Fictional Short Story: Recollections of a Western Deputy (1871 -1897)
November 16, 1883 Indian Attack!
After the death of his good friend, Horseshot Harry on October 17th, Marshall Jackson developed a new kind of mean streak in him. I was pulled from being loaned out to the town, and would no longer get $2 an arrest with Marshall Jackson gettin' another $2 for the arrests I would make. I didn't like the loss of earnin'. No sirree. I was back to a regular salary of $50 a month, with hazard day pay of $2 a day plus expenses, and could claim any bounty of those I capture for reward. That was about it.
On October 29th I was contacted by some attorney folks who rode the train out from the Adjutant General's Office. They asked me about this and that, and we spoke about that corruption engaged in by the Town Council that I could prove, and they had me sign an affidavit to that effect. They also had with them another attorney who was empowered representative for some big Pennsylvania man back east. After the legal bally-hoo and what nots, I was offered $8000 for my land up on Bishop's knoll, with a guaranteed income of $300 a month for the next 10 years, in exchange for some Pennsylvania or some such fella's people to come in and drill the oil sludge on my property (which property I bought from my sister-in-law), and to run a pipe over to the railway tracks and ship it out thataway. I would continue to get paid the $300 a month, even if the oil ran out, which their expert fella said was vast and wouldn't likely run out for as long as the contract was. I asked the Adjutant General people what they thought, and they recommended a proviso that if they continued to extract oil, that regardless of the amount, I should be paid at a rate of $250 a month after the previous conditions were met, and continue thataways until the Pennsylvania fella's company stopped extractin' the oil. That was agreed to, and I was thankful.
[Little did I know that startin' in March 1884, they would be pullin' oil out of that well regular for 12 years and 4 months, after which the payments stopped. The payments along with the up front monies amounted to $51,000. -- Deputy B. June 20, 1898]
The Mrs. was so happy when I brought home the $8,000 in cash to show her, that we sent the kids over to her mother's. After two days off with private celebratin', we brought the children back home, and they was glad to be back. We then returned to focusin' on our regular doin's and I was takin' extra time again to show the Mrs. and the eldest four children the skill and proficiency of rifle, shotgun, and revolver shootin'. Both the Mrs. and my eldest boy, Winchester, were gettin' to be better dead shots than I was, especially on the slow bead. They picked up the basics of windage, elevation, and distance arcs better than I did, at times. One of my favorites with these was using the imaginary midget. When a fella is about a hundred yards away, and you are firin' a Colt revolver with the load I use, you want to imagine that a midget is standing square on his shoulders if the fella you is shootin' at is standing or kneeling straight at you. Shoot that imaginary midget in the face, about 2 or 2 1/2 feet above his head, and you will as the bullet drops and arcs down, it will hit the one you is aimin' at somewhere from the bridge of the nose to the top of his chest. The next eldest two boys were good at loadin' and the concept, but only decent shootin' at targets less than 30 feet. My eldest girl took after her mother, and despite bein' almost 4 years younger than Winchester, she could almost outshoot him with a .30-.30 for accuracy at distances up to 200 yards. It was almost as if we was gettin' in a men versus the women of the family for a while thar', but I stood up at the 500 yard line, and did a trick shot with a .50 caliber buffalo gun that never missed. But I had to always start with the barrel straight up, let it slowly drop and level out, let out a little breath of what I was a holdin', and squeeze the trigger gently until she popped. It was a preferred method of shootin' if you had great distances and didn't mind dead giveaway of wherever you was shootin' from. I taught the Mrs. this trick, and when I wasn't home, and she was practicisin', she was a showin' off to some of the neighbors doin' the same sharp shootin' trick at the same 500 yard line. Only a few days later, she and the children would be doin' it for real.
For the past bunch of years, there was alot of killin' of the buffalo and other game that fed the Indians. Unknown to us, 100 miles away, the Sioux who pressed way too far south and into other lands they didn't have claim to, was a bein' provoked yet again. The U.S. Army fort, some 40 miles from where they was had verbal orders to leave them be, and to keep it hushed. The Sioux was made up of 5 large tribes, and they was a goin' hungry. They made medicine which told them to raid south before headin' back home some 400 miles north. And as they made medicine, word came to their medicine man and chiefs that 16 white men, unemployed cattle hands, had crossed up with some of them at a stream somewheres, killed 11 of their braves, raped some of their women, killed some of their children and old folk, and even stole some horses from them and headed south. 3 war parties of near 80 braves from 3 different camps, and another 2 war parties of about 60 braves each from the other 2 camps all lit out, and took to a blood trail on 16 culls, who while fleein' the Sioux, stole horses, shot ranchers and travelers along the same way, and even burned 4 homes as well as 2 corrals and a barn.
