Brodie Trail (known better as Dusty Trail to family and friends) and Craig O’Reilly grew up from near infants to young adults as inseparable best friends. It was a rare day when one would not find them tied at the hip fishing and exchanging day dreams of living out a Western dime novel. Although they lived within hailing distance of each other the two came from two different worlds. Born of Scottish parents, Brodie Trail as an adult stood a bit over six feet tall, a bit on the thin side with light brown hair and hazel eyes. Craig O’Reilly was born of Irish parents, stood a wee bit past five feet in height, a bit chunky from birth with flaming red hair and brown eyes.
Their physical appearance wasn’t the only differences between the best friends.
The State dividing line between West Virginia and Virginia ran down the center of the road between the two homes.
Before the war, both homes lay in Virginia but after a midnight meeting of the Secessionist Convention in 1861, West Virginia was born. Forced to straddle the new State line was the small hamlet of Peterstown, population one hundred and sixty two.
On the North side sat West Virginia, also the farm and modest log home belonging to the Trail family. To the south and not a hundred paces away from the Trail home, stood the much larger brick home of the O’Reilly family. While the Trails were farmers, the O’Reilly’s were merchants, owning the only Mercantile within half a days buggy ride. Both families had left their ancient homelands and settled in Virginia in the year 1847 during the great over seas potato famine. The two boys were born the same month in the year of 1848, exactly one year after arriving in America.
Although being politically and logistically separated the two families retained their close friendships.
The boys were inseparable. There was only a single school in Peterstown so whether living North or South, all attended the same single room school. It was during this time in school that Brodie acquired the nickname Dusty. Since the school was located at the towns only crossroads a half mile distant and having only dirt roads to get there by, many of the eight or so kids attending the school arrived powdered in road dust. Why the kids began just calling Brodie Dusty confused him since he wasn’t the only kid who’s clothes bore more dirt on them than the roads themselves. Be that as it may be, Dusty accepted the name since before then the kids called him ‘Brode the toad’.
As for the war, most town folks had no care what side their neighbors lived on, surviving the harsh Appalachian winters was their main concern and not some disagreement over slavery. After all, no one had ever met a single slave nor knew anybody that had even seen one. Slavery was the least thing on their minds.
Still, the two were dragged into the war on their respective sides and schooled in their respective militaries as to the need or evils of slavery. By the time the war ended, neither boy had increased their care or concern over an issue that seemed to be more oriented to the big cities of Richmond and Washington. After the war came to a close life quickly returned back to normal for all those living on the north or south side of the main road in Peterstown.
It was two years after the war ended on a beautiful spring day that found the two friends once again fishing along the banks of Rich Creek at the edge of town. Rich Creek was also the dividing line between the two Virginia’s.
The two competed for fish caught on their respective North and South sides.
“It’s near four o’clock Dusty, let’s call it a day.”
“I hear ya’. We caught enough to feed both our families and then some. Oh, I counted our fish, sixteen in all and I caught nine of ‘em, I won!”
“Only ‘cause you cheated! I saw your bobber drift over to the south side of the bank, everyone knows fish prefer livin’ in the South ya’ know.”
Laughing, Dusty reminded him, “Well, either way I won.”
As they made their way back to their respective homes by cutting through an outlying farm, Dusty thought on how the two were so mismatched yet got along so well.
In growing up, things like how much your family made over another had no standing on friendship. True, the O’Reilly house was grand compared to the Trail’s little log home. It had an outdoor stone stairway that led up to the veranda and front door. Thick white pillars supported an over hanging section of the attic and roof. Mister O’Reilly had it built after seeing a few grand homes on his journey across the State upon his arrival to America. Everything about the two seemed to be in contrast with each other yet none of it mattered to either of them.
After the war’s end, many Southerners found themself out of home and property due to the Northern led reconstruction program, the Southerners of Peterstown were left alone. It wasn’t kindness that saved them, it was their life long friends and neighbors living on the north side of the road that prevented their demise. Because of this, life went on uninterrupted.
Dusty knew he’d someday be asked to take over his fathers farm as he was the only child his mother gave live birth to. Four times she had miscarriaged after Dusty’s birth before a Doctor she sought out while visiting her sister in Blue Field told her to stop trying. He told her it was a miracle she carried Dusty to full term and that her female organs would fail altogether if she continued trying. She took it as most mountain women did. She shrugged her shoulders and said “A womans duty is to make children. If I die then it is the will of the Lord, not much I can or want to do about it”.
Her next pregnancy fulfilled the good Doctor’s warning.
With deep sadness, Dusty dug her grave while his father prepared her body for her burial. The Pastor from the Apostolic Church of the Redeemed came late to the funeral but still in time to say words over her as she was lowered into the grave. He was not the Trails first choice as they were Baptist but their own Pastor was bedridden with the croup. The most Reverend Jebediah P Clampet apologized for his lateness telling Dusty’s father that one of his Deacon’s had been bitten by a Deamon possesed rattlesnake during an earlier that morning snake handling service.
The Pastor then reminded all those within listening distance of the grave that the Deacons faith had waned recently thus allowing Satan in the form of a snake to bite him. He was left in the care of a group of women who would cast out the Demon of poison and pray him back to health.
The Reverend’s burial prayer droned on and on until Mister Trail ended it by forcefully grabbing the Pastors hand and shook it thanking him for the grave service. The Pastor kept his hand extended until it was realized he was waiting for his fifty cent funeral payment.
In November of the same year his wife died, Mister Trail gave up the ghost after a short bout of consumption. The wasting disease the local mountain folk called ‘the white death’ had been running rampant in the lower hollows and flat lands during this time.
After his fathers funeral, Mister O’Reilly asked Dusty if he would be up to speaking with him regarding the young mans future.
“To be honest Mister O’Reilly, I’d appreciate that talk. You see, I’m kinda’ lost. My father always made the farms decisions and I’m afraid he never took me into his confidence regarding anything beyond caring for the animals or being taught how to keep the mules plowing a straight furrow.”
“Why not come over for dinner tomorrow? We can talk then and besides I have something of your fathers that I wish to give you.”
“My father gave you something for me?”
“In a way yes. As you know, he didn’t believe in banks.”
“That I’m aware of, yes.”
“Well, your father knew I had a steel built Mosler safe installed into one of the the houses interior brick walls and after a time I had convinced him his monies would be much safer being held in my steel safe than in the canning jar he had hidden under your porch. He finally agreed and over the last few years brought over two more canning jars for me to safeguard for him.
“I did not know that Sir. Are these the items you are speaking of?”
“Those and more. ”
“That explains why he once told me that if anything were to ever happen to him to come and see you, that you would be of help to me.”
“Your father and I should never have been friends, he a Scott and me a Irishman, He a Northern and me a Southerner. But just like you and Craig, we had a great friendship. I told him that if ever the day came that you needed help, that I would treat you as my own son.”
Dusty was moved. He wasn’t sure if he should say ‘Thank You’ or not so he just instinctively held out his hand.
Taking Dusty’s hand in his he told him, “Come over at four, we’ll sit down for dinner at five.”
Dusty climbed the stone stairs leading up to the wide veranda. At once he saw Mr. O’Reilly waiting for him holding out a large glass of lemonade. Dusty saw the glass had been filled with ice which pleased him. Iced drinks were a rare thing in the Trail home. Dusty thought of their own milk house that had been built over a natural
artesian cold spring in order to preserve their milk and other perishables
Dusty was guided to a four seated wrought iron based table. “Please, sit here in the sunny portion of the porch, it’s much more comfortable on a chilly day like today.”
Seeing his neighbor dressed in a heavy over coat Dusty exclaimed,“We can go inside where it’s warmer if you wish.”
“No, I prefer the cool air, it helps me to breath. You see as a young man I had breathed a lot of coal dust working the mines in the old country.”
When seated, Dusty noticed two packages on the table next to where he sat. Pointing to the packages, Mister O’Reilly told him, “These are what your father asked me to harbor within my safe. I have no idea what is in them, only that your father told me to give them to you if he could not.”
Dusty lifted the first package and found it was a large canning jar wrapped in a burlap sack. Sliding the burlap down he saw the jar was filled with gold and silver coins. Dusty’s jaw dropped and sat wide eyed staring at the jar in front of him.
“Wha.. how… but my father was poor!”
His neighbor sat laughing,“Your father was never poor, he was the typical Scott. If you squeezed him hard enough he would bleed coins.”
“Go ahead, let’s see what’s in the second package.”
The next package was also covered in burlap but this was a tube over a foot in length and as round as his arm. Removing the burlap cover he saw a leather tube capped on each end with a pewter end piece.
Dusty slowly opened one end which exposed a portion of a parchment sheet.
Withdrawing the parchment from the leather tube he unrolled it.
After seeing what it was he looked up at his neighbor with a questioning look saying,“It’s a deed of sorts, but to what, I have no idea. Can you read it to me?”
Taking the sheet, his neighbor studied it for a few minutes then laid it down.
“Well son, your father purchased some land out west in what’s known as the Arizona Territory. The description here is from the surveyor. The deed describes the land and it’s location in the White Mountain range, about sixty miles north east of Fort Apache. The land consist of two hundred tillable and two thousand two hundred heavily forested acres for a total of two thousand, four hundred acres. The survey says there are three year round springs, a number of small ponds and a single large lake. The land is located between two small unnamed towns nearby. One is twenty miles north and the other ten miles to the south.”
