Tales of a homesteader moving out West to Utah after the Civil War to build a new life.
Dear readers, this is gathered from a series of short tales told to me by my grandmother about the life and times of my great, great grandparents. While I listened to her tales, I began to understand my family’s heritage… it’s a story I must tell.
Although the Wild West is no longer of interest to modern day life, I felt it necessary to pass along these tidbits of my family history to future generations. In order to protect the privacy of persons living or dead and the actual events, I felt obligated to fictionalize my stories. Thus, the names, characters, and incidents are a creation of my imagination, and in no way represent actual persons or events.
My story begins with the tales of a homesteader moving out West to Utah after the Civil War to build a new life. Southeastern Utah is a land situated beneath soaring walls of sandstone, rolling hills of grass and sage and deep blue sky. It begins during a time when the folks of the West settled their own difficulties…
Newly married Jake Rudd and Sarah Rudd, along with three pregnant cows and a bull calf at the side joined a group of 25 wagons departing from Fort Fredrick Steele just east of Rawlins, Wyoming on route to Indian ceded land in southeastern Utah. On Monday, the morning of September 8, 1873 under the protection of one company of US 5th Cavalry from Fort D. A. Russell, we departed Fort Steele towards our claim for a homestead on the newly open land near Robbers Roost.
It was a pretty picture with the two horses ahead of our wagon, the cows tied to the back of the wagon and Jake sitting on the seat beside me. He was not only a handsome man, but I discovered a very useful one. We were very much in love and I showed him that I would walk beside him, not behind him. I had shown him on the first day we were together; we were a team working towards our common end. It was what we both wanted.
Our wagon train moved slowly through the high mountains, desert and sagebrush making 6 to 16 miles a day. This was a big country needing strong men and women to live in it. This land was not a place for the timid or frightened because it had a way to wear folks down to size. What mattered most back home, no longer amounted to anything out here. Most important was courage and spirit.
About twenty days on the trail, we were attacked by a roving renegade band of Ute Indians, never appreciated the company of the 5th Cavalry until then. Mr. Burt Ward, who was the captain of our wagon train, was shot with an arrow through his lungs. Many of the families talked of turning back.
Mr. Ward did know what to say, “You’re in Indian country, turning back and leaving the wagon train is more dangerous than going on. We have protection from the 5th Cavalry, nobody should turn back.”
Two days later Mr. Ward died. We buried him on the side of a hill, so he could look down on the trail he had planned. That night there was a terrible, nasty argument, and the result was that all agreed to go on. They also selected Ty Richardson as the new wagon master.
Come morning our wagon was the second one ready to take its place in line. The rest of the folks were scared and kept muttering about the great stretches of land before us. Jake and I knew the Ute Indians were trailing us, but we never did see them. There was an autumn coolness in the air and we made thirteen miles that day and fifteen the next. The grass was getting better, but there was thunder rumbling off in the canyons, promising rain. It turned out to be a brief shower. We continued day after day, moving over grassland sprinkled with sagebrush and an ever-changing landscape. Finally, we reached the sandstone walls of Utah on Saturday, October 20, 1873.
Jake and I were both smitten the first time we saw the red rocks, the cottonwoods, the small spring creek and sparkling blue sky of southeastern Utah. We quickly negotiated with Samuel Maker the US government agent for Utah and Colorado to file a homestead claim to 160 acres west of the Sierra La Sal Mountains for $16 and a $2 filing fee. The filing also included permission to graze our cattle on any of the surrounding 100,000 acres of the government’s canyon and grasslands.
For more than ten years, Jake and I worked together and built up the ranch, constructing our main house out of the red sandstone, the corral, fencing and a one-room bunkhouse from the cottonwood trees, running cattle and raising one son. I like our ranch, it is charming and being remote from town is somehow irresistible to me.
Then one day Jake went into the town of La Sal for supplies and did not come back.
I was mad at myself… I loved him…trusted him, angry that I didn’t asked questions… why on horseback? Why didn’t he use the buckboard? What supplies are so essential? Why couldn’t all of us go? Frustrated, I sat and brooded, “What happened to Jake? “
We are isolated at the ranch. “What should we do? We’ll need to run the ranch, feed the cows, and protect ourselves from Ute Indians and cattle rustlers. I was a strong woman, but now that Jake’s gone... am I? I have to be…”
I decided to keep the ranch and promised myself to rough ride our future in the livelihood of cattle ranching. I'll be a solo woman rancher with my eight-year-old son and with very little money in my pocketbook. I believed in my heart that we would succeed, but we’ll need help, hiring at least one ranch hand.
Four months later, a Justice of the Peace Ralph Stewart rode to our ranch to let me know that Jake was killed by Tom Hart in a fair gunfight for cheating at cards in the Blue Goose Saloon in Monticello. He assured me that Jake was given a Christian burial in the Mormon Church’s cemetery. Justice Stewart also handed me $223 and Jake’s pocket watch. He sold Jake’s horse, saddle, rifle and pistol, paid for the coffin and burial. He put the watch and money aside until he could come this way.
I invited him to stay for supper, but he declined as he was headed for Green River, Utah where Zed McCartney, a bank robber was in jail awaiting trial.
I asked if he could go by the way of La Sal, because I needed to hire help to run the ranch. I know it is out of your way, adding about 16 miles more to Green River, however my son and myself would appreciate your help.
“Is there anyone you have in mind to hire?” Stewart asked.
“Yes,” I replied, “My husband usually went to the livery stable in town to hire… both Ben Anderson and Riley Rawlins have helped us in the past with roundup and herding… they’d stay in the bunkhouse while helping.”
“All right, I’ll see what I can do.”
The next morning Justice Stewart stopped by the livery stable in La Sal; two men were sitting around playing cards. He asked, “If they knew Ben Anderson or Riley Rawlins.”
Both looked up, Ben said with a drawl, “Might know where they’re at… Why you’re looking for them?”
“The Rudd ranch needs some help. Mrs. Rudd and the boy asked me to stop by to see if these fellows wanted work. Don’t know if she wanted one or both, but think it a good idea both should go out there… the spread is pretty big.”
Riley replied, “Well, we’re them, but afraid to fess up to you… wondering why the Justice of the Peace Stewart was asking. We’d be glad to go out there, hasn’t been much work here in town.”
Ben voiced in, “What’s wrong with Jake… He usually comes in to hire us.”
“She needs help… I rode by the ranch to tell her that her husband was shot and died in Monticello. It took a while before I got out a chance to come out this way.”
“Sorry about her husband… We’ll go out today.” Ben uttered, “She’s probably going to sell… lucky Mr. Hailey can buy up Rudd’s ranch in his ever expanding cattle kingdom.”
Later that day, Ben and Riley rode out to the Rudd Ranch. They found Mrs. Rudd working in the nearby meadow. “Sorry about your husband. We’re here to help and pretty much know what’s to do.”
Sarah sighed, “Thanks. Bunkhouse is ready for you and supper will ready in a few hours. Jake left us short on money… but I think we can afford…twenty-five dollars a month including food and the bunkhouse.”
“We’ll first set in, then at supper talk about what needs to be done… it’ll be a good if your son John could help us… its best if he learns all there’s to do.”
Five years later, Sarah watched as a newly branded calf burst out of the wooden chute and trot to the corral. Our ranch is a horseback outfit, run with a small ranch crew, John, myself and both Ben and Riley who became our permanent wranglers for the ranch. Feeling much older now, I’m a rugged woman with work-worn hands and steel gray eyes showing a lifetime of self-reliance. John, now thirteen and I run everything. In general, we usually let the wild life like cougars and coyotes alone, except when they take down one of our calves.
