May 14, 1882 Sunday
The Day That Pigs Flew and How I Accidentally Skunked the Town
It has been over a month since we had the Carnie Raider Massacre, as we locals call it. It seems silver was discovered by the Carnie raiders thar' in the hills of the pass and that the discovery of that sparked interest in many of the locals and brought in outsider lookies over at Rustler's Pass. So far, more than 500 men and families have moved to the outskirts of town on rented lots in old Wilbert Myers now all but abandoned cropland, and in lands across the road that were taken up by the same bank that was blown to pieces by the Carnie Raiders during their raid into town, and divided up into rented lots of 10 by 10 rods (that's 100 feet by 100 feet) apiece for those folks. Almost 1085 folks were surveyed as having Moses'd on in, and that in just under a month, and set up spread out camps in wagons and pitched tents, sleeping there by night, and by day prospecting for silver. Yes sirree Robert E. Lee, I guess thar' must be some 77 mines they is diggin' over thar' pulling out just enough silver to buy supplies and make my cosuin Beth the richest General Merchant Store in this here part of the country, with 3 to 5 wagons a day loaded with goods a day comin' in, and the empties going out, so that I spend the late morning and early afternoon giving escort to those wagons as well as to the Wells Fargo stage and any horses or ta' other they wish to transport, and any folk that want ride along just behind in order to get through Rustler's Pass and Tombstone Canyon without a ruckus it theys a headin' out thataway.
The day after the Massacre of the Carnie Raiders, I was later told, the Town Council had expanded the town limits right up to the pass itself, and now on top of cleaning the stalls, combing down and feeding the horses, backing up Sheriff Bond or making arrests of local jackasses who can't live peaceable like, now I spend morning and near sunset over thar' at the prospecting camps which stretch out more than a mile into the fields on both sides of the road. Some one or two of them have so settled in that night after night they return with loads of gravel for their own path, making a new road into the fields here and thar' as they come home after each day.
Some of the townsfolk are a gettin' jealous, and there is talk by some of the gossipin' women of how the town ought to fine and seize the gravel. One of them, an old maid of 62 and an always stirring up trouble and good for nuthin', couldn't shut up. So one day whilst she was by the cow stall and makin' the same ruckus like a wet hen, I rode up and gave her a shovel and told her to go dig for it herself. And if she couldn't stop, the 3 foot piles of cow droppings were right over thar' and to shovel her gossipin' out with the cow droppings, as folks wouldn't recognize the difference between one or ta' other. I thought the wife was going to lay me out with an iron skillet when I got home, like when she laid me out for smiling at the new school marm Miss Svenson, and then accidental like saying I was only thinking of her when I was a smilin' at Miss Svenson's frontal curves. I never knew what hit me, and I was laid out for 4 days. It was 3 weeks before I was able to get back on the job after that, and even Beth lays out an iron skillet with a loud thump on the counter if Miss Svenson and I are ever in the store at the same time. She gives be 30 seconds to scedattle out of thar' from the time she lays it out with a thump. And believe me, I jump with a usual excuse of "Excuse me, ladies, I forgot thars some rustlers the Sheriff wants me to go catch."
About a wild turkey trot, that's about one and a half miles to folks round here, about that distance west of the the main road that squirts through Rustler's Pass is Duck Lake. Now Duck Lake should have been named Goose Lake as (at least before the lookies came) there were almost always hundreds of geese thar', and not that many ducks, except two weeks out of the year if ya'll put them all in a lump of time together; and that during the migrations north in spring and south in the fall.
Well, after I lost my horse to the Carnie Raiders last month, I got me a fine 3 year old Palomino Horse, for which I had to make an extra 23 arrests of drunken cowhands (who bring their cattle to market at the corral south of town) to pay for it, and another 11 arrests to buy a new .45 because one of the 14 I slugged to sleep like from behind bent my pistol barrel when I missed the first time as he ducked under an iron rail after he tried to stab me in the face with a broken whiskey bottle when all I did is tell him and his pals to settle down and pay for their drinks first, as there was no credit when it comes to drinkin'.
I wish I was lucky like the Sheriff, as he confiscated a fine black mustang off a corpse who was bushwhacked out at the camps. Nobody knew who he was, but he did tell folks here abouts he had no kin, as they was all dead from either the war and then the remaining female relation from both dysentery and cholera in Baltimore from bad city water there.