“I have to be honest here son, This I knew about because your father had purchased this land from me. When it looked like the States would separate I wanted a place to high tail it to in case things went bad here in Virginia. After West Virginia broke off from Virginia, I figured the problem had solved itself. I had no use for the land. He begged that if I ever sold it to give him first rights in buying it. I told him if he really wanted it I’d sell it to him right then. We agreed on the price of fifteen cents an acre and the deed was drawn up. He told me then that he had always dreamed of moving out further west, that here he felt confined by modern cities such as Peterstown.”
“Then it’s true what my Ma had once told me, that he hankered to move to the wilderness. I thought it was just a daydream.”
“Your father, being the Scottsman that he was kept his business close to his chest. I’m not surprized he never told you, even your mother may not have known. He asked me to not reveal his purchase.
Dusty, I know you’re not cut out for farming, your father knew it too. He’d hoped to take you and your mother out west to the wilderness. It’s one reason he never built more than a small cabin, he never wanted to permanently settle here. So here’s what I’m going to propose to you. I will buy your farm here at a fair price. In return I want you to do two things. One, add the sale money of your farm to that of what your father left you and deposit it a large bank up in Charleston. Keep some out for traveling expenses. Then head out west to Arizona to your land there. Once there, move your money from the bank in Charleston closer to you over in Prescott Arizona for safe keeping. Make sure each bank will allow you to draw money by drafts. Second, Take Craig with you!”
“Take Craig with me, why?”
“Because since he’s come back from the war he hasn’t been the same. You have always been the wiser or the calm thinker between the two of you. Without you, he’ll end up going wild.”
“But weren’t you counting on Craig to take over the mercantile when you retire?”
“No, Craig has never wanted to be part of the business. His two half brothers will take over when it’s time.”
“Half brothers? He has half brothers?”
“I never told Craig this but I had been previously married. We had two children, twin boys. When I came to America they stayed behind to be raised by their aunt. There own mother did not survive their birth so her sister then legally raised them as her own. I remarried and later left Ireland for America. As they grew older their aunt asked if the twins could come to America as she was herself not in good health. I agreed wholeheartedly but on the condition that she remain as their legal mother.”
“So are they here in Virginia?”
“Every time you go into the mercantile you see them.”
“Not Sean and Brice! They are your sons?”
“Yes, even Craig does not know and I’m committing you to never tell him. You see, if Craig were to find out I’m afraid he would challenge any inheritance.
In place of an inheritance upon my death I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse, and then tell him of his half brothers. When he leaves with you he will leave with a trust of ten thousand dollars. With that he can buy a nice house to live in or a start a business or even become a cattle man with a ranch if he so wishes. Once he has been determined to be a responsible adult, the trust will open up fully to him. “
“Who’s to judge if he is responsible?”
“You, will be the judge of that.”
“Yes, I will know his progress as a responsible adult by your letters to me.”
Dusty sat pondering silently all that he’d been told. He knew Mister O’Reilly was a kind and thoughtful person but he never knew until now just how much he was.
“Sir, you’ve not only given me direction but the means to follow it. You could have stayed silent and kept my fathers deed and money and no one would have been the wiser. Thank you! I will watch over Craig and keep in touch with you as to our goings on.”
At this point dinner was announced so the two went inside.
During the dinner Craig was informed of his fathers decision. Dusty feared Craig would object but to his surprise Craig was all for it. As they ate a meal of pork roast with all the fixings, Craig expounded on all that he planned to see and do as the pair journeyed across the country to the wilds of the Arizona Territory.
Mister O’Reilly was also obiously releaved.
“So why did you agree so readily to your fathers plan for you. It surprised me that you would give up your inheritance for a trust.”
The two had taken the stage from Peterstown to Princeton and from there to Charleston West Virginia. Once they had arrived in Charleston, Dusty was to deposit his fathers money along with the money he earned from the sale of his farm. In the meantime, Charleston was still over a half a day away so the two talked and napped when possible.
“When I came home after the war’, Craig explained, “I discovered I wanted more than sitting there looking at the same Virginia countryside. I had no desire to move to a big city but still wanted adventure and excitement. When he told us at dinner what he wanted from me all I saw was the chance to get out from under his thumb and start living my own life.”
“Surely it wasn’t that bad living with him, was it?”
“Naw, I just wanted to do something without someone looking over my shoulder all the time. Do you know that he never went to bed until he was sure I had returned home or that I had to be home by ten o’clock? I mean the Wailing Lady Saloon in town didn’t even open its doors until ten. I’d have to sneak out around midnight to go visit the soiled doves at the Wailing Lady or sit in at the faro table.”
Dusty remained outwardly calm but inside was shocked to hear his best friend was leading a double life.
“I wasn’t aware you did those things. When did all this come about.?”
“Dusty, when I killed my first Northern soldier I left behind my childhood. No offense about me shooting Northern folk but it was my job and I was pretty good at it. I received a letter of commendation for my sniping skills.”
“I’ll be, I never knew. How did your father take it that you were a sniper?”
”Ha! If he knew he’d have pulled strings and I would’ve ended up being a aide to some fancy pants officer. Nope, I told him I was stationed at the rear guarding supplies.”
“I guess you’re lucky to be alive. I heard snipers had a short life span.”
“Yup, a few friends never made it. But, I did and that’s all I was concerned about. I’d take my shot and run like hell! Ha ha ha.”
Dusty began to seriously doubt whether Craig was the same person he grew up with. He honestly realized he didn’t know his best friend anymore. His father was right, the war had somehow changed him.
The Craig he once knew would have never visited the Ladies of the night or sat with whiskey numbed gamblers till near dawn. And lying to his father was unheard of!
Dusty wondered whether or not it might just be a phase his friend was going through. Maybe this was some sort of way Craig was dealing with the atrocities of war that he had experienced. He decided it would be wise to keep a closer eye on his friend.
They left the stage, grabbed their belongings and headed to the bank to deposit Dusty’s small Fortune. Once inside they stepped up to one of the tellers barred windows.
The teller explained that Dusty needed to open an account and called for the bank manager to help Dusty with the needed paperwork.
The banks managers ushered the two into his office and after seating them asked just how much was to be deposited.
“Well, I figure most of it I guess. I’m going to need some traveling and supply money until we reach the Arizona Territory.”
The managers eyebrows raised, “Arizona you say?”
“Yes, I have a couple thousand acres there and plan to do something with it.”
“Hmmm, I see.” The manager thought one of his tellers might be making him the butt of a joke but decided to play along.
“Does that canvas pouch contain your deposit?”
“Uh, yes it does but I never had the chance to count it all.”
“Well then, why don’t we just pour it out on the desk here and we’ll count it out.”
Dusty tipped the canvas sack forward spilling forth the large amount of gold and silver coins held inside.
The bug eyed bank manager gulped and immediacy shouted to an unseen teller, “Johnson! Get in here on the double, these gentlemen need your assistance!”
A thin wiry looking bald but well dressed man with round spectacles appeared quickly in the doorway. His eyes fell onto the coins spread out on the managers desk. “Oh my, I see!”
“Oh, and there’s this too.” Dusty pulled out a thick roll of Northern paper money tied tightly with a blue ribbon around it. “I’m pretty sure this here is still good, isn’t it?”
The assistant nodded as if his neck were made of rubber, “I should say it’s good, very good indeed.”
An hour later the two left the bank with the paperwork and a leather case containing draft notes. From Charleston they took the train all the way to Kansas City Missouri.
Dusty had thought the train ride to Kansas City would be on a single train. Instead the two had to transfer to three different trains in three different cities.
Exhausted from their three day train ride, the two at last spent the night in a local hotel near the station in a real bed. Before they left for the hotel, they asked the station clerk what trains they should take to get to Arizona. The train station clerk laid out the best route but even with his help they could not reach Arizona by train. The closest they could get to was Dallas Texas. From there it had to be by stage coach to El Paso then back on a train to the town of Tucson in the Arizona Territory.
Again the trip would require multiple train changes to Dallas again using different rail lines to get there. The clerk wrote down each change and what rail line to take and to what city.
During this time it appeared that Craig was becoming his old pleasant self again.
In the morning they decided a big breakfast was in order. Stopping at a small cafe they ordered breakfast and drank a number of cups of coffee in order to fully wake up.
Dusty concluded that traveling had been good for his friend.
The night before they would roll into Dallas though Dusty once again had doubts. The train stopped in a town called Norman Oklahoma. The conductor told the travelers that there would be a delay until morning as one of the cars wheel trucks had burnt a sleeve bearing and the mechanic needed to replace it before heading out again.
Dusty told Craig he was going to secure a hotel room before eating and told his friend to go ahead and he’d catch up to him at the diner.
Dusty secured a room and walked down the street to the diner for a late meal. Entering the diner he looked around for Craig. His friend was nowhere to be seen and the diner had only a handful of folks eating as it was soon closing for the night. When the waitress arrived Dusty asked if his friend had been there.
“No, not that I saw and I’m the only waitress here.”