The next day, word came across the wire about the band of 16 whites, what they had done to the ranchers and folks along the rode, and indicated they was about a day's hard ride further away then they actually was. There was NO mention at the latest wire as of 9 pm the night before we was to ride about the 360 Sioux in 5 distinct war parties that was a trailin' them. Marshall Jackson and 3 other deputy marshals along with myself were a gearin' up at just after first light at the new Marshall's Office that we and about 30 of the Townsfolk had just built (a 60' by 60' log building with 6 jail cells at 10' by 10' apiece), when one of the boys noticed what looked like big smoke over at Batlersville. Moments later, at the edge of the disappearing night sky to the west was what looked to be a series of huge fires was a goin' up and roarin' high on the horizon over toward Praire Flats. Then what seemed seconds later, we heard several shots in the distance, comin' from the west of town, as 8 Indians all in war-paint came a swoopin' down Main Street with a war whoop and Henry repeatin' rifles, chasin' down 2 whites on white frothing wore out horses, and not 100 feet from us had shot them dead. The Sioux, we found out later, had also had stabbed and scalped the night telegrapher and the night porter at the train depot. But seein' the whites go down, shot in the back and not knowin' who they was, we all threw them 8 Sioux down and their horses with them in a hail of bullets with clouds and clouds of acrid smoke, gunpowder, and hot lead. One of the fellow deputy marshals rode off and rang the town alarm bell with a hammer, the signal for Indian Attack that hadn't been sounded since shortly after that girly haired Yank named General Custer was wiped out with more than 200 of his command years ago.
I never got the chance to ride home, even though it was just over a quarter mile away. The Mrs., who was in the kitchen brewin' coffee and makin' breakfast for the 4 eldest children who was awake, and hearin' the alarm, saw several Sioux at the back of the woods of our place, and took charge. She gave out orders as she pulled my .50 caliber buffalo rifle, and got off 3 single 500 yard shots before she barricaded the house. The Mrs. put on her double pistol belt given her by Sheriff Bond a while back, as the 4 eldest children quickly storm shuttered and barred the windows and doors and otherwise fortified the house as we previously done where we had practiced drillin' as a game to keep imaginary skunks with the ability to jump 8 or 10 feet in the air, out. I had left them 8 rifles and 6,000 rounds of ammunition, and at least 1,000 rounds for the revolvers, not to mention 2 12 gauge shotguns and another 120 shells for those.
I felt sick to my stomach as I wanted to protect them, and instead had to go in another direction, when the Indians could be flankin' us, and who knew if there was hundreds or thousands attackin', and we was about to be over run, or what. It was all I could do in joinin' the Marshall and the remainin' two fellow deputy marshals and grab another saddle bag and stuff boxes and boxes for the Winchester and the revolvers, mount God Ole Boy (who noticed the extra 40 plus pounds in weight from the ammunition and saddle bag), sink spur, and head out toward where the Indians had come.
No sooner than we had rode another 100 feet past where we shot the 8 Sioux down, than we was beset on both sides by more than twice that many more Sioux. I was clubbed, stabbed at, slashed across my left shoulder blade, shot 3 times through my clothes as a fourth shot both took my hat off and rang my ears as I got jumped as three hands got a hold of both gun hands and fingers obstructed the hammers to keep me from shootin' as a bony hard forearm choked me across the throat and pulled me back, and pulled me off my horse almost head first into the ground. Meanwhile, the other 2 Deputy Marshals and Marshall Jackson shot it out with the Sioux. The Sioux killed both of the other two deputy marshals, and as the fall knock those who jumped me loose enough for me to twist and turn and break free from, I came up a shootin' both revolvers. I made quick work of the two who jumped me, and I think shot another 8, but dropped only 7. As I pulled a shotgun off a fellow Deputy's horse, I got the dizzies, fired and missed one, but got the other as the first one fled. I then fell back into Good Ole Boy, and had to hang on to the horn of the saddle a bit, as I tried to shake the blurred vision where I could no longer tell who was who or what was what for another moment. Then I sneezed, and my vision came back. I instinctively reloaded as I looked around and tried to quickly regain command of my senses and course of action. Marshall Jackson was unhurt, and a cussin' me for not regainin' my composure quicker. Then, to my surprise, former Sgt. O'Malley and two of the boys rode up askin' if I needed a couple extra guns to string along with me and the Marshall. I growled, "Let's give these sons of b*****s one for the Confederacy!!!", mounted Good Ole Boy, sunk spur, and led the boys out toward the railroad depot to find me some more Indians. As I looked back over my right shoulder after about 15 seconds into the gallop, I could see Marshall Jackson way back, sittin' on his horse, not movin', as if in a state of shock himself, who then sunk spur and rode back into the heart of town.