Morning and afternoon I'm out there in and through the camps and Rustler's Pass escorting Beth's wagons and Wells Fargo and folks, and then checking in on the camps on both sides, and all I git from them folks are their high stinks (even when i am upwind of them) and the pukes. You think being near to 4 mile creek they would have more than enough water to wash their dresses and shirts and britches, if nothing else, as it runs 4 foot and more deep all year long before going out to the cattle hole watering hole south of town and then back underground somewhere. Twice a day, I tell them they need to dig a hole, go, and cover it up. But no, some of them were doing it right in the middle of the road for my horse to trollop on, and after 4 times scraping that high smellin' skunk off my new horse. The bunch of drunks that were our Town Council refused to pass a city ordinance now that it was town jurisdiction, and Sheriff Bond kept saying, leave it alone. But when my wife and kids sounded and then looked to getting sick from the stink they was having when the wind blew from the pass over the town as we tried to sleep with the windows open on a still to warm night, I had me enough.
At first light, just before dawn on May 5th, I got my double-barreled single shot, saddled up my new Palomino, and sunk spur. And there they was, 10 or maybe 11 of em, as if all together a squattin' at the side of and in the middle of the road. I rode in a a high gallop, gave a rebel yell, and birdshot at the 6 of them in the middle of the road with their britches down (but only got two of 'em good). A third one I shot, I don't count. The one that don't count I shot and missed was that one road squatter who I got in the foot as my new Palomino jerked and slipped in the road to the right a bit, as I shot to the 11 o'clock left. And good thang that no good cotton-pickin' road squatter jumped, because he spun round facing me as he got up, and if he hadn't of jumped he would have been missing certain essentials as the second blast went between his knees with a slug shot that I accidental like placed in a barrel on a quickie reload instead of the pocket with the shells with only the bird shot. That shotgun slug shot blew an 8 inch downward top section of a dead tree stump that was behind that varmit. I reckon by the time I shot at him, the camp was a lookin' to where we was, and saw the wood of that stump go a flyin' 15 or 18 feet up through the air and realized that one of their fellow road squatters was almost castrated. That varmit who I shot in the foot with birdshot then hopped out into the fields like a crazy jack rabbit in a one legged frenzy and without his britches and shoes, as naked below as the day he was born. The whole camp on both sides of the road saw this, and you should have seen how many holes were being dug and how fast they was a diggin' them. A couple folks in the fields was a even paddlin' the dirt like dogs to cover up their smelly cast outs. Within two hours most of the stink was gone, and folks who kept lookin' at me lookin' at them even went about tearin' down their wagons to make for thesselves outhouses.
After that, not only were folks stoppin' from a gettin' sick so much, but whenever theys saw me a comin', they cleared the road long before I got thar'. My cousin Beth, known as the widow Bennett, who owned the largest General Store round about these parts, had a fire sale on iron skillets and anything made of iron of any noteable size. Soon after that, my jaw dropped so hard I thought it hit the horn of my saddle the first time I returned to the Pass, and saw that any of the men within shotgun range of me in the road or in the Pass would pull these iron skillets out of thin air and nowhere, and all of a sudden, a coverin' their privates with one hand and with the other hand and body jitters holding their hats over their chest. I hadn't the heart to tell the Sheriff why the miracle of everyone all of a sudden doing so much being suddenly peaceful like and quiet in the Pass and in the Camp and in the Town when I was around after that morning, and bless him, he never asked. And thinkin' back, I think that fear is why the town never tried to either run me and mine out after what was to happen next.
On the dawn hours of Tuesday May 9, the Sheriff had me go to the jail and meet the two new deputies he hired on as directed to by the town council, and put me on "the case of the missing suspenders." Starting 4 or 5 nights prior like, over 183 suspenders were stolen from various townsfolk, (the mayor, fat and rich as he was, losin' 52 of them). Every once and a while, some young un' would get a hold of one and use these for the sling of a sling shot because of the rubber. The ones Beth sold shrunk to as small as a foot and stretched out as many as 7 feet and hooked on to buttons because the hook and eyes often broke, not havin' enough sewin' or somethin' to that effect. The town was a gettin' suspicious the thief who was doing all the suspenders stealin' was part of the prospectin' camp. So I started thar.
