My name is Cal Clifford I’m twenty seven years old. I’m a Deputy United States Marshal… of sorts. Maybe a trainee is more accurate but the Marshal Service still bestows the full title on you so if need be you could legally arrest someone.
A full pledged Deputy Marshal has a lot more responsibly than a trainee like myself and along with that comes a lot more serious duties. Deputies are taught to think for themselves all the while keeping their actions more or less within the law. They answer only to the Marshal. As for me, I’m on the bottom of the totem pole so I just obey orders.
This mornings orders were of a typical nature. I was to transport a prisoner here from Fort Worth Texas back to the Colorado Court system in Boulder. It seemed to me they must have figured it was a non perilous duty since they decided a green horn like myself could handle the job. Boy were they wrong!
I walked the three blocks to the court house on Main street where prisoners of the Court were housed. This was a different building than the county jail.
I climbed the twelve stairs up to the big brass main entrance doors. The doors stood open. I entered the large foyer with its twenty foot tall ceiling and polished marble floors. The sound of my heeled boots loudly echoed off the walls causing some of those inside to turn and stare reprovingly at me. I made my way to the basement stairwell where the prisoners were held in small six foot by eight foot cells.
I approached the guard, handing him my orders he looked them over and shaking his head said, “Hallway three, cell four. Hand your orders over to the guard stationed there.” I thanked him.
Following the signs painted on the walls I made it to my destination. The guard stuck his hand out taking my orders. “Follow me.” Under his breath just loud enough for me to hear him he muttered, “Good luck with this one, you’ll need it”.
Not a real great way to start a Monday morning.
We made our way down the hall to cell number four. Once there he opened a small eye high rectangular door in the solid steel door to view his prisoner. He then unlocked a small lower door used to pass meals through into the cell and shouted, “Prisoner turn facing the back wall and stick your two hands behind you and out of the meal door.”
A pair of small hands slowly protruded out of the meal door where they were hand cuffed. “Take two steps forward away from the door and keep your mouth shut!”, he shouted. Once satisfied his prisoner had followed all his orders he unlocked the solid steel door.
“Back up towards the open door, continue to face the back wall!”
What I saw surprised me. The small hands belonged to a girl looking no older than in her early teens. I looked questioningly at the guard and whispered, “This kid is the prisoner?” My ‘prisoner’ looked to be no older than fifteen years old or so. She had long light blond hair, green eyes and the most quirky cute smile you could imagine. The ends of her mouth turned upwards giving the impression she had just heard a funny joke or was smiling from a private thought. She was beyond cute.
“Wanted for breaking and entering, murder and theft up in Colorado. Don’t turn your back on this one, she’ll cut your throat if given the chance. I’m glad she’s outa’ here!”
I had not bothered to look at the prisoners name on the orders so I asked the guard, “What’s her name?”
He looked at the orders for a couple seconds, found her name and replied, “It says here Holly Steward but we call her ‘Badger’.”
“You ever hear of a Mama badger? This is one in the flesh. Most ornery, foul spitting, screaming bitch you’ll ever run across. This one has the Devil inside of her, that’s fer sure! You be careful, keep her bound and don’t let her smiles fool ya’. She’d just as soon see you dead and eat your bones for desert.”
I looked at the small girl thinking, “She can’t weigh ninety pounds if that even. Ain’t no taller than mid my chest. Still I thought, I better not let my guard down around her,it sure would be embarrassing trying to explain how a fifteen year old got the better of a man nearly twice her age. .”
I thanked the guard and walked my prisoner down the corridors and out of the building.
I told her as we walked, “We are heading over the the Marshal Service building. They have a stable there where we’ll pick up our horses. For some reason they denied transporting you by train, said travel by horse was preferred in this case.”
She didn’t answer. She knew it was because she was so disruptive that the rail company denied her passage unless it was in a freight car but of course she didn’t tell me that.
Once at the stables they brought out the three requisitioned horses for our travels. Two were saddled and the third was already outfitted with full packs.
The hostler handed me a receipt to sign. “The packs contains one full week of grub at three meals a day. Extra ammunition, cookware, a leather case with bank drafts valued up to one hundred dollars apiece etc, etc etc.”
