Category Archives: Short Stories

Hay Haulin’

hay hauling

A few years ago (55, maybe 60) Sylvia & I helped uncles Dwight & Ves haul hay. Their old truck loaded looked a lot like the one on the left below. It had a loader hooked to the side to run the bales up to the bed of the truck.

Sylvia got to steer the truck because her legs were long enough to reach the clutch & break. I walked ahead lining up the hay bales so they would feed into the loader just right. Ves & Dwight rode the bed to stack the hay.

The truck had a “compound” gear – a very low-low low gear. It would creep along without her giving it any gas at all & across any terrain. We went round & round the hayfield till the load was topped-off.

They would tie the load down with ropes across the hay, front to back, cinched tightly down to the bumpers. Sylvia & I got to ride the several miles back to the hay barn on top of the hay directly over the truck’s cab.

I can’t ever recall a more enjoyable ride down the highway (& byway) than with the wind blowing the sweat away sitting on top of those bales. We held onto the tie down rope but I cannot ever remember fearing anything except the occasional electric line passing low overhead.

Sylvia reminded me not long ago that we drank our first beer riding down the road up on top. One evening, just at dark & after a brutal long hot summer day of hay hauling, we stopped at Crowell’s store. Crowell’s was an old-fashioned country store where ice boxes were literally boxes with ice in them to keep perishable foods cool and drinks cold.

My uncles would buy themselves a beer & pop for Sylvia & I to celebrate the end of a long days work. On that evening though, Uncle Dwight handed up beer to us saying that we had earned it this day.

So, there we rode down the road, two pre-teens, after a very long hot day, on top of a huge load of hay, waving at passing cars, horse-drawn wagons, & pedestrians both on foot and one horses, and drinking our first beer. Sometimes things just don’t get any better.

Now the question might arise, was this not an exceedingly dangerous way for two kids to ride down the road? Probably, but I do not care. I always thought it was a lot safer than walking along all day in front of a big old loaded truck with cousin Sylvia driving it.