“Can I still order a meal?”
“Only if it’s the stew. It’s the only thing still hot”
Dusty shrugged and ordered the stew.
With a stomach full of beef stew Dusty wondered where Craig could have gotten off to. Looking up and down the short main street told him that only one establishment was now open at that time of night, the saloon.
It had been two hours since they parted ways at the station and Dusty began to fear the worst. Stepping up to the bar Dusty asked if the bar tender had seen a young man wearing a Southern gray Slouch hat and blue denim pants.
The bar tender pointed upward, “Upstairs with Dolly. Want a beer, it’s halfway cold.”
Dusty took his ‘halfway cold’ beer and sat at a table waiting for Craig. After a sip of beer he decided the people in Oklahoma might have a different idea of what the word ‘cold’ meant. He slowly drank the room temperature beer and waited for Craig to come down. It was 2am when someone kicked his boot waking him. “Ready to head off?”
On the walk back to the hotel Dusty was given the sordid details of Craig and Dolly’s robust coupling. “Craig”, he told him as they neared the hotel, “some things are better left unsaid.”
“Like what you do behind closed doors. What has come over you my friend? I mean you’re acting like Moose Cholak. You remember Moose?”
“Yeah, I remember the fat ass, nothin’ but a big paper tiger bully in school. Did you know someone beat him near to death a few months ago?”
“I heard that, what do you know about it?”
Instead of answering Craig just grinned.
“So it was you, wasn’t it?”
“Oh c’mon Dusty he deserved everything he got, probably more so. It weren’t like I ambushed him or anything, he called me a cheat at the table, what was I to do?”
“So you waited for him outside and then jumped him! That’s as close to an ambush as anything.”
“It weren’t exactly like that but yea, I waited for him. What was I to do? He’s a good foot taller than me an’ he must weigh in at over three hundred pounds! You think he’d fight me fair? Hell no! I gave him a chance, I called him out for him callin’ me a cheat.”
“His skull was crushed in, he’ll never be right again. Did you hit him with a brick?”
“Naw, I had roll of silver dollars, stuck em in a sock so they wouldn’t jingle when I snuck out’a the house that night. When He turned around I hit ‘em with the sock full of coins. How’s I to know it’d do what it did.”
“Well as of late you ain’t acting no different than Moose. I seen you change, you seem to enjoy intimidating folks, innocent folks too. I’d say you took over being the roll of town bully.”
“Dusty, this may come as a surprise to you but don’t think I haven’t wondered about all this myself. The only answer I can truly give you is the war and all the horrible things I saw and was even forced to do stripped away what innocence I had left in me. I saw what mankind is really like.
I saw a kid younger than me strutten’ around like a rooster after disemboweling some soul no older than himself while his fellow soldiers clapped him on the back? Do you think that kid started out that way? Did I?”
“No, I know you didn’t.”
“I’ve thought hard about what my father is having me do, and believe it or not, I know he’s right! Why do you think I take your rebukes? It’s because deep inside me I know you’re right, just like my father, all you two want is the best for me. Still, it’s like I’m overcome by some force that even scares me. I do things I’m not supposed to do and don’t do the things I am to do. I try to be like I used to be but I seem to fail at it.”
“I believe in the Bible the Apostle Paul wrote the same words about his own life.”
“You always were one to bring up the Bible.”
Dusty held open the hotels large door for his friend and together they entered the well lit foyer, it was nearing 3am now. Craig had insisted the two take separate rooms so at the end of the hallway they parted to go their separate ways. It was when Craig raised his arm to give a good night wave that the gun Craig had under his coat was exposed. Seeing the new Colt 45 sent a chill down Dusty’s spine.
Both sat bleary eyed at the cafe the next morning as they ate the cafe’s breakfast.
“We gotta’ get on to the train station Craig, the train’s conductor said it will leave at 8am sharp and it’s 7:30 now.”
“Alright, I’m done here, let’s go.”
The train changed again at Dallas and from there it took them to El Paso. This far south in Texas had no snow but it was still numbing cold outside. The passengers aboard the train were comforted by a small coal burning pot belly stove at each end of the car. Each time the conductor passed by he shake the stoves grates and toss in a couple fist sized coal lumps. Talk between the two was light, comments seemed mostly restricted to the weather or the scenery outside the cars window. In El Paso they were told the only route to Tucson was once again by stage. They paid four dollars apiece and stepped aboard the Butterfield Overland stagecoach going to Tucson.
The trip was uneventful except for the road itself. Two ruts cutting through the brush laden desert was as good as the road got. Besides each rut lay thousands of skull sized stones. Dusty figured this was Butterfield’s way of clearing the roadway. If the stage inadvertently left the rut, then those inside the stage were tossed violently to and fro as the wheels bounced over the stones. The driver and his shotgun partner fared the worst but they kept the horses at the same pace. Each passenger had been given a thick buffalo robe to fend off the cold with and it also helped to cushion the blows the coach recieved from the trail.
In the middle nowhere they overnighted at a Butterfield station halfway to Tucson and paid a dollar each for a hot meal prepared by the station mans wife.
It was rabbit stew with wild onions and seasoned with sage. In Tucson the two once again rented separate rooms and called it a night.
After the bumpy ride, Dusty barely found his way to the bed. After removing his boots he collapsed on the bed fully clothed.
It was sometime past midnight when he awoke to the sound of thumping on the wall. He knew that wall was the one separating his and Craig’s rooms. Unused to hearing the rhythmic thumping of a headboard banging a wall, Dusty had no idea what could be making the noise until he heard grunting and a woman moaning.
Shaking his head, he returned to bed covering his head and ears with his pillow.
At 8am the hotel manager knocked on Dusty’s door and called out, “Mister Trail, you asked to be woken at eight, it’s that time Sir.”
Still fully dressed, Dusty slipped on his boots, grabbed his belongings and banged on the door to Craigs room shouting, “Get outa’ bed Craig, we need to see about the best way to Fort Apache.”
It wasn’t Craig who answered but a female. “Go to hell and leave us be!”
Having lost sleep from their night long rutting, Dusty had reached the end of his rope. Grabbing the door knob he found the door unlocked and pushed it wide open.
Inside, the female once again began cursing for being disturbed. Craig had not woke up yet and lay there loudly snoring. Dusty was about to step back outside of the room when he saw an empty whiskey bottle on the nightstand beside bed.
Red faced with anger, Dusty pushed the door fully open and in no kind words woke up Craig by yelling at him.
“Get your dead ass outa’ bed this instant Craig or I call off our partnership and head out to Fort Apache alone. You want, you can spend the rest of your days drinking, gambling and waking up with a whore as old as your mother. I don’t care no more if you tag with me or not!”
Slamming the door behind him, Dusty gathered up his belongings and made his way back to the Butterfield stage depot. There he asked the depot clerk the best way to get to Fort Apache.
“The only way there is by horse. If ya’ don’t got one I’d say Juke’s Livery might sell ya’ what ya’ want.”
Making his way to Juke’s Livery he turned when he heard Craig calling out his name.
Refusing to turn around Dusty kept walking.
“Aw c’mon Dust you aren’t that pissed at me are you? I was just about to get up when you stopped by.”
Remaining quite, Dusty continued to walk to the Livery.
“OK, OK, I admit, I drank too much and had a poke, so shoot me! By golly a man’s got needs you know, well, maybe you don’t know seein’ as I have yet to see you with a woman.”
At that Dusty turned and asked. “Craig, you and I have been best friends our entire life, why are you purposefully trying to destroy that?”
The two put a patch on their friendship and rode out on two newly purchased horses and a pack mule for each. After buying saddles and tack for the horses and pack saddles for the mules they headed north out of Tucson into Tonto Apache Indian territory. The Tonto tribe wasn’t friendly but at the same time they had pretty much given up attacking white folk traveling through their land.
The total cost spent at the livery and the later stop for supplies at the mercantile ran the two over a hundred ninety dollars apiece. Just a few months ago Dusty would have never dreamed of spending that much for anything.
Since they were three three days out of Fort Apache and nearly three weeks after that before reaching the White Mountains near where Dusty’s land lay, they decided to make camp after a twenty miles into the desert. after twenty miles of desert. They had made camp after stopping at a small adobe trading post run by an old white man and his Popago Indian wife. They were now in what was called the Bro basin or Gold basin. Here a few gold mining camps were haphazardly scattered over the small Mica Mountain range. At the trading post they were told to avoid these camps if they did not want to lose their lives. They took the old man’s advice and skirted around them to the west.
They broke camp the next morning hoping to get halfway to Fort Apache. The day started out cold but soon warmed after the sun began to climb into the sky. At around noon, they stopped for a cold meal of Jerky and a few dried biscuits washed down by canteen water. It was then that they noticed the dust cloud behind them.
“Better keep that gun of yours handy” Dusty told Crag, “It looks like we might get some company.”
“How’d you know about my gun… never mind.”
Dusty had purchased a used Sharps rifle while at the Sutlers store back in Tucson where there were a number of post Civil War items for sale. He took it out of it’s long leather scabbard and slid a live 50-100 cartridge into the chamber. He then placed a number of the same cartridges in his coat pocket.