“Coffee?” I asked.
“Three pounds of mill ground Folgers.”
When ready, and after she mounted, I removed the cuff on her left hand and snapped it around the saddles pommel. Looking closely at her small feminine hands I wondered how someone who was gifted with such innocent good looks and bright eyes could go so wrong at such an early age. Well, it was none of my business.
We left at noon and headed west out of Fort Worth towards the territory of New Mexico. We’d skip around El Paso to resupply in Demming.
Our first day of travels up to dinner time went well. She had not spoken a word and seemed resigned to her fate. She would surely be hung on the order of the court in Colorado.
“We’ll stop here for our meal then move five or so miles away so if anyone smelled our cook fire it won’t lead anyone to us.”
She spoke for the first time asking, “Who would be looking for us?”
“Could be Indians, Owl hots or even someone wanting to rescue you.”
“Well, she said, “you ain’t gotta’ worry about the last one. Ain’t nobody’d give a crap enough to rescue me. I’d be more worried someone would track us down an’ shoot me in my sleep.”
“Ma’am, in transporting you it also falls on me to protect you.”
“A real do good-er, huh?”
“Yup, that’s me, a Do-gooder through and through.”
I left her sitting while I unsaddled my horse laying it on the ground and hobbled my mount then I hobbled hers. There was no need to hobble the pack horse at it suffered from separation anxiety. In other words, it was afraid to be left alone.I took my hat and watered both horse after feeding a quart of oats each. After that I broke out the food pack to cook us up a meal. Lastly I unlocked the cuff from her saddles pommel.
I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.
As the cuff fell her pommel and onto her saddle she swung it forcefully around her head. She crashed it into my temple, nearly knocking me out. Seeing a bright flash and a universe of stars I fell to the ground. As quick as a bob cat she was upon me. I tried to regain my senses but she was pounding my already half knocked out head with her tiny fist. I should be grateful it wasn’t a man beating on me for I would have been lifeless in just moments. I brought up my arms to protect my face but she bit them each time I tried that. Between punches there were scratches and gouging going on. She was relentless, she never let up.
She now sat upon my chest doing her best to beat my head to a pulp. Instinctively, I wrapped my two arms around her pinning her arms to her side. I rolled over causing her to be partially underneath me. She could no longer use her arms to subdue me so she put her knees into use. I felt her small knee jerk its way up trying to smash my crotch. Fearing the worst for all my unborn children, I wrapped my legs around hers completely immobilizing her.
I had her legs and arms pinned thinking I was out of trouble when she began to bang her head into mine. Good Lord, I suddenly realized why they called her the Badger!
She wouldn’t stop. I forced my face onto the side of her head to push her head down into my arm squashing itself into the dirt.
Finally, I got a break. I had every movable part of her pinned.
We lay there breathing heavily as if we’d both just sprinted a mile. I had no idea what to do next. Maybe a full Marshal would know but I was just a trainee. I’d never been instructed in the art of self defense.
Every now and then she’d struggle, making vile threats and such. As time passed though, her struggles became less and less and finally her breathing slowed and she began to relax.
I wasn’t fooled. I figured just as soon as I let up she’d be Mama Badger again. Little did I know her thoughts of escape were now miles away.
She lay there completely immobilized by my arms and legs. It was then that she had what some might call an epiphany. She lay there feeling a sensation she’d never felt before. Sure, men and boys had tried unsuccessfully in the past to pin her down in order to satisfy their deviant lust but this was different.
As she lay there immobilized yet quietly breathing she smelled the faint pleasant odor of the shaving soap I had used that morning in shaving. Rather than a face full of rough whiskers poking her tender face from some grizzled pervert she felt smooth freshly shaved skin upon her own. Then too she noted the arm underneath her head also had a faint yet pleasant smell, as if I had recently bathed and afterward splashed on a tonic… I had. She felt the warmth of both my face and arm and found it strangely pleasant. She felt the soft hairs of my arms under her cheek and she began to dream.
She wondered if this is what it was like to have a husband, one who actually loved her. She fantasized she was laying in bed with her lover husband, feeling him hold her tightly. She fantasized her bed was in a small house, it was a summer morning. Outside the window the limbs and leaves of an apple tree loaded with fruit swayed under a cool morning breeze. Her husband held her safely in his arms. She had never been more completely comforted or felt safer. It was but a snippet of time to me but to her it lasted a lifetime.
I lay there wondering just how long we’d have to lay there. My mind too began to wander.
I could feel the rise and fall of her small chest within my wrapped arms. I felt the baby smooth skin of her youthful face on mine. I felt her thin child like limbs held securely by my own. A tinge of guilt began to creep into my thoughts. After all, she was my prisoner and I should have never felt the feelings I was feeling. I mean , she was just a kid, cute as a button but still a kid.
Now I have to admit. The only time I’d ever been with another woman was on my eighteenth birthday. My friends dragged me into town saying I was now a man and should acknowledge my manhood at one of the saloons in town. I figured they meant to get me drunk on whiskey. I was wrong.
When we arrived at the Golden Slipper Saloon my friends immediately drug me up stairs telling me they had previously arranged a get together for me with Big Dolly Red, a whore.
Well I was so nervous that when Big Dolly entered the room and saw how antsy I was she promptly let out a laugh that sounded more like a ships fog horn than any lady I ever knew of. In a way the laugh fit her because she was as big as a Mississippi river barge.
She wandered over to the bed where I nervously sat upon saying, “Your friends bought the two dollar job, that’s where I bend over the bed, lift up my dress and you get your poke from behind. If’n you want me topless and front wise it’ll cost you another four bits and seeing how cute you are I betting you’d want the topless deal.”
I had no idea what in the world a ‘poke’ was or what being topples for an extra dollar was all about so I stuttered saying in order not to argue or offend her, “Uh, topless is alright I guess.”
To my astonishment and horror she dropped the dress she was wearing to the floor. There she stood with no under garments on and standing there fully stark naked!.
Seeing me wobble on my feet as I neared unconsciousness from fear, she laughed that terrible fog horn laugh again and now hanging onto the iron beds foot board she bent over exposing what looked like two pink baby pigs glued together where her hind end shoulda’ been. It was her butt cheeks but it took a bit to recognize them as that. As I stumbled away from the bed, I turned and that’s when her two giant stretch marked breast came into view. I swear those huge tear drop shaped cow utters hung so low in the position she was in that they rested a good foot below her chest resting on the bed spread.
Well, I quickly flew outa’ there with that sexually debilitating visual scorched into my mind forever. No child and possibly no adult should have seen what I did. I made it back home in record time as I ran flat out the entire way. I thought seriously for a long time afterwards about leaving the Baptist church and becoming a Catholic Priest!
But that memory faded into oblivion as I stared looking at the young sweet face I held securely in my arms.
I’d decided after an hour or so that she had fallen asleep and was no longer interested in kicking my future children’s waiting room to pieces so I slowly began to untangle myself from her when suddenly I felt her reaching out. With eyes still closed she groped around until she found my hand. Gently she inter twined her fingers in mine and quietly murmured, “Please hold me, don’t let me go.”
Not knowing what else I could do I held her tightly throughout the night.
It was about 4am when she again spoke. “That was the nicest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. I have never been with a man before but I’m offering myself to you. Do you want me?”
I wasn’t an eighteen year old any more so I knew what she was saying. I answered her hoping the right words would come out.
“Why would you ask me that?”
“Because I’m about to die and I’ve never made love or have been in love. I don’t want to die not knowing that someone loved me.”
“I do have feelings for you. I have no idea how they came to be or why I even entertained them but yes, I want you… but not like this. The truth be told I’m in my late twenties and you are what fifteen years old at best? Besides, you’re a murderess to be hung.
She quietly said, “Many of my friends were married by the age of fifteen. But, you have no need to worry about that, I’m a lot older than I look, I’m twenty two!”
“What? No way, just look at you! I see girls still in school that look older than you.”
“I tell you what, if you let me up, since we missed last nights meal, I’ll cook us a big breakfast and tell you the story of my life. You’ll see why I’m no murderess even though I might hang for being charged as one.”
“I can’t let you go, I’m afraid you’ll slit my throat.”
“Let me tell you something about myself then. If I make a promise, I keep it. If I say I’m going to do something, I do it, no matter what. If I tell you that you can believe me you can. I’d rather die by drowning that tell a lie.”
“Then I can trust you to behave if I let you up?”
“Yes, with your life.”
“I was afraid you’d say that. Alright, seeing as there’s now way we can lay here for eternity I’m going to trust you.”
She chuckled, “I kind of like the idea of laying here for eternity being held like this but my belly button is beginning to touch my spine wondering if it’ll ever see food again!”
I began to let her up, hoping she wasn’t going to kick my teeth out. That’s when I noticed her top had been seriously torn open during our struggle the day before. Turning my head away in embarrassment I told her “Uh, Holly, Ma’am, your top is torn, your breast are exposed.”
Jerking back she quickly tried to cover herself but her top was too torn to adequately do the job. She chuckled, “I shouldn’t be embarrassed, I just got done offering myself to you.
Thinking quick like I said, “Here, take my shirt, I have another I keep rolled up in my blanket behind my saddle.”
I stood up removed my shirt and handed it to her. I found my spare still rolled up in the blanket next to my saddle laying on the ground. We were lucky I hobbled both horses before all this happened as we might have had a very long walk back.
She tried on my shirt and ended up tying the front shirt tails together at her waist. Tied like it was, it exposed her flat tummy and gave definition to her small but rounded breast. Dang she looked cute! Then just as suddenly a vision came to me of her dropping through the hangman’s platform snapping her thin neck and my stomach lurched.
I tried to remind myself this girl had broke into a house, murdered the owner then fled with a satchel full of cash. I needed to remember that.
For sure she did not disappoint me on the breakfast though. Together we ate a pound of sizzling hot bacon, an over flowing plate full of hot cakes with maple syrup, biscuits and more bacon and lots of delicious coffee.
After eating I lay back and told her, “Oh my God, I can’t move I’m so full!
“That’s good, it means you have to sit there while I tell you why I’m gonna’ be hung.”
She sat there cross legged, her eyes focused on mine and began her story. “As a kid I was always small, smaller than all the other girls, I mean really small. Not just short small but in all of my features. I was all in a proper proportion not like dwarf or midget but all the other kids still toward over me. I was told things like, she’s a runt or she’s delicate but it hurt when women would say I was too small to bare children. I love children and wanted a houseful of them. That’s why it hurt.
In my teens no boy ever looked my way for fear of being made fun of by their friends. Everyone would tell me I was cute as a kitten but that made it even worse.
At home my Dad was useless as a father, he was always drunk. He’d beat on my Mom nearly every night, I don’t know how she put up with it, I guess in the end her beatings were too much for her though. One day when I was fifteen I came home from work and found she had left a note saying she took off for parts unknown. My Dad said the note blamed me but I had read it before he found it. In it she repeated a few times how much she loved me and hated my Dad.”
I had to pause her to get more wood on the fire. She couldn’t help because even though I hated to do it I had replaced the cuffs on her before she began her story. I began to wish I had really found another line of work. She continued talking when I sat back down.
“Even with all the kids making fun of my size I was a good attentive student until my Dad showed up at school one day. He was drunk and demanded I come home at once. My teacher, Miss English, tried to stand between my Dad and me, trying to protect me. He slapped her so hard she fell unconscious onto the floor. I remember all the kids ran out of the school house screaming. Miss English lay there bleeding from her mouth. My Dad put the blame on me and dragged me by my hair all the way home. The Sheriff gave him ten days.”
“Nice father you had, is he the one you you killed?”
“No it was my employer, the bankers son Brad Sinclaire. My Dad made me leave school that day and get a job to support his drinking. When the Sheriff released him he found work for me through the news paper at Mister Sinclaire’s home. He needed someone to replace the maid on her days off. At first I liked it and as time went on and I began to squirrel part of my earnings away without my Dad knowing about it. I could not hide it in our house as my Dad would surely find it so Mister Sinclaire offered to keep it at his home in a roll top desk in his library. I kept my money locked up in a small strong box that only had one key, and I kept it. I worked steady for six years until I was twenty one, putting away some with each pay. By then though things began to change in the Sinclaire household. He and his wife began to argue a lot. Then I noticed when I’d arrive at his place in the morning that sometimes the furniture was upset or things were laying on the floor broken. I’d find empty whiskey bottles in his bedroom. Also during this time I began to show signs of filling out up on top. Mister Sinclaire began to make me uncomfortable when he began hugging me and nuzzling my neck telling me it was all in fun. One day he stopped by our house and told my Dad I would need to spend the next week working over night at his place as the maid had left to visit her sister in Demming. My Dad put up a stink until Sinclaire handed him a twenty dollar gold piece.”
“I can imagine what happened next.”
“Yeah, I woke up with Sinclaire trying to screw me.”
“What did you do?”
“I tore into him about as bad as I did you yesterday except all the ruckus woke up his wife. She threw open my bedroom door with me scratching, punching and biting her naked husband.”
“Did she divorce him?”
“Hell no, Misses Sinclaire had no money on her own, she knew who put the butter on her bread and pretended nothing ever happened. By now the two showed no love for each other but had to keep up the image to their social circle that they were the ideal couple.
So did he continue to make advances? Is that why you killed him?”
“Yes and no. Yes, he tried often but more than not he walked away full of bruises. No, I killed him because he had a gun pointed at his own Dad’s head and was going to kill him, and blame it on me!”
“Why would he do that?” I asked.
“He was deeply in debt from gambling. His father, Sinclaire senior, was the one actually paying me. Junior had no cash left.”
“What about the money you saved up by hiding it, did he take that?”
“No, it was still in his roll top desk but in a steel lock box with only one key he’d early on given me. He told me when he gave the strong box to me that it would prevent his wife from finding and spending it. That was the money I ran out with, it belonged to me!”
“Just out of curiosity, how much do you think you had saved up?”
“Exactly one thousand four hundred and forty dollars!”
“Wow! That’s huge!”
“I saved half of everything I made. I told my Dad Sinclaire was cheap and he believed me. Besides, it kept him drunk so he didn’t care what I made so long as he believed I gave it all over to him.”
“So if he killed his Dad, blaming it one you, he would inherit his fathers fortune and you’d be hung.”
“That’s it in a nut shell.”
“So didn’t you have a lawyer at the trial?”
“Sure Mister Bernard Coots the public defender. He was no match for the prosecuting attorney Stoddard Sievers. Sievers and Coots hated each other. Sievers not only wanted to win but destroy Coots in the process. It went back a ways. It seemed Coots once beat Sievers in a trial and Sievers never forgave him.”
“So you are going to be hung because the Prosecutor and Junior were both crooked?”
In a way yes. Between the two I never stood a chance of getting a fair trial. My court appointed lawyer was terrible but you know what?”
I could care less if I ever find justice. Sinclaire senior never stood up and told the truth so I had no defense. I believe in the Bible. I’ll find justice just not here on earth and in the end, they’ll pay in hell. So, that’s my story even if you believe it or not.”
“I’m intended to believe you. Truthfully, your story causes my heart to ache. I’m so sorry I ever met you. I don’t believe you deserve what has been done to you. I know it makes no difference but I just want you to know how sorry I am.”
She reached over with her handcuffed hands and squeezed my hand. “I know you are and I really wish things were different, especially since I met you but I also have to be honest with you.”
“About my trip here. In no way can I let my feelings for you hinder me from what I need to do.”
“What do you need to do?”
“I take it you mean escape from me?”
“By any means necessarily”.
I sat there looking at her. She was honest all right. What kind of person warns another that they will attempt at any time to break free? I thought about it and decided if it were me, I’d do the same.
I kept my senses tuned to high to prevent a log being crashed over my head or some other means of over powering me. Still the days rolled on without incident as we skirted around El Paso and headed west to Demming. We found ourselves in near constant conversation during the trip. We ended being like minded on many, many subjects.
