Thomas Jessop was wondering if he had just made a mistake. Without moving his head he lifted his questioning eyes from the government surveyor’s map up to those of the Land Office clerk.
“Uh…” He stammered, “I just noticed that a lot of the creeks and rivers around where we bought our land have some mighty dismal names to ‘em. Should I be concerned?”
The clerk removed a pair of spectacles from his upper vest pocket and after blowing on the lenses and fitting them on, leaned over the long table to study the map.
After a minute or two the clerk straightened up and shrugging his shoulders told the young couple, “I’m not real familiar with the western territory but since there’s a town nearby, I am led to conclude that whoever named the water sources either had a sense of humor or quite possibly named them to keep folks from settling there. It wasn’t unusual for surveyors to do that if they planned on returning and settling there themselves. Why just last month we recorded the sale of a five thousand acre section of land to a fellow from Missouri. The land had but one source of moving water on it and that was named Poison Cow Creek. Now if I was buying land for a ranch, I’d have stayed far away from anything with the name poison in it. The truth is, the land is all grassy rolling hills and the creek was named after an Indian guide the surveyors had befriended named Poison Cow. So you just can’t always go by a name.”
Thomas exhaled in relief and reminded his wife of the nearby small lake back in Ohio called Dead Water Lake.
Shrugging his own shoulders, Thomas ran his fingers through his brown hair and said, “I suppose if these names actually were true, word would have gotten out by now.”
The land the couple had just purchased was surrounded by creeks and streams claiming names such as Muddy Creek, Bad Water Creek, Sulfur Springs and Poison Spider lake. Even the mountainous area to the Southeast gave one pause, being called the Rattle Snake Hills.
The clerk restored the wire spectacles to his vest and agreed saying, “I’ve not heard of any poor land anywhere at the western end of the territory. I admit that being here in Rawlins we deal mainly in land sales closer to Laramie than the western wilderness, Even so, it can’t be much different from the area adjacent to yours and that area has names like Wind River, Miners Delight and the Sweet water Mountains.” Hooking his thumbs into the woolen vest pockets he gave a dismissing conclusion. “Like I said, I bet whoever the surveyor was that gave those unusual names probably wanted the area to be left unpopulated. Why I wouldn’t be surprised if he also named the town just east of your place called Lost Cabin too!”
With no further information to be garnered from the clerk, the couple headed back to the rooming house where they ate a dinner of roast venison and potato casserole and finished their feast by ordering an entire apple pie and coffee.
Stuffed to the brim, the youthful couple headed upstairs to plan their next day’s chores.
Having kicked off his boots, Thomas lay upon the bed fully clothed recollecting out loud what they needed to accomplish before leaving for the last leg of their trip. Having traveled from the rolling hills of central Ohio in search of land to start a ranch on, they were now but days away from their goal.
In the two months it had taken to travel to this point, they had all but built their homestead in their heads. On their way west they had joined a wagon train that would pass within sixty miles south of their destination. The wagon train was headed all the way to Empire City on the Pacific coast in the Oregon territory but had a stopover in the town of Rawlins before entering Idaho.
The Young Jessop’s befriended a handsome blond haired, blue eyed couple along the way named Erik and Bekke Knudsen. The Knudsen’s, being only five years older than the Jessop’s, had recently come to America from Norway , they told Thomas and Charity of a sparsely settled area in Wyoming just west of the Laramie Mountain range. The Knudsen’s told Thomas and Charity that it was in this area they had planned to start a farm. The Knudsen’s explained that they had purchased one hundred and sixty acres of good farmland off of Erik’s brother Sven who had earlier purchased and settled on a plot of eight thousand acres along both sides of the Wind River. It was a family venture of sorts with Erik’s cousin owning the land west of Sven’s all the way to Idaho
The four got along famously and it was during this time that Thomas and Charity had decided to investigate the land near where the Knudsen’s were settling. Previous to this, they had only known that it was in western Wyoming that they wished to settle. Having known no one from Norway, the Jessop’s bombarded the Knudsen’s with many questions of their past and family. After a time, the Knudsen’s traded places asking about the Jessop’s.