The group continued towards them but hadn’t pulled a single rifle or pistol yet so Dusty began to relax. When the two groups were within hailing distance the apparent leader raised his hand and yelled out. “Ho there, we’re friendly, just heading up north to Fort Verde!”
Dusty’s lowered his Sharps rifle and in return replied, “We’re headed up to Fort Apache ourselves. Where is Fort Verde located?”
“Allow me to light from my horse to talk?”
”Light but leave your Spencer behind.”
“Will do. Names Jasper Brown.”
The two shook hands. “Dusty Trail, This is my friend and lifelong pard, Craig O’Reilly.”
Very quickly and without really matching the men’s names to the person Jasper just rattled off their names with a wave of his hand.
“Leon, Jimbo, Turk and the two greasers are Jorge and Pablo.”
Dusty touched the brim of his Stetson to acknowledge the five yet wondering why someone would call Mexicans greasers or why the four whites would be traveling with such a scruffy looking duo like Jorge and Pablo.
Dusty noted the group had three fully loaded pack horses besides what was tied behind their saddles. On each horse hung two canteens but looking at the two Mexicans he saw little in the way of saddle bags or canteens on their mounts but each wore a double Colt set up and a cross bandolier fully filled with cartridges.
Jasper spit out a well chewed wad of chewing tobacco and asked, “So you’re headed up to Fort Apache, huh? Would it bother you if we rode alongside with you to the Fort? We’ve heard there are some greaser bands robbing and killing folks on the trail in the area. The more guns the better, no?”
“We heard the same, I have no complaints if you ride along but no way am I so trusting yet as to let you sleep in our camp at night.”
“No problem there friend, that’s right good thinking, for both of us.”
“Then you’re more than welcome to ride with us.”
That night everything went smoothly. The two groups ate separately then made separate camps a hundred yards from each other. Still, Dusty and Craig formed a night watch, changing every two hours.
On first watch Dusty could hear the group talking but they were far enough away that he couldn’t catch the words. By the time he switched watches with Craig the talking had stopped and he could hear snoring. He slept comfortably for the next two hours. Back and Forth they switched watches without incident. Dawn broke and since it was Craig’s watch he started their breakfast.
Back in the saddle they made good time, finishing the second day at the foot of the Superstition Mountains. Sometime tomorrow they should reach the Fort.
That night, Dusty felt the watch was no longer needed since the other group showed no signs of ill will to them so the two set their bedrolls in the sand and fell asleep.
Sometime after midnight loud laughter woke Dusty from his sleep. He could hear the boisterous Mexicans clearly. It sounded like they had been drinking heavily.
Dusty rolled over to see if Craig was as bothered by all the noise as he was. It was then he noticed that Crag’s bedroll was empty. It was then that he heard Craig’s voice and laughter from the other camp.
“Damn idiot!” He thought. “Once we get to the Fort I’m going to send his father a letter giving him the update he wanted on Craig. He’s not going to be pleased. Since we hooked up with Jasper and especially the Mexicans Craig seems to be going the opposite direction his Pa had hoped for.”
Around three in the morning Craig made his way back to camp and tried as silently as possible to pull off his boots and climb into his bedroll. He failed miserably as he loudly grunted and began to curse trying to kick off his boots. After failing that, Dusty noted that Craig gave up trying and slid his booted feet under the blanket. It reminded Dusty of the drunks in Peterstown. Too many times in his early morning trips to town he’d see fully clothed drunks sleeping in doorways or on the boardwalk in front of the saloon. He wondered how a man could lower himself to such a level. Now his friend was acting the same way.
As the eastern sky began to lighten Dusty noted while fixing up a breakfast that the other camp was already up and getting their day started, even the Mexicans. He looked over where Craig lay and he had yet to budge in his bedroll.
Dusty felt disgust for his friend and entertained the notion of just leaving him. But, too many years of good friendship halted that thought.
Craig must have finally smelled the now cold cooked bacon because he slowly rose from his bed. Looking around their camp he was surprised to see the campfire had been put out with water and a lone plate with the cold bacon and biscuits were sitting alongside a lone cold cup of coffee.
Seeing the pack mules and horses already packed up for travel he shouted questioningly at Dusty.
“What the hell’s this all about? You couldn’t wake me for breakfast?”
Fed up, Dusty walked up to his bleary eyed friend and shouted back at him. “I’ll tell you what’s up Craig! You spent the night drinking with your new greaser friends and barely made it back to camp standing up. You noticed one of your boots is still halfway off? You couldn’t even undress yourself! As for breakfast, I tried to wake you to no avail so don’t come yelling at me about your damn cold breakfast. I had half the thought of just packing up and heading out without you!”
“Well maybe you should have, you ain’t my father you know. I got my own life and I’m getting damn tired of living under everyone Ease’s rules. Piss on this, you want to leave then go!”
Dusty knew if he left Craig behind he’d turn around an hour later and see his friend sheepishly trailing behind him in the distance trying to apologize.
So instead of joining in the pissing match Dusty just told him, “Eat your breakfast, I’ll wait for ya’ to finish it and get saddled up.”
In response Craig stuffed his mouth full of cold bacon and one of the biscuits, the rest he tossed into the dead campfire, packed away the plate and cup and mounted his already saddled horse.
The two parties traveled north without incident and by evening Fort Apache could be seen in the distance.
It was decided that the two groups would wait until morning to enter the Fort.
Upon entering the Fort the next morning at daybreak, they were met by an obvious Irish Sargent who asked them their business at the Fort.
Dusty explained to the Sargent that they had traveled from Virginia and are heading to his property in the White Mountains. He asked if he or anyone else at the Fort could give them more precise directions on how to get there.
In a heavy Irish accent he answered,“The White Mountains you say? Could you be a wee bit more detailed as to the whereabouts this property is located? The white Mountains are take up a mighty big area.”
“I do have the deed, will that help?”
“It may. Tis your lucky day now lad, we happen to have a Government surveyor recuperating here after a recent tussle with a few Apache near Flowing Springs.”
“That would be of great help, thank you!”
“Follow me then laddy.” The Sargent directed the rest to where they could unpack and store their supplies. He ordered two soldiers to take the animals to the Fort’s livery when unsaddled.
The Sargent led Dusty to the camp infirmary where he introduced him to a man who lay in a bed. After the Sargent explained the predicament to the surveyor he turned and left without saying a word.
“Let’s see this property deed you have”, the bedridden surveyor told them. After much moaning the man made it to a sitting position. Dusty handed him the rolled up deed.
“Hmmm, Uh huh, Oh… Hammy. Ah, there it is.”
“You found the property?”
“As close as I can figure it anyway. The deed mentions three year round springs, a big lake and two towns, one twenty and the other ten miles away from the property. Add that information to the mention of it being sixty miles north of here and I believe I know where it is.”
As he spoke, Craig had entered the infirmery and stood beside Dusty after unloading their supplies into a store room.
“Would one of you please hand me my leather carrying case lying under this bed? I need to compare my official survey maps to the information on the deed.
Craig volunteered and lowered himself to his knees and fished out from under the bed the brown leather carry all case belonging to the surveyor.
After rummaging through the different land maps inside the case he finally pulled one out. Unfolding it across his outstretched legs on the bed, he ran his finger up and down the sheet until he stopped and looked up at the two and proudly said, “I found it!”
The two leaned over the surveyor in his bed to see where he was pointing at.
Dusty looked at the surveyor and exclaimed, “The word Alpine is written there, is that a type of tree, town or what?”
“Alpine is not a town, not yet anyway. We surveyors name places just to make it easier for future references. I actually did the survey to that area a number of years ago. I remember a beautiful lake in the valley that’s surrounded by tall pines up the mountain side. It’s God’s country for sure.”
“What do we need to do to get there from here?”
“There’s plenty of deer and elk so meat won’t be a problem and down in the valley you’ll have no problem growing future crops but there are some Indians still living in the mountain forest. Some are friendly, others not so. It’ll be up to you to find out which.”
“Since you’ve been there, what would be the best route to take?”
“From here I’d heads north for a week then northwest until you come to the White River. Follow the river east. Best not to use the river itself, you’ll be vulnerable to Indian attacks. Travel just a mile south of the river but keep it in sight. You’ll notice that cottonwood trees grow alongside the river so keep an eye on them. You can’t miss the White Mountains, they’ll cover the horizon. If I remember right there’s a big saddle formation where the pass is that will lead you into the valley.
I’m sure you’ll come across some Indians on the way and if they’re of the friendly sort they can help guide you. Just be sure to carry some cheap trade items as gifts or you might quickly find yourself missing stuff of higher value.”
After writing down the best trails and landmarks from the surveyors map Dusty left Craig to his own device and headed over to the supply building to buy some note letter wroiting paper.
Seeing a small room with a desk he asked a passing soldier if he would be allowed to use the desk to sit and write.
“That’s what the rooms for. Many guys prefer to read or write their letters in private. No one wants to shed tears in public.
Dusty sat at the desk and contemplated what he would write to Mister O’Reilly about his son Craig.
After ten minutes he opened the ink bottle and grabbing the quill pen he began to write.
Dear Mister O’Reilly,
I trust this letter to you finds you and yours prosperous and in good health.You had asked that I keep you informed of your son Craig’s spiritual and growth as a man.