I got to the far side of the western camp, and in the distance, from the final slope of the hill that makes itself out like a tombstone with a sheer drop at the pass, from the western slope, I flying up and out like a bird, twice the height of the tree line something flying, and then came down just before Duck Lake. When I got to Duck Lake, about 4 rods from the east bank of it, I found it was a 10 lb. dead pig. Just then, the geese made a ruckus and another pig, over 20 lbs, flew over my head and dang if that oinker didn't land about 5 rods into the middle of duck lake. I got the rope off my saddle and lassoed that dinner for the wife and kids in. After cutting it up and burying the waste parts, I took dinner home.
Sheriff Bond had gone over with some prisoners to the next county on extre- dition and the two new deputies, I had no idea where thy was at. Marshall Jackson was still laid up and finishing a month long drunk after the loss of his niece, and was only just sobering up, but still house and chair ridden, hobbling from thar to here and here to thar', waving his walking stick at anyone and everyone that was full grown and a cussin' black clouds except for when children about Sarah June's age and younger came into view or when his kid sister and her kin came to visit. Then, when these were present, for the first few minutes, he sat and slumped and made this wretched pained face, his body a heavin' in his chair and cried without tears as if he had cried them all out. After that he was came and peaceable like, and very polite, as if nothing happened. It was if he put his bad side in a room somewhere, and locked the doors while his good self came out to visitin'. he gave me instructions of how he wanted me to blast out 14 tree stumps for him, and that I would need to use 14 charges of 4 sticks of dynamite apiece, and would I do this for him. I told him I would, and then went over to Beth's store and let her know. She had to order in extra dynamite, and it would be two or three weeks yet. I then let Marshall Jackson know and then went home, only to find the house empty. The wife and kids were probably over either one of her sisters or her mother's place.
So, no one being abouts, I went down to Maywood's saloon, and had me a wide beer. Maywood offered 3 beer sizes, short for 3 cents, tall for 5 cents, and wide for 15 cents. The wide was like a short glass pitcher, and held over a quart of beer with a 3 inch head of foam that flowed over the side. Thar' I spoke to a few of the boys who I served with during the war, and told them about the flying pig. Theys all laughed. And the more I told it, the more it became like Saturday Night with a bunch of rowdy teenage cowhands tryin' to play grownup. I got so rattled I called Tombstone Hill as Tombstone Mountain. "It's a hill." they uns laughed. "I knows it. Same thang." I replied.
On Saturday night, May 13, I again went to Maywood's for the second time that week, and got me another wide beer. This time, after the boys laughed and had their fun, and insisted I would take them out to Duck Lake at dawn, near the time I saw those first and only two pigs fly...ha,ha. So the next morning, on the morning of this May 14th, as folks were waking up to milk the cows at 3:30 am., I woke their sorry backsides out of their drunk, and bent another gun barrel over that chowder-headed ex-corporal, and at gun point, rode the 4 of them out to Duck Lake before the dawn came up. And sure enough, it wasn't even 5 o'clock and light out, when flying out from the trees to the east, an 18lb pig flying and tumbling head over hoof landed on a goose about 11 rods in the middle of Duck Lake, and he and the goose went to the muddy bottom and never came up again. About 5 minutes later, another pig came over the tree tops and almost landed on ex-Sergeant O'Malley. When the third oinker flew wide and south of the lake by about a stone's throw, ex-Sergeant O'Malley yelled "yellow tavern" and the boys sunk spur and rode into the woods knowing exactly what to do. Less than 10 minutes later, we reached the starting point.
Kenneth "Butcher's Boy" Beavers had constructed for hisself the world's largest sling-shot. All told, there was over 215 pairs of suspenders tied together like some kind of giant narrow fishing net between two maple oak trees with a hemp rope tail that wrapped around a giant birch some 90 feet or more away, which he pulled around as using leverage from so that he could both load and launch the pigs in that way. Me and the boys gathered up the evidence, and made young Kenneth run all the way back to town as if we was herdin' a stray young bull. The Sheriff, unkownst to me, came back in town the night before, and was back at his office. And of course the Sheriff being the Sheriff, loved sling-shots hisself since he was a boy. So what does he do? He takes us to the Johnson's place on the far west edge of town, and has us put up the now tangled up slingshot between two pear trees and wrap the tail around an apple tree at about the same distances apart as we saw in the woods, and pulls it tight so as to be ready to launch, gives me the rope, tells me to stand there like some kind of moron in the middle of the field holding a rope and to hang on with a firm grasp, and then goes off and uses a stick in the dirt guessin' at math about it.