Our ranch work never seems to end. In spring, we trail the 200-300 head cattle on horseback onto the cool mountain meadows waiting out the summer heat. In fall we would drive the cattle into a remote protected canyon surrounded by rock walls. This past winter of 1888 was particularly a hard one. Blizzards scattered the cattle and buried much of the forage needed to sustain our herd. In the spring, I had a bad case of pneumonia and remained alone at the ranch while my son and the ranch hands went out logging in hundreds of hours on horseback tracking down our surviving head of cattle.
More than a month has passed and they are still out hunting down the cattle. Three times during the last week our ranch was attacked by a small band of Ute Indians, and three times I turned them back. I was worried I could not hold out much longer and was praying that my son and hired hands would return.
The Utes came back a fourth time. I resolutely stood in the door of my home with a Winchester rifle in my hands, inside beside the door was a table with a double-barreled shotgun and an old 44 caliber Walker Colt revolver lying on it. Facing the cabin were about 100 Ute Indians on ragged, tired ponies. One of the Indians lifted his hand with the palm outward in a sign of greetings. I recognized him as the Ute medicine man, Corolla, a leader of these renegade Ute warriors. He sat on his pony in silence; his black scrawled eyes studied my home, my corral and me. His eyes strayed to a single cow in the corral and then to a small stack of hay farther up in the meadows.
Overall, he lost three men, seven others had been wounded and six ponies had been killed. The braves reported that there was no man in the house, only a woman; and Corolla had come to see this woman.
These are the same White River Ute warriors who had fought at the Maker Massacre and fought the US army at Mill Creek. Yet I, a woman fought them off, and was prepared to fight now. There was a glint of admiration in Corolla’s eyes that appraised me. The Ute was a fighting man and respected all that fought for honor.
“Put down your rifle,” Corolla said in English
I was surprised. Although frightened, I replied in a steady voice in Shoshone-Bannock, “I’m not a fool, this rifle is pointed at you and I will pull its trigger.” I knew if he wanted to capture or kill me it would be done. Until now I was able to fight off the random attacks, because the warriors were raiding the ranch out of monotony.
Caught unaware by my response in the Shoshone language, he questioned in English, “How do you speak our language? Are you part Shoshone... or Bannock?”
I shifted to English as Corolla stared at me, “I am not a Shoshone or Bannock, although I would not be ashamed if I were. I grew up among the Shoshone and Bannock children in Colorado. They were my playmates. I learned from them and of the many admirable qualities the Shoshone nation has.”
Corolla turned his pony and spoke to the others and they paid attention. Suddenly he rode up to me and directed a question, “Where’s your man?” Corolla said.
I hesitated before replying, “My husband died five years ago. My son and hired hands are out tracking down our cattle.”
“How long have they been gone?” he asked.
I decided not to lie, “they have been gone for more than a month.”
Corolla considered and questioned, “Why would they leave you, a woman alone?”
He waited for my reply. My heart was pounding in my chest and I could not answer.
Finally Corolla continued, “You fight well. You have killed my young men.”
“Your men attacked me.” I said, adding, “They stole two of my horses.”
He looked at me, “Why do you not leave.”
I stared at him, “Leave? Why? This is my home. This land is mine. This creek is mine. I will not leave.”
“This was once a Ute creek,” he reminded me.
“The Utes live further north in the Utina Basin by Fort Duchesne” I replied. “You do not need this creek. I do.”
“But when the Ute Indians come this way, where shall they drink?” Their throats are dry and you keep them from drinking the creek’s water.”
He was talking directly to me, a good sign. “You speak with forked tongue,” I said bravely. “There is water yonder.” I gestured pointing towards the hills. “But if people of the Utes come in peace they may drink water at my creek.”
Corolla smiled and said, “What you need is a good fighting man...together you could raise an army of warriors.”
“I have no wish to raise warriors,” I said softly. “Your people have your ways, and I have mine. I live in peace.” I boldly added, “I did not think the great medicine man Corolla made war on women!”
The Ute looked at me, and then turned his pony away. “My people will trouble you no longer,” he said.
“What about my two horses?” I called after him. “Your warriors took them from me.”
Corolla did not turn or look back, and the column of Ute warriors followed him away. I stepped back into the house and closed the door. The muscles in my legs trembled, my heart still pounded in my chest and my body soaked in sweat, I sank to the floor leaned my back against the door and closed my eyes.
When morning came, I cautiously went out to the creek for water. My two horses were back in the corral.
It was near a month on the trail looking for surviving cattle… and recovered less than one-third head of cattle… from the terrible winter filled with heavy snowstorms. John Rudd stopped his buckskin, “Ma told me that if we’re having trouble rounding up our cows… I should head to town and hire another man.
Ben and Riley looked tired….Ben spoke up, “son, we’ll hunker down here and rest.” Fact was the two men were pushing past forty and looked grainy from being long on horseback.
“Just as well, I’ll be back as soon as I can,” as John prodded the buckskin with his spurs.
As he rode towards La Sal, he crossed paths with a man he never saw before. The man wasn’t much to look at, his face was narrow and body was thin, didn’t look like he belong to the range, but something made John decide that he was the man he wanted.
“Mister,” John said, “are you rustling for work?” The man halted his pony, turned and studied me right careful. I was thirteen, and was the man of the house for nigh on five years, but it didn’t seem to make any difference to him that I was a boy.
“Now I might be. What’s the work you have?” he asked
“Ma and me have a little cattle outfit by foothills of the Sierra La Sal Mountains. With the bad winter, we figured to roust the survivors out of a boxed canyon and bring them down to the meadow. Me, Ben and Riley been out for a month… only found about seventy-five head… missing close to two hundred or more. There’s maybe a month’s work. We’d pay twenty a month, maybe more.”
He looked at me with his brown eyes and asked me, “You always hire strangers?”
“No, sir. I was headed to town to hire one of the loafers, but I saw you and figured I save me a ride and hire you.” The way he looked at me, I was beginning to worry.
“Why me?” he asked.
So I told him what Ma said, “Pay no attention to the showy kind… Pick ‘em tough… savvy and to last… applies to both men and animals.”
He eyes warmed and his face crinkled up and smiled. “Your ma is a right smart woman. I’d be proud to work for you. Who runs your spread?”
“Well…Me, sort of…. Ma and me. Only she leaves it to me, ‘cause she says a boy without a Pa has to learn to manage for himself.”
We rode for about ten minutes before he said anything, and then said, “Boy, I’m just out of prison, name’s Roy Kristin… if you want… you can change your mind and go hire someone else. I don’t want to make trouble for you or your Ma.”
“I’ll not hold that against you.” I said, “I hired you and if you don’t stack up, I’ll fire you.”
After ten miles as we forded a creek, I showed him with a sweep of my hand. “Our land begins here and runs back into the canyons. This here is deeded land... Ma and Pa were homesteaders when the land opened up in ‘73. It has plenty of good grass down here... we need to collect our remaining stock and bring them back to the meadows.”
When we rode into the camp, Ben spoke up, “Boy, this man is just out of prison, your Ma isn’t going to like you hiring him.”
“Ben and Riley, Ma tells me to hire whom I’ve a mind to. I hired this man; he told me he was in prison… I’ll not fire him cause of that.”