We have made it safely to Fort Apache here in Arizona. It has been a long and arduous trip and am excited to say we are nearing the end of it.
In regards to my writing you I will be as honest as possible.
I wish I had news that bore positively in both areas but I am distraught to tell you that in my view is not the case.
In my opinion, Craig has shown no growth in character or wisdom. In fact, the opposite could be said to be true.
In my judgement, in leaving Peterstown and your oversight, that Craig found a sense of freedom. A freedom lacking in empathy for others compounded by a false sense of superiority. His demeanor is that of a rude, spoiled child who feels he is owed without labor the same material blessings others have worked hard for.
Without my knowledge, he had purchased a firearm and had hidden bottles of whisky in his pack. He has taken to drink when away from my presence.
We had joined another group of men traveling out of Tucson, some who ‘s morals are surely lacking. Craig seems to have been drawn to these two men in particular, Mexicans who’s nightly drinking seems to be their normal routine.
During our travels, Craig has spent a number of evenings visiting the saloons and women there of ill repute.
I am unsure if this is all a temporary falling away from his upbringing or if I am for the first time seeing the real post war Craig.
I will continue to try to throttle down his activities as much as is possible but my fear is he will find my company too restricting and set off on his own.
I remain respectful of you and yours, Brodie
Dusty put the letter in a thin leather mailing pouch and gave it to the soldier in charge of the Forts mail.
When the soldier saw that the letter was being sent to Virginia he replied, “It may take a month or more to arrive since it will be sent to Fort Ward near Alexandria first as there is no direct mail service to the the town you are sending this to. Military mail travels a different route than civilian mail but rest assured, it will eventually get there.”
When later Craig discovered drinking was banned by all except officers within the Fort he saught out the Mexicans. Together they devised a way to drink without breaking the Fort’s rules. Along with the two Mexicans and Jimbo Craig told the others that they were going out hunting for some fresh meat. The four soon rode out on horses borrowed from the Forts livery.
Craig doubted the story but let it ride. If somehow they returned with a deer that could restore some faith in his friend and if not, it wouldn’t surprise him.
Since he had the time on his hands he decided to bring he and Crag’s horses to the foundry and have new shoes put on them. The mules wore no shoes.
By nightfall none of the hunters had returned to the Fort and Dusty believed they’d show up in the morning with hang overs.
Dusty was correct about the four returning in the morning but none were sporting hang overs, the reason was they were still very drunk.
Not only that but Craig brought along a heavy set Apache girl with him.
At the gate the Sargent let the four in with the borrowed horses but barred the Indian girl from entering.
“She’s no permitted inside the Fort laddy, leave her outside where she belongs.”
Instead of complying Craig pulled out his pistol and drunkenly it pointed it in the Sargent’s direction, telling him, “And to do what? Poke her in front of you all? No way, I’m bedding her inside in private.”
In a move swifter than a large Irishman should ever be capable of, the Sargent grabbed the pistol from Crag’s hand and brought it crashing down on his head.
Turning to Dusty he told him, “He’ll be spender the rest of the day and tonight in the brig. Come first light I’ll release him to your care. I’m not gonna’ report him though seein’ as he’s Irish ‘an I know what whiskey does to an Irishman, even myself. If everytime an Irisman drank an’ ended up in front of a judge, why there’d be no Irishman walkin’ free in the streets.”
At 5am sharp the bugler played reveille and the Fort’s day started. Even Craig jumped out of the brigs cot, confused as to why once again he had slept in his clothes.
Slowly the memories of the day before began to filter through his alcohol numbed brain cells. Remembering the Sargent and how he thought he was mistreated by him brought a slew of swear words Forth.
Fortunately for Craig it was at that very moment the Sargent returned and threw the open door to the brig. “C’mon, out ya’ go laddy!”
Rubbing the sore spot on his head and still confused as to why he had slept in a jail cell Craig sheepishly exited knowing he must have fouled up somewhere.
During breakfast inside the mess hall Jasper approached Dusty and sitting down across from him at the table asked, “If it’s alright with you, It looks like our best way to travel is to ride along with you two until we get to the White River. From there we’ll part ways and be heading west to Payson town and from there drift north to Fort Verde.”
Wondering why the group was headed to a place called Fort Verde but afraid to pry into someones personal business Dusty instead asked Jasper, “That’s a strange name for a Fort what’s going on up there that they need a Fort?”
“It’s general Crooks Fort. He’s charged with keepin’ the peace there between the Yavapai and Apache tribes. He’s to round ‘em up and take ‘em out of the area.”
Jasper then volunteered the information Dusty was hesitant in asking him. “We all are seeking to get hired to ride out with the Calvary to assist in the round up. We were told the Army is paying five dollars a day. That’s big money”
“So there is Indian trouble up there?”
“There is one Some character named Geronimo that needs arresting. He’s been causing problems up there. He’s a Bedonkohe Apache leading a few other Apache tribes killin’ and murderin’ folks all the way from Mexico to the Arizona Territory. That’s the reason Jorge and Pablo are ridin’ with us, they lost family to Geronimo an’ they want revenge.
Just then Craig entered the mess hall and headed over to where Dusty and Jasper sat eating.
Seeing the condition Craig was in Jasper frowned and asked, “You look like hell this morning, you doin’ alright?”
“I feel like hell, someone better let me how I ended up behind bars. I can’t recall a damn thing.”
“Dusty curtly told him, “You got drunk, nuff said.”
“That much I figured. How I got a busted head and landed in jail I don’t.”
As they finished breakfast and were ready to get started out, the Sargent walked into the mess and headed their way.
“Mister Trail, Mister Brown, the Fort commander wishes to speak to the two of you as soon as possible.”
Dusty replied, “We’re about done here Sargent, we’ll be there shortly.”
“I’m coming too!” Craig added.
Jasper raised his eyebrows saying, “The commander huh? Must be important.”
Besides the two groups, other travelers had come and gone from the Fort on their way elsewhere. One such group that entered just as the three men headed to the commanders post was an elderly white haired yet strong and viral looking man. With the man came two women trailing behind him. One looked to be the same age as he so Dusty assumed it was the man’s wife. The other, still hidden in a heavy over coat and fur cap gave Dusty the impression of someone much younger. “Probably the couples daughter,” he thought.
As he passed the trio of newcomers Dusty glanced at the younger girl. For Dusty if time had ever stopped it was at this moment.
With little exposed except her face looking out from the big fur cap the girls eyes locked onto Dusty’s. His heart leaped, he had never seen such beautiful eyes. They seemed to call out to him, begging him to pay attention to her. A smile sprung from her face as if in recognition of him but Dusty knew he had never seen her before and then the moment passed and then she was past him.
Within two steps Dusty found himself turning to look behind him at the girl. At the same time she did the same to Dusty. Being caught in such a brazen act of staring, the girls face reddened but the smile remained.
The act of passing each other had seemed to take an infinite amount of time and when the two had finished passing by both knew their lives would be forever changed.
Craig watched the interaction of the two and pushed Dusty ahead jealously saying, “Now that’s what I want, you watch, I’m gonna mae her my girl.”
Dusty made no comment but knew the wedge between the two friends had just been driven deeper.
Jasper knocked on the Commanders door and the trio immediately heard, “Come in.”
After introducing themselves the trio were told to relax and have a seat.
“Cigar?” The Commander offered the three.
Jasper and Craig both reached out and thanked him. Dusty had never seen Craig smoke anything in his life but then this trip exposed many things about Craig that Dusty had never seen his friend do.
“The reason I wanted to speak to you all is that I was made aware that your two parties, although heading in different directions are planning on leaving here very soon.”
Jasper spoke up telling him, “That’s correct Sir. We planned on traveling to together as a single group until we came to the White River. From there we are going our separate ways.”
The Commander nodded and replied, “Uh huh, Have either or anyone in your two parties ever traveled further north in the Territory before?”
Both replied in the negative.
“I didn’t think so or you would have known that traveling north of here this time of year makes it’s doubtful you’ll ever get to where you’re headed.”
“Why is that Sir,” Dusty asked.
“Weather! I can tell you all have a Southern accent and this is most likely the furthest north you’ve ever traveled. Am I correct?”
Again, Dusty answered, “That is correct for us, I never asked Jasper about his earlier where-a-bouts. Like you I assumed though that he was a southern man.”
Jasper replied, “Beaumont Texas born and bred, Sir”
“As I figured. Folks think of the Arizona Territory here as one big hot desert, nothing could be further from the truth. Mister Zales, our recovering surveyor informed me of your separate destinations and I felt compelled to ask you to wait out the winter here instead of leaving. nIt’s for your own safety.”
Looking at the two friends he said, “As for making it to Alpine in the coming months? Forget it. You’ll be crossing some of the coldest barest desert you’ve ever imagined. The winds get so strong that horses have been seen standing frozen to death come morning. Then you still need to make your way through the White Mountains with their heavy snows. Again, you’ll never make it through alive. Snow can get so deep in places it passes the height of a horse.”
Jasper ran his hand across his forehead and asked, “Is that about the same making our way to Fort Verde?”