In the distance, as we rode off Main Street and continued West up the access road to the Train Depot, I could see a party of another 15 Sioux herdin' about 50 horses on the far side of the tracks, who saw us and hard galloped north with the herd. After about 5 or 6 minutes, we caught up with them, and had a gallopin' gunfight over the course of almost several miles near all the way to Batlersville. We downed 8 Sioux, and the remaining 7 led us into a band of near another 60. Seein' that war party, me and the boys pulled up, and immediately maneuvered toward a gully with some trees for cover. As we fired off some rounds, that party of Sioux took up their hundreds of cattle and horses, and herded them north, ignorin' us. Then goose bumps. We heard another war party flankin' us from the west, that war party bein' made up of more than 40 more Sioux were ridin' down on us. I couldn't say or think of any prayers, and in my mind, as we looked like we was about to die, all I could do is kick myself for not plowin' the wife one more time like she wanted me to last night, and instead I chose to just roll over and fall asleep, when O'Malley pulls out two taped up sets of dynamite, with 5 sticks each, and holds it up. I did a double take, and yelled, "O'Malley, you gander brain! One shot and you would have blowed yourself and us all up!" To which he replied, "Sgt. Major, you always said you wanted to get to Heaven. If these had a blowed sky high, just think of it as just giving you a little push to get there!" And hurriedly Scott adds, "O'Malley, will you shut up and throw it?"
So O'Malley threw the dynamite out about 60 and 63 feet out, about 30 feet apart; as Scott cussed him for bein' a drunken flabby armed (unmentionable) and how that Scott's own wife could throw it near twice further than that. The Sioux were fast riding down on us, and just as the first horse leadin' a cluster of 6 on the left reached the 5 stick charge on the left, I shot the first charge and got a face full of dirt and a flying one pound rock that hit me square in the forehead that sent my head flyin' back, knockin' me off my feet and drivin' the back of my head down to the ground bouncin' hard off a tree root. That one pound rock gave my forehead a three inch extended out swelling more than 4 inches wide and 3 inches high. While I struggled in reaction to what had happened, Scott shot the second charge, and I could hear O'Malley, Bauer and Scott lay down a volley of about 20 shots apiece, as I blurrily was able to see again, I quick drawed picked off 5 of 6 more before the dirt clouds dissipated and revealed the Sioux had fled. The Sioux retreated, and returned north. In all, we had killed more than 40 Sioux, wounded at least 10 or 15 more. The Sioux made off with near 300 horses, more than 400 steer and some 40 milk cows from Batlersville and Prairie Flats, and was a headin' for home.
Meanwhile, back at the house, the Mrs. shot 5 more Sioux dead as they broke through the kitchen door, and my boy children shot 3 or 4 more who were bein' carried off even as Marshall Jackson and a band of 40 of the town's militia ran up and killed most of the remaining 20 or more on or about the property, but not before the Sioux had killed most of all my livestock, exceptin' Clarissa our pet goose, knocked over and destroyed all 4 of my outhouses, set fire to the hay and also set fire to my more than 46 cords of wood. Fortunately the wind was blowin' away from the house. More than 40 indian ponies were captured at the backside of the shallow woods at the back of the property where this war party of Sioux had earlier jumped off their ponies and gone afoot. My family was safe, and unhurt. In all, over 60 white folk was dead in the Batlersville and Prairie Flat raids, with some 118 more wounded. 78 homes burned to the ground in Batlersville, and 93 homes and several businesses likewise burned to the ground in Prairie Flats, near their entire Community (and that after havin' rebuilt after that twister not that long ago). 9 whites were dead in our town, including 2 U.S. Deputy Marshals, and 23 wounded. No homes here were burned down, but we did lose a couple of corrals and 9 of us had extensive property damage.
I checked on Beth and her family, and we spoke about my havin' a real thick door for the kitchen, along with a new door frame that I would have to make and install. I decided to hire her eldest boy to help me fell a tree 200 year old Maple Oak I was savin' out back, after which I cut and made the frame and own door. The door I made at 6" thick, and it weighed well over 500 lbs. I installed the frame, but I still have to have Lars special make the iron hinges to support the weight of the door, and after goin' over it with him, he says it will take 2 days to make once he starts, and that he will get to makin' it on it on or about 18th.
Meanwhile, the hammock Army finally made its way out with nothing more than a 7 man patrol of one sergeant and 6 troopers who arrived by rail, checked in with Marshall Jackson, got his autograph that they was here, and then left with the next train back 6 hours and 10 beers apiece later. The Army and the Government and even the governor are all pretendin' that no raid ever happened. As far as I know, the Sioux made it home entirely unchallenged (exceptin' us) and entirely otherwise unmolested. The Adjutant General wire issued orders that we are to let the Army handle it, and the "it" is just that, no acknowledgement, no specificity.
We was told by a conductor that was bringin' the Army patrol back that the Fort where they are assigned is to, instead, pull down and bury a buffalo bone mountain collected from all the Buffalo the Buffalo hunters killed some years back. The one over in Cheyenne is 30 feet high and 60 feet wide and goes on for about a mile, I heard tell, but have yet to confirm. The one 250 miles northwest of here is 2 miles long and varies 15 to 18 feet high, and that one I've seen myself. Winter is a comin' soon, and it's not likely the Army will do anything about the Indians, the buffalo bones, or anything else for that matter.
Instead they drill and throw around their swords like they is puttin' on a show, and cut a few more ear tips off their heads like what is gettin' to be a habit among them of late. They's gettin' to be nothin' more than a hammock army, like a bunch of beached sailors put near 1000 miles inland away from their element, with nothin' to do but lay around, all lost from what they was created to do because of politics. That's what I think.
-- Deputy B.