Roy had sat real quiet up to now. “Ben,” he said, “you just back up and leave the boy alone. He sizes up like pretty much of a man and it really looks like he needs outside help. Seems to me there must be a reason you want to keep me out.”
Ben was mad, as I’d ever seen him. “You can get yourself right back in jail,” he said, “I’ve seen your wanted poster, you’re Matt Warmer, a train robber, run with Butch and the Kid.”
Roy was slow to rile. He looked right back at Ben and Riley with cold eyes and said, “You don’t know who I am or why I was in prison. You think you recognize me, but you’re wrong. My name is Roy Kristin. I’m not a robber or gun fighter. I went to prison for a squabble with another man over a woman we both liked… beat the man’s head in with a scantling from a fence when he drew his pistol. I was a deputy sheriff at that time… I didn’t run… stayed ‘till Ralph Stewart, a Justice of the Peace came…stood trial… I’ve paid my time and learned a tough lesson.”
Ben always had an unfriendly way about him, but noticed a change in his tone, “Boy, you’ve hired yourself a man. Now let’s see if we can round up the rest and herd ‘em to the meadow.”
Roy put on a disarming smile, “Ben don’t think we’ll find many more cows… you’ve been out collecting for a month and only got seventy-five head…either the severe winter got two hundred head or something else happened… might want to go look around the boxed canyon you wintered the cattle.”
John replied, “That’s a mighty fine idea. Thinking more about it… maybe Ben and Riley could drive what we have to the corral… make sure my Ma is okay… we’ve been gone a long time… the Ute Indians are still about.”
Roy looked at me as if I was a capable man and not a boy. He followed up, “That’s sensible, don’t you agree. “ Everyone shook their head yes.
Uninterrupted he continued, “It’s late, we might stay here and camp…tomorrow morning... we can head out. I noted the brand on your cows are Bar R…is that the Rudd brand? Any other similar brands around these parts?”
Startled by the questions, replied, “Yeah, Bar R is our brand. There’s a large cattle ranch…. Mr. Hailey’s Double Bar outfit is near Green River, Utah. What are you suggesting?”
Calmly he said, “Nothing, just want to look around… you and me can look for more survivors. “
Come peek of daylight, Ben and Riley started herding the cows towards the ranch. It was warm and still morning when Roy and I rode out to the boxed canyon. First time Roy saw the canyon; he looked around at the walls of the canyon as if he was expecting to see something. He got down off his horse and looked most careful at the trees and rocks. I just looked at him, wondering what he was doing. Finally it got the better of me and I asked him, “Roy what you looking for?
Roy replied, “Just try to see what happened here in the canyon… that winter caused the loss of two hundred cows… don’t see that… I do see lots of horse tracks… could’ve been you, but one horse is lame from a broken horseshoe… suspect someone else was looking for some cows.”
Just then, two riders were coming down draw, both of them armed, didn’t think about it at the time, neither of us were armed.
George McCartney and his brother Bill looked like they wanted to start trouble, “You still around. Figured you be off to your ranch by now.”
I asked, “Why are you here? Canyon’s long way for wranglers from the Double Bar ranch.”
“We like it here,” both replied.
Roy then spoke up, “Yeah! Pretty country... Nice folks... Not as many cows as expected.”
“What d’ you mean by that?” George scowled, “Not as many cows as you expected?”
“Maybe I should have said calves, but in time we’ll find out what happened to the others.”
George looked over at Bill. “What about the kid?”
Bill shrugged. “So what…do what Mr. Hailey wants?”
The way they talked made no sense to me, but it made sense to Roy. “Was I you,” Roy said, “I’d be mighty sure your boss wants it this way. With the kid and all...”
“What’d mean by that?” Bill asked.
“Why it just won’t work…no way to make it look right… the kid doesn’t even carry a gun. You boys sure don’t know your business.”
“Maybe you know it better?” Bill sounded mean.
“Why, I do, at that.” Better tell Oscar what I said… names Roy Kristin.”
“Who’s Oscar?” George asked suspiciously.
“Why, Oscar Hailey. That’s what they used to call him in the old days. He ever tells you how he happened to leave Abilene, Kansas? It’s quite a story.”
Something about the easy way Roy talked was bothering them. Now they weren’t sure of themselves.
“And while you’re at it,” Roy adds, “you get him to tell you about me.”
Neither of them seemed to know what to do… fact that he knew Mr. Hailey bothered them. George was uneasy and he kept looking at me.
“You boys tell Oscar that. You should also tell him not to send boys to do a man’s job.”
“What’s that mean?” George was sore…thought he was a tough man… Somehow when they came up against Roy they didn’t seem big or tough.
“Now ride out of here and don’t stop riding until you get to the Double Bar. You tell Oscar Hailey if he wants a job done he’d better come and do it himself.”
Well they didn’t know which way was up… they came to cause trouble… but their actions didn’t faze Roy. “He’ll do it.” George said angrily. “Mr. Hailey will want to do it himself. You’ll see.”
As they rode out of the canyon, Roy commented, “We’d best get back to your ranch, John. It’s early, but we’d better be in when Oscar comes.”
I firmly spoke, “He won’t come, Roy. Mr. Hailey never goes anywhere unless he feels like it himself.”
“He’ll come,” Roy said, “although he may first send Tom Hart, a bounty hunter for a group of Utah and Wyoming cattle barons.”
When he said that name I stared right at him, thinking, “That was the name of the man who killed my Pa in a gunfight at Monticello.”
Slowly, several days drew on at the ranch. Sarah busted a small piece of the meadow for planting vegetables. Alone, she cut hay in the meadow and built another stack. She saw Ute Indians several times, but they did not bother her. One morning, she opened her door, and saw Ben and Riley putting the cows into the corral, but John was not in sight.
Sarah walked to the corral, “Where’s John?”
Ben spoke up, “John hired another man and they went out to the boxed canyon to look for more cows. We only found seventy-five survivors and brought them to the corral as John wanted.”
“You think they be out much longer?”
Riley interrupted, “Bet they be back soon… weren’t no more cows to find… don’t know what the new man wanted to see… John seemed to think it was a good idea.”
That same afternoon Roy and John rode into the ranch yard, Sarah came to the door, wiping her hands on her apron. She looked at the new rider. The newly hired man got down from his saddle and removed his hat.
“The boy hired me, ma’am, but if you rather I’d not stay I’ll ride back to town. You see, I’ve been to prison.”
Sarah looked at him, but all she said was, “John does the hiring, I feel it’s his responsibility.”
“And rightly so, ma’am,” He hesitated. “My name is Roy Kristin.”
“Super is ‘most ready. There’s a kettle of hot water for washing.”
We washed our hands in the basin and while he was drying his hands, Roy said, “Your Ma is a decent woman.”
Supper was a quiet meal, especially with a stranger at the table… and one that’s been to jail. Talk was mainly small talk about the ranch and weather. When we’d finished, Roy said, “Mind if I smoke?”
Reckon that was the first time in a while anybody asked Ma a question like that. Pa and other men who came around took it for granted and just lit up. Ma acted like it was asked every day and said, “Please do.”
“You have been getting good returns on your cattle?” Roy asked her.
“The calves have been poor the last two or three years, but Ben and Riley said it was due to the cougars and coyotes… you have to expect to lose some.
“Good range,” Roy said, “and plenty of water. I’d say you should make out.”
When the all hired hands had gone to the bunkhouse Ma started, “How did you happen to hire him, John?”