THE SECRET OF THE SATIN SLIP MINE

The torn face of Windy Sharp could most often be found
around the Riddletop Mercantile Store.  In clement weather he
would lounge himself in a decrepit cane chair, propped back
against the storefront and protected from the hard sun of the
dry Arizona Plateau.  In winter, Windy would most likely be
found draped across his favorite cracker barrel, in as close
a proximity to the big pot bellied, tie-cut stove as he could
properly tolerate.  His eighty-some year old bones, which had
accumulated surprisingly little flesh, felt the raw edge of
time when exposed to the winds which ripped directly down
from the frozen Yukon.
A hundred miles to the south lay the harsh desert run of
the usually dry, but, sometimes savage, stone crushing, Salt
River.  The lower Salt Valley fell to near sea level and the
days, no matter how low the sun, retained a warm, friendly
appeal.  But, from Windy’s cracker barrel perch in the center
of Riddletop, over eight thousand feet straight down would be
covered in a ear popping drop to that same sea level.  It was
snow country by anyone’s measure and generally the snow came
packaged in a blizzard manufactured in Siberia.
Windy was the proprietor of the history of southeastern
Arizona, long before the history professors of the State
University down in Phoenix dropped from their dames.  He not
only remembered, but, due to a wandering life style and an
agile ability to become involved in any mischief afoot, was
an active participant in most of the more notorious events he
related.
His listeners were a mixed lot of the young and old from
the country surrounding the little, high country town.  His
own companions of yesteryears had long departed, leaving
Windy in sole and uncontested possession of the facts; some
saying he occasionally abused this trust.  But, who could
gainsay the eye witness whose name did appear regularly in
the old, dusty news chronicles of those days of a long
departed era?   Especially a man who had written some long
reports still contained in the ledgers of the Arizona
Rangers.
Windy experienced a Renaissance of sorts as a newer
generation came into being, which held no direct memory of
the times he pontificated about.  The years passed and the
world around him changed, yet, only small digressions from
the stories could be detected by his most avid listeners.  It
became a generally accepted fact that Sharp’s Law, in matters
related to the pioneering days of the old Arizona Territory,
was the best authority available, outside the written word of
those Territorial Gazettes still in one piece.  And the old
news print was always dated, reported from second hand.  No
amount of ink could replace the account of one who witnessed
events at first hand and often carried the vivid scars of
those ancient battles, as evidenced by the ripped and scarred
flesh of Windy’s face.
Windy’s name was an almost lifelong possession and
accurately reflected his ability and inclination to talk.  It
was lain on his young brow by his mother, a woman of stolid
Texas cow country stock, who left this life in childbirth,
down in the Tonto Basin.  Windy, as usual, found the best
words to describe the naming event:
“I’d brought some tale in to satisfy Ma about the latest
personal malfeasance I’d involved me and my brothers in.  She
was a kind woman, but, could recognize a rounder before he
crossed the lower bridge on the Tonto, leading up to our
little spread.
“She told me, ‘That, son, is pure West Texas Wind!’
“I reckon’ its been Windy since that day..nigh on eighty
years ago.”
The listeners surrounding the weaver of tales would give
the usual little laugh.  Not out of any sense of obligation,
but, rather, out of respect for their old history book on
the cracker barrel shelf.
Rowdy Miller was a particular favorite of the old man.
Rowdy’s father owned the Bucket and Bell Ranch, north of
Riddletop.  Like many of the ranchers in the area, Miller
realized how the world was changing and wanted his son to get
as good an education as available in the area.  So Rowdy
spent long hours on the four mile trail to town and back each
day.
Sometimes weather would intervene with a blasting
snowstorm falling onto the little community out of the
Painted Desert to the north.  These storms blew up in a
matter of minutes and devastated the plans of every thinking
person within miles.  When the cattle ranch kids were caught
up in the throes of a blizzard, Mrs. Kitchner would take them
all into her big, many bed-roomed and empty house to mother
until the storm passed.  These were times of rare joy for the
kids, a holiday from the hard rigors of ranch life.  Games
for the smaller children and immature courting for the older
ones carried on far into the night, all under the watchful
eye of the matronly old spinster.
Once, a twelve year old boy and his sister were allowed
to  try for their home when a small snow squall eased into
the town, just as school let out.  The snow increased and the
children became disoriented and lost.  They were found, days
later, frozen, in the lee of a spruce, south of town.  The
horse wandered home, unscathed.  Since that pitiful
experience, Mrs. Kitchner would take over the welfare of the
children at first snowflake and only relented their care when
all danger was past.  She removed the children from harm’s
way.  The grateful parents regularly rewarded her for the
keep she furnished, but Mrs. Kitchner’s own reward was the
safety she offered and the sight of her home full of happy
kids.
When the snow pellets peppered the outside walls, Windy
could count on Rowdy to take his place at the old man’s feet
to hear his tales of long ago battles.  Windy became attached
to the boy, probably because the kid reminded him of himself
at the other end of the long, dark tunnel of years.  Sharp
felt a good strong pride within when he saw the sparkle of
excitement he put in the boy’s eyes.  Rowdy made him recall a
hound pup he’d had when he was young, down in the Tonto Basin
on his father’s grassy ranch, before the cattle wars broke
out and his remaining family were rooted out and spread
across the land..or killed.
Like the pup, Rowdy possessed big nose, ham-sided hands,
huge ears, and feet about six sizes larger than was
absolutely necessary to keep his tow head above his skinny,
tadpole tail.  All in all, the boy was a good, wholesome
product of ranch life and held the beginnings of those morals
which would stand him good for the balance of his life.
When the youngsters gathered about him, Windy, to his
credit, attempted to lace his stories with those traits so
cherished by the westerner: honor, fealty to your partners,
and to love and protect women.  He felt a special bond with
young Rowdy Miller and suspected his efforts at imprinting
this young, and far from sterile mind were paying dividends.
So, it was a soul wrenching slap the evening when Rowdy
sauntered into the store with the snow pelting down and
rising two feet against the buildings, to announce to Windy,
“I’m goin’ to be just like that desperado, Waco, Mr. Sharp,
when I git growed!”
A deep, sad light gathered in Windy’s torn old face as
the words soaked into his mind.  An astute observer would
have seen the many memories flooding through the old man.
Indeed, Sharp was even more deeply affected by the words than
could be seen from his outward aspect.  A phrase, especially
from his young protege, could not have been found to rip him
in a more profound way.
After a moment, he rallied himself and, straightening
his spine, he faced the problem as he had so many others in
his long life he cared not to number them.  Putting his
flinty eye upon the boy he said, “Sit down son.  I’ll give
you the true dope on this Waco gent, no salted, preserved
leavin’s, but, the raw unvarnished truth.”
Rowdy was aware he’d struck some type of nerve and sat
as he was told in his usual position, at the old man’s feet.
Looking up, he noticed a kind of spare strength he’d not seen
before, looking out the rheumy eyes.
Windy’s first words came as a shock to Rowdy, “Boy, I
was a Arizona Territorial Ranger for ten years.  It was due
to one man..that man was LaRue Breton.  The finest man to
ever walk God’s green earth.  The likes of this Waco don’t
make bug squat to a man like LaRue.”
Giving time to his mind to gather the strings of
thought, Windy sat immobile for long moments.  When he
grabbed the ends together he went on with the story he’d
spent long years trying to forget.
“This tale is for only you, Rowdy.  It won’t ever be
tol’ again.”  The other men in the room gathered close to the
stove and one prodded up the fire a little.  This story
promised to reward them for many a repeated tale and long
hours of listening to trivial remembrances.
This is the story, occasionally in Windy’s own words,
as he told it to Rowdy that night:
Larue Breton was a Ranger, part of an elite force which
tried to guard the territory against the predations of
countless outlaws of all kinds and the fast gunmen who hid in
the vastness of the desert and mountains.  The Lincoln County
Wars were winding down, over in New Mex Territory.  The big
ranchers there and the Federals were hanging the leftover
badmen and sweeping the rest out across the boundary lines.
The same general thing happened in Colorado and Texas.
As the gentlefied woman’s face of civilization showed herself
across the land, the riff raff of the west were pushed
further ahead of her.  The same type thing occured over in
California.  The herd of hungry killers fell into Arizona and
Utah, the last of the untamed wilderness left in the west.
And there was a terrible, wonderful wild land within the
borders of the Arizona Territory.
“Waco,” declared Windy, “nobody ever knowed his name, or
cared for all I know, was one of these hombres.  He’d built a
reputation for himself in Lincoln Country as one who would
kill anyone, any time, for any amount of money.  The killing
served as its own reward for Waco.  I heard once he gut shot
an old drunk down in El Paso and wouldn’t let anyone out of
the saloon.  He just sat and watched, drinking from a bottle
of whiskey as the man twitched and finally died.  Took half a
bottle.  Waco walked out of that bar a happy man.  That was
the type of low scum he was, a regular full blown pestilence.”
Waco crossed over into Arizona one summer and spent his
