After I wrote the original story, I received some comments and several emails that asked or suggested that I continue the adventures of Tyler Rawlings, his younger brother John and John's wife Molly.
I just reread my tale and have decided that maybe those characters haven't completed their story. Because of the suggestions and because I wanted to write another western, I've decided to add a bit more about the lives of my friends and characters.
I recommend that you read the first installment of The Hangman Cometh; it will introduce you to the characters and events that flow to the conclusion of that story and will help you better enjoy this story.
As usual, constructive comments, critiques, and emails are very welcome and much appreciated. I hope you enjoy the story.
John Rawlings sat on his horse on a high rise overlooking his ranch house and out buildings with his left leg thrown over his saddle horn. It was late spring and the morning sun was burning off the mist rising from the stream that ran past the place. With a practiced glance he looked at the sky and knew the weather coming over the mountains several miles to the east would boil down into the valley in late afternoon.
"It's been a good four years Buck," he said to his horse. John and his wife Molly had bought their ranch a half day's ride east of Santa Maria, California in 1877 in the foothills of the San Rafael Mountains.
They had fled Uvalde, Texas in 1875 where John had been accused of gunning down a man; he had shot the man but it was in self-defense. Molly worked as a waitress in her uncle's saloon and John had been talking to her. Bob Talbert was sweet on Molly and became enraged when he saw John and Molly together.
Bob kicked John's chair over and while John was on his back, pulled his gun and tried to kill him; drunkenly he missed. John pulled his own pistol and returned fire and his shot was true. Bob Talbert was killed instantly. Talbert was a cousin of Jack Malone, the big he bull rancher in the area and Malone wanted John executed. John had been scheduled to hang when his brother, Tyler Rawlings, had rescued him.
A professional hangman named Josiah Reading had been hired to execute John but Tyler took Reading's place and freed his younger brother while he was standing on the gallows. Then Tyler held the Sheriff, his deputies, and all of the people that had come to watch the hanging at gun point while John and Molly rode away.
Tyler Rawlings was a pistolero; well known in Texas, New Mexico and parts of Louisiana. Some said he was as fast, mean and unforgiving as John Wesley Hardin or Clay Allison; not many men wanted to face an almost certain death going up against Tyler Rawlings.
The young couple struck out across the arid land west of Uvalde toward California. The first night on the trail, in his saddle bag, John found $1000 in gold Double Eagles and paper currency along with a note from Tyler. The note read: Malone paid a thousand dollars to hang you. Only fittin that you and Molly use it to get a start in California. Take care of yourself Johnny and stay out of trouble.
They made a point of staying off the main trails and avoided any towns that had telegraph wires leading into them. In a little Mexican village just north of El Paso, John and Molly were married by an old priest. "Lot of ways to get to California Molly and even if that Sheriff telegraphs ahead they won't find us this way."
By horseback, stage coach, and train the young couple made their way to California. They moved around for two years, not settling on the banks of the Sisquoc River near the small community of Santa Maria until they were sure no one was following them. After exploring the area for a month, John paid $700 dollars for 600 deeded acres of prime grazing property.
That was the beginning of the ranch. John and Molly called the place the Double B Ranch which stood for big brother, in honor of Tyler, and they branded their stock with the upper case letters BB. The owners on the deed were listed as John, Molly and T Rawlings; they didn't dare list Tyler's full name because of his reputation as a gun fighter. They had been able to add another 300 acres to the ranch in the last four years of its existence.
John had to smile as he watched his wife Molly trying to saddle the big buckskin horse she had adopted. The animal was almost 17 hands at the shoulder and the small young woman had trouble getting the saddle onto the horses back.
Several weeks ago they were returning from a supply run into Santa Maria, which was ten miles or so from the ranch, and had come across the animal tied to a tree with his apparent owner lying in his bedroll nearby; the man had been dead for several days. If they hadn't taken a different way home they wouldn't have come across the bad scene.
The animal had a rope noose holding him to the tree and he had chaffed his neck badly trying to get loose and get to the water of the stream that flowed about thirty feet away. When John and Molly found the buckskin he stood with his head down and looking as if he would die at any minute.
Molly jumped out of the wagon, untied the horse and led him to the creek. "Be carefully Molly," John warned. "Don't let him drink too much at one time."
"I know how to take care of a horse John Rawlings, ' she replied. "You tend to the man."
There wasn't any type of identification on the dead man except a letter addressed to a Sarah Young in Chicago telling of his dissatisfaction with his nomadic ways and a promise to come home; the letter was simply signed Thomas. John buried the man off to the side of the trail and later took the letter to the Sheriff of Santa Maria. They never heard from the woman in Chicago.
John had just pulled his leg down and put his boot back into his stirrup when he saw a rider stop his horse at the pump and watering trough in front of the ranch house. There hadn't been any trouble in the last week or so but John wasn't too fond of strangers.
Molly turned as the man rode in but the sun was behind the stranger's back and she couldn't see his face. She tied off the buckskin to the top rail of the corral, picked up a Winchester rifle and walked to meet the rider. Molly could see that the man was leaning over to one side and as she got closer she could see the blood on the man's left side.
"Hello Molly," the man said. "Don't think you'll need that Winchester."
"Tyler," she almost yelled as she recognized John's brother and their savior. Then in a worried voice asked, "What happened to you?"
"Never you mind girl; it's just a scratch. I want to get some water for my horse and maybe for me as well if I'm allowed."
"Well I do mind sir," Molly answered in a stern voice. She was going to help her family and wouldn't be put off. "Y'all can't just ride in here after four years and then ride out again. John will want to see you and I aim to tend to that 'scratch' as you call it."
"Best I don't stop Molly. I got men on my trail and they don't need to find me here."
"You can't ride like that Tyler. Please let us help you."
From up on the rise John saw Molly place her hands on her hips and spread her legs to shoulder width. "She only does that when she is upset or as mad as a hornet," John told his horse. "Reckon we better get down there Buck." He kicked his horse into an easy lope back down the rise toward the ranch house. As he hit the flats, he pushed his horse into a gallop.
Before Tyler could argue with Molly, he heard a rider coming at them at a gallop. Turning in the saddle, as much as his wound would let him, he saw John riding hard. His brother pulled his horse to a stop and a small cloud of dust rose from his horse's hoofs. When John saw who the rider was he jumped off his horse.
"Tyler. Damn it's good to see you."
"Hello little brother. I was just askin Molly if I could get some water."
"John, make him stay," Molly pleaded. "He's been shot."
"Might as well give in Tyler," John said with a smile. "Nobody bests Molly once she gets her mind set."
"Really can't stay John; sorry Molly. Like I told Molly, there are men on my trail that y'all don't need or want to get to know. Let me water my horse and I'll ride on."
John knew his wife could be stubborn at times but he also knew that his big brother Tyler could give lessons to a Missouri mule. He took Tyler's horse by the bridle and led the horse to the watering trough. "Give me your canteen and I'll put fresh water in it."
As Tyler leaned down to hand his canteen to John, his face went slack and he continued in a slide out of the saddle. John caught him and eased him to the ground. "Looks like you won out Molly. I don't think Tyler is going to be riding out any time soon. Go get the front bedroom ready and we'll do what we can for him."
John's face showed his worry for his big brother. He picked Tyler up and held him in his arms like you would a child. At 6'1 John was 2 inches shorter than Tyler but he had filled out to 200 pounds. Tyler was still whipcord thin and having been on the trail for a spell couldn't have weighed more than 175. It wasn't an easy job but John got the injured man into the house and onto the bed.
Molly came into the room with cloths and a wash basin of hot water. "Get his shirt off so I can look at his wound," she ordered. After cleaning the area with the hot water, Molly felt around and decided that the bullet had passed through Tyler's side no more than a couple of inches into the muscle. From the position of the wound she was sure that it hadn't hit anything vital. Tyler had collapsed due to blood loss.
.... There is more of this story ...