I reminded her about what she told me about men and animals, and she smiled. “I think you learned your lesson well. He’s a good man. He may have been in prison, but he has good upbringing.” Coming from Ma there wasn’t anything better.
After a while I told her about the talk with George and Bill McCartney, and when I came to the part about Roy telling them to tell Mr. Hailey to come see him, I could see the worried look on her face. Hailey had tough ranch hands working for him and we didn’t want them around. Some even tried to court Ma after Pa was killed, but she put them off.
Come daylight of the next day just as I was putting on my boots I heard an ax, and when I looked out I saw Roy with an ax working the woodpile. This surprised me as most cowhands resent any work other than riding. The day was filled with surprises, Roy and I went to the corral to haze down the seventy-five head that was very shy of young ones, and he showed he was good with a cutting horse and rope. We worked harder than all get-out for the next three days, mending fences, digging postholes. I couldn’t let him best me, but by now we shared and helped each other. Time to time he’d stop and study the country, ask questions, but mostly just looked.
On the fourth day we built a fire for coffee and took the wrappings off the lunches Ma fixed. Roy asked, you said your Pa was killed…How’d it happen?”
“Ma and me didn’t see it. Pa went into La Sal for supplies; somehow he got to Monticello in a card game and was called out in a gun fight for cheating at cards.”
“Your Pa wearing a gun?” Roy asked.
“Yes sir. Pa always wore a gun, but not to use on a man.”
“You hear the name of who was in the gunfight?”
“Yes sir. His name was Tom Hart; one in the same you said may come for you instead of Mr. Hailey.”
“I hope it won’t come to that. I suspect that Oscar will try something legal first.”
We came in early from the range, so Roy put in the last hours tightening a gate on the corral. He was a man that always had to be busy. That evening we had a quiet supper.
At supper Roy said to Ma, “Thank you, ma’am. I am proud to work for you.”
Next morning as Ma was making breakfast, she said, “Remember that your Pa taught you to stand up for what you believe is right, and stand by your people.”
It was still early morning when a stranger rode into our ranch yard, hesitated his horse, shifting in the saddle, looking around. Ma went to the kitchen and came out on the porch and stood in the shadows with a double-barreled shotgun. I didn’t like ma doing that, but there was nothing I could say. The stranger got down off his horse and waited until I stepped down from the porch. I asked, "What'd you looking for mister?"
A moment later I saw Roy walking up from the corral and yell, “Tom, turn around and don’t reach for your gun.”
Tom turned around, pulling out a cigar out of his vest to put it in his mouth. He was about to strike a match, dropped it without lighting the cigar. He stood there starring at Roy. “Slim!” Tom almost choked on the name. “I didn’t know it was you.”
“You remember what I told you and Oscar when I ran you out of Abilene?”
Tom wasn’t seeing anybody else but Roy, the man he had called Slim. He wasn’t aware of anything else. And I was staring at him, because he was the man that shot my Pa, and he looked scared.
“I told you if Oscar or you ever crossed my trail again I’d kill you.”
“Don’t do it, Slim. Both Oscar and I’ve have family. Oscar has two boys and a large ranch. We’ve done well.”
“This boy had a father.”
“Slim, don’t do it.”
“This boy’s Pa has been dead for five years. I figure you’ve been stealing his cows for at least two to three years. I’d say at least four hundred head.”
Tom never took his eyes of him.
“You write out a bill of sale for four hundred head and I’ll sign it for the boy’s Ma. Then you go back to report to Oscar, have him write out a check for four thousand dollars. In three days we’ll meet both of you in La Sal to cash the check together.”
“All right,” A frightened Tom replied.
“And when the time comes you’ll testify to Justice of the Peace Ralph Stewart that you were told to kill this boy’s Pa.”
“I can’t do that, I won’t do it.”
“Tom,” Roy said patiently, “you might beat a court hearing, but you know you ain’t going to beat me. Now my gun is on my saddle. Don’t make me go get it.”
Tom looked like he was going to be sick…as a kid caught stealing. I figured whatever he knew about Roy scared him bad enough not to argue. And the talk about the gun on the saddle might be just talk, as I thought I could see that Roy was packing something in his waistband.
“Roy, I have Tom covered… he won’t dare to draw his gun,” It was Ma’s voice. She was on the porch pointing the shotgun at Tom Hart.
“All right,” Tom said. His voice was so low you could hardly hear it.
After Tom Hart left, I asked Roy, “Tom called you Slim.”
“My nickname was Slim, probably still is.”
“And you really didn’t even have a gun!”
“A man has to learn to live without a gun, and against most cowards you don’t need a gun. Tom knew I meant what I said.”
“But, but you’d been in prison for killing a man.”
He leaned against the house and looked off in the distance. “That was past. Ten years ago, that’s what I did, only thing it was anger that drove me. There are laws to handle cases like mine, I forgot and I had to learn it the hard way.”
Ma put the shotgun away and came back to the door. “Roy…John… get the others… breakfast is getting cold."
After breakfast, we got up from the table and Roy said, “John, I think we’ll work the south range today.”
“Yes, sir,” I said.
Three days later Roy, John and I were in La Sal and there was quite a crowd in town. Word somehow got around and folks were in town waiting for the fireworks to begin. We left our wagon with Old Man Baker.
Mr. Baker was a man noted for staying out of trouble, and yet he was nervous, he hesitated, shifting his feet, and whispered, “Tom Hart’s in town, Mr. Hailey’s hired bounty hunter.”
Ma responded, “Mr. Baker, I believe you were a friend of my husband and I hope you’re a friend of me. Tell me if Mr. Hailey’s in town.”
“Well, ma’am, I figured to be a friend of yours, too.” He continued, “No, Mr. Hailey’s not here yet. But Justice Ralph Stewart came in last night. He’s waiting at Mrs. Lopez’s Tia Maria Cantina.”
It was warm, near noon. We walked down to the Dark Canyon Hotel, where Roy and I waited. Ma went out to buy some women’s things and sure didn’t want a man along. Nobody was on the street. Most people were inside the stores pretending to shop, but could not help talking in hushed tones while watching the street for the excitement to begin. A dog wandered across the street, looking for some shade to lie down. Nobody figured to finish their business until it was all over.
A buggy clattered along the street and stopped in front of the hotel. When the dust settled, Mr. Hailey got down off the buggy and stepped up on the walk. The three McCartney brothers rode alongside the buggy and stopped to hitch up their horses.
Folks began to amble out of the stores forming a crowd on the street waiting in anticipation for the fighting to begin.
“All right, Slim” Hailey said. “I’m here and have the check for Mrs. Rudd. I don’t want any trouble that’s why I have Tom and the McCartney’s here with me… for my protection… from you. I have a family… am legit… trying’ to make things right.”
The McCartney brothers acted as if they wanted to start a fight and couldn’t believe Mr. Hailey’s words and meek actions. Zed McCartney grabbed Mr. Haley’s arm and said, “There’s five of us, we can take Slim.”
Roy spoke right up, “Where’s Tom, get him out here on the street. I’m not looking to get shot in the back.”
“He won’t have to.” It was Ma’s voice.
The crowd moved back and Tom Hart came through with Ma behind thrusting a 44 caliber Walker Colt revolver in his back.”
Mr. Hailey shouted, “Stop! You’re all fools! Shut up, I say! I came here to settle a bill of sale for four hundred head of cattle. I have the check already made out for four thousand dollars we agreed on. Now let’s go across the street to the bank and cash the check together.