evil earnings in one bar after another.  He killed a couple
of men in Globe and drifted down to San Carlos.  There he met
Lisa Wilkins.  It was the proof of the evil in him, what he
did to the girl.
She came to the town with her brother, Emmet.  He bought
a small bar, enlarged it, and catered to the miners from the
small quartz mines around there.  For a short while, there was
real excitement about the gold in the rocky mountains and the
river’s sandy bed.  It played out pretty quick, but, just
then it meant some fast money flying around.  Lisa stayed
around the bar, as Emmet kept his eye on her.  He need not
have worried, for Lisa was pure and innocent a girl as ever
graced the territory.  Until Waco came.
When Waco walked into the saloon, he touched some deep
need in Lisa.  He carried his short body like a king, the
pride of the gunfighter showed in every move he made.  It
made up for, in some degree, what he lacked in physical
stature.  His evil good looks, and he was a handsome gent,
appealed to her vanity.  When he caught her look, some foul
motive took him and he made every attempt to drag her down to
his own cesspool of life.
Lisa’s dark haired beauty missed sultry by about two
heartbeats.  The raven hair framed a face of innocent charm.
When she entered a room in her gold shot dark blue dress and
red sash, it’s sure she turned every head.  Her sparkling
brown eyes searched for the dead, cruel, splintered green of
Waco’s.
Some perverse thrill must have driven Lisa.  Emmet tried
to warn her of her folly, but, Lisa must persist.  She
carried along with Waco for two weeks and the warped little
man ran out of money.  Waco headed down into the mining
country and miners began to come missing.  That was the point
where Larue Breton entered the story.
The Rangers were organized to try and tame a huge
territory.  There were only twenty six of them to start.  It
was a pitifully small handful of men, no matter they could
each wrestle a full grown Grizzly single handed.  They, needs
be, were spread across a huge expanse of mountains and some of
the most rugged desert in the U.S.  Only the most pressing
situations could demand an Arizona Ranger.
Trouble between Mexican sheepherders and the cattlemen
in the Sierra Ancha’s brewed up and Major Lexington, head of
the Rangers decided it needed nipping in the bud.  He sent
word to LaRue to take care of it and to, by the way, settle
the hash on one Waco, a killer rumored to be murdering some
miners.
The message caught up with Breton as he delivered the
last in a long line of prisoners to the hungry gallows of the
territorial prison in Yuma.  With no more than a nod, LaRue
straddled his horse and headed up to San Carlos and points
north.
He roamed up into the mountains to try the waters of
the incipient sheep and cattle war first.  By the simple
expedient of finding no sheep or herders, he decided the
powderkeg was defused and went after his alternate quarry.
Two days yielded little in usable information.  He was
advised by a wizened little man that if he inquired in
Wilkins’ Saloon in San Carlos, he may stumble onto the news
he wanted.  Without delay, LaRue followed the lead.
When Larue Breton sidled into Emmet’s little bar, a new
era dawned for Lisa.  The moment she set eyes upon Larue’s
long, spare frame topped with his sandy brown hair, Waco was
relegated to the territorial past.  Only the demise of the
badman remained to mar the future.  She saw LaRue the instant
he passed through the batwing, swinging doors and watched as
he surveyed the room.
Hawk eyed, buckled for trouble as all Rangers must go,
LaRue carried the look of pure hell fire waiting for a match.
He possessed a dark and somber countenance which could freeze
the core of many a would be crook and put an unknown desire
into wanted men..the need to be away, far away.  Panther-like
moves carried him to the bar where he leaned, back to the big
mirror.
His gaze lingered on every face and many a one would
turn the crimson of a mountain sunrise under his scrutiny.
He sought not those small fry in the saloon and his eyes
lingered over Lisa for long moments.
She felt her own face
begin to color and the faint stirrings of resentment.  Any
mood she retained was washed away when LaRue’s face broke
into an unrestrained grin.  As Lisa gazed into his sky blue
eyes and the easy grin spread, she could perceive the sky
open from dark clouds and the sun break forth.
Breton pulled
his big sombrero from his head and the sandy gold hair
spilled over his face, as the gold splashed clouds paint the
summer sunset.
Breton, in quick, smooth steps, appeared at Lisa’s side.
He sat without so much as a by you leave.  Their eyes never
parted for an instant.  He asked Lisa, direct, did she know
the outlaw known as Waco.
“I do.  And it is for you to kill him.  Never will
there be rest not peace for me until you do,” was her
forthright answer.  She didn’t rattle around as most women
would have done.  Lisa found the beast she wanted and was
willing to pot any other that got into her way.
Larue’s backbone rarely bent and he sat ramrod in the
wooden chair.  He slowly slid his fingers beneath his vest
and pushed it back.  The Star of the Arizona Ranger appeared
like the first star of evening.  Lisa’s eye followed his
movement and when she saw his badge of honor, felt the
strength flow into her.
Behind the bar, Emmet rolled out the long sign of a man
just reprieved, standing with the rope around his neck.  He
knew this stranger to be the famous Ranger LaRue Breton.
Love is a curly haired little monster that peeks at a
man from behind bushes and deep draws, then pounces on him
when he least expects it.  LaRue entered the saloon knowing
Waco could be there.  Therefore, he went in ready to fight
and to blast the life from another lawless devil.  The last
thing the poor Ranger looked for was this dark haired spirit
girl awaiting her future.  They both found that they least
expected in the waning of the mining days of San Carlos, in
the Wilkins’ family bar.
The Ranger lingered long that night, talking to Lisa.
But, he recalled his work.  Bidding her good night, seeing
her dark look of wanting, and wishing he needn’t go, he left.
Down the San Carlos to where it joins the Gila, he
traveled.  Ever seeking word of Waco, hoping to finish the
job and return to Lisa, LaRue found only cold trails.  At the
end of a week, he once again sought Lisa’s company.
In the joyful reunion, they appeared as the lovers of
many years.  But, the joy was short as Lisa told LaRue, “Waco
is near.  I have heard he was seen near Peridot, two days
past.  He would not come so near and not come to me!  Oh, my
love, what shall we do?”
LaRue cursed himself for seven kinds of a fool.  Waco
was so near where he had been for the last days and he
escaped the Ranger’s grasp.  He told Lisa he would set out
for the little town on the Gila to head off the outlaw.  But,
if Waco should return to send word quickly.  The distance was
not great and he could return in a few hours time.  Agreed,
they parted again.
Unknown to either LaRue or Lisa, sly, gauche eyed Willy
Potts sat only one table over and in the chair directly
behind Breton.  Willy fancied himself the greatest badman ever
to be.  His only hold outs were no courage and not a brain in
his pointed little head.  He carefully listened to every word
which passed.  Noting it all down in his minuscule mind, he
set out to find Waco and his gang.  Willy would parlay this
knowledge into a place in Waco’s plans.
Waco was not hard to find.  His location could be found
through several of the lesser known badmen in the area.
Willy went directly to the Satin Slip Mine.  The mine was the
abandoned work and dream of a Dutchman named Rossman.  He dug
what ore existed from the mine in just two days, but the hard
headed miner kept at the digging long after in vain hopes of
hitting another pocket of gold laden quartz.  After sixty
feet of desperately hard work, even a dead man could see the
fruitlessness of the endeavor.  The mine and its attending
shack were abandoned over a year ago.  Falling into a
dilapidated state, they were used only by Waco in his
occasional need for a secure haven.
Willy whispered his name and the outlaw allowed him to
enter.  Telling his tale, he watched as Waco’s neck swelled
and his face became a mottled red.  Fearing for his life,
Willy withdrew to the stone wall and awaited the outcome of
the black thoughts he could see pulsing through Waco’s head.
At length, Waco regained control of his dark passion.
“The girl had jilted him for a Ranger,” thought he!
“Don’t you fear for Waco, Willy!  I can take care of
this mighty Ranger.  You can see here,” he waved around the
dark and empty mine shaft, “I ain’t got none of the boys
here, just now.”
“Reckon you could get one more to help me, we’ll put out
the lights on this tall hombre!”
Did he!  Billy Stupert was every bit as good a gunhand
as Willy and could be counted upon to help to terminate an
Arizona Ranger.  “Why,” thought Willy, “our reputations will
be made in one stroke.  Everybody in San Carlos will give the
sidewalk to Willy Potts now.”
“We’ll lure Breton here an’ ambush him when he comes to
get us,” declared Waco!
Plans laid, Willy departed to find his friend and Waco
retreated into his dark, foul thoughts.
The next day, a teamster left a letter in the only bar
in Peridot, “From a lady in San Carlos, for thet Ranger,” he
told the barkeep. At about ten that evening, LaRue entered
the bar and took the letter from the white fingers of the
barman.  Opening it, he read his lover’s words:

     “Rue,
          I have a note, in my hand, from Waco!  He is here,
      now.  I must go to the Satin Slip Mine and meet him
      at nine tomorrow night.  Please, be quick, our
      lives depend on this.
          This is my plan: I shall go and meet the killer
      one last time.  You will go there now, as soon as
      you may.  The last time I met Waco there, I saw a
      keg of powder at the mouth of the cave.  If you
      can, without being seen, set the fuse and prepare
      it to blow-up.
          I shall slip away, when I may.  You will be in the
      rocks, there are many, and will see me.  I will
      make some small sound so you shall know it is I.
          Be fast, my love, my heart.  This we shall do and
      we will be free!
          Tomorrow night, dearest.
                Lisa”