By this time, it now being well past 6 in the morning, and most of the town woke up, Mrs. Beavers and two of the young uns, Kathy age 10 and John age 9, also were in tow. After dragging Kenneth east and out of the field to the other side of the road, with help from two of the boys, as a crowd of three or four hundred of the townsfolk (includin' children), gathers to watch the goings on right in the line of fire of the slingshot. Mrs. Beavers takes a horse whip to Kenneth while two of the boys hold him in a bent over position. Meanwhile Kathy and John step away and go over to a patch of bushes and found a white striped black cat, and put it in the center patch on the giant slingshot, a bit over arm's length away from me, and they uns run like they was being chased by a farmer chasing trespassers with a pitchfork. So I look down at the cat. Only its not a cat. It's an angry skunk looking up at me, making noises and baring its teeth. The Sheriff jumps up and yells for me to not let go of the rope, but that command only seems to make the skunk angrier. And as soon as that critter turned about to let loose his spray, I was already hittin' the dirt just as if a 16 lb fragmentary shell shot was a comin' down my way. I hit the ground so hard, I bounced over half a foot, and one of my .45's jumped its holster. As I settled into the dirt after I bounced, I could hear what sounded like the whole town screamin' behind me.
The skunk flew like a cannon shot, sprayed the entire crowd of townsfolk gathered on the east end of town, and sailed like a Chinese fire rocket all the way down Main Street, (a distance of almost half a mile), and planted itself halfway through the old town sign (that was donated when Maywood first put up his saloon); the skunk knocking out the cheap thin plank having the town's name, which was put at the top at the insistence of Mayor O'Riley and becoming little more than a sign with "Welcome" and a dead skunk draped over the top of it. It was at this point the new town minister, a Presbyterian turned Baptist minister, rode up in a wagon with his wife and remarked how "This town stinks to high heaven with sin! Martha, here's where we start saving souls, find our congregation and build our church!"
June 11, 1898: Note regarding this last part - To this day, several times a year, that same Pastor, who is now my Pastor, still uses this remembrance in his sermons, which he punctuates with the story of how the town almost renamed Main Street as "Skunk's Hollow" in my honor. I haven't had one time yet, where he gives his remembrance that most of the old timers of our congregation hasn't at that point in the sermon turned their heads all together at the same exact time, and stopped giving me their icy stares yet.
-- Deputy B.
The new Pastor wasted no time getting settled in town, and the way he did it was by preachin' to the women of the town first, and having late morning and early afternoon tea and coffee and lemonade and dainty stuff that was pot lucked by the women in town to show off their baking skills one to the other. In less than a week, the wife was draggin' me out of the breakfast chair by the ear and orderin' me to go help build that new dang chapel, about 3 1/2 blocks away, down aways then left, across the street and a block down turnin' right and goin' south of Beth's General Merchandise Store. I wasn't two steps down out the front door before she in all her 5 months of being with child and bulging, buried her right shoe right in the middle of my sittin' place, just as Sheriff Bond was a lookin' over as he was passin' by on his black mustang. But it got worse, as her shoe stuck, and there I was, slowly a runnin' down the rest of the steps and up the path to the front white picket fence gate wincing and loudly groanin' in intense pain, feelin' as if I was a draggin' a dead weight, and the little woman one foot out in the air like so and the other stuck up in my sittin' place, with her a wavin' her arms and a bouncin' up and down off the ground a cussin' at me from behind. The Sheriff was a laughin' so hard he fell off his horse. When I looked behind I saw I was in even more trouble and was a hurtin' so bad I couldn't pull her foot out. There I was, a bent over holding onto the white picket fence gate with both hands for dear life, and a crowd was a quickly gatherin' to see my predicament.
One of the wife's sisters and her mother came over, all a flustered and embarrassed, and with the Sheriff they pulled the wife's right foot out of her shoe, and then the Sheriff pulled the shoe out of where she with what must have been a running kick had so forcefully lodged it. After which them women told the Sheriff to take that shoe and to burn it. Me. I had to git over to Doc MacDonald's for some help of my own. It was two weeks before I could saddle a horse again, and three weeks before I could sit almost without pain again. By that time, I had gotten the entire framin' done and was a layin' the final touches on the roof, as the school marm along with the Pastor and his wife, and some others took all the small children of the town (around 60 of them), south of town to picnic just north of the waterhole that was filled in by 4 mile Creek. I told them who was in charge of the children that a new herd was a comin' up from south a ways and was less than two days out; but between the Sheriff, the Town Council, and others objectin' to my objectin', they paid me no mind.
