichita, and the Comanche, and Jesse, with his great command of Indian languages, proved to be a valuable asset. In his journal of the expedition, Lieutenant Thomas B. Wheelock mentioned Jesse. “(A) Toyash Indian who speaks the Caddo tongue communicated with Chisholm, one of our Cherokee friends who speaks English and Caddo.” By the end of their journey, nearly a third of the men were lost, mostly to a deadly sickness. The well-known artist, George Catlin, who painted people and scenes from the expedition, wrote, “…we were happy upon meat alone, until each one in his turn… both man and beast, were vomiting and fainting, latent enemy….”
THE MAN, THE MYTH, THE LEGEND—JESSE CHISHOLM, CATTLEMAN AND CHEROKEE PEACEMAKER.
RESIDENTS OF THE COMANCHE VILLAGE. CHISHOLM, ALONG WITH FAMED ARTIST GEORGE CATLIN, ACCOMPANIED THE 1834 DODGELEAVENWORTH EXPEDITION ACROSS INDIAN TERRITORY
Catlin and Chisholm both fell ill but recovered. What was left of the glorious expedition limped back to Fort Gibson, and some have said that it was Jesse who led them home. As soon as he could sit a horse, Jesse set out for St. Louis. In 1935, Ralph B. Cushman, the author of Jesse Chisholm, Trail Blazer, Sam Houston’s Trouble-Shooter Friend, Kin to the Cherokee, interviewed Col. Andrew Jackson Houston, Sam Houston’s son. The Colonel had met Jesse, his father’s good friend, when he was fifteen and Jesse was establishing himself as a respected trader and guide. He described Chisholm by saying, “This man… was brilliant in every way. Even when I came to know him
as an aging giant, he was an awesome physical specimen. He never turning down anyone in need of help.” Jesse rubbed shoulders with a lot of famous men of his time. One of these was Jim Bowie, who said of him, “If He was also well acquainted with John Ross, Stand Watie, Zachary Taylor, Kit Carson, John Fremont, Stephen Austin, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Buffalo Hump, and Andrew Jackson, to name a few. Like many Cherokee, Jesse first believed that President Jackson was their friend. Hadn’t they fought by the side of his troops against the Creek at the Battle
of Horseshoe Bend in 1814? Jesse and his fellow Cherokee soon learned that they were just another Indian tribe to Jackson, an obstacle to be removed from the growing white advancement. Jesse was saddened and angry about his people’s dire situation, but he and his family were Old Settlers living in Indian Territory. His course of action was to reach out to members of the displaced tribes and to help and feed as many of them as possible, which he did throughout his life. An example of one of Jesse’s good deeds can be found in a 1935 interview in the University of Oklahoma’s Pioneer Papers. Lizzie Little Bear, a Shawnee, reported that she knew Jesse Chisholm personally. She said that when the Shawnee went north at the outbreak of the Civil War, Chisholm hauled supplies of food along the journey and fed the Indians at his own expense. Jesse was also known to rescue children who had been taken as Indian captives. Sometimes they had been forced to remain as members of the tribe, and sometimes they were being held for ransom. If no one could be found to return them to, Jesse would negotiate for their release and take them home to be brought up in his household. Jesse Chisholm was a rarity in Indian Territory, a man who felt at home with both the Indians and the whites. In addition, he spoke 14 different languages, including Spanish, and was also fluent in sign language. It is small wonder that Sam Houston and military leaders wanted him to be part of their diplomatic dealings with various Indian groups. There are several accounts of Jesse negotiating with various tribes. Author Stan Hoig wrote about his negotiations with the Comanche in Jesse Chisholm: Ambassador of the Plains. After helping to negotiate a treaty agreement with Chiefs Buffalo Hump and Satanta in 1846, Jesse accompanied a delegation of Comanches to Washington as an interpreter. Buffalo Hump backed out at the last minute, but Satanta was part of the group. After a long visit and sessions with President Polk, Congress passed a bill to appropriate $50,000 to pay for the treaty council and for their return to Texas. However, all issues with the Comanche weren’t settled, and Jesse would be called on again and again in attempts to broker lasting peace. Seldom was it recorded that Jesse lost his temper,
but when Comanche leaders Buffalo Hump and Sanaco, with 900 of their followers, appeared in his front yard in 1854, Jesse was aghast at their news. They had been driven from Texas by the military and were contemplating going on the war path again. After some investigation, Jesse learned that a trader had told a peaceful tribe that the military was going to wipe them all out as punishment for what a few northern Comanche had done to some settlers in North Texas. This lie threw all Indians in a panic. Jesse spent so much time helping make peace that he had neglected his business, but beginning in 1858, he expanded his operations by opening trading posts near present day Lexington and Archer, Oklahoma, Wichita, Kansas, and Oklahoma City. In 1858 he and a small group of Cherokee traveled south to trade with the Comanche, the Kiowa, the Waco, and other southern tribes. The tribes were very friendly, and they did a large trade. If Jesse and his company had stayed a few days longer in the Comanche camp, they may have been caught up in what befell them. A force of 102 Texas Rangers and 113 Brazos Reserve Indians under Captain John Ford mounted an early morning attack on the Comanche, reportedly taking 76 Comanche scalps. Many Comanche women and children were captured, as well as 300 horses and mules. On September 29, 1858, Major Earl Van Dorn killed 60 Comanche and four Wichita who were gathered at Rush Creek, Oklahoma, camped while awaiting a peace council. Van Dorn attacked them while they slept, savagely slaughtering men and women. The Comanche unleased their fury against everyone, especially against the Wichita, who they believed set them up. Violent acts continued until Fort Cobb on the Washita River was established to protect the agency Indians who had moved close by. Jesse, as one of the few outsiders the Comanche would allow in their camp, was asked to speak with them. The Comanche and the Kiowa eventually sent word by Chisholm that they wanted to make peace. Peace didn’t last long. The winds of war were stirring in 1860. Like the United States, the Indian nations were divided by those who favored the
Confederate cause and those who wanted to preserve the Union. At first, Jesse was resolved to stay neutral and advised his Indian friends to remain the same. He warned Stand Watie that he would be bribed by the Confederates to rebel against John Ross’s neutral stand and join them, but there was no reasoning with Watie who took every opportunity to hurt John Ross. When Confederate generals Albert Pike and Ben McCulloch—a former Texas ranger—approached Jesse to translate for them when they spoke to the tribes, he refused. Later, he tentatively said that he would go along, perhaps hoping to convince the Indians to remain neutral. After working with Pike for a while, he was asked by Col. W.H. Emory, representing the North, to translate for his agents as they presented the Northern view. Jesse agreed, thereby, remaining neutral, by presenting both sides. There is evidence that Jesse did not always say exactly what he was asked to say. In 1864, at a council between the Comanche and the Kiowa and some northern officers, he was told to offer guns and ammunition, furnished by the officers, to the Indians in exchange for their promise to make war on the other southern tribes, killing all the men and boys, and taking the women and children as captives. Jesse advised the Indians not to listen to the “bad talk” of the northern men and said they should not make war on their friends, the southern Indians. The Indians listened to Chisholm and told the officers they could keep their guns and ammunition. They would live as they had always lived, using their bow and arrows to kill buffalo. One Comanche chief said that even though he had signed a treaty with Pike, he was holding out one hand to the North and one to the South. In 1865, Jesse was working for the new ComancheKiowa agent, Jesse Leavenworth, who asked him to contact all the tribes, requesting that they gather for a great council to make peace with the United States. Over 6,000 Indians attended this meeting on the Canadian River, and the Comanche and Kiowa agreed to stop fighting against the North, but the Cheyenne refused until conceding at a later meeting. Leavenworth was very appreciative of Jesse’s work and said of him, “Mr. Chisholm, a half-Cherokee and a man of good character… has rendered me, and the Government, the greatest service by bringing about peace on the frontier.” During the Civil War, Jesse drove cattle to supply
the Union Army through Indian Territory to army posts in Kansas. By the end of the war, Jesse had developed a trade route to make travel between his trading posts easier. After the Civil War ended, cattlemen were looking for a direct route to get longhorn cattle from Texas to Kansas where they were shipped back east on the Kansas Pacific Railroad. Jesse’s trade route, which he allegedly only used once to herd cattle to Kansas, began to be used steadily by cattlemen, beginning in 1867. The route was highly favored because it was wide and offered abundant grass and good water holes all along the way. The cattlemen began calling the route, the Chisholm Trail after the man who developed it. The original trail was only 220 miles long, running from what would become Yukon, Oklahoma, northward to Wichita, Kansas. When big cattle drives began moving north from Texas, they were gathered from many areas to be driven over the Chisholm Trail, which turned into sub trails that were incorporated into the main trail. The original trail soon stretched into an 800-mile cattle trail. Jesse didn’t live to see how important his trade route became. Even though he was ailing, Jesse agreed to take part in a peace council meeting at Medicine Lodge, Kansas, in 1867. Despite his best efforts, representatives of several Indian tribes continued to bicker and would not come to an agreement. After the council broke up, Jesse returned home. Sometime during the last months of his life, he had himself photographed, the only picture that exists of him. Catlin had asked to paint his picture on their tour of the prairies in 1834, but Jesse always responded that he had “no time.” In 1868, he went on a hunting trip with a friend and killed a large black bear. Jesse developed food poisoning from eating bear meat from a copper pot and died on March 4, 1868. He was buried in an unmarked grave at an Indian camp in what would become Geary, Oklahoma. Years later, Oklahoma school children erected a marker at Jesse’s grave which read, “No man ever left his home cold or hungry.” A fitting tribute to a great man. —REGINA MCLEMORE is a retired educator of Cherokee heritage. Her great, great grandmother, Susie Christie Clay, survived the Trail of Tears in 1839. Her novel, Cherokee Clay, Award for Best First Western Novel.
THE CHISHOLM TRAIL. WHILE JESSE CHISHOLM IS THOUGHT TO HAVE ONLY DRIVEN CATTLE ALONG THE ROUTE ONCE, HIS NAME BECAME SYNONYMOUS WITH THE MAIN ARTERY FROM TEXAS NORTHWARD.
y o b cow
poetry by J.B. HOGAN
SADDLEBAG POETRY Lived in a 1987 Skyline travel trailer across the dirt road in front of the auction and sale barn in Los Lunes southwest of Albuquerque. He was in there with a feisty, young Navajo woman who didn’t take much guff off anyone and walked him as close to the line as she could. Outside the door, on the right side of the trailer, was a pile of beer cans, a haphazard, aluminum tribute to Budweiser—Lite and otherwise. Cowboy’s name was Johnny, and he was the company rider for the auction. He rode the best quarter horses up for sale bringing them into the small indoor arena at a full gallop, reining them in right against the rail and then backing up and trotting them around to show the animal’s control, strength, and beauty—nobody did it better. He and the boss argued all the time, and at least once at each auction, the boss fired him, told him never to set foot on the grounds again and by the next morning had rehired him and immediately put him back bringing in the best horses. Cowboy had just lost his dad and had a sick sister and growths on both feet by his big toes and begged the veterinarian to cut them off to no avail and at every auction women vied for his attention, wanted some of that company rider action. A fancy Albuquerque lady in a Mercedes finally won his favor over the Navajo girl and tried to town Cowboy up and that didn’t work, but she convinced him somehow that he was inadequate and not up to the task of being the man she wanted or needed. They fought, he drank—hard—and went, they say, into a deep funk and couldn’t find his way back, and one day, the rich lady came home, found him hanging from one of his ropes strung on a beam in her high-ceilinged living room there in her expensive home in Old Albuquerque. He had been a great rider, a great cowboy, and no one understood why he did what he did, but maybe it was because there’s no place for working cowboys anymore, or maybe it’s that in the end nothing makes sense not even when you’re the best at what you do, and nobody understands or appreciates it.
PRAIRIE ROSE HENDERSON MADE HER OWN COSTUMES, OFTEN FROM A PAIR OF BLOOMERS. SHOCKING FOR THE TIME, PERHAPS, BUT IT CREATED EXACTLY THE KIND OF BUZZ SHE WAS LOOKING FOR. .
THE ORIGINAL LADIES OF RODEO In the early days of rodeo, not all the cowboys looked like Tom Mix or Casey Tibbs. Some of the toughest riders... wore skirts. VELDA BROTHERTON
PLIT SKIRT TUCKED AROUND her legs Rose sucked in a dusty breath, let it out slowly and dropped onto the back of the wild bronc. The world twisted and turned. One fist gripped the leather between her knees, the other lifted a ribbon high. The animal bucked in a fury. She hung tight. The crowd roared. Back hunched high, the bronc came down hard. All four hooves connected to the dry earth. He emitted a grunt, and once more bucked and attempted to throw her to the ground. Failed. Her body shook, trembled, let out air and grabbed some more. The odor of horse sweat and lady sweat, the smell of the crowd, the bulls, the broncs, filled her nostrils. Her teeth bit down on grit when, beneath her, the whirlwind struck with deliberation. Fingers slipping on sweat-soaked leather, she hung on and the shouting crowd came to its feet. The horn blared. Her eight was up.
The one and only woman bronc rider in America accepted assistance and came down in the arena with arms held high. Rose Henderson set that record at Cheyenne Frontier Days. It might have been 1899, possibly 1900. One or the other, it doesn’t seem to matter that much to recorded history now, for the woman who would go on to become known as Prairie Rose Henderson had achieved what no other woman had before her. She was only getting started and probably had no idea how important her first rodeo bronc ride would become. Others would follow in a time when such nonsense by ladies was looked down upon. Rose didn’t care about that sort of reputation. Determined to be well known in rodeo, she went on to win the saddle bronc riding contest in 1913 at the Los Angeles Rodeo and in 1917 won the championship at Cheyenne, Wyoming, for which she received a large silver buckle from the Union Pacific Railroad.
28 FOX HASTINGS COMPETED IN STEER WRESTLING, BRONC RIDING AND TRICK RIDING. KNOWN FOR HER LARGE HATS AND STYLE, SHE WAS INDUCTED INTO THE NATIONAL COWBOY AND WESTERN HERITAGE MUSEUM IN 1987.
An amazing first by Fox Hastings would never be outdone either, or so everyone declared. But it would certainly be met. This outstanding woman athlete came out of the rodeo chute to launch herself at a huge steer and hang on till she could twist his neck and lay him in the mud. It was a feat many men would shudder to attempt, even today. This young lady ran away from home at the age of 14, to begin her career on bucking horses and trick riding. By 1924, she made her debut as a bulldogger. Later touted as the world’s only female bulldogger, she is actually said to be the second, following Tillie Baldwin by a decade. After showing off at the Cattlemen’s Convention Rodeo in Houston, the press called her “the outstanding act of the entire event.” Regardless of the claims of who goes first or second, Fox is undoubtedly the most famous cowgirl bulldogger of the 20s and 30s.
Her husband, Paul Raymond Mike Hastings, himself a noted bulldogger, introduced her to Irwin Brother’s Wild West Show. Starting out competing on bucking broncs and in trick riding matches, with his guidance she went on to become a superstar. She might have done so on her own, but it was a time when women had little say in managing a career, if indeed they could master one at all. By 1916, about 240 women were competing on the rodeo circuit. Fox Hastings was one of them. Oddly enough, the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Fort Worth includes some 50 rodeo stars. Fox Hastings is not among them. The rodeo world wasn’t totally insulated from the outside. There were rules and
taboos to consider against women appearing masculine or un-ladylike. In spite of that prejudice, cowgirls were the first important group of professional women athletes to be taken seriously by the American public and press Influenced by meeting Will Rogers, Anna Matilda Winger joined the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild West Show in 1909 as a cowgirl trick and bronc rider. She entered her first real rodeo in Los Angeles in 1911 where she won the ladies bronc title riding “slick” instead of with “hobbled” stirrups, a simple strap which gathers the stirrup leathers together preventing the stirrup from flipping over and trapping the rider’s foot if they are thrown. About then she changed her name to Tillie Baldwin. The following year Tillie captured the trick riding and all-around cowgirl titles at the Pendleton Roundup in contention with the great Bertha Blancett. From 1913 Tillie rode for the Miller Brother’s winning honors at the Winnipeg Stampede and repeating the trick riding victory at Pendleton, Oregon and several rodeo venues through the 1920s. Female rodeo performers were careful to show off their feminine side. For years, they competed in skirts, sometimes split, but still skirts It must have caused a noisy ripple of shock through the rodeo audience when Tillie introduced her new fashion apparel. No more split skirts for this lady. She rode wearing a middy blouse and bloomers. We can only imagine the comments. It was time the world took notice of these women and what they were up to.
BORN ANNA MATILDA WINGER IN AVENDALE, NORWAY, TILLIE BALDWIN WON CHAMPIONSHIPS AT L.A., PENDLETON AND WINNIPEG. SHE COMPETED IN STEER WRESTLING, BRONC AND TRICK RIDING, RETIRING AT AGE 63 TO BECOME A RANCH MANAGER.
BERTHA KAEPERNICK BLANCETT TRAVELLED THE U.S., CANADA, AND MEXICO FOLLOWING THE RODEOS AND WILD WEST SHOWS.
It’s easy to see the cowgirl competition turned fierce during the early decades of 1900 after word got out that women were creating themselves an important place in rodeo. And it wasn’t an easy place, either. In 1924, when a group of women—Fox among them—asked to enter the men-only events in Pendleton, and thereby get into the official running for the All-Round Cowboy award, their request was promptly turned down. Cowgirls were not cowboys. It was only natural that women should have fewer opportunities to compete. Still, despite the constricting rules, talented women continued to enter competitions, even if they could only be judged as cowgirls. Bertha Blancett entered rodeo competition at Cheyenne in 1904 and often contested on an equal basis with men. It is said she pioneered women’s competition coming to be called the most famous woman rider in rodeo. She often gets credit for being the first woman to compete in bronc riding, however Prairie Rose Henderson is also credited with that ride earlier than 1904. As did all ladies, Bertha competed at the Pendleton Roundup, head-to-head with the “boys.” There she came within 14 points of winning the All-Around title.
AllAround requires competition in two or more events. Nowadays, the winner is usually a cowboy who competes in calf roping, team roping and sometimes bulldogging. In Bertha’s era, the winner was almost always a rough stock rider competing in bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding and often bull riding. Judging was done exclusively by men and there was generally quite a spread between what the fans scored the ladies and what the judges gave them. There was serious point-shaving on some rides to “keep the ladies in their place.” Not everyone could have been first or best of these ladies to compete in bronc riding, steer wrestling or to have won first place. Sometimes, it is reported separately that two ladies won the same award or performed the same stunts or were the only one who .... but as a bronc rider and Roman racer—standing astraddle on a pair of horses—Bertha Blancett had few peers. Fannie Sperry Steele, from Montana, whose mother taught her to ride before she taught her to walk, quickly became an American bronc rider and
MABEL STRICKLAND COMPETED IN ALL EVENTS EXCEPT STEER WRESTLING GAINING AN IMPRESSIVE COLLECTION OF CHAMPION BUCKLES.
rodeo performer. She was soon a World Champion bronc rider who headlined as a sharpshooter. Before she retired from rodeo, Fannie and her husband organized their own Wild West show and a stock company and toured the country. Let’s go on to look at other women quickly setting all sorts of records in rodeos. Almost as if the word got around and suddenly it was acceptable for young women to embrace this new “career” in rodeo riding, other names cropped up in newspapers and on rodeo flyers. This isn’t exactly what happened, though. As it turned out there were always plenty of girls growing up on ranches with horses for companions. The truth of the matter was the time was right for those women to step into a world previously forbidden by the mores of society. The world was changing and as it did, women began to embrace actions thought to be “naughty” or “perverse.” All it took was the bravery of some who could ignore such ridiculous rules of behavior and step into the open. At the turn of the Century, Wild West Shows as well as Rodeos were premier entertainment, so perhaps it’s not so strange that women not content to keep house would gravitate toward this type of career.
Kitty Wilkes set out to prove yet another truth. A lady didn’t have to be born in the west or grow up on a ranch to become a rodeo star. Determined to prove it, she won her first title at the Wild West Celebration Rodeo in Miles City, Montana, in 1916. At the age of 17, she wowed the fans. The New York native’s untamed physical daring left fans believing she was born and bred into the rugged ranch life. She was not only new to the sport, she went on to win that top prize to prove a cowgirl didn’t need to be born to the saddle to be a crack rider. After winning her first rodeo, and taking part in the Pendleton Roundup that fall, this bronc busting champion was hooked. Determined to improve her natural talent she traveled ranches and rodeos throughout the West. Using the orneriest animals for training, she had outlaw horses blindfolded and saddled for her to ride. She wouldn’t allow the horse to beat her. Not only was she an exceptional trick and bronc rider, she proved over and over she could tame the wildest of horses. Her performance at the Pendleton Roundup in 1916 resulted in her being named the All-Around Champion Cowgirl.
Mabel Strickland began relay racing and trick riding while still in high school. Though tiny she proved tough enough to meet the challenges she set for herself. She thrilled audiences with daring exhibitions of trick riding. Her “signature piece” took place on her white Arabian, Buster. She would expertly pass under the belly of the galloping mare or jump her over an automobile. In 1922, Strickland captured the coveted McAlpin Trophy, awarded to the top all-around cowgirl at Cheyenne. She won the trick-riding title at Madison Square Garden in 1923 and 1924. Winning more titles than any other woman rider before her, she became known as the sport’s “most beloved cowgirl.” Bonnie McCarroll made rodeo history in 1922, winning the cowgirl bronc riding championship at the two most prestigious rodeos in the nation, Cheyenne Frontier Days and the Madison Square Garden Rodeo. An accomplished rodeo performer, she dazzled kings, queens, dignitaries, politicians, an American president, and countless rodeo fans across the world.
One of the most famous rodeo snapshots ever taken is of Bonnie being thrown from a horse named Silver at the Pendleton Round-Up in 1915. Unfortunately, when her name is mentioned in relation to women’s rodeo her fame is overshadowed by a terrible historical accident at the 1929 Pendleton Round-Up that changed women’s rodeo forever. She had the dreadful misfortune of being killed in a bronc bucking accident there. In that year, the Rodeo Association of America (RAA) was formed to help organize rodeo. They did not sanction any women’s events, citing Bonnie’s death as one of the main reasons. While it can be argued that women in today’s world take part in more dangerous occupations than riding a bucking horse or bringing down an angry steer, the rule continues to stand. Barrel racing is the only sanctioned PRCA sport that currently allows women to participate. But the ladies are making a comeback. In 1948, the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, originally called the Girls Rodeo Association formed in San Angelo, Texas. WPRA sanctions barrel racing, tie-
THE MOST FAMOUS WOMEN’S BRONC RIDING PHOTO IN HISTORY. BONNIE MCCARROLL COMING OFF SILVER AT THE PENDLETON ROUNDUP IN 1917. BONNIE DAZZLED KINGS, QUEENS AND PRESIDENTS UNTIL HER TRAGIC DEATH AT PENDLETON IN 1929.
FROM LEFT: RENE HAFLEY, FOX HASTINGS< ROSE SMITH, RUTH RORCH, MABEL STRICKLAND, PRAIRIE ROSE HENDERSON, AND DOROTHY MORELL TAKE TIME OUT TO POSE TOGETHER AT THE ELLENSBURG, OREGON RODEO.
down roping, team roping and breakaway roping and have organized some rough stock events. The World Champion Rodeo Alliance (WCRA) now sanctions break-away roping, team roping and barrel racing and holds a Women’s Rodeo World Championship. In 2016, the Texas Bronc Riders added a ladies event and it was such a success that in 2017 they arranged a 10-stop tour culminating in Cheyenne, Wyoming,
where lady bronc riders bucked out of those venerable chutes for the first time in 90 years. —VELDA BROTHERTON is an award-winning Saddlebag Dispatches. She lives on a mountainside in Winslow, Arkansas, where she writes everyday and talks at length with her cat.
HE BIG MEN ARGUED in front of the saloon’s south window, each of them armed with Colt six-shooters, neither of them what barkeep Len Bennet would call patient. Sunday afternoon and inside the Broke Steer it was shadowy and cool, the late summer breeze thick with alfalfa, and heat shimmered up from the fresh cut field outside. Len polished a couple mugs for the third or fourth time, just to look busy behind the long walnut counter. Pretending not to hear the accusations fly. Trying hard to keep his stomach from tying in knots. “You’re lying to me, Chet,” said Sanford Block. Chet Warner fired back. “Like hell.” The last thing Len wanted to see inside his young Bloomtown business was a fight. Sandy was the village sheriff, six-feet and some odd inches of gristle and cow dust wearing a longsleeved cotton shirt, leather vest, and jeans. Before a scrap of tin got pinned on his chest, Sandy had been foreman on the last road grade to climb the mountain, then ramrod for the Circle K—tough as any cattleman you’d find this side of the Missouri. His gun rig was custom tooled leather with a series
of flourishes and a rosette stamped on either side of his bullet loops. And the supple holster was stitched with an embossed five-pointed star. Mighty damned expensive. But cowmen made good money in Nebraska. Sandy’s Colt had mahogany smooth grips. Len watched the lawman poke an iron finger into Chet Warner’s chest and seethe under his steel breath. “You’ll give me the truth, or I’ll pound it out of you.” Len flinched at Sandy’s choice of words, glancing over his shoulders at his polished yard-long mirror and wall full of sparkling glass bottles, most of them at least half-full. The Broke Steer couldn’t afford to host much of a tussle. The bills were still unpaid from the last brawl to sweep through the place, and after his wife took him for all he was worth, Len needed to make do for a while with the inventory he had. Push-come-to-shove, he could tap one of the wealthy ranchers in the valley. But he hated to do that again. He’d gone to that well one time too many already. Red-faced and puffy, Chet let his liver spot-speckled hand drop to his waistline. His fingers brushed the
ivory butt at his holster. “You wanna pound something, Sheriff? You can always pound sand.” Sandy’s gnarled fist matched Chet’s at the level of the gun. “Tell me the truth about Ernie, and we won’t either one of us have to pound anything.” Both men let their fingers hover above their guns. Len put a mug down lightly on the bar and tossed the white towel over his shoulder. When he spoke, he did his best not to stammer. “Y-you boys wouldn’t w-wanna take your disagreement outside… would you?” Sandy and Chet held each other’s gaze with grim determination. Without dropping his attention, Sandy answered first. “I wouldn’t want that at all.” He cocked his high Stetson hat toward the window and the sunbaked stubble field outside. “Hotter’n the devil out there. Bad enough young Ernie’s gotta suffer. Be danged if I’ll put myself into a stroke.” “You ain’t half the man Ernie Monks is, Sheriff,” said Chet. “And him being just a boy.” Just as well they’d get back to talking about the kid, thought Len. It was Ernie Monks they were arguing about. Len watched through the window, saw the farm boy traipse across the hay field, a shirtless string bean with drooping old corduroy pants and heavy boots. Practiced motion swept his three-tined fork under tufts of drying green hay and shoulders burnt golden-brown launched them into small piles. Small piles became medium piles and Ernie made medium piles into mountains. Making hay was about all he was good for, thought Len. Kid was the village idiot, and Sandy wanted him for some kind of crime. Len wasn’t real clear on the details. “Tell me where Ernie was last night,” said the sheriff. He took a step toward Chet, his spurs jingling on the rough-cut wood floor. “He works for you. You ought to know.” For his part, Chet still wasn’t having it. The farmer wasn’t as muscled as Sandy, but he had two inches on the lawman. And out-weighed him too, though all of it was flab. Watching Chet’s fleshy jowls turn red with the strain of anger, Len thought a sodbuster ought to be
in better shape. But naturally the old cus had Ernie doing most of his farm work. Just like today. Chet puffed up his chest and stood up to the sheriff. “Ernie was taking supper with me, right here at the Steer. Afterwards, we sat outside on the boardwalk for about an hour. Just ask Len if you don’t believe me.” Sandy whipped around like a cat after a barn sparrow. “Is that right, bar keep?” His voice hissed like a hot copper kettle. “What’s that?” said Len, pretending again. He’d learned long ago not to reveal too much, and he wasn’t about to admit he’d been eavesdropping. Not that you could ignore them. Anybody in the saloon could follow the conversation clear as the August air. Not that there was anybody else in there. Sunday afternoon, the place was empty except for the three men. “Did Mister Warner and Ernie take supper here last night?” Put on the spot, Len was glad they were alone. There was nobody in the room to witness him siding with a farmer. “As a matter of fact, they were, Sheriff.” But then Len decided to add something. “Of course, I don’t recall them sitting outside once’t they’d left the table.” In fact, he did—but decided he didn’t owe the sodbusters a damn thing and didn’t particularly want to help. Sandy’s lip twitched at the revelation. “That’s your story?” Len said it was. After all, it wasn’t a full and complete lie. The two had supped on biscuits and gravy with fresh corn-on-the-cob directly under the south window. “That’s the truth.” “Who made the supper?” said Sandy. “Excuse me?” “Wondered who made the supper,” reiterated the sheriff. “Since your wife’s moved away, I mean.” Len cleared his throat with surprise. Though he had no reason to be startled. News spread through Bloomtown like hayseed, especially bad news when the grangers’ wives got together at the market. It had been a full two days, and everybody in town likely knew Clara was gone.