The night before we were to resupply in Demming Holly made her move. Still handcuffed, she took the frying pan down to the stream to wash it out where we had camped and watered the horses. Tall green grass grew by the banks so I hobbled the horses there knowing they’d not wander off.
Suddenly, in flash I heard one of the horses rear up and whinny. I jumped up knowing she had just mounted her horse bareback and skedaddled. It took less that a half a minute for me to jump on my own horse and take off after her. Light as she was, she was gaining distance on me. We rode flat out for two miles or more when suddenly she came to the very same stream we camped next to, just down river where it turned to the east. Her horse shied, stopping at the bank so fast that without a saddle she was thrown headlong into the stream.
I dove off my mount and in mid air plowed into her as she found her footing and began to run across the water.
If my previous battle with her taught me anything it was she would fight until she got free. She fought me more like a wildcat his time. Rolling in the waist deep water I was mauled, bit and scratched near to death! I finally had no choice but to unlatch my pistol from its holster and bang it into the side of her head.
I saw her go limp and under the surface. Slamming my pistol back in its holster I reached into the water and felt her hair. I pulled her free from a certain drowning and laid her unconscious on the bank. She coughed up some water and moments later opened her eyes.
I tenderly held her head and asked if she were alright.
She responded with that quirky beautiful smile, “Didn’t I tell you I would try to escape?”
Without warning she raised her head. At first I thought she was going to batter me with it again but suddenly I felt the softest pair of lips touch mine.
When we broke apart she whispered, “I’m in love with you Cal, you need to know that.”
My only answer to such a dilemma was, “I know Holy, I know.”
The next morning we made our way into town. We stopped at the general supply store where we wandered around inside choosing different items to take along with us. I purchased a steel kerosene lantern and a pint can of oil for it. I also bought an ax, a buck saw and five boxes of shells to fit the new Spencer rifle I just bought. Holly gave me a queer look when she saw what I’d bought but kept quiet.
I saw the look and gave her the explanation that we had a long way to travel and we could not depend on a General store each time we ran out of supplies. I told the clerk to pack everything up for traveling so he began to fill and wrap each package in tide together oil cloth. I asked him where we might purchase a mule from and he told me the livery has some for sale as the miners have need of them. We left our supplies in his care and headed to the livery.
The hostler at the livery looked down at Holly’s cuffs and shook his head. He’d also seen the star on my chest. He noted the bruises both of us where plastered with after Holly’s latest escape attempt then signaled us to follow him, mumbling things that no child should ever hear. We ended up with a sturdy four year old Missouri bred mule, the best in the country. Holly still had not questioned me further about my recent purchaes. I paid using an official draft reserved for Deputy Marshals while traveling.
When all was loaded we had two riding horses, a pack horse and a pack mule. We were set now to cross through the New Mexico territory without fear of starving.
We decided to skirt east of the Indian territory just north of us and head instead north east towards Albuquerque. I knew not to go into Albuquerque as a bustling city would give Holly every chance to escape. Instead we made our way east of Albuquerque through Tigeras, a small Mexican community.
Each night on the way to Boulder Colorado we stopped by a stream or lake, unloaded the animals, hobbled and fed them some grain and cooked our biggest meal of the day. Our midday meal consisted mainly of jerky, biscuits and canned fruit washed down with canteen water.
As usual, Holly outdid herself when it came to cooking. I love breakfast and she made the best.
We rode into Tigeras, I guess that means tiger in English. They must have had a mountain lion problem at one time or maybe the town was named after a woman as feisty as Holly could be, I don’t know.
We broke the mold and stopped at a small eatery for our midday meal. It’s not like you had a menu to choose from, they only made one thing each day to eat and that was it. When our food arrived there were two giant tortillas filled with refried beans, meat, a white cheese and salsa. It was really good so we ordered another two servings to go.
I stopped at the town well and filled our canteens. I was surprised to see how clear and cold the water was. Our horses and mule sure gobbled down a belly full of the water to boot!
We left with full bellies and plenty of cold water and headed due north towards Raton.
We camped just five miles north of Tigeras alongside a small running creek. I noticed that the closer we got to Colorado we encountered more water was to be had. I also noted that the perpetual smile on Holly’s face became less evident with each mile. I knew she was full of worry about being hung.
After our evening meal we sat next to each other. It had become the norm to set on each side of the campfire but not tonight. Tonight Holly sat next to me. Her hands had been freed to cook and eat with them. I had a feeling she wanted to talk but was unsure how to start the conversation I knew she wanted to speak to me about.
I was not known for my tact to I would just blurt out what was on my mind.
I started to speak but she put her hand over my mouth to stop me. When she was sure I wasn’t about to open my mouth again she took my hands in hers and looking intently at me asked. “Cal, will you marry me?”
My head spun, what could I say? The look on her face was pure desperation. “Holly, if you had any sort of future I’d marry you tonight. I know you know how I feel about you. Only once did you mention love when we talked, how can I believe you really do love me and don’t have some sort of twisted scheme in your head to get out of being hung? Please, tell me I want to believe you!”
“You’re right, I’ll tell you. I have never lied to you have I? No! So believe me now. I once told you I wanted to feel real love before I died, did I not?”
“Yes, you did.”
And did I not tell you I wanted children?”
“Yes, you did.”
Did I lie about those things?”
“No, I believe you.”
“Then believe this Cal, I’ve been in love with you from the moment you wrapped your arms around me to hold me off from fighting you. When I kissed you, my heart was sealed that no matter how life would turn out, you were the only man I ever loved or will ever love, no matter how long or short I have on this earth. If you want me to I will go with you voluntarily to Boulder to hang, just marry me first and give me one night with my true love!”
I sat there watching the campfire burn down to just glowing embers. Holly sat patently waiting, not saying a word.
I finally looked up at her and said. “Pack the animals, were heading out.”
Now it was her turn to look bewildered. “It’s almost dark where would we be going in the middle of the night.
“Back to Tigeras, I saw a mission there and where there’s a mission there’s a Padre and where there’s a Padre, there a way to be married!”
Speechless except for the small whimper to compliment the tears running down her face, Holly flung her arms around me and cried.
Together at near dark, we knocked on the large solid wood door that we were told was where the Padre lived. We left the mission as Mister and Misses Cal Clifford.
That night sure was different from the time my friends thought I should exercise my new found manhood, that was for sure. I was still what you’d call, ‘a prude’ but somehow I musta’ got the job done to her satisfaction. It took three times that night to make sure I had it down correctly but I’m not complaining!
Our morning breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs ( thanks to the Padre who gave us a basket of eggs to take with us.) We cut a loaf of bread into slices and made toast with cherry jam on it, bacon of course and plenty of hot coffee. Oh, and less I forget, we also indulged in plenty of kisses which led to touchy feely which led to… well, you get the idea as to where this is going.
As we ate I told her my thoughts on what we had to look forward to. I told her, “Do you remember when we were in the General store where I bought my rifle and all that other stuff? You never said a word to me about it but I’ll tell you in case you’ve been wondering. I was thinking, What would happen if I got to Colorado and didn’t want to return? What if I wanted to start a new life on my own?
Could I survive without the necessary tools to build a cabin or hunt for food? So I bought these things kind of as a down payment on a new life. At that time you weren’t really a part of it but maybe in the back of my mind I was hoping you would be. So I bought all that stuff in case I was to disappear into the woods never to return to Fort Worth or any city for that matter. Maybe deep inside I knew all along I’d try and get you to be my wife and we’d make a home where no law could catch us to hang you or throw me in jail for aiding an escaped prisoner. I think that is our only option, what say you?”
“I think it’s wonderful! Now please undress and tell me you love me.”
That morning we changed our direction and headed to a place I’d only read about in a adventure travel book , a small town trapped between the most beautiful forested mountains a man could imagine, Columbia Colorado.
Before we left for the western mountains of Colorado I had to remove all traces of me being a U S Deputy Marshal. I dug a deep hole and buried my badge and anything in our packs that could be associated with the Marshal service. That also meant my pistol had to go as it was issued and the serial number recorded. Our saddles were another thing as they were labeled USMS under the fender we had to bury them also. The hardest to deal with was our Marshal Service branded horses. We would have to buy two new horses and at some remote area, free our two USMS mounts to live forever free in the plains and mountains of Colorado. I’m sure the Marshal Service would eventually determine that the two of us were victims of either angry Indians or no goods looking to rob and kill us. If they did an in depth investigation, they’d see that we got as for a Raton then from there it was anybodies guess at what happened to us. In any case, they’ll write us off as deceased. Both of us had discussed even changing our names. We tossed around a few but were yet undecided on a new name. We did agree on Holly’s name, she would now be called Katherine or just Kat… short for wildcat.. She wanted me to change my name to stud but I nixed that one in a fit of laughter. I guess by the time we reach Columbia Colorado we’ll be husband and wife under new names.
We traveled the mountain passes and met a number of interesting people along the way. We were told we could buy horses in a town just ahead called Ophir. We did and later let our US Marshal issued mounts loose in a beautiful valley protected by a range of mountains to the west. They never looked back as we let them go.
It was two weeks later that we entered the valley of Columbia. By now we had changed our names. Holly was now known as Katherine Elizabeth Badger and I took the name Vernon William Badger. We thought the name Badger was a good play on words to what the jailers in Fort Worth called Kat. It took a few days getting used to our new names but eventually they rolled off our tongues without thinking.
The Columbia valley was more than beautiful, it took our breath away. There were Pine and Aspen covered mountains and lush valley’s containing a number of trout laden mountain streams. We saw herds of sheep being tended to by a people called Basques. They were an extremely giving and helpful people. We stayed living with the Basques through the winter and when in the spring it was time to cut down the pines to build our cabin, they showed up bearing their axes and draw knives. In less than two weeks we had a three room cabin. We originally planned on a two room design but as Kat’s belly swelled, we added the extra room.
We opted out of the typical large open drafty fireplace deciding instead on a cast iron cook stove and two pot bellied stoves to heat with.
Since neither of us were farmers or cattle folks we ended up raising sheep along with our friends the Basques. Kat’s blond hair amazed the Basques women since the only hair color in that entire culture was pitch black.
We settled into our new cabin with Kat turning it into a home. We borrowed a wagon from our friends the Basques and rode to Sawpit to pick up the iron cook stove and pot bellied stoves plus tons of other things needed to ensure our survival. All in all it took three runs to the supply store to outfit the house. I closed my bank account in Fort Worth, having them send the cash via stage to Sawpit. It took five weeks but the stage finally rolled in with a lock box to be handed over to VW Badger. When it arrived we paid our bill off to the supply store and put half of the balance into the Sawpit Bank. The rest we keep at the house, well hidden of course.
When we returned from our last trip to Sawpit, our Basque friends and our nearby neighbors had a gift waiting for us at the cabin. They had erected a log lean-to out back that held eighteen cords of split wood! That was more than enough wood for an entire year! Kat broke down in tears while I held onto her in humbled disbelief.
All that has occurred to us recently has humbled us. Where once it was only Kat who expressed faith in God, I now have been spending time each day reading the Bible. I have decided to send away for a mail order course in becoming a Preacher through the Dallas Theological Seminary back in Texas. We have no church here in Columbia so all weddings, funerals and Sunday services must be attended in Sawpit or wait for a traveling Preacher to pass through the area, not a frequent occurrence for sure. I think I’d make a good Preacher of the word here in Columbia, folks here agree and I believe the Lord does too.
Kat has fallen in love with the wildlife here. Each morning the deer graze on our pasture right along with the sheep. She goes out and even has petted some of them. They seem to have no fear of humans. I make sure to hunt far away from our home because of this.
Columbia is so remote and difficult to get to that I’m betting it will take two hundred years for it to reach a population of even one hundred. But that’s fine, our great,great grand kids wont have to ever worry about over crowding in the tiny town even when they rename it twenty years hence to Telluride Colorado.