Thomas explained that he and his bride Charity had been soul mates since childhood. Back then the brown hair, green eyed pixie had shown no interest in the tall, brown eyed Thomas other than friendship. But, all that changed in a blink of an eye. They were of the same age of fourteen when the couple experienced their first kiss. It was far from planned he told the Knudsen’s and even further from being a mutual act. Chuckling, He told them it was also his first experience in trying to understand the inner thinking of a woman.
It occurred in the Jessop’s barn. Charity had stopped by and volunteered to help Thomas in his chore of throwing hay down the hay chute. This wooden chute led from the upper loft to the lower rooms below the main floor in order to feed the sheep below. It was during this time that near disaster struck.
Unable to see from carrying an armload of the loose hay to the chute, Charity wandered too close to the edge and nearly stepped off of the loft some twenty feet above the floor.
Seeing what was about to happen, Thomas reached out and yanked her roughly from the edge before she was even aware of her predicament. Having her direction so quickly reversed, it caused her to plunk painfully onto her bottom. The armload of hay shot skyward only to land on top of her. Covered with hay she scrambled to her feet red faced in anger and squarely faced Thomas. It was then she realized that if Thomas had not done what he did, she may have fallen to her death. A mixture of emotions shot through her. Whether it was from gratefulness or from her blossoming female hormones, she threw her arms around him and experienced her first kiss.
Charity then immediately stepped back, slapped Thomas and angrily demanded his reason for violating her lips in such a manner! Three years later they married with Thomas still none the wiser at how a woman thinks.
Both being of the Quaker faith meant a long mundane marriage service involving the church members and only their immediate family members. Still, that night both had believed they had died and gone to heaven.
What they did not bother to tell the Knudsen’s was that the next morning, Charity Woke Thomas with numerous tender kisses to his chest told him, “I understand now why our faith says that we are able to experience the joys of heaven while here on earth.”
Thomas rolled Charity gently onto her back and quietly whispered, “Then let’s forsake breakfast, and go back to heaven.”
The two finally made their way downstairs to the knowing looks of those family members gathered at the table enjoying their noonday meal.
The next morning Charity woke up excited. Waking her sleeping husband with a kiss, she quickly dressed and urged Thomas to hurry.
The two soon headed downstairs to the large dining room where they ate a hearty breakfast of eggs, biscuits, gravy and bacon. Afterward, the two headed down to the stable where they had paid to store their covered wagon and two oxen. The wagon, purchased in Chicago, was only half the size of the large Conestoga built ones normally used to travel across the wilderness country. Since they would be traveling for the most part through the plains and towns were not too infrequent, there was no need to stock up so heavily on supplies.
If they had planned on traveling over the Rocky Mountains, then that would be another story but they weren’t.
Paying the stable owner, the two then made their way to the mercantile for food supplies and those they would need to build their homestead with.
Thomas already had packed in cases most of the tools needed but had left out many heavy items including a cast iron cook stove, anvil, grind stone set up and small furnace for metal working. From the blacksmiths shop he purchased ten bar stock of assorted thicknesses and widths along with a charcoal maker. At the dry goods store, Charity purchased various bolts of cloth and a treadle powered sewing machine along with a case of various colored thread.
The last stop was at the pharmacy where Thomas purchased a bottle of Lloyds undiluted Cocaine toothache drops for his persistent toothache. It was a temporary measure until he garnered the courage to let Charity pull it.
While there, Charity purchased two bottles each of opium and morphine to sooth coughs and reduce any pain… including those of the looked forward to childbirth and the future teething of the babies.
Being Quaker, they did not purchase the alcohol most folks used to dilute the medicines with. Instead, they opted to dilute using only boiled water.
Going over the written list of supplies Thomas had seen there was one item left that had been advised by many to purchase. A pistol. Thomas already owned a rifle. He had brought along a newly purchased one from back in Ohio. While Quakers were adamant pacifist they did hunt for food and carried arms for protection…against animals only.
A pistol on the other hand was meant for mainly protecting oneself against humans. Back in Ohio, the thought of walking around armed with a pistol was nearly unheard of even for non Quakers. From the time he left Ohio it seemed every person he met warned him that a pistol was as necessary out west as a bucket was to a well. The thought of even aiming a gun at another human being was revolting to him let alone actually firing it. No, he decided at first against it until so many folks told him stories of needing a pistol to shoot snakes and up close critters where a rifle was useless. “Think of it as a short rifle” he was told.
Fearing that being out in the wilderness without any other support nearby he began to see the necessity and wisdom of arming oneself against predators like bears and mountain lion. Both of which can sneak up on you silently. He’d heard stories of black bears attacking folks back in Ohio but had never met a person who personally had that happen to them. Still, the thought of being attacked unawares decided the issue. Quaker or not, he made on last stop… the gunsmiths.
Charity was not so convinced. She became upset when told of his decision to purchase a pistol. He tried the same excuses on her that had convinced him but to no avail.
She told him that she would not ride but would walk beside the wagon unless he packed his new pistol away in a case and kept it hidden in the leather shelf underneath the wagon designed to carry firewood called the possum belly.
Thomas eventually forgot about the pistol ordeal and together they rode eagerly towards their new home.
Thomas stepped from the house onto the newly built porch. Wiping the morning dew from the seat of his home built rocking chair he settled himself comfortably into it as he cradled a cup of hot coffee.
The twin babies inside were being fed at Charity’s breast prompting a rare quiet to return to the household. Thomas smiled as he listened to the baby girls faint suckling sounds through the open door. He closed his eyes allowing himself to be bathed in the aroma of the steaming cup of coffee as it mingled with the scent of Wyoming’s rich morning landscape. It was Sunday, a mandatory day of rest and one which any Quaker could easily meditate on.
An outside sound began to squirm its way deftly into the morning bliss. It was so faint at first that he refused to let it disturb his thoughts.
As if waking to a sound in the middle of the night, Thomas suddenly opened his eyes wide and sat bolt upright straining to recollect the exact sounds he had just heard. It was a cry for help. At the same time he launched himself from the porch, his ears pinpointed the cry’s exact location. He could now make out the cry clearly enough to identify the voice as a man pleading for help.
Running towards the sound he heard Charity’s questioning yell to him from the house. She too had heard the cries and still clasping the blanket covered babies to her breast she stepped into the open doorway to see what the matter was.
Ahead of Thomas now, a man could be seen stumbling forward then falling face forward to the ground. When Thomas arrived at the man, he discovered a blond haired young man wearing only a bloody nightgown. The man was half weeping, half moaning as he lay face down in the damp prairie grass gulping for breath.
Grabbing the man by his shoulders and waist, he rolled the injured man onto his back and stumbled backwards in frightened recognition. It was his wagon trail friend Erik Knudsen!
“Erik?” Thomas cried, “What happened? Why are you here my friend?”
Confusion blocked any logical thought as Thomas tried to gain his friends attention. His poor friend was half done in had lost a lot of blood.
The fog of confusion dissipated enough for Thomas to react. He turned his head towards the house and shouted for Charity to place the babies inside and come with the wheelbarrow and some pillows and a blanket.
Placing his injured friend gently into the pillowed wheelbarrow, he covered him with the blanket and with Charity following close behind, headed for the house.
In tending to his friend, Thomas discovered two bullet holes in his chest. Though they were not deeply embedded, they could cause an infection if they were not immediately removed.
Glancing up at the pale face of his wife, he instructed her to bring him the bottle of morphine and pour a pail of hot water from the stove. Leaving the now unconscious Erik laying across the cleared breakfast table, Thomas busied himself gathering the needed items to treat his friend.
After pouring a good helping of morphine down his unconscious friends throat, using a long pair of pliers, he dug to and fro within the wound in order to find the slug. Once found he removed it and tended to the wound.
“Charity, he’s got some of his nightgown cloth still in the wound, would you bring me two bullets from my rifle? I need to cauterize the wound and trust it burns off the nightgowns fibers inside him.”
Worse than a slug was the dirty nightgown fibers trapped inside. If the wound scabbed over leaving the soiled cloth inside, blood poisoning and a deadly fever would occur.
Removing the lead slug from the cartridge, Thomas poured the cartridges gun powder into the First bullet hole. Taking a stove match, he lit it and lowered it to the wound. With a whoosh and cloud of white smoke, the gunpowder ignited. Even though unconscious and full of morphine Erik moaned.
In the next hour Thomas repeated the same procedure on the second bullet telling Charity, “It was a good thing these bullets weren’t very deep, just an inch or two in. I think they were either fired from quite a distance or the cartridges were filled with poor powder. Either way I don’t see any lung damage but he’s got some ribs broke for sure. I took out some pieces of rib bone. It’ll be a bit before he’s up and around, I wonder what happened to him and where is Bekke?”
Charity meanwhile had washed off the rest of Erik’s body of blood and had covered him with a fresh blanket. “I fear we won’t know what happened or where Bekke is until he awakes Thomas, until then there is not much we can do except wait and pray.”
Thomas saw the wisdom in his young wife’s answer. “Yes, let us take a moment and pray for his recovery. I want to ride out and see where his trail led from. I know he had told us that they had a place adjacent to his brothers spread but exactly where I do not know. I just assumed it was much further west, closer to the Idaho border.”
Charity circled the table to stand next to her husband and said, “First Thomas, let us bow our heads and pray for the recovery of Erik and for Bekke’s safety”.
Following the trail of broken and tromped on prairie grass, Thomas found that it did indeed head to the west towards the Wind River mountain range and Idaho. Realizing Erik’s farm could be within the thousands of square miles of wilderness, he turned around and headed back to his own place.
It was the next day during the noon meal that Charity heard Erik calling out. On her way to the room in which they had made up for him, she stopped at the rear door and rang the steel triangle to call Thomas in.
At Erik’s bedside lifted his head enough to allow him to drink the water they had waiting for him. In it was again a spoonful of morphine for his pain. Lying back, Erik exhaled heavily and asked how he had arrived at the Jessop’s place.
Wiping his brow with a cool damp cloth Charity asked. “You don’t remember? Thomas saw you making your way through our pasture heading to our home. We thought you had somehow discovered our whereabouts after we parted ways in Rawlins. We had no idea it was you until after you collapsed. It was after we undressed you that Thomas had discovered you had been shot twice. “
It was at that moment Thomas entered the small converted storage room where Erik lie. “How are you feeling my friend, it’s good to see you again but not under these circumstances. What happened to you and where is Bekke?”
“It’s a long story Thomas,” Erik in near tears croaked. After we arrived at my brothers there was a house fire one night and he, his wife and children all perished in it. Bekke and I had set up our wagon and tent a mile east of my brother’s house. It was there that we were building our house when time permitted. We’d been living in the large tent since our arrival and that was fine with us. We no idea their place had even caught fire until morning when we saw the spiral of smoke coming from his place. What we found devastated us. All of them dead! At first we thought that maybe they had left a lamp burning and it started the fire but then Bekke found a recently emptied coal oil can and a couple piles of horse dung near the rear of the house. It was then I noticed that there were places at the windows on the outside that had been on fire but inside across from that there it remained unburnt. Whatever happened it happened on purpose.”
Thomas had been listening with eyes wide open. Erik’s story mirrored many of those told by earlier Quakers when they moved from Pennsylvania and resettled elsewhere. Resting his hand upon Erik’s shoulder he gave his sympathies but needed to ask more. “How is it you and Belle were not attacked and what then happened to you two?”
“As I said, we had camped about a mile away near a bend in the stream that runs through our land. There are many trees at that bend and it makes for a shady place for a home to be built. I suspect whoever did this had not known of our arrival or we would have been killed outright also. Bekke and I buried my brother and his family on the rise beyond their house. It was a pretty place to be buried but I’m afraid it was also an obvious sign that there was someone that they missed that night. They had returned back to my brothers place to make sure all were dead and that’s when they discovered my brother and his family had been buried. It did not take long for them to find us.”
At this point Erik broke down weeping.
Thomas waited until Erik regained some control and asked, “Then what? Where is Bekke now? Was she killed?”
“No, they rode her down as she tried to run away. I watched as one man, a big man wearing a black drover and silver tipped boots grabbed her up and then laid her across his horse on her stomach in front of him. She was screaming but stopped when the big man pulled his pistol out and hit her on the head with it. He then shouted orders at the men and rode off with Bekke. All I had handy was my single shot old rifle. That new pistol I had bought was still in the wagon. I did get one shot off and the man fell from the saddle but he was not killed. I saw him limp to his horse and remount. The other man rode in my direction firing his pistol at me. I remember being hit but the pain was so great I soon lost consciousness. They must have thought they had killed me because later that evening when I awoke, they were gone.”
“Did they head this way or did you just wonder about?”
“No, I heard the big man tell the others to meet him at Lost Cabin as he rode off. I knew of Lost Cabin from the map of the Territory I had studied before coming out here. In my delirium, I must have thought I could track him down and save Bekke.”
Charity hushed any further questions Thomas had with a scolding look. “Let him rest for now Thomas, we will speak more of this in the morrow.”
“Wait!” Erik cried, “My Bekke! Please search for her, she’s all I have!” At that he began sobbing uncontrollably.
“Give him a dose of cocaine to relax him Charity, he’ll tear open those wounds crying like he is.”
Charity nodded her head and looking up at her husband placed a hand on his arm asking, “Are you going to search for Bekke Thomas?”
Thomas looked into Charities anguished eyes and asked, “If the roles were reversed, would you want Erik to search for you?”
That evening, Thomas and Charity gathered the needed supplies Thomas would require. Just before the girls were born, Thomas traded a group of hungry Shoshone Indians thirty silver dollars and twenty pounds of dried beef for five horses. Two of them had brands upon them and if possible, Thomas would eventually find and return them to their owner. The other three were true Indian ponies.
During the time that Thomas was filling his packs, Charity quietly stepped into the carriage house alone. There she crawled under the wagon and retrieved what frightened her the most… The Colt pistol.
“Well dear, I believe I have everything I need for the journey. I’m not sure what to expect but I’m sure with your and my prayers, the Lord will see fit to keep me safe and let me return safely with Bekke.”
Charity then held out the small wooden crate that she had retrieved from within the wagon’s possum belly. “In the book of Judges, the Lord did not expect Sampson to defend himself bare handed. It tells us that Samson killed 10,000 Philistines with the jawbone of an ass that the Lord provided to him. While I abhor violence, I also listen and obey when our God speaks to my heart. My prayer is that you never have to use it but if you do, both the Lord and I will understand it was used so that good overcomes evil. Return safe my love and bring Bekke home with you.”
The next morning found Thomas riding east toward Lost Cabin trailing two extra horses. One would carry his supplies and he hoped the other would carry back Bekke. Strapped to his waist was the holster containing the Colt pistol. Ahead he saw the open plains surrounded by the Owl Creek and Rattlesnake mountains. What Thomas could not see was the troop of angels marching alongside him.
On the second day out Thomas discovered a pile of horse droppings. Looking eastward he could see a faint trail where the grass had recently been trampled down. It appeared to be of a single horse. He knew there were few settlers in this area but at the same time it could have been made by a trapper or Shoshone Indian. Dismounting, he knelt and brushed the grass gently with his hands to expose a single hoof print. Pressing his thumb into the earth, he discovered the ground resisted his attempt to make an impression. Studying the print he also saw the indentation of the shoe the horse wore. Standing, he once again looked eastward. This was not the print of an Indian pony and the depth of the print said the horse was carrying an unusual amount of weight. Thinking of Bekke, he judged her to be about a hundred pounds, give or take. In inspecting his own horse’s prints he found the one that matched closest to the single print in question was that of his heavily loaded pack horse. It had to be Bekke!
That evening found Thomas camped on the banks of the small southern tributary of Bad Water Creek. He kept his fire small and smokeless as he cooked his meal. Afterward, rather than dousing the fire with water from the creek, he instead shoveled loose dirt over it. This way no steam would be sent skyward for unwanted eyes to see.
It was a no moon night. Only the stars lit the black void of space. Thomas decided to make his way to a hill a half mile away in order to see if there may be a campfire on the plain. He figured the man he was following would not be concerned of being followed so therefore would not take the same precautions that he himself took.
Making his way forward he hoped there were no wild animals lurking in the tall grass and boulders. Reaching the foothills unscathed he began to make his way cautiously upward. From the top of the steep hill he could see the vast east west plain far below him. He began his search by looking eastward and sure enough, in the far distance a fire could be seen.
Satisfied that he had correctly judged his opponent, Thomas was about to return to his own campsite when he stopped in shock. There to the southeast near the Rattlesnake Range was another campfire. The two fires were less than five miles from each other. Though close, they were still too far apart for each other to see the others fire.
Thomas had to think. If he waited for the two groups to meet up, that would mean double or triple the trouble. He figured the most eastern campfire was Bekke and her captures and the one to the southeast was that of the rest of the gang.
Kneeling on the crest of the hill he sought guidance from his creator. “Lord, you know what I face. My friend is sorely wounded and his wife taken. Only I stand in the way of the evil that is planned for them. Give me the insight to rescue Bekke and discover why all this evil has befallen them. They are good people Lord, not Quaker for sure but you are not a respecter of person’s nor the way in which we practice our faith in you. Bekke and Erik are your obedient children and I pray that you use me and keep me and Bekke safe in all this, Amen”
As Thomas made his way as quickly to his camp as was possible he not only felt a peace come over him but a plan began to unfold within him.
Using a length of rope, he gave the pack horse a long tether so it could feed on the grass further out from where it now stood. Satisfied that there was enough good grass within reach for an extended time, he saddled up the two other horses and galloped off to the southeast towards the campsite of the gang.
Using the gang’s campfire as a homing beacon, Thomas made his way to within a half mile of the camp. Quietly creeping forward to the camp, he finally spotted in the starlight what he had been searching for… their horses.
He knew if he crept on hands and knees, the horses might mistake him for a mountain lion or other predator. Since these horses were used to men then that is the way he would appear to them. Putting his faith to the test that the Lord was protecting him, he stood up in plain sight. Obviously in plain view now, Thomas eased himself quietly to the line of horses that were tied to a single long rope. Spotting what he figured was the lead horse, Thomas made his way over to it.
Raising his hand, he began to stroke the horses head and scratch its ears. The horse immediately settled and breathed easily. The other horses trusting their leader did the same. This surprised Thomas but he wasn’t about to question this small blessing.
Thomas went from lead rope to lead rope tying them firmly to the line meant to hold the group in place. When finished all the horses were tied together in one long line. Untying the rope’s ends from the shrubs that held it, he gently guided the line of horses silently away from the camp.
Without their horses the gang was impotent. There was no way the group could now meet up with their leader and Bekke. When he had made it two miles from the gangs camp, he broke the remuda of horses into an easy gallop. The tall plains grass quieted the sound of the hoof beats so well that the gang never realized until daylight that their horses were missing.
Halfway between his and the gangs camp, he untied all the captured horses and was about to send them westward with smacks to their rump. Strangely, before he could do so, the lead horse suddenly bolted and raced westward as fast as its legs would take it. The rest of the horses fled after their leader as if commanded to follow. Thomas knew those horses would never be taken again.
“Well Lord, half is done and you took good care of me. I have more work to do so don’t up and leave me quite yet!”
Turning his mount eastward towards Lost Cabin and the campfire he had seen from the hill top Thomas trotted his mount throughout the night. He knew by the time he reached Bekke and her captor, daylight would be breaking. Knowing this he worked himself to within a mile and a half of the campfire and made a fireless camp. There he slept until dawn.
As the grey line of skylight made its way to the west, Thomas was surprised to see the day would have heavily overcast skies. Eating a cold breakfast, he huddled under his duster as it began to drizzle a cold dreary rain.
At first Thomas was filled with disappointment at the weather. Then it dawned on him that the drizzle was not only preventing him from seeing his enemy, his enemy on the other hand could not see him either! “Thank you Lord, I was about to complain but I see you got things well in hand!”
Bekke sat tied to a small tree growing near a large cluster of horse size rocks. Her captor squatted by the cook fire making a breakfast of fresh killed prairie dog and old biscuits. Bekke had no appetite, especially for the greasy prairie dog. Instead she huddled shivering from the cold rain with her once beautiful blond hair lay plastered to her head like a wet mop. Her soaked mud caked nightgown was her only protection from the elements.
Using the grey drizzle to disguise his movements, Thomas made his way around the boulders behind Bekke. He knew that once the big man had finished his meal, he would saddle up and head out again.
The big man turned as if hearing something. Thomas froze mid step. Squinting, the man lifted the brim of his dripping hat and stared at Bekke. “Don’t get the idea I’m going to share my meal with you and definitely don’t get the idea of escaping. I’ll shoot you down like this here prairie dog if I even think you’re going to try. I don’t need you, don’t really want you but for the fifty dollars you’ll bring at Lana’s whore house in Lost Cabin I’ll put up with your crap. But, for only so much mind you. If I tire of you or you piss me off, I’ll put a bullet through your head and let you rot here in the grass. You understand me?”
“Yes, I understand but why did you do this? My husband’s brother and his family meant nothing to you. You shot and killed my husband for what? To carry me off and sell me? All for fifty dollars?”
“Look Lady, the fifty in gold I’m getting from you is icing on the cake, that’s all. I was paid four times that to do what I did and I’ll get another two hundred when I get back to Lost Cabin. You ain’t crap, you’re an afterthought Lady, Don’t think you had anything in this. It was all about the land. Your brother in law purchased a spread of land a few years back that my boss found he needed for himself. See? He wants to build himself Wyoming’s biggest spread but to do it he needed your brother in laws place. It was actually the water he needed more than the land. You see, between Big Piney mountain and Yellow Butt Peak your brother in laws place had the only year round fresh water stream big enough to supply five thousand head. My boss had the land but not the water.”
Bekke lifted her head and asked, “And just who is your Boss?”
The big man started to laugh, “That’s the best part of it ma’am! My boss is your brother in law’s cousin, Olaf Lars!”
Both Bekke and Thomas were stunned!
Bekke’s face turned purple in rage, “You are lying! We don’t even know a Olaf Lars!”
“That ain’t my problem lady, Old Olaf’s been here ages before any of you Knudsen’s come over from the old country. Why the Lars family was one of the first whites to trap this territory. Olaf done broke up his legs one year when he fell from a cliff top and had to quit trapping. Knowing the area and the Indians, he negotiated a good section of land with them. After the US Government redrew the Idaho border, Olaf found his land cut off from water. The Government folks didn’t recognize Olaf’s agreement with the Shoshone but let him have the land west a few miles of the Wind River to the Idaho border just to keep him from making a nuisance of himself. Later, when he went to buy the land surrounding the Wind River, he found your damn brother in law Sven had already laid claim to it. With Sven out of the way, why then the only relative left to inherit the spread would be Olaf. It worked out fine until you and your husband decided to move here without us knowing about it. After I sell you as a whore, we’ll be back on track where we was and Olaf will pay me the rest of what he owes me.”
Bekke could not believe her ears, she knew of no Lars in her husband’s family tree. Why she thought, the closest thing Sven had to family was a family named Larson but no one knew whatever happened to them after they left the old country. Suddenly it struck her.
“Lars…Larson” Putting her hand to her mouth she realized her captor had been telling the truth. “Oh my God, The missing Larson family!” She looked sickly at her captor and realized her dreams of becoming an American farmers wife were going to truly be changed to becoming an American whore!
Leaning over sideways she vomited.
“Ha ha! It looks like I was right, wasn’t I?”
Stepping over to where Bekke sat, he angrily told her. Take off that filthy nightgown and clean that puke off a you! I ain’t having you ride in front of me smelling like a gutted sheep, besides, It’s time I get a taste of you before I sell you off.”
Moving to stand in front of Bekke, the man dropped his drawers to the ground and stepped out of them. Bekke quickly looked away in disgust and whimpered a quick prayer.
As her captor leaned forward to accost her, an earth shaking explosion above Bekke’s head resulted in the forming of a single black hole in her captor’s forehead. Bekke quickly moved sideways as her half headed captor collapsed beside her. Turning her head quicklyto where the explosion came from, she saw the shaking gun hand of her savior.
“Are you alright Bekke?” Thomas yelled from behind the rocks. She could not make out the words due to the intense ringing in her ears but by the tone of them, she knew she had just been rescued.
Leaving her captor lay for the beast of the field to devour, Thomas picked up the dead man’s duster coat and placed it around Bekke. “Charity thought of packing you an outfit for the return trip home, it’s at my camp on the southern tributary of Bad Water Creek. I’m sorry I did not act before he made you undress. We will never speak of that again.” Facing her, he placed both hands on her shaking shoulders, Thomas stared into Bekke’s tearful eyes saying, “I was terrified to pull the trigger. It was only when he tried to… uh…well, you know, it pushed me over the edge and I finally fired.”
“You have given me back my life Thomas, I regret Erik will never know that I am with his child.” Speaking no further, she began to weep deeply.
“Bekke! No, Erik is fine! He did not die but made his way all the way to our house where he finally collapsed. Charity and I patched him up. Why I figure by the time we get back he’ll be sitting up eating us out of house and home!”
“Truthfully Thomas? He is alive then?” Her tears now were of joy rather than sorrow as she clung weeping on Thomas.
The four sat around the Jessop’s table discussing all that had happened. The immediate danger to Erik and Bekke was over but the problem of Olaf remained.
Erik spoke of retribution but Thomas would not hear of it.
“We cannot take the law into our own hands. If we do then we set ourselves up as Judge and Jury. I agree something must be done as Olaf is guilty and must be punished but whatever is done to him, it must have the backing of the Territorial Governor.”
Charity agreed and eventually so did Erik. “We have no law out here yet Thomas, no court, no judge. The army is too busy fighting Indians to concern themselves with domestic affairs of settlers. Other than letting Olaf go free, I have no idea what we can do.”
Bekke spoke up. “I do. Looking at her husband she said, “We need to petition the governor to form a legal network of Lawmen or Sheriffs. He could place these men around the Territory to keep the peace until towns grow strong and big enough to have sheriffs and courts of their own.”
Thomas squinted at Bekke and asked, “And just who would be this Sheriff to keep the peace?”
Without blinking, Bekke spoke, “I would choose a man whose entire life has been committed to that of peace. Not someone who on the spur of the moment decides that having peace is a good thing. I would choose a man who respects life and the responsibility freedom brings. I would choose someone who would use his weapon only as a last resort. I would choose you Thomas!”
“Me?” Why I shook like a child when I shot that man. I still have deep regrets in taking his life!”
Charity reached over and clasped Thomas’s hand tightly, “That’s exactly why you would be the best man for the job my husband. Only a true man of peace can keep the peace. Without becoming a tyrant”
“I don’t know.”
“Yes you do or you would have never done what you did.”
“I was saving a friend.”
“And if someone else had wandered to our house instead of Erik here, would you have turned your back on them?”
Thomas looked crest fallen. “No, I would have risked my life to help another in need.”
Looking at the three, Thomas shrugged in defeat. Telling them, ”If Erik will travel to the Governor’s office with me, I will present myself and our petition for a lawman. I guess since I am the only witness to all the events that took place here, as an official of the law, I then could arrest Olaf and present him to the Territorial Judge for trial. Would you three agree to that?”
Over the years found many changes coming to the Wyoming Territory. It became a State and Law and order was now the order of the day.
Sheriff, Thomas Jessop had been charged with the duty of keeping law and order in the western most counties of Wyoming.
Sheriff Jessop and his longtime friend and Deputy, Erik Knudsen, had yet been required to pull the trigger on another man in keeping the peace. Over in the the town of Lost Cabin, there rest a grave marked only by a simple upright stone. On it is carved;
“The first scoundrel in Wyoming to be legally hung for murder and greed…
Regrettably, he was not be the last.”