As we stepped out onto the street, the Justice of the Peace Ralph Stewart came out of Tia Maria Cantina and shouted, “Halt…Stop!” He slowly walked up to us. He looked different in the five years since we’d seen him. He had cold blues eyes and brusque way about him, but I noticed he seemed to cotton up to Mr. Hailey.
Justice Stewart didn’t very much like what he saw with Ma holding a gun on Tom Hart. There was nothing he could do, but take Tom Hart as prisoner. He said, “I’m holding him to stop another shooting… about the gun fight with Jake Rudd in Monticello, Utah. As I was there in town, the gunfight was fair. Whether or not the reason for the gunfight was cheating at cards or for something else, I don’t know. We’ll have a little hearing at three o’clock later today to settle the matter. You are all duly served and must appear at the hearing in Tia Maria Cantina. If any of you town folks want to see how justice and the law work, you’re all welcomed to come and watch quiet like. “
After the Bank, we all went to Tia Maria Cantina. Justice Ralph Stewart called the hearing to order, “Please be quiet, this is only a hearing about the death of Jake Rudd in Monticello, Utah. There are only two people in this cantina that were in Monticello witnesses to the gunfight: Tom Hart and myself. Although there may be questions concerning the reason for the gun fight, I can attest to the fact that it was fair.”
As the folks settled down, Justice Stewart continued, “I’m going to give a statement of the facts as I know them. Then I will call Tom Hart to give his statement concerning the death of Jake Rudd. I will allow Mrs. Rudd to question Tom Hart. Remember, this is not a trial, but a hearing. I want Mrs. Rudd to understand why her husband was killed in a gun fight, and why there is no controversy about the shooting.”
Roy Kristin spoke up, “Excuse me for interrupting Justice Stewart, just to let you know that Mrs. Rudd asked me to be her representative, acting as her lawyer. Is that going to be okay?”
“Yes, Roy that’ll be fine, now don’t interrupt and let me continue,” as Justice Stewart looked over the crowd. His statement continued, “After the gun fight, I questioned Tom Hart. His declaration to the facts of Jake Rudd’s cheating was backed up by others in the card game in the Blue Goose Saloon. I cleared Tom Hart of any guilt for the death of Jake Rudd. Then, I kind of appointed myself as administrator of Jake Rudd’s property and took care of his burial. It took me several months before I could get by the Rudd’s ranch to tell Mrs. Rudd. I’m really sorry for that delay.”
Tia Maria’s Cantina was jammed packed with town folks, but hardly a mutter was heard as Justice Stewart called Tom Hart forward to give his statement. Tom Hart began his statement, “Truth is that I was in Monticello for some fun. I’d just finished work for Mr. Haley to recover some cattle that was pushed off his Double Bar Ranch. I didn’t plan to stay as long as I did, but was having luck in the Blue Goose Saloon. Past noon, Jake Rudd came by the saloon and sat down to join the game. I knew him as owner of the Bar R Ranch…Had no thought as to why… he just followed my play….when I folded, he folded… when I stayed, he stayed… believe all thought that strange, but don’t matter…. He was dealing… ahead by $100 and the pot was for $250… we caught him taking a card from the bottom of the deck, that’s when I called him out. He said that’s about time you’d figure it out… seemed to have a vendetta against me. The gunfight was his idea… why I let him anger me I don’t know… I knew he couldn’t beat me…. Next day at high noon, we faced down… tried to talk him out of it, but was no use… he went for leather and I drew and shot him… he died in a few minutes. Thought of going to Mrs. Rudd ‘bout her husband, but since I done it…. Figured better if someone else said... maybe she knew all ‘bout what her husband was doing. Don’t know.”
The town folk’s whispers became louder with protests. Justice Stewart banged the table with gavel, “Quiet, quiet now or of you will be removed from this hearing. Ok, Tom is that it.”
“Yes. That’s the truth and my statement.”
Roy Kristin spoke, “Justice Stewart, I like to ask Tom a few questions before he steps down?”
“Go ahead Roy, but remember Tom was exonerated in Monticello. If you have questions to clarify his statement, then go ahead.”
Roy began, “When Jake Rudd came into the saloon, and he went right over to the card game, sat down and began copying your play. He didn’t say why he was in town? Didn’t mention that he and some other ranchers discovered some of their cattle missing… maybe even hire you like Mr. Hailey does to find out what happened.”
Tom scowled replying, “No he didn’t talk much. It was a quiet game.”
Roy smiled, “The Blue Goose Saloon was quiet... Don’t ever remember it that way. But if you say so, I guess it was. I’d never been in a silent card game, most have arguments, especially if there was drinking… maybe even players were drunk… things might be left out of your statement. You want to change anything?”
Justice Stewart said, “Both of you be careful now, I don’t want a gun fight to settle this.”
Roy had a wide smile on his face, “Don’t worry Justice, Tom and I go way back, doubt if he ever wants to face me again… besides all we’re doing is to clarify for Mrs. Rudd what happened to her husband. Now isn’t that so Tom? You were about to summon up more information about the death and cattle rustling, Right?”
Tom looked in the direction of Mr. Hailey and the McCartney brothers, before continuing. “Well I guess you’re right about arguments and drinking…that’s natural…anyways we did discuss missing cattle from other ranches… Jake said that Ty Richardson played detective following cattle tracks from his ranch to the Double Bar Ranch… reported it to Heck Patton, Double Bar’s foreman… later Ty was found shot dead at home… Mr. Hailey helped Ty’s family out by buying their ranch. I think Jake was accusing me, but it wasn’t me, I was up in Wyoming about 200 miles away working for Jim McKnight’s Cross Bar Ranch. Jake was sloppily cheating at cards to draw me out. Threw caution to the wind to challenge me to a gunfight. Guess it didn’t work out like he thought. Later, was surprised that I learned that Mrs. Rudd didn’t sell the ranch… think Mr. Hailey was expecting it to be available.”
Roy turned and looked straight at Mr. Hailey, “Justice Stewart, think it possible I could get Oscar, Mr. Hailey to come up and answer a few questions?”
Justice Stewart coldly replied, “No! This is not a trial, it’s a hearing for Mrs. Rudd to learn about her husband’s death… and Mr. Hailey is not involved or on trial.”
Roy then summed up his conclusion, “I guess we discovered the gun fight was not really about cheating at cards…. More or less it was about rustling cattle. Shame it had to end with Jake Rudd’s death…we’ll never know the truth about what he found… let’s just say all the facts seems strangely out of place… I believe in putting one’s faith in the law…. Yet the justice regarding Jake’s death seems missing.”
Justice Stewart banged the gavel and with a disarming smile proclaimed, “The hearing is over, cause of death was by a fair gun fight. Tom Hart is not guilty of killing Jake Rudd. Justice is done.”
Ma and me were shocked, couldn’t believe what was learned. I was mad and kept thinking, “Pa was dead and our cows were being stolen. Roy or Slim dug out the truth, only because all were afraid of him. That’s how he got Mr. Hailey to pay Ma for the 400 head of cattle. It certainly felt good to have hired him…. Otherwise we would never have known the truth. Maybe now that the two sides of Mr. Hailey were shown, the town folks and ranchers will stop being pushed around by him and his wranglers.”
The following day after shopping for extra supplies, as our financials had improved, we headed back to the ranch. It was a very silent ride with three of us in thought about what just happened in La Sal. Once back at the ranch, everything returned to normal. Neither Ben nor Riley asked about what had happened in La Sal, although I’m sure they wanted to know. Maybe Roy filled them.
