Protection Fer Who?
Shit, that hurt! The two Bushwhackers who had been holdin' my arms had thrown me against the wall of the barn. It's a wonder I wasn't killed, as I just missed a couple of pegs pokin' from the wall where tools an' materials were usually hung. Maybe they aimed fer the empty place, since I wuz no good ta 'em dead.
They grabbed me again an' held me while another of their band pounded on my belly with his fists. By this time, I could hardly breathe, an' I certainly couldn't stand up by myself. The leader turned ta my wife an' said, "If we come back an' that $50 ain't here when we do, we'll have some fun with ya afore we kill ya both. Ya'll jus' keep that in mind. We'll see ya'll in two weeks. But, afore we go, let's see what we'll be comin' back fer." With that, he grabbed my wife's dress at the neck an' ripped down, tearin' it from her body. She stood there, naked, while the seven men laughed.
One of the Bushwhackers said, "Shit, I hope they don't have the money when we git back. I'd shore like a piece of that cunt." They released her an' mounted their horses.
As they were ridin' away, the leader said, "Remember! Two weeks!" They rode away, laughin' an' jokin' at our expense.
My wife, Jane, ran ta me as I lay on the ground, finally recoverin' my breath. "Jeff, did they break any bones?" At least, she wuz smart enough not ta ask if I wuz hurt!
"No, Honey, but they shore did a number on me. I hurt all over. Please get some clothes on an' help me into the house."
"Ta hell with clothes, I'll worry 'bout that later. Lean on me, an' we'll git ya ta bed."
Between the two of us strugglin' ta do it, but with Jane doin' most of the work, I fell into bed, an' she got my clothes off. Once I wuz safely tucked into bed, she put on her other dress. Dammit, she only had two dresses, an' those bastards had ruined one of 'em.
"Honey, ya'll have ta do it, since I can't sit up yet, but our pistols have ta be reloaded. Please reload both my LaMats an' yar Colt. They've been sittin' around too long an' they may misfire. The caps are OK, but the powder needs replacin'. I ain't never goin' out of the house, again, without wearin' both my guns. I could of stood those bastards off if I hadn't been so careless in leavin' my guns hangin' on the peg. I want ya ta wear a gun at all times, too."
"But, Dear, I can't wear a gun when I'm wearin' a dress, an' it's too hot an' sticky this time of year ta wear trousers."
"We'll fix that. Get yar holster an' a couple of belts, an' we will rig ya a shoulder holster." Jane returned in a couple of minutes with the belts an' holster, an' I showed her how ta make a temporary shoulder rig fer her holster. "The next time we go into town, we'll get ya a proper rig, but that should work out fer now."
It wuz two days before I had recovered enough ta resume workin' on the farm chores. Thank God that the plowin' an' sowin' were already done, or we would be in a heap of trouble. As it wuz, I dragged my ass around an' did what had ta be done, but I spent a lot of time restin' an' plannin' what I wuz goin' ta do when those Bushwhackers came back.
They claimed they were collectin' a $50 "tax" from all of the local farmers ta protect us from Jayhawkers. Well, it wuz 1863, an' Jayhawkers were a problem in this part of Missouri, but most people thought that Bushwhackers were just as bad. Anyway, I planned on there bein' some dead Bushwhackers the next time they came around.
Fer one thin', there wuz no way that I wuz goin' ta pay their $50 "tax." Shore, I had about $80 in gold coins hidden away, so I could have paid if I wanted ta, but I shore as hell wuz not goin' ta pay any Bushwhacker ta do my fightin' fer me. Besides, I had no confidence in their "protection." I had my two LaMat pistols, .42 caliber with the attached 18-gauge shotgun, an' I wuz a damned good shot, so I figured that I could take care of me an' mine, if I wuz smart enough ta keep the guns handy.
Normally, I do like most people an' leave an empty chamber in the cylinder fer safety's sake, but I decided ta go one better. The LaMat has nine chambers in the cylinder, so I told Jane ta load all nine, but leave the cap off of the one the hammer wuz restin' on. That way, it couldn't accidentally fire, but it could be brought into use quickly by addin' the needed cap.
Those extra three shots could be a life saver, since most people figure on only six bullets bein' the maximum available before reloadin', so I figured ta catch some fool in some foolishness without much delay.
The sun rose right on schedule that fateful day when our "protectors" were due ta show up. I told Jane ta stay in the house an' shoot through open windows if the opportunity arose, but not ta come outside fer any reason before I called her out. I explained that I expected ta be movin' around a lot this day, an' I needed ta know where she wuz if I needed help. I don't know how much of that white lie she believed, but she did agree ta do what I asked, an' that wuz all that mattered.
We must have been the first on the bastards' list ta visit, because it wuz hardly daylight, an' we had just finished breakfast when they showed up. I had kept all of the stock in the barn over night, just in case, an' I wuz in the barn puttin' away the milkin' stuff when I heard horses approachin'.
I figured that one horse might have been a neighbor visitin', but seven horses wuz another story! I knew that I would have little choice, but either ta pay up the $50, or ta fight. Since I wasn't goin' ta pay, I planned ta ambush an' kill as many as I could in the first few minutes. Anythin' else would just get me killed an' Jane raped before she wuz killed.
There wuz only one road the bastards could use ta approach our house at that speed, so I knew right off where ta find 'em. Good, they were ridin' into my trap, all fat an' sassy. I had rigged up a little fort fer myself, an' I ran fer it as soon as I heard the horses. I planned ta let 'em get inside my gate so I could trap 'em against the fence, in easy range of the front of the house where Jane could get in a few shots if she wuz so of a mind.
The bastards came ridin' in as if they owned the world an' paused at my gate. The leader shouted, "JEFF BURNSIDE, WE'VE COME TA COLLECT THE TAX! COME ON OUT AN' PAY UP!"
I had some extra good luck at this point. One of the gang wuz just barely inside the gate, so I put a bullet through his horse's head, droppin' the animal so that he blocked the obvious escape route. The horse fell so quickly that the rider didn't have the opportunity ta jump free, so he wuz pinned by his leg under the animal. He had lost his gun when the horse fell, so he wuz not an immediate danger, an' I ignored him.
Jane an' I had agreed that I would fire the first shot, but after that, she wuz free ta shoot as many of the bastards as she wished. She opened fire with her Colt Navy an' put a bullet through the arm of the leader. It wasn't his shootin' hand, but it wuz probably a fatal shot if he lived long enough fer gangrene ta set in. Her next shot killed one of the other gang members with a head shot. Damn! That woman could shoot when she had time ta aim.
By this time the rest of the gang, four men, had their guns firin' at the house, an' none had noticed me in my little fort. This gave me plenty of time ta line up my next shot, an' I put a bullet into the belly of one of 'em. They saw my puff of gunsmoke an' turned my way. There wuz a little breeze, so the smoke did not bother my aim, Thank God fer the wind!
They had all started shootin' at me in my fort, so Jane had time ta reload. We had made up some paper cartridges, so it took her a lot less time than anybody would expect fer her ta complete her reloadin'. She now had six shots, an' there were only three galoots left. She started shootin', again, an' nicked one of the horses, which made him rear an' dump his rider on the ground. The horse took off runnin' toward the back of the house with the rider's foot caught in the stirrup. That man's screamin' just added ta the chaos an' confusion.
There were only two active fighters left from the gang, so I decided ta stop foolin' around. I flipped over ta the shotgun an' fired when the two remainin' men were in the optimum position. They were both hit by that one shot an' fell from their horses. Neither one wuz dead, but they both would be soon.
Our house had a fence runnin' all the way around it, so the horse draggin' the man showed up back in the front yard without me goin' fer him. The man he wuz draggin' wuz not dead yet, but looked like he wished he wuz. His back wuz shredded, an' he wuz screamin' in pain. I went out an' calmed his horse an' flipped the trapped boot from the stirrup.
I called Jane out an' we discussed what ta do with the men, both dead an' alive. She wuz so mad, as well as excited by the fight, that she wanted ta hang 'em all. I wuz pretty well hyped up, too, so I didn't argue with her. I did say that I thought we should hang 'em down by the main road so that everybody could see the fate of Bushwhackers if they messed with us.
The first thin' we had ta do wuz clear the gate, so I put a lariat around the neck of the dead horse an' dragged him off the man pinned under it by his leg. The leg must have been broken, judgin' by the way the man screamed as I dragged the horse off of him. The man stopped screamin' when he fainted, but I had the horse moved by then.
Only two men had been killed by our bullets, but the rest were badly injured, most fatally. With Jane's help, I got every one of the live ones on a horse with their feet tied under the horse's belly. I brought out the buckboard an' loaded the dead on it. I didn't need ta tie any hands, because none of 'em were in any condition ta try ta escape.
We made our way ta the main road an' I found a couple of suitable trees. Each man wuz led ta a tree an' the rope wuz thrown over a limb. The lariat loop wuz slipped over the man's head—we wanted 'em ta strangle, not die of a broken neck. The other end of the rope wuz tied off so that the rope made shore that the man sat upright.
By the time every one of the live ones were fastened ta the tree, they were all conscious an' realized what wuz goin' on. There wuz a lot of beggin' an' carryin' on, but Jane an' I ignored the noise while we worked. We hanged the two dead men ta make a complete set.
The leader wuz the first one ta hang. I cut the rope holdin' his feet an' slowly led the horse out from under him. I didn't want him ta fall an' break his neck, I wanted him ta strangle as slowly as possible. The other four were treated the same, one by one until the last one wuz kickin' in the wind. While I had been workin' ta get the dead men on the buckboard, Jane had made a sign that simply said "BUSHWHACKERS." This wuz pinned ta the shirt of the leader of the gang.
