Another tale of the "wild west" and the characters that lived in that exciting time.
Life was simpler then; a time of stark contrast, a world of black and white. But there were a few gray areas.
This is a story of one of the men who lived in that world between black and white, between good and bad, and between the law and the outlaw.
Constructive comments, critiques, and emails are much appreciated and most welcome.
Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on this story. I hope you enjoy it.
"Mr. Lowell?" The young man asked. It was an April morning on a cool but sunny day in 1960. The young man had started out from New Braunfels at 7:30. He got lost a couple of times and it had taken him an hour and a half to find the ranch and this man. When he didn't get a response for the elderly man he asked, "You are Mr. Clint Lowell, aren't you?"
"Who wants to know?" The old man asked as he stood up. "And why is it any of your business?"
The old man had been sitting in a rocking chair on the porch of a modest home. The house sat on just over two acres in the hill county outside of New Braunfels, Texas. It had once been in the middle of a good size cattle ranch but most of the land had been sold off over the years.
"I'm Sam Reybern Mr. Lowell," the young man answered. "I work for National Geographic Magazine."
"National what? Oh yeah, that's the magazine with the pictures of the natives with no clothes on." The old man laughed hard and then coughed for a several seconds. "Seen them pictures a time or two."
"We do print pictures of other things sir. You know landscapes, cities, vegetation and..."
"Never paid attention to anything but those naked natives," Lowell interrupted the young man. "You tolt me who you are but why are you here boy."
Sam looked at Clint Lowell and could picture the young man he had been. Even at his advanced age, Clint stood straight and tall. He's about 6 feet and 180 pounds, Sam thought. Lowell's hair was mostly white but still had a few streaks of dark brown running through it but the walrus type mustache was pure white. Those blue eyes could likely bore holes in you if he got angry, Sam observed.
"I'm doing a story about range wars and feuds in the old west sir," Sam replied. "Mostly in the middle to late 1800s. One of the range wars I've done research on is the Pleasant Valley War in Arizona. I know you were involved and hoped you would tell me about it"
"Not much to tell sonny. I was only "involved" as you say for about a week."
"But Mr. Lowell, you were actually there. As far as I can tell, you're the only living person who was involved in any of those wars and feuds. It would be exciting to hear the story first hand."
Clint didn't reply and stared off at the hills in the distance. Sam had the good sense not to push the old man. He knew from talking to people in New Braunfels that he'd have to go slow or Lowell would tell him "get the hell off my property".
After several minutes of silence, Clint came back from wherever he had been in his mind. He smiled at Sam and said, "This is God's own backyard boy. Clint swept his arm around at the rolling landscape. "Not good for raisin much sides cattle and kids but it suits me."
Sam really looked around at the countryside for the first time. Searching for the Lowell place he hadn't really paid attention to the scenery. He saw a country of rolling hills mostly cover in cedars and junipers with grassy valleys in between. From where he sat he could see a lake in the distance. Sam understood Clint's reference to it being God's backyard. It almost took your breath away.
"Yes sir, I can see what you mean. It's real pretty country," Sam said. It never hurts to compliment a man's home, he thought; although he was sincere in his appraisal of the area. "Will you talk with me, Mr. Lowell? I mean about the Pleasant Valley War."
Clint stared at the young man for several seconds. He can't be more than 25, maybe 30 Clint thought. Know he's educated cause he's a writer but he looks like a cowboy that got dressed up in his Sunday go to meetin clothes. I knowed many an Indian who would have thought his reddish blond hair would make a fine scalp. Boy's got spunk to come out and brace me.
"C'mon up and have a seat," Clint suggested. "Reckon I don't have anything else to do right now. Might as well spend it talkin with your son." Sam quickly stepped onto the porch and sat in the second rocking chair.
Reaching down beside his rocker, Clint picked up a bottle of Jack Daniels and two half pint Mason jars. "Care for a taste?" He asked Sam. "Gonna have a touch myself. Talkin makes me thirsty." Before Sam could answer, Clint poured three fingers of whiskey into a jar and handed it to him. He then filled the other Mason jar to almost overflowing.