Breton gazed into the smoke of the room for some minutes
and then turned to a miner near him.  He asked if the man
should know the location of the Satin Slip.  Most miners knew
of the Dutchman’s folly and directed LaRue with accurate
information.
Late that very night, Breton reached the mine.  Finding
no one around, he proceeded to secure the powder and fuse.
He found not one, but three small kegs of black blasting
powder.  All had been used and all retained no small amount
in residue.  In a small wooden box, were three sticks of
dynamite.  Pouring the powder all into one barrel, he fused a
stick of the dynamite and crimped it with his teeth.  He led
the corded string out the corner of rough rock to a hidden
spot.  Returning, he made sure no marks remained and left the
entrance undisturbed.
The sun only cleared the mountains when LaRue finished.
He turned to think the situation over and determined to get
himself a bit of help.
“My part come in,” says Windy, “when he wandered, early,
into my little two bit camp on a sandbar of the San Carlos.
I’d come a bustin’ into the country to git rich..quick.  I’d
busted all right..an quick.  LaRue braced me to help him git
this Waco and tol’ me what he’d done to set it up.”
“I agreed, right enough,” the old man continued, “Waco
was a terror that needed pluggin’.”
“LaRue know’d me from up on the Tonto.  He punched cows
for some of the smaller cattlemen an was one reason every
Jake one of ’em wasn’t killed in the big war with the big
cattlemen.  I’d been a little frazzle headed kid on a mud
colored mustang then, but, he’d been friendly to me.”
Breton and Windy wound their way back to the Satin Slip
and took up positions.  Windy to the front, amongst the
jumble of boulders in the draw facing the front of the mine
and LaRue to the side, where the fuse lay.  On the far side
of the mine face threaded a little trail leading to San
Carlos, past the dilapidated shack.
The day passed hot in the rocks.  Breton, no sleep for
the past night, dozed and nodded.  Windy sweated and kept in
the shadows as best he might.  Just after the sun sank beyond
the rocky mountain rim, the three outlaws rode up the trail.
Waco led, his piercing gaze searching everywhere.  Windy
slid far into the crack he occupied.  LaRue almost cut down
on the little killer right there, but, refrained fearing to
miss.  The plan of Lisa would seal the fate of the evil
monster, for sure.
Sheltering the horses within the dirt floored shack,
they made their way into the cave.  The stars gained
ascendancy over the sun-emptied sky and the night roamed on
to its fateful completion.
Not long after the tiny moon set, Lisa rode to the shack
and tied her pony to a loose board.  Stealthily, she trod the
track and entered the mine.
LaRue could feel the pain of seeing her disappear within
the lair of the killer.  With all his strength, he withheld
his desire to blast his way into the foul den and free his
love.  The hours passed with the slowness of eternity.
Softly he shifted position time and again.  Waiting was not a
game the Ranger played well.  He longed for the fire to
cleanse the air and purge his soul.
Time passes for everyone and when the night grew old,
before the morning was new, Lisa came, silently, from the
cold maw of the mine.  She moved as a wraith across the rocks
and mounted her horse.  A small pebble she threw on the tin
roof of the shack to mark her passing.
Not hearing the sound of the horse down the trail,
Breton waited long moments more, to be absolutely sure his
beloved was well away.  When he felt sure of her safety, he
lit the fuse.
It smoked its way into the mouth of the cave, the
resulting explosion rocked LaRue from his heels.  Dirt and
rock launched far into the night air, filling the valley with
debris.  Huddling his head between his arms, Larue awaited
the outcome.  Through the rushing noise, he could hear the
sound of the mountain collapsing over the mouth of the old
mine and the rocks raining down on the tin roofed shack.
Dust settling, he came to his feet and raced to the now
disappeared mine shaft.  Satisfied, he turned to seek his
deputy, fearing he might have been hurt by the falling rock.
Shouting, he searched the rocks where Windy was hidden,
finding him in the crack.  Windy had a huge knot on the side
of his head.
“Like one of yore ears, Rowdy,” Windy threw in.
Reaching for Sharp’s canteen, he mopped the man’s face.
As Windy recovered his senses, LaRue sighed.
Windy, bleary eyed at first, came around.  He took on a
look of dismay..he was naked except for his long john’s.
Breton had not noticed, in the dark, and asked Sharp
what he had done with his coveralls.  Even then neither
realized the horrible turn of the night until Windy declared,
“Rue, I was hit before the blast.  I never heard it!”
Then..only then, did LaRue see the fate he’d been dealt.
Spinning, he stared at the long gone hole.  Shuddering,
he raced to the place the old Dutchman had spent long hours
of backbreaking labor.  LaRue threw himself onto the blasted
rock and the dust rose as he pitched big rocks away.  In a
frenzy, Breton tore at the face of the mountain of rubble.
Tears streaked down both cheeks and the air rasped from his
lungs.
“Aw, I tried, waren’t no use,” Windy sadly recalled the
night.  “I grabbed one arm, but, Larue just elbowed me back
down the hill.  Tried again an’ again, same thing.  When
such a thing happen’s, ain’t no other person in the world,
just you and what you lost.”
The sun rose and with it the heat.  Hour after hour,
LaRue Breton continued his purgative labor.  Windy stayed at
his back the whole time.  He began to roll the larger rocks
away and noticed the streaks and splotches of blood covering
them.  Breton’s fingers and hands were shredded from the
sharp quartz.
In time, even the strongest must rest and Breton, at
four, collapsed against the boulders.  Sharp brought him
water and with quiet words convinced the Ranger no hope was
left.  Returning with the horses, Windy brought the lost man
to San Carlos.  He turned LaRue into a rented bed and went
down to tell Emmet of the tortuous night.  After that
sorrowful deed, Windy Sharp drank himself to sleep.  In the
morning, Ranger LaRue Breton was gone to parts unknown.
Breton figured work would drown his sorrow and he set
out upon one daunting task after another.  After each,
though, his trail led him back to the defunct Satin Slip
Mine.  He would relive that night each time and the pain
would come again.  Ever he searched for the outlaw scum,
Waco.
“Weeks later,” Windy droned on as the snow climbed the
outside walls, “I was up in cow country again, workin’
roundup outside Happy Jack.  Me an’ a few of the boys went
inta town on a windblown Saturday afternoon to throw a few
back.  Come along nightfall and who should walk in but Waco.
“That stole the wind right out of me.  Didn’t know what
to do.  He walked over to the poker table, proud as you
please, an’ sat down.  Drew a hand and played like there
waren’t no trouble in this world.
“I laid my plan to brace him, couldn’t do no other
thing after that horr’bul night.  I owed it to LaRue.  I
poured a little red liquor down my raw feelin’ gut and slid
my hand around the grip of my ol’ pistola.
“Waco must have had an eye on me, for he caught the
motion and pinned me with one of them cold eyed stares of
his.  I couldn’t bring myself to move.  Then, just as I was
thinkin’ I’d be the chief performer at an inquest, we both
noticed as how the room become dead quiet.
“Just inside the swingin’ door stood LaRue Breton like
a ghost just rose an’ about as pale as one.  His blue eye
twinkled as he pitched his gaze around Waco.  Looked about
like a kid at Christmas what just got what he wanted bad, an’
knew he won’t get, an’ does.
“Then, LaRue goes cold, blue ice from the North Pole
wouldn’t be no colder…them eyes watchin’ Waco for any
move atal’.  That badman never seen nothin’ like that big
Ranger comin’ down on him.  LaRue glided across the floor
an’ stood with the damnation of all outlaws written across
his face.  An’, believe me, Rowdy, Waco seen it!  He didn’t
have to wait to see Purgatory’s Gate, it opened right there
in LaRue Breton’s eyes.
“Waco rose, spilling table, chips, gold, and cards over
the sawdust floor.  The chair toppled backwards, crashing
behind him.  The gamblers scrambled to corners, shivering in
the hot summer air.
“Waco dropped his hand, it was a blur.  I was proud I
wasn’t on the other end of his hate.  Bitter quick was that
outlaw.  Not one chance would I have had agin’ him.”
But, fast as he was, his gun only came clear of leather
when the dust jumped on his fancy vest and the splinters flew
from the plank wall behind him.  LaRue Breton held the Colt
in his right hand as the slug spun the small gunman around.
LaRue pulled the other Colt as Waco looked over the damage
done to the saloon panelling and the Ranger put two more
slugs, together, into the doomed man’s spine.
Waco was slammed into the wall and bounced back around
to face his nemesis.  Somehow, he retained a hold on the
pistol, useless, in his hand.  It went off, blasting a fist
sized hole into the table upended before him.  At the sound
of the shot, Breton cut down with both guns, slamming round
after round into the dead-on-his-feet outlaw.
LaRue walked on into the smoke, pouring fire and lead
into Waco.  When he reached the table, he stopped, seeming to
realize what had occurred.  His eyes searched over the dead
body.  Once again the room exploded with sound as LaRue bored
the last two shots into the corpse.
With a little, underhand pitch, Breton flipped the left
hand gun to the floor by the outlaw, where it bounced once.
The other, he swung in an overhand sweep and threw onto the
body, it landed with a sodden thump, almost a sucking sound.
“Rowdy, I’ve seen a lot of folks pass this life, not a
few of ’em pushed across.  But, I’d never seen a man plumb
wore away by bullets like that!  I must’a been in kinda
shock, for the next thing I knew, LaRue was standin’ right in
front of me.
“He reached out and took up my hand with his left and
with his right he covered it.  Then was when he spoke the
last words anyone ever heard come past his tongue.”
“Windy, go and tell the Major, I’ve finished it.”  That
was all Breton said.
“Wal, he gripped my hand, kinda warm, and as he pulled
it away, I saw the big Ranger Star a’lyin’ there in my palm.
“The room stood quiet as he walked out.  ‘Bye Rue,’ was
all I could run up the pole.  Sounded pitiful, but, that was
all that was said.
“We heard his horse clatter down the road, towards the
Rim, we thought, but, we really didn’t know.  Wherever it
was, nobody ever seen LaRue Breton this side of them Purgatory
Gates again.”
Windy sagged for a few minutes, after the long tale .
The listeners sat, relaxing, in the warm afterglow of a story
finely told.  No one hurried the old man as he gathered his
thoughts, it was obvious he wasn’t finished, yet.
Rowdy’s mind whirled in the mist of years and the action
which reached across them.  He left the yearning to be a
badman like Waco in the distant past.  LaRue Breton now held
the high and shining honor of being the youngster’s hero.
And not a little bit of the reflected light shone upon the
old man, Windy Sharp.  Windy’s tale turned out to be a well
greased idea.
At length, Windy roused and continued, “Wal, son, I took
that star up to Flag’ and tol’ Major Lexington the whole sad
story.
“When I pulled the star from my pocket, I gave it a
long, sentimental look and reached it out to Lexington.  He
watched me and when it looked up at him, he pushed it back.”
“‘Sharp, Breton gave you that star.  He is a man who
knows exactly what he is doing at all times.  He meant you to
have it.  Pin it on, he swore you in better than I could do,’
the Major tol’ me.  An I did.
“Rowdy, I wore that star for ten happy an’ horrible,
scarifyin’ and satisfyin’ years.  All tol’, them was the ten
best years of my life, just as that one night at the Satin
Slip Mine was the worst.
“I’ve seen badmen and Civil War, goodtimes an’ bad, some
fine hosses, fine women, an’ damn to them tin Lizzies they
run aroun’ in up in Flag’.  But, I never seen nor heard one
single word more about LaRue Breton, to this day.”
“Now, gentlemen, I hope you took notes, ’cause that tale
will pass the mouth of Windy Sharp no more this side of them
same Purgatory’s barbed wire Gates!”