The routine of ranching filled the next couple of weeks, cutting hay in the meadows, mending fences, checking health of the cows with calves, branding the few calves and moving the cows to better grazing land. Every Sunday, Ma put some time aside for me and her to sit on the porch beneath the old Cottonwood tree to read the Bible.
This Sunday as she opened the Bible, she looked up; instantly she saw a war party of Ute Indians at the back of the ranch yard. With a start of relief she saw Corolla as their eyes met, he spoke in Ute, “I’ve come back with a worthy man for you.”
She felt a distinct shock, answering in Shoshone, “This is my son, John. He is strong… is the man of the ranch. I want no man.”
I was alarmed. My Ma knew the leader of the Ute Indians and spoke directly to him in their language. Where are Ben, Riley and Roy? We need them.
Recognizing her son’s shock, she spoke to Corolla in English, “Corolla my son does not understand your language, and we need to speak in English. I want him to understand why you are here?”
Corolla fixed his eyes on me, “I am Corolla, Ute medicine man and leader of these warriors. Not here for war… only to provide your mother with a good, strong man… she has lost hers.”
A unarmed Roy stepped out of the bunkhouse… told Ben and Riley to stay put as we are out-numbered … would be killed if we attempted to fight. Roy shouted towards Corolla, “I also am a good, strong man… maybe she wants me.”
A flushed Sarah at Roy’s response exclaimed, “What?”
Corolla spoke with a faint glint of humor in his eyes, “You need a good fighting man to raise warriors. I brought you a good Ute warrior… you have a white man warrior… maybe good or maybe not… They fight… stronger warrior wins… you take that warrior.”
Before Sarah could reply, a lean Ute Indian with black hair and strong clean-cut features stepped out from behind Corolla. He stared at Roy, his face revealed nothing as to what he was thinking. Corolla then spoke something and then threw a knife at Roy’s feet and another knife to the warrior’s feet. Roy took off his boots, gripped the knife in his hands holding the cutting edge up. As Roy looked up, Corolla said to both, “I promise you nothing, but an honorable death.”
The big Ute came at him on cat like feet. Cautiously Roy circled the warrior, he had to defeat him. The Ute closed quickly thrusting wickedly with his knife, but Roy twisted sharply as the blade slid past him. Roy struck out at the warrior only to have his blade deflected. However, as the knife swept up between the warrior’s body and arm, it cut a gash in his armpit. The Ute sprung up with blood streaming down his body clawing cat-like with the blade. Roy tried to move aside, but the knife nicked him and he felt the bite of the blade. Turning he paused as salty sweat stung his eyes. The warrior lunged and both grabbed the other’s knife hand at the wrist. They stood chest to chest, power to power, neither giving an inch. In desperation, Roy buckled at the knees, fell backward and threw the warrior over his head. Both lay on the ground, only the Ute lost his knife. The Ute starring with hatred in his eyes at Roy… coolly Roy picked up the Ute’s Knife and tossed it back to him.
There as a grunt of approval from the watching Ute warriors. The loss of blood weakened the Ute warrior; Roy stepped in swiftly and stuck his knife into the Ute’s belly. The Ute’s black eyes glared at Roy, but did not yield. Roy could have disemboweled the Ute’s belly, but instead stepped back. “He’s a strong man, “Roy said to Corolla, “It’s enough that I have won.”
Deliberately Roy walked back to the porch and to Sarah. Roy looked around and saw all starring at him, Corolla and the Ute warriors, Sarah and John, and Ben and Riley who left the safety of the bunkhouse to see the fight.
Corolla chuckled; then led out a whoop; he swung up on his pony and galloped off followed by the Ute warriors.
Sarah smooth down her dress, wondering what Roy was thinking of her? She turned away from Roy and hastily said “I get you some hot water… then I’ll go make Sunday dinner.”
Sarah walked into the house; stopped at the stove…her mind was blank. She looked around as if she suddenly woke up from a dream.
When all were at dinner, Sarah could not remember the last time she felt like this. She was awkwardly conscious of her hands that never seemed to be in the right place or doing the right things. She scarcely tasted her food. The rest had no such inhibitions, they were all hungry.
Sarah spent the most of the dinner explaining to her son and the others the cause for the afternoon fight and most importantly how she was able to speak Ute. All had their eyes wide opened listening to her relate the story, “She grew up with Shoshone and Bannock Indian children in Colorado… her mother was a school teacher… the Ute warriors attacked the ranch while you were away rounding up the cows… Corolla came to ranch to see the lone woman who fought his warriors… reaching a peace agreement with Corolla and then before he left promised me a strong warrior.”
Gradually Roy looked up and saw the Sarah was staring at him… he was embarrassed. Later he walked out to the porch, sat down on the lower step…. The sun was down, a Mexican spotted owl sat in the cottonwood tree, and the sounds of twilight on the range were mellow.
Sarah walked out to Roy and said, “You needn’t worry about Corolla; he’ll leave me alone now that he has found me a man.”
“Wasn’t thinking about Corolla,” Roy decreed”
That left her nothing to say. They both watch a lone bright star in the night sky.
“A man could get to like it here,” Roy said quietly.
The story continues the tales of Sarah Rudd’s life in Southeastern Utah, during the times when the folks of the West sacrificed and settled their own difficulties…
It was near the middle of August, John knew his Ma’s birthday was at the end of the month and wanted to get her a special surprise. John and Roy decided to get up very early one morning before Sarah arose to make breakfast; they left her a note saying they were going to the far end of the northeast range to look over another canyon for wintering the cattle. Adding to the note that they might camp overnight, took some grub in case that happened, so don’t worry about us. We’ll be careful.
As they left the ranch, Roy said, “Think we can get some breakfast at the stage station at La Sal Junction… heard food was good there.”
In the backroom of the stage station at La Sal Junction, Chuck Sanger lay on his back with a broken hip and three broken ribs. It was hot in the small bedroom and he gasped painfully with every breath.
Jody Balkan was in the main room of the station and kept going to the front door and staring up at the empty road that curved out of sight around a small hill. The road was empty and silent… nothing moved outside. Jody had just rolled in on the stage two days before heading out to Green River, Utah. He found Chuck dragging himself towards the station door and was in bad shape. Jody volunteered to remain until a relief man could come and care for Chuck.
Jody peaked into the small bedroom. Chuck asked Jody, “Can you handle a gun.”
“I’m not a gun fighter, if that’s what you’re asking,” Jody replied, “but can handle a pistol and rifle. Why you asking...”
“You might have to… the next stage due in a day or less is carrying gold… if you’re thinking does anyone know… the answer is yes… too many robbers in these parts. The East Colorado Mining Company decided it would be safe to ship to bank in Green River, because it was coming through this here stage junction…plus they knew a company of the US 5th Cavalry would be near here if trouble arose. They don’t know I’m injured. That’s why I’m worried.”
Jody rushed to the front door, looked out, and said, “Two riders coming up the road.”
“Be careful what you say to them, “Chuck shouted in pain from the bedroom.
When John and Roy rode up, they were hungry and tired from being up so early this morning. “We’ve heard you could get some breakfast here…need to get to La Sal before by noon.”
“I reckon,” Jody said, “get down and come on in.”
Roy took the horses to the stable; John went in and sat down at one of the two tables. John’s eyes strayed towards the closed bedroom door, wondering if Mr. Sanger was in there…. Also sensed that there was coldness… their presence was unwelcomed.