“I’d say it was a foolish act but no, if you left now, you stand a better chance of making it. Mind you though, it will still be mighty cold along the way and the Black Mountains surrounding Fort Verde do get a good dumping of snow that can trap you in some of the passes there. If I were a gambling man I’d give you a 60% chance you’ll miss the snows… if you left this week that is.”
“I’ll need to talk to my men but my desire is to get to join up with General Crook as soon as possible.” Replied Jasper.
“Well, you do that. If you all decide to winter it out here at the Fort all we ask is that you participate in the hunting of meat and collecting firewood. I may also ask you to help in some of the Forts repairs from time to time. Let me know of you’re decision.”
The two groups decided to discuss the situation around one of the mess hall tables. Once seated, Jasper told his men what the meeting with the Commander was all about.
“I may be heading our travels up but it’s being left up to you all whether we risk the journey up to Fort Verde or not. My feelings are we should but don’t let that influence you none.”
After a show of hands Jasper and his men decided to risk it.
“As for myself,” Dusty told them, “It’s my land we we’re heading up to and I can’t put Crag’s life in danger by making the trip to something he doesn’t own. So, I’ll be staying here.
Craig looked over at Jasper saying, “I never got a chance to tell Dusty about my decision to travel with you.”
Looking at Dusty Craig told him, “I asked Jasper earlier in on our way here if I could join up with them. I may or may not decide to join up with Genera Crook but Dusty, I want to strike out on my own, I just never made the time to tell you.
Dusty sat back looking at his friend. “You never found the time or were you too afraid I’d buck the idea?”
“Kind of both I guess. Look Dusty, we been friends since childhood but I’m tired of being told what I can and shouldn’t do. I’m a grown man. Maybe I found I like the new me. I like getting riled up drinking, I like coupling with women, even fat ugly and old ones, it makes me feel I’m in control. I have needs that go beyond just pleasure, that’s why I never let a woman lay a’top me, I need to be on top, I need to be in control not her!”
Jasper turned to Dusty saying, “I told him he could follow along with us as long as he could pay his own way like each of us do. If he don’t, I told him we’ll cut him loose.”
“So I guess it’s just me weathering out the winter here at the Fort. When do you think you’ll be heading out then Jasper?”
“I figure we need to grain up our animals for a couple more days, put some weight on ‘em before we ride out. I’d say in three days.”
That evening as Dusty made his way past the Forts commissary the girl who’d caught his eye rounded the corner of the commissary and ran headlong into Dusty.
Both plied excuses and begged forgiveness until the both broke out I laughter.
The girl, still wearing the heavy over coat but without the big fur cap stuck out her hand telling him, “My name is Holly, Holly Carr. What’s your name?’’
Becoming red faced and feeling like he just chocked on a dried up biscuit, Dusty replied. “Uh… Dusty. Dusty Carr… no, I’m sorry not Carr, that’s your name, my names Brod.. er Dusty Trail.”
Brodie was smitten tongue tide. With the large fur cap removed he saw just how beautiful she was. Her long hair was so blond and fine it looked nearly white. What had caught his attention from the first was her eyes. They were so unusually green and if eyes could actually smile, hers did.
“The girl covered her mouth to hide a giggle, “Dusty Trail? Really or are you making fun of me.?”
“No, honest, my name is Dusty Trail. Brodie is my real name but folks all call me Dusty.”
“Well I’m sure there is a story there somewhere but I think I’ll call you Brodie I like it better than Dusty.”
“Sure, go ahead if you wish to.”
“Besides a grown man needs a name befitting him, Dusty sounds like a child’s nick name.”
“If you only knew!”
Mustering what face he had left he asked her, “Uh, Miss Carr, may I walk with you for a moment?”
Holly did not answer right away but she did slide her arm into his.
“Where were you going?” He asked.
“Just walking, I like to walk.”
“Where are you from?”
“I was born in Holland so I can never run for President of the United States. I was just an eight months old when the ship landed. My grandparents were waiting at the dock in Boston when I arrived.”
“You mean when you and your family arrived, don’t you?”
“No, they all died on the way over, only I survived.”
“What? What happened?”
“I was told our ship had a previous voyage carrying negro slaves from West Africa to Arabia. I guess they had some disease because I’m told it was just days after leaving Holland that the illness on board broke out. Since I was just an infant, I was kept way down below where the ship doesn’t rock so much. I never became sick but my family did and they all died.”
Dusty did not know what to say. What words could ever comfort someone who lost their entire family? Not wanting to pry but still very curious he asked her. “So the elderly couple you arrived with are your Grand parents then?”
“Yes, we are on our way to Utah.”
“Utah? That’s Mormon territory isn’t it?”
Holly’s face fell, “I guess, you see Grandpa has converted to Mormonism and said his Bishop has found a good match to be my husband there.”
“Is that what you wanted? A husband you never met?”
“I have no choice. My Grandfather has already agreed to the Bishops choice.”
“But that makes no sense, a girl should marry out of love, not by being forced.”
“I had always dreamed of being in love. My parents were said to be in love.”
The couple reached the end of the row of buildings and turned to walk back. Dusty could not imagine being forced to marry someone. He knew that in some smaller towns the pickings weren’t very plentiful but that seemed so different than being forced.
“Are you staying the winter?” She asked, “We are. We were told we would not make it to Utah unless we waited for winter to end.”
“Yes, only myself out of our two groups are staying. The others are leaving in a few days for a place called Fort Verde.”
“I never heard of Fort Verde but I’m glad we are staying here for the winter. My Grandma has a bad heart. Grandpa did not want her to come but she insisted saying a young girl should only travel if another older woman is her consort.”
“Well, that much I can agree with. ”
“What about you? Do you want to marry?”
He responded smiling broadly “Sure I do, and I want children too! I am going up to a place called Alpine to settle there. I am told it it a beautiful place, lots of forest, clear streams, and over two hundred acres of tillable land! It’s where I can raise a wonderful family with a loving wife at my side.”
Holly seemed to stare off into the sky’s blue expanse, “You make it sound so wonderful. Do you have someone special you are meeting there?”
“Oh no, I have no one. I hope that changes after I build a home and get the land tilled.”
By now they had once again reached the commissary where they had began their walk. Disengaging her arm from his she quietly told him how much she enjoyed their walk and hoped to walk with him again soon.
“I would like that. He told her”
That night he could not sleep. He re-ran their conversation over and over until well past midnight when he at last fell asleep.
The next morning saw the two friends in the mess hall eating breakfast.
“So I saw you sweet talking that new girl yesterday. You do know she’s to marry a Mormon don’t you?”
“Yes, she told me.”
“To think a girl like that would marry some Mormon over three times her own age, it’s “disgusting. I was also told the man already has a wife!”
“Yep, and the man she’s to marry is the bishop himself!”
“Where did you hear all of this? She told me she didn’t even knew who she was to marry.”
“Lot you know about her then!”
Craig took delight in telling him the rest.
“Her Gran-daddy told me all about it. See, I tried to spark her but he told me to stay away from her. He said that she’s promised to some Mormon Bishop, and because they’ll be related after the marriage the Bishop is sending him up to some big city up in Utah to serve in their temple. She’s going to live along with his first wife south of there in a town called Provo”
“You’re right, it sounds disgusting.”
Craig smirked, “A young girl like that should have her honey pot broken into by someone nearer to her own age. At least then she’d have something to think on while that old buffalo is humpin’ on her. Now if I was to break her she’d have a memory for a lifetime. Yes Sir, the things I would do to her would make her toes spin.”
“Just behave yourself Craig, remember, this is a Military Fort. Besides, you’re starting to sound scary.”
As Dusty left the mess hall he spotted Holly standing in the deep morning shadows slightly under an exterior stairway that led up to the unmarried officers sleeping quarters.
Catching his eye, she hastely waved him to come over.
“I’m so glad I caught you before Grandpa comes out. It takes him a while to dress and feed Grandma so I have some time. I wanted to tell you yesterday later in the day but didn’t see you and Grandpa has become suspicious of my actions ever since he caught your friend showing his unwanted interest in me. I don’t care for your friend, I’m sorry but I think he’s lewd.”
“I understand, yesterday I spoke to him and told him to behave himself. He seemed overly pleased in telling me what your Grandfather told him… about you getting married and all.”
Holly dropped her head and her smile left her face. Dusty noted then that she had tears streaming down her cheeks. She looked up miserably into Dusty’s eyes and blurted. “Oh Brodie!” She preferred calling him that over Dusty. “I’m doomed!
“About your marriage?”
“Yes about my marriage! After our wonderful walk yesterday my Grandfather told me all about it. I’m to be a second wife to some old man who bribed my Grandfather into giving me to him! This is not what I had dreamed of as a wife! I wanted someone who loved me and I loved, who was my trusted friend, someone my heart yearned after… someone like you Brodie.”
At that Holly’s heart burst and she began to cry.
In a natural response, Dusty took her into his arms and held her tight. She hugged him back, burying her face into his neck and let her tears flow.
After a minute or two she calmed but remained clinging to him. With tears she continued to repeat her outburst that she was doomed.
Knowing nothing of Mormonism or even if it were legal to have two wives, Dusty was at a loss for words so he just held her.
“Holly, I’m so sorry.” He told her quietly into her ear. “If I had the power and right I would take you away from here. I’d give you the dream you wish for. The home, the love, the family… everything.”