Two months later, Rowdy, his mom and dad, and a
surprising number of the long time locals of Riddletop, made
the twenty mile trek down off the Rim, in buckboards, through
the stiff needled, sweet smelling blue spruce and the aspen,
just curling its fresh bell shaped leaves, to lay Windy in
the tiny Sharp’s family homestead cemetery; amidst the
mist-shrouded mountain beauty of the spring filled Tonto Basin.
And, the year was 1924.

Beyond and Again

Yellow Elk moved in swift strides across the sandy
silence of the forest. Footfalls were as quiet as the
darkness touching the sentinel fir and sweet scented pine surrounding him. Yet, even the skill of Yellow Elk paled to the ability of his unseen, unheard friend.

Now and again, the young warrior would pause, wondering if he were, indeed, so alone as his senses told him. After a moment, Yellow Elk felt the warm presence of the other. He reflected upon the name chosen for his companion so well describing that wraith-like presence…Wind Which Speaks.

The two formed a brotherhood in youth, a fellowship in adventure. They were a part of that fraternity of young seeking always to test their courage and honor.

This night, a force of power drew the spirit within them to the darkness of the river. Knowing neither reason nor caution, they hungered for that which spoke, unseen.

Yellow Elk felt a feather’s breath upon his shoulder.
Stopping instantly, he was close upon the water’s edge.
Slowly kneeling he touched the river with a 
single finger. 


In the darkness complete, he would have fallen, breaking silence, into the water, had not Wind Which Speaks halted him.

Together, they faced across the waters, waiting that they knew not. An ancient mountain stood towering and glowing lightly in the starlight across the stream. And, standing thus, they perceived a faint light growing to limn the peak. This was the moon flowing across the night sky. Soon it would break over the mountain to bath the land in soft honey veils; sundering darkness.

In the ethereal iridescence which precedes the moonrise, Wind Which Speaks knew another presence and it was upon the waters. He, spreading his hand, swept his arm slowly over the river to indicate to Yellow Elk these others. As he motioned, the waxing moon coursed o’re the mountain, mirroring into the river waters; a bridge born of God’s crystal tears. Upon the waters danced and twisted ancient spirits in wisps and tendrils of misty vapor. The mists whirled and dissipated only to be reborn and multiply.

As the young warriors watched, enveloped in awe of the night’s artistry, they heard a sound no louder than a baby’s sigh, but unmistakably that of an paddle upon the side of a tan-bark canoe. Through the parting mists an apparition appeared. Wind Which Speaks could clearly see a war canoe which carried five mighty warriors bearing down upon them. He turned, whispered word upon his lip, only to see Yellow Elk did not share his vision.

Indeed, though Yellow Elk could perceive some form across the waters, it was only another fantastic forming of the vapors. As it came nearer, he felt no fear, only the unfamiliar strangeness of the night. His eyes roved hither and yon, seeking the unseen canoe which he unmistakably heard. But, when the voice spoke, flowing over the water before him, fear then struck deeply into his courageous heart.

“Hail, young warriors of our people,” came the deep
voice, quiet and harsh, quivering the very leaves about them.

“Who speaks thus,” cried Yellow Elk?

Wind Which Speaks made no sound as the attention of the savage warriors within the canoe focused upon his friend. Yet, though he could taste the fear consuming Yellow Elk, he could see none upon his face.

“Come, travel with the ancients to fight the enemy who live beyond the known waters of this your river. Know battle with us! This night we shall deliver those warriors to that place where they shall fight no more,” came the deep voice while ignoring the question of Yellow Elk.

The spirit of Wind Which Speaks was calm as he
lingeringly inspected the occupants of the large war canoe.   He saw the five warriors who held five shields and their weapons. There lay another shield beyond the last warrior.

The first warrior held a shield and upon it was the sign of the bear, fearless and first to charge into battle. This warrior was the speaker. The next warrior carried the sign of the eagle upon his shield; the wise counseling the raw bravery of the bear.

Next, a warrior bearing the sign of the buffalo; the provider, solid, of the earth which carried the river waters… that which was and will be forever.

The fourth warrior bore the sign of the mighty waters; indomitable and forever as the earth. This warrior and the third held paddles. The fifth warrior was a darkness in the moonlight and his sign was of fire. In the deep recesses of his skull blazed the insane flames of madness, the light in the sightless eyes of a mad wolf. He was silent. And beyond him lay the last shield in the dark void of the shadow canoe. And the sign upon it was death.

“Come,” repeated the warrior of the bear and he raised his mighty arm to beckon Yellow Elk.

But, the young man could not face this which he could not see. He stumbled back and faced his friend. “I cannot… I must return to the people,” he stammered. When he saw the strength of Wind Which Speaks he sought to cover his weakness and spoke thus, “You may go, if you wish.”

As Wind Which Speaks turned to gaze into the face of Yellow Elk, he saw the hopeless fear of the unknown. The wind knows some of the restless spirits of this and other worlds and this man who bore the name of the lonely wind knew also. Yellow Elk’s eyes begged forgiveness for the weaknessof his quailing heart.

Wind Which Speaks placed his hands upon the cold
shoulders of Yellow Elk, a smile softened his harsh mouth as he spoke, “Go, my brother. Speak to our people. Tell them I shall return… if only in farewell or in a faraway day. Take courage within your spirit for of these things you know not.”

And to the time-ravaged warriors in the canoe he exclaimed in a mighty voice, “I shall go with you and we will fight to the very ends of the earth… and beyond.”

Thus parting from Yellow Elk, he made a mighty leap and fell amongst those in the canoe and they were departed. The braves felt the strength of Wind Which Speaks as he entered the canoe and knew their choice was true. For it had been this young warrior and not Yellow Elk for which they sought.

Yellow Elk watched with dread as his brother disappeared into the swirling mists. He heard a faint noise as the warrior fell into the canoe, as a single leaf makes dropping upon the floor of the forest. The only sound ever after was the gentle rip of water closing where the canoe was no longer.

Taking paddle, Wind Which Speaks drove the canoe far into raging currents. The sinews of his mighty arms corded as he flung the frail craft amongst fog shrouded mist, over the foaming crests and down the long miles.

By and by, they came to a land which was bathed in pale light, riven with dark rain. The spirit of Wind Which Speaks would have fallen as if frozen by bitter winds of winter had he not seen the hell fires leap full force into the eyes of the dark warrior kneeling beyond him.

The warrior of red flame felt the enemy long before fiery eyes beheld.  Seeing the flames uncovered, Wind Which Speaks brought forth the fighting madness in his own soul preparing for battle.

A huge cry broke from the throat of the bear warrior as he jumped firmly upon the riverbank. And lo, there was the enemy all and about the companions. The battle joined and blows fell as thunder from the sky. Wind Which Speaks slew an enemy and rushed to aide the eagle warrior beset by many. The fight roiled upon the hillside and darkened the lowering moon.

Many and many fell to hideous wounds, yet the enemy never seemed to be lessened. In fact, they grew in power and pushed the companions hard upon the river’s edge.

Fell death facing them from the water and the enemy about and among, the bear warrior uttered a great battle-cry and unleashed an unseen fury upon the enemy and all the spirituous brotherhood fell upon the enemy in renewed strength.

Many of the enemy fell and many of the companions of the war canoe were seen to fall, but Wind Which Speaks saw none of this. He could but batter those who came before him and, with swinging blow of club, seek to shatter.

O a sudden, there was quiet and he halted to hear a whisper going along the shore, “See, he is hurt, he bleeds; let us flee this place. He lives to die and this should not be,” so saying, dark forms fled the battle-ground.

Wind Which Speaks beheld and could not comprehend. Then, he dropped his gaze and saw the blood which covered his chest. A wound was opened there and his life was but loosely held within by a weakening spirit. He knew fear.

The warrior of the Buffalo gently placed him into the canoe and covered him with many hides of wondrous softness. Wind Which Speaks felt the blackness cover him and the smooth flow of water beneath the canoe. Yet, before darkness claimed his soul, Wind Which Speaks sought to touch the gaping wound within his chest. And lo, the wound was no more!

Wind Which Speaks awoke as the light softly probed the leather covered opening to the skin house. Dawn was breaking over the village, his home. Above him, his father saw the life in his son’s eyes and wondered. Of great adventure he asked his son. With renewing strength Wind Which Speaks whispered of the night, of his strange companions and of the enemy they met beyond the mists of time.