"I don't normally drink this early in the day Mr. Lowell," Sam finally got out after taking a sip.
"You some kind of preacher or do-gooder boy? Clint took a big drink, sighed, and said, "Okay now I can start my tale." Settling back in his chair Clint rocked back and forth for a minute waiting for Sam to take a real drink. When he did, Clint started his story.
"I reckon it was gonna happen no matter what we did," the old man began. "I mean getting involved, as you said, in that damn feud. It was '86, I'd just turned 17 and..."
"Excuse me Sir," Sam interrupted. "Would you mind telling me about yourself before that time? You know sort of like a biography."
"Well ... what do you want to know?"
"Where were you born ... and when? How old are you?"
"I was born in 1869, that makes me er ... What year is it sonny?"
"It's 1960 Mr. Lowell," Sam answered.
"Well that makes me, let's see ... Damn I'm 91 years old," Clint said in a surprised voice. "Never thought I'd live this long." He paused for a bit, chuckled and added, "At times I didn't think I'd make it to 30."
"Mr. Lowell where were you born? The records from back then are a little sketchy."
"Sam, puttin a shirt and tie on a cow pony don't make him a Mister. Clint will do just fine. I was born on a hard scrapple little ranch just outside of Pleasant Valley, Arizona; I think they changed the name to Young sometime ago. My Ma was what is now called a single parent. My father left town when he found out she was going to have me. I thought my father had died until I was older and Ma told me the truth. I guess all those that called me a bastard later on were right." Clint laughed so hard he started coughing. After several seconds he caught his breath and continued.
"Jolly Rollins was a drifter who stopped at the ranch to water his horses on his way south. Never did find out where he was headed or where he came from. It didn't make much difference because once he met my Ma he never left. Did find out his given name was Jerrod but he hated to be called that. He and my Ma raised me; Jolly treated me like I was his own.
"My Ma and Jolly never got married. A piece of paper and some fancy words didn't matter to them. They loved each other somethin fierce." The old man got quiet for a bit.
"Don't really remember a lot about Ma, she died of the fever when I was ten. What I remember most was she always smelled of fresh baked bread and apple butter; and she always had the time to give me a hug and a kiss. After she passed it was just me and Jolly tryin to make a living on the damned ranch. His real name was Jerrod Rollins but everyone called him Jolly because he was always smilin, laughin, and playin jokes on you. He never laughed and seldom smiled after Ma passed; the joy went out of him.
Jolly almost went crazy from grief when Ma died. I was diggin her grave when he came back to himself. He hadn't been able to look at Ma and it was left up to me to get her ready to be buried." Clint got quiet and stared away at the hills. "Hell of a thing for a ten year old boy to have to do but I got it done."
He sort of shook himself and continued, "Jolly took over the diggin when I went to see to Ma. I wrapped her in one of the quilts she'd made and we put her in the ground. For two days Jolly sat on our front stoop and stared at her grave. I took care of the stock and fed myself. Finally Jolly stood and went to work."
Clint had been looking out over the valley below his home as he talked. He turned to Sam and said, "You know the Pleasant Valley area is about as pretty as a picture. It's just below the Mogollon Rim and has mountains, high country pastures and valleys with grasslands and lots of water. Our little ranch had one of the best springs in the area. It never went dry and had a good output of cool, clear, sweet water. It was called Sweet Water Spring because the water tasted so good.
Jolly never said what he'd done before he came to our ranch. But from the way he taught me how to handle a pistol I'd say he'd been a gunfighter. He showed me how to shoot accurately, and then he taught me to pick my target, draw, and shoot real quick like. By the time I was 17, I was a better than average hand with a pistol. Jolly also taught me how to shoot a rifle.
For the next seven years we did okay, gettin by and even put a little money aside. But sure as the world if we got to livin too good something would knock us right back down. We'd start to build our herd and some of the cattle would get killed by cougars, or wolfs or just plain disappear. Rustlers I expect. Our barn burned down twice; no reason that I could see but it did. But we hung on. We never went hungry and we had a nice cabin to shelter us. I guess I'd still be there to this day if that damn feud hadn't started."
"How did it start sir ... err I mean Clint?"