On June 18, at about 10 in the mornin', I was drinkin' from my second pail of beer, wipin' my brows of sweat, checkin my .45s to make sure they wasn't a comin' loose out of the holsters, and lookin' out to the horizon south. And there I saw the incomin' herd of more than 3,000 cattle clear the last hill about 4 miles south of the watering hole, comin in from the southwest. I called out a ways and got Beth's attention, as she was out writin' in a little book or somethin', and told her to send out a rider to git them kids back into town. She said not to worry, and that Marshall Jackson's dynamite was ready, and short fused in a large sack (which she pointed to) with a pencil she then put back behind her right ear. "But Beth", I cried down, "the Jones Cattle from Texas has just cleared Bishop's knoll!" Beth then called out to Henry, and sent him a runnin' to Lars' Livery, in the opposite direction to fetch a horse and ride.
As Henry disappeared around the corner, Beth called up that my wife was out there with my children, and as she said that my hair stood up. Then all of a sudden, dust clouds that took me a few short seconds as I whirled around and screamed down to Beth with all my voice I could muster, and yelled,
I'm a comin' for the dyna-mite!!!"
Beth and I grew up in the same home, and we are cousins. She knows when I am dead to rights serious, and the way I was a riskin' my neck scurryin' off of that chapel, she wasted no time gettin' a cigar, bitin' of the end, a lightin' it and then pullin' out the bag of 14 charges of Sheriff Jackson's dynamite of 4 sticks for each charge and the 20 second fuses apiece in them. I hopped my Palomino, raced over to Beth, grabbed the dynamite, bit into the lit cigar she gave me from her mouth and muttered,
"Yeck! No wonder you'se still a widow!"
And rode off at a hard gallop toward the water hole.
As we rode hard toward the hole, I didn't have to sink spur to make the good ole' boy ride. And I could kinda hear the town alarm bell a ringin' behind to gather up the men of the town any time there was a posse or fire troop to be had. But I couldn't wait, my wife, my kids, and the town kids....
And then it happened, my vision went narrow like the road, time slowed to molasses, and I scanned out to try and figure if we could get ahead of the stampede as I charged that good ole boy across the fields at a high gallop, a prayin' we would make it in time, a prayin' he wouldn't tire, a prayin' we wouldn't trip in a gopher hole or nothin'. Minutes passed, and I saw that there was some stir and that quite a few of the children were out in the fields well past the water hole, and right in the path of more than 3,000 half ton and more longhorn steers. Most of those children had gathered up in a bunch, about 20 of them, about a half mile from the hole, and away from any corral fencin' and wagons that could deflect the cattle path as they went around the water at the hole, if they did.
When I was within half a mile of the children from the northeast, the Stampede was about that or slightly more from the children from the southwest. And all theys could do is stand in a group like scared sheep, clingin' on tight to one another in a cluster bunch. I took a couple of deep puffs on the cigar Beth gave me, and ran me a Calvary pattern I used in the War. At about 13 rods from the children, between them and the incomin' stampede, I lit and threw down 10 dynamite charges, and they blew less than 8 or 9 rods ahead of the the herd. As they blew in a v-line I took to a center position between the children and the stampedin' herd. As they blew, I couldn't quite tell through the dust that was kicked up that the herd was a splittin' perfectly in loops away to the right in a circular run, and to my left to an area south of the waterin' hole and down along 4 mile creek. As that was a startin' to come about, I threw the last 4 dynamite charges which I lit with Beth's cigar, with 2 charges to the right and 2 charges to the left at the 2 o'clock and 10 o'clock hand positions, if you was to say the on-comin' stampedin' herd was my 12 o'clock. As soon as I threw the last charge, my Palomino bucked and threw me for a loop, but I landed in a way where I bounced off my back and instinctively drew my right .45 and fired 3 shots as a longhorn came through the dust right at me and dropped him some 30 feet away. I tangled with my left .45 as scanned the dust, but I must have looked down, as another 3 came besides. I shot one to the right once in the neck and he veered off left, but another steer had charged full on into me, and was a carryin' me toward the children. My .45 from my right hand had flown off, and I was later told was found on that longhorn's left horn. Just before we reached the children, I was able to fire off my left .45 through the right eye of that critter 4 times and pump the last two into the other steer a few yards behind to my left, just before we hit a gopher hole, and I took the full brunt of an 1100 pound steer in the fall, and stoppin' where my head was less than 3 feet away from the nearest child.
