Ambush at Willow Run
Chapter 1

I'm a widow, my husband was killed by the damyankees during the defense of Lookout Mountain. After these 4 years, I still hate the bastards as much as I did the first day I learned of Jake's murder. Yes, I say murder, because he was a surgeon and didn't even carry a gun. He was killed by an exploding cannon ball while he was operating on a wounded damyankee soldier.

I had stayed with my pa during the time that Jake was in the Army, so it was easy to stay with him after Jake's murder at his farm and surgery at Willow Run, Texas. My pa was murdered by damyankees, too, and that's why I'm writing this. I don't want anybody to get the wrong idea—I did what I did out of a desire for revenge, not out of any sort of patriotic nonsense. I couldn't care less for the Confederacy—it stole the happiness from my life, but I relish the opportunity to kill damyankees.

My pa was a doctor and trained surgeon, and that's how I met Jake. Jake worked with my pa for two years before the war, and right up until the time he volunteered for the Army. At the time, we had been married a year, and I had settled into the role of housewife in central Texas. I knew how to shoot because my pa had taught me; we all had to know how to defend ourselves because of the Comanche raiders that could pop up at any time. I wasn't a quick draw expert, but I sure knew how to hit what I was aiming at with my Walker Colt.

Anyway, by this time, the formal war was over and most of the boys in the Army had come home, but we were still occupied by the damyankee Army. One day, a man came into our yard with a bullet in his side; he practically fell off his horse as we helped him into the surgery. My pa wasn't one to dilly-dally around—that bullet had to come out, or the man was going to die. I assisted pa in removing the bullet and cleaning up afterward. We had just finished sewing him up when some men came clattering on horseback into our yard.

Pa didn't even clean off the blood before going to the front door. He left me to finish up as he went to see what was going on. He opened the door and stepped out onto the veranda. "What do y'all want. An' git yer hosses out of my daughter's flower beds!"

The leader said, "We're looking fer Emmit Washington. Is he here?"

Pa said, "Who wants ta know, an' I told ya ta git out of them flower beds!"

"I'm Federal Militia Captain Ezra Hawkins. These men are my soldiers. We're chasin' a rebel what shot two of my men an' got away. We know he has a bullet in 'im, an' we're tryin' ta catch 'im soz we kin hang 'im afore he dies from the bullet. Ya're a docter, soz I figure that he'd come ta ya ta fix his wound."

"Yes, Mr. Washington is in my surgery right now. My daughter is cleanin' him up after we removed the bullet, an' he cannot be disturbed. Now you leave my yard, right now!" With that, pa turned his back on the militia and came back toward the front door.

The "officer" pulled out his pistol and shot my father in the back. As he fell from the veranda, the other men pulled their pistols and put innumerable bullets into his body. I don't know which bullet killed him, they were all guilty of murder. I had rushed to the door as soon as I could leave the patient, so I saw and heard most of what went on. When my pa fell to the ground and they had stopped shooting, I rushed to him, although I knew that there was nothing that I could do to help him when he had been shot by that many bullets. I screamed something hysterical to the men and rushed back into the house to get my pistol.

I was just getting to the stairs to go to my room for the gun when I was grabbed from the rear and hurled to the floor. I heard someone shout, "I FOUND HIM, CAP'N! HE AIN'T GOIN' NOWHERE!"

The captain said, "OK, men, let's have some fun." Two men dragged me up the stairs to my bedroom where they threw me on my bed. One man drew his knife and cut my clothes off while the first two held me in place. I struggled as much as I could, but they were just too strong for me. I was raped by all 9 men, starting with the captain. Yes, it hurt, but I wanted to remember the faces, so I just lay there and memorized their faces while they did their thing. I remained conscious throughout the ordeal, but I fainted when it was over; I suppose that was because I finally gave into the shock of Pa's murder and the multiple rapes.

A few hours later, I was able to get up and put on a robe. I went downstairs and found Mr. Washington gone. My pa's body was still lying on the ground where he had fallen. After grieving for a while, I dragged his body into the surgery and managed to get him up onto the operating table. I cleaned him up as best I could and got him ready for burial. The Willow Run undertaker and 2 preachers had all disappeared into the cauldron of war and had not returned, so I buried Pa myself under our favorite pecan tree. I was able to dig a grave about 4 feet deep, I hope that was deep enough.

For a while, a few days, I guess, I didn't know what I was doing, but I came out of my funk with a determination to get even with those murdering butchers who called themselves "Federal Militia." I was sure that they were ex-Union Army soldiers who had moved in to take advantage of our defeat. In any case, I, Amy Esposito Horton, swore vendetta against them!

I knew that I couldn't just go out and start shooting at them, that would just get me killed. I needed a plan. So, while I was planning how to go about my revenge, I cleaned up the mess in the surgery. As I was gathering up Mr. Washington's abandoned clothes, I found a very unusual pistol. After a while, I recognized it as a LeMat, a Confederate cavalry pistol. It was a 9-shot, .40 caliber pistol with a shotgun barrel below the pistol barrel, fired by an adjustment to the hammer and using the same trigger as the pistol. I was lucky to find a bullet mold in Mr. Washington's other pocket, along with some bullets already made and a small powder flask. Ah hah! This was the very weapon to use against those damyankees.

I spent several days learning to use the pistol, and I was particularly taken with the shotgun attachment. It would be good for a range of around 15-20 feet; a very good desperation weapon. It was on the order of 18-gauge and had the effect of a sawed-off shotgun. I could hardly wait to use it against those bastards who had murdered my pa and raped me.

The gun was rather heavy, but no worse than my Walker Colt, which I also took along as backup, on a just in case basis. I quickly realized that a woman's dress was not the way to clothe myself for this project. I altered some of my pa's clothes to fit me, being careful to de-emphasize my bosom, which wasn't all that large to begin with. I made a cloth harness to bind myself and keep my breasts from swaying as I moved. Surprisingly, I found this to be quite comfortable.

I already had a conventional gun belt and holster for the Colt, but I needed something for the LeMat. I decided on a shoulder holster with the gun suspended under my left arm, a little to the front, so that it could be easily reached by my right hand. I was amazed to find that this arrangement turned me into a very fast draw after I had practiced for a few days.

I cut my hair short to mimic a man's ragged cut. Most men couldn't afford to pay a barber a nickel to cut their hair, so they did it themselves. Therefore, my hair did not look abnormal. I was able to wear one of Pa's Top Hats, so I was in fashion that way, but I still needed boots. Pa's boots were too big for me, but I stuffed some rags in them and made my way to the general store to find something suitable to wear.

I took the buckboard to the store, even though it was less than a mile, since I was not sure that I could mount a horse with the very loose boots I was wearing. I pulled up and carefully got down. I was a little wobbly as I made my way toward the store. There was little traffic on the sidewalk, so I didn't pay much attention as I walked unsteadily along. I saw a man coming toward me, so I stepped to the right side of the sidewalk, but the galoot coming toward me remained in the middle of the walkway. There was no way I could avoid it, he bumped me, not hard enough to knock me down, but hard enough to make me feel the jar.

Being a woman, I was not used to this kind of discourtesy, and I really didn't know what to do. The lout snarled at me, "Watch where ya're goin', ya damned fool. I'm an important man in these parts an' ya better learn that." With that, he slammed his hand into my shoulder and knocked me back against the front wall of the nearby building. It only took me a moment to recover my senses, and I looked closely into his face.

This was one of the men I was looking for! He turned and started walking away from me. At least, I had the sense not to shoot him in the back. Instead, I called out, "PREPARE TO DEFEND YOURSELF, YOU BASTARD!" He turned and laughed at me, then went for his gun. I didn't hesitate; I pulled the LeMat and fired, putting a bullet into his gut before he had even completely cleared his holster with his pistol. I fired a second bullet into his face, and that settled the matter with him for all eternity.

A bystander said, "Man, that was slick shootin', and Joe's had it comin' ta him fer months. I'll back ya up ifen ya need a witness." I thanked the man for his courtesy; I recognized him, though he didn't recognize me. The town marshal showed up a minute or two later and commented, "So Joe finally found somebody who wasn't afeard of him. Congratulations, mister, on doing Willow Run a big favor. By the way, what's yer name?"

"I'm Jake Esposito, Marshal." Wow, I had to think fast for that one.

The marshal walked off to find somebody to take care of Joe's body. My "new" friend said, "Let me buy ya a beer in honor of yer public service, today. I'm Bill Henderson. Pleased ta meet ya, Jake." We shook hands and walked toward the nearest saloon, one of three in town.

I had never drunk beer, before, but I was familiar with wine, so the taste of an alcoholic drink was not all that unusual. However, this was my first beer, so I did wince when I tasted it for the first time. Bill laughed and said, "Yep, it is pretty bad tastin', but it does have alcohol in it, soz I kin force it down. Ifen I had the money, I'd switch ta Mexican beer. It's a lot better tastin'." I knew better than to try to consume more than one beer my first time, so I thanked Bill for the drink and left for the general store to see about new boots.

I was lucky; I found a pair that fit on my first try. The clerk, who also didn't recognize me with my short hair and man's clothes, helped me pick out something that was fashionable, but comfortable, so I paid him and left before I gave myself away. I returned home and changed back into my usual garb.

It was well that I did, because one of Pa's regular patients came around. I told him what had happened to Pa, and he left to spread the word around that anybody that needed a doctor was going to have to travel 30 miles to the next town of any size to find one. Meanwhile, I considered what I was going to do. I had no regular source of income now that Pa was dead. Besides, I needed to move freely if I was going to find all of my enemies. I had a little money left from Pa's savings in a can under his bed, but that would only carry me for about 6 months. I decided that I was going to have to sell this house and property to afford my vendetta. Therefore, that afternoon, I went to see the family lawyer to find out how to do that.

May God damn all damyankees to hell! The lawyer told me that the economy was ruined, and there was no way that I could sell my place for anything like what it was worth. The only people who could buy it were damyankees, and they weren't about to pay what it was worth. Besides, there was no way that I was going to sell to a damyankee!

The lawyer said that it was too bad that I wasn't a man, because the only job available that paid what it was worth was the job of bounty hunter. But, the trouble there was that I wasn't a man, and only a man could be a bounty hunter. Hell, I was as good as any man—all in one morning, I'd killed a man in a duel, I'd been in a saloon, I'd drunk beer, and I'd walked around town in a man's clothes, and nobody had recognized me. That ought to qualify me as good enough and tough enough to be a bounty hunter. So I asked the lawyer, purely on a hypothetical basis, what I would have to do to be a bounty hunter. He said that all anybody had to do in Texas to be a bounty hunter was to strap on a gun. Wanted posters were available in most jails and in all court houses, so a visit was all that was needed to pick up the current posters. I tsk-tsked at that and left him to wonder why I was so interested in bounty hunters.

That evening, I did all the things a woman usually does around the house before I went to bed. The next morning I dressed in my man's clothes and rode to Trinity, the county seat, to ask about wanted posters. The clerk there must have thought I was a boy, because he said, "Ain't ya a bit young ta be a bounty hunter?"

I answered, "I got the guns an' all the balls I need ta be a bounty hunter. Ain't that enough?" He laughed and handed me a stack of posters. I thumbed through them and handed back those without photographs. I said, "I don't want none without pictures, cuz I don't want ta kill the wrong man." He laughed again and took back the posters I didn't want.

It was a problem to talk with a heavy accent, but I felt that I would be less easily recognized as Amy Horton if I didn't sound like her. My pa and ma had sent me to a fancy finishing school where I lost my accent, but I kept the drawl and "y'all." That was the way I talked when I wore the persona of Amy, but I had a strong Texas accent when I wore the persona of Jake. It seemed to work, so I stuck with it.

I had eaten lunch at a restaurant in Trinity and it was nearly dark as I returned home. I was almost to my house when a man rode out of the brush and brandished a pistol at me. "Stand and deliver!" he ordered. There was no way I could afford to let him have what little money I had left, so I kicked my feet out of the stirrups and dropped to the ground under my horse.

The road agent was so surprised that he didn't react until it was too late. He fired, but the bullet whizzed past without coming that close to me. As I dropped to the ground, I pulled my LeMat and flipped the hammer to the shotgun position. I rolled from under my horse and fired the shotgun at the bandit. The shotgun had six .30 caliber balls and four of them hit him in various places on his body. I quickly flipped the hammer back to the pistol rounds and ran to where the bandit had fallen. He was already dead, and, damn, what luck, his was a face on a wanted poster. He was worth $40—my money troubles were over for this month.

I manhandled the bandit across his saddle and tied him there. It was a short ride to the marshal's office where I dropped off the body and demanded the reward. The marshal explained that he couldn't pay me the money, but he could give me a receipt that I could take to the court house where the county treasurer would pay me. Well, it looked like I'd be heading back to Trinity tomorrow. In the meantime, I could sell the bandit's valuables and horse to pay my expenses. My prospects were already looking up!

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Story tagged with:
Humor / Violence / Historical / Western / Bounty Hunters /