Holly slowly pulled her tear stained face from his neck, looked into his eyes and softy spoke. “And I would willingly go with you Brodie. I know it seems impossible but my heart has fallen in love with you though we’ve only had one walk together.”
Dusty exhaled deeply telling her, “I did not know what loving a girl was all about, until now. I ran through our conversation a hundred times last night. I’ve never been in love before but as much as I can be, I believe I am. Thinking of you marrying another makes my heart ache so I must be in love. ”
Eventually the sad couple had to part as Holly feared her Grandfather might catch them in their embrace. If that happened Holly knew she would never be trusted to be alone again and it would be torture to see her love each day throughout the winter and never be able to speak to him.
After parting, Holly told him. “I was told my duty today at the Fort is to perform the store room’s inventory along with my Grandfather. I had better get inside and start. My Grandfather should be along shortly and I need to fix my face and dry my eyes before he comes.
“You go then, but I will be thinking of you. I promised Jasper that I’d give Craig’s horse and pack mule a good going over before they leave. I don’t think Jasper trust Craig to do it.”
“Brodie, I know I was being forward in what I just told you but I would never take those words back.”
“Nor I Holly. Now go.”
Unbeknownst to the pair, Craig had been watching the two but was unable to hear their intimate conversation. His eyes narrowed but smiled when he saw Holly enter the store room alone and close the door behind her to keep out the cold.
As Holly busied herself opening crates and counting the contents she heard the door open and felt the rush of cold air. Believing it was her Grandfather, she did not turn around until she heard, “So we’re finally alone!”
A deep chill ran down her spine and panic rose within her.
“M-My Grandfather will be here soon! Should he catch me alone with you he will surely severely punish me.”
“Who cares, I promised myself that before I left here I’d feel what it was like to bed you!”
Saying that, Craig quickly stepped forward to the frightened girl and in a single move
ripped open her winter flannel top, exposing her virgin breast. Seeing their perfection, he violently forced her to the floor where he began his molestation.
Suddenly she began to scream. She screamed so loud it hurt her throat.
But, rather than stopping him it seemed to excite him even more.
Craig was never one to think his actions through to completion. All that consumed him was the thought of over powering and raping the young girl. Hearing her scream raised his desire to molest her even more, not out of love but that of control. Because of his lack of forethought he was unaware that her screams could be heard throughout the Fort.
In his blundering attempt to remove the screaming girls clothing, he found that it was a much more difficult task than tearing off the cheaply made attire saloon whores wore. In his frustration, he also discovered his own pants refused to open.
So intent was he that he did not hear the door being kicked open behind him. He only turned when it opened and loudly slammed itself against the wall.
Turning his head away from the girl in order to see who had entered he then saw the girls Grandfather standing there. Red faced with anger the old but still muscular man charged forward into the room. Craig quickly rolled off the girl grabbing at his holstered pistol.
The screaming girls Grandfather rushed towards the Craig ready to do Battle with his clenched giant fist. But, an enormous ear shattering explosion from Craigs gun stopped him in mid step.
Craig had just enough time before her Grandfather reached them to pull off one shot. Fortunately for Craig and unfortunately for the Grandfather, the 45 caliber slug tore through the old man’s neck, nearly severing his head from his body.
Rolling himself to a kneeling position, Craig once again cocked the single action Colt 45 knowing someone may come through the open door at any moment. He had only a split second to point it forward when the figure of the Sargent filled the doorway.
Unaware of the Sargent’s training, Craig fired wildly at the opening but the Sargent had upon entering immediately threw himself to the left of the opening and fired his own pistol.
Craig’s bullet shot harmlessly through the empty doorway just missing Dusty’s scalp who was only a step behind the Sargent.
The Sargent, having a double action pistol quickly followed his first shot with two more.
Within the smoke filled store room two bodies lay dead.
Within seconds a multitude of soldiers began filling the doorway. The ever diligent Sargent ordered the crowd of soldiers to disperse and return to their duty. Slowly they left leaving Dusty and the Sargent alone with the terrified girl.
Upon seeing Dusty, she rose while attempting cover herself but more intent on throwing herself into Dusty’s waiting arms.
Holly had little desire to see her Grandfathers mutilated corpse. It wasn’t out of disrespect but the grossness of the headless corpse scared her. Realizing there was nothing the two could do to help, they left the store room after Dusty spoke to the Sargent. He kept her hand within his as he escorted her to the unmarried women’s quarters to fix her face and change out of her damaged blouse.
As they made there way, Holly suddenly stopped him saying,“Oh my gosh Brodie, I need to tell my Grandma what just happened. She still thinks Grandpa and I are busy taking the store’s inventory.”
“Holly,” Dusty gently told her, “I just spoke to the Sargent about that. He told me he’d take care of that duty and for another thing, you really need to change your torn shirt before you go anywhere.”
Realizing she had forgotten her winter coat and had done a perfectly innadiquit job of covering herself, she reddened and said, I’m sorry you saw my nakedness Brodie, a girl’s biggest fear is that after seeing her unclothed, her husband might find her lacking.”
“My dear Holly, put away any fears you have concerning that subject, in my eyes you’re perfect.”
Holly squeezed his hand and told him to wait outside her quarters for her to return. Dusty, now even he preferring to be called Brodie saw the Sargent making his way up to the building that the Carr Grandparents had been given to stay in.
In short order Holly changed and made her way back to Brodie’s side saying she wished to be there when the Sargent informed her Grandmother of her husband’s murder.
As they neared the quarters, they heard the Sargent shouting an order for someone to get the Fort’s Doctor.
The couple look at each other and without saying a word began running all the while still holding hands as they rushed towards the Grandparents quarters.
Upon entering the room they quickly saw the bed which the Grandmother was lying in had had its sheet pulled up to the headboard.
“Holly stood wordlessly then mouthed, Grandma?”
The Sargent removed his issued cap and held it in his two hands. “I’m sorry lass. When I told her what happened, she moaned once and gave up the ghost.”
Brodie saw pools of wet tears brimming in her eyes. To no one in particular she said, “She loved him dearly even though he had never said a kind word to her.”
Early the next morning at daybreak Brodie and Holly watched Jasper and his men moving out to beat the coming winter. Having never met the grandparents and intent on their leaving, they did not stay for the Carr’s double burial.
Having shook Brodie’s hand goodbye from the saddle, Jasper winked at he and Holly and said, It’s a mixed blessing on all accounts. I only told Craig he could ride with us because I knew he’d never join up with Crook’s men. I’m sorry, but he had no sand to be a man.”
The two watched as Jasper and his men turned north and rode in the direction of the distant Black Mountains.
Standing there as they watched, Holly turned to Brodie and said, “Yes, it is a mixed blessing. Through these terrible deaths you are now free of your obligation to his father and I am now free to marry for love. It’s ironic in ways. I am now free but I have no where to go to be free. Sure, I have the money my grandfather had in his money belt but other than that, I don’t know how to start over.”
“Holly, I spent a sleepless night thinking of you and your future. I know you feel something towards me and I know I have deep feelings for you so…”
“Brodie, I have much deeper feelings toward you than ‘just ‘something’. I am in love with you. I too spent the night pondering my future. I’m not sure if you are ready or even willing to be married in this stage of your life but if you were to ask me, I would not deny you.”
“Then you would not turn me down if I asked you to be my wife? Even though we’ve only known each other for a week?”
“Yes, if you go ahead and ask me.”
“Then I will. Holly would you do me the greatest honor in my life and become my wife? I promise to love and protect you all the days of my life.”
“Yes, I will marry you. But, we need to attend to my Grandparents and Craig’s burial first.”
“I wonder what your Grandfather would think knowing you will never marry the Bishop or follow the Mormon faith.”
“I’m sure he would be very displeased. He was a strong minded and self centered man. If one were to cross him in any way, he’d hold it against you until he had his way. I never loved the man, instead I feared him. He was a zealot in his faith and nothing less than that mattered to him. Sure, he provided but only because he had an end plan that would raise his esteem within the Church. My Grandmother I loved and I will miss her but my Grandfather? No, I will not weep over him.”
“Is there any other family?”
“No, my Grandparents were the only family I had in this country.”
“What about you Brodie, you never mentioned your family.”
“Well, I’m kind of alone also. My Mama died giving child birth and a year later my Dad fell ill with consumption and passed. He left me a good savings and the land in Alpine that I am heading up to. As for Craig, I grew up with Craig. He was my lifelong best friend and next door neighbor but the war changed him and he went bad.”
“I can attest to that!”
I’m so sorry, he made comments about you but In all my days I never imagined he would try and molest the girl I was sweet on.”
“So you were sweet on me? When did you know?”
“The moment our eyes locked on each other.”
“How sweet!” She said lifting her face she kissed his cheek.
The first burial held was Holly’s Grandparents. The soldiers had dug two graves, one large enough for two and a lone single grave much further away.
The ground was only frozen for a few inches from the surface so it wasn’t too difficult to dig to the proper depth.
The Fort’s Chaplin prayed over them not knowing the grandfather was a devout Mormon. To Holly it made no difference. When he prayed for her Grandmother Bodie noticed her tears were once again flowing.