Summarizin' Diary Notes made on October 10, 1882
Regardin' My Recovery.
Here I leave off personal family notes regardin' kin and certain opinions on other matters of a personal nature. But startin' from June 18th....
For more than 3 days I was laid out cold, with folks expectin' me to be a dyin' while a prayin' in vigils day and night, and in turn cookin' and a providin' for me and mine for the next 2 months, until Beth put me to work at the counter of her General Store for two more months before the Town Council would let the Sheriff put me back to work as Deputy again. Folks after that were so often so nice to me, regular like, as they was all relieved. Theys even forgave me for skunkin' the town after that, with a certain exception I told you about earlier. No longer did I have to hear them yellin' "Skunk!" (as they did for almost a month) from all different directions whenever I was around. And folks I never knew by name before would come to visit and thank me personal like for savin' their kin for weeks and months after it was long past. I sometimes remember that Stampede Day and sometimes I wonder because more and more what happened seems more dream-like than a memory. Yet there it was and there it happened on June 18, 1882.
I reckon I was never as brave as that day, you never would have know'd I had reined back on bravery on the inside, because like in the war between the States for the Confederacy, you were always tired goin' into battle and then you got used to always a bein' scared. But you got the job done, and then you went home, only to find you couldn't ever really go home anymore. You could only hope that one day, you could make a new home and a new paradise on earth for you and yours, and to live peaceable like to the end of your days, never havin' to see violence again. And when that couldn't happen, you use what you learn, and at the right time git all that bravery back and more besides you ever had, and fight like angels against the powers of Hades and all their demons to make the world safe for your children and the children of your children, which you hope you lives old enough to see reared up in more peace and liberty and prosperity than even they git as well.
Anyway, that's how it was for me. - Deputy B., retired.
(June 11, 1898)
Notes from the Diary Entry of
Monday October 23, 1882 -
The Tornado at Prairie Flats And How Adopting A Wild Goose Spurred My Wife Into Being A Town Hero While In A Fit Of Jealous Rage
Sunday October 15, 1882 was almost a hot day, about 80 degrees and constantly raining on and off with rain and thunder and lightning clouds from the southwest like the weather couldn't make up its mind whether to flood the ground, or just to make slosh and slip out of the mud. Then that night a cold dry wind blew almost directly south on the new weather vane the Sheriff put atop the jail on Wednesday, October 11th. Not only did it spin in the direction of the wind, but the Sheriff had made it a two sided strip iron mechanical thing out of wood, it was painted and cut into a lumberjack sawing a fallen tree. And every time the wind blew, that dang thing up thar' would be sawin' away on his wood. When the wind wasn't blowin' it was full stopped. But when the really wind blew hard, that dang thing up thar' would be sawing hundreds of times a minute like some kind of maniac in a would lumberjack compete. Folks young and old just loved to stop and look at that weather vane, and by Thursday and Friday they started a clutterin' up the streets, sometimes for what seemed to be hours.
There they was, watching that thing up thar' a shootin' the breeze, sometimes right in the middle of the street a shootin' the breeze with gossipin' like statues with fingers pointed up in the air and movin' only their lips, as if someone was supposed to come and bronze them and make them into the town monument. A town surveyor was hired by the mayor, and declared Main Street was was 84 feet wide of dirt from horse rail to horse rail, and for me to stop usin' the word "rod" every time I mentioned 10 feet of something, and just to say "feet". He also was one to say that a "butt" was a journey's end, and that he got that from reading Shakespeare plays and the like. Well to me, 84 feet is 42 people spread across the Main Street rail to rail, and all having one "butt."
Between havin' to go to trial as a witness in 16 different cases in 2 days and each time testifyin' bein' told to git on down to the Sheriff's Office and wait to be called again Thursday and Friday of last week, I can't tell you how much of a nuisance it was to have to sit thar' in the Sheriff's office a watchin' them, and then goin' out to tell them to stand to one side to let folks pass or to git along. Especially Friday : 3 pots of coffee and 8 trips to the outhouse later, I was almost too tired to do my evenin' chores, and find out from the wife all that she heard from her busy-body mother and two sisters was a happenin' round the town that day while I was stuck down at the office or at another rush-rush trial.