“I made supper myself. I’m a fine cook in my own right.” “Biscuits and beef gravy,” said Sandy. “Sweet cornon-the-cob. Sounds like quite a fine meal.” His lips stretched into a satisfied smile. “Wish I could get me some sweet corn. Where’d you get yours?” “Mister Higgins, over at the market.” Sandy nodded. “Out of curiosity, sir, where’d she go?” “Where’d she go?” “Your wife.” “Oh, Clara. You want to know where she went?” “Are we done here?” said Chet Warner, tipping back his battered old cap to wipe sweat from his forehead. “Ernie’s gettin’ finished up out there.” “No, we ain’t done,” said Sandy. He hooked a chair leg with the toe of his boot and jerked it out. “Take a load off,” he said, indicating the seat. Then he turned back to Len. “I apologize, Mister Bennet. Ain’t none of my business.” Len smiled and waved off the comment. “Think nothing of it.” “It’s just with this here shooting thing, I kinda forgot myself.” Len felt like he’d been slapped with a cold dishrag. “Sh-shooting?” Sandy nodded. “That’s what I’m talkin’ to Mister Warner about.” Chet settled down into the chair Sandy had offered. Tossing his thumb toward the open window and the field beyond, he said, “Sheriff thinks Ernie done it.” “Done what?” said Len. “Killed a woman in cold blood.” Len’s stomach fell to his shoes. He failed to hold back his stutter. “Killed? Wh—who i—is she?” Sandy wagged his head back and forth before he shrugged. “No way to know. Shotgun blast to the face. The poor lamb is unrecognizable.” “Sh-shotgun?” Len again thought of his inventory. This time he reached out for an amber bottle. Procuring three short tumblers, he poured a healthy shot into each before picking up the middle offering and bringing it to his lips. “You boys help yourself. It’s on the house.” “Don’t mind if I do,” said Chet, hauling himself up and over to the bar.
“A shooting,” said Len again, his heart pounding. “Good heavens.” “Yeah, the way I’ve got it pegged, it can’t be anybody but Ernie. Happened out near Chet’s place. You know Ernie stays out there.” “It’s got nothing to do with us,” said Chet. Outside, Ernie was scooping up the wind rows and folding them into tall, fluffy stacks. Len didn’t envy the boy, felt the liquor work on his nerves, felt the trembling inside subside, heard his stutter fade when he said, “The poor boy.” The perfect scape goat. “Anything I can do to help?” said Len. “You’ve helped some already,” said Sandy. Len couldn’t help but notice the men hadn’t touched their whiskey. “Drink up, gentleman. Like I said, it’s on me.” Chet shook his head. “I never drink on an empty stomach.” Then he said, “Speaking of—what’cha got on the menu tonight, Len?” He gave Sandy a sidelong glance. “Maybe we get the sheriff here some sweet corn, he’d lay off his wild stories about Ernie.” “I got biscuits again. Bacon.” “Nothing from the garden?” “Cucumbers.” “Cucumbers,” said Chet. “You hear that, Sheriff?” Sandy nodded. “I did.” “You boys like cucumbers?” said Len. “I like ’em fine,” said Chet. Sandy scratched the back of his neck. “Wonder if you’d do me a favor, Mister Bennet?” “I will if I can.” “Go out there and ask Ernie to step inside here. Don’t tell him I asked. Just make up some reason to get him inside.” “You gonna take him in for the shooting of this woman? Whoever she is?” Sandy pursed his lips but didn’t say anything. It was answer enough. This time Len made a show about looking over his inventory. The last thing he needed was for Ernie to resist arrest. For the three of them to get into a shootin’ match. “I’ll go get him,” said Len. “But, I’ll meet you on the boardwalk out front.”
“Fair enough,” said Sandy. Strangely enough, Chet Warner didn’t object. — STROLLING ACROSS THE HAYFIELD, the bright afternoon sun was a welcome respite from too much time holed up inside the saloon. He needed to get outside more often. Maybe start up a garden of his own. There was still time. Summer wasn’t yet too far gone. Or maybe it was. Ernie had piled up a lot of hay. And the stubble was awfully yellow and dry. The stack the kid waited beside was tall as three men and big around as a ring of Conestoga schooners. “Circle the wagons,” he said out loud and laughed. Because that’s what he and Sandy and Chet were gonna do with Ernie. Surround him. “Ernie?” Len said as he approached the boy. “Sheriff asked me to come get you. Something he wants to talk to you about.” They stood four feet apart. Len in the middle of the hayfield, the white woolen towel still draped over his shoulder. Ernie, shirtless, with drooping corduroy pants and a tin star pinned to the side pocket. Tin star? He read the legend embossed there. “Deputy?” Ernie reached into the haystack beside him and withdrew a lever-action carbine. He pointed it at Len and without a word nodded back toward the Broke Steer. Len turned around to see Chet Warner and Sandy Block coming toward him. Sandy had Len’s shotgun in a cradle carry across his arms. “Nice piece of weaponry you keep under the bar,” he said. “Thought we ought to pick you up out here,” said Chet. “Just so’s your inventory wouldn’t get damaged in the shooting.” “Pick me up?” said Len. “For shooting your wife over at Mulligan’s corn patch.” “Good old Missus Mulligan,” said Chet, smiling at
his friend, the sheriff. “Did you know she’s the only lady left around town with any sweet corn?” Sandy nodded. Len didn’t know. “Is that a fact?” “Damned weevils,” said Chet. “Contrary to what you said about Mister Higgins at the market, he hasn’t had any corn in more than a week. Mulligan’s always been lucky that way, though. Of course, she told me last night a bunch of her corn had just went missing.” “Cucumbers, too,” said the sheriff. Chet shook his head. “Funny that.” Sandy nodded at Ernie. “How about you and Chet go ahead and take Mister Bennet over to the jail, son? Lock him up good and tight. If he gives you any trouble, you have my permission to shoot him.” Len looked into Ernie’s disciplined features and swallowed hard. “I won’t give you any trouble.” “Didn’t think you would,” said Sandy. “Oh, and Ernie? When you get Mister Bennet locked up, come on over to the bar. Drinks are on him. He said so earlier.” “Mister Bennet has been a great help to us today,” said Chet. Sandy slapped his friend on the back. “A man’s gotta make hay while the sun shines. Ain’t that what you sodbusters always say?” “It is indeed,” said Chet.
ICHARD PROSCH grew up planting corn,
tending cattle, and riding the Nebraska range in a beat-up pickup and a ’74 Camaro. He
worked as a professional writer, artist, and teacher in Wyoming, South Carolina, and Missouri, while amassing enormous collections of paperback fiction, comic books, MEGO action figures, and vintage vinyl. With his wife, Gina, he created “Comics and Emma Davenport,” a strip that ran in the Comics Buyers Guide newspaper and spawned ten issues of Emma’s own comic book. The duo continued their creative endeavors, developing licensing style guides for several cartoon properties and working with Tribune Media Services and the Hallmark Channel. In the 2000s, Richard built a web development studio while winning awards for illustration and writing—including a Spur Award from the Western Writers of America. His work has appeared in novels, numerous anthologies, True West, Roundup, and Saddlebag Dispatches magazines, and online at Boys’ Life.
PUBLICITY STILL OF SMILEY BURNETTE CIRCA 1937.
SMILEY BURNETTE: WESTERN SIDEKICK Along with George “Gabby” Hayes, Smiley was the only B western sidekick who ranked in the Top Ten of Western Box
N HIS DAY, ACTOR Smiley Burnette was widely popular, especially among rural audiences. Along with George “Gabby” Hayes, Smiley was the only B western sidekick who ranked in the Top Ten of Western Box Office Attractions polls. He mostly acted in sidekick roles in serials, unlike “Gabby” Hayes, who was in none. The son of a minister, Lester Alvin Burnett was born on March 18, 1911, in Summum, Illinois, and grew up in Ravenwood, Missouri. According to the official Smiley Burnette website:
family, he tried his hand at a number of occupations including waiter, truck driver, taxi driver, carnival roustabout, drug store delivery-boy, blackstation WDZ (100 watts) Tuscola, Illinois, in 1929.
The young entertainer performed everything from animal imitations to solos to one man band routines. Many of his performances would later be used in comic musical pieces in his Westerns with Gene Autry. Autry was a radio performer and later a major western star. While in Champaign, Illinois, circa 1933, he “discovered” Burnett and signed him to be part of his group. Soon, Nat Levine, the head of Mascot Pictures serial and B westerns, signed Autry to be in movies. Gene had Burnett accompany him to Hollywood. By then, Burnett was going by the name of Smiley Burnette, with an “e” added to his last name. Both Gene and Smiley made their film debut in The Old Santa Fe in 1934. They next appeared in Mystery Mountain, a twelve-chapter Western cliffhanger. Both films starred Ken Maynard. Smiley continued to work in small parts until he landed a prominent role in the 1935 serial The Adventures of Rex and Rinty. During that same year, Levine
gave Autry his first starring role in a 12-part serial, The Phantom Empire, with Burnette in the role of Oscar, a comic-relief part. This gave Smiley a chance to develop his comedic character that became his trademark for the rest of his career. Mascot Pictures was absorbed by Republic Pictures, and Republic had enormous success with its musical Western features staring Autry. In these films, Burnette played Autry’s comic sidekick, Frog Millhouse. Smiley wore a floppy black hat and imitated a deep, froglike croak. Their association produced 62 feature length films and a lifelong friendship. By 1940, Smiley ranked second only to Autry in a Box Office magazine popularity pool of Western stars, the lone sidekick among the top 10. Off screen, Smiley had a reputation as being moody and temperamental. When World War II erupted, Gene Autry left acting behind to serve in the U.S. Air Force. Smiley continued to play sidekick roles with other Western actors like Eddie Dew, Bob Livingstone, and Sunset Carson. Smiley also appeared in nine other films with Roy Rogers. Burnette’s horse, used in his movies, was all white with a black-ringed left eye. It, too, became famous, first as Black-eyed Nellie, then as Ring-eyed Nellie, and finally as just Ring Eye. Burnette left Republic in June 1944 and teamed up to be Charles Starrett’s sidekick at Columbia Pictures in the Durango Kid series. They were
paired in 56 films from 1945 to 1952. When Starrett retired, Smiley, still being under contract, teamed up with Jock Mahoney for a new series of westerns. A pilot picture with the two was completed but was never released. Columbia sent Brunette to be in its Gene Autry series, which reunited him with his old friend. Autry retired in 1953 after filming Last of the Phony Riders. Other western stars either left the movie business or were losing their screen appeal. With studios no longer interested in making B Westerns, Burnette turned to broadcasting and was seen in several country music radio and TV shows. In early 1957, television quiz shows began to gain in popularity. Smiley decided to film a pilot for a proposed ABCTV series to originate from Springfield, Missouri, called Pig ’N Poke. It was to be a quiz show with a country theme. ABC decided not to buy the project. Burnette loved to cook, and by the 1950s, he opened a chain of restaurants called The Checkered Shirt, the first of the A-frame driveins. The first location was in Orlando, Florida, with others following. In the 1960s, Burnette continued to make personal appearances at drive-ins, fairs, hospitals, town squares, and rodeos. He once appeared with Dewey Brown and the Oklahoma Playboys at a dance at Jump’s Roller Rink in the small community of Fairfax, Oklahoma. By the mid-1960s, Smiley got a chance to be on the CBS-TV program Petticoat Junction, portraying railway engineer Charley Pratt. He was in 106 episodes and also completed seven episodes of Green Acres. Just after filming wrapped for the fourth season
PUBLICITY STILL OF BURNETTE WEARING HIS TRADEMARK BLACK CRUMPLED HAT.
of Petticoat Junction, Smiley became ill. On February 16, 1967, he died in Encino, California, from leukemia at the age of 55. Burnette was interred in Forrest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills. In Hollywood, many stars left publicity and promotion to the studios who employed them. However, Smiley was different as he did his own promotion. His keen awareness of his box-office popularity and his shrewd merchandising of his name and likeness gave him an upper hand. Smiley organized a national Smiley Burnette Fan Club aimed mostly toward his younger audience and sold autographed photos and other souvenirs to club members. Additionally, he enjoyed a steady income by making personal appearances at theaters where his films appeared. Burnette’s base of operations was in Springfield, Missouri, where he produced and hosted The Smiley Burnette Show, a nationally syndicated 15-minute radio program. Smiley donated his original hat and shirt to the
Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City in 1962. In 1971, he was inducted posthumously into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Burnette was also inducted posthumously into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1986 for his contributions to the film industry. In 1998, he was inducted into the Western Music Association. More recently, Smiley was inducted into the Cowtown Society of Western Music Hall of Fame as a Hero in 2012. —MICHAEL KOCH
Echoes of the Ozarks, Mysteries of the Ozarks, Frontier Tales, Wicked East Press, and the Southeast Missouri State University Press. Saddlebag Dispatches.
Hunters Moon MARLEEN BUSMA
WINNER OF THE WILL ROGERS MEDALLION On cloven hooves with wooly heads and sleek dark hides they come. Their dance is fast. It swirls and sways on steady feet that drum a pounding, primal, pulsing rhythm ancient ones have heard. The thunder echoes on the plain as spirts’ sleep is stirred. The beat of dancing drums still vibrates through the hunting ground. The bunched-up bison stampede on familiar trails and pound the bleached-out prairie summer winds made brittle, brown, and dry. October’s Hunter’s Moon is fading in the morning sky. Steam rises in the cool air from the heated bison mass. White, misty clouds of exhaled breaths add to it as they pass. A spirit’s vision rises from the cloud in morning’s glow and runs with bison like Lakota hunters long ago.
Winner of the 2021 Arkansas Writers Conference Dusty Richards Memorial Short Story Contest
Y SISTER’S IN THERE! Get her out! Please!” Men and women rushed from every direction to make a water bucket line as the volunteer firemen ran their wagon too close to the flames. They fell back from the heat, choking and coughing from inhaling heavy smoke. A loud crack. An ear-splitting pop. The cupola gave way and crashed into the center of the burning ruins of the Marion County, Mississippi, courthouse. Ashes of all the important papers—land deeds, censuses, birth and marriage records—floated up into the night sky like so many lightning bugs in summertime. The recorded life of families who pioneered our county vanished in a blue hot blaze. It was all by design. Big leather books smoldered in the ashes, along with my Uncle Silas. And with him, my big sister, Marion. I cried. I screamed. I finally fainted into the arms of the volunteer firemen who held me back. I woke up to the sheriff addressing the crowd. Not a stick of the courthouse was left standing. “The war’s been over, but carpetbaggers and scalawags have been burnin’ down courthouses every-
where. No account men with no breeding who steal good folks’ property while the government turns a blind eye. Sadly, we lost more than our county’s records tonight. Two of our fine citizens died in the fire—Mexican War veteran Silas Tullos and his lovely niece Marion. Silas guarded our courthouse every night. His last words when I saw him earlier tonight were, ‘I fought at San Jacinto with Gen’l Sam Houston, and I’ll keep them thievin’ carpetbaggers away!’ I’ve got a good idea who caused this calamity. I’ll be leadin’ a posse come first light.” Truth be told, the sheriff didn’t know who’d done it. I didn’t, either, and I didn’t know what to do, not until I heard a whisper when I stepped into Uncle Silas’s old house at the edge of town where we lived. “Sissy, that you?” I shrunk back, never having seen a ghost before. I squeaked out, “Yeah.” “It’s me, Marion.” “You’re alive!” I hugged her and didn’t want to let go. She finally peeled me from her body. “Anyone think I’m alive?”
“No, they think you burned up with Uncle Silas with nothing left to bury.” “Good. Then I can do what needs doin’. You can’t charge a woman with a crime if she’s dead. When it’s done, we’ll come back. I won’t be counted among the dead.” “Sheriff’s leading a posse in the morning.” “Does he know who did it?” “Do you?” Marion didn’t say, but she knew—preacher James, a voodoo witch, and the ringleader, a beady-eyed carpetbagger who you knew lay awake every night scheming like it says in the Good Book. “When are you leaving?” “Soon as I get packed.” “I’ll be coming with you.” “Good. Throw some bacon and beans in a flour sack. I want to get a jump on the posse.” We sneaked west out of town smelling of smoke— and vengeance.
— SLEET PELTED MARION’S FACE like buckshot, but she didn’t flinch. No unexpected early spring ice storm could stop her. “They ain’t gettin’ away with it. Not by a long shot. I’ll catch ’em come hell or high water. I’d just as soon go ahead and catch hell first then get baptized again in the Mississippi River on the way back through— whether I need it or not.” She let out a little chuckle—a rare event. “You’ll catch hell, all right. That pistol toting carpetbagger is no fancy-pants dandy dude. Aren’t you scared?” “I’m more scared of what I’ll do when I find that low down skunk. Besides, they won’t be expectin’ me. I’m dead, remember?” “For what you’re planning, you better get them sins washed off. If we make it back, that is. You do know a preacher has to do the dunking, or it won’t take.” “No scalawag preacher is ever gonna touch me
again. Besides, the Bible never says who has to do the immersin’.” Marion read her Bible religiously and could hold her own, arguing scripture with any preacher foolish enough to try her on. I wouldn’t dare, even though I had more schooling. Marion sniffed. “Ol’ preacher took up with that voodoo witch when I worked in Natchez. I know where they’re headed.” “Where?” “To Hell after I’m done with them but west to the Indian Territory first. Out there, outlaws who want to get lost won’t be found. They won’t get that far, though.” My horse shivered and snorted, shaking the ice from her mane. Marion patted her horse’s neck. “Ain’t that somethin’? A scalawag preacher, voodoo witch, and a thievin’ Yankee carpetbagger conspiring to burn down the county courthouse to get rich. Beats anything I’ve ever seen!”
I shivered worse than my horse. “I can’t believe Uncle Silas is gone. They don’t make them any better.” “Ol’ witch tried to kill him just before he went to work at the courthouse last night. Took the little pension money he’d squirreled away in a snuff jar and left her pet cottonmouth in his bed.” “No! I thought she came just to help out an old veteran, keeping house and such.” “And offerin’ a little ‘comfort’ now and again. I warned him, but he wouldn’t listen. He did yesterday afternoon though when her cottonmouth’s fang caught his thumb. It swelled up bigger’n a cucumber. ‘Don’t hurt so bad,’ he said, when I brought his supper to the courthouse. Those were the last words he ever spoke to me.” Marion wiped a tear. “That snakebite won’t go unanswered.” — HER NAME WAS MARION. I don’t know if they
named my big sister after the county when Ma and Pa came to Lott’s Bluff or if the county was named after her. History is often written by those who spin the best fairytales. Either way, she had the spirit of the Swamp Fox they now claimed inspired the name. She was the prettiest girl in the county—too pretty to stay in the orphanage they put us in when our folks died. Marion sneaked to my bed one night. “I’ll come back.” She slipped away into the darkness. I had no idea where she went. Not until Uncle Silas came for us when he moved to Mississippi from Georgia. That seems so long ago. — “HOW DO YOU DO that?” “Do what?” “Go on like you’re not freezing your hind end off.” Marion said nothing. Cold blustery wind never seemed to bother her. Nothing did. My hair was frozen to my hat. Marion muttered under her breath, “Hadn’t been for Uncle Silas snatchin’ me up by the hair of my head and gettin’ me out of that ‘den of iniquity’ in Natchez, I’d already be counted among the dead.” “I didn’t know, honest I didn’t.” “Some things you do because it’s the right thing to do. Some things you do because you don’t have a choice. And some things you choose to do to make a wrong right.” “Uncle Silas saved you?” “Wasn’t like a knight in shinin’ armor in some story book if that’s what you’re thinkin’. He knifed a man to get me out of there. Then he came for you. Said he couldn’t leave you with a child violatin’ preacher in that orphanage. No more’n he left me to rot in Natchez.” “He wasn’t our real uncle, was he?” “Closest thing to an uncle we’ll ever have. Pa saved his life in the war. Guess Uncle Silas was payin’ him back by takin’ care of us.” A tear sparkled on her cheek. “He taught me how to be human again.” She brushed away the tear. “Now hush up! I’m tired of talkin’.” Marion didn’t mean anything by her harsh words. She had a good heart. Working in a house of ill repute made her hard. Uncle Silas murdered made her dan-
gerous. The only sweetness she had left was in what she was doing now—avenging Uncle Silas’s death and caring for me. There’d be no sweetness, though, when she caught up to his killers. — WE REACHED THE HOMOCHITTO River as the sleet let up—but the cold didn’t. “Aren’t we taking the ferry?” “Strip down to your drawers. Now!” I tied my clothes to my horse’s saddle. “I can’t swim very well.” “Great, then I’ll have four deaths on my head.” I had nothing to say to that. Marion waded out into the swollen current and yelled, “Grab your mare’s tail and follow me. I’ve got her reins.” Midway across, my hands slipped. I yelled, but there was nothing Marion could do. I crawled out on the sandy bank a quarter mile down and limped my way upriver. “Why didn’t you come after me?” “You’re here now.” “I could’ve drowned!” “I taught you how to swim, didn’t I?” “Yeah.” “Then there it is. Knew you’d make it. Besides, I knew you’d need a fire when you got here. Get under this tarp and strip off them wet rags. Take this blanket I’ve been warmin’ for you.” I thought my teeth would chatter right out of my head. The blanket and fire felt good but not my feelings. It wasn’t Marion’s fault I was swept away. Neither was Uncle Silas’s death her fault or Ma’s and Pa’s, for that matter. But she took it that way. I didn’t know how to start, but I did. “Marion?” She didn’t look up from drying off two shiny pistols. I didn’t ask where she got them. “Yeah?” “When will you stop taking responsibility for things not yours? Those robbers killed Ma and Pa, not you.” “I might as well have. I hid, too scared to move. They butchered Ma and Pa. I’ll never get that out of my head.”
“You were only seven.” “Old enough to pull a trigger!” “Going after Uncle Silas’s killers won’t fix that.” Marion handed me a steaming cup of coffee. “No, I can’t fix that. But I will fix this.” She threw a stick on the fire. “Enough! Put on these old work clothes. We don’t want to be seen as two women traveling alone. Open a can of beans and then get some rest. I want to make the Rodney ferry tomorrow before dark. We leave before daylight.” — THE SUN SET IN the west as we crossed the Mississippi River. The ferryman said three ragged characters traveling fast crossed not four hours earlier. Marion handed him an extra dollar. At dusk, we sneaked up to the edge of a nothing little Louisiana town named Waterproof. The ferryman told us a steamboat captain named the place when he saw an early settler standing on the last piece of dry ground surrounded by floodwaters— hence, Waterproof. I expected fire and brimstone to rain down from heaven any minute for the wickedness I saw there— drunks lying in the street, scantily clad women calling after every man, and gamblers looking to separate anyone from his money. “I didn’t know such places existed.” Marion snickered like one of Satan’s minions. “You’ve never been to Natchez, have you?” I understood then. Marion knew how to fight evil—become more evil than the demons she wanted dead. The town proper seemed deserted except for the fancy wooden building lit up at the other end of the muddy street. Men brandishing shotguns guarded the doors. Marion pointed. “There. Let’s hide the horses around back.” She handed me a pistol. “When I say shoot, you shoot but not before.” No one noticed us with our hats pulled down when we took a table in a corner. It was that kind of place. A large pit commanded the center of the room, and men placed bets as women caressed their
bodies hoping to cash in on some of their winnings. Marion and I peeked over into the pit. Several rattlesnakes hissed, angry at being poked. A crusty old timer holding up a silver dollar cackled, “Here comes the Voodoo Queen!” She swung her hips from side to side carrying a caged raccoon high in the air. “Place your bets boys. My ’coon against five deadly serpents.” The carpetbagger took bets as the scalawag preacher counted money. Marion whispered, “Stay here. Fire every bullet you got when I say.” I felt for the pistol as Marion made her way around the ring. The voodoo witch’s eyes rolled up into the back of her head. “May the gods of my ancestors fill this masked warrior with power to defeat Satan’s slithering dragons.” Just as the voodoo witch opened the raccoon’s cage, Marion shoved her into the pit. Rattlers latched onto her from every angle. She screamed. Marion shoved the flailing raccoon into the carpetbagger’s face. He flopped around on the floor, his eyes torn from their sockets. The preacher ran to the bat wings with Marion hard on his heels. Just before she exited, Marion smashed a coal oil lamp in the corner where the carpetbagger lay moaning and yelled, “Shoot!”
I fired every round I had into the ceiling. I ducked through the smoky blaze and scrambling crowd after Marion. The carpetbagger ran out of the saloon covered in flames, clawing at his eyes. I gasped for air, looking for Marion. She was holding the preacher’s head underwater in a horse trough across the street. “Touch me again, will you preacher?” She let him up for a breath. “Any last words?” “Please, I ain’t ready to die! I need to repent!” “No time left for repentin’! This baptism will just have to do!” Marion held him under until no more bubbles came up. “In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost, I say, amen!” She let go and collapsed. I threw a double handful of water on her face, and she jumped up ready to fight. “It’s done, Marion. Let’s go.” In the noise and confusion of the fire, we walked our horses out of town unnoticed back to the ferry and camped for the night. The deed was done, but absolution was in short supply. We crossed the peaceful easy flowing big muddy river at sunrise. A young preacher stood on a stump near water’s edge, speaking words of mercy and grace to a small crowd. “Ain’t nothin’ you’ve done too long, or too bad, that God won’t forgive your every wrong.” Marion handed me her reins and hopped off her horse. She looked up at the preacher. “Is it true, what you’re sayin?” “Every word.” “Then I’m ready.” The preacher hurled himself into the air, arms raised to heaven. “Hallelujah! Witness God resurrect this soul from a grave of sin and give her new life!” Marion shucked her boots and walked into the silty stream holding the preacher’s hand. She turned and smiled at me for the first time in a long time. “Told you I wouldn’t be counted among the dead.”
nthony Wood, a native of Mississippi and a new writer on the scene, resides with his wife, Lisa, in North Little Rock, Arkansas. He ministered many years in inner city neighborhoods among the poor and homeless, inspiring him to coauthor about his work in Memphis, Tennessee. Anthony is a member of White County Creative Writers, Turner’s Battery, a Civil War re-enactment company, and Civil War Roundtable of Arkansas. When not writing, he enjoys roaming historical sites, camping, kayaking, and being with family. about life during the Civil War, was released in Spring, 2021. will be released in the Spring of 2022. Anthony’s short story “Not So Long in the Tooth,” which appeared in the Winter 2020 issue of won a Will Rogers Medallion Copper Medal for Western Short Fiction during the awards ceremony in Fort Worth, TX in October.
RANDSON, I NEED SOME whiskey. Take this money and get some for me.” The hand dropping the five-dollar gold piece in mine was firm and steady despite the knot of gray hair tied tightly behind the old man’s head, a thin boney face, and deeply wrinkled skin that anywhere else might have passed for fine leather. It was not the hard, scowling face I remembered when we were on the run with my father in Mexico. Now, twenty years later, I worked in Custer’s old regiment, the 7th Cavalry, and had not seen Geronimo for many moons. A break in winter weather brought the People and White Eyes out to Lawton for supplies and to socialize with neighbors. The old man had come to sell bows and arrows he and his friends had made. Apache children would have thrown the souvenirs away as too weak or too crooked for hunting or shooting contests, but he made good money selling them to curious White Eyes wanting a remembrance from the most feared Indian in captivity. For an extra fifty cents he autographed the bow. Most were sold that way, even if he didn’t personally make them. When we met that day in Lawton it was the middle
of the afternoon. Geronimo, from his eighty-six years of living and having sat outside wrapped in his blanket this day in the near freezing air, was cold, and his joints were stiff. When he saw me, he immediately knew who I was and with a puffing grunt pulled himself up to speak so he could look me straight in the eye. Years ago he had married my grandmother, Francesca, after she had escaped from five years of slavery in Mexico and my blood grandfather was gone. Geronimo knew who I was. As a boy I was able to escape going to the Industrial School at Carlisle, but I had learned to read from labels on cans and to do arithmetic on supply orders when I worked in the fort sutler store helping George Wratten. I had become popular among both Apaches and soldiers during our imprisonment at San Augustine in Florida, Mount Vernon Barracks in Alabama, and now here at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, for my play with the soldier baseball teams. Sometimes I had won big games hitting homeruns or by catching long hits made by the other side. Geronimo didn’t waste time in idle chatter and asked for the whiskey to warm his insides and to reward himself for a good day of taking White Eye
money for meaningless toy weapons and buttons off his coat that he kept replacing. I knew the gold piece he dropped in my hand was an invitation to disaster and could get us both in a lot of trouble, but I said, “I’ll see what I can do, Grandfather. I’ll be back in a little while.” He smiled, nodded, and murmured, “Enjuh.” Selling whiskey to an Indian was punishable by hard labor in the penitentiary. I had friends in the Seventh who would buy it for me, but my uniform fit so well and tight I couldn’t hide a wart under my coat without it being noticed. Down the street, I saw an old White Eye friend and went to ask if he might help me. “Hey, amigo, I need your help.” “Eugene! What do you need, my friend. Anything that’s mine is yours too after the way you won that game at Fort Bliss the end of last summer.” “Here’s the thing. My grandfather has been sitting outside all day here on the boardwalk to sell his souvenir stuff to White Eyes. He’s in need of a little something to warm up his insides. Here’s a five-dollar gold piece. Can you buy him a little whiskey, which would do the trick, and avoid getting us all in trouble?” He laughed out loud, scratched the bristling whiskers on his face, and looked across the street at the saloon crowded with soldiers looking for a drink, a warm woman, or a game of Monte or Poker to help increase the size of their payday. The saloon was a white two-story building that sat in a crossroads corner. A high paling fence went across the back and down the side by the road. The fence slats had been nailed to a frame of two-by-fours that met in a nice right angle near the back corner of the saloon. “You got a good fast horse?” “Just a regular army pony. Nothin’ to brag about.” “Well, go find a fast one. I ain’t never knowed Apaches where at least one of ’em didn’t have a pony that ran like the wind. Give me the money for the whiskey, and you come racing by that saloon an hour before sundown. There’s gonna be a quart of rye sitting on top of that there two by four frame at the corner where the roadside and back fences meet. You just reach out and snatch it and keep on ridin’. Don’t be late, or some fool will see it and try to steal it. Follow me?” I grinned and dropped the coin in his hand.