Within minutes following her Grandmother being lowered beside her husband Holly and Bodie made their way over to where Craig was to be buried.
The Chaplin made his way over and once again prayed over the body before it was laid to rest.
At that moments, Brodie told the others that he wanted to say a few words over the grave.
“Craig,” He spoke looking into the hole and down at his friend, “You and I grew up being best friends. We were inseparable. We fished together, explored the country side and spent many a night camping under the stars together, I loved you. But, the war changed you. If you had not died, we would most likely have ended up worst enemies rather than best friends. I am marrying the girl you viciously attacked. It will take some time to forgive you for that. I would never have wished you being killed but I believe the Lord knew you would not have stopped but continued so he took you away for others sake.” As he threw a handful of cold earth on top of the canvas wrapped body he quietly said, “Goodbye Craig, I pray the Lord has mercy on you.”
The couple stayed behind watching the others return to the Fort but asked the Chaplin to hold up a minute.
“Chaplin,” Brodie asked him, “Would it be possible that you marry Holly and I?”
He quizzically looked at the two, shrugged and replied, Yes, I can marry you two and give you the necessary legal marriage papers. When were you thinking of?”
Holly spoke up. “Would today be possible? I don’t want to be alone tonight. Last night I could not even close my eyes. ”
The Chaplin smiled and reassured her it was fine. “I understand. You’ve been through a lot the last two days.”
Brodie then asked Holly if he could invite the Sargent and Commander as witnesses.
Holly thought inviting them was a wonderful idea and said so.
As spring approached, the Trails became excited about leaving the Fort and heading up to Alpine to settle the land inherited by Brodie.
There were other families that had arrived to take shelter in the Fort after Holly and Brodie were married.
During the winter months the Forts wintering over families got to know each other and a few strong friendships were formed.
The Trails were delighted to find that two other families had purchased land in or near Alpine.
The Huff family consisted of four teenage children, mother and father.
The Andersen were recently married and she was with early child.
Nearing his mid forties, John Huff had been in Alpine two years previous and was the owner of the Huff Lumber and Sawmill company that he had started near Alpine. Besides the lumber mill, he had commissioned the building of a frame house for he and his family to live in. Huff’s wife and children had stayed behind in Alabama during his previous visit and were excited to once again be a united family.
The young Andersen family were nearly the same ages as the Trails. This really excited Holly who as a young girl was never permitted to have any real friendships. Her Grandfather had even denied her the ability to be bucolically schooled, favoring private Mormon tutors.
Most of the other families waiting for good weather were heading up to the more north westerly town of Prescott. They had been told it may become the State capitol someday so many saw dollar signs in starting new businesses there.
Both families, the Andersen and the Huffs, had arrived hauling large converted ore wagons to carry all their supplies, budding materials and house hold goods. The Anchorperson’s converted Studebaker wagon could easily carry over ten tons fully loaded and required a minimum of eight mules to haul it.
The Huffs arrived in a converted Newton wagon, one of the largest wagon’s ever built. This immense wagon had enough room in it to carry a steam driven plank planer and tractor sander besides the family’ household goods. Thirteen to eighteen mules were required to haul the Huff’s Newton heavy freight wagon with it’s four large six foot diameter and ten inch wide wheels. When Huff arrived he had fourteen mules and was interested in buying four more from the Fort’s livery.
After seeing these monster wagons Brodie felt that maybe he should also invest in some sort of wagon. When it was just he and Craig, sleeping under the stars was no problem, but now he was a married man and could not ask Holly to travel that way.
During the winter he purchased a smaller Blaine made wagon. It had been used to haul goods from Tucson to the Fort and back. A broken rear axle saw it never returning to Tucson. For the last two years it had been stored outside the Forts rear gate under a canvas tarp.
The Commander sold the wagon to Brodie for ten dollars and threw in the Fort’s Black Smith to fabricate a new iron axle to replace the broken wooden one for a dollar. It was a lighter wagon, having only four foot diameter and four inch wide wheels but Brodie was going to dual much less than the others.
Little by little Brodie accumulated the needed supplies to make the trip to Alpine.
His fortune continued when John Huff told Brodie he was more than welcome to the large canvas tent the Huffs had been using on their trip after the Huffs arrived and moved into their newly built home. When Brodie asked the price John told him he wasn’t interested in selling it but instead was giving it to him. This answered the problem of what he and Holly would live in during the time it took to build their own home.
The tent was nearly as big as his old home in West Virginia. Three inch thick wooden poles supported thick canvas and it housed a steel wood burning cook stove for cooking and keeping the tent warm. Brodie decided it was perfect .
On an overcast spring day the three wagons formed a line and rolled out from the Fort’s front gate. Having said their thank you’s and goodbye’s the three families pointed their wagon train north east to eventually parallel the White River then turn onto the trail going to Alpine. Following the map drawn by the surveyor, they were ab;able to avoid areas forbidding the wagons.
It took three weeks to journey from the Fort to Alpine and both Brodie and wife Holly could not arrive soon enough. Although the trip was uneventful regarding Indians and the feared Mexican bandits, it wasn’t without their share of mishaps and tribulations.
One of the Huff’s boys had a foot rolled over upon by the huge Newton wagon, soundly breaking it. In another incident one of the Andersen’s mules stepped into a hole and broke its leg. The mule had to be put down but knowing Indians loved mule meat it was decided to butcher it and give it to the first Indians they came upon.
Now with only seven mules to haul their wagon Brodie loaded onto his own wagon the four thirty gallon barrels containing the Andersen’s water, coal oil, flour and dried apples.
Neither Brodie nor Holly had spent more than a few hours riding in a wagon so were unaccustomed to what effects the swaying and bouncing had on the behinds. After each days trip, the two would slow and painfully step down from the bare wood wagon’s seat.
Making their way to where the campfire would be they both sat down gently.
John Huff saw the situation and after a few days finally pulled Brodie aside and told him, “Put a blanket over the plank seat Brodie, it’ll save you and yours from loosing some flesh!”
It helped but was a bit late in preventing the already smarting blisters each now sported.
Previously while still at the Fort, the surveyor went over the land deed to identify the properties survey markers where about’s that had been put there when his father had purchased the land. The first and starting marker was located along the small lake’s southern shore at a small inlet creek. From that point Brodie could discover the other boundary markers and view the layout of his two thousand plus acre property.
He told Brodie, “There’s a notation from your father that’s written on the back of the deed saying the survey markers were to be steel rods painted yellow and protruding no less that two feet from the ground.”
On Sunday the fifth of May, the Trails parted ways with the other two families and took a trail that should take them to his property’s small lake. As it turned out, the Andersen property was less than a mile from the lake but to the east at the end of the Alpine valley. The Dale Andersen had grown up on a farm and planned to continue being a farmer. The acreage he had purchased was one of the few places within the valley besides Brodie’s land that had enough tillable acreage to support a good sized farm.
John Huff’s home and lumber company was closer to the most northern town near Alpine at a distance of seven miles from Brodie’s land.
By late Sunday afternoon the Trails rolled up and halted their wagon on the south shore of their lake.
Holly lowered herself down from the blanketed wagon seat. She walked towards the shoreline. Her right hand was raised to cover her mouth as if she were afraid to speak, that the spell might be broken.
Her eyes traveled the length of the placid lake and returned to gaze upon it and the deep forest behind it.
She heard Brodie jump down from the wagon and approach her from behind. Before he reached his awe struck wife she turned to face him, her mouth still covered but now tears flowed freely down her face.
“Oh my Land”, she finally uttered quietly, it’s the most beautiful land I have ever seen!
Brodie reached out and from behind her wrapped his arms around her not speaking.
“Please, tell me this really yours?” Her eyes closed still pleaded with him to say yes.
Brodie leaned slightly forward and placed a light kiss upon the nape of her neck.
Hugging gently he whisperd in her ear. :No…”
He felt her stiffen in his arms but relax when he finished by telling her
“It’s not mine, it’s OURS!”
The couple spent that summer living in the large tent given to them by the Huff family while Brodie cut down the amount of Ponderosa pines needed to build their home. These were hauled up to the Huff Lumber and mill to be cut into useable lumber. The wood would still need to be stacked and dried for a complete year before they could be used to build the home with. In the meantime, John Huff delivered enough lumber at no cost for the couple to build a small two room cabin to live in during their home’s construction. That cabin later would eventually house the ranch foreman.
Before they left the Fort, Brodie had taken the time to write Mister O’Reilly regarding the death of his son Craig. That summer he received a reply. In the return letter Mister O’Reilly while saddened to lose his son, agreed his death was no ones fault except his own and he wished the newly weds well.
That Christmas Holly gave Brodie the most special of gifts by telling him she was expecting. She was sure it was a boy but out popped a beautiful blond haired girl. Brodie beamed with pride showing her off to the Andersens and Huffs. Holly would surprise him three more times.
At thirty, by popular demand from all the Alpine residence, now numbering almost one hundred, the recently approved State of Arizona asked Brodie to head the newly created Arizona Rangers service.
There are lots of stories to be told of Brodie’s adventures as a lawman but like all tales this story here must now come to a close.
A great writer. I also write some stories but am lacking your expertise. Very nice to put it mildly.
Keep on writing, practice makes perfect… not that I’m there yet myself.