My darling Sadie,
Guess what, sweetheart? I’ve been fired. Canned. Terminated from gainful employment. Your beloved, the deadly Henry Tamson, gunfighter, bear fighter, bounty hunter, and lawman extraordinnaire, is heading back out on the trail. I’ll be dropping this letter at the Post Office on my way out of town. Hopefully, the Postmaster will actually send it on like he’s supposed to do.
I think he will, though I was unsure enough that it seemed necessary to give him the snake eye and promise to come back to, you know, see him personal-like if you didn’t get the letter in short order. Paid him a visit a couple of hours ago to make sure he understood.
He seemed to, right enough. Judging by the stain on the front of his pants that wasn’t there when I first walked in.
How’d I git handed my walking papers, told my services as town Marshal were no longer needed in these here Red Cliff, Colorado, parts? It happened like this….
“Dirty redskins!” The speaker aimed a kick at the Indian man who was already down in the middle of the street, his woman backed up against a storefront as she watched half a dozen locals pound on her warrior. “Heathen savages!”
I’d jist turned the corner. “Enough!” My roar backed the rest of ’em up right enough, but Mr. Kicker was too into it.
“Forget you, Marshal!” Rowdy Troyden’s lips were curled back in a snarl, hate for the original lords of these lands twisting his thick features. He didn’t even bother to look my way, jist hauled back his mine-booted foot for another crushing kick to the Shoshone’s ribs.
What a Shoshone warrior and his wife were doing in high-country Colorado in this fierce winter of 1888-89, I hadn’t the slightest idea. Didn’t have many ideas about how to stop Troyden’s assault without shooting him in the back, either–which was tempting, but would have most likely got me strung up or at least featured on a Wanted poster. I was moving fast now, but not fast enough to grab the Indian hater before that boot of his landed again.
So, instead of shooting him from behind, I stretched out them long legs of mine and kicked him from behind. Between the legs.
You ever been kicked like that by a man my size?
No, of course you haven’t. Let me jist put it this way. I was coming at him hard, my blood was up, and that boot launched him clean over the prostrate form of his victim.
There weren’t much fight left in the bugger after that. He weren’t about to go fer his gun, not against the local lawdog who also packed the rep of killing bad men and big bears one-handed. But after I hauled him off to jail, keeping the injured Indian and his lady with me so’s they didn’t git worse than they’d already got, it didn’t take long for the Tamson-hate in the town to swell like a dry-wood bucket dropped down a well.
That was about midday. By midafternoon, the town fathers had half of Red Cliff demanding my head, figuratively or literally didn’t seem to matter much.
Shortly before sunset, they called an emergency Town Meeting. First of all, they wanted to know what the Hell my problem was with a redskin getting pounded in the first place.
“He’s only a damn Injun!” That seemed to be the main amazement. How could their formerly esteemed Marshal side against white men with them subhuman red savages?
Now, honey, I knew from our history classes in school that settlements up this way were way nervous about Indians in general after the Utes reared up on their hind legs in ’79 and killed Indian Agent Nathan Meeker fer trying to push ’em to be cooperative farmers. On the other hand, though, we all know from our alliance with the Utes themselves that Meeker dang sure had it coming. Heck, I’m a rancher’s son, and I’d kill any meathead that thought he could force me to turn to farming!
Anyway, the meeting–if you could call it that–got hotter and hotter. These men were all emotion and no reason, with the milk of human kindness running way into the negative numbers somewhere. The stupid blind prejudice factor was fully in charge…and they obviously did not realize I’m a quarter Cheyenne and 1/64 Comanche myself. So one of ’em, don’t ask me which, I was snorting too much fire to differentiate between one idjit and another, one of ’em says,
“Marshal Tamson, you know full well the only good Injun’s a dead Injun!”
The cowflops hit the fan when those words got launched. It got quiet in there, neither the city fathers nor the dozens of would-be mob members so much as breathing. Quiet, that is, till I replied in a voice that coulda made ice shiver,
“I do NOT know that full well. But from what I’ve seen so far, the only good Indian AGENT is a dead Indian AGENT!”
Coulda heard a pin drop.
Then one little guy–can’t recall his name, but he at least had more guts than the rest of ’em put together, he said in kind of a timid voice, “Marshal, we would appreciate it if you would remove your badge. Your services are no longer required in this town.”