Roy entered the long barn putting the two horses into the empty stalls at the back of the stable, removed the saddles and gave them some hay. As he was walking back he noticed a pistol hidden by some hay on the barn floor… he picked up the worn Remington that was oiled and definitely well kept… whom ever owned it wouldn’t have left it carelessly on the dirt floor. Looking around the floor noted that hay was stirred up and looked like boot marks were on the floor and walls of the stall… something was wrong. Roy went back to his saddlebag, remove a small 38-caliber Colt lightning revolver, and put it under his vest. Walking back to the house, he saw six horses in the corral, several haystacks and a couple of poles with two coats hanging from them… a stretcher. Someone was hurt.
As he walked into the house, John looked at Roy, “It’s strange that Mr. Sanger the manager of the Stage Station was not around.”
Roy asked, “Mr. Sanger a friend of yours?”
“Well, I guess so, we talk friendly, don’t know him the best, but Pa and me stopped here more than a few times.”
“Doesn’t make sense,” Roy glanced around also noting the bedroom door closed; “I found this Remington in the barn,” as he put it on the table, “ever see this before?”
“Sure looks like Mr. Sanger’s gun… not positive though.”
Jody heard their talk and reacted, “Chuck’s hurt… that’s his gun, but he has another. Thought you be off after breakfast.”
Roy smiled at Jody, “You wouldn’t be trying to get rid of us, would you? I think with Chuck laid up you’re going to need help when the coach comes, especially if it has a payroll or gold shipment.”
Astonished, Jody turned to reply, but heard a rush of horses in the yard. He rushed to the door and looking out saw three men.
The three men walked through the open door pushing Jody aside. Zed McCartney was leading his brothers, stopped at seeing Roy and John and his expression hardened. He told George and Bill, “Get the guns from Slim and John, don’t want them messing up our plan.”
George replied, “They’re not wearing any guns, some tough guy this Slim is… wonder why Mr. Hailey is afraid of him?”
Zed replied, “Never mind…The stage is due in a few hours, so you’ll all be our guests for a while, be calm and don’t do anything stupid.” Looking in the bedroom, Zed saw Chuck was laid up and he wouldn’t cause any trouble.
Roy looked at Jody saying, “Is our food ready… we sure are hungry… Is that okay with you Zed?”
Zed grinned, “Yeah! Now that’s all right… get your breakfast… eat your food and drink your coffee like a good boy. Maybe I’ll let you and John live… special if you cause no trouble…never know.”
The next hour went by slowly, neither Roy or John moved. Jody was allowed to work the kitchen and bar…. he was trembling every time he poured drinks for the McCartney’s. George and Bill carefully watched their hostages, while Zed watched the road. Roy slowly rolled a smoke, touching the cigarette paper to his lips and then put it in his mouth. George watched him intently…seeing Roy reach for the matchbox on the table, took out a match, struck it on the table, and lit his smoke.
George chuckled, “Think you’re so big… but you’re just yellow.”
“If you boys are smart, best you just get the money….leave well enough alone or you’ll be killed,” was Roy’s reply.
“What?” Zed turned and walked up to Roy, “You’ll kill me? Get on your feet Slim… I’ll cut you down now.”
However, Roy did not move. At that moment Bill yelled, “Here she comes! They’re bringing the gold right to us.”
Zed walked to the door and looked out…The stage was rolling into the yard. “All right” he gestured to George and Bill… they put Jody and John in the bedroom with Chuck and put a table in front of the door. Then Zed gestured to Roy, “Slim, you walk out there ahead of us and don’t say anything or make a wrong move.” Roy walked outside with Zed beside him, George and Bill moved up from behind. Roy angled toward the stagecoach, knowing the men would spread out. If the shotgun guard or driver started shooting, Roy would be the first man to be killed.
The stage came to an abrupt stop in a cloud of dust. The shotgun guard stared at the waiting men; he did not see Chuck and noted the lead man did not have a gun.
“Hold Up,” Roy yelled, the Colt lightning hidden under his vest slid to his hand. Zed swore and swung his gun and fired his gun at Roy, but he missed. Roy’s did not miss and the bullet caught Zed in the stomach compelling him to buckle over and fall. Roy turned quickly and fired again shooting George in the head. Bill was falling down as the guard shot him with the shotgun. Roy walked over to Zed and kicked the gun from his hand, but he was dying.
John and Jody were able to push the table away from the bedroom door and came running out of the house. John looked inquisitively at Roy… Roy shrugged his shoulders, “I carry a spare small Colt pistol in my saddle bags… I thought something was wrong, so I hid it under my vest… you know they would have killed us… sometimes when your life is on the line, you naturally wait until the time is right to act… that’s all I did… fortunately the shotgun guard recognized that I was not part of the hold up. The McCartney brothers are now dead… wondering what Oscar is going to do when he finds out he lost three of his wranglers.”
John looked at Jody, “You think you’ll need any more help? We could stay to help change the horses for the stagecoach… Chuck is still laid up and does need help. Or are you staying Jody.”
Jody replied, “Think I’ll stay and help out until a replacement shows up. Sure lot of excitement for stage station in the middle of nowhere?”
As Roy was walking towards the barn, he declared, “John let’s get going. Things are settled here. It’s still a long way to La Sal if we’re going to get your Ma a birthday present.”
Sarah got up late… last few nights kept thinking how close her 30th birthday was… never really thought about age, but now as it was creeping up on her….she worried … but didn’t know why? She rushed into the kitchen to begin breakfast. She noticed a note on the table…it’s from John explaining that they be gone a day or two looking for new winter canyon for the cows. “Just like men,” she thought, “Could’ve said something last night…they sure left early …had to know they‘re going to go. I thought John knew better after what happened to his Pa… and what’s wrong with Roy? He’s usually thoughtful and polite. Oh well I guess it’s just men… I don’t understand them.”
She proceeded to make breakfast, Ben and Riley poked their heads in the back door… exclaiming, “Food ready? You know where Roy is… haven’t seen him this morning.”
Sarah was now very angry and said, “Ben, Riley they didn’t even tell you… what’s wrong with them?”
Riley looked confused for a moment and then spilled the beans, “Oh, they probably left early to go to town to pick up a birthday present for you…we all chipped in.” Ben whacked Riley on the arm. Riley yelled, “Now why did you do that…Sorry me and my big mouth… It was to be a surprise.”
Sarah said, “Never have you mind… I can handle surprises… even ones I know about. Breakfast is almost ready… you both wash up and come sit at the table.”
After breakfast, Sarah thought, “What she should do… ride after them and then what?” She called after Ben, “Please saddle my horse, and I think I need to go for a ride… but do it around noon as I’ve a lot of cleaning up to do in the kitchen. Thanks.”
Ben brought her bay horse saddled and ready to the house; yelled, “Mrs. Rudd…Jeremy is ready for your ride… wants Riley or me along for company?”
Sarah came out to the porch wearing men’s jeans, a bright red blouse and ranch boots, “Thanks and thanks for the offer Ben. Think I’ll ride alone…don’t plan to go far… just need to get out of the house.”
Sarah walked up to Jeremy, put her hand on the pommel of the saddle, stood there for a moment and silently cursed herself for being a fool, “…I wasn’t a little girl…why was I mad… John was trying to do something nice for me.” All the anger of the morning left and she put her left boot into the stirrup and pulled herself up and onto the saddle. As she rode out of the yard, she turned in the saddle and said, “Ben…Riley take care of things…should be back in time to make supper.”