We had already stripped the valuables from the men before we hanged 'em, so all we had ta do wuz lead their horses back ta our barn.
Three days later, Lars Olsen, our neighbor ta the south, stopped by an' asked if I wuz the one who had hanged the Bushwhackers. I told him that I wuz, an' Lars stuck out his hand ta shake an' thank me. He, too, wuz on the list ta be visited that day an' said that he wuz really worried, since he didn't have the $50 demanded by the Bushwhackers. Jim Ingram an' Bob Randall also stopped by ta thank me fer puttin' an end ta these Bushwhackers; neither one of 'em had the money demanded, either, an' had been scared of the consequences.
Two days after Bob Randall had come by, Sheriff Pickens of Hope County (this county) stopped by with a different story. He wuz a Confederate sympathizer an' wuz pissed at me fer killin' seven "brave Confederate guerrilla fighters." I said that they had attacked me first, an' I wuz only defendin' myself. Furthermore, I complained about the $50 "tax" the bastards had tried ta collect. From listenin' ta the sheriff sputter, I got the impression that the word he had wuz that they were askin' fer a lot less than that, an' his cut wuz a lot smaller than it should have been. Anyway, he left in a huff, an' I heard no more on the subject. However, I expected ta hear from the sheriff again at a later date.
A week later, the bodies, or what wuz left of 'em, disappeared. I have no idea what happened ta 'em. A month later, word wuz spread that there wuz a gang of Jayhawkers in the neighborhood. There were a lot of worried people around, includin' me. Rumor had it that there were 25-30 raiders in the gang, though I wuz shore that wuz an exaggeration, as rumors always were.
I shore wuz glad that we had picked up all those extra guns from the Bushwhackers. I had made a special gun rack fer 'em an' had put it in the kitchen where it would be handy fer Jane. As part of her daily routine, Jane replaced the powder in the guns in all six chambers, but only five caps. A box of caps wuz in a special holder under the guns in the rack so that the remainin' cylinder could be charged as soon as a gun wuz picked up.
We had also picked up two Spencer carbines. I have no idea where the repeaters had come from, except that they had ta have been stolen from the Damyankees. There were also 43 cartridges fer the carbines, an' I made shore that Jane knew how ta use the Spencer. She wuz as good with a rifle as she wuz with a pistol, so I wuz pretty shore that she could take care of herself whenever I had ta leave her alone in the house, which wuz fairly often.
She finally convinced (nagged is a better word) me ta carry one of the Spencers with me whenever I left the house. I thought that she wuz shrinkin' from shadows when she first mentioned it, but I took her advice just ta make her happy. It wuz a damned good thin' that I listened ta her, at last!
I wuz out cultivatin' a field east of the house when a bunch of "Redlegs," Jayhawkers, cut across the field, completely ignorin' the corps growin' there. I yelled at 'em ta get out of my field, but they ignored me. Not 15 minutes later, I heard shootin' comin' fer the direction of my house, so I dropped everythin' an', takin' my Spencer, ran fer the house. At least, I knew that I wasn't too late because I kept hearin' gunfire comin' from that direction.
I took the shortcut an' came ta the house in less than 10 minutes of runnin' as hard as I could move. When I got ta the house, I saw five live Jayhawkers an' two dead ones lyin' behind trees an' such in front of our house. Jane wuz doin' a damned fine job of holdin' off the raiders; since they had ta come through the gate at the front of the house, she did not worry about havin' ta defend anywhere else as long as she could keep 'em outside the fence.
I worked my way sort of behind the raiders, but out of Jane's line of fire, an' paused long enough ta catch my breath. That done, I started snipin' at the raiders with my Spencer from about 70 yards away. I had taken the time ta sight it in, so I wuz in good shape when it came ta accuracy. At first, they did not realize that they now had defenders on two sides, so they did not react when I first started shootin'. I managed ta pick off two of the raiders afore they caught on, then I started ta receive fire, too, but it wuz from Colts, not rifles.
I wuz too far away ta need ta worry about the pistols, an' the raiders soon realized that, too, so they started makin' preparations ta run. One of 'em got careless, an' Jane popped him in the shoulder. There were two left, so I started ta bear down. I wounded another one in the side, I couldn't tell how seriously, but he let out a yelp an' reflexively jerked upright from behind the tree stump he wuz usin' fer shelter. As soon as he showed his head, Jane put another hole in it, so that he soon didn't care one way or the other. The last man stood up ta run, one of the most stupid acts he could have tried. Jane put a bullet into him before I wuz ready ta shoot, so I didn't have ta.
We treated these raiders the same way we had the Bushwhackers. We inherited two more Spencers, an' 77 cartridges. A profitable day fer us!