Speaking, strength returned. When his tale was finished he leaped to his feet threw back the leathern door. There before the lodge stood his friend Yellow Elk. Thinking to reassure his old companion, Wind Which Speaks strode forth into the new light and, with a smile, grasped the arm of Yellow Elk.

But, the grasp of friendship was the talon grip of
death, for life fled from Wind Which Speaks as swiftly as a stone sinks into still waters. Bleak darkness enveloped his sight and the smile failed upon his lips.

Yellow Elk caught him within his arms and tenderly lay him upon the sweet smelling grasses and blooming clover as life flowed out upon the warm breeze. The evil which grows within the mortal man gushed forth from the mouth of Wind Which Speaks in a foul gout of black blood.

Yellow Elk turned his face… seeking the blue sky over all… seeing afar a single fair tendril of light river mist
drifting beyond the breaking day.

 

 

THE SECRET OF THE SATIN SLIP MINE

The torn face of Windy Sharp could most often be found
around the Riddletop Mercantile Store. In clement weather he
would lounge himself in a decrepit cane chair, propped back
against the storefront and protected from the hard sun of the
dry Arizona Plateau. In winter, Windy would most likely be
found draped across his favorite cracker barrel, in as close
a proximity to the big pot bellied, tie-cut stove as he could
properly tolerate. His eighty-some year old bones, which had
accumulated surprisingly little flesh, felt the raw edge of
time when exposed to the winds which ripped directly down
from the frozen Yukon.
A hundred miles to the south lay the harsh desert run of
the usually dry, but, sometimes savage, stone crushing, Salt
River. The lower Salt Valley fell to near sea level and the
days, no matter how low the sun, retained a warm, friendly
appeal. But, from Windy’s cracker barrel perch in the center
of Riddletop, over eight thousand feet straight down would be
covered in a ear popping drop to that same sea level. It was
snow country by anyone’s measure and generally the snow came
packaged in a blizzard manufactured in Siberia.
Windy was the proprietor of the history of southeastern
Arizona, long before the history professors of the State
University down in Phoenix dropped from their dames. He not
only remembered, but, due to a wandering life style and an
agile ability to become involved in any mischief afoot, was
an active participant in most of the more notorious events he
related.
His listeners were a mixed lot of the young and old from
the country surrounding the little, high country town. His
own companions of yesteryears had long departed, leaving
Windy in sole and uncontested possession of the facts; some
saying he occasionally abused this trust. But, who could
gainsay the eye witness whose name did appear regularly in
the old, dusty news chronicles of those days of a long
departed era? Especially a man who had written some long
reports still contained in the ledgers of the Arizona
Rangers.
Windy experienced a Renaissance of sorts as a newer
generation came into being, which held no direct memory of
the times he pontificated about. The years passed and the
world around him changed, yet, only small digressions from
the stories could be detected by his most avid listeners. It
became a generally accepted fact that Sharp’s Law, in matters
related to the pioneering days of the old Arizona Territory,
was the best authority available, outside the written word of
those Territorial Gazettes still in one piece. And the old
news print was always dated, reported from second hand. No
amount of ink could replace the account of one who witnessed
events at first hand and often carried the vivid scars of
those ancient battles, as evidenced by the ripped and scarred
flesh of Windy’s face.
Windy’s name was an almost lifelong possession and
accurately reflected his ability and inclination to talk. It
was lain on his young brow by his mother, a woman of stolid
Texas cow country stock, who left this life in childbirth,
down in the Tonto Basin. Windy, as usual, found the best
words to describe the naming event:
“I’d brought some tale in to satisfy Ma about the latest
personal malfeasance I’d involved me and my brothers in. She
was a kind woman, but, could recognize a rounder before he
crossed the lower bridge on the Tonto, leading up to our
little spread.
“She told me, ‘That, son, is pure West Texas Wind!’
“I reckon’ its been Windy since that day..nigh on eighty
years ago.”
The listeners surrounding the weaver of tales would give
the usual little laugh. Not out of any sense of obligation,
but, rather, out of respect for their old history book on
the cracker barrel shelf.
Rowdy Miller was a particular favorite of the old man.
Rowdy’s father owned the Bucket and Bell Ranch, north of
Riddletop. Like many of the ranchers in the area, Miller
realized how the world was changing and wanted his son to get
as good an education as available in the area. So Rowdy
spent long hours on the four mile trail to town and back each
day.
Sometimes weather would intervene with a blasting
snowstorm falling onto the little community out of the
Painted Desert to the north. These storms blew up in a
matter of minutes and devastated the plans of every thinking
person within miles. When the cattleranch kids were caught
up in the throes of a blizzard, Mrs. Kitchner would take them
all into her big, many bedroomed and empty house to mother
until the storm passed. These were times of rare joy for the
kids, a holiday from the hard rigors of ranch life. Games
for the smaller children and immature courting for the older
ones carried on far into the night, all under the watchful
eye of the matronly old spinster.
Once, a twelve year old boy and his sister were allowed
to try for their home when a small snow squall eased into
the town, just as school let out. The snow increased and the
children became disoriented and lost. They were found, days
later, frozen, in the lee of a spruce, south of town. The
horse wandered home, unscathed. Since that pitiful
experience, Mrs. Kitchner would take over the welfare of the
children at first snowflake and only relented their care when
all danger was past. She removed the children from harm’s
way. The grateful parents regularly rewarded her for the
keep she furnished, but Mrs. Kitchner’s own reward was the
safety she offered and the sight of her home full of happy
kids.
When the snowpellets peppered the outside walls, Windy
could count on Rowdy to take his place at the old man’s feet
to hear his tales of long ago battles. Windy became attached
to the boy, probably because the kid reminded him of himself
at the other end of the long, dark tunnel of years. Sharp
felt a good strong pride within when he saw the sparkle of
excitement he put in the boy’s eyes. Rowdy made him recall a
hound pup he’d had when he was young, down in the Tonto Basin
on his father’s grassy ranch, before the cattle wars broke
out and his remaining family were rooted out and spread
across the land..or killed.
Like the pup, Rowdy possessed big nose, hamsided hands,
huge ears, and feet about six sizes larger than was
absolutely necessary to keep his tow head above his skinny,
tadpole tail. All in all, the boy was a good, wholesome
product of ranch life and held the beginnings of those morals
which would stand him good for the balance of his life.
When the youngsters gathered about him, Windy, to his
credit, attempted to lace his stories with those traits so
cherished by the westerner: honor, fealty to your partners,
and to love and protect women. He felt a special bond with
young Rowdy Miller and suspected his efforts at imprinting
this young, and far from sterile mind were paying dividends.
So, it was a soul wrenching slap the evening when Rowdy
sauntered into the store with the snow pelting down and
rising two feet against the buildings, to announce to Windy,
“I’m goin’ to be just like that desperado, Waco, Mr. Sharp,
when I git growed!”
A deep, sad light gathered in Windy’s torn old face as
the words soaked into his mind. An astute observer would
have seen the many memories flooding through the old man.
Indeed, Sharp was even more deeply affected by the words than
could be seen from his outward aspect. A phrase, especially
from his young protege, could not have been found to rip him
in a more profound way.
After a moment, he rallied himself and, straightening
his spine, he faced the problem as he had so many others in
his long life he cared not to number them. Putting his
flinty eye upon the boy he said, “Sit down son. I’ll give
you the true dope on this Waco gent, no salted, preserved
leavin’s, but, the raw unvarnished truth.”
Rowdy was aware he’d struck some type of nerve and sat
as he was told in his usual position, at the old man’s feet.
Looking up, he noticed a kind of spare strength he’d not seen
before, looking out the rheumy eyes.
Windy’s first words came as a shock to Rowdy, “Boy, I
was a Arizona Territorial Ranger for ten years. It was due
to one man..that man was LaRue Breton. The finest man to
ever walk God’s green earth. The likes of this Waco don’t
make bug squat to a man like LaRue.”
Giving time to his mind to gather the strings of
thought, Windy sat immobile for long moments. When he
grabbed the ends together he went on with the story he’d
spent long years trying to forget.
“This tale is for only you, Rowdy. It won’t ever be
tol’ again.” The other men in the room gathered close to the
stove and one prodded up the fire a little. This story
promised to reward them for many a repeated tale and long
hours of listening to trivial remembrances.
This is the story, occassionally in Windy’s own words,
as he told it to Rowdy that night:
Larue Breton was a Ranger, part of an elite force which
tried to guard the territory against the predations of
countless outlaws of all kinds and the fast gunmen who hid in
the vastness of the desert and mountains. The Lincoln County
Wars were winding down, over in New Mex Territory. The big
ranchers there and the Federals were hanging the leftover
badmen and sweeping the rest out across the boundary lines.
The same general thing happened in Colorado and Texas.
As the gentlefied woman’s face of civilization showed herself
across the land, the riff raff of the west were pushed
further ahead of her. The same type thing occured over in
California. The herd of hungry killers fell into Arizona and
Utah, the last of the untamed wilderness left in the west.
And there was a terrible, wonderful wild land within the
borders of the Arizona Territory.
“Waco,” declared Windy, “nobody ever knowed his name, or
cared for all I know, was one of these hombres. He’d built a
reputation for himself in Lincoln Country as one who would
kill anyone, any time, for any amount of money. The killing
served as its own reward for Waco. I heard once he gut shot
an old drunk down in El Paso and wouldn’t let anyone out of
the saloon. He just sat and watched, drinking from a bottle
of whiskey as the man twitched and finally died. Took half a
bottle. Waco walked out of that bar a happy man. That was
the type of low scum he was, a regular full blown pestilence.”
Waco crossed over into Arizona one summer and spent his
evil earnings in one bar after another. He killed a couple
of men in Globe and drifted down to San Carlos. There he met
Lisa Wilkins. It was the proof of the evil in him, what he
did to the girl.
She came to the town with her brother, Emmet. He bought
a small bar, enlarged it, and catered to the miners from the
small quartz mines around there. For a short while, there was
real excitement about the gold in the rocky mountains and the
river’s sandy bed. It played out pretty quick, but, just
then it meant some fast money flying around. Lisa stayed
around the bar, as Emmet kept his eye on her. He need not
have worried, for Lisa was pure and innocent a girl as ever
graced the territory. Until Waco came.
When Waco walked into the saloon, he touched some deep
need in Lisa. He carried his short body like a king, the
pride of the gunfighter showed in every move he made. It
made up for, in some degree, what he lacked in physical
stature. His evil good looks, and he was a handsome gent,
appealed to her vanity. When he caught her look, some foul
motive took him and he made every attempt to drag her down to
his own cesspool of life.
Lisa’s dark haired beauty missed sultry by about two
heartbeats. The raven hair framed a face of innocent charm.
When she entered a room in her gold shot dark blue dress and
red sash, it’s sure she turned every head. Her sparkling
brown eyes searched for the dead, cruel, splintered green of
Waco’s.
Some perverse thrill must have driven Lisa. Emmet tried
to warn her of her folly, but, Lisa must persist. She
carried along with Waco for two weeks and the warped little
man ran out of money. Waco headed down into the mining
country and miners began to come missing. That was the point
where Larue Breton entered the story.
The Rangers were organized to try and tame a huge
territory. There were only twenty six of them to start. It
was a pitifully small handful of men, no matter they could
each wrestle a full grown Grizzly single handed. They, needs
be, were spread across a huge expanse of mountains and some of
the most rugged desert in the U.S. Only the most pressing
situations could demand an Arizona Ranger.
Trouble between Mexican sheepherders and the cattlemen
in the Sierra Ancha’s brewed up and Major Lexington, head of
the Rangers decided it needed nipping in the bud. He sent
word to LaRue to take care of it and to, by the way, settle
the hash on one Waco, a killer rumored to be murdering some
miners.
The message caught up with Breton as he delivered the
last in a long line of prisoners to the hungry gallows of the
territorial prison in Yuma. With no more than a nod, LaRue
straddled his horse and headed up to San Carlos and points
north.
He roamed up into the mountains to try the waters of
the incipient sheep and cattle war first. By the simple
expedient of finding no sheep or herders, he decided the
powderkeg was defused and went after his alternate quarry.
Two days yielded little in usable information. He was
advised by a wizened little man that if he inquired in
Wilkins’ Saloon in San Carlos, he may stumble onto the news
he wanted. Without delay, LaRue followed the lead.
When Larue Breton sidled into Emmet’s little bar, a new
era dawned for Lisa. The moment she set eyes upon Larue’s
long, spare frame topped with his sandy brown hair, Waco was
relegated to the territorial past. Only the demise of the
badman remained to mar the future. She saw LaRue the instant
he passed through the batwing, swinging doors and watched as
he surveyed the room.
Hawk eyed, buckled for trouble as all Rangers must go,
LaRue carried the look of pure hell fire waiting for a match.
He possessed a dark and somber countenance which could freeze
the core of many a would be crook and put an unknown desire
into wanted men..the need to be away, far away. Panther-like
moves carried him to the bar where he leaned, back to the big
mirror.
His gaze lingered on every face and many a one would
turn the crimson of a mountain sunrise under his scrutiny.
He sought not those small fry in the saloon and his eyes
lingered over Lisa for long moments. She felt her own face
begin to color and the faint stirrings of resentment. Any
mood she retained was washed away when LaRue’s face broke
into an unrestrained grin. As Lisa gazed into his sky blue
eyes and the easy grin spread, she could perceive the sky
open from dark clouds and the sun break forth. Breton pulled
his big sombrero from his head and the sandy gold hair
spilled over his face, as the gold splashed clouds paint the
summer sunset.
Breton, in quick, smooth steps, appeared at Lisa’s side.
He sat without so much as a by you leave. Their eyes never
parted for an instant. He asked Lisa, direct, did she know
the outlaw known as Waco.
“I do. And it is for you to kill him. Never will
there be rest not peace for me until you do,” was her
forthright answer. She didn’s rattle around as most women
would have done. Lisa found the beast she wanted and was
willing to pot any other that got into her way.
Larue’s backbone rarely bent and he sat ramrod in the
wooden chair. He slowly slid his fingers beneath his vest
and pushed it back. The Star of the Arizona Ranger appeared
like the first star of evening. Lisa’s eye followed his
movement and when she saw his badge of honor, felt the
strength flow into her.
Behind the bar, Emmet rolled out the long sign of a man
just reprieved, standing with the rope around his neck. He
knew this stranger to be the famous Ranger LaRue Breton.
Love is a curly haired little monster that peeks at a
man from behind bushes and deep draws, then pounces on him
when he least expects it. LaRue entered the saloon knowing
Waco could be there. Therefore, he went in ready to fight
and to blast the life from another lawless devil. The last
thing the poor Ranger looked for was this dark haired spirit
girl awaiting her future. They both found that they least
expected in the waning of the mining days of San Carlos, in
the Wilkins’ family bar.
The Ranger lingered long that night, talking to Lisa.
But, he recalled his work. Bidding her good night, seeing
her dark look of wanting, and wishing he needn’t go, he left.
Down the San Carlos to where it joins the Gila, he
traveled. Ever seeking word of Waco, hoping to finish the
job and return to Lisa, LaRue found only cold trails. At the
end of a week, he once again sought Lisa’s company.
In the joyful reunion, they appeared as the lovers of
many years. But, the joy was short as Lisa told LaRue, “Waco
is near. I have heard he was seen near Peridot, two days
past. He would not come so near and not come to me! Oh, my
love, what shall we do?”
LaRue cursed himself for seven kinds of a fool. Waco
was so near where he had been for the last days and he
escaped the Ranger’s grasp. He told Lisa he would set out
for the little town on the Gila to head off the outlaw. But,
if Waco should return to send word quickly. The distance was
not great and he could return in a few hours time. Agreed,
they parted again.
Unknown to either LaRue or Lisa, sly, gauche eyed Willy
Potts sat only one table over and in the chair directly
behind Breton. Willy fancied himself the greatest badman ever
to be. His only hold outs were no courage and not a brain in
his pointed little head. He carefully listened to every word
which passed. Noting it all down in his minuscule mind, he
set out to find Waco and his gang. Willy would parlay this
knowledge into a place in Waco’s plans.
Waco was not hard to find. His location could be found
through several of the lesser known badmen in the area.
Willy went directly to the Satin Slip Mine. The mine was the
abandoned work and dream of a Dutchman named Rossman. He dug
what ore existed from the mine in just two days, but the hard
headed miner kept at the digging long after in vain hopes of
hitting another pocket of gold laden quartz. After sixty
feet of desperately hard work, even a dead man could see the
fruitlessness of the endeavor. The mine and its attending
shack were abandoned over a year ago. Falling into a
dilapidated state, they were used only by Waco in his
occasional need for a secure haven.
Willy whispered his name and the outlaw allowed him to
enter. Telling his tale, he watched as Waco’s neck swelled
and his face became a mottled red. Fearing for his life,
Willy withdrew to the stone wall and awaited the outcome of
the black thoughts he could see pulsing through Waco’s head.
At length, Waco regained control of his dark passion.
“The girl had jilted him for a Ranger,” thought he!
“Don’t you fear for Waco, Willy! I can take care of
this mighty Ranger. You can see here,” he waved around the
dark and empty mine shaft, “I ain’t got none of the boys
here, just now.”
“Reckon you could get one more to help me, we’ll put out
the lights on this tall hombre!”
Did he! Billy Stupert was every bit as good a gunhand
as Willy and could be counted upon to help to terminate an
Arizona Ranger. “Why,” thought Willy, “our reputations will
be made in one stroke. Everybody in San Carlos will give the
sidewalk to Willy Potts now.”
“We’ll lure Breton here an’ ambush him when he comes to
get us,” declared Waco!
Plans laid, Willy departed to find his friend and Waco
retreated into his dark, foul thoughts.
The next day, a teamster left a letter in the only bar
in Peridot, “From a lady in San Carlos, for thet Ranger,” he
told the barkeep. At about ten that evening, LaRue entered
the bar and took the letter from the white fingers of the
barman. Opening it, he read his lover’s words:

“Rue,
I have a note, in my hand, from Waco! He is here,
now. I must go to the Satin Slip Mine and meet him
at nine tomorrow night. Please, be quick, our
lives depend on this.
This is my plan: I shall go and meet the killer
one last time. You will go there now, as soon as
you may. The last time I met Waco there, I saw a
keg of powder at the mouth of the cave. If you
can, without being seen, set the fuse and prepare
it to blow-up.
I shall slip away, when I may. You will be in the
rocks, there are many, and will see me. I will
make some small sound so you shall know it is I.
Be fast, my love, my heart. This we shall do and
we will be free!
Tomorrow night, dearest.
Lisa”

Breton gazed into the smoke of the room for some minutes
and then turned to a miner near him. He asked if the man
should know the location of the Satin Slip. Most miners knew
of the Dutchman’s folly and directed LaRue with accurate
information.
Late that very night, Breton reached the mine. Finding
no one around, he proceeded to secure the powder and fuse.
He found not one, but three small kegs of black blasting
powder. All had been used and all retained no small amount
in residue. In a small wooden box, were three sticks of
dynamite. Pouring the powder all into one barrel, he fused a
stick of the dynamite and crimped it with his teeth. He led
the corded string out the corner of rough rock to a hidden
spot. Returning, he made sure no marks remained and left the
entrance undisturbed.
The sun only cleared the mountains when LaRue finished.
He turned to think the situation over and determined to get
himself a bit of help.
“My part come in,” says Windy, “when he wandered, early,
into my little two bit camp on a sandbar of the San Carlos.
I’d come a bustin’ into the country to git rich..quick. I’d
busted all right..an quick. LaRue braced me to help him git
this Waco and tol’ me what he’d done to set it up.”
“I agreed, right enough,” the old man continued, “Waco
was a terror that needed pluggin’.”
“LaRue know’d me from up on the Tonto. He punched cows
for some of the smaller cattlemen an was one reason every
Jake one of ’em wasn’t killed in the big war with the big
cattlemen. I’d been a little frazzle headed kid on a mud
colored mustang then, but, he’d been friendly to me.”
Breton and Windy wound their way back to the Satin Slip
and took up positions. Windy to the front, amongst the
jumble of boulders in the draw facing the front of the mine
and LaRue to the side, where the fuse lay. On the far side
of the mine face threaded a little trail leading to San
Carlos, past the dilapidated shack.
The day passed hot in the rocks. Breton, no sleep for
the past night, dozed and nodded. Windy sweated and kept in
the shadows as best he might. Just after the sun sank beyond
the rocky mountain rim, the three outlaws rode up the trail.
Waco led, his piercing gaze searching everywhere. Windy
slid far into the crack he occupied. LaRue almost cut down
on the little killer right there, but, refrained fearing to
miss. The plan of Lisa would seal the fate of the evil
monster, for sure.
Sheltering the horses within the dirt floored shack,
they made their way into the cave. The stars gained
ascendancy over the sun-emptied sky and the night roamed on
to its fateful completion.
Not long after the tiny moon set, Lisa rode to the shack
and tied her pony to a loose board. Stealthily, she trod the
track and entered the mine.
LaRue could feel the pain of seeing her disappear within
the lair of the killer. With all his strength, he withheld
his desire to blast his way into the foul den and free his
love. The hours passed with the slowness of eternity.
Softly he shifted position time and again. Waiting was not a
game the Ranger played well. He longed for the fire to
cleanse the air and purge his soul.
Time passes for everyone and when the night grew old,
before the morning was new, Lisa came, silently, from the
cold maw of the mine. She moved as a wraith across the rocks
and mounted her horse. A small pebble she threw on the tin
roof of the shack to mark her passing.
Not hearing the sound of the horse down the trail,
Breton waited long moments more, to be absolutely sure his
beloved was well away. When he felt sure of her safety, he
lit the fuse.
It smoked its way into the mouth of the cave, the
resulting explosion rocked LaRue from his heels. Dirt and
rock launched far into the night air, filling the valley with
debris. Huddling his head between his arms, Larue awaited
the outcome. Through the rushing noise, he could hear the
sound of the mountain collapsing over the mouth of the old
mine and the rocks raining down on the tin roofed shack.
Dust settling, he came to his feet and raced to the now
disappeared mine shaft. Satisfied, he turned to seek his
deputy, fearing he might have been hurt by the falling rock.
Shouting, he searched the rocks where Windy was hidden,
finding him in the crack. Windy had a huge knot on the side
of his head.
“Like one of yore ears, Rowdy,” Windy threw in.
Reaching for Sharp’s canteen, he mopped the man’s face.
As Windy recovered his senses, LaRue sighed.
Windy, bleary eyed at first, came around. He took on a
look of dismay..he was naked except for his long john’s.
Breton had not noticed, in the dark, and asked Sharp
what he had done with his coveralls. Even then neither
realized the horrible turn of the night until Windy declared,
“Rue, I was hit before the blast. I never heard it!”
Then..only then, did LaRue see the fate he’d been dealt.
Spinning, he stared at the long gone hole. Shuddering,
he raced to the place the old Dutchman had spent long hours
of backbreaking labor. LaRue threw himself onto the blasted
rock and the dust rose as he pitched big rocks away. In a
frenzy, Breton tore at the face of the mountain of rubble.
Tears streaked down both cheeks and the air rasped from his
lungs.
“Aw, I tried, waren’t no use,” Windy sadly recalled the
night. “I grabbed one arm, but, Larue just elbowed me back
down the hill. Tried again an’ again, same thing. When
such a thing happen’s, ain’t no other person in the world,
just you and what you lost.”
The sun rose and with it the heat. Hour after hour,
LaRue Breton continued his purgative labor. Windy stayed at
his back the whole time. He began to roll the larger rocks
away and noticed the streaks and splotches of blood covering
them. Breton’s fingers and hands were shredded from the
sharp quartz.
In time, even the strongest must rest and Breton, at
four, collapsed against the boulders. Sharp brought him
water and with quiet words convinced the Ranger no hope was
left. Returning with the horses, Windy brought the lost man
to San Carlos. He turned LaRue into a rented bed and went
down to tell Emmet of the tortuous night. After that
sorrowful deed, Windy Sharp drank himself to sleep. In the
morning, Ranger LaRue Breton was gone to parts unknown.
Breton figured work would drown his sorrow and he set
out upon one daunting task after another. After each,
though, his trail led him back to the defunct Satin Slip
Mine. He would relive that night each time and the pain
would come again. Ever he searched for the outlaw scum,
Waco.
“Weeks later,” Windy droned on as the snow climbed the
outside walls, “I was up in cow country again, workin’
roundup outside Happy Jack. Me an’ a few of the boys went
inta town on a windblown Saturday afternoon to throw a few
back. Come along nightfall and who should walk in but Waco.
“That stole the wind right out of me. Didn’t know what
to do. He walked over to the poker table, proud as you
please, an’ sat down. Drew a hand and played like there
waren’t no trouble in this world.
“I laid my plan to brace him, couldn’t do no other
thing after that horr’bul night. I owed it to LaRue. I
poured a little red liquor down my raw feelin’ gut and slid
my hand around the grip of my ol’ pistola.
“Waco must have had an eye on me, for he caught the
motion and pinned me with one of them cold eyed stares of
his. I couldn’t bring myself to move. Then, just as I was
thinkin’ I’d be the chief performer at an inquest, we both
noticed as how the room become dead quiet.
“Just inside the swingin’ door stood LaRue Breton like
a ghost just rose an’ about as pale as one. His blue eye
twinkled as he pitched his gaze around Waco. Looked about
like a kid at Christmas what just got what he wanted bad, an’
knew he won’t get, an’ does.
“Then, LaRue goes cold, blue ice from the North Pole
wouldn’t be no colder…them eyes watchin’ Waco for any
move atal’. That badman never seen nothin’ like that big
Ranger comin’ down on him. LaRue glided across the floor
an’ stood with the damnation of all outlaws written across
his face. An’, believe me, Rowdy, Waco seen it! He didn’t
have to wait to see Purgatory’s Gate, it opened right there
in LaRue Breton’s eyes.
“Waco rose, spilling table, chips, gold, and cards over
the sawdust floor. The chair toppled backwards, crashing
behind him. The gamblers scrambled to corners, shivering in
the hot summer air.
“Waco dropped his hand, it was a blur. I was proud I
wasn’t on the other end of his hate. Bitter quick was that
outlaw. Not one chance would I have had agin’ him.”
But, fast as he was, his gun only came clear of leather
when the dust jumped on his fancy vest and the splinters flew
from the plank wall behind him. LaRue Breton held the Colt
in his right hand as the slug spun the small gunman around.
LaRue pulled the other Colt as Waco looked over the damage
done to the saloon panelling and the Ranger put two more
slugs, together, into the doomed man’s spine.
Waco was slammed into the wall and bounced back around
to face his nemesis. Somehow, he retained a hold on the
pistol, useless, in his hand. It went off, blasting a fist
sized hole into the table upended before him. At the sound
of the shot, Breton cut down with both guns, slamming round
after round into the dead-on-his-feet outlaw.
LaRue walked on into the smoke, pouring fire and lead
into Waco. When he reached the table, he stopped, seeming to
realize what had occurred. His eyes searched over the dead
body. Once again the room exploded with sound as LaRue bored
the last two shots into the corpse.
With a little, underhand pitch, Breton flipped the left
hand gun to the floor by the outlaw, where it bounced once.
The other, he swung in an overhand sweep and threw onto the
body, it landed with a sodden thump, almost a sucking sound.
“Rowdy, I’ve seen a lot of folks pass this life, not a
few of ’em pushed across. But, I’d never seen a man plumb
wore away by bullets like that! I must’a been in kinda
shock, for the next thing I knew, LaRue was standin’ right in
front of me.
“He reached out and took up my hand with his left and
with his right he covered it. Then was when he spoke the
last words anyone ever heard come past his tongue.”
“Windy, go and tell the Major, I’ve finished it.” That
was all Breton said.
“Wal, he gripped my hand, kinda warm, and as he pulled
it away, I saw the big Ranger Star a’lyin’ there in my palm.
“The room stood quiet as he walked out. ‘Bye Rue,’ was
all I could run up the pole. Sounded pitiful, but, that was
all that was said.
“We heard his horse clatter down the road, towards the
Rim, we thought, but, we really didn’t know. Wherever it
was, nobody ever seen LaRue Breton this side of them Purgatory
Gates again.”
Windy sagged for a few minutes, after the long tale .
The listeners sat, relaxing, in the warm afterglow of a story
finely told. No one hurried the old man as he gathered his
thoughts, it was obvious he wasn’t finished, yet.
Rowdy’s mind whirled in the mist of years and the action
which reached across them. He left the yearning to be a
badman like Waco in the distant past. LaRue Breton now held
the high and shining honor of being the youngster’s hero.
And not a little bit of the reflected light shone upon the
old man, Windy Sharp. Windy’s tale turned out to be a well
greased idea.
At length, Windy roused and continued, “Wal, son, I took
that star up to Flag’ and tol’ Major Lexington the whole sad
story.
“When I pulled the star from my pocket, I gave it a
long, sentimental look and reached it out to Lexington. He
watched me and when it looked up at him, he pushed it back.”
“‘Sharp, Breton gave you that star. He is a man who
knows exactly what he is doing at all times. He meant you to
have it. Pin it on, he swore you in better than I could do,’
the Major tol’ me. An I did.
“Rowdy, I wore that star for ten happy an’ horrible,
scarifyin’ and satisfyin’ years. All tol’, them was the ten
best years of my life, just as that one night at the Satin
Slip Mine was the worst.
“I’ve seen badmen and Civil War, goodtimes an’ bad, some
fine hosses, fine women, an’ damn to them tin Lizzies they
run aroun’ in up in Flag’. But, I never seen nor heard one
single word more about LaRue Breton, to this day.
“Now, gentlemen, I hope you took notes, ’cause that tale
will pass the mouth of Windy Sharp no more this side of them
same Purgatory’s barbed wire Gates!”
Two months later, Rowdy, his mom and dad, and a
surprising number of the long time locals of Riddletop, made
the twenty mile trek down off the Rim, in buckboards, through
the stiff needled, sweet smelling blue spruce and the aspen,
just curling its fresh bell shaped leaves, to lay Windy in
the tiny Sharp’s family homestead cemetery; amidst the
mist-shrouded mountain beauty of the spring filled Tonto Basin.
And the year was 1924.

Story of the Mountain’s Child

The cold rippling waters
plunge into a dark abyss
of depth untold;
a thunderous stage
for her rich Asian beauty.

Upon the stones she rests
as did the long generations
of her mothers,
throughout the mountain ages
of the vanished past.

Her dark almond eyes
and downy cheek are framed
by the wind-whipped veil
of raven hair;
she is the mountain’s child.

I came to her
in a fiery fall
of quick red flames
and  unbridled terror
from the blue-domed sky of night.

My body she stole from death
and gave to me new life,
here upon this
rim of earth-bound sky.

Never a field of new clover
or a sweetly babbling brook
or a soft and warm summer’s night
has she seen or felt;
only the rock-enshrouded mountains height.

Long weeks upon the soft furs
of that lofty hut
she nursed my broken flesh;
until my wandering spirit she wrenched
back into it’s castle of clay.

Yet, the final cost
she must pay
for my earthly flesh
may be the breaking of her world;
for she cured me with her love.

In her fine dark eyes I see
the melding of her soul
with the timeless flow
of the river of mountain life;
time is the raging current,
her life a single petal upon the water.

Her love lies upon
my finger tip;
her life…in my palm;
for I doubt not she would tread alone
that black and lonely trail
down into that dark abyss.

Of this world I could not conceive
before the fall,
from the crucible of flying hell,
and I was reborn upon this
lofty spire of stone.

Now, I have lived
in a phantom world
of dreams unleashed
with a dark-eyed wraith
from the lower reaches of heaven,
for half a year.

Freedom is mine
to leave or love;
she holds no chains
nor weaves a gypsy spell to bind me
to her high-vaulted home.

Should I remain
in this world
of thin sun-drenched air,
purest snow amidst relentless stone;
her sterling soul would rest
within my embrace.

There is the call
of that other world
from another time
which beckons me back;
a tune of old familiar things,
a well-remembered song of comfort.

Her’s is the siren’s lure
in the wild mountain wind,
out of the east;
and, the evening star rising
from the cloud mists,
the ancients walk the earth again.

As the stars dust across
an infinity of deathless blue,
I know that to love her
and hold her in my arms,
would bind me to her timeless world;
one with stone and sky.

Long ago I died
to all which went before,
no more sorrow should fall
if I rise not again;
the choice is mine.

Yesterday and eagle passed
so near I could have touched
his beating wings;
and he cried his piercing summons
to tarry with him in this harsh place
of beauty and mystery.

The lure is strong,
the past draws me
back into its embrace;
I must leave,
blind to her love,
deaf to her soft plea.

Leagues away
and long miles below,
I struggle through
brown torpid waters
and, sweat-blinded,
fight the encompassing jungle.

Each turning of the way,
she calls;
in every cloud and dream,
I see her face.
She reaches across the space
and I feel her warm heart pulsing.

At the last,
broken and on my knees,
I can go no further;
I turn and race
back to her lonely call.

Torn, my heart asunder,
I stand over the dark abyss;
her stone seat is vacant,
I have returned too late.

But, hope throbs in my mind;
her presence vibrates
through my spirit;
she lives yet below,
I must seek her in the depths.

Into that dark hole I enter
down the faint trail
often taken by others,
those who had no wish
to return to this high world.

Dark snow waters raise
a perpetual mist;
moss-covered boulders
block my questing heart;
and eternity lulls my thoughts.

I fight the soft embrace
of the shrouded one
seen at every turn;
his song is peace,
his dark face is death.

Down and down I stumble,
into the rock-choked depths.
Ever stronger becomes her presence,
her siren song of love;
at last I glimpse her far ahead.

Long before I reach her,
her woman’s breast
tells her of my nearness;
she turns and I see
tears of joy flood her face.

I wonder at her smallness
within my huge embrace,
as I smother her to my chest,
and we turn to climb
the trail from which
no others have returned.

And through the years
I watch the time
grace her sloe-eyed beauty,
and wonder that I ever left
the mountain’s child.

The Merry Wedding Reception

    The two weary riders slowly threaded their  horses  down the tiny street.  This  was  an  Oklahoma  farm   town consisting  of only a few houses,  a mercantile  store,  and   a    small church.   There  were  several heavy wagons,  buckboards, and plow horses drawn up in front of the church.
Bill  Matlin and Lupos were reaching the  end  of   a trail that extended back  to  the Badlands of Utah.   At the  other  end  of that trail there had  been  an  explosion  of  blood, murder,  and  violence.   They  were glad  to find the peace of the small farm community.
The  doors  of  the church flew open and  a  merry  crowd flowed onto the street.   It was obviously a wedding ceremony, just concluded.  The bride and  groom  led   with others of the party  showering  them  with   rice.
Happiness  shown   on   everyone’s face.
Lupos  started  to make a comment to Matlin  when  he  noticed the bride, staring at the heavily laden wagons, questioning her new husband closely.
Above the noise of the crowd,  Lupos heard her say,  “..Where? what of my work..teaching?”
Her  husband   told her,  “Just shut your  face,  Jesse,  and  get on the wagon.” He then mounted to the seat.
The  minister and,  apparently,  her father  was  now  enjoining  her  to climb on the big wheel.  Jerking her arm  from his grasp,  she flung some unheard  remark  at him.   The older man,  dressed  in black cloth,  gave her a short, wicked backhand stroke, knocking  her,  befuddled,  to   her knees.   Her   father    immediately grabbed  her  from behind and handed her up to the awaiting new husband.
Reaching  down  the young man placed one  hand  under  her   armpit   and grabbed  a  handful of her gown with the  other.   When he lifted her up, Lupos  could  hear  the fabric rend.
The  buttons of the bodice scattered in  the  dust  of the street and the lace  was  shredded,  leaving    her breast exposed to the delight of the onlooking little boys.
As  he  seated  Jesse  on  the  seat beside  himself,  she  could be seen regaining  her  senses.   Her white, chalky  face  then took on a hideous mask of unrelenting rage.   Throwing herself  on  the  man,  she sank her canine teeth,  now somehow enlarged, into  his  jugular vein.   Violently twisting her head from side to side, like a hungry lioness, the flesh was ripped and torn.
A  great  gout  of blood pulsed from his neck covering her white,  ripped gown  and  the  bare  flesh  of  her chest.   Grasping  his mortal wound, the  man   toppled  forward from the wagon seat. He fell under the hooves of  the  nervously trampling horses.  They immediately made a crimson pulp of his terror ridden face.
With  pieces  of  her husbands flesh clinging to her mouth, the beautiful young  woman   turned   the   fiery, inhuman  eyes  in a crimson blaze on her   father,  standing    awestruck beside  the   wagon wheel.   She was undergoing  some  unholy,  catatonic change as she snatched up the great, horse whip and slashed him downward, across  the  cheek  and  eye.
The braided rawhide cut the old flesh to the bone.  The slash emptied the eye of a clear,  jelly like matter.   It ran  down his mustache as his hard, once  piercing  eye slowly collapsed inward.   The  girl  screamed    her victorious obscenities to the world.
Again  and  again  she lashed out at her aged father.
Lupos  called  to  Matlin  over  the bedlam,  “Great  merciful   heavens, Bill..what type people are these?”
Matlin  muttered  in   a   disgusted voice, “Sodbusters!  Never know whut they gonna do.”
The  old  man  had by now managed to take a hold on the whip.   He ripped it  from  the grasp of his hideously transformed daughter.
Spreading his legs,  he  bludgeoned   her from the wagon  and  prostrated  her  on  the ground  with  the  heavy,   weighted handle.   There she lay, sodden with coagulating  gore.   Blood  trickled from her lips.  Her unconscious body twitched    spasmodically,    making strange patterns in the dust.
The  old man,  calling to his plump, crone  of a wife,  flew into action. He secured a rope from the wagon and together  they  pulled the grotesque form  which  had  once  been   their lovely  daughter  to the front porch of the mercantile store.
There, he hove  the  rope  over the large sign extending from the store front.
The  old  woman  wrapped  the  noose around  her  bad little girl’s neck.  Together,  struggling,  they managed to  pull  the  inert  body  off  the boardwalk.   When  they had her just clear of the boards, he tied the end of the rope to a post.
Jesse  quickly  began jerking to and fro  in  a   wild contorted dance of death.   He  eyes bulged as her face turned first a motley green and then a  rigor  blue.   The wild gyrations continued  until the life was slowly drained from her.
Matlin  said  sideways   to   Lupos, “Let’s git shut of this place.”
As  they gouged their mustangs,  the old man,  taking great strides, came athwart  of their path.   He was now brandishing  an  old civil war issue pistol.
He  yelled  at them,  “You ain’t riding out of here to tell the world of our little faults!”
The old woman followed at his heels, glancing  back  with   a   look   of satisfaction   at    her    daughter languidly  twisting  in   the   soft breeze.   As  she  reached  a  point directly  behind  her  husband,  the sign  supporting  the  late scene of justice,  broke  with  a sharp snap.  The body fell in an ugly mass on the walk.
The  old  man  gave a glance lasting only  a  moment to the refuse he had left.   It was more than enough time for  Matlin  to  pull  his  polished pistol.   He  bored  the man through his  good right eye,  blasting bone, brain,  and gore out the back of his head onto his wife.   She never knew it.   After  the massive lead bullet crashed out the back of her husbands head,  it   impailed   her    chest, embedding  itself  into  her  heart, killing  her  instantly.   She  died happily gazing at the wasted form of her child gone wrong.  The pair fell onto  the  dirt  filled  road  in  a crumpled heap of torn flesh.
The trailriders spurred their horses into  action.   Matlin’s  mount went through the defeated,  fetlock deep, scattering  skin and bone down their dusty  trail.   The  spectators  had fled into the buildings at the first sign  of   gun play.   The street now belonged  solely  to the bride,  the groom, and their immediate family.