Round about 4 in the morning on Monday October 16, we had us a sound like there was a train yard south of town, travelin' from East to West, even though no tracks were laid yet, just the gradin' done for the new train tracks they said was a comin' maybe in 2 or 3 weeks, maybe next spring if we early wintered. The house shook, and it was if the very air was sucked right out of the house through the open windows. I snapped to my feet as if I was back in the war and we was a bein' over run again, and scenes from the past played out as real as it was happenin' in the present. And for whatever reason, I remembered the first time I scouted, and had to train my replacement even as I took my first assignment, showing him how the hoof print was less than a half hour old, as the edges were still sharp and the light wind we was havin' hadn't smoothed over the edges yet. And with that, and the Mrs. callin' my name slightly above the noise, I snapped back to the present.
As I stood thar' and scanned about, the house for just a moment was swaggering like we was on a boat deck in the water and then suddenly stopped. The the noise was still so loud a deaf mute could hear it, as if it passed directly south of town and stopped, and then after about 20 seconds it was kept movin' west about the speed of a fast horse. Outside was pitch black, and inside the whale oil lamp we kept lit to keep an eye on the new baby was burning dimly. Our new child Charlotte was wide awake and was a cryin'. Since everyone was up, we all went down to the kitchen, the meetin' place for all family and company, and had us an hour early breakfast before setting about our day.
Round about 6:40 in the mornin', a rider (said to be bleedin' from the right side of the head above the ear) came by horse from Prairie Flats, a town smaller than ours of about 350 folk about 6 miles to the West.
The town "alarm and gatherin' bell" was rung 3 times, stopped, rung 3 times, stopped, and then rung 3 times again. After a minute, that was repeated. Then once more. In about 5 minutes, every man in Militia or Posse in town was all there armed and in a lump. Marshall Jackson and Judge Hollister together took turns informin' the town that the Tornado that skirted our town had "flattened Prairie Flats flatter than a flapjack". "More than 200 folk" was trapped under wreckages and callin' for help. And what's more, a 27 long wagon train stopped there for the night, and had about 50 grown men and women and twice that many children among them that were also among the casualties. Because I was good at getting things done efficiently and others to do the same at my instructin' them, I was volunteered by the Judge and the Marshall to organize any resources the town had, and to head a 64 man Posse and Militia with equipment to save and treat the quick, and to put off buryin' any dead unless absolutely necessary. Doc Phillip MacDonald, his wife and four virgin old maid daughters, all skilled in the late war in tending thousands of battle casualties, and the two town veterinarians would also accompany my group. Other groups would be organized with food and supplies to feed us and tend to our collective needs later in the day and in following days under Marshall Jackson, who would remain in town at present.
In about 10 minutes I sent a detail of 36 riders with axes, extra rope, shovels and instructions on ahead; and in just a little over 40 minutes I was able to lead a 16 wagon detail loaded with equipment and supplies (including lots of blanket, medical and food provisions) out to Prairie Flats with two riders sent on ahead to join the other 36 and let them know organized help was a comin', and other townsfolk with their women would also be a comin' to help. In all, over 280 of our townsfolk came out to help before the mid-afternoon, and close to 400 of our townsfolk had spent at least 6 hours or more helping the folks there in Prairie Flats by the morning of the 3rd day.
Flatter than a flapjack didn't half even describe what we found at much of Prairie Flats. Most of it looked like something worse than a piled up train that fell onto a collapsed bridge in a dry gully. It took us over a day and a night, even with all the extra help and workin' by torch-light to git everyone out of the rubble in which the often 16 and 20 feet long one foot diameter and larger logs of these cabins were thrown about like match-sticks and so tangled together worse than any river log jam ever was, it was hard to think they was ever organized into buildings and walls at all.
Once everybody was saved, and tended to for a little over a day and a night, that following day about all but 40 of my fellow townsfolk were sent home or limited on what time we wanted them to spend, as we tended and fed the wounded until most of them were well enough to tend themselves. Provisions were donated by the silver miners who bought them as a kind of way of saying they believed in grub-staking them. And work parties were scheduled by me and the leaders of Prairie Flats to be for no more than 2 days (at their insistin') in the following week where more than 120 men from my town would come out and help them on designated alternate days to build homes and shelter before the freezing winds of the north finally bring the full winter frost upon us. The soil in Prairie Flats was as still yet soft and rich and deep enough for sod huts, and about 40 were planned to be built quickly, taken from fallow and unplowed fields, each with walls 5 feet thick to shield from the cold, and after that, the log homes would be built again.