“I’ll be comin’ fast. Thanks, Mick.” He made a little two-finger salute off his hat brim and calling over his shoulder said, “Just keep those homeruns comin’ this spring.” He headed for the saloon. I went back to Geronimo and said, “Grandfather, I need to swap horses with you for a little while. You’re still riding that fast roan, ain’t you?” The wrinkles in his leathery face deepened as he smiled. “I still have him. He’s tied round back of the stores here. He’s a good pony. I could have killed a lot of White Eyes and gotten away riding that pony in the old days.” “I’ll tie my pony in his place. You use mine while I’m using yours. Meet me out on the road into town at the bridge across the creek when the sun is a hand width off the horizon.” “Enjuh. Don’t forget whiskey.” I grinned, nodded, and went to swap ponies. When the sun began casting long shadows, I rode Geronimo’s roan down Main Street at a fast trot that turned into a thundering gallop after I turned down the road by the fence and raced by the saloon. I leaned forward stretching out from his neck, snatched the quart of rye whiskey sitting on the inside corner of the fence, and exhilarated at my success in simultaneously breaking the White Eye’s law and pleasing Geronimo, made the pony break into a dead run as we raced out of town. Geronimo, like an old fire horse, saw me coming in a hurry and took off down the road to Cache Creek as fast as he could make my army mount run, which wasn’t nearly fast enough to stay in front of his fine roan pony. When we were well out of town, and I had caught up with him, he looked over at me. I held up the bottle of rye, and he grinned and swung his arm forward as he somehow coaxed my army mount to run a little faster. The wind had died to nothing in the low light as we entered the timber at Cache Creek and found a place under the bare limbs of a big cottonwood where we could make a little fire and drink the whiskey after we watered and rubbed down the horses and hobbled them in good grass. Geronimo sat down between the roots thrust out from the bottom of the tree like a giant’s fingers and
leaned back against its trunk cradling the whiskey in the crook of his arm waiting for me to dig a little pit, gather some wood and twigs, and start a little fire. In a while I warmed my hands over the yellow blaze and the old man, his slash mouth turned up in a smile as he handed me the bottle, said. “Here, Grandson, you open it. My fingers are too cold and stiff to get that cork to move.” The cork was tight all right, and it took me a few hard twists to get it out. I handed it back to him. He
I took a small sip and handed it back to him. I had to be careful, a drunk Indian in a Seventh Cavalry uniform would not be tolerated by any Blue Coat. He took another big swallow but held the bottle this time as he looked at me through the narrow slits of his eyes. “Grandson, you’ve grown big and tall. You are your father’s son. Your sister, Ramona, took my nephew, Daklugie, for a husband, and your father found you Viola Massai. Massai was a great warrior,
held it up and looked at the light bronze amber in the firelight, smacked his lips, and took a couple of long of swallows, his Adam’s apple bouncing up and down, before he handed it back to me as he licked the last precious drops off his lips and said, “Ahhh. That’s good. The White Eyes know how to make good whiskey.”
the only one to escape the Blue Coats on the train to Florida, but he’s long gone now. Is she a good woman for you?” I nodded. Off in the distance we heard cattle bawling and a couple of dogs barking at some village house. He took another swallow and pulled his coat closer.
The whiskey loosened his tongue, and he started to ramble through his years of memories. “I’ve had many wives, maybe seven or eight, but your grandmother, Francesca, she was the bravest. She killed a mountain lion with her knife even after it chewed her up pretty good and tore off part of her scalp. She looked bad after that, no man wanted her, but I did. I took her for a wife. I loved her bravery. She was a strong woman. I wish she were still with us. I had to divorce Ih-Tedda and send her back to the Mescalero when we were at Mount Vernon. She was young, and it got her out of this prison. I wanted her, and she wanted to stay, but I told her to go. I kept Zi-yeh instead. She went to the Happy Land soon enough. Now, I only have Azul for a wife and Eva, my daughter with Zi-yeh, living with me. Eva goes to the White Eye school at Chilocco, but she is sick. She has signs of the worms the White Eye di-yen (doctor) calls tuberculosis.” I slumped back next to him and puffed my cheeks. Life was hard for all of us under the White Eyes but hardest for the old ones. Far away we heard the yips of coyotes and the wind rattling the branches together above us. I looked up through the leaf-bare limbs and saw patches of stars changing shape as clouds gathered over us. I reached for the bottle and took a long swallow before handing it back to his eager fingers. “Viola is a good wife. My father picked her. He made me marry her because he decided I would be chief and had to live with the People here. I had wanted Belle at first. She was a friend of Ramona at the Carlisle School, but he said no. He said that I can’t marry some woman and move off to live with her family, wherever they are, and still be a chief here. Then I wanted a beautiful Shoshone woman who already had a child, but he said no. I have to stay here. It is a hard thing to be a future chief and a chief’s son. Your life is not yours. It belongs to the People.” Geronimo took another long pull on the bottle and, smacking his lips, slumped down more between the big cottonwood roots trying to get comfortable. “Grandson, we have to do what Ussen, the great creator God, gives us to do. It’s always for the People that we do what we do. All our lives belong to the People. It is the only way we can survive. We have to put each other first.”
I nodded as I, too, slumped back against the tree. We swapped the bottle back and forth and taking smaller sips to make the whiskey last longer, talked about the old wild and free days, the fights we had with the Mexicans and White Eyes and the warriors we had known. Despite the whiskey warming our bellies, the wind had a sharp chill and made my head hurt a little. I looked up through the branches again and could no longer see any stars. The sky had filled with clouds. I staggered up to get a little more wood for the fire, make water, and get our horse blankets to wrap up in to keep away the cold. When I returned to the fire, the bottle lay empty between Geronimo’s boots, and he was coughing with a deep-breaking growl from his chest. I laid his blanket over him. He nodded his thanks and staring out into the darkness said, “Grandson, I made a big mistake many harvests ago.” “What was the mistake, Grandfather?” “I surrendered.” He coughed up phlegm and spat it into the fire. “I never should have surrendered, especially to that lying Blue Coat, Miles. I should have killed as many White Eyes and Mexicans as I could before they took me. I should have fought to the last warrior. Fought until the White Eyes killed me. I should have died like Victorio, sticking a knife in my own heart, not like some kicked around dog on a chain. But long ago in my Power vision, Ussen told me I would die a natural death, and so it will be.” He wheezed and coughed some more and murmured more to himself than me, “Never surrender... never surrender... kill more White Eyes.” Gradually, the whiskey made him sleep. I stuffed the blanket around him before lying down in mine and passing out. It had been a long day. A cold, drizzling rain awoke me. I could barely see in the dim gray light. Dawn was coming fast. Geronimo was awake and coughing hard, and the wheezing down in his chest sounded strong and bad. He didn’t look so good in the dim early morning light. I felt his face, and it was hot. He looked up at me and said, “Grandson, I’ve been sick all night.” “Why didn’t you get me up, Grandfather?” “I thought the whiskey would soon make me get better. No need to wake you if it did, but it didn’t.”
I shook my head. “I’ll saddle the horses, and then I’m taking you over to the Apache hospital where a Blue Coat Di-yen can give you some medicine.” He sucked in a gurgling breath, stood up, and put his wet hat on. “All right. The Blue Coat di-yens know how to make good medicine, but you go in that Apache hospital, you don’t come out alive. The People are afraid to go in there.” The soldier in charge of the hospital heard Geronimo wheezing and gurgling as I helped him through the door, and as soon as he recognized him, he led us to a room with a bed and said he would go find a doctor. I knew what the doctor was likely to say and helped Geronimo off with his hat, coat, and boots and told him to lie down on the bed until the doctor came. The doctor was an old military surgeon, most of his hair gone and wearing silver frame glasses across his long, hooked nose. He knew me from when I played baseball on a soldier team. He didn’t even have to use his listening ropes after feeling Geronimo’s hot face and hearing his breaking wheeze. He said, “Mr. Geronimo, you have pneumonia. Stay in that bed, and we’ll do all we can for you.” “Hmmph. I stay. Sometimes Blue Coat medicine is strong. Will I leave this bed alive?” The doctor slowly shook his head. “I don’t know. Maybe you’ll live, maybe you’ll die. We’ll do all we can. I’ll be back this afternoon, and I’m sending you some medicine now to make you feel better.” Geronimo coughed hard and spit in a pan next to the bed. “Enjuh.” I stepped out in the hall with the doctor and closed the door. “Sir, how much time do you think he has?” The doctor shrugged his shoulders. “It’s bad. I’ve seen it this way in other Apaches. They don’t last more than three or four days when they’re like him. I’ll send a nurse with some laudanum. Give him a spoonful in a glass of water. It’ll make him sleep.” “Yes, sir, I will.” The doctor nodded and turned down the hall toward his office. I saw a figure mopping the floor coming toward me. It was one of my friends from playing baseball with the Blue Coats. I walked over to him and said, “Ho, brother! I need a favor. Can you help me?” He dropped the mop in his bucket and cocked his
head to one side. “Hey, Chihuahua. No see you in a long time. What you need?” “You know where Geronimo lives?” He grinned. “Sure. Everybody knows Geronimo lives at Guydelkon’s house with his wife Azul.” “I need you to ride over there right now and tell Azul that he’s sick here in the hospital with pneumonia. She needs to come quick. Can you go tell her that?” His eyes grew big and round. “I’m leaving right now.” Azul stopped at Daklugie’s house on her way to the hospital and told him his uncle was sick in the hospital. Daklugie and Azul swooped into Geronimo’s room like racing horses. I told them what the doctor had said. We stayed with him all that day and Daklugie that night. Many Apaches came to the hospital to see him, but the nurses and orderlies wouldn’t let them in. We never left him alone and rotated in shifts twelve hours long. The doctor’s words haunted me. I asked Daklugie to make Apache medicine for him, and he did. I made medicine too, but I prayed as a Christian. I didn’t think my medicine was as strong as Daklugie’s. The doctor and nurses did all they could too. It wasn’t enough. It was Geronimo’s time. Daklugie was with him when he died. Daklugie’s mother was Geronimo’s sister, Ishton. When Daklugie was born, his father, Juh, was off raiding in Mexico, and his mother struggled for four days to birth him. Geronimo thought she was going to die, so he went up on Mount Bowie to pray. Ussen spoke to him. He heard, Go back to your sister. Both she and her child will survive. And you will live to be an old man, and you will die a natural death. It was as Ussen said. In his wars, Geronimo was badly wounded several times, but he lived. Now, unlike Victorio, the fearless old warrior was dying in a hospital bed like a woman. Daklugie told me that during the night he drifted in and out of consciousness, but when he was lucid, he said several times how sorry he was he had surrendered and spoke of warriors who had always been loyal and some whose loyalty failed. Old, feeble, and dying, he still had his fighting spirit. He drifted off for a while, then raised a gnarled hand letting it circle in the air. He took Daklugie’s offered hand, and opened his eyes as his fingers closed on Daklugie’s fingers in a solid grip. He wheezed, “My nephew,
promise me that you and Ramona will take my daughter Eva into your home and care for her as you do your own children. Promise me you’ll never let her marry. If you do, she’ll die. The women in our family have great difficulties. Do not let this happen to Eva.” He closed his eyes and drifted for a little while still holding Daklugie’s hand. Daklugie was patient and waited for his uncle to come back, and soon he did. He coughed and growled deep in his chest. His eyes snapped open. “I want your promise.” Daklugie said, “Ramona and I will take your daughter and love her as our own. But how can I prevent her from marrying?” “She will obey you. She has been taught to obey. See that she does.” He closed his eyes, sighed, and was gone still holding Daklugie’s fingers.
W. MICHAEL FARMER
— AROUND 1950, EUGENE CHIHUAHUA told Eve Ball how Geronimo died. The history is his, the words are mine in this imaginative recreation of what happened Lawton and inside the gates of Fort Sill, Oklahoma. See the story, “A Daughter of Geronimo,” in the next issue of Saddlebag Dispatches to learn what happened to Eva.
. MICHAEL FARMER combines fifteen-plus years of research into nineteenth-century Apache history and culture with Southwest-living experience to fill his stories with a genuine sense of time and place. A retired PhD physicist, his scientific research has included measurement of atmospheric aerosols with laser-based instruments. He has published a two-volume reference book on atmospheric effects on remote sensing as well as fiction in anthologies and award-winning essays. His novels have won numerous awards, including three Will Rogers Gold and five Silver Medallions, New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards for Literary, Adventure, Historical Fiction, a Non-Fiction New Mexico Book of the Year, and a Spur Finalist Award for Best First Novel. His book series includes The Life and Times of Yellow Boy, Mescalero Apache and Legends of the Desert. His nonfiction books include Apacheria, True Stories of Apache Culture 1860-1920 and Geronimo, Prisoner of Lies. His most recent novel is The Odyssey of Geronimo, which took home the Will Rogers Medallion Silver Medal earlier this year in the ultra-competitive Western Fiction category.
ITH A GRUNT SHE dragged the half-frozen body across the icy trail and rolled it into a foot-high snow drift. The wind was no help, buffeting her about while she covered every sign of that bastard Rafe French. Squeezing her arms together for warmth she stumbled back to check her handiwork. It would do till she could return with his brother Lunsford in tow. If she had to, she’d drag them both over the ice and snow back to Muskogee. Now to make sure she left some sort of indication… a mark she could find on her way back. Limber tree limbs nodded and danced, and she kicked her way through the snow to tie a leather strip high as she could reach. By-passers, if there chanced to be any, would not notice anything. In the wind it appeared to be a loose branch. Folks tended not to look above their heads much anyway. With gloved fingers she adjusted the furry hood so it covered most of her face and turned to mount the patient Appaloosa. Ice fringed his eyes, and she brushed it away, then cleaned off the saddle before stepping into the slick stirrup. Heels nudging his sides,
she leaned forward to get out of the wind. He spoke to her down in his throat and high stepped through the deepening snow. “I know, buddy, it’s bad, but we’re almost there. We’ll make it, won’t we?” His long tail and mane whipped around. Hugging his neck she thanked God, or whoever was in charge of this dreadful weather, that if the wind had to blow at least it was a tail wind sweeping them along toward Chetocah. When he had her at gunpoint, Rafe had made the mistake of bragging that his brother was probably already home in Caney Springs just south of there. Thinking he’d kill her before moving on, he spoke too soon, for she found her chance when he turned his back to fight a frigid gust of wind. Her rifle still in its scabbard along her leg was in her hands before he knew it, and he paid the price. She shot him through the head that fast—without thinking or even aiming, just pointed the Winchester and pulled the trigger. Blood froze before it ran all the way down his face. She swore his eyes cursed her before they closed, like he might tell someone later who’d shot him down.
“Only if you meet them in hell, mister. Next time don’t just take my Colt.” That no good brother was next. Smoky reacted to her talking aloud, flicking his ears and trudging on. His trust in her often brought tears to her eyes. He would put up with anything if she asked him. Horses were amazing in their connection to humans who gave them love. Every breath sucked in the flavor of the buffalo hide coat and fur hood. The Deep Fork of the Canadian River on her right was all that would guide them to their destination, for the trail had long ago been snowed under—if they didn’t freeze to death during the trip. No telling how long it was before Smoky stumbled into Chetocah, where moving wagons and horses had kept the road hammered down some so he could walk easier. Late night and nothing much moved around. “Let’s find the livery stable and get you inside first.” Buildings on either side of the road helped cut down the wind some. Ice from her breathing fogged her vision, but there was the livery sign painted on the front of a slab building. The door had a crude direction that read Open Here above a board securing it to the wall. Almost shouting with relief she slid to the ground, obeyed the sign, and led Smoky into the dim interior. Fastening the door on the inside, she made it by feel thru the darkness. A silence told her she’d found an empty stall. Hand on his hip she guided the exhausted horse inside, leaned on him to get her breath. Lord, she was tired. Too tired to go out and look for bed and board in this weather. Should anyone come along, she would let them in. Dragging off saddlebags, saddle, and blanket, she wearily rubbed down the horse and dropped into the hay piled in one corner. As the hungry animal stood over her munching, she wrapped up in the buffalo hide coat and knew no more till morning. Tingling toes sent a pain that jolted her awake. Slits of sunlight cut through cracks in the wall of the livery barn. The storm was over, but it was still colder than blue blazes. Smoky nudged her with his nose and snorted. Ever ready to be on his way, the impatient horse stomped and tossed his head. “Okay, but I’m having breakfast inside this morn-
ing. You can stay here and eat a ration of grain while I’m gone.” Surely this town had some kind of café. She certainly hoped so. She was hungry enough to eat a bear if he stopped growling. The odor of horses and droppings in her nose, she crawled to her feet, stretched, fingered hay from her hair, and went in search of the owner to pay for feed and get directions to the nearest café. Probably the only one. “Ain’t one open, as such,” the small, hunched man announced. “Folks ain’t got to movin’ around much yet today. Kin get something to eat and an ale at the Broken Bow down the street.” He pointed vaguely. “You’ll see it. Jest walk that-a-way. Men always manage to get their brew.” She nodded. “Appreciate it if you’d give my horse some grain. I’ll pay when I pick him up.” He nodded, raised a wrinkled hand, and bent to his work forking hay into the stalls. After she walked that-a-way for a while, several horses waited at a hitching rail marking the Broken Bow. Someone had shoveled the door clear. The old farrier was right about men always managing to get their drink. Joviality and warm air washed over her when she swung open the door. Inside on the wall were hooks for coats and hats, and she hung hers up, took off her gloves, and slipped them inside her gun belt. That she kept on. In all probability Lunsford had took shelter in this, the only place open during the blizzard. It might be he hadn’t got away yet, seeing as how he couldn’t know she was on his trail, having left Rafe behind to take care of any marshals following. Leaning on the bar she waited her turn and ordered. “Whatever you got to eat and a mug of sweet ale. I’ll take the ale now.” Hearing her voice, the bartender glanced up, looked her over. “We don’t—” “—serve women. I know.” She sighed, dragged the long-barreled Colt from its holster and laid it on the bar, pointed his way. “I’ll have that ale now if you don’t mind.” He glanced up, ready to argue despite the weapon, and she pulled aside her vest to reveal the silver five-pointed star of a U.S. Deputy Marshal. “I’ll bet you serve Deputy Marshals.”
“Yes, sir.” He grinned. She would smack him but nodded and gave him his joke. “Heard about you.” He set down a bowl of stew thick with potatoes and carrots. “What’d you hear?” Before dipping up the steamy vegetables, she slipped the Colt back into its holster. Couldn’t be too careful. Inhaling the delicious fragrance she blew on the spoonful. “Heard enough not to challenge your desire to drink ale here. You’d be F.M. Miller, if I’m right.” “Yep, you’d be right. Wise of you. How’d you know?” “Heered of you. Looking for anyone in particular?” “Yep. Hungry first. Might be I’ll someday be as famous as Belle Starr, only in a good way.” A wide grin broke the patch of dark whiskers. He made as if to gaze around the room. “Reckon he’s in here?” She glanced up. “Maybe. Left his brother in a snow drift outside of town last night.” Hands working fast behind the bar, he avoided looking at her for a moment. From the back of the room came a hooting and hollering followed by gunfire. The barkeep jumped, dropped a glass that shattered on the floor. Her spoon clattered into the bowl of stew. She slapped out the gun holstered at her hip and whirled. Another shot clipped at the collar of her shirt. Yep, he knew she was here. Dropping to one knee she shouted, “U.S. Deputy Marshal.” She immediately returned fire into the gloom, not once but three times. Be danged if she cared who she hit. Teach them to fire on a Deputy Marshal. She turned back to the bar where the tender had disappeared. “What the…? Who’s back there, you know? You see where that came from?” The top of his bald head popped up from behind the counter where he’d taken shelter. He pointed. “Yonder. Nearly got me. Reckon it’s him?” A loud yell from the back, and all was quiet. The smell of black powder filled the room. She faced the darkness. “Everyone back there, step forward with your hands where I can see them.” Several men shuffled forward looking pensive.
One had blood dripping down his arm, but he was on his feet. She poked him with the smoking barrel. “Anyone else back there? You fire that shot?” He looked around, wide eyed. “No’m. You shot me.” “Too bad. Then which one of you yahoos fired that shot? You liked to got me in the head.” He shrugged, face going white when she moved the gun barrel to his throat. “Either one of you did, or there’s someone still back there. One or the other.” She’d bet it was Lunsford French back there. He couldn’t have gotten too far after leaving Rafe. Besides, who else would’ve shot at her? Shaking under the gun barrel, he whimpered as if she’d spoken aloud. “Well, I didn’t do it. You shot me.” “I didn’t ask who I shot, nor did I ask who shot at me. I asked who saw who did it.” “I didn’t do that, neither.” He was on the verge of crying. “Tell you what….” She grabbed his arm. “What’s your name?”
“B-b-bob.” “Okay, Bob. I want you to go back there and clear the room for me. Can you do that?” “N-o-o. I’m shot.” She pressed the gun against the next one’s neck. “How about you?” A nod nearly knocked the gun loose. “I can’t go back there. He… he’ll shoot me.” “Well, what do you think I’m going to do? Ah, hell, I guess I’ll have to do it myself, won’t I? Seems you’re a bunch of limp pansies.” He wilted onto the floor like a balloon that had lost its air. “Oh, that would be right.” From behind her someone cleared his throat. She’d been a fool, hadn’t heard anyone come in. She stiffened, readied herself to whirl and fire all in one fast movement. Never turn your back on a door or window. A rule she’d never broken, but hungry and weary and still cold, she’d forgotten it and now would pay the price. Lowering the Colt to her
side, she twisted around. Stared into the chest of a tall man. Swallowed loudly. “Marshal?” A deep voice. “Deputy Marshal.” Good thing she could even get the title out, but she was proud. Found herself facing a dark-haired fellow with a star on his chest that read Sheriff. She whooshed out a breath. He grinned. “Help you, ma’am? Uh, sorry, Deputy?” With a deep sigh she holstered the Colt. “Not sure,
didn’t, but do you expect a deputy to turn in her gun in town? That seems unlikely.” “It’s the law around here, all the same. You see, we don’t have a marshal and lots of backup hereabouts, so I have to set some strict rules. There’s plenty of outlaws running loose you fellas—uh— Deputy Marshals haven’t managed to drag in yet, and me being the only lawman in the county I have to be a mite careful.”
Sheriff. Some yokel in the back took a shot at me. We were discussing who it might be. I’ve been on the trail of a prisoner escaped from Muskogee.” “I’m sorry about that. Must be he didn’t see the sign outside town. No firearms in the city limits. I wonder if you seen that?” “Happens I came in on the blizzard last night and
“What in thunder you think I’m doing here but enforcing that law you seem so proud of?” Was he actually going to disarm her with chances that killer Lunsford was around somewhere, maybe even in the back of this place? How was she going to handle this? Whop this guy up to the side of the head? Time to make a quick decision.
“You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to call your bluff and march back there gun in hand. If the man I’m looking for is there, you’re going to have one hell of a gunfight on your hands. Maybe you could lend a hand at that point. Or you can shoot me in the back.” Fist curled around her Colt she pushed away from him and darted toward the side of the room that was the darkest. Never heard of one lawman shooting
still hiding back there. Now she was prepared to shoot anyone who moved. They’d been warned a deputy was out here. Eyes accustomed to the dark, she moved forward among the shadows of chairs and tables. There, in the back corner, a form shifted, lifted an arm, aimed. She pointed the Colt, squeezed the trigger. A grunt or groan, hard to tell which, and the figure crumbled to a heap on the floor.
another while doing his job. Still, her back felt like a king-sized target till she had it against the invisible wall. The sheriff shoved up beside her. “Can you see anything?” “Not yet. Be still. Stop breathing. Shut your eyes.” Lunsford would shoot anyone that moved. Breath held, eyes closed, she listened and waited. Someone
“He’s down. Get some light. That lamp yonder.” Mouth dry, she pointed with the gun barrel. The sheriff did as she bid, and the two of them moved cautiously toward the still form. Her bullet had entered the side of his head. The lamp revealed what was left of Lunsford French’s features and a splatter of blood and brains.
Available in Bookstore Everywhere
Visit www.westernwriters.org to order your copy today!
“Good shot, Deputy. Is he who you hoped, or do I have to take you in for killing an innocent man?” “Hmm, I aimed for his heart.” She laughed at the joke, but he didn’t get it. Took her seriously. “An innocent man wouldn’t have shot at lawmen, now would he? “This man wasn’t one to play by any rules. He and his brother were mean as snakes that would strike when your back was turned given the chance. They butchered an entire family, cut them up with an axe, and left them scattered all over their home. They were tried before Judge Isaac Parker and sentenced to hang. Both escaped from Muskogee jail two weeks ago. A wonder they hadn’t committed more crimes before I run them down.” “Let me buy you a brew, Deputy.” He pulled out a chair. Sitting at the table, back to the wall, he studied her. “Didn’t know there was any women U.S. Deputy Marshals, ma’am.” She took a long drink, wiped her mouth, and set down the glass. “First one to serve in Indian Territory. Hope there’ll be more soon. Name’s F.M. Miller, and I work under Deputy Marshal Campbell in Guthrie. Want you to remember that.” He smiled. “Don’t reckon I’ll forget it anytime soon.”
ELDA BROTHERTON writes from her home perched on the side of a mountain against the Ozark National Forest. Branded as Sexy, Dark and Gritty, her work embraces the lives of gutsy women and heroes who are strong enough to deserve them. After a stint writing for a New York publisher in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, she has since settled comfortably in with small publishers to produce novels in several genres. While known for her successful series work— the Twist of Poe romantic mysteries, as well as her signature Western Historical Romances—her publishing resume includes numerous standalone novels, including Once There Were Sad Songs, Wolf Song, Stoneheart’s Woman, Remembrance, and her magnum opus, Beyond the Moon. Following the tragic passing of her longtime writing partner, legendary Western author Dusty Richards, in early 2018, she took up her pen to finish several of his outstanding works, including the standalone novel Blue Roan Colt and the exciting new Texas Badge Mystery Series, including The Texas Badge and the forthcoming sequels Texas Lightning, Texas Fury, and Texas Wildling.
PHYSICS our exclusive interview with award-winning western author
W. MICHAEL FARMER story by GEORGE “CLAY” MITCHELL photos courtesy of W. MICHAEL FARMER
SADDLEBAG COVER STORY
From physicist to novelist, W. MICHAEL FARMER’S path to becoming an award-winning author wasn’t the most conventional, perhaps, but it was the RIGHT ONE for him.
AISED ON A SMALL farm north of Nashville, Tennessee, Farmer chose to become an engineer when he left high school, and even that pursuit was altered. “I knew I could not make any money with writ-
ing, and I didn’t have a passion to write in high school,” Farmer said. “I was more into science and math. So, I went to college learning a skill to help me make money. I thought I was going to go into nuclear engineering. At the time, I thought it was the sexiest subject to study.” When Farmer attended college, schools had a co-
op program. A student could work for a semester in his chosen field and attend classes the next semester. With his interest in nuclear engineering, Farmer was placed at the U.S.A.F. Arnold Engineering Development Center. He began working with physicists. “They convinced me not to be an engineer, so I became a physicist,” Farmer said. “They were right. I had more versatility as a physicist. Physics depends more on the imagination, and you end up using the same brain cells on mathematical models as you would with writing. I was very satisfied with what I did in that field. I made a few discoveries but had a lot of fun.” Eventually, Farmer would earn his Ph.D. in Physics at the University of Tennessee Space Institute. He’s worked in several programs, and his research led to three patents assigned to the U.S. Air Force. To simply explain what Farmer accomplished, his work helps electro-optical weapons systems function more effectively through the atmosphere.
CHAIN REACTION. FARMER DURING HIS TIME SUPPORTING THE U.S. ARMY AS FIELD TEST DIRECTOR FOR ELECTRO-OPTICAL WEAPONS SENSOR COUNTERMEASURES, AND LATER (INSET) AS AN ADVISOR AND FIELD TEST DIRECTOR TO THE NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY ORGANIZATION (NATO) FOR TESTING ELECTRO-OPTICAL WEAPONS SENSOR COUNTERMEASURES.
Farmer would even write a number of papers that were later published in technical journals. This may have begun his journey to becoming a writer. Farmer was living in New Mexico and ended up back on the eastern side of the United States wondering what he would be doing next. He read the story of the Fountain murders in Leon Metz’s Pat Garrett biography. Henry Fountain, a former Texas senator and lawyer in New Mexico, disappeared along with his eightyear-old son back in early 1896. Fountain was investigating and prosecuting cattle rustlers, one of whom became a suspect in the case. With no bodies found, the case failed in the court. Pat Garrett was even brought
in to investigate the disappearance of Fountain, who was also William H. Bonney’s attorney in 1881. “There just wasn’t a lot to go on at the time,” Farmer said. “I decided that I would try to get at the truth through fiction—write a story of 15k to 20k words to satisfy my curiosity. I didn’t intend to publish it, but I started writing, and by the time I finished, I had 170,000 words. Along the way, I realized how much I really enjoyed writing. It got to be a compulsion. If I didn’t write every day, it didn’t feel normal.” After he finished the novel, Farmer found someone to do an edit, and he began his career as a writer. He couldn’t find anyone to publish his novel. Most agents didn’t respond. One told him it was too long. So, he took the self-publishing route. Farmer said that he took that direction because he was “getting old fast and didn’t want to wait.” Farmer published a number
“The most important thing in PHYSICS was imagination, so when I became a WRITER, I felt like I wasn’t losing anything.”
CRITICAL MASS. FARMER AT THE RANGE TEST-FIRING AN 1860 HENRY RIFLE, (ABOVE) WORKING ON THE FIRST DRAFT OF HIS NOVEL, HOMBRECITO’S WAR (UPPER LEFT), AND POSING WITH TWO FANS DURING A BOOK SIGNING IN LAS CRUCES, NEW MEXICO (LOWER LEFT).
of books himself. A small press in Arizona eventually bought one of his stories. Farmer said he didn’t find his true voice as a writer until after he completed his Fountain stories and began work about the Apaches. “The model I use is that I chase history and put the meat and bones on those stories,” Farmer said. “I’m just filling in the blanks. With physics, it’s really the same kind of thing... you’re just filling in blanks. The most important thing in physics was imagina-
tion, so when I became a writer, I felt like I wasn’t losing anything.” As a child of the 1950s and 1960s, Farmer grew up in what he calls the “golden era” of Westerns. He recalls reading about the Plains Indians. Farmer felt that their treatment was unfair, and his Yellow Boy character, who appeared in the Fountain stories, is the result. Farmer became more interested in that character than the others as he continued his writings.
CENTER OF GRAVITY
“Along the way, I realized how much I really ENJOYED WRITING. It got to be a compulsion. If I didn’t write EVERY DAY, it DIDN’T FEEL NORMAL.”