Sarah rode about six miles and then turned off the trail to La Sal Junction and stopped at the creek…while the bay drank the cool water, she slide down from the saddle and tried to drink water with her cupped hands… but all she succeeded in doing was getting her face and blouse wet. The common sense move was to return to the ranch and forget about the ride.
When she got to her feet, there before her was Tom Hart, standing at the edge of a bush, thinking how long had he been there… she had no idea…. her only weapon was a the 44 Colt pistol in her saddlebag. He did not speak, merely stared at her and waited. “I was going to La Sal Junction,” she spoke calmly… something other than fear was driving her.
He could sense her bitterness to him and her hurt. He jerked his head to the north, saying, “La Sal Junction is up ahead… there was some trouble up there… the McCartney brothers tried to rob the stage coach. Unfortunate for them they ran into Slim and your son.” Sarah’s heart went to her throat, “is my son okay?”
Tom’s reply, “Yeah...Your son’s okay was locked in a bedroom with Chuck Sanger and another fellow…. Roy was used as cover, but he was able to stop the robbery… he killed Zed and George… the guard or driver killed Bill. Never understood why Mr. Hailey hired those three as wranglers… its rough country, but they were no good.”
Sarah recovering her voice said, “My son and Roy still at the junction?”
“Nope, before the 5th cavalry arrived at the stage station, they rode off headed for La Sal… don’t know why… but it was a good thing that they stopped at the junction…saved a payroll and people’s lives.”
She didn’t know why, but she listened to him… was this the man that killed her husband? He asked, “Were you heading to La Sal Junction?” Then not waiting for an answer continued, “I was coming to see you… want to explain things… I’m sorry, I am really sorry, I know it’s late and I’m responsible for your loss… but after the hearing in La Sal, I felt I needed to talk to you… specially since Slim, I mean Roy made it sound like I was lying. I want you to understand and not judge me, until I can explain. If you are heading back to your ranch, I’d ride along and you could listen to my side.”
Sarah wanted to scream and ride away, but she stopped herself, “I’d rather you not… but I know you’ll just follow me… so guess it’s all right… keep in mind I hate liars and you come across as one.”
Tom began, “You’ll need to know a little history of me and Roy, so I’m beginning in Abilene where Oscar Hailey and me were run out of town and threatened with death. At that time Roy was a deputy sheriff… caught Oscar and me cheating to make a living. We hired a couple of wranglers, head out of town to meet and buy the herds long before the drovers could get them to town. We’d offer cash…buy at a $10 a head for the whole herd… didn’t matter how many they lost on the trail or how bony they appeared… paid for every cow that they began with… mostly 1000 head… that was a lot of cash…. most took it before they knew what they could get…. Been on the trail so long….just wanted a day or two to clean up and head home…. not wanting to argue with the buyers in town.”
Sarah just felt angry… what does this story have to do with killing my husband…. She just listened as he kept talking.
“Truth was even if they lost half the herd, we’d sell them in town for $25 to $35 a piece…making a handsome profit. Roy got wind of our dealings…especially after some folks complained of being cheated. Roy threatened us to stop…of course we didn’t…finally, he ran us out of town with the threat of death if he’d ever see us again. Probably the best thing that could’ve happened… he’d gave us a second chance and we took it. Strange thing, I thought that both Oscar and me decided that we’d go straight… well, at least straight to Green River, Utah.”
They were getting closer to the ranch and Sarah wondered if he’d ever stop talking. No, he just continued.
“Oscar settled down… bought a small ranch from our profits from Abilene …got married and now has two fine boys… and his spread has been growing larger and larger. I also got married…bought a house on the skirts of town… my wife Ruthann could not have children… doesn’t matter now… that caused us some problems. I started out working for large cattle or sheep ranchers… and for Oscar too… hired myself out as a bounty hunter looking for rustlers. I usually drifted from ranch to ranch hiring myself out as a ranch hand… worked until I learned whether or not they were involved in rustling…. got pretty good at it… built a good reputation…. being a gun fighter worked in my favor… though I can’t really say I killed people… mainly I brought them in for justice… Paid pretty well… and Ruthann and me settled in to me being gone for a month or so… actually helped our life together.”
Sarah turned slightly and looked at him…he was very sad and depressed... She wanted to say she understood and needed to say something to him… no words came out.
“I did not know about Oscar… thought of him as a friend. Knew he hired tough wranglers, this is a rough country… actually thought he was giving them a second chance as Roy gave us. Sometimes you see what you want to see… Oscar and I are still friends. After the hearing in La Sal, I got to thinking I missed what Jake was saying to me… I’m sorry… I’m responsible for his death... by my reputation I could’ve shot his gun hand… I know you hate me ‘till I’m dead… but I want you to grasp that Roy again showed me I was mistaken. I’m pleased he got Oscar to help make things right about his stealing your cows…. I’ll make sure that rustling your calves will never happen again… ”
With a pang, Sarah remembered Jake’s face and she began to cry. She looked up and straight into Tom Hart’s eyes, seeing his repentance and shame, said, “You frightened me… I can’t forgive you… now… and yet you have a good wife who trusts and loves you… my feelings are mixed and confused… I want to believe you…”
Just then, they heard gunshots coming from the ranch… Both spurred their horses and raced towards the ranch not knowing what they would find. They stopped short of the front yard… seeing Mr. Hailey and nine wranglers spread out among the cottonwood trees shooting at the bunkhouse.
Tom looked at Sarah and said, “Stay back here, hide and be quiet, they don’t know you’re with me…let me find out what’s going on… don’t know why Oscar’s here.”
Tom rode up to the house, pulled out his rifle, held it across his saddle, so it was ready to hand; a sudden stillness came to his face, “Oscar what’s going on?”
The gunfire stopped. Tom slowly got off his horse, turned deliberately towards Oscar, stood with his feet wide apart, pointing the rifle at Oscar and spoke, “All right, you can stop right now.”
“Never know you for a turn coat Tom,” Mr. Hailey carefully said. “I’ve just come for my 400 head of cattle that I’d bought… seems like they only have a 100 head… those two scrawny old ranch hands are trying to stop us.”
“You know that bill of sale was for the rustling your hired hands did?” Tom spoke calmly, “I told you plain and simple after Slim made me fill it out.”
“There’s two things about that,” Oscar replied, “First thing is you wrote it out, not me… second is there’s no date… not dated… no one believes that I’m a rustler… I’m just here to pick up my cows.”
Tom’s voice was harsh, “I’ve never switched sides Oscar… since Abilene, I’ve been always for justice and the laws… guess you never changed… you and your hired hands are like a pack of coyotes in grabbing up the ranches around here…” Tom stood there with his rifle and holstered six-gun, “Now you want this lady’s ranch… you’re not getting it… got to go through me.”
Mr. Hailey angered voice shouted, “I’ll not take that talk from you Tom, wished you wouldn’t try. I’ll still give you a chance to ride away.”
At that moment, a shot rang out from behind Tom and struck him in the spine; his legs lost feeling and he fell forward on to his face. Oscar walked over to him, “Sorry Tom, you were very useful…” Then he pulled out his revolver and shot Tom in the head.
Sarah watched horrified, her eyes flared, she screamed. She reached in her saddlebag, removed her 44 caliber Colt, and fully discharged her pistol as she rode at towards Mr. Hailey. She missed. Her buckskin pulled up in front of Mr. Hailey and he pulled her down off the saddle.
As she got up, Hailey had her pistol in his hand. He said, “Don’t worry, Tom Hart is dead… I’m going to let everyