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."
"We was doin okay and then the War Between the States came along," Clay continued. "Daddy never owned any slaves; our place wasn't big enough to need them. That didn't stop the damn carpet baggers and Northern Reconstructionists scum from takin our place. Said we were Southern sympathizers. Daddy tried to stop them and was shot. I fired a couple of shots at them and then ran away." Clay stopped thinking back to the day that changed his life.
"I was 15 and alone with no place to live," the youngster said. "So I stole one of my own horses from the farm and headed west. A squad of Union Calvary chased me for two days. But I knew the country better and lost them. That was about ten years ago. Worked my way through Texas as a ranch hand and thought I'd found a place to stay in Santa Fe. Reckon I was wrong."
"Well if it's a ranch hand you want to be, the folks down to Pipe Springs got a good spread and they're always lookin for help," Sam said.
"If it's such a good spread why do they always need help?" Clay asked. Something didn't sound right to him.
"They do have a little trouble now and then with your friends the Paiute and of course the Navajo too; seems the Indians don't like the ranchers any more than they liked you."
"Worked through some troubles with the Comanche in Texas and the Apache in New Mexico," Clay said. "Don't reckon the Paiute could be any worse. How far is Pipe Springs from your trail?"
"You plannin on seeing those folks at Pipe Springs Clay?" When Clay nodded Sam said, "You don't have a horse and it's a mite far to walk; especially in this country." Sam held out his cup for more coffee. "I'll take you there."
Before Clay could object Sam added, "The folks at Pipe Springs will have freight to send to St. George so it won't be a loss. Sides, a friend of mine runs the tradin post about a mile from the ranch. Been wantin to see him for a couple of years now. Get some sleep boy; we'll head out at first light."
On the trek to the trading post Sam explained about his friend. "Riley was a mountain man the last time I seen him. Heard tell he'd just come down out of the high country and wasn't plannin on goin back. Riley said he barely made expenses on his last two trapping seasons. Said he didn't want to spend another winter in the mountains with nothin to show for it."
Sam chuckled. "Never would have thought those winters he spent with different Indian tribes would come in handy down in the flat land. But Riley got the job of runnin the tradin post because of his experience with the Indians; now he owns the place. Most of the tribes around here trust him. Course he treats em with respect and he don't try to cheat em. Reckon that'd work with just about anybody."
It was just about midday when Sam pulled his wagon to a stop in front of the trading post. With the slow pace of the freight wagon it took them almost six hours to cover the 14 miles to Pipe Springs. An hour was added to the trip because they stopped at the little settlement of Kaibab.
A giant of a man stepped out of the trading post as they stopped. Clay thought he'd never seen such a big person. He's got to be 6' 7 and he must weigh well over 300 pounds, Clay said to himself. He's looks to be sixty years old or so, but I sure wouldn't want him upset with me.
"Sam, you old horse thief," the big man said in a loud booming voice. "Ain't seen you in more than two years. How the hell are you?"
"Watch who you're callin a horse thief Riley Johnson," Sam yelled back with a big grin on his face. "You're the only horse thief standin here." Sam climbed down from the wagon.
"Been just fine Riley. Got too fat to ride much," Sam said as he patted his stomach. "So I decided to get into the freight business."
The two men shook hands and all but knocked each other down pounding the other on the back. Clay got down smiling at the two friends greetings. They looked funny together; the giant Riley Johnson towering over the portly Sam Bettors.
"Who's this pup?" Riley asked pointing to Clay with a smile.
"Name's Clay Boudreau, Mr. Johnson. I just met Sam the other day when he pulled me out of a bad situation." Clay went on to explain their meeting. "Reckon I'd still be there if Sam hadn't decided to help me."
"I always did have more gumption than sense," Sam said to Riley laughing. "Couldn't let the boy have all the fun now."
"Them Paiutes and the Navajo too, been real excitable ever since the Mormons built their fort," Riley said.
"Buildin a fort makes sense out here," Clay replied. "For protection and all."
"James Whitmore, he was the manager of the ranch, built the fort right over the springs. I don't think the Indians liked being cut off from the only water hole for 30 miles in any direction," Riley explained.
"How long has the ranch been here?" Clay asked.
"Well I'll tell ya," Riley answered. "Back in '58 the Mormon missionaries were on an expedition to the Hopi mesas. Fellar name Hamblin discovered and named it Pipe Springs. In the early '60s this Whitmore fellar brought cattle and a few settlers and established a pretty big ranch in the area. Course the Paiute, Navajo, and the Hopi had knowed about the place for hundreds of years and weren't real happy with the new settlers."
"They could've picked a better spot for a ranch," Sam interjected.
"Looks like good cattle country to me," Clay responded. "Lots of natural grass and if the spring gives enough water for the stock, this is a good place to raise cattle. I think you're mistaken Sam."
"Know about cattle don't you boy," Riley said. "Well you're right. It is a good place for cattle or horses or sheep." Before Clay could reply Riley continued his story. "Like the boy said ifin you got water, this plateau is a fine place for ranchin. And Pipe Springs gives plenty of water."
The three men had wandered into the trading post. Riley went behind the counter and pulled out an old jug. He set three Mason jars on the counter. He poured liquid from the jug and slid two of the jars across to Sam and Clay.
"That some of your squeezins Riley?" Sam asked smiling as he reached for a Mason jar. Turning to Clay he said, "Y'all need to try this youngster. It'll put hair on your chin."
Clay picked up the closest Mason jar and took a big drink. He started coughing and sputtering. His face got red and he quickly set the jar back on the counter.
Sam pounded on his back for a few seconds as he laughed. "Smooth ain't it boy?" Then he laughed some more.
Clay finally caught his breath. When he saw the smiles on Sam and Riley's faces he had to laugh at himself. "You know I drank some stuff made by some traders down in Texas. They made it stronger for the Indians by addin rattlesnake heads to it. Thought that was the worst tastin stuff I'd ever had." Clay looked at Riley with a straight face and added, "This makes that stuff in Texas taste like sody pop."
After Riley stopped laughing he asked, "Now where was I? Oh yeah. Anyway about '66 the Navajo and Paiute started makin raids on the ranch. For the next six years it was almost like a war; the Indians makin raids, and the Mormons runnin them off. The ranch hands would hole up around the spring and outwait the Indians. Sometimes the ranchers would strike at the Indian camps to pay them back for the raids on the ranch."
Sam chuckled. "Whitmore decided to build a fort over the spring in '72. A fort was a good idea and it was a smart to build it where he did. Course the Paiute and Navajo were really mad now. The fort cut them off from the water hole they'd been using for hundreds of years."
"I can see where the fort would have really upset the Paiute," Clay offered. "But couldn't the Indians just go downstream and get water?"
"You'll see why they couldn't water downstream when you see the fort. It sure enough put them on the warpath. But there weren't much they could do about it. The Indians made some more raids and killed some stock. But killing cattle didn't run off the ranchers. For the last three years it's mostly been quiet over to Winsor Castle," Sam finished.
"Thought you said the man that built the fort was named Whitmore?" Sam said.
"He did, but in '73 the Mormon Church bought the place from Whitmore. Sent a man named Anson Winsor to ramrod the ranch and keep up the fort," Riley answered. "This Winsor improved the fort some and pretty soon folks started calling it Winsor Castle."
Clay had been watching Riley closely as he told the story of the Pipe Springs Ranch. As he finished his story Clay asked, "How old are you Mr. Johnson, if you don't mind my askin? Sam said you was a mountain man back in the '40s. That's thirty years ago."
"Ya, by the time I met Sam I'd already been trappin for better than ten years. Wintered with Jim Bridger back in '30. He was full of himself and thought he was a hero out of a dime novel, so I only stayed with him the one winter. Went out on my own after that."
"But how old are you Mr. Johnson?"
"What year is it anyway?" Riley asked.
"Well let's see. I was born in '07 so that makes me ... bout 68 near as I can figure." Riley grinned. "Reckon I've done everything I wanted and some that I didn't. But somethin new might jump up and that's what keeps me goin."
Clay yawned and leaned back against a sack of beans. Sam smiled and motioned to Riley to look at the youngster. "Been through a lot in the last day or so," Sam whispered.
"Y'all welcome to my extra room for the night or for as long as you've a mind to stay," Riley said in a loud voice.
Clay set up, yawned again and said, "Don't know about Sam here but I'll take you up on your offer Mr. Johnson. I'm a bit tuckered out."
"I'll take you over and introduce you to Winsor tomorrow," Riley offered.
Clay nodded and went to get some rest. Riley poured more of the home made whiskey and quickly he and Sam started talking about old times.
Two hours later Clay woke up. He stood and started to undress; he hadn't even removed his boots. As he bent to pull them off, he heard loud voices coming from the main room of the trading post. That noise is what woke him. Clay buckled on his gun belt, stepped through a door, and entered the main room.
Riley Johnson was on the floor leaning against the counter. He had a knot on his forehead and his nose was bleeding. Clay fearfully turned to look for Sam, but when he saw his new friend he had to grin. There was a man lying face down with Sam's foot on the back of his neck, pinning him to the floor. Sam held a man under each arm with his forearm around their necks.
"If y'all won't respect your elders y'all will damn well respect your betters," Sam said with laughter. "That's me, Sam Bettors."
He quickly and forcefully pulled his arms together in front of him and knocked the men's heads together. They fell unconscious to the floor. Sam bent over and picked up the man that he'd been holding down with his foot. Grabbing the man by the shirt collar with one hand and his belt with the other Sam marched him to the door.
Throwing the man out the door Sam yelled, "Y'all don't come back until you know your place and learned some manners." Sam walked back to Riley to see how badly he was hurt.
The man returned from outside holding a pistol. "I'm gonna kill you old man," he yelled at Sam as he pointed his weapon.
A shot echoed in the room and the man fell to the floor. Clay hadn't hesitated when he saw his new friend in danger. He quickly drew and fired his pistol. The man was dead before he fell.
Sam looked over his shoulder in surprise. He hadn't had time to respond to the man's yell. "Damn boy, I didn't know you was a gun hand. Reckon it's a good thing for me that you know how to use that Remington," Sam said with a grin on his face.
"Mr. Johnson okay?" Clay asked as he came on into the room.
"I'm okay," Riley replied. "That one there," he said pointing to one of the men on the floor, "Hit me in the nose and I tripped over my own feet. Hit my head on the counter when I fell."
"Where'd you learn to handle a pistol like that," Riley asked.
"I worked for a couple of years for Creed Taylor down in Dewitt County Texas. He and his brother had a feud goin with a family named Sutton. Creed taught me how to use a gun so's I could protect myself. But when the shootin got real serious Creed ran me off. Said I wasn't part of it and made me leave."
"Well I'm real glad he did." Sam patted Clay's shoulder in thanks.
"What started the ruckus?" Clay asked.
"That one there," Sam said pointing to the dead man, "got all riled up. Said Riley was tryin to cheat them and started stealin things. That one," he said pointing to one of the unconscious men on the floor hit Riley." Sam paused for a moment and said, "That's when I jumped in."
"What'll we do with these fellars?" Clay said.
"Slit their throats and throw them into one of the canyons around here," Riley said. "Serves' em right."
"We can't just kill them," Clay objected.
"You squeamish boy?" Riley asked.
"No sir, I can stand up to killin in a fair fight if I have to but I can't shoot a helpless man. Maybe I could borrow a horse and go for the law," Clay suggested.
"Nearest law is over to St. George. That's better'n 60 miles just to get there," Riley explained. "Best to just dump em in a canyon."
"Tell you what Riley. Let's wake em up and scare the hell out of them. Then send em on their way," Sam suggested motioning toward Clay. He could see that Riley's idea bothered Clay.
"They'll just come back on us," Riley protested. "Better to do it now." He saw Sam's motion toward Clay and added, "But you took em down Sam so if that's what you want to do, we'll do er."
They drug the two unconscious men outside along with the dead man. Sam threw a bucket of water in their faces and they begin to sputter and wake up. When they sat up and looked around they saw their companion lying next to them with a bullet hole in the middle of his forehead.
"That'll be you two, if we ever see you again," Sam told them pointing to the dead man. "Toss your guns away and stand up." Once the men complied with his orders Sam continued, "Now get on a horse and head out."
They walked to where their horses were tied and started to mount up.
"I said one horse. Y'all get one horse between you. You can take turns ridin or carry the horse on your backs but move on," Sam ordered.
"Those are our horses Mister," one of the men complained. "How do you expect us to make it out of here on one horse?"
Riley was standing in the doorway with a Winchester held in his arms. He raised the rifle and set the butt stock on his hip. "Were I you, I'd be glad for the one horse. If it was up to me you would never have got up off the floor. You can thank the youngster there that you're not buzzard bait. Now get before I decided to do things my way."
The two men left riding double.
"Hey Riley what should we do with this one?" Sam asked pushing at the dead man with the toe of his boot.
"There's a deep ravine about a hundred yards yonder," Riley replied. "Dump him off into that hole. Buzzards and varmints got to eat too you know."
"Okay. Give us a hand will ya." Sam said.
Riley shook his head and looked at Clay. "You kilt him, you bury him," he said and returned into the trading post.
Sam and Clay threw a rope around the man's feet and used his horse to drag him to the ravine. Once they got there Sam knelt and searched the man. He unfastened the gun belt and handed it to Clay. Continuing to search, Sam fished two Double Eagle gold coins out of the man's pocket and a tobacco pouch off his belt. Then he pushed the body over the edge and listened to it fall for over seventy feet.
Clay took the pistol from the holster and examined the weapon, cocking and releasing the hammer several times. "Whatever he was he wasn't just a cowboy," Clay remarked holding up the gun. "This is an almost new Colt Peacemaker in .44-40," he told Sam. Most cow hands can't afford a weapon like this."
"Most cowboys don't carry $40 in gold coins either," Sam agreed. Opening the tobacco pouch he took a sniff. "Most can't afford this good a tobacco."
Sam handed Clay the gold coins. "Reckon the Colt and those coins rightfully belong to you," he said and with a smile added, "His horse too; but I'll hold on to the tobacco. And it's a favor I'm doin you; y'all too young for that vice."
Clay shook his head and in spite of the circumstances, laughed at Sam. He tossed one of the coins back to his friend. "Reckon I should share this with you since you were his target but I'll keep the Colt."
Sam nodded and smiled. "Tomorrow mornin early Riley will ride over to the ranch and see about a job for you. If they don't have a place for you I'll take you on to St. George with me."
"Mr. Winsor, can I talk with you?" Riley asked.
Anson Winsor was a small man, especially compared to Riley, but tough looking. His face and hands were like tanned leather from working outdoors for most of his life. Windsor stood straight and was whipcord lean. The way he moved and talked was a challenge to life and its troubles. I won't be beaten his actions seemed to say.
"What can I do for you Mr. Johnson?" Winsor replied.
"Like to introduce you to Clay Boudreau here. He's my friend and he's lookin for a job," Riley said. "I'd appreciate it if you'd talk to him."
"What type of work are you looking for Mr. Boudreau?" Winsor asked as he turned and shook hands with Clay.
"Ranch work mostly," Clay replied. "I can work stock pretty good, cattle and such. Know my way around horses too. Can do a little blacksmithing if push comes to shove. Worked for the Bar S up to Santa Fe for three years. Before that I worked for Creed Taylor down in Texas for two years."
"Why'd you leave those places young man? Is there trouble on your trail?" Winsor watched Clay's eyes as he answered.
"No sir, not that I know of. Left Creed's place because of the feud between his family and the Suttons. Creed didn't want me gettin involved he said and sent me on my way. The Bar S was sold to a company back east. The company sent out a ranch manager and he didn't have any use for a drifter. That's what he called me, a drifter; even though I'd been at the ranch for three years."
Winsor examined Clay and liked what he saw. The young man stood tall, faced you head on and looks you in the eye, Winsor thought.
"Had some trouble the last few days you might need to know about Mr. Winsor," Clay admitted. At Winsor's nod he told the ranch boss about the trouble with the Indians and meeting Sam Bettors. He continued with the story of the three hard cases at the trading post. "I didn't want to kill that man but he was gonna shoot Sam in the back. Couldn't let that happen."
"That cuss would have probably done me in too Mr. Winsor," Riley offered. "Sides if I'd a been able I would have shot that skunk myself."
"Come along Clay; I'll give you a tour of the grounds and we'll talk. Afterwards we can both decide if you should join us."
Winsor led Clay around the grounds close to the ranch house, or in this case Winsor Castle. After looking at the corrals, barns and other outbuildings, Winsor showed Clay the fort. Clay was impressed with the building. It wasn't really a Castle but could pass for one on this high plateau, in this part of the West.
The fort had a courtyard that was framed by two buildings with gated walls at each end. The northern building had walls close to thirty feet tall, as they backed into a hill; the southern building was shorter at 20 feet. The walls were of quarried red sandstone from a nearby bluff to the west of the fort. Clay could see the markings where the stone had been cut out of the bluff. Mortar was used to fit the stones together and hold them in place.