He later found a book about the Apache, The Apache Life-Way, and it became an eye-opening experience. “The Plains Indians always seem to get more press except in the movies,” Farmer said. “I was stunned about the life of the Apache warriors. The old Apache won’t eat creepy crawly creatures or fish. They had some of the same customs as the old Hebrews. It was just phenomenal how their lives parallel each other. “They were also big-time believers in the supernatural powers. It’s a fascinating read.” Farmer said Larry McMurtry, author of Lonesome Dove, was one of his heroes. Then he learned that his favorite mystery writer, Tony Hillerman, was doing a conference for mystery writers.
CYCLOTRON. FARMER IN THE MIDST OF A READING DURING A 2011 BOOK SIGNING (LEFT), HANGING OUT WITH FELLOW WESTERN AUTHOR PAUL COLT AT THE 2019 WESTERN WRITERS OF AMERICA CONFERENCE (ABOVE) CENTER), AND DELIVERING AN ADDRESS AT THE CHRISTOPHER NEWPOR UNIVERSITY WRITER’S CONFERENCE IN 2010 (ABOVE RIGHT).
“My wife told me I had to go,” Farmer said. “I met and heard David Morrell (author of First Blood), lecture, and I bought his book about writing. He had so many great insights into writing and how to write. I also got Elmore Leonard’s little book about writing. It’s so basic, anybody who writes needs it. “Mark Twain said the right words make all the difference to a story. Those are the important writers to me.” Like his work in physics, Farmer takes a great deal of time and effort in his research but warns, “what I write about, you can’t do all the research or read all the books. “I own a book that’s full of errors. It says that Geronimo was at Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade and was riding a pinto horse. However, if you look at the picture of Geronimo at the parade, you can tell he’s on a very different kind of horse. Unless you had a photograph, you wouldn’t know how it was inaccurate. “I can take three history books on the same subject and find inconsistencies, depending upon who you want to believe,“ Farmer said. “How do I go forward using uncertain histori-
“MARK TWAIN said the right words make all the difference to a story.”
cal facts in something that’s made up? I start writing with the culture and human emotions in mind around the history, and let my imagination take over as the novel unfolds. Writing has become Farmer’s job, at least with part-time hours when he’s sitting at the keyboard. He’ll write about six or seven hours a day for six to seven days a week. On a good day he’ll produce about 2,000 words. He’ll have about 1,000 if he has to do some fact-checking that day. “I don’t think I would have been a writer without a computer processor,” Farmer said. “I don’t think I could afford all the pencils or the erasers. For me, the real writing comes in the rewriting, the revising, and the polishing.” Farmer still resides in the southeast corner of Virginia, but New Mexico, where his stories have taken place and where he worked as a physicist, still calls out to him. “I think we’ll move back to New Mexico when she finishes her job,” Farmer said. “New Mexico... the land... it’s good for your soul. When I first moved out there, I didn’t think I would care for it, but when I looked across the Rio Grande valley and up and down the river, I saw a magnificent land. “They say if you write a Western, you already have one built-in character, and that’s the land. I have always included the land in my stories. I don’t spend pages and pages writing about it though, just enough to convey the image to people interested in your works. I’ve had a number of people read my stories and just made-up pieces of the land, and they say they know where that land is. It really helps to have a passion for the land.” —GEORGE “CLAY” MITCHELL is an award-winning reporter and photographer, as well as a founding partner and Chief DevelopSaddlebag Dispatches and its parent company, Oghma Creative Media.
HOUSANDS OF YEARS BEFORE Gregor Mendel formulated his theories on genetics using yellow and green peas, Mesoamericans were developing hundreds of corn varieties with intent and purpose. There are six varieties of corn: • Sweet—We are all familiar with delicious buttered sweet corn. • Flint—The most versatile, it can be used for popcorn, animal food, ground into meal or flour, or eaten as green corn. • Popcorn—Pop it. Add salt, butter… no further explanation is needed. • Dent—A combination of flint and sweet, used for animal feed, flour, and meal. It has kernels dented on the end. • Flour—Usually a larger grain with more starch than other varieties used for flour and hominy. • Pod—Rarely used or seen. Each kernel has a husk surrounding it and making it difficult to use.
Some include a variety called waxy corn as well. Others include this in one of the first six examples. There is no symbol so strongly associated with American native tribes as corn. Every tribe had their favorite, which was usually environmentally adapted to its location and selectively bred by the natives over thousands of years. They used basic scientific methodology of observation and selection to improve their crops before it became a common practice in Europe. The Hopi dig with a digging stick ten to sixteen inches into the soil, burying six to ten kernels of grain before covering them up. This variety was now closer to the water table and the only variety that could find its way to the surface from that far down in the ground. It grows in groups of cornstalks like a living, green sheaf. Ten feet away they plant another sheaf of corn. Corn is considered their child. They tend it daily, straightening it if it falls and picking the insects off it. It is nurtured, allowing it to thrive on what Earthmother provides. This would not grow in the Midwest. It has been adapted for desert survival.
It grows with no irrigation, plowing, or insect spray. When the Hopi dig their corn, they consider the digging stick sacred. They are not digging with it for themselves—they are planting for the world. A sacred thought, and indeed corn has spread through the entire world adapting to climate, elevation, soil type, and water. It is the “grain of the gods.” From a tough, hard, glossy covered grass seed growing in a short singular row of grain that would break your teeth to eat it—that early grass has become a multi-rowed ear of fifty to one hundred kernels on some varieties— to the tender, tasty, rainbow mix of colors, textures, and tastes we call corn. Teosinte (te’o sinte’) is a grass that still grows wild in the American and Mexican southwest. Ten thousand years ago, they chewed and juiced the stems which were similar looking to modern corn with more branches. This grass could grow up to ten feet tall. The few grains on the seed heads had to be ground with rocks to break the hard, protective, glossy hull. Imagine the surprised look on a native woman’s face when the first seed head “popped” when it got too close to the fire. The popping made it easier to eat and more enjoyable, but most importantly, it was viewed in a different light. From the instant that first corny explosion happened, corn was destined to feed the world. Popcorn comes in all colors and has a distinct flavor unique to its individual environment. It was the first type of corn developed initially with only a few kernels per tiny ear. Selection added more kernels, cross breeding increased length and fertility,
until they had corn that was sweeter, more delicious to eat early, or corn they could grind for flour and meal. Early settlers referred to corn meal as Indian meal or Indian corn. The term “corn” is a European term for small grains or particles of something—i.e., grains of salt, grains of gunpowder. Salt was used to preserve beef or pork, resulting in corned beef or corned pork, also known as ham. In the colonies, the term stuck to the Indian grains of any variety as corn and is still used today.
Modern corn is now a manufactured, modified DNA, patent protected, cross breed that won’t grow back into the same corn you planted. More importantly, it lacks the nutrition of the ancient heritage types, as those still have all their DNA intact. Indian ears of corn you buy to decorate with at Thanksgiving or Christmas has a more nutritional punch than the canned corn on the shelf. I grind my Indian corn in my coffee mill for meal, mush, and breading. Teosinte will still cross breed with all varieties of the ancient types, indicating the rich depth of DNA it possesses. Yellow and white corn are only a small
band on the rainbow of corn colors and flavors. Have you heard of Bloody Butcher corn? Do I need to tell you what color that is? Hopi Blue, Brown Chipotle— the first ancient corn with rows of kernels on an ear— are still available. Glass Gem corn has bright, shiny, jewel-like gems of colored popcorn kernels. There is black corn, green corn, atomic orange corn—yes, it looks like it sounds—violet corn, all in different shades and hues. Scientifically, it is estimated Indian corn was derived from over 3,500 selected varieties by the natives. Most interesting, and I have no idea how they managed this, there is Cherokee Eagle Corn, Pawnee Eagle corn, and Montana Cudu corn that are a white variety that have a purple to violet eagle with spread wings well defined on the end of the kernel. I have seen pictures of some of this, and you can pick out individual feathers and sharp beak and eye. No wonder it was revered by the tribes who grew it. Corn was used for everything by the native cultures. It was stored for food in the winter. Eaten as green corn, when it was in the milk stage, all cultures enjoyed the sweet taste of early fresh corn. The sugars turn to starch when dried, and mature dried corn is not as sweet. Of course, it was ground and used as a porridge when cooked in water. That porridge or mush could be cooled, cut into chunks, patted into cakes, then toasted over the coals. Kernels would be soaked, dried, then roasted over coals, until it became parched corn. The parched corn could be more easily chewed than raw, uncooked corn and was convenient when traveling, as it wouldn’t spoil or need further preparation. A nutritional breakthrough occurred when they learned Nixtimization. This process cooked dry kernels in hot water laced with hardwood ashes or lye—the same chemical that you buy to clean your drains. It is caustic and will burn your skin, but the natives learned to soak their corn in this lye water to soften the hard hull so it could be removed. Then the corn is rinsed under fresh water, removing the lye. They ended up with a product called hominy. Hominy is made the same way today, using that same chemical, lye. Pretty incredible. But, even better, this Nixtimization process increased the nutrition in the corn by a huge percent. If you eat just corn with nothing else, you will starve.
This Nixtimization allowed better nutrition in mush, porridge, and corn cakes. That end product is called Masa. It is in tamales, corn tortillas, and corn chips. The masa you can buy on the shelf of your grocery is better for you than the white or yellow corn meal in the familiar paper package. I am growing a corn in my garden from Montana called Painted Mountain. It is all colors of the rainbow. It was developed to grow in dry climates, mountain elevations, and diverse environments. This corn was developed from over thirty varieties of native corn for areas of the world that are starving. I also have Montana Cudu. I intend to plant it next year. A lot of these American Indian varieties are available to the general public. Baker Creek Seeds do DNA testing to ensure that the heritage varieties they offer are genetically pure. Check them out online. I have also received seeds that were brought back by Lewis and Clark to Thomas Jefferson. Seeds like these are still grown in his gardens at Monticello and are available for purchase. Look them up for their catalog of seeds. I also found Mary’s Heirloom seeds, offering over 600 varieties of native American seeds. Give these suppliers a look. It is a fascinating dive back into our history. To think that I am growing corn with genetics that originated thousands of years ago absolutely stuns me. It is like holding an ancient fossil in your hand, but it is alive and viable. I hope this article sparks an interest in Native American varieties. Native cultures worked as a community to grow, harvest food, and process it into delicious foods. We are overlooking them for the more convenient, less healthful, commercial offerings. Grow food for your family and your community. When we plant a seed, we not only nourish ourselves, but we also feed the world. —DR. MICHAEL LEE is a contributing correspondent for Western Writers of America’s Roundup Magazine, as well as Saddlebag Dispatches new full-time food writer.. His fresh voice paints detail and gives historical authenticity to a frontier-life coming of age saga. He lives in Branson, Del Rio, will hit bookstore shelves in 2022.
BLACK HILLS GOLD
OSE WAS IN A back pen culling cattle when he first heard some kind of ruckus over by the main corral. The constant blaring of the cows made it hard to pick up regular noise, but he thought he heard someone calling his name. Across the pens, he saw Neal, the drummer, up on one of the fences waving. He waved back, thinking Neal was just being his usual friendly self, but the drummer’s insistent swinging of his arms indicated there was something else afoot. He guided the little paint he was riding, one of Phelps’ prize cattle yard possessions, through the gate of the pen and then through the maze of other pens and lanes until he reached the main corral. Neal was still waving and yelling at him, and he began to make out what the man was saying. “Come quick, he shot him. Come quick.” “What?” He brought the little paint alongside the fence on which Neal continued his wild gyrations. “He killed him, shot him dead. He killed him.” “Easy, Neal, speak slower. What happened?” “Ab.” Neal almost broke down. “He’s dead. The Pinkerton killed him.” “Ab’s dead? What are you saying? The Pinkerton?” “He came for Ab in the saloon and Ab cursed him, called him terrible things. The Pinkerton shot him. Shot him dead.” “Who’s looking out for Ab?” “He’s dead. They left him lying on the saloon floor. I took him over to the doctor’s house, but it was too late. Too late. He didn’t weigh nothing. He was just skin and bones.” “All right. I’ll see to it. I’ll take care of it.” “What are you gonna do? You going after the Pinkerton? You gonna....” Without another word, Mose guided the horse out of the main corral and into the street.
“Where you going?” Neal called after him. “What are you going to do?” Grimly silent, Mose raced the little paint into town to the stable where he boarded Buster. For the job that had to be done, only his own trustworthy horse would do. Letting the paint wander free in the stable, he saddled Buster and rode him back to the Stockman’s Hotel. Up in his room, he loaded both his pistols, strapping the Colt into the holster on his gun belt and stuffing the Griswold behind the belt. Out in the hallway, he paused for a moment in front of Ab’s room—listening. For what? There was no sound. He opened the old man’s door and looked inside. Everything was the same, except there was no Ab. He knew he was gone, but he had to check one more time. Downstairs, people were beginning to gather. Several were out in the street by Buster. He walked past all of them without speaking and swung up into the saddle. The drummer, Neal, rushed to his side. “They say he rode out to the west, on the Warrensburg road.” Mose dug his heels into Buster’s flanks and with a slight wave of his right hand rode hard out of town. — RUCKER, THE PINKERTON, WAS easy to follow. Maybe even wanted to be. At a way station on the edge of town, where the road south to Springfield converged with the western one leading to Warrensburg and the area south of Kansas City beyond, a stable hand told Mose that a fellow fitting Rucker’s description had just ridden out, to the west. Couldn’t be more than a couple of miles ahead, wasn’t in any kind of hurry it didn’t seem. He thanked the man and hurried Buster along.
Not twenty minutes later, at a small creek crossing on the Warrensburg Road, he found his quarry. Rucker was casually letting his horse drink from the stream and showed neither surprise nor concern at his arrival. “Come looking for yours, cowboy?” The Pinkerton turned in the saddle. “I reckon you can get down off that horse.” “I knew you’d be coming.” “You killed an old man what never done nothing, you had no right.” “The old bastard cursed at me like I was a scalp-selling Indian. He was a foul-mouthed, rotten old man.” “That old man was a better man than you could or ever will be, even if he was the devil himself.” “And now you plan to avenge him, is that it? There’s lots more Pinkerton men where I come from. Even if you was to shoot me down, they’ll come for you. You’ll never get away with it. Best you just turn tail and head on back to your cow punching and leave the lawman work to me.” “No lawman would’ve murdered a helpless old man like that. No real man would have neither.” “You’re set then to finish this here and now?” “I sure am.” He moved his right hand toward the Navy Colt. With a fast swivel in the saddle, Rucker drew his pistol and fired a wild shot. In a heartbeat, Mose pulled his .36 and leveled two fast, accurate rounds in return. Both shots hit the target. Wounded in the left leg and left arm, Rucker half-slid, half-fell from the saddle and landed with a pained cry on the ground beside the creek. Mose dismounted and walked over to him. He kicked Rucker’s .44 into the water. “You can’t murder me.” Rucker moaned. “Not in cold blood.” “You killed Ab in cold blood.” He raised the .36 and fired once more. “We’re even now, Pinkerton. Lord have mercy on your soul—and mine.” — AFTER SHOOTING DOWN RUCKER, Mose knew he had no future in Sedalia, or anywhere in Missouri for that matter. His life wouldn’t be worth a plug
nickel once word got back to the Pinkertons about the death of their man. His only chance was to get out of town and to get out of there fast. Leaving Rucker beside the stream where he had died, he climbed into the saddle and rode Buster hard back to Sedalia. Without looking at anyone or speaking to a soul, he hurried over to the Stockman’s to get his gear and money. Although it went against his grain, he went into Ab’s room and took the old man’s money from its hiding place under a board next to a bureau by the back wall. He was surprised to find the old man had managed to hoard over seventy dollars. With his own money and Ab’s, he had more than one hundred dollars in paper and coins. Enough to finance the gold-hunting expedition Ab had hoped that they would do together one day soon. Even though it was getting late in the day, he knew he had to leave quick, so he headed straight over to the Phelps’ cattle yard to settle up with his old boss. “What happened?” Phelps asked when Mose told him of his plans. “What did you do? Why do you have to leave right now?” “That’ll all be clear enough soon. I only stopped by to thank you and to ask you a favor.” “What is that?” “Will you make sure for me that old Ab gets a decent burial. A proper grave with a stone for it?” “Of course, I will.” “Here’s some money to take care of that.” He handed two ten-dollar bills to Phelps. “Reckon that’s enough?” “We’ll make it do.” “If it’s short, use whatever pay I have coming to fill it out.” “If there’s anything left over that?” “Do with it what you will.” “Best of luck to you.” “Best to you, sir.” He turned Buster away from the corrals and toward the road. With a wave of his right arm as he rode away, he trotted the horse through town, out and away, beyond Sedalia, heading toward the north and west. He never looked back. There was no reason to. There was nothing left for him there now. —
AFTER THE SHOOTOUT WITH the Pinkerton man, Mose knew he had to get out of the area quick. Keeping Buster at a steady pace, he headed northwesterly in the general direction of Kansas City. Camping nights beside clear water creeks and surviving on trail jerky, he neared the city on the third afternoon after leaving Sedalia. Kansas City. A turning point in his life and in the fortunes of the Confederacy for whom he had fought. At the beginning of Stirling Price’s 1864 campaign to retake Missouri, he had been conscripted out of his bushwhacker gang into Jo Shelby’s Missouri 1st Cavalry along with the James and Younger Brothers. The unit saw action in Sedalia, Boonville and Lexington, among other places, but the Federals drove them to the west and a final confrontation at Westport on the outskirts of Kansas City proper. After some initial gains, Westport became a Southern debacle and his outfit, under Shelby’s leadership, had rallied to save Price from complete disaster. With
the Westport defeat, Confederate hopes of regaining Missouri were dashed. In the aftermath of the defeat, the remains of the army drifted south, losing men in droves as they deserted to homes and families long neglected during the bloody conflict between the states. He stayed with Shelby and Price even when the war ended the following spring and he had crossed into Mexico with them and several hundred of their remaining men. The generals offered their fealty to the emperor Maximilian, but Mose and the other ex-rebel soldiers were just hoping to survive and avoid possible prosecution by overzealous, victorious Federals back home. His main recollection of the time south of the border, working on the great hacienda named for the Mexican empress Carlota, was the recurring image of the lovely young daughter of one of the Mexican patrón’s appointed to help the Americans learn to ranch and farm for themselves. The girl’s name was María Consuela, and she
had the darkest, shiniest hair and the deepest brown eyes he had ever seen. Her comings and goings always drew the attention of the young men, especially if they happened to be working anywhere near the ranch’s big house where the girl’s family lived. Invariably dressed in some fine, white dress, María Consuela’s seventeen year-old figure was impossible to hide even beneath rich, modest garments. All the rebels were impressed by the girl’s beauty but none more so than Mose. Not much older than the girl, he was unable to hide his admiration for her beauty and grace. On more than one occasion, she seemed to reciprocate the interest by giving him a brief, heart-stopping smile. “Oh, boy.” Charlie Jay, one of his young rebel friends teased him. “You gonna marry the jéfe’s daughter, be the patrón of the ranch.” He ignored his friend’s joking, and the laughter of the other boys, to stare after the girl, imagining a life with someone as beautiful as she. One day while he was
working near the ranch house hoping for a glimpse of her, she suddenly appeared on the front porch. “Buenas tardes, señorita.” He bowed slightly as he tried out some of the Spanish he’d learned in Mexico. The girl gave him one of her dazzling smiles just as her father and an older brother came through the front door onto the porch. The men did not have dazzling smiles for the young gringo. With a respectful nod to them, he went back to tending his own business but not before giving the girl a surreptitious, admiring look. A few days later, he managed to find an excuse to work inside the big ranch house. His friend Charlie Jay helped him concoct a story about having to fix a window sill in the kitchen. And sure enough, while he was working, the girl came in. They spoke to each other in halting English and Spanish, one for the other, and managed to express a mutual interest. The meeting was going so well, he began to entertain the notion of giving the girl a kiss on the cheek when her father interrupted once again.
“Afuera.” The older man ordered. “Get out of my house now.” “But, señor….” “Afuera and stay away from my daughter. She is not for the likes of you.” He left, but he wasn’t happy about it. He didn’t cotton to anybody, Mexican dueño or not, telling him who he could or could not see. The next day he finagled his way to see María Consuela again, but this time, the older brother joined the father in cutting off his attempts to speak to the girl. He tried again with the same results on the third day, and that evening he received unwelcome visitors at the bunkhouse where he and several of the enlisted men turned cowboys lived. The girl’s father and the older brother were there, as well as two trail-weathered He was warned a final time to stay away from María Consuela. “I won’t do it.” He squared up as if to fight with his fists. “Better back off of this one.” Charlie Jay advised. “Listen to your friend.” The older brother advised. “All of you can go to hell.” “We will see you there.” “Any time you please.” “Any time, gringo.” “You call it, boy.” “Easy fellas.” Charlie Jay stepped between them. The father also helped break up the confrontation, leading his cursing son away from the gringo interloper. “Bastards.” Mose called after them. “You best let this one go.” Charlie Jay advised. “They got different customs down here. I reckon it don’t go well with them, us messing with their women.” “Nobody’s messing with nobody.” “I’m just saying.” The following day, despite all the advice and all that had happened, he managed to see the girl again. This time it got ugly. The brother was ready and came running at him. They locked up fast and hard, fighting for ten minutes solid in front of the big ranch house. First, he would knock the brother down and then the brother would knock him down. A large crowd, including the girl,
gathered round to watch the combatants. Finally, scraped, dirty, bruised, skinned, and bleeding from several minor cuts and abrasions, the exhausted fighters fell back on their last resort. They drew on each other. The brother fired his pistol, but the shot was off mark. Mose took careful aim with his Navy .36 and was set to fire when no less a personage than General Jo Shelby intervened. “Whoa, there, soldier.” The general guided the .36 toward the empty sky. “That’s enough of that. We can’t have this kind of thing going on here. These people are our hosts. We’re guests in their country. We have to act according to local custom, respect what’s theirs, what belongs to them.” “I ain’t done nothing wrong.” Mose holstered the .36. “I was just wanting to....” “Yes, yes.” Shelby cut him off. “I know. You’re a young man and I understand that, but this is not acceptable. I think you best be moving on, son. It appears you’ve worn out your welcome, and this kind of problem won’t help the rest of us, either.” Shelby motioned for Charlie Jay, who was standing nearby, to take Mose to the bunkhouse. The girl’s family led her back toward the big house. He and the girl managed a quick exchange of looks, but it would be their last. The next morning, per Shelby’s instructions, Charlie Jay accompanied Mose away from the Carlota. The general made sure he had a good bedroll for the trip,
food for a week’s ride, and a twenty-dollar gold piece for living money. Charlie Jay stayed with him until they crossed the border back into the United States and then gave him directions to San Antonio. “You go on to San Antone now. Follow this old cattle trail and you can’t go wrong. Up there you can most likely catch on with a drive heading north. You’ll be fine.” “All right, Charlie. I appreciate what you done, and the general.” “You take care of this here horse I cut out for you, now. I picked him special. Goes by the name of Buster.” “He’s a fine lookin’ buckskin.” “Solid animal, one you can depend on.” “So long.” He lightly spurred the new horse on. With a short wave of his right hand, he headed off into the distance, toward San Antonio and who knew what. Waking from the bittersweet recollection of his time on the Hacienda Carlota, he walked down to a small creek near where he had camped to get a drink of cool water and to wash away the cobwebs of sleep and dream-memory. Yet all through breakfast he thought of the lovely María Consuela and how different his life might have been had he been able to stay with her. It wasn’t until after he had saddled Buster and they were well on their way toward Omaha that the old recollections finally faded from his consciousness and he was able to concentrate again on the task at hand
—getting himself to the Dakota Badlands, and finding the yellow gold. — HE FIGURED IT WAS late April, first of May before he reached the Badlands. It had been a bit rainy much of the latter part of the trip but was starting to warm up some, yet evenings could still get cold sleeping in a bedroll out in the open air. More and more people had been popping up on the trails as he neared the Dakotas, almost all of them gold hunters. They talked of nothing else. Were consumed with stories about it. Didn’t seem to care that the Indians were less than happy with this latest invasion of white men on their land. One day, he finally came upon what passed for a town. It was just a bunch of wood buildings hurriedly thrown up to cater to the gold rush men. It didn’t even have a name yet he learned from a tall, scrawny man lounging beside a small mercantile at the southern edge of the boom town. “Somebody suggested the name Deadwood.” The thin fellow told him. “But it ain’t been decided yet, as far as anybody knows for sure.” “Where would a fellow go to get started hunting for the gold?” “You’re a Johnny-Come-Lately for that.” “How’s that?”
“Most of the rich strikes done been hit, mister. You’ll have to do some working to find anything worthwhile left.” “I reckon I ain’t afraid of trying to find it, nor of working for it either.” “Well, then, if you’re bound to do it, check up the road there at Dakins. They carry everything a body would need, I reckon.” “Much obliged.” “Your funeral.” He gave the man a peculiar look but guided Buster up the street to a series of connected buildings with the name Dakins printed on one of them. It turned out that this Dakins place was not just a mercantile, with miner supplies and such, but the connected buildings were a restaurant and a saloon, also owned by the same man. In the mercantile, he inquired about supplies and if there might be maps to the gold country. “Shovels, pans, bags, supplies.” The man behind the counter rattled away. “Bacon, beans, flour, matches, whatever you need, we got.” “Sounds like it. You got maps?” “No maps. Find your own way.” “Everthing in the world for finding gold except how to get there.” He nodded to an old prospector who was checking over the store’s supply of sifting pans. “No maps.” The counterman reiterated. “Follow the crowd. Can’t miss.” “I generally try to avoid the crowd.” “A solid approach son.” The old prospector interjected. “Wise philosophy.” “If I was wise, I probably wouldn’t be here now.” “Well said.” The old prospector chuckled. “I’m Mose Traven. Late of the Indian Territory, Arkansas and other such places.” “Will Davenport, late of the gold fields.” “That’s right, young fellow.” The counterman said. “Will here is one of the best in these parts. He can steer you straight.” “I could use some fair advice.” “Let’s go over to the restaurant.” Will suggested. “I’m always ready for another panning trip. It ain’t all been taken outta here, yet.” “I’d be obliged to you, sir.” “Think nothing of it, son, nothing of it at all.”
— AFTER EATING A FILLING, but expensive, meal at the Dakins restaurant, they found a back table in the Dakins saloon to have a whiskey or two and discuss gold mining. “Whatever caused you to get the notion of gold hunting?” Will tossed down a shot. “An old fella I knew back in Missouri name of Abner Barnett.” “He not up to coming?” “He died.” “Oh, sorry to hear that.” “He was a decent man.” “Well, the rest of us have to push on in life.” “Yes, sir.” “I tell you, son.” Will paused until the barkeep had left a small bottle of whiskey at their table. “I could use some help these days. I keep my mining simple, but there’s still plenty of hard work to do. Cutting trees, digging dirt and such. I’m getting a bit old to do it all by myself anymore.” “I can do them things. I ain’t afraid of work.” “You don’t look like you would be. Do you have much for a grubstake?” “You mean for supplies and equipment and such?” “Yep.” “I got some money. How much would I need?” “We can outfit ourselves for a hundred and a half. I already got a pack mule.” “Seventy-five apiece?” Mose did the math. “About, if we go fifty-fifty.” “I’d be hard pressed to do that much.” “What could you do?” “Maybe fifty.” “I’d have to go two-thirds to one-third on that.” “Would it pay?” “I know some places ain’t been tampered with much yet. Rich ground. One fair run and you could buy into the fifty-fifty. If we get lucky, we could make in a few weeks or a couple of months enough to last a fellow a full year at regular prices back in Missouri or Arkansas. Would that be all right with you?” “It would. It definitely would.” “Well, let’s have another drink, then head back to
the mercantile to get ourselves set up. We can leave in the morning as far as I’m concerned.” “Sounds fine to me. I got nowhere particular to be.” — BEFORE LEAVING TOWN THE next morning, they delayed their adventure to have one more meal at the Dakins restaurant. The prospect of a couple of months of hard tack, salt bacon and hard beans was enough to convince them that overpriced, overcooked eggs and steak was a last civilized pleasure they didn’t want to forego. While they were eating, a young Army officer dressed in a fine cavalryman’s uniform came in and sat down several tables away. “Recognize that fellow over there?” Will asked. “Should I? Looks like any other Bluebelly to me.” “That’s Miles Keogh, one of George Custer’s boys. Must be traveling somewhere.” “I remember hearing about Custer.” “He led an expedition out here last year. Hundreds of wagons. It was really something. You know, they say that Custer is rash and unpredictable, but gallant and brave without peer.” “I wouldn’t know.” Mose concentrated on finishing his meal. “This Keogh is gallant and brave, too, it’s said, without being rash or unpredictable. What you need to be an Indian fighter.” “Has there been Indian trouble up here?” “Not if you stay clear of them.” “Yeah, well, that’ld be the trick now, wouldn’t it?” “Certainly would, certainly would.” On their way out of the restaurant, they passed by Captain Keogh at his table. He looked up at them as they went by. “Good day to you, sir.” Will saluted the officer. “And you, sir.” The handsome young cavalryman responded politely, formally. Mose simply nodded. “Seems like a nice enough young feller.” Will noted, as they checked their animals and gear outside. “He did speak to us. At least he did that.” —
THEY TRAVELED FOUR DAYS into the Black Hills before reaching a little stream forking off the Belle Fourche River that Will believed had not been mined out. “This is it?” Mose wondered. “This little creek?” “Flat Creek, it’s called. There ain’t been nary a soul up this way yet or they didn’t know what they was looking for.” “Is there gold?” “Looks like mighty good soil to me. See how the creek runs shallow and quick and there’s quite a bit of thick, soft dirt by the banks and at the turns. We’ll find out soon enough if it has any.” “You can spot it that easy?” “Not spot it, dig it, pan it. We’ll be finding flakes here not nuggets, not some of that silly stuff you probably heard about just picking up chunks of gold on the ground. We’ll have to work for this, but if I’m right it’ll pay well for the labor of it.” “When do we get started?”
“As soon as we set up camp. Let’s put our stuff just behind the brush and tree line there on the west side of the creek. Keep our gear and things out of sight while we work. Good wind break, too.” “Let’s get to it, then. I’m ready for finding me some gold.” “I see that you are. But take it easy. We won’t get rich overnight. Could take us months up here to find a fair amount. You’ll need to be patient.” “I can do that. I can be patient.” — THE BROWN SOIL OF Flat Creek did in fact contain gold. After a few days of panning, they built a small sluice to speed up the process of collecting it. Within a couple of weeks Will measured out enough of Mose’s take to make them fifty-fifty partners and not much more than a month of steady working had brought them a fair-sized amount of the precious mineral.
“How are we doing, Will?” Mose asked one evening after they had finished their day’s work. “Are we getting a good stash?” “We are, son. It might even be time to go back to town and get it assayed. Get some money for what we’ve got so far.” “How much you think we’ve made?” Will held up two heavy cloth bags he’d been storing the gold flakes in. One was nearly full, the other better than half so. “I gotta think we easy got five hundred.” “Dollars?” “Oh, sure, gold is going for twenty dollars an ounce these days.” “Boy, half of that would get me a way down the road.” “Maybe get you started with a small cattle ranch? Settle down. Find you a gal. That kind of thing?” “Never thought of it before. Never thought that far ahead.” “Well, you can probably start now if you wanted. Everybody has to have a dream of some kind.” “I reckon. Never put much stock in dreaming before.” “This is your chance. You want to go in tomorrow and get it assayed or let me?” “You do that. I don’t know nothing about it.” “You trust me with the gold and money and to come back?” “I do and you’d come back because this ground ain’t played out yet. We can surely double what we done so far, can’t we?” “I believe we can. It’s good soil.” “Then I believe you will be back.” “I will, son. You can count on it.” “I know I can. I’m sure of it.” “I’ll get us more supplies, too. Maybe bring back a home-made pie or something to celebrate.” “Sounds mighty fine to me. Mighty fine indeed.” — ON THE THIRD DAY after Will left to get more supplies and to have their gold assayed and turned into spending money, Mose decided to reconnoiter the area a bit to see if there might be gold in any other nearby streams.
Leaving Buster to fend for himself in the rich grasses near Flat Creek, he took off walking in a northeasterly direction. Working along the banks of the stream, he went nice and slow. There was no sense of hurry or urgency. About fifty yards out from camp the terrain got rocky and the shrubs and small trees denser. He strayed a little further to the west for better footing. Paying more attention to where he stepped than where he was going, he didn’t notice a small stand of trees just above him that were sporadically littered with feathers and strings of beads and bones. Not until he turned back down toward the creek, thinking he saw golden flashes in the muddy soil beside the water, did he notice the things hanging in the trees—and then only because he ran head on into one of the bone strings. “What the …?” He untangled the string from his hair. When he pushed it away, he noticed the other strands and feathers spread throughout the nearby trees. “Uh-oh.” He felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up —more intensely than he’d ever felt it during his Missouri raider days. He reached down quickly, felt for the Navy .36 at his hip. It was then the first arrow struck him. Hit him in the back of his right thigh, high up, causing him to fall face forward into the woods. He came up scrambling, limping toward the creek with the .36 in hand, when the second arrow pierced his side. He felt the projectile penetrate his body and wedge between his ribs, the sharp metal tip breaching a lung. The pierced lung collapsed but he managed to choke out a painful breath. He tried to stand and face his attackers but as he did a third arrow struck him between the shoulders, going deep enough to find his heart. As he fell to the ground, he saw with his fading eyesight four Indians on horseback watching him from directly across the creek. He lay face first near the gravelly shore of the creek, the life blood draining from his body. He could feel his strength fading, the ebbing of spirit and soul. His eyes grew dim and the world closed around him. He could hear as if far away the cheers and chatter of the Indian raiding party celebrating their victory. Briefly, he imagined he saw his mother and father on
the family farm back in Carthage. Back before they had been split up, back before the war. The sound of nearby steps softly moving through the woods roused him from his dying reverie. He felt for the .36. It was in his hand under his body. He lay still, hoping to save what strength was left. Suddenly, a hand grasped him violently by the hair and pulled him over. He was face to face with the Indian sent to scalp him. The Indian grimaced, growled and reached forward with a huge hunting knife to complete his bloody task. He did not see Mose lift the .36 until it was right between his eyes. “Uh.” He grunted, trying to pull back. It was too late. Mose fired the .36 at point blank range, blowing a chunk from the top of the Indian’s head completely off. The dead warrior fell backward, his lifeless body thudding in the underbrush. The last sound Mose heard was the crying of the rest of the war party as they watched the man they believed dead shoot and kill their leader. Terrified by such powerful medicine, they rode away wildly, leaving their dead compatriot beside the dead man. — RETURNING FROM THE SUPPLY trip several days later with a pile of folding money in his bags, Will didn’t sense trouble until he found the original panning site empty. He immediately rode on in search of his young partner. Climbing over a small incline along the creek, he brought his horse up short. There were Indian signs in the trees. “Oh, my, burial land.” Spurring his horse, while making sure they stayed clear of the feathers and bead and bone strings dangling from the trees, he soon located Mose. Buster stood near the body, grazing on the short sweet grass just above the creek. “Lord a mighty.” Will let go of his pack mule and dropped from his horse. Looking around and listening for sounds of the war party that had done this killing, he slowly knelt beside his partner. The dead man’s vacant eyes were
open, and he still held the Navy .36 in his hand, now almost locked with the onset of rigor mortis. “I think I see why they didn’t scalp you.” Will pried the pistol away. He collected all Mose’s things and put the personal items, pistols and such, in the saddle bags on Buster. What money and supplies he found, he simply added to his own larder. It was the way things were done. After pulling the arrows out of the body, Will dug a shallow grave and laid Mose in it. He threw dirt and mud on top to cover the body and then stacked rocks all over the grave to keep the animals from an easy, pilfered meal. When he was done, he stood over the grave to say a few final words. “Well, son, you’re free of this world now. Your race is run. God rest your soul.” He moved on then. Death was always bad luck to a miner, and he wanted nothing more to do with it. There still might be some gold left in the creek there, but he wasn’t about to jinx himself. Hard work was how you beat bad luck. Leastways as long as you were able to do it. With a final salute for Mose, Will headed out for a safer, better mining area. There was nothing else to be done.
.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—Angels in the Ozarks, Bar Harbor, Time and Time Again, Mexican Skies, Tin Hollow, Fallen, The Rubicon, Living Behind Time, Losing Cotton, and Fallen. J. B. 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.
YELLOW-THROATED chuckawalla basked in the late morning warmth on a rock beside the faint dirt track. Beyond the rocky canyon, the flat desert landscape stretched forever before disappearing into a distant mirage. Above, a turkey vulture circled slowly, searching for some creature which might succumb to the oppressive heat. The old man and his burro weren’t the least bit out of place. His serape and once-gray hat, faded as the desert background, matched the equally nondescript image of the burro. The old man looked more faded than his forty years deserved. He plodded along the faint track appearing to look neither left nor right. The burro followed on a long lead. Yet under the faded felt hat, dark eyes missed nothing including the wisp of dust a halfmile or so to the east. He turned a sharp left around a boulder the size of a large farm wagon and climbed a short way to a ledge sheltered by a granite overhang. It seemed to be a dead end until he reached out with his left hand and uprooted an eight-foot-tall mesquite bush giving himself and the burro access through the thicket.
Dropping the lead rope, he went back around the boulder and with great care brushed out his tracks and those of the burro as he backed into his hideaway. Carefully, he replanted the mesquite bush to conceal the opening and hoped it would be enough. If the Apache the wisp of dust had betrayed were looking for him, they would find his trail. The old man hoped that they were simply hunters or raiders going from one place to another and would not notice his tracks. The late morning sun heating the cool desert sands created a stiff breeze and even an occasional dust devil. Maybe it would be enough to cover his tracks. He crossed himself and said a short prayer to Santa Barbara, the patron of miners, then led the burro back under the overhang and picketed it in a shallow depression where he hoped it would remain quiet and safe from any stray gunfire. The old man had found this hidden ledge three months ago and recognized its easily defensible access as a perfect campsite. The overhang provided shelter for himself and his burro in the frequent summer monsoons and helped disperse the smoke from his small campfires. A small seep provided enough water
to keep him and his burro alive but no more, at least not this time of year. Rummaging through his packs, he dug out a spare pistol and all the ammunition he had. These he carried a short distance to a stone breastwork he had constructed facing the only entrance to the ledge. Returning to his packs, he gathered his bedroll, some jerky, and his ace-in-the-hole, a Model 1866 Winchester repeater. Gathering both his canteens, he got down behind the breastworks. He was as ready as he could be for whatever was to come. Juana had begged him not to go prospecting again. She was terrified that the Apache would find him and kill him. She wasn’t ready to be a widow. Maybe he should have listened to her. But no, he looked into her frightened eyes and said, This is the last time. Find it or not, I will return, and I will go no more. I love you, Juana. I promise you. I will return.” He reckoned he’d better keep that promise. Thirty minutes passed before the faint sound of
a guttural voice reached him. He tensed. An Apache appeared around a bend in the main wash moving at that walk-jog pace they could maintain for days at a time. As he drew near the side canyon, three more Apache followed him around the bend. All carried rifles, and the old man noted with satisfaction that none were repeaters. The leader waited for the others to catch up, and a lively discussion ensued. The old man didn’t speak Apache, but it seemed clear from the accompanying gestures that three braves wanted to continue up the wash while the leader wanted to explore the side wash. Apparently, the wind had done its job and covered his tracks. After a bit more discussion, the leader took charge and started up the side wash. Crawling to the end of his breastwork, the old man peered down at the area around the mesquite bush, being careful to show only his eyes and the top of his head. At first, he could see nothing out of the ordinary, but with no warning at all, the Apache
leader appeared looking for tracks. He scanned the canyon walls, and the old man ducked down and held entirely still. When he chanced another glance, two more Apache had joined their leader. Finding nothing, the leader signaled them to remount. When he vaulted onto his pony, the leader’s rifle struck the mesquite, and it slowly toppled over. Instantly, all three Apache dismounted and peered through the hole in the brush. No longer having a choice other than to fight, the old man sighted down the barrel of his Winchester at one of the bare-chested braves. As the leader stepped through the opening, the old man squeezed the trigger. The Apache grunted and fell back. He lay still with a thumb-size hole in his chest. The other, following his leader, ducked through the opening. The old man waited. The fourth Apache ran into the clearing, and the old man put him down neatly beside his fallen comrade then rolled back behind his breastwork and watched the trail onto his ledge. The
Apache were on the trail somewhere between the clearing and his ledge. The old man chuckled. They’ve got me right where I want them. He waited, watching the ledge opening, occasionally wiping sweat from his brow. Maybe they were waiting for dark. No, Apache don’t like to fight at night. Maybe they waited for him to show himself. No chance. He was no green kid. The heat and thirst nearly killed him. Well, at least the thirst did. He finally reached for his canteen. At the same instant, an Apache sprinted onto the ledge and dropped out of sight where there seemed to be no cover at all. The old man had seen this before. The other Apache would show himself briefly as a distraction while this one ran closer. The old man sighted in where the Apache had dropped. Suddenly, the other Apache ran onto the ledge whooping and dropped just as the first one rose again. The Winchester spoke once, and the warrior went down. Instantly, the other warrior sprang towards
him firing his rifle and a pistol. Bullets ricocheted off his breastworks and the overhang above him. He obviously thought the Winchester was empty. It was his final mistake. The old man held steady on his chest and squeezed. The Apache stopped in full, dropping his weapons as he fell. The old man rolled to the end of his breastworks and peered into the arroyo. Nothing moved at first, including the two Apache he had dropped earlier. A horse stamped its hoof nervously. He’d have to go down and try to catch those ponies before they wandered home and brought help. First, he’d need to confirm that both the Apache on the ledge were dead. It wouldn’t do to be killed by a ghost. The Apache were dead. So was his burro, who had caught a stray round just under his left ear. He had been a good burro, too. The old man got his rope, reloaded his rifle, and went down the narrow trail to the bottom of the arroyo. All four Apache horses were there standing ground hitched like the well-trained animals they were. Two bore a US on their shoulders, and one had an unfamiliar brand on its hip. The fourth was a solid looking grulla mare with no brands or markings on her. He tied the three branded animals to his rope, then mounted the mare and rode back up to his ledge. He picketed the horses so he could load his gear. Walking over to his poor burro, he removed his hat to say a few words. As he looked up, something caught his eye. A bullet had skimmed the overhang and the scar gleamed dully. Gold! He had finally found the vein he knew was there. He had simply never thought it was right over his campfire. This discovery created several new problems. First, how to get to the gold. He could barely reach it with his pick. The ponies probably wouldn’t stand for him swinging a pick while sitting on them. He finally settled on a rock drill and a single jack to pry loose a small bag of samples. He packed the bag along with his supplies on one of the horses. The bodies were more of a problem. He would have buried them shallow where they were, but now, with the gold, he had to get them far away. He hoped the other two horses weren’t too skittish
about the smell of blood and death. They’d both have to pack double until he found a place to get rid of the corpses. It was mid-afternoon by the time he got the bodies loaded and tied down. He rode the mare and led the other horses down to the bottom of the arroyo where he tied them while he brushed out tracks and replanted his mesquite bush. He walked up the arroyo a short piece and cut a couple of large mesquite bushes which he tied behind the ponies with the bodies. They wouldn’t eliminate his tracks, but they would obscure them somewhat, and, hopefully, the desert would do the rest. Nighttime travel was dangerous but better to risk that than to try to dispose of the dead Apache in daylight. The old man rode out of the arroyo but stayed close in the shadow of the mountains until it was dark. At dusk, he found a ravine with soft banks. He placed the bodies there and caved the bank in over them. It wouldn’t hide them for long with four-legged and winged scavengers and the summer monsoons to wash the sand away, but it was far enough from the mine, and that was the important thing. — TWO DAYS LATER AND covered in trail dust, he rode into the little jacal he shared with Juana who was overjoyed to see him. She eyed the horses suspiciously but said nothing while he turned them into the corral and came to the house to wash up. He sat down at the table and put the leather bag between his feet. Juana placed a bowl of beans, a stack of tortillas, and a cup of mezcal before him. “Are you in trouble?” “No. Why should I be in trouble?” “You come home without your burro but with four horses instead. The sheriff came looking for you while you were gone.” “What did he want?” “He didn’t say, only that he wants to know when you return.” “I don’t know any more than you do about the sheriff, Querida. I’ll ride in and see what he wants in the morning.”
“Where did you get the horses?” “I was hoping you wouldn’t ask. Some Apache gave them to me after they killed my poor burro.” “They gave them to you?” “They had no further need of them.” “I see. You must never go out there again. I’m lucky you came back this time.” “I may have to go back again.” He lifted the bag onto the table and pushed it to her. “What is it?” “Open it and see.” She opened the bag and pulled out a chunk of ore. “Rocks?” “Oro, Querida. Nearly pure gold.” “How much is here?” “Not much. A few hundred, maybe a thousand dollars, but there is much more where that came from. Much more.” “You promised me. In all these years you have never lied. You have never broken a promise to me.” “This is true. Let us sleep tonight. After I see the sheriff, we will speak more of this.” “Bueno.” — THE NEXT MORNING, HE rode the mare and led the gelding with the unfamiliar brand. Tying off in front of the sheriff’s office, he knocked and waited to be invited in. “Cisco, I’ve been looking for you,” said a voice from behind his horses. “Si, Sheriff Johnson. Juana told me you were asking for me.” “These are some nice horses you’ve got. Where’d you get them?” “That’s a big part of the reason I’m here. Can we talk inside?” “Sure. I forget my manners sometimes. Come on in.” The sheriff indicated a chair and poured two cups of coffee before taking a seat. “So, what’s on your mind, Cisco?” “I had a bit of a quarrel with some Apache a few days ago. They killed my burro, but they had no further use for their horses.”
“I see. How many?” “Quatro. Four. You saw two of the horses when we came in. The grulla mare has no markings, and I would like to keep her. She’s a good horse. The bay gelding outside has a brand I don’t recognize. I think the owner might like him back.” “I see. I noticed the strange brand. Didn’t recognize it, either, I’m afriad. Could be a Texas brand or even Mexican. If you like, I’ll send a note to the Cattleman’s Association and see if they can tell us who owns it.” “Por favor, señor.” “You said four. What about the other two?” “Ah, si. A fine bay and a fiery chestnut. Both geldings. I thought it best not to be seen with them until I had spoken to you. They both have the US brand on their shoulder.” “So, cavalry mounts. Yeah, some folks might act a bit hasty before asking how you came to have them. They at your and Juana’s place?” “Si.” “I’ll have a couple boys ride out and pick them up later if you don’t mind.” “That would be fine. Thank you, Sheriff. Now, I believe you wanted to see me, as well.” “Well, it wasn’t so much me as a fine gentleman from Laredo, un abogado, I believe.” “What would a fine lawyer from Laredo want with me? I’ve never even been there.” “First, let me ask you a few questions.” “Si.” “I’ve always known you as Francisco Garcia and folks call you Cisco.” “Si.” “But that’s not your real name, is it?” Cisco shifted uncomfortably in his chair and stalled by taking a sip of coffee. “According to the gentleman from Laredo, your real name is Rafael Martín Francisco Gomez de Parada. Is he right?” “He is, but I have never used that name.” “Well, it seems he’s been hired to find you. Apparently, a certain Coronel Jose Martín Simon Gomez de Parada is related to you.” “He is my grandfather who cast us out and forced
my mother into a nunnery when he discovered she was pregnant. I was born there.” “Why would a man do that to his own daughter.” “She fell in love with a caballero. Someone far beneath her station in my grandfather’s eyes. He is not a forgiving man.” “Was. Was not a forgiving man. He’s dead.” “Bueno. I am pleased to hear this.” “Apparently, he was more forgiving than you think. I’m told that the coronel owned a vast estancia in Frontera and substantial interests in several mines in Guerrero state. He left it all to you.” “To me?” “The lawyer says you are his only surviving blood relative. I suppose this means I’ll have to learn to call you Don Francisco now instead of simply Cisco.” Cisco began to chuckle. The chuckles turned to laughter and finally loud guffaws. The perplexed sheriff chuckled a little but mostly stared as Cisco began to wipe his tearing eyes. “It wasn’t that funny, Cisco.” “No, no, my friend. It wasn’t that at all. It was this.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a chunk of ore with several large nuggets in it and dropped it on the sheriff’s desk.
ennis Doty, a Southern California native, stories spring from a vivid imagination,
including growing up in a small town, the decade he served in the Marine Corps, and a multitude of stories from two years riding on the old Southwest RCA rodeo circuit. Dennis presently lives in Appalachia, with his wife and their two dogs, where he divides his time between writing, swapping lies with the other old
Dennis so impressed Publisher Dusty Richards that The Ranch Boss invited him to join serves as Publisher of the magazine itself and as company, Oghma Creative Media. Dennis blogs on a regular basis on a multitude of You can learn more about Dennis and his writing at www.dennisdotywebsite.com
PROVIDENCE, TEXAS 1884
ROVIDENCE CITY MARSHAL, ED Grayson, wiped at his drooping salt and pepper mustache with a corner of his red neckerchief as he finished the last of his warm coffee. He fished around in his shirt pocket for a few coins, then tossed them on the counter. Maudie Hayes came in from the kitchen when she heard the jingle of the coins. “Going so soon?” Maudie was the tall, busty owner of Maudie’s Café. Grayson had never asked, but he figured the widow Hayes to be around his age—forty-five years or thereabouts, although she had weathered the years far better than he had. Her lightly tanned skin was wrinkle free, and her brown hair was without a touch of gray. Whereas his grayish-black hair had severely thinned on top, his nose pointed in two different directions, and his knees creaked like a rusty hinge on a barn door. Grayson was quick to blame all his shortcomings on his twenty-five years with a badge pinned to his shirt.
“Gotta go keep the public safe, Maudie.” “You be careful, you hear me? All those Saturday night yahoos will be feeling their oats and ready to wrestle a grizzly before long.” “I’ll be cautious, I promise.” “You’d better be.” — GRAYSON TOOK HIS TIME as he glanced around Providence’s dusty main street in the darkening sky. He tugged his shirt collar closer as the late April air had cooled from the light breeze that wafted down from the high country. A few cowpunchers from the outlying ranches nodded at him as they made their way to one of the three watering holes that graced the town. More punchers, along with a bevy of weary miners, would follow even though it was near the end of the month when spending money was scarce. Providence was a town not much different from dozens of other small western towns. The two hundred or so residents that had settled there did so to earn their keep off the ranches and the nearby Lane
Brothers Silver Mine. Next month would mark his seventh year in the mostly, but not always, quiet town. He crossed the street to Shorty’s Saloon where he took a spot at the end of the polished oak bar. He propped a foot on the brass rail and scanned the smoke-filled room, which was less than half-full. “Place looks pretty quiet tonight,” he said to Shorty Futterman, a thick-necked stump of a man with a noticeable German accent. Shorty jerked a thumb toward a table near the rear door where a young man sat all by himself. “It might depend on him. I cannot tell you the number of chairs and mirrors I’ve had to replace because of Lee Carter.” “Yeah, I know Lee well,” Grayson said with a laugh. “I’ve had him over at the jail for room and board more than once.” Lee Carter was pushing twenty-five years of age. He stood close to five-feet-ten inches tall, lean-waisted, with a muscular upper body. He was a capable
bronco buster when sober but was known to be a wild brawler when he’d had too much to drink. Grayson strolled over to Carter’s table. Lee was dressed in worn denims and a dusty red and white checked shirt. His battered hat was pushed back from his forehead revealing a shock of unruly dusty-colored hair. It soon became clear to Grayson that Carter had already imbibed too much of Shorty’s cheap rotgut. Carter looked up from his glass and frowned. “Well, if... if... it ain’t my old friend Marsh... Marshal Grayson.” He held out a nearly empty bottle. “Have a drink, my friend.” Grayson ignored the bottle and said, “Lee, you need get back to your ranch while you can still straddle a horse. You know where this is likely to go.” “I... I... will leave when I am ready—and I am not ready,” he said, pronouncing his words slowly and precisely. He waved a hand around the room and added, “I am not bothering nobody.”
Grayson backed away from the table. The young hellraiser appeared to be teetering on the edge of a slippery precipice already. He saw no need to push him further. At least not yet. “See what I mean?” Shorty asked when Grayson returned to the bar. At a table near the front window four other men were engaged in a poker game. Clyde Watters was the local Wells Fargo agent. Next to him sat Derwyn Kerry, a burly, dark-bearded mine foreman of Welsh descent. Across from Kerry sat Lester Slater, a rancher who owned the Circle S, the largest ranch in the territory. The fourth man was Angus Fuller, a walking scarecrow who had recently arrived in Providence to establish a barbershop and funeral parlor. Grayson walked over to watch the play. “Evening, gentlemen.” “Howdy, Ed,” Clyde Watters replied. The Well Fargo agent fidgeted nervously with a metal ring loaded with keys while Derwyn Kerry dealt the next hand. “I see Lee Carter has already got your attention.” “I keep hoping he’ll grow out of his rowdy ways.” “Yeah, he makes me nervous with that mine payroll sitting over there in my office. There’s no telling how many times I’ve told my boss in Denver that we need a stronger safe. That old tin can we call a safe is an invitation for trouble. I can’t wait until Monday morning when Ed Lane takes that payroll off my hands.” “Carter is a rough and tumble troublemaker all right,” Grayson said. “But I’ve never known him to be a thief.” Watters shrugged. “There’s always a first time.” “Lee Carter needs a good horse whipping every morning and two every night,” said Lester Slater. Slater was a thick-chested, square-jawed, blustery kind of man. The fifty-year-old rancher was notorious for his opinionated arrogance and his knowit-all attitude. “Are you volunteering for the job?” Watters asked with a wink at the others. “No, but there was a time when I would’ve relished the opportunity.” Grayson laughed along with the rest of them. He watched the play for several more minutes then slipped away to make the first of his two nightly rounds.
— AT AROUND TEN O’CLOCK, Grayson returned to the saloon and noticed that Lee Carter had already departed. Shorty saw him at the bar and walked over. “Did Carter leave by his own accord, or did you have to encourage him?” “He was pretty loaded, but he didn’t cause any kind of a ruckus while he was in here. He spent his last nickel to buy another bottle and staggered out the rear door.” Grayson glanced over at the poker game just in time to see Clyde Watters push away from the table and fling his cards down. “I’m done,” the Wells Fargo agent said. “Lady Luck ain’t my friend tonight.” “Aye,” Kerry said. “My pockets are bare as well.” A few minutes later, the four men nodded at each other and went their separate ways. — GRAYSON FIGURED HIS ACHING knees would haul him around the streets for another hour. After that he might pay Maudie a visit if there was a light in her window. His part-time deputy Abel Barnes would cover the office for any overnight difficulties that might arise. But he couldn’t remember when he’d had a quieter Saturday night. That is, until he heard the gunshot. He spun around but didn’t see anyone nor could he tell where the shot came from. Several minutes passed, then he heard a shout. “Help, help, somebody.” It was coming from the vicinity of the barbershop. He hurried that direction and found Angus Fuller standing next to a body that lay sprawled in the alley between his barbershop and Shorty’s Saloon. “I was upstairs getting ready for bed when I heard a loud hoo-rah going on down here, then a gunshot,” Fuller said. “I came out to see what it was all about and found this.” There was no mistaking that it was Wells Fargo agent Clyde Watters lying there on his back, clearly dead. Grayson bent over the agent and saw what appeared to be a single gunshot in the chest.
“Did you see anyone else?” Grayson asked. “I didn’t see a soul.” Within minutes, half a dozen people had gathered at the front of the alley, including his deputy, Abel Barnes. Grayson quickly pulled Barnes aside and said, “Check the doors and windows on all the businesses around here. Watters might have accidently stumbled on a break-in.” He searched through Watters’s shirt and pants pockets and found a few coins, a folding knife, and several pieces of rock candy. Watters’s gold watch and chain were still stuck in the pocket of his waistcoat. “Over here, Marshal,” said Fuller who pointed at a brown object lying two feet from the body. “It looks like a wallet.” Grayson picked up the wallet and found a few slips of paper inside but no money. “Clyde left our poker table tonight with around a hundred dollars on him,” Fuller said. “Well, it’s not here now.” He glanced at the gathering crowd and asked, “Did any of you see anyone hanging around the alley? Or leaving in a hurry?” No reply to the question, only head shakes. At about that time, Abel Barnes shouted at him from the rear of the alley. “Marshal, you’d better take a look at this.” Grayson pointed at the crowd. “You people stay here.” Barnes gestured toward a second body that lay stretched out in the alley. As he got closer, Grayson could make out that it was Lee Carter. He could see the slight heave of Carter’s chest, so he knew he didn’t have another dead body to deal with. A Colt revolver lay near Carter’s right hand. Grayson picked it up, gave it a cursory inspection, and concluded that it had been fired recently. “Is he dead?” Barnes asked. “Dead drunk. Get him to the jail and lock him up.” “You think he killed Watters?” “Just get him in a cell. We’ll ask questions later.” Grayson rejoined Angus Fuller near the front of the alley and said, “Take Watters’s body over to your parlor and get him off the street.” He glanced briefly at the bloody patch in the alley, then walked away with the crowd. So much for a quiet Saturday night.
— JUST AFTER SUNRISE, GRAYSON stood in the alley to get a better look at the scene before the citizens began to fill the streets. The ground where Watters and Carter had been found was hardpacked and offered few hints about what had taken place. What tracks that might have been left had been obliterated by the previous night’s traffic. All he knew was that everything pointed directly at Lee Carter as the killer. Twenty minutes later, Grayson walked into the office and kicked Barnes’s feet off the desk. “Wake up.” “Oh, morning, Ed.” “How’s our guest?” “He ain’t moved since I laid him out last night.” Grayson picked up a tin coffee cup and walked through a door to the three cells, two of which were unoccupied. He raked the coffee cup back and forth across the bars until he saw Carter slowly show some life. Carter raised his head and shoulders off the cot, wiped a hand across his face, and gazed around at his surroundings. His eyes widened as it suddenly dawned on him where he was. He swung his legs around off the cot and glanced up at Grayson. “I laid on another one, I guess?” Grayson unlocked the cell door and kicked a three-legged stool toward his prisoner. “Empty your pockets on the stool.” Carter reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a few odds and ends and placed them on the stool. “Shirt pocket, too.” Grayson noticed the change on Carter’s face when he pulled a wad of greenbacks from his shirt pocket. Lee dropped them like he had found a rattler. “Wha... where did that come from? I swear I don’t know where that money came from, Marshal. That last bottle of whiskey I bought flat broke me.” Grayson counted the money while Carter and Barnes watched. “Ninety-seven dollars,” he said. “According to Angus Fuller, that was about what Clyde Watters had on him when he was robbed and killed last night.” Carter glanced at Barnes, then back at Grayson
“Watters killed? You... you... don’t think I killed him, do you?” Grayson held out the Colt he had found in the alley near Carter’s hand. “Is this your revolver?” Carter took the Colt, hefted in in his hands for a few seconds, then returned it to Grayson. He nodded and said, “It’s my gun.” Carter put his elbows on his knees and dropped his head into both of his hands. “I’m in a bad spot, ain’t I?” “Son, I think that rambunctious life you’ve been living just bought you a wagon load of misery.” — GRAYSON SAT AT HIS desk at the noon hour while he pondered the situation. It sure enough looked like Lee Carter was the guilty party. Everything pointed directly at him, but there was something gnawing at him. Something he couldn’t dredge up from the back of his mind that he might have overlooked. He
dropped his feet to the floor and walked across the street to Maudie’s Café. “So, it was Lee Carter who killed Watters,” Maudie said. It was more of a statement than a question. “Abel Barnes is telling around town that Carter had Watters’s money on him when he was caught.” “Barnes’s mouth is gonna get him fired one of these days.” “Any truth to it?” “Some. Trouble is, Lee was so drunk he can’t even help himself out of this jam.” “It looks cut and dried to most of us.” “It should,” Grayson said as he held out his hand and ticked off the evidence. “First, Lee had a pocketful of money that he can’t account for—the same amount Clyde was known to have on him. Second, Carter’s Colt had been recently fired when I found it lying next to his hand, and third, he was found only a few yards away from the dead Clyde Watters. You tell me how a judge and jury will see it?”
“Like I said, cut and dried.” “Well, Judge Millington is due to be here Wednesday. It’s my job to catch ’em, not judge ’em. I’ll leave it up to Millington and a jury to decide Carter’s fate.” “From what I hear, everyone thinks Lee should be strung up before the sun sets. There are some mighty angry folks around here. I’ve heard that Lester Slater and Angus Fuller are over at Shorty’s talking it up big.” When he arrived back at the office, Grayson was greeted by a group of those angry, red-faced citizens Maudie had mentioned. It was led by Lester Slater, with Ulis Young, Angus Fuller, and three others alongside him—including two city council members. Grayson slowly circled the group and stood behind the desk, his arms hanging loosely at his sides. Slater stepped forward, jabbed a finger in his face, and said, “We’re here to take Lee Carter off your hands.” He turned to his cohorts and asked, “Right, men?” There was a murmuring of agreement behind Slater. Grayson wasn’t surprised to see Slater take the lead. Spouting off and stirring up trouble seemed to be his specialty. “You take a ride out to the river for an hour, Marshal,” Slater said. “We’ll handle things from there. We’re not going to stand by and let this no-good troublemaker get away with killing Watters.” Grayson fought to hold his temper as he said, “Judge Millington will be here Wednesday. I mean to see that Lee Carter has his day in court. He may be guilty like you say, but Judge Millington will have to declare it so, not you. Now, you men go on about your business.” Slater leaned over and placed both hands on the desk. “If we leave, Carter goes with us.” Grayson lifted his revolver from his holster, spun the cylinder in front of Slater’s face, and said, “You try, and Carter will have plenty of company in those two vacant cells back there, starting with you.” “If you think—” Grayson slammed a hand on the wooden desk. Slater jumped back at the crashing sound. “Shut up, Slater. You heard what I said. If you’re not out of this office in thirty seconds, you’re gonna find yourself locked up.” He glanced at the other men in the room.
“That goes for all of you.” He pointed at the door. “Get out of here. Now.” Slater stared at the marshal for a minute, then whirled around and headed for the door, his cohorts close behind. “We ain’t through here,” he said over his shoulder. “Not by a long shot, we ain’t.” Grayson watched them leave with Slater’s final words ringing in his ears. — “I HEARD YOU HAD a visit from some concerned citizens,” Maudie said later that evening. “Yep, but I didn’t see you there.” “I wasn’t invited. Lester Slater didn’t want anyone there who might disagree with him. He and Fuller had the councilmen and all the rest of them buffaloed with their loud bluster.” “Yep, it was pretty clear who was behind it.” He gave her a quick rundown on the meeting and his thoughts. “Something about this has been bothering me ever since that night. I just can’t put my finger on it. But it has been eating at me that I may have missed something.” “Give it time. You will figure it out.” “I don’t have much time.” He and Maudie talked for another few minutes, then she shooed him out the front door. She locked the door behind him with a rattle of her keys and pulled down the shade. Grayson hesitated a moment, then hurried back to the office with a smile on his face. — “COME ON, ABEL. WE’VE got a job to do tonight. Grab one of those twelve-gauge shotguns.” Grayson and Barnes were in position an hour after dark. Barnes had hidden himself in the shadows on the left side of the building, while Grayson took the right side behind two barrels. He had told Barnes his idea could be far-fetched, but that he was convinced he was right. That it might not happen tonight was also a possibility, but to his way of thinking, it had to be tonight or not at all. It was a calm, restful Sunday night with a half-
moon giving off enough light to see, yet it was dark enough to easily conceal them. All they had to do was wait—and be patient. But he realized patience had never been his strong suit. It must have been a little past midnight when Grayson heard footsteps. He took a deep breath and peered over the top of the barrels. A shadowy figure skulked into the soft moonlight while skirting close to the building wall. Grayson saw the figure hesitate for a moment, glance around briefly, then step up to the back door of the Wells Fargo office. The man, who was dressed in black clothes, stuck a key into the door and gave it a sharp twist. The door opened with a slight creak. That was all the proof Grayson needed. He jumped from behind the barrels with his Colt pointed at the man and shouted, “Don’t move. Keep your hands where I can see them.” The man turned to run, then stopped and pulled a six-shooter from his belt. He twisted his body toward
the sound of Grayson’s voice and fired blindly. The lead struck the building behind him. “You don’t have a chance,” Grayson shouted. “There are two of us. Throw down your gun.” Two more bullets whizzed by his head. “You ain’t going to hang me for killing Watters, so you do what you gotta do.” He then fired again. Grayson pulled the trigger and saw the dark clad killer drop to his knees, then tumble over on his face. Barnes rounded the corner of the building to join him, his shotgun at the ready. Grayson walked over to the fallen man, put a toe under the body, and flipped him over. “Angus Fuller!” Barnes looked at Grayson with a bewildered expression. “You just shot the undertaker.” “No, Abel, I just shot a killer and a thief.” — LATER THAT MORNING, GRAYSON sat in
Maudie’s Café once again, downing fried eggs, bacon, and hotcakes. Maudie stood behind the counter with a white hand towel in her hands. “It’s a good thing you never gave up on Lee Carter,” she said. “We all thought he was guilty as sin.” “I know. His words to me when I turned him loose were, ‘I’m gonna do better, Marshal. I promise, I’m gonna do better.’” “Will he?” “Maybe, but it will be a tough road for him to travel for a while.” “How did you know it was Fuller?” she asked. “I didn’t know it was Fuller. I had been bothered from the start that I had missed something important. Then yesterday evening when you were rattling your keys to lock the front door, it hit me like a charging buffalo. When I had searched Watters’s body, his key ring was not among the items I found. Everyone in the saloon had seen Watters with it and had heard him ranting on and on about his tin can safe. I figured the killer, whoever he was, shot Watters and took the keys off his body to steal that payroll. And it had to be stolen before Monday morning when the mine owner was going to pick it up.” “Fuller always did act strange,” Maudie said. “He set up the drunken, passed out Carter to make it look like Carter had committed the robbery by using his gun and putting Watters’s money in his shirt pocket. I’ll have to say Fuller came up with a clever plan that almost worked. He made himself appear to be a helpful citizen when in fact, he was trying to lead us astray. He was going to steal that payroll and get out of town before anyone noticed it was missing.” Maudie leaned over the counter and said, “Marshal Ed Grayson, you need to celebrate. Got any good ideas?” Grayson glanced around at the other customers and whispered, “How about supper at your place tonight?” “Oh, you devil, you. You read my mind.”
teacher and human resources manager in the chemical industry. He is a graduate of Murray State University and currently lives in Western Kentucky, near Kentucky and Barkley Lakes. Ben’s novels of the Old West are which won the 2016 Peacemaker Award as Best First Western, and his follow-up novel, . A third western novel entitled is due to hit the shelves within the made it into print, as well. Ben took particular pleasure in writing his nonHoosiers-like story of the Kentucky high school state championship basketball team of which the author was a member. When not writing, Ben spends much of his time whacking a golf ball around the buddies and spending time with his son and four granddaughters.
HE TILTED HER HEAD toward the sun and absorbed its radiating heat. Yet, Lily shivered, not because of the winter’s thaw but what she must do with her husband. The decision to burn him had been avoided until she no longer could. While spring symbolized the land’s renewal, this year it also represented her own as a widow. The bile in Lily’s stomach churned as she swallowed the hard lump that stuck in her throat. She couldn’t do it. She couldn’t leave her home nestled upon the Rockies. Montana Territory had grown on her in the last year with its rugged charms. Will had assumed she was fragile and that mountain living would devour her. Lily huffed. “The mountain took you instead.” Lily squeezed her eyelids shut. Water trickled into a series of cascades nearby, matching the tears dripping from her clenched jaw. Crows rested atop nearby branches as they cawed and waited for her to move. She reached for the shotgun leaning against the barn but then thought the better of wasting a shell on those damn birds. A vexed sigh pushed through her lips. The barn door screeched protests of being awo-
ken from a slumbering state. Liquid burned upward into Lily’s throat at the faint, putrid aroma of her late husband. She should have done this before the thaw. Lily shuffled to where she had dragged Will’s body after he died. She whirled around and retched. “Oh, God, I can’t burn my husband.” Lily tugged at his ankles with a grunt, but he did not move. She growled and tried again. “Please move.” Will’s body didn’t budge. Lily snatched a horse blanket off of the railing and laid it beside him. She went to the other side and pried the frozen body off the dirt floor, rolling him onto the blanket. Nausea announced its presence again. What was she doing here? After Will was laid to rest, she would pack up and go to town when the pass opened. Lily took two corners of the horse blanket, planted her feet, and pulled. Will’s body moved. She pulled again and slid the body further. Her belly roiled at each jerk she used. Keep going, Lily chanted. An acrid taste climbed into the back of her mouth again, and she dropped the blanket, gulping in the cool air. “Why’d you have to die?” Lily sniffled. She wiped a drippy nose with her late husband’s hankie and fin-
gered his stitched monogram. She was a fool, marrying for love. When her queasiness simmered down, Lily forced herself back to the unpleasant task of dragging Will. Seconds, or was it minutes, passed by with each yank. The weariness that had hovered over her since Will’s death grew heavier. Her body pleaded for a reprieve. “Must… get… this… done.” Lily resisted the urge to stop and hauled her husband toward his final resting place. When Lily reached the spot, she collapsed onto her knees. She peered into the forest’s shadows and gasped. A man stood between two trees, observing her silently. Would he kill or kidnap her? Lily shuddered at the stories Will had told of the Indians. “Go away,” she shouted and broke into a sob. Today, the horror stories didn’t matter. He was intruding on her private moment to grieve the death of her husband. The man remained stationary. She screamed, “Leave me alone.” Lily leaned forward and sobbed. She teetered, her throat raw from the hard sobs that intermingled with the murder of crows’ rising caws as they swirled above. When her tears slowed, Lily glanced at where she saw the man. He had vanished. Dampness seeped against her pants, and she rose from the ground. Satisfied he was indeed gone, Lily heaved Will off the horse blanket and onto the half-frozen mud. Lily arranged the split logs around him and stepped back when she finished. Was this enough wood to burn him? Lily glanced at her meager wood stack against the cabin. No more wood could be spared. She returned her gaze to Will and recited a passage from the Bible. Her hands trembled, and she fumbled with lighting the kindling. A smoky wisp flickered, erupting into a small flame. What had she done? That was her husband she lit on fire. She stifled another gag and marched into her cabin, slamming the door. Her forehead leaned against the door. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” Pastor Brown said, hands raised above the small casket. Lily clasped a palm over her mouth at the memory. If she had honored Papa’s marriage arrangement,
would God have allowed her to keep a husband and son? Lily removed her hand. Papa would be pleased to learn of Will’s death. He would make her honor the broken arrangement to Beau Becker if she returned to New York. Lily’s stomach flipped at the thought of marriage to Beau and his oily, slicked-back hair, and she vomited. Marrying Beau would be like a slow death. Lily staggered to the table, poured a glass of water, and swished it around inside her mouth, spitting it into the basin beside the pitcher. She took another sip of water. Her leaden feet shuffled across the wooden floor. Lily fell onto the bed and lay there, unable to find the strength to remove her jacket and boots. She closed her eyes and prayed it would be the last time. — LILY STIRRED WITH A groan, a blanket rubbing atop her. She forced her heavy eyelids open. Nighttime had fallen, yet a fiery glow came from outside. The fire should have died down by now, right? Lily sat up at the edge of the bed and paused. Her boots were on the floor. They must have gotten tugged off in her sleep. She jammed them back on and ambled to the window. Through the window, a hunched figure sat in front of the flames and tossed something into it. Lily reached for the shotgun. “Damn it,” she muttered. She had forgotten the shotgun by the barn. The door crashed against the wall. “Leave him alone!” The form raised his hands out to the side and rose slowly. Light highlighted the soft tan buckskins and the person’s black hair. A man spoke in a low tone. “You didn’t prepare his body right for burning.” “If you’re who I saw earlier, you can leave. I don’t need your help.” “I sense you are a warrior.” Lily crept toward her gun. “I’m no warrior, just a mountain widow.” “Warriors always survive in the Rockies.” “You can leave.” The shotgun cocked, and Lily aimed it at the intruder. “When you need me again, I’ll be back.” The man
eased his way around the pyre and into the trees beyond until he blended in with the darkness. Lily released a sigh as she lowered the gun. Where she planned on going, she didn’t need help to get into her grave. A warrior—Lily scoffed at the stranger’s comment. All the warriors she had heard of would never kill themselves. An owl hooted nearby. Lily bored into the glowing embers below the flames until the fire appeared as a living thing. The wood crackled and popped, mixing with the wolves’ faint howls. Goose pimples rippled across her arms. With all of nature’s creatures calling, Lily should not have felt alone, but she did. An eternity had passed since she talked to another human. “Wait. Come back,” she shouted. Silence. Lily shivered. He was real, right? Or had she gone crazy? A pang in Lily’s stomach made her hunch over, the shooting pain hurting worse when she tried to stand. She yelped. The stranger still did not come. Lily crumpled to the ground into a fetal position. She chuckled dryly at the emptiness of his promise to return when she needed help. “Is this your will? To let me die here and have the animals feast on my body?” A chill advanced inside her body, yet she still did not get up from the cold and damp ground. An ethereal voice carried through the trees. “Warrior.” “No, I’m not.” The voice rasped, “Warrior.” “Leave me alone,” she screamed. “You are a warrior.” Lily uncurled, wincing at a fresh onslaught of pain. She crawled to the shotgun and used it to prop herself up from the ground. A long exhale puffed through her lips. Lily took a step, grunted, and then took another step. She continued hobbling toward the cabin with the gun as her crutch. Once past the cabin’s door, Lily melted to the floor and used her foot to shut the door. If she died in here, at least the animals wouldn’t feast on her body. She folded her arms across her chest. In her haste earlier, she had let out the cabin’s warmth by leaving the door
open. The fire needed to be stoked in the stove again. Lily lay on the floor, unmoving. The voice in the trees was wrong. No warrior lived inside her. If one did, she would feed the embers. — LILY PANTED. DRUMS POUNDED a repetitive pattern. She ran past a haze of trees, loose hair bouncing against her back. When Lily held her breath, the panting stopped. She had been the one panting. Fingers brushed against taut leather. Lily pulled the garment outward and glanced at what she was wearing, buckskin. She patted herself all over. This was not her body but someone else’s. A spring appeared at her moccasin covered feet. The water mirrored a reflection, and she gasped at what it revealed—a proud warrior. She touched her cheek. The specter in the water did, too. Voices chanted “warrior” along with the drumbeats. Lily turned and fled from the person on the water’s surface. Her arms swung with force along her side. The chanting garbled into overlapping “warrior.” The forest rumbled, causing her to stumble. Lily flailed as she fled. — “WAKE UP,” A MAN said. Lily’s eyes snapped open, and she snapped upright. Lily frantically searched around and found she was in her cabin. She gazed down at her clothes. They were the same ones she had worn since yesterday morning. A masculine voice spoke, startling her. “You saw your warrior.” “What—how did you get in here?” “You need food.” The stranger rose and meandered to the stove where a pot simmered. He lifted a ladle and scooped mush into a bowl. “What’s your name?” When the man didn’t reply, Lily asked, “Are you real, or am I imagining you?” The bowl scraped across the dining table. Whomever he was, he seemed real with his coal-black eyes studying her. “You should eat.” “Of course he’s a figment of my imagination,” Lily
muttered. She had heard stories of mountain men going crazy because of loneliness but thought them tall tales. Did they include a widow imagining a warrior? Well, if she was, she supposed he deserved a name. “I think I’ll name you Calvin.” Calvin nodded. The chair glided over the floor, and he pointed at the bowl. “Eat. You’ll need nourishment for what is coming.” “Humph. What for?” “With spring, new life. You be strong for it.” This imaginary friend was too cryptic for her liking. Lily sighed as she slumped into the chair. A sweet aroma lifted from the bowl. When Lily peered inside, she found golden syrup drizzled across oats and milk. “What’s this?” “Porridge with cream and honey.” Lily observed a jar filled with the golden syrup sitting beside the stove. Her stomach rebelled. She pressed the edge of the spoon against her lips and opened her mouth. The silky sweet mixture was pleasant. The food stuck in her throat, and she swallowed. “Th—” The door gave a soft click. “Calvin?” Lily swept the one-room cabin and discovered him gone. She brought another spoonful of porridge to her mouth. He had to be real. Someone cooked, and it wasn’t her because she didn’t know how to make porridge. — NO MORE WOOD. LILY stood in front of the empty spot where the wood stack used to be. She turned and stared to where Will used to split the wood. The ground remained free from its discord of logs. Will had never taken her with him when he chopped trees down for their firewood. Lily shifted her stare toward the trees. How did one choose a tree to burn? Tears skimmed across her cheeks. Some wife she was. She should have insisted on helping Will more and lightened his burden of providing for her. Now, he was dead in an early grave. Lily clutched her jacket closer. Somehow she would cut a tree down today. Lily spun around slowly, studying the trees that surrounded their small cleared patch. Her bottom lip
fidgeted between her teeth. She had never traveled through the forest alone before. The usual smoke plume above the cabin shriveled to a wisp. Wood was needed soon. In the barn, Lily hitched up Will’s horse, Daisy. At least she knew how to do that after arguing with Will
All the items gathered, Lily led Daisy toward the trees and paused at the tree line. She let out a deep sigh. “Let’s get to it.” Twigs and a thin layer of ice snapped as she and Daisy forged forward through the forest. Along the way, Lily tied a strip of fabric around a tree trunk
on their journey to Montana territory. She removed the hung ax and saw from the wall. What else had Will brought with him? Lily squinted at the corner containing an array of tools and knick-knacks. Rope. Will had used it to drag the tree trunk behind the horse. Her nerves pondered at how she would find her way home. Lily caressed the horse’s snout. The simple gesture settled her anxiousness and helped devise a plan. She went inside her cabin and collected an old shirt, tearing it into strips.
about every ten yards and searched for what might make good firewood. She shivered. “Stupid girl,” she chided herself. “I should have left this morning instead of waiting till midday.” The nausea that had visited her in the middle of the night struck again. Lily kneeled near a tree base. She gulped in the damp air and exhaled. “It’s just your nerves. If you don’t do this, you’ll freeze to death. “Will’s not here anymore,” Lily whispered. When the queasiness passed, she braced a hand on the tree
and grasped peeling bark. She glanced upward. A dead tree towered above her. Lily exclaimed and wrapped her arms around the trunk. Somehow, in this time of need, God had provided her with this firewood. Would he help her figure out how to fell it? Lily glanced back and forth from the tree to her ax and saw. What she had taken for granted in her daily life, getting firewood, now seemed daunting. Lily puffed out her cheeks. She clutched the ax’s handle and held it to her side like a baseball bat. The ax jolted against the tree, her hands loosening their grip on the handle. Her shoulders drooped at the slight indentation the ax had made. Lily swung again. A second mark notched below the first one. On the third swing, she missed the tree. “Damn it,” she muttered. An eerie feeling crept over Lily, like she wasn’t alone. She glanced around but found nothing. “Hello? Is someone there?” An eagle screeched in the distance. “Calvin?” The lone human voice she sought for did not respond. Lily hummed a hymn, bursting into song as she prepared for another strike. The blade missed, and she stumbled. A hand reached for the tree to brace against while the ax swung downward, its head striking her boot. Lily cried out as a sharp pain exploded across the top of her foot. She released the handle, squatting and grasping her foot. Why did God torment her? Half of a sob broke through. “Take me,” she yelled. “Just take me and be done.” She clutched her foot tighter and rocked. Nearby a squirrel chattered, probably scolding her for pretending to be someone she’s not. A guttural cry escaped from her throat. Lily snatched up the ax and hurled it toward a tree, where it stuck. A dark figure flittered behind a tree. “Time for you to grow, little warrior,” a husky voice whispered. “Calvin?” Lily limped forward and searched amongst the trees for what she had seen. “Help me! Help me, please.” “You do not need my help,” the voice said near her ear. Lily whirled around. It was him. His eyes were the same coal-black color she had peered into before. Layered furs knitted together to form a cloak of sorts.
She glanced downward. For boots, Calvin had furs wrapped around his feet. That’s why she never heard him. Was he real? Her hand trembled as it edged closer to him. The tips of her fingers barely brushed him, and she jerked back with a gasp. Calvin stood still. “I can’t do it.” He gestured at the ax buried in a tree. “You swing, or you die.” “I don’t understand why you won’t help me.” “You learn to be warrior for son.” Calvin pointed. “What?” Lily glanced to where he pointed. It wasn’t possible, she and Will never got with child after little Calvin. The nausea… she… she caught the gripe from something she ate or drank. Lily pursed her lips. Her last monthly was…. Lily’s heart raced. It had been two or at least three months. “No, no, no.” She slumped to the ground on her knees. “This can’t be….” “He strong, like you.” “I can’t have a baby on my own in the wild.” “You not alone. I go now, and you swing.” “Please don’t go,” Lily pleaded behind him as he faded away, becoming one with the forest. Lily retrieved the ax and positioned herself in front of the notch she had cut earlier. She swung and again. — LILY PANTED AS SHE wiped her forehead with the sleeve of her jacket. Amid her frenzied swinging, twilight had come. Uneven notches in the trunk made the tree appear like it had been in battle. She leaned the ax below the tree’s wound. A scream emanated from her, and Lily tried to shake the tree, willing it to fall. When the tree didn’t, she collapsed in a heap at its base. Will would have had the tree felled and hauled back home by now if he were still alive. Calvin was wrong. She had swung, and the tree remained standing. A rustle from nearby caused her to bumble into a standing position and grab the ax. Lily searched in the dimming light. Her gaze landed upon a rabbit that nibbled at the ground.
“It’s just a damn rabbit,” she sighed. Will had warned her how the forest came alive at night. A rabbit wouldn’t harm her, but something bigger might come along. Lily packed the ax and climbed on Daisy, urging her onward for home. “You should have paid attention to the time,” she chastised herself. Finding her trail of markers would be difficult, especially without a lantern. By the twelfth strip, the forest had succumbed to what seemed like a never-ending blackness. What little moon shone, the trees distorted its light. Lily forced herself to breathe evenly, staunching the fear that threatened to boil over. As long as she maintained a straight path, they would find the cabin. Horses knew where home was, or at least that’s the story Lily believed. Wings fluttered above. Lily jerked with a loud gasp, startling her horse into rearing. She shifted forward in the saddle and exhaled when Daisy landed back on her feet. They continued riding in what Lily believed to be a straight line. It felt like the forest had trapped them. She stopped Daisy and got off. Perhaps, if she walked, she would break through the barrier. The evening wore on, distorting any sense of time. Lily shivered and clutched her coat closer, but it did nothing to warm the chill within. She was sure they had maintained a straight path. They should have found the cabin by now. Just like Will, the mountain planned on taking her too. Fatigue closed in on her. Each step became more difficult to take than the last, the reins growing heavier the longer she held them. Lily paused. She needed rest. “Keep going,” a voice whispered. Lily whirled around. “Calvin?” Ice crackled, followed by wood snapping. This was it. An animal had declared her its nighttime meal. Lily cringed. She slid the shotgun off of Daisy and aimed where she had heard the disturbance. “Get,” she shouted. The noise occurred again. Lily squeezed the trigger. Her nose twitched at the gunpowder aroma. Glass shattered. The cabin! Lily led Daisy and found the yard underneath the faint moonlight. This had to be
home. She stood, studying the two buildings’ outline. Daisy needed to be taken care of first. Lily tugged on the reins and escorted her horse into the familiar barn. Inside, calmness settled over Lily at finding her home. — DAWN OUTSTRETCHED ITS RAYS through the window, highlighting the shot through lower right pane. Lily lay in bed fixated on the broken glass. She sighed. Finding the cabin had come at a cost, but her trials weren’t over yet. That damn tree still needed to drop. Lily begrudgingly left the warmth behind in her blanketed cocoon. Her stomach growled. A cold sandwich would suffice, as no hot breakfast or coffee would be served this morning. She wrinkled her nose at the idea. Before she ate, the missing pane needed to be fixed. Yesterday she had seen a hammer and nails while searching for the ax in the barn. Though the night seemed long in the forest, time seemed to have gone faster during her four hours of sleep. “Morning,” Lily mumbled inside the barn. She completed her chores in feeding the animals and rummaged around for the hammer and nails. An empty crate sat along the floor. Beside the crate lay the hammer and nails inside a crude toolbox. Lily squatted, tracing the handle across the top. She closed her eyes, and Will was with her once again building the toolbox. Her heart swelled at the memory. Lily opened her eyes and carried the toolbox outside to the broken window. Lily stared at the window with a piece of scrap wood in her hand, the hammer in the other, and a nail between her lips. She needed three hands. This simple fix was taking more time than she expected. She placed the scrap over the hole and pressed her forearm against it. Her fingers curled around the nail. Lily tapped it until the nail vanished into the wood. Another one and the board would be secure. Finished, Lily put away the toolbox and prepared for returning to the tree. Breakfast would have to be eaten along the way. —
LILY STOOD IN AWE. She couldn’t deny the flutter in her belly. Calvin was right. Lily set down the ax and cradled her soon-to-be bump. “You’re real.” Will would have been thrilled about the “warrior” growing inside her. Lily turned around. “Calvin,” she shouted, “You’re right, I am having a son.” Only a breeze answered her. “Calvin?” he said, stepping from behind a tree. “I get fish. Fish good for growing warrior.” Lily nodded. The tears she had held back trickled past her eyelashes and stung her cheeks. He was real. Calvin wasn’t a ghost or a figment of her imagination. The loose pieces of his fur cloak swayed as Calvin turned. Within seconds, he became one with the forest. Lily resumed chopping and sawing until the dead tree pierced the air with a resounding crack and crashed forward. The ground quaked beneath. She dropped the ax to the ground and raised her arms upwards with a loud squeal. She had done it.
After stripping the trunk of its branches, Lily stood and examined the log. Her gaze traveled back and forth between Daisy and the tree. She sighed. Was the log too large for Daisy to pull? Lily looped the rope around the tree and attached it to the saddle’s horn. — LILY OPENED THE DOOR to the oven and fed the embers. She paused, a smile growing as new flames ignited the fresh logs. The iron door creaked as she shut it. When she stepped outside, red and orange bled together below the inky nighttime sky. The splendor reminded her of paintings. No time to waste on watching the sunrise, Lily went about her morning chores. As Lily ate breakfast, she studied the written list of supplies. The supply run to town needed to be done today. Shaky fingers drummed against the table, and her mind raced with how to answer questions about Will’s absence. She couldn’t go back to
New York City. The people might think her crazy, but living in the Rockies was a better alternative. Lily finished breakfast and washed her dirty dishes. After a final supply check, Lily bundled up for the trip and tucked the list inside her pocket. Outside, Lily blinked. The sun had awoken and risen in the sky, driving the remaining darkness to bed. She continued to the barn, where Daisy greeted her. While Lily saddled up the horse, Daisy’s velvety snout nuzzled her cheek. Lily giggled. “You know we’re headed to town.” Lily led the mare outside and then secured the barn. She climbed atop the saddle, giving the horse a reassuring pat. Her gaze traveled from the barn to the house and to the newly-split wood stack. Tears welled. She had done that. Daisy stamped the ground with a snort, jerking Lily out of her admiration. Lily caressed the horse’s neck. “Sorry, girl. Let’s go.” The sun’s warmth invited Lily to raise her head with closed eyes. Would Calvin follow her to town? Yet, she hoped not. When Lily opened her eyes to urge Daisy on, Calvin stood between the same two trees. He said nothing but gave a single nod. “You don’t need to follow me to town. I can do this.” Lily waved. Her voice rose. “I’m a warrior.”
orth Dakota native Kyleigh McCloud lives in Minnesota with her husband and fourteenyear-old cat. She attended Minnesota State University Moorhead and graduated with a BS in Mass Communications, emphasis in Print Journalism. Although Kyleigh enjoys reading a variety of genres, her favorite is historical romance. She has always felt drawn to the 1800s time period. The Little House on the Prairie series introduced her to this era when she was in fifth grade. Ever since, Kyleigh has admired the people’s tenacity to survive back then. Her short story, “A Cowboy’s Dream,” was published in the winter 2020 issue of Saddlebag Dispatches. This short story’s sequel, “Whispers of Home,” received Honorable Mention in the Inaugural Saddlebag Dispatches Mustang Award for Western Flash Fiction. Kyleigh has other short stories published or pending publication in various anthologies. Aside from writing westerns, Kyleigh writes modern women’s fiction and historical fiction. Her holiday novella, Her Mother’s Last Christmas Gift, debuted in November 2020. A second was released November 2021. Follow her on Facebook to learn more about her upcoming works.
T WAS ONE HELLUVA summer storm that night in Deadwood. You gotta remember that. Otherwise, I’d be dead, and Hickok wouldn’t be. And I wouldn’t’ve left just a piece o’ my left ear on the dirty floor of Number Ten Saloon. The rain came down in buckets. And the thunder crashed right on top o’ the lightnin’ flashes. And you could smell that kind o’ sickenin’ odor in the air you get when lightnin’ is too damn close. And the howlin’ wind ripped the canvas roof right off Langrishe’s new theater. We all got soaked. Most o’ the time you couldn’t hear the actors cuz o’ the thunder. But the way they reacted to gettin’ drenched made for a pretty funny show. So I thought I got my money’s worth. And it was dark. That’s important. Darkest night I ever saw. Except for the lightnin’, o’ course. But cuz it was so damn dark between flashes, the lightnin’ blinded you, and you couldn’t see anythin’ anyway. I tell you it was quite a storm. But lemme go on. See, after the theater I headed for Number Ten Saloon. Six of us crowded around a table to play draw poker—me and two fellas I didn’t
know and Jack McCall and a couple o’ friends of his. Well, can’t really call ’em friends. But the three of ’em sat down together. Well, everyone in the saloon was havin’ a good time. Drinkin’ and laughin’ and shoutin’. You had to shout lots o’ the time cuz the place was crowded and all that thunder rollin’ over our heads, you see. Even Calamity Jane was havin’ a hard time bein’ heard if you can believe that. She did love to carry on with all her tall tales. Well, she was holdin’ forth near my table with another of her yarns about scoutin’ for General Crook or General Custer or somebody. She finished her beer and started cursin’ and swearin’ like she always did when her mug went dry. I laughed and shouted, “Calamity, you’re turnin’ the air bluer than the lightnin’ is.” The crowd laughed at that. I added, “Where’d a lady like you learn to swear like that?” The crowd laughed. “A lady?” someone shouted. And they laughed even louder. See, nobody ever called Calamity Jane a lady. I was grinnin’ from ear to ear myself.
Calamity smirked and swaggered over to my chair. “So, pokin’ fun at me, are ya?” Now, mind you, even Calamity didn’t call herself a lady. But she liked a good joke. She slammed her empty mug down on our table in front of me. “Just for that,” she said, “you can buy me my next beer.” And she called me every dirty name she could think of, which took a while. O’ course, I bought her another beer. Hell, as long as I’ve got two dollars in my pocket, she can have one of ’em. I guess that’s true o’ most men in Deadwood. After Calamity got the new beer, she stayed at our table to watch. Well, that’s when it happened. Now, I’m no card sharp like Wild Bill was, but I was lucky that night. Too lucky for the likin’ o’ one o’ McCall’s buddies. He accused me o’ cheatin’. Well, all the beer made me cocky or touchy or silly or somethin’. Anyway, what I did next was really dumb. For a joke I gave that hombre my sternest look and laid my hand on the butt o’ the pistol in my waistband. “Take that back,” I said calmly and squinted at him mean like. Now, we were all well heeled in Deadwood, you know. There was no law in Deadwood at the time. This was August of 1876, remember. No law, no government, no mayor, no marshal, no nothin’. It was as free and wide open a town as you’d ever find in the West. Which, by the way, was the reason both Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok were there in the first place, along with a couple o’ thousand other men and women—includin’ me and Jack McCall, for that matter. Anyway, to my shock, my accuser called my beer bluff. He shoved his chair back and jumped to his feet. Or maybe staggered to his feet is a better description. We were all pretty well sloshed by that time. He pulled his pistol from his trousers—almost nobody in Deadwood wore a holster—cocked it, waved it generally in my direction, and took a shot at me! He didn’t give a damn that the saloon was full o’ people. He missed, cuz I was throwin’ myself outa my chair to the side. And jus’ by reflex I yanked my own pistol from the waistband of my trousers. On the way to the
floor, I cocked the gun and took a wild shot in his direction. Jus’ as reckless as he’d been. Didn’t even look. Too scared. Full o’ beer, remember. I hit the floor hard. So did he. I looked for him from under the table and cocked my pistol to take another shot. I saw him but he wasn’t movin’. He just lay there on the floor, perfectly still. I sucked in my breath. Hell, I’d hit him! Now, I never even shot at a man before, much less hit one. My mouth dropped open. I couldn’t believe it. I’d shot a man. Earlier, I had had no intention of actually usin’ my pistol when I’d put my hand on it. It was the beer talkin’. Astonished, I let go o’ my pistol and managed to get to my feet by grabbin’ the tabletop. I stared down at the man on the floor on the other side o’ the table. I asked no one in particular, “Is he dead?” The saloon had gone real quiet. A gunshot alone wouldn’t have had much effect. That happened a lot here in Deadwood. But a man was lyin’ on the floor this time. Calamity stepped over to the man on the floor, leaned down close, then straightened up and looked at me with almost merriment in her eyes. She said, “Hell, you killed him!” Honest to God, a shiver went down my back. I swear it. I said to Calamity, “I didn’t mean to kill him.”
She laughed. “Well, you did a good job, anyways.” That’s when McCall, too, jumped to his feet. He actually did jump, not stagger. Knocked his chair over backwards, too. “You son-of-a-bitch,” McCall said to me. “You killed my best friend.” Calamity said, “Best friend? You ain’t got no friends, Jack McCall.” I said, “I didn’t mean to. He drew first. I was jus’ defendin’ myself.” McCall didn’t waste time arguin’. He wasn’t one for deliberatin’. And he was hot tempered to boot. Mean and surly. He jus’ drew his pistol and cocked it as he brought it up. My mouth dropped open again, and my heart leaped. I froze. McCall was only eight feet away, and his gun hand didn’t sway the way the other fella’s had. And my own pistol was still on the floor. I was as good as dead. Except for Calamity, bless her. She tossed what was left of the beer in her mug right into McCall’s face just as he fired. It spoiled his aim jus’ a little. His bullet tore off the top o’ my left ear. It was that close. An inch to my right and that bullet would’ve gone right into my brain. I’d’ve been killed. I clapped my hand over my wounded ear. The blood squeezed out between my fingers. But I paid no atten-
tion to the hurtin’, cuz I was starin’ at the muzzle o’ McCall’s pistol—uncocked at the moment—still pointed at me. I counted the rest o’ my life in heartbeats. But McCall, still holding his pistol pointed at me, turned his head to glare at Calamity. He wiped beer off his face with his left hand. I could see rage sweep over his face. He cocked his pistol. I sucked in my breath. But he slowly turned the pistol to the side and trained it squarely in Calamity’s face. He said, “You bitch. I think I’m gonna put a bullet through that ugly face o’ yours.” Now, Calamity was for sure ugly. Some said she looked like a busted bale o’ hay. And I think McCall maybe was bluffin’. I didn’t think anybody would actually shoot Calamity Jane. But I wasn’t sure. McCall was known for not thinkin’ before actin’. Calamity wasn’t sure he was bluffin’ either. She dropped her beer mug and tensed up with the muzzle of McCall’s cocked pistol hoverin’ a foot from her face. And for the first time that anyone can remember she was speechless. Now here’s the important part o’ my story. Wild Bill Hickok had been sittin’ at the table next to us with his back to the wall, as usual. I heard his chair scrape on the floor, and I heard the double click of Hickok cocking the hammers of his two Colts. I know McCall heard that same sound clearly, too, cuz I actually saw his ears twitch. “Hold it, McCall,” Hickok said. Nobody in the saloon moved. All you could hear was the rain hammerin’ on the roof. Without movin’ any other muscle or takin’ his pistol off Calamity, McCall shifted his eyes to look at Hickok and those two deadly cocked pistols o’ his pointin’ at him. Hickok said, “Nobody points a pistol at that lady.” Nobody laughed. Nobody laughed when Hickok called Calamity Jane a lady. McCall wasn’t one to back down easy though. I’ll give him that. He still didn’t move, still kept the pistol pointed at Calamity. He said, “This is none o’ your affair, Hickok. You’re not the law here.” “I’m makin’ it my business,” Hickok said. “Lower your weapon, or I’ll kill you.”
Even McCall realized Wild Bill never bluffed—except at cards. McCall lowered his pistol a little, then brought it back up suddenly but pointed it at me. He said, “What about him? He jus’ killed my best friend. That any concern o’ yours?” I was pretty sure it wasn’t. Especially when Hickok didn’t say anythin’. I was scared. My legs were shakin’. But Calamity spoke up. “Wild Bill, the dead man drew first. I saw it. It was a fair fight. No blame on this fellow here.” Hickok still didn’t say anythin’. But at least he still had his two Colts trained on McCall. We waited. You could’ve heard my heart poundin’—except for the rain and the thunder. Finally McCall said, “Stay outa this, Hickok. Don’t cross me.” I think every man in the saloon gasped. So did Calamity Jane. McCall had threatened Wild Bill Hickok. Not that Hickok paid any attention. McCall went on. “You can’t watch over this bastard all the time, Hickok. I’ll get him later if you don’t let me drop him now. It ain’t your job to protect him.” Calamity said, “Wild Bill, this man bought me a drink. That makes him a friend o’ mine.” Now Hickok looked at me. He said, “Mister, as a favor to Calamity, I’ll keep McCall here for ten minutes.” “Thanks, Wild Bill,” Calamity said. But McCall sputtered, “Damn you, Hickok.” More gasps. Stupidly I asked, “Ten minutes?” Calamity looked exasperated. “For a head start, you damned fool.” Hickok said to McCall, “Uncock your pistol, McCall, and put it on the table. And sit down.” McCall grumbled. But he let the hammer o’ his pistol down and dropped it noisily onto the table. Then he plunked himself down in a chair. Calamity looked at me. “Well, don’t just stand there, mister. Get your ass outa Deadwood as fast as you can.” Finally I came to my senses. I mumbled, “Thank you.” I bowed nervously to Hickok and then to Calamity. “Thank you, thank you.” And I headed for the door. McCall shouted, “Run, you little coward. You’ve got just ten minutes more to live.”
I didn’t look back. And I forgot to pick up my pistol. My only thought was to run. I burst out o’ Number Ten Saloon and into the street and the heavy downpour. Lightnin’ flashed, and the thunder boomed. I ran. Or tried to. It was hard runnin’ through all that mud. Slippin’ and slidin’ all the time. And the mud balled up on my boots so’s I felt like I had rocks strapped to my feet. So I just couldn’t move very fast. And I couldn’t make up my fool mind, either. First, I headed for my own diggin’s. But I soon stopped. My own claim would be the first place McCall would come lookin’ for me. So I headed for another gulch and some friends I had there. I was sure they would grubstake me for a fast trip outa Deadwood. But I stopped again. I had a lot of gold back in my own camp. I didn’t want to leave that behind. So I headed back the other direction again. I was gettin’ frantic. I was wastin’ a lot of time. Then I heard the shout. “There he is!” It was that other friend o’ McCall’s. I looked back and sure enough, it was McCall and his buddy. They’d seen me and were after me. I couldn’t believe how fast ten minutes had gone by. And I was exhausted now. I had to hide. I headed up Shine Street and ducked into a narrow space between two shacks. I stopped there, heart poundin’. I heard McCall and the other fellow come splashin’ up through the mud and the puddles.
“I thought he headed up this street,” McCall said, “but I don’t see him now.” They stopped jus’ twenty feet from where I was hidin’! Lightnin’ flashed. I saw ’em plain. McCall’s buddy jabbed a finger in my direction. “Hey! I think I saw him!” I dropped to the ground into the mud. I didn’t hear myself land cuz a clap o’ thunder crashed overhead at the same time. There was a long pause. I guess they were both starin’ into the inky blackness between the buildings. I heard McCall say, “Nah.” Thank God for lightnin’ blindness. I tried to breathe a sigh of relief, but I was too scared. I hoped they wouldn’t come closer. Finally I heard them sloshin’ through the mud, goin’ in the opposite direction. McCall said, “Damn that Hickok. I’ll get him for this, for interferin’.” The other man laughed. “You goin’ up against Wild Bill?” McCall said, “Yeah, damn right I am. I ain’t afraid o’ Hickok. Sometime when I catch him without his back to the wall.” And, of course, that’s exactly what happened the next afternoon in Number Ten Saloon. McCall fired a bullet into the back of Hickok’s head. “Damn you, take that!” McCall yelled when he shot him dead. It was the only time anyone can remember that Hickok was playin’ cards without havin’ his back to the wall. Well, McCall and his buddy had left me lyin’ in the mud between those two shacks. I waited a few minutes and then took off again. I picked up my gold and belongin’s, said good-bye to my partners, and caught up to a bull train headin’ for the States. Now, I didn’t shoot Wild Bill Hickok myself, but every time I feel my mutilated left ear, I’m reminded I’m really the one who killed him. Damn my soul.
JAMES A. JANKE
im Janke lives in rural South Dakota and likes nothing better than sitting by an evening campfire at home and listening to coyotes keening in the darkness. His academic career was as a chemistry professor and a finance professor in Michigan, Maryland, and mostly South Dakota. But he is fascinated by 19thcentury American history, focusing on the Old West and the Civil War. He has a large library of books relevant to both subjects. He has traveled frequently to Civil War battlefields and forts, and he considers a summer wasted if he doesn’t get a chance to wander the nooks and crannies of the West, its mountains, plains, rivers, deserts, forests, battlefields, historic cities, forts, and more forts. You can see his YouTube videos of these explorations at https://www.youtube.com/user/stagecoacher. You can find him as “James A. Janke” on Facebook. He is an Active Member of the Western Writers of America. You can learn about all his writing at jimjanke.com, which also provides many resource links to the Old West, the Civil War, fiction writing, and more.
He’s up before the sun is in the sky, Though back in bed he wants to lie. Chores and tasks the whole day long Knowing that he must be strong. Stock to be counted, branded, and vaccinated, Things to be repaired or replaced because they’re antiquated. Some cowboys are single because of the life they live. Some have a family because to a woman their heart they did give. Mother Nature throws things at them which are hard. The cowboy will tough it out because he’s been dealt this card. Long days in the saddle, sleeping under the stars at night, Their day might end in town having a fist fight. Women are tough in the wilderness they help to tame, From keeping a house, to birthing a child and giving them a name. Her husband’s back she will have when times are rough Because he was there for them when things got tough. A cowboy cut for the job, lives hard, works harder, and is often alone. One not cut for the job gets squeamish putting down an animal too far gone. Cowboys of today work as hard as the ones of yesteryear, And they also have just as strong a fear. Women watch the old westerns and wonder. We dream of the heroes and ponder. Wanting to be their lady but not change them in any way, Letting the cowboy pull her in his arms and just sway. Boys playing cowboys and Indians, riding the pony that’s a mop, Some wanting to be Jess Harper, Cooper Smith, or the one called “Doc.” A cowboy’s life has often not been a pleasure, But if you ask, they’ll say it’s a life they treasure.
“MODERN COMANCHE,” AN 1891 WOOD ENGRAVING OF A LONE COMANCHE BRAVE BY FAMED WESTERN ARTIST FREDERIC REMINGTON (PUBLIC DOMAIN).
FEUDING WOMEN How a blood feud between marauding Comanche and a group
HE OLD WEST WAS full of feuds, but one of the more unusual ones was between two women who were the match of any man with a shootin’ iron. Everyone who loves the old west has heard of Annie Oakley, but few know the story of her challenger, Lillian Smith. Lillian Smith was born in California, and her request for a “little rifle” at the age of seven led to one of the great conflicts in the fabled history of the Wild West Shows. Lillian became so accurate with the rifle that her father offered $5,000 to any man who could outshoot her. The challenge was supposed to have been accepted by Doc Carver, one of the best shots of the time. The match was to take place in St. Louis, but Doc never showed. This was exactly what Lillian’s father needed. The publicity that this generated made her name famous as the girl that one of the best was afraid to face. Her father played these words like any great promoter.
Buffalo Bill supposedly found her at a shooting gallery in California in 1886. This encounter was exactly what her father had played so hard for over the past years. Cody signed her, at the age of 15, to join his show. Now, Bill may have been a showman, but he must not have known much about women, because he already had a star woman crack shot working for him by the name of Annie Oakley. If he had known anything about women, he would have known that you sure don’t want to put two competitors in the same room much less in competition for headlines in the same show. Not only did the ladies clash for glory, but they were near opposites in personality traits. Lillian was a rough, tough-talker who adored men. There was nothing ladylike about her except that she loved to dress in flashy clothes and wear huge feathered hats. Not only did she love to show off, but she also boasted of her abilities using a vocabulary that would make sailors shake their heads. Lillian liked to run with the cowboys and the Indians of the show, and
her promiscuity led to her having numerous affairs. Annie, on the other hand, liked to be perceived as a talented lady who stuck to the Victorian ways of the day. She liked to stay to herself and not associate with the other performers. Bill could have spent his life trying to find a more formidable pair. As this conflict heated up, one of Lillian’s four husbands, Jim Kidd, got some of his newspaper friends to write some very unflattering things in the California press about Annie. This, of course, went over like a whoopie cushion in church. Now, Annie’s shooting skills were legendary, but Lillian was a supreme shot. One of her acts was to shoot glass balls swinging from a pole and then shoot the string in two pieces without missing. She once broke 72,800 swinging balls in a six-day period—without a miss. So, there was no doubt that she was as good as she said she was and could back it up. Annie made a drastic mistake on the show’s visit to London when she shook the hand of the Princess of Wales. She had no idea that common people could not touch royalty. You know the English and their formality, and her actions brought down a storm of criticism from the press and the public. Lillian couldn’t let this escape, and she immediately stated to the press that she and Queen Victoria were the best of friends and her proof was that she had taken the time to show her rifle and visit with the Queen on a one-on-one basis. Annie got the last laugh during this time when she dramatically outshot Lillian at Wilmington, and she was personally congratulated by Prince Edward.
The conflicts continued while the show was in London, and finally, Annie had taken enough. She refused to travel any longer with the show and left to join up with the Pawnee Bill Wild West Show and toured with it for one season. Cody was a man who could count the money at the end of the day and finally realized that Annie was a better draw. After some hard talk and the addition of dollars, he got her to come back. It is not known, but only logical, that one of the terms of the deal was for him to get rid of her foe, Lillian. Whatever the reason, Lillian left and joined the Miller Brother’s 101 Ranch Wild West Show and later, the Pawnee Bill Show. When Lillian became a part of the Pawnee Bill Show, she changed her program completely. Taking on the name of Princess Wenona, she darkened her skin. She performed as an Indian, the daughter of the great chief, “Crazy Snake.” She was a part of the show for many years and played her new Indian heritage to the hilt. Lillian is buried in Ponca City, Oklahoma, the home of the Miller Brother’s 101 Ranch. —FRED STAFF is a retired history teacher from Oklahoma and strives to include true facts in his western Americas and became a bestseller. This success made him write more and he concentrated on westerns that were set in his home state. To date, he has written over forty books, adapted to the silver screen.
DRAMATIS PERSONAE: THE MAJOR PLAYERS INVOLVED IN THE “STAKED PLAINS HORROR” OF 1877. AT TOP LEFT, COMANCHE WAR CHIEF BLACK HORSE AND HIS WIFE. AT BOTTOM LEFT. CAPTAIN NICHOLAS M. NOLAN, USA, COMMANDING OFFICER, A TROOP, 10TH U.S. CAVALRY REGIMENT.
Winner of the 2022 Ozark Creative Writers Dusty Richards Memorial Oxbow Prize
AWN WAS BREAKING AS the wagon pulled away. Rachel wouldn’t let herself look back at the modest dwelling that had been home for the past three years—afraid that she, like Lot’s wife, would turn into a pillar of salt or maybe a bucket of tears. She slapped the reins against the backs of the team of mules to speed them up a little. No sense in dragging along. They were going—might as well get to it. “How long will it take us to get to Texas?” The little girl on the seat beside Rachel asked. “It all depends on the weather and the roads, Sweet Pea. We ought to be to where your father is in about a month, maybe six weeks.” The boy on the horse alongside the wagon spoke up. “And crossing the rivers. Right, Ma? Whether the Mississippi is up or not?” “That’s right, Johnny.” “Are we going to swim across the river, Mama?” The boy chortled. “That’s silly, Susie. We couldn’t swim across the Mississippi. It’s big—real big.”
The little girl looked crestfallen. “Hush, Johnny. Don’t make fun of your sister. She doesn’t know, and you didn’t either until Will explained it to you. Sweet Pea, there’ll be a boat to take us across. It’s called a ferry.” “And the wagon, too, Mama? And the horses?” “Yes, it will take everything across to the other side.” The girl leaned over and looked at the big, brown dog trotting alongside the wagon. “And Rowdy, too, Mama?” Rachel smiled. The girl and the dog were seldom more than a few feet apart. “Yes, Sweet Pea, and Rowdy, too.” “And then,” the boy spoke with enthusiasm, “we’ll be in Louisiana instead of Mississippi, won’t we Ma?” “We will. When we get across the river we’ll be in Louisiana.” “And we’ll be where Papa is,” Susie declared. “Papa is in Texas.” Rachel gently corrected her daughter. “We’ll still have a way to go before we get to where he is.”
A few minutes had passed when Rachel called out to the young man riding ahead of the wagon. “Will.” He turned his horse to the side and rode back. “Ma’am?” “I’m going to be pulling off the road up here a ways. I won’t be long.” “Yes, ma’am.” He tipped his hat and drew his horse a few yards to the left where he kept pace with the lumbering wagon. When they reached the small church and cemetery, Rachel guided the team into the tracks that cut a semicircle from the dusty road to the church yard. When she got to the far side of the arc, nearest the rows of headstones, she pulled them to a stop. “Watch over the team, please, and keep them steady,” she said to Will, who reined in beside them. He slid from his horse, and she handed him the lines. “Are we going to visit Lily’s grave?” the small girl asked. “Yes, we are.” Rachel stepped on the wagon wheel to get herself down, then reached back for her daughter. “Are we going to say goodbye?” Rachel’s throat filled with tears, and a nod was all she could manage. They walked about a third of the way across the garden of headstones. When they reached one smaller than the others, she sank to the grass beside the raised area, so fresh it hadn’t settled yet. Saying this goodbye was the hardest of all. She’d never again come here to relive the few months she had with this little bundle of love—the child she had been gifted with for so short a time. Even though her head said differently, her heart told her she was leaving her baby behind. She sighed. This was the part of moving that it was hard to forgive her husband for. She thought one reason John liked to move on was that he could leave the sad memories behind. In a new town, he no longer had to grieve over the lost daughter here, just as he had left behind the sadness of a dead son when they left Tupelo. It was different with Rachel. She was leaving her children behind, and even if they were buried in churchyards along with dozens of other souls, they were alone. No other family surrounded them and kept them close. No one would come and tend the grave
or leave mementos. From her pocket she took a small cross, made of twigs from the apple tree in the yard and wrapped with pink ribbon, and smoothed the lacy edges. “Are we going to leave that for Lily?” Susie had been very fond of her baby sister and had looked forward to the day the new one would be big enough to play with her. She had cried for days after Lily’s death, unlike Rachel, who had held her grief inside. “Yes. Would you like to put it on her grave?” Little fingers reached for the cross. Carefully, she placed it standing against the headstone. That was something Rachel had insisted on before John had taken off to search for a new location—the headstone. When John had announced that they were leaving Tupelo to move south, near Jackson, he promised there would be a stone on George’s grave, but he left it until the last, and if Rachel hadn’t set her foot down and told him she wasn’t going anywhere until her firstborn had a proper marker, there still wouldn’t have been one. It delayed their departure by two weeks, and John was angry, nevertheless she persisted. It was bad enough that their son was dead, and she would never see his grave again, but she wouldn’t, she would not, go without a suitable memorial to his short life. And here she was, leaving another place—another child’s grave. She stood up and brushed the bits of grass and leaves from her skirt. “Goodbye, little one,” she whispered. “Goodbye, Lily,” she heard Susie say softly. From behind her, she heard Johnny’s quiet voice. “Goodbye.” — THE NEXT MORNING, EVERYONE was up before dawn, excited over the upcoming crossing of the great river that divided the country. Rachel took the time to cook breakfast, since she had no idea where they would be when it came time to eat again. She cut bacon from the slab that she kept wrapped in cloth and hanging from the braces that held the canvas over the wagon, alongside the ham they had not yet unwrapped. The flapjacks she stirred up were cooked in the skillet as soon as the bacon came out. Topped with molasses, they made a special breakfast treat.
Packed and ready to go, they wound through the streets of Vicksburg, making their way toward the river. Rachel was saddened by the sight of so many graves along the way. The town once was a city of beautiful homes, she had heard, but few were left standing, most burned to the ground over a decade before. As they neared the river, there were more people on the streets, and downtown was busy with customers coming and going from the various businesses. “Will, if it’s all right with you, I’d feel better if you get us aboard the ferry, and I’ll take over again when we get to the other side.” “That’s a good idea, ma’am. It’s liable to be real busy on the waterfront, and it might not be that easy to find where the ferry docks. I think these mules will stay calm, but you never know.” They followed the street as it sloped downwards toward the water. Two blocks later they approached the busiest area yet. People were milling about everywhere, striding here and there on business.
There were stacks of crates and barrels in all directions. To the right, pulled up close to the shore, was a big paddlewheel steamer with gold letters on the side proclaiming it to be the Lady Lee. A ramp led from the shore to the ship, and people and cargo were coming and going. A sign posted at the bottom read “Departure 11:00 a.m.” A smaller sign underneath added, “Be on board by 11:00 or you will be left.” Both Johnny and Susie were enthralled with the sight of such a big boat. “Mama, are we going on that boat?” Susie asked. For once, Johnny didn’t come back with an answer to show he knew more than she did about the matter. He was too busy looking at the three decks of activity. Will spoke up. “No, Susie. Our boat will be smaller than that one. People sort of live on that one. They have bedrooms and all and a big room to sit and eat. They have cooks that fix fancy meals to serve to the passengers.” “Have you ever been on one, Will?” Johnny asked.
“No, I haven’t, but I’ve seen pictures of them in the newspaper and read about them. Likely, the people riding on that one are going down to New Orleans, since it’s pointed south.” “I’d like to do that,” Johnny said. “Maybe someday, when you’re all grown up, you can,” Will answered. “How can you tell it’s pointed south?” the younger boy asked. “See the big wheel? It’s always on the back,” Will answered. “It pushes the boat through the water, so that’s the way it came from.” “Where did it come from, Will?” “I don’t know, Johnny. It could have come from Memphis or farther upriver, like Cincinnati.” The children could have asked many more questions about the steamer, but Rachel cut the conversation short. “We need to get going, children. You can ask Will questions later.” It wasn’t long until they reached the place where the ferry docked. The steam-driven boat had just pulled in and was maneuvering to get tied up. Rachel took the time to study the sign standing to the side of the ramp where passengers loaded and unloaded. Loaded wagon and team $2.00 Wagon with no load $1.25 Horse and rider 37 ½ cents Horse 15 cents Passenger on foot 10 cents All horses, mules, and oxen to be kept under control at all times. Rachel went to the load of household goods in the wagon and retrieved the pouch of money from where she had hidden it and counted out the funds it would take to get them across. When she went to the front of the wagon again, the ferry was discharging the folks that had come over from the other side. There was a wagon piled high with crates of chickens, an elderly couple in a cart pulled by a tired looking horse, several men on horseback, and three men standing with no ride. Last off was a man driving an uncovered wagon full of baskets of vegetables, bound for a market, Rachel assumed. She had brought along what vegetables she thought would make the trip but planned to buy fresh
produce along the way to keep their meals healthy and interesting. “Will, catch Rowdy for me, please. He needs to ride up here in the wagon.” She took a long piece of leather strap and looped it through the stout collar the dog was wearing. She tied it securely to the spring on the wagon seat and settled the wiggling animal next to Johnny. “It’s important that he stays in the wagon, son. You are in charge of him. Don’t let him loose. The captain might not let us ride if he gets loose.” “I will, Ma. I’ll keep him!” He threw his arm over the excited dog. “Be sure you do.” “We aren’t going to leave Rowdy behind, are we, Mama?” “No, Sweet Pea. Johnny is going to take good care of Rowdy and keep him in the wagon, aren’t you, Johnny?’ “Yes, ma’am.” Finally, it was time to load the ferry for the trip back to the Louisiana side. “First on, first off,” shouted the man in charge of loading. “Horses with riders first, then people on foot. Wagons come last.” As he supervised them getting on, he directed Will to where he wanted the wagon. “Gotta have a balanced load, here, son,” he said. “You put that wagon right in the middle. These mules ever rode a ferry before?” “No, sir.” “You got any feed bags and grain?” It dawned on Rachel why, before they left, Will had told her to have feed bags and grain handy. Hurriedly, while Will held the teams steady, Rachel put a small amount of grain in each pouch and put them on the mules. “Ma’am, it wouldn’t hurt to do the same thing to the horses tied to the back,” Will said. “It’ll keep them calm when we get started.” By the time she finished doing this, the ferryman had pulled the chains that raised and lowered the ramp and gave a wave to the person high up in the wheelhouse. The structure began to shiver and shake as steam was built up and then released to make the mighty wheel on the side begin to turn. Will sat in the
wagon, holding the reins tightly. Rachel stood by the pair of mules, stroking them and murmuring softly. “Steady now, Clyde. Steady Mollie.” The man who pulled up the ramp and fastened a chain across the rear of the boat was walking around, checking on all the passengers. “Good day, ma’am. Everything under control?” “Yes, I think we have it.” “Where you folks headed?” Rachel raised her glance to where Will was sitting in the wagon, and he frowned and shook his head slightly. “Shreveport. I’m moving near my sister.” “All these children yours?” “Only the two youngest. The older boy is my sister’s. He came to help us move.” “Well, good luck on your travels,” the man said. “When we get to the other side, just stay on the main road. It leads straight to Shreveport.” “Yes, that’s what my sister told me.” When the man left, Will spoke. “Word gets around about a woman and children traveling alone. It’s best you don’t tell anyone about the direction you’ll be taking.” “You really think we’d be in danger?” “It’s best to be safe, ma’am.” Rachel thought about the revolver hidden beneath the quilt that softened the bench she sat on as she drove the team, within easy reach if their party was accosted along the journey, and the rifle in the back of the wagon, as accessible for protection as it was for hunting game. Again, she said silent thanks for having Will along. She could never have managed all this by herself. At least John arranged for Will’s help before he left for Texas, Rachel thought, and not for the first time a ripple of anger toward her husband ran through her. Luckily, John had a good profession to depend on. He was a farrier, and a good one at that, but he was a restless man, never staying in one place past the time it took Rachel to be settled enough to think it might be their forever home until he was planning another move. Everyone in the party was fascinated with the voyage across the wide river. The noise of the steam and the pounding of the enormous wheel as
it propelled them through the water made talking almost impossible. Rachel knew the children would be full of questions and comments when they came to a place where they could have a conversation, but for now they were content watching the river and the other people on the ferry. Soon enough, they reached the western shore, and the captain maneuvered the boat into the landing. The chain was removed, and the ramp on the front let down. The travelers who had loaded first, walking passengers, horses with riders, small carts, were the first off. Rachel and her brood were the next to last off, followed only by a wagon full of crates and boxes precariously tied. Just before docking, Rachel removed the feed bags from the mules and also from the horses that were tied to the wagon. The man that spoke to them earlier made his way to their rig. “Ma’am, have you heard of the quaking ground in these parts?” “No, I haven’t. What is that?” “Well, ma’am, it’s the sunk land that was caused by that big earthquake back in ’11. The folks around here, they laid down a corduroy road so’s they can get across it.” “I’ve never heard of a corduroy road. What is it?” “They put down small trees, side by side, wide enough for a wagon and a horse. Long as you keep to that, you’ll be safe. That’s what I came over here to tell you. Keep on the road. Don’t get off, or you’ll be stuck, for sure.”
“Thank you for letting me know,” Rachel answered. As the passengers started unloading in front of them, Rachel untied her horse and mounted it, ready to move off board when the signal came. When it came their turn, Will slapped the reins to start Clyde and Mollie up the ramp, Johnny’s pinto and Will’s chestnut, still tied to the rear of the wagon, following. Rachel rode behind, to ensure the two horses were cooperating. When the party reached the top of the bank, as Will guided the wagon to the road they would take, Rachel pulled her horse to the side and looked back at the far shore. Goodbye, she whispered to herself. Goodbye to my children and parents and siblings, all buried in places I’ll never see again. Goodbye to friends who have supported me along the way. I’ll never forget you—any of you. I promise. Rachel turned her horse and quickly joined the wagon, where she and Will swapped places once more. “Where are we going next, Mama?” Susie asked. “Wherever life leads, Susie,” she answered. “Wherever life leads.”
NANCY SMITH GIBSON
ANCY SMITH GIBSON has been a voracious reader since early childhood, but she needed two things to become a writer: a computer and no distractions. She is the mother of four, grandmother of four, and great grandmother of two. Up until a few years ago, the work of raising a family along with careers as a telephone operator (reaching as far back as the “number please” days), supervisor with the Census Bureau in two states, and selling real estate kept her too busy to write, but the stories were there, buzzing around in her head, waiting for her to slow down. She now lives in the country near Hot Springs, Arkansas. When not writing novels, she enjoys genealogy research and lunching with friends. This short story, “Wherever Life Leads,” is the beginning of a novel of the same name which will be released in 2022 by Soulmate Publishing. It is the 7th novel in the Tales from the Brazos series, although it will be second in the timeline of the series. For more about this and her other books, check out the Facebook page for Nancy Smith Gibson, author.
P I D R I ED DR
S E U L B in the
y b y r t e o p
LEE L E A MICH
Went home after the rodeo, feeling tired, stiff, and old. Doors were locked, rooms were dark, lonely, and cold Her note said, she had had enough, that she no longer cared. House was empty. She had taken her stuff. Called for the dog. She had even taken old Ruff! Lost my woman and my old dog. All in one swoop. What is a cowboy to do, when he is hung out, left to drip dry in the blues?
On the bed, a picture from our honeymoon. Picked up a pillow, still smelling of her perfume. I sat in the darkness, in that empty spaced gloom Sat in the dark, feeling lonely, crying in our bedroom. I was left alone, my heart washed in the blues. Wiping my face, I crept out of that haunted room. Now I’m sitting in the bar, staring at the mirror. Me, looking at me, looking back at me. I had no answers. Neither did he. We’re both choking back tears, drinking beer and eating chicharrones. Just a broken-down cowboy, sitting on a bar stool, drip drying in the blues, staring at Mr. Lonely. A sax plaintively croons, giving me the shivers. A wail from a clarinet about breaks my heart. Feels like those pre-qualifying jitters. Or when the bronc jumps, and I break apart. The blues have a way of saying what it is and what it ain’t. Cymbals tingle in sad, sad tones. I haven’t been a Saint. Sadly, I’m hung out, drip drying in the blues. Me and Mr. Lonely. I stare in the mirror. Order more beers and chicharrones. Drowning my sorrow in the blues and broken heart. The band plays on, mindless of their part. The Blues have much to say to a cowboy who has lost his way. There will come a time when his evil ways will make him pay. I am talking to myself, and I toast to Mr. Lonely. Mr. Lonely ain’t got much to say. He, too, has had a damn hard day. We both smile and raise our glass, saluting lost love and long-lost past I’m starting to feel numb. Mr. Lonely tells me, I’m kinda dumb. The blues says, there ain’t a thing a man can do when your woman walks out on you. So, I sit at the bar, drip drying in the blues, talking to Mr. Lonely, Buying him cold beer and salty chicharrones.
N 1833, WHEN PETER Mankins, Sr. was 63 years of age, he accompanied his son, Peter Mankins, Jr., to Arkansas. They settled along the Middle Fork of the White River in Washington County. Young Peter was destined to become an Arkansas folk hero of some great stature. Known as Pete, Mankins owned a prosperous farm in the valley adjacent to one owned by Johnson Crawford. Between these two farms flowed the Sulphur Springs branch that emptied into the Middle Fork. At one time the settlement was known as Mankins. Pete married Narcissus Mills-Mankins, the daughter of Isaac and Rachel Mills, of Indiana. She is buried at Reese Cemetery (died 1863) along with their 15-year-old daughter Millie (sometimes spelled Milley), who passed away in 1861, and Esther Hanna, Pete’s second wife, who died in 1900. In the listing of graves located at Reese, compiled by McConnell, Peter Jr., is not found. Pete gained his folklore reputation long before the Civil War when he became a part of the Evans Train that headed for California and the gold fields in April of 1849. The train was a joint financial effort of both white and Cherokee businessmen who wanted to go west, strike it rich, and bring their gold back to Arkansas for the benefit of all. These brave souls made up a wagon train of about 40 wagons, most pulled by oxen. They not only set out for the gold fields, but they also blazed a new trail that would
later be used to drive untold thousands of cattle to the beef-hungry western settlers. It became known as the Cherokee Trail. This trail’s origin and route has been authenticated by Dr. Jack E. Fletcher of Sequim, Washington, who has done extensive research on the trail and written a book documenting its history in Overland Trail (Vol. 13, No. 2). While it utilized parts of the Santa Fe and the Oregon and California Trails, much of it was blazed by these courageous men and women. Mankins served as lieutenant under Lewis Evans, the first sheriff of Washington County, Arkansas, and captain of the wagon train. A late snowfall dusted the shoulders of all who left out on that April morning, winding out of Fayetteville into the Prairie Grove Valley, the wagons stretching for miles through the lush grass, belly-deep on the oxen and horses. There was no newspaper in Fayetteville to cover that momentous occasion, but J. H. Van Hoose celebrated the 36th anniversary of their leaving by writing a story for the Fayetteville Weekly Democrat dated April 15, 1885. He wrote from his memory of the trip, for he went along. He mentioned others who did so as well, among them Judge Hiram Davis, Ed and Herman Freyschlag and their two unmarried sisters (later named as Barbara and Hermina), and John Van Hoose, who at the age of 57 walked all the way to Feather River, California, being on the road nearly six months.
Oddly, the three men who died during the trip were all named Nathan. The three Nathans: Thorp was buried near where Denver City would rise, Cosby died at the journey’s end, and Lewis died soon after. Everyone else lived to return to their homes in Arkansas. The two Freyschlag sisters decided to remain in California and did not return. Pete Mankins was true to his word, though he was forced to remain in California after John Van Hoose and Porter Dickerson returned to Arkansas. Unlike many who came home with nothing to show for their efforts, Mankins earned his first sizeable fortune in the gold fields only to see it lost when spring floods washed out his dam in the Sacramento Riverbed. Eventually he returned with $4,000, including one nugget so big it brought him $416. He chose to bring that particular nugget home with him when he returned by boat through the Isthmus of Panama, traveling to New Orleans and making his way overland back into the Ozarks. —VELDA BROTHERTON is an awardfounding partner of Saddlebag Dispatches. She lives on a mountainside in Winslow, Arkansas, where she writes everyday and talks at length with her cat.
OLD PETE. PETER MANKINS JR. WAS AN EARLY SETTLER AND COUNTY OFFICIAL IN WASHINGTON COUNTY, ARKANSAS, AS WELL AS A CONFEDERATE GUERRILLA LEADER WHOSE COMMAND OPERATED IN NORTHWESTERN ARKANSAS DURING THE CIVIL WAR.
ENRY DARROW’S PARENTS WERE Enrique and Gloria Delgado, and they moved from Puerto Rico to New York City prior to his birth on September 15th, 1933. His birth name was Enrique Tomas Delgado Jimenez. When he was thirteen his family returned to Puerto Rico. He attended high school at the Academia del Perpetuo Socorro in Miramar where he was elected class president. He attended the University of Rio Piedras as a political science and theater major. Since he was fluent in two languages, he supplemented his income by acting as an interpreter. He returned to California on a scholarship from The Little Theater of Puerto Rico and The University of Puerto Rico. He was initially trained at the Pasadena Playhouse in 1954. On August 4th, 1956 he married Louise DePuy, they had two Children Denise and Tom. They divorced on January 1st, 1979. His first work in a western was as an uncredited guard in the series Cimarron City, in the1959 episode “The Town is a Prisoner.” Cimarron City is cut off by a regiment of Mexican Lancers and a group of American Renegades who want Texas returned to Mexico. The series starred George Montgomery, John Smith, and Dan Blocker. Rita Moreno appeared as a guest star. He was uncredited in the 1959 horror western Curse of the Undead. The film starred Eric Fleming of Rawhide, Michael Pate, and Kathleen Crowley.
Drake Robey is a killer for hire, he always kills at night. He also appeared in the 1959 movie Revenge of the Virgins. He played Wade Connor and was billed as Hank Delgado. A band of female Indians devise a sinister plan to stop the white settlers from spoiling their sacred ground. His final western appearance in 1959 was in the series Wagon Train. He played Benito De Varga and was billed as Henry Delgado in the episode “The Stagecoach Story.” The men are returning to St. Louis by stagecoach after they successfully delivered the wagon train to California. Flint became the stage driver to help a friend, but when bandits appeared the stage took an unexpected detour to Mexico. The series starred Ward Bond, Robert Horton, Terry Wilson, and Frank McGrath. Debra Paget guest starred in the episode. He appeared on stage in The Alchemist in 1963 and appeared in an episode of Stoney Burke as an unnamed member of the Mexican Border Police in the episode Point of Entry. He was again billed as Henry Delgado. Stoney Burke was a modern-day western that dealt with rodeo cowboys. It starred Jack Lord, Warren Oates and Bruce Dern. In the episode, Stoney witnessed a murder in a border town and ran afoul of the law on both sides of the border. William Smith and Cesare Danova guest starred in the episode. In 1966, Henry appeared on stage in Dark of the Moon. He also guest-stared on the series Iron Horse as Cougar Man. Calhoun (Dale Robertson) traveled to
HENRY DARROW. AMERICAN CHARACTER ACTOR OF STAGE AND FILM KNOWN FOR HIS ROLE AS MANOLITO “MANO” MONTOYA ON THE 1960S TELEVISION SERIES
THE HIGH CHAPARRAL.
Apache Country to push his railroad through Indian Country. In desperation, he battled Cougar Man to the death to advance the railroad. The series starred Robertson, Gary Collins. Guest stars in the episode were Robert Random, Joe Don Baker, Roberto Acosta, and Morgan Woodward. Henry visited Dodge City as Oro, in the 1966 Gunsmoke episode of “The Hanging.” Dodge City was packed with people to watch the hanging of outlaw Billy Boles. Some wanted to watch him hang while others planned to stop it. The series starred James Arness,
Milburn Stone, Amanda Blake, Ken Curtis and Roger Ewing. He appeared as Archduke Maurice in The Wild, Wild west episode “The Night of the Tottering Tontine” in 1967. Jim and Artie must protect a member of a wealthy investment group from the other investors. The series starred Robert Conrad as James West and Ross Martin as Artemus Gordon. Mike Road also guest-starred in the episode. He guest starred as Amigo in the 1967 Bonanza episode of the same name. Ben Cartwright was part of a posse after a band of vicious outlaws. When a wounded man was captured, Ben protected him from the other members of the posse and the vengeance of the gang as well. Lorne Greene, Dan Blocker, and Michael Landon starred in the series. Henry returned to the series Gunsmoke in 1967 as Ross Segurra in the episode “Ladies from St. Louis”. A bank robber saved five nuns who were lost on the trail to Dodge. They looked to a higher power to convince him to surrender himself to the marshal. Claude Akins also guest-starred in the episode. He next appeared in the Daniel Boone episode “Take the Southbound Stage” as Gideon in 1967. Abigail Adams trusted Daniel with one hundred thousand dollars to pay the ransom for her kidnapped husband. Fess Parker and Patricia Blair starred in the series, Arnold Moss and Paul Brinegar guest starred in the episode.
The High Chaparral ran from 1967 to 1971. Henry Darrow played the role of Manolito Montoya, the role that most people would remember him for. The Cannon Family owned the High Chaparral. They are bound with the Montoya family in Old Mexico when John is forced to marry Victoria Montoya. She and her brother, Manolito, moved into the ranch house in Arizona territory. Leif Erickson played John Cannon and Victoria’s husband. Cameron Mitchell was brother Buck Cannon. Victoria was played by Linda Cristal and Mark Slade played her stepson Blue. Don Collier and Roberto Contreras rounded out the cast. Linda Cristal won a Golden Globe in 1970 for her portrayal of Victoria. The cast won a Bambi award in 1970. Henry won a Bronze Wrangler for his role of Manolito Montoya in 1969. The Dream of Hamish Mose was a bizarre western film written and directed by Cameron Mitchell in 1969. Henry Darrow played a character called Mex. A lost group of buffalo soldiers and their Captain traveled through the south Texas desert searching for a comrade they thought dead. It’s a western allegory on the life of Jesus Christ. The film also starred Cameron Mitchell and Alonzo Brown. It was the debut film for O. J. Simpson. This film has never been released and part of the only print has been lost. During his career, Cameron Mitchell never directed another film.
After The High Chaparral ended in 1971, Henry guest starred in two episodes of Bearcats!, as Raoul Estaban. Rod Taylor and Dennis Cole are Hank and Johnny, two mercenaries for hire in the southwest United States in the 1920’s. They drive to their assignments in a Stutz Bearcat. In “The Return of Estaban,” Hank and Johnny called on Estaban to help them prevent a gang from destroying a mining town. In “Ground Loop at Spanish Wells,” German troops are masquerading as American soldiers and attacking Mexican towns along the border to provoke a war between Mexico and the United States. In 1973, he appeared as Don Emilio Fierro in the Kung Fu episode “The Brujo.” Caine, a Shaolin Monk who wandered the American West, stumbled into a small Mexican village and ended the curse on the town when he broke the Brujo’s hold on the village. The series starred David Carradine. Sara, starred Brenda Vaccaro, it was a story of a teacher who left a steady life in the east to teach in a one room school in Colorado. The series ran for one season in 1976. In the episode, “The Man from Leadville,” Sara became involved with an explosive expert hired by the mine owners to blast away the hard rock inside the mines. Henry played Angelo in the episode. Henry appeared as Alvarez in the mini-series Centennial in the story, “Only the Rocks Live
Forever.” A young Arapaho child discovered his father had been killed in battle and learned the lesson that only rocks live forever. Several TV actors appeared in the mini-series, including Raymond Burr, Barbara Carrera, Richard Chamberlin, Robert Conrad, Richard Crenna, Chad Everett, David Jansen, Andy Griffith and many others. Darrow made history in 1980 when he provided the voice for Zorro and Don Diego in the cartoon The Tarzan, Lone Ranger, Zorro Adventure Hour. William Conrad, the radio voice of Matt Dillon provided the voice for The Lone Ranger. In 1981, he again provided the voice of Zorro in The New Adventures of Zorro. Don Diamond also did voice work in the cartoon. In 1983, he became the first actor of Latino descent to play Zorro and Don Diego de la Vega on television in Zorro and Son. Jose Suarez had played Zorro in a 1953 Spanish film. Zorro had gotten older and needed help protecting the population of Spanish California. His son had taken on the mask of Zorro with his father’s assistance. The series starred Paul Regina, Gregory Sierra, and Bill Dana. Only five episodes were broadcast. He played Don Alejandro de la Vega in The New Zorro from 1990 to 93. He was the father of Don
Diego de la Vega/Zorro played by Duncan Regehr. In 19th century Spanish California, a heroic masked swordsman must protect the inhabitants against a corrupt magistrate. The series ran for eighty-eight episodes and Henry appeared in sixty-three. He had taken over the role from Efrem Zimbalist Jr. His final credit in a was in 1994. He was one of several old western actors that had a cameo as one of the riverboat poker players in Maverick. The film starred Mel Gibson as Brett Maverick and James Garner as Pappy. It also starred Jodie Foster and James Coburn. Henry won a Bambi award for his performance in High Chaparral and a daytime Emmy for the soap Santa Barbara. He also received the Ricardo Montalban Nosotros and Alma Lifetime Achievement Award. Henry married his second wife, Lauren Levinson, on December 1st, 1982, Henry died of natural causes on March 14th, 2021. His remains were cremated and scattered at sea. —TERRY ALEXANDER and his wife, Phyllis, live on a small farm near Porum, Oklahoma. They have three children, thirteen grandchildren, and four great grandchildren. Terry is a member of The Oklahoma Writers Federation, Fictioneers. If you see him at a conference, though, don’t let him convince you to take part in one of his trivia games—he’ll stump you every time.
HE WORD SPREAD LIKE wildfire through the tribes of the northern and southern plains. A new spiritual leader had emerged. Indians were about to regain ownership of America. The earth would open up and swallow white soldiers and settlers, the buffalo would return, and all the Indians killed in battle would come back to life. As a bonus, the horse—the one positive contribution of the white man—would remain. For once, the European invaders’ superior numbers and high-tech weapons wouldn’t matter. Their God had declared himself on the side of the Indians. Who could blame him? He had sent his son to save the white men, and they had nailed him to a cross. Smart money said God was ready to start over and put the Indians in charge, if only they followed a simple set of instructions. The plan sounded completely reasonable to the plains Indians, the Cheyenne, the Arapaho, and especially the Lakota. Native American legends were filled with messianic leaders who showed up at the last possible moment to save the tribes from a seemingly unconquerable enemy. That moment had been reached. White invaders had driven the Plains Indians to the brink of starvation by killing off the buffalo, and since the Civil War ended, the U.S. Army was turning its full attention to resettling the big game hunter tribes on reservations. If a hero didn’t show up soon, the traditional way of life would be lost forever.
The last charismatic Native American messiah had been the Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse. He had visions of a world without white people too, but his methods involved a fair amount of blood-letting. Crazy Horse had a large Plains Indian following and quite a few military successes, including a significant battle at Little Big Horn. But he and his warriors were eventually hunted to the ragged edge of starvation by the U.S. Army, and in 1877 he surrendered. Four months later, Crazy Horse was bayoneted by a military guard. His messianic days had run their course. It took eleven years for the new spiritual leader to emerge. This messiah wasn’t a firebrand warrior with magic face paint like Crazy Horse. Wovoka (Chopper) was a Piute Shaman who had grown up with white Christians near Carson City, Nevada. He read the Bible, spoke fluent English, and even had a Christian name. Local settlers called him Jack Wilson. Wovoka had no grudge against white people. He simply wanted them to go away. Late in 1888, he had the first in a pair of visions that showed him how it could be done. That revelation came with a fever. His temperature climbed so high his soul broke loose from his body and traveled to the spirit home of all the Native American ancestors who had been killed in the struggle with the white man. The animals they used to hunt were there as well, waiting for the opportunity to live again. Wovoka could bring them all back to life, and they would show him how in another vision.
A few months later, during the solar eclipse of January 1, 1889, the ancestors made good on their promise. Wovoka was chopping wood when they transported him back to the spirit world and showed him the details of the plan. The Christian God was present in this vision, and he promised Wovoka that the end of white expansion and return of traditional tribal ways was a simple dance away. The dance God described was a traditional Piute Round Dance. In addition to joining hands and dancing in a circle, there were several rules of righteous behavior the Indians were supposed to follow. 1. Do not harm anyone. 2. Always do what is right. 3. Treat one another justly. 4. Cleanse the body often. 5. Remain peaceful. 6. Be truthful. 7. Abstain from alcohol. 8. Do not refuse to work for the whites and do not make any trouble for them. Jack Wilson’s vision emphasized cooperation. He discouraged the practice of mourning because the dead would soon be restored to life. He preached patience and didn’t make the mistake of predicting when the transition to the new world would take place. Many of his followers believed the change would happen with the changing millennium (from the 1800’s to the 1900’s). No one expected the religious movement to spread across the continent as quickly as it did. Wovoka wasn’t the first Piute shaman to have
THE NEW MESSIAH. PIUTE SHAMAN WOVOKA—ALSO KNOWN BY HIS CHRISTIAN NAME, JACK WILSON, FOUNDER OF THE GHOST DANCE.
a vision involving the Round Dance. The Northern Piute, Wodziwob (Grey Hair), had a vision calling for the Round Dance in the 1870’s. His vision didn’t include Christianity or the mystical re-incarnation of the dead or the elimination of the white man. Wodziwob believed the dance would bring about a Native American renaissance. His prophesy spread for a few years among the Piute, but the continual white encroachment on Indian lands, and the exploits of more flamboyant heroes like Crazy Horse and Quanah Parker, made the Round Dance cult lose popularity. Wovoka’s vision came after all alternatives were gone. It took hold and moved across the country with what must have seemed like supernatural speed. In less than a year the warrior tribes of the northern and southern plains were sending riders from reservations in Oklahoma and the Dakotas to seek advice from the Piute shaman personally. —
PLAINS INDIANS WERE OPEN-minded when it came to mysticism. They adopted bits and pieces of theology from Christianity and from other tribal religions and didn’t seem to be troubled by contradictory doctrines. Symbols were highly valued. Even symbols that were never meant to have religious significance
were believed to hold power that could be transferred to a warrior if he had a sacred attitude. Braves would ride into battle with crosses and details of U.S. flags painted on themselves and their horses expecting to capitalize on the power of their white enemies. If a spiritual message was confusing, so much the better.
The Lakota’s supreme being was called Wakan Tanka —The Great Mystery—after all. They didn’t expect to understand theological details. Kicking Bear and Short Bull were two Miniconjou Lakota who made a pilgrimage to see Wovoka. By the time they returned to the Pine Ridge Reservation in Dakota Territory, the Piute Round Dance was renamed the Ghost Dance. That should have served as a warning that Jack Wilson’s peaceful prophesy was about to acquire a violent spin. The Lakota added Ghost Shirts as a critical feature of the dance. These magic shirts were supposed to make the dancers bullet proof, another sign trouble was on the way. The Pine Ridge Ghost Dances began with invocations, prayers, and exhortations, after which dancers joined hands and moved frenetically in a circle. Sick people participated in hopes of being cured. Dancers fell unconscious. Some experienced trances and visions that expanded the scope of the Ghost Dance Cult to include things Wovoka had never envisioned. The U.S. soldiers on the Pine Ridge Reservation were understandably nervous.
GHOST SHIRTS. THREE SURVIVING EXAMPLES OF SHIRTS THOUGHT TO MAKE GHOST DANCERS IMPERVIOUS TO BULLETS.
RELIGIOUS FERVOR. DEPICTION OF A GHOST DANCE IN FULL SWING. THE CEREMONY DID NOT CONDONE VIOLENCE AGAINST WHITES, BUT THAT FACT FELL UPON DEAF EARS AMONGST THE U.S. ARMY BRASS.
In early October 1890, Kicking Bear visited Sitting Bull on the Standing Rock Reservation. He wanted to spread the word about the magic victory over the whites that was sure to happen as soon as enough Indians participated in the ceremony. Sitting Bull was skeptical of things like bullet proof shirts and the dead coming back to life, but he agreed to allow Kicking Bear to teach the dance, at least until the Indian Agency put a stop to it. It didn’t take the agency long. They forcibly removed Kicking Bear from Standing Rock and sent Indian Police to arrest Sitting Bull. The arrest of the iconic Lakota leader who defeated Custer at the Little Big Horn went about as well as anyone should have expected. In the ensuing shootout, Sitting Bull was killed. On December 28, 1890, fourteen days after Sitting Bull was shot, the army was ordered to disarm and relocate any Lakota who would not stop the Ghost Dance ceremony. A major target of the roundup was Chief Bigfoot. His band was mostly made up of women and children whose husbands and fathers had been killed in battles with Generals Custer, Crook, and
Miles. Bigfoot’s band would dance until they collapsed to be sure their dead warriors would come back to life. They surrendered to the cavalry at Pine Ridge and were escorted to a camp near Wounded Knee Creek. The following morning, the military ordered all Indian weapons to be surrendered and burned. A medicine man called for resistance, claiming the Ghost Shirts would protect the Lakota from army bullets. An unknown gunman fired the first shot. Soldiers opened fire. In a matter of minutes 290 Lakota were killed, most of them were unarmed women and children. Thirty-three soldiers died in the exchange, mostly from friendly fire. — THE SOUTHERN (OKLAHOMA) CHEYENNE and their long-time allies, the Southern Arapaho, heard about the Ghost Dance from their northern relatives. The idea of eliminating the white man through magic rather than by warfare appealed to them at least as much as it did to the Lakota. They started organizing their
own versions of the Ghost Dance in the summer of 1890 a few months before the massacre at Wounded Knee. Before long, almost every camp along the Canadian and Washita Rivers held all night dances two or three times a week. Like the Lakota in South Dakota, the Oklahoma Plains Indians developed their own variation on the dance. A Southern Arapaho man named Sitting Bull added a unique element that became a standard feature of the southern plains Ghost Dance. After the ceremony had been underway for several days he stepped into the circle and made hypnotic passes with an eagle feather in front of dancers. Hundreds of them went into trances. People who had been in this trance sang songs that described Wovoka’s world of the ancestors. The dancers and singers and people slipping into trances described a place where there were plenty of buffalo and no white people, convincing the Oklahoma settlers that an Indian uprising would break out soon. The Indian wars were still fresh in everyone’s mind, and Penny Dreadfuls were on sale that portrayed the Cheyenne and Arapaho as bloodthirsty savages. Not to be outdone, newspapers in El Reno, Oklahoma City, and Guthrie published stories that sensationalized the Ghost Dances and whipped white residents into a frenzy. A military confrontation like Wounded Knee would have been a certainty if the War Department hadn’t sent Lieutenant H.L. Scott of the 7th Cavalry Regiment to assess the danger. The lieutenant visited Cheyenne
A HORRIFIC TOLL. THE GRISLY AFTERMATH OF THE WOUNDED KNEE MASSACRE IN DECEMBER, 1890, IN WHICH SOME 290 LAKOTA GHOST DANCERS WERE GUNNED DOWN BY THE U.S. ARMY.
WOVOKA NEVER STOPPED BELIEVING in the truth and power of his visions even after the massacre at Wounded Knee. There was talk of arresting him, but local Indian agents considered him to be “an intelligent Indian and peaceably inclined.” They helped him obtain an allotment where he lived a simple life in a house made of rough timbers. He stopped promoting the Ghost Dance, but Wovoka’s notoriety as a prophet didn’t fade. He earned a substantial income as a Piute holy man and supplemented it by selling “power objects” like red paint, feathers, and reservation style hats to white collectors. He never left Nevada in the two years it took the Ghost Dance cult to spread across the plains, but after the disaster at Pine Ridge he made trips to reservations in Wyoming, Montana, and Kansas and even to the former Indian Territory of Oklahoma. Wherever he went, Jack Wilson was treated by regional tribes as a great religious figure. In 1916 the Mason Valley News reported he was considering a visit to President Woodrow THE SINGERS AND DANCERS AND PEOPLE SLIPPING INTO TRANCES Wilson to offer advice on ending the European wars. DESCRIBED A PLACE WHERE THERE WERE PLENTY OF BUFFALO AND NO That visit never happened, WHITE PEOPLE. but he was photographed at a Warren G. Harding rally, probably because Harding selected Charles Curtis, to visit the prophet Wovoka and brought back some “sacred medicine paint” and specific instructions for a Sac and Fox from Kansas, to be his vice president. Stories of Wovoka’s supernatural powers never conducting the ceremony. The dances weren’t held as frequently as before, and attendance dropped off, but stopped circulating among the Piute. It was said that he continued to make prophesies that came true, that they were still attracting reasonably large numbers. In October 1892, they sent another delegation to he survived being shot, that he brought rain, and even that he raised people from the dead. He was considered visit the messiah. Wovoka astounded them by saying he was tired of so many visitors, and they should a great Medicine Man until the day he died, September 29, 1932. True believers expected him to come back, go back home and tell their people to stop dancing. At first, the Oklahoma Ghost Dancers refused to and of course, there were rumors that he did. Wovoka is buried in the Shurz Piute Indian believe the message from Wovoka was genuine, Cemetery in Mineral County, Nevada. but when he refused to correspond with them the ceremony’s popularity declined. A form of the dance —JOHN T. BIGGS was incorporated into the Native American Church and is still performed today as a ceremony of cultural restoration, but the tribes no longer expect the white man to disappear or the dead to rise again or the buffalo to come back. and Arapaho camps from December 1890 (when the Wounded Knee Massacre took place) through February 1891. It would have been easy for him to interpret the activities exactly the way the military had done at Pine Ridge. The dancers looked the same. They followed the same religious premise. In the past, Cheyenne and Arapaho had engaged and defeated the U.S. Army in decisive battles, including Little Bighorn. Fortunately, Lieutenant Scott kept a cool head. He concluded that the Ghost Dance Ceremony was a harmless religious activity and posed no danger to white settlers. If this young soldier hadn’t exercised wisdom and restraint, Oklahoma could have had a Wounded Knee style massacre of its own. The Ghost Dance ceremony lingered as a large movement for only a short time after the disaster at Pine Ridge. In the spring and summer of 1891, the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho sent delegations