You know what, beautiful? I believe that gutsy little bigot kept things from devolving into a mass killing right there. I nodded at him. Unpinned my badge, flipped it over to him with the pin unclasped. He caught it outa the air, flinched a little like maybe that open pin had stuck him in the palm of his hand. Which I most certainly hope it did.
Didn’t let ’em run me outa town that night. They all knew to steer clear of me, anyway. I do believe most of ’em saw me as suddenly being more dangerous than the griz that tore Stanley and me half to shreds, and you know what? They were seeing right. I seriously thought about burning the whole worthless town down around their heads.
But our people taught me better than that, thankfully.
Not that I’m traveling alone. Wise Owl and Bluebird are with me. They’re the Shoshones who were getting the short end of the stick till I kicked Rowdy Troyden where it hurt. Doc Pecunie checked Wise Owl over; he got a couple of cracked ribs out of the deal, but he can travel. She’s talked Stanley into marrying her, no surprise there, so my crosseyed buddy will be staying on in Red Cliff for a while. Doesn’t seem like the locals hold him any grudge fer knowing me.
The Shoshones are teaching me their language, and I’m teaching them English. Bluebird is pretty quick on the uptake; she’s already learned how to call a bad white man an a-hole
Turns out Wise Owl’s name was put on him by his tribe as a joke, back in the day. Seems he’s stumbled into many a bad situation a truly wise fellow might have avoided. But he’s no fool that I can see, and the three of us are headed up to the Wyoming country together. Not quite sure yet, but likely to end up spending the rest of the winter on or around the Wind River Reservation.
Will let you know when I get a new mail address.
My darling Henry,
I’m writing by lantern light, watching the full moon rise over the distant treeline and thinking of you.
Thanks for letting us know about the anti-redskin town of Red Cliff. From everything we hear, not that many western towns are much better these days. Grandpa Tam says it’s actually not nearly as bad as it was even a dozen years ago, but if it was worse then, I’m glad I don’t remember.
Sort of puts into perspective the way our clan avoids cities for the most part, eh?
Of course, Walsenburg doesn’t count. Flywheel Ranch is so well established in Walsenburg, the clan’s Indian blood is beyond consideration for attack. Guess the most despicable thing to some folks in this town is that we’re rich, or at least rich by their lights.
But we’re not feeling particularly rich right now. Judging from the date on your letter, you and the Shoshones likely got clean out of Colorado before the blizzard hit, but down here–even in this relatively low country–it like to did us in. The crew that made the Ute Box Boy run almost didn’t make it back home in time; there were whiteout conditions when they wheeled the wagons in through the yard gate. There was a lot of relief all around at that…until the snow just didn’t quit.
It took three days for the storm to blow out, and then it turned wicked cold. Not like in that high country where you’ve been of late, but cloze to zero, even a couple degrees below one night.
And it was worse on the other side of the mountains. Scrap Hannigan made the ride over, as soon as the weather was settled enough to make it halfway safe. Just got back a few hours ago. Said the herd of spring calves–you know, that were weaned in October–they started drifting with the storm, got pushed into one of those side canyons…and there the wolves found them.
Yes, we’ve got wolves again. Not only that, but this pack is killing for sport. I know all those writers back east say they don’t do that, but we know better. Some do.
So, instead of getting our usual early winter “rest period”, Flywheel Ranch has become an armed wolf hunting camp. The clan had an Ownership Meeting where they discussed the possibility of hiring professional wolfers. But nobody, and I mean nobody, was really in favor of that. For a number of reasons. Most of them, we hear, are not nice people, but most importantly, we take care of our own problems.
And we don’t need strangers sniffing around our range.
How many calves have we lost? Scrap said the tally was 37 so far.
One thing about it. Nobody, not even the Wolf People, can possibly know the Flywheel range the way we do. Plus, you know what? Grandpa Tam is directing the wolf hunting operations as well as riding out on scouting forays himself…and I swear, the man is on a mission. Looks ten years younger, fire in his belly, light in his eyes. Silver lining to the dark wolf cloud, right there.
I want to go out on one of the hunts. Haven’t been able to get permission yet, but I’m practicing with Dad’s old .44-40 Winchester. Getting pretty good, too.
Love and lust,