In all, after the first 3 days we found there was 14 dead, and 3 maimed for life (one with blindness), and 97 other folk there at Prairie Flats suffering broken bones and like injuries. 286 folk in all were rescued out of the disaster, and it was a day that they dedicated to became an anniversary of remembrance. In fact, so many got born again through the Pastor and his wife and the 4 MacDonald daughters, that the first building that the folks at Prairie Flats pledged themselves to build was a town church large enough to fit everyone in it all at once, and attend one service together. I don't rightly know why, but for some reason or ta other, I could only imagine for a building that big out in these here parts, it would have to be like a huge barn that they could also use for both services and maybe have a doctor's stall where mothers could have babies, so when the kid grew up, and left a door open on a cold day, and was asked, "Was you ever born in a barn?" The kid could zing back, "Why yes! I was!"
Enter Clarissa And Unforeseen Trouble
While I was at Prairie Flats, I don't know if I adopted this wild mother goose, or if she adopted me. I named her Clarissa, and from the very first hour I was there in Prairie Flats she was always a huggin' and a wantin' to be petted and hugged, and when I lay down she would always sleep next to or on top of me, and always seemed to be a kissin' me. She had 4 little ones, and they was cute little critters. But her beau, I didn't like. The first time I lay down, I found geese had teeth as that stupid gander bit my nose and held on like a grip of a bulldog. So I jumped up and grabbed him by the neck and whirled him about like a ball on a rope, threw him up in the air, shot him, and then gave his sorry fat carcass to a hungry family. Well, somehow the story got home to my wife all twisted about, and the way she heard it, was that Clarissa [never mind she was a goose] was a young mother with 4 kids a always a huggin' and a kissin' me for no reason, even goin' to bed and sleepin' with me. Her husband [never mind he was a gander] got jealous, so I shot him and made her a widow, and it in no way changed Clarissa's affection toward me, and she continued to go to bed with me at night a hugin' and a kissin' me on the cheek and in the ear. Friend, that mountain of manure that some dang female gossip spread before my wife was so high, you could have built a train tunnel through it and ran that train for 20 minutes before you came out the other side. But that Clarissa was a hot breathed hussy of a woman throwing herself at me and me happily acceptin' it was how the wife heard it.
Come Saturday, I brought Clarissa and her family home, and told the Mrs. we was a keeping it as a pet because they chase away and eat the snakes. That makes them good pets for the kids. For the first time in my life, I couldn't read her face. It was blank with a stare, as if there was no emotion. As she turned away and closed the side porch door (which was also our kitchen door) shut, I had no idea how angry she was, and I went around the back of the house to do some chores out of view of the Mrs.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, down at the jail Harry McGuire had beat almost senseless the two other deputies Sheriff Bond had hired last Spring. And for whatever reason, maybe because I arrested him, maybe coincidence, recently sentenced to die for murder, Harry McGuire (38 years old, 6 foot 2 inches and 280 pounds of him) at about the same time spryly rounded the front of the house, and with a .44 revolver he had taken off of one of the two deputies he beat near senseless at the jail, he barged in the kitchen where my wife was already at the door, standing on a stool with an iron skillet, intending full well to let ME have it. Not seein' who he was, McGuire came stormin' in, and the wife thinking he was me, swung like she was a trying to hit a big rug off the clothes line, and laid him out flat, dead on the spot.
That night, even though the whole town made her into a heroine, and with Judge Hollister's blessings the Sheriff even made her an honorary deputy Sheriff and gave a pair of new 6 guns to shoot me with if she ever got in the mood, she had a long talk with the Pastor and his wife in the parlor (which is sacred to having immediate family only in our home as all others are trespassin'), and she got born-again. She became more gentle, more easy to talk to, more lovin' in everything as if we was a courtin' all over again. Yes sir, she was a lot more kind and polite. She stopped being so suspicious, and realized that no matter what, I wasn't EVER goin' to be cheatin' on her . Hell, I had proof positive of the consequences, with the open blessings of the Sheriff to take care of business. After seein' what she could do with an iron skillet and now the Sheriff himself armed her with man-sized six-shooters and he thinks I'm even goin' to think to cheat on her, let alone even try? Unh unhh. No sir! I ain't crazy.