Another story of the old West that takes place in the turbulent, exciting, and sometimes bloody time just after the Civil War. I've taken some literary license with this story but several of the characters, events, and situations are based on fact. They are part of our country's history.
Constructive comments, critiques, and emails are more than welcome and very much appreciated.
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my story. I hope you enjoy it.
"So what brings you to this part of the country Clay?" Sam Bettors asked the young man sharing his campfire as he scratched his big belly. Sam was about 5' 5 and nearly that big around. His fiery red hair and beard were streaked with gray. The man's close set blue eyes were intelligent and experienced.
He must be fifty or so, young Clayton Boudreau thought. He and Sam had only met earlier today. Clay had been holed up behind a big boulder with a rock butte at his back and surrounded by upset Paiute Indians. They were intent on making Clay pay for trespassing on their sacred land; Clay was just as intent that they wouldn't.
He hadn't known he was trespassing; he was just trying to get through the high desert to California. He had some experience with the Comanche in Texas and Apache in New Mexico; but he didn't speak Paiute and couldn't make them understand that he meant no harm or insult to them or their beliefs. As a result; there were several bodies dotting the landscape in front of Clay's hiding place.
A shot from one of the Paiutes bounced off the rock Clay was hiding behind causing him to crouch down a little more to better hide his 5'8 frame. Clay's long dark hair fluttered in the breeze; he'd lost his hat in the race to get away from the Indians. Damn good hat it was too, he thought. Clay's almost baby face showed his displeasure at losing his hat.
Clay had been breaking camp just after dawn when the Indians attacked. Luckily his horse was saddled and waiting. He mounted, put the spurs to the animal, and rode as fast as he could. Clay was opening the distance between him and his pursuers when his horse stepped in a hole.
Clay was thrown over the horse's head. He rolled as he hit the ground; he was bruised but nothing seemed to be broken. His horse wasn't as lucky. The animal had broken his leg and was thrashing on the ground in pain. In spite of the approaching Indians, Clay did what was necessary and shot the horse.
He pulled his Winchester, his canteen, and his saddle bags off the horse and ran, limping a little, for a rock bluff rising behind him with the Paiute war party bearing down on him. Looks like I might be here for a spell but I can hold them off long as I've got water and food, Clay told himself. Maybe they'll get tired of being shot at and leave me alone.
He couldn't get away with the Indians in front of him but the Paiute couldn't get to Clay without losing more men to his well placed shots. Suddenly a rifle shot rang out and one of the Indians fell hard to the ground. He joined the other bodies in front of Clay's position. Clay peeked over the rock he was hiding behind and saw a figure sitting on a wagon. Another shot came and another Paiute was hit.
Nice shooting Clay thought; that man is over a hundred yards away. One more shot and the Indians decided that Clay wasn't worth all the trouble. They mounted their horses and with what were probably shouted insults rode away. The man gathered his reins and drove his team closer to Clay's little fortress.
"Howdy," the wagon driver said as he pulled to a stop. "Hope I didn't spoil all your fun by chasin your friends away."
Clay chuckled and stood. "No that's fine. I'd had about all the fun I needed anyway. Thanks for the hand. I'm Clay Boudreau."
"Name's Sam Bettors," the big man answered. "Where's your horse?"
"He stepped in a hole and broke his leg while I was trying to get away from my friends yonder," Clay replied. "Had to shoot him."
"Y'all climb up. We'll get the rest of your gear and mosey out of here." Sam grabbed Clay's hand, then helped him climb up onto the big freight wagon and grinned. "Course, you could stay and play with your friends some more ifin you want."
"No Sam, I'm ready to head out," Clay answered. As Clay got settled on the wagon seat he asked, "Where we headed?"
"Just makin my westward swing from Fredonia headed to St. George, after a few stops."
"Passed through Fredonia," Clay said. "Didn't think it was big enough to have a freight service." A few seconds later he asked, "Western swing and more stops?"
"Got a regular route I do," Sam answered. "Run from St. George to Colorado City to Fredonia. Then turn around and make the same run in the opposite direction back through Arizona to Utah."
Sam pulled his wagon close to Clay's horse. As Clay worked to get his saddle and bridle off the dead animal Sam straightened on the wagon seat and pointed. "Yonder's your friends up on the mesa there. They're tryin to work up nerve to attack us."
After rubbing his dead horse's head, and silently thanking the animal for carrying all the miles since he left home, he threw his saddle and bridle into the back. Clay climbed back onto the wagon, pulled his Winchester from the wagon floor and put it across his lap.
"Don't worry, I think they've had enough of the two of us," Sam laughed.
"To answer your question, most small towns don't have regular freight service; maybe three or four times a year. But St. George, Fredonia and Colorado City are different. All three of those places is mostly Mormon."
"What's that got to do with it?"
"Well, you see Mormon settlements are a little different," Sam explained. "St. George has been there a while; gettin to be a rite big place. So the folk in St. George makes sure that Fredonia and Colorado City get what they need. In return the folks at Fredonia and Colorado City send any extra beef, mutton, or wool and such to St. George."
Clay was quiet for a minute. "Don't know much about Mormons," he admitted. "But it's nice to hear about folks takin care of their own."
"Mormon families, and their church, do that more often than most folk." Sam chuckled. "Course they ain't no different than the rest of us. There's good uns and some bad apples. They got rustlers, bandits, and flim flam men just like everybody else. But all and all they're good people. I like most of em."
The two men bounced along in the freight wagon for several minutes when Sam laughed. "Another thing that's different about the Mormons is that they believe a man can and should have more than one wife." Sam cackled like a hen laying an egg. "Now can you imagine that? A man wanting to saddle himself with more than one full time woman! Beats all I've ever seen."
"The men have more than one wife?"
"Yes sir, most do anyway," Sam answered. "Makes sense in a way. The Mormons, and most farmers and ranchers, want big families. To help with the work, don't you know? What better way to have a big family than to have more than one woman birthin children. The women can share the raising of the youngins and they help around the home place."
Sam cackled again and dug an elbow into Clay's side. "Course a man has to work extra hard to get all them kids. Know what I mean?"
Clay couldn't help but laugh at his new friend. "Reckon there's no tellin what folks will believe in."
That evening at dusk Sam and Clay made camp. "We're bout half way to Colorado City. It's a good three or three and a half day trip cause I have to follow the trail around them blamed mountains yonder. Weren't for them I could make the trip in two days easy. We'll pass through Kaibab tomorrow about mid morning I reckon. It's another of those Mormon settlements I told you about."
Sam shared his food and Clay did some chores around the camp so his new friend could take it a little easier. He watched as Clay gathered wood for their fire.
"Grab a cup of coffee if you've a mind. Come sit and tell me your story boy," Sam suggested.
"Not much to tell really," Clay replied. He sat down and leaned against his saddle. "Was workin on a ranch outside of Santa Fe but the place was sold and the new owner didn't have room for a driftin cowboy." Clay stopped and sipped his coffee. "Heard there are some big ranches in California and thought I'd give them a try."
"I think there's more to the story of Clayton Boudreau than that," Sam said with a small grin. "I hear a southern drawl in your speech. Don't sound like Texas, maybe further east and south. But if that's all you want to tell, that's fine with me."
Clay was surprised that Sam caught his accent, not many had. Most thought he was from Texas. He took a deep breath and continued his story.
"I was born in Alexandria Louisiana. Never knew my mother, she died givin birth to me. My daddy was a farmer and it was years before he got over Mommy being gone. Once I got about half grown he admitted that every time he looked at me he thought of her."
Clay got up and poured more coffee for the two of them. Sam pulled a bottle of whiskey out of his camp bag. "Here boy, let me sweeten that up a bit," he said as he poured a healthy portion into both cups.
"Don't normally drink," Clay said.
"Nonsense Clay. After the day we've had we deserve a little somethin to calm us down," Sam replied and chuckled. "Now go on with your story."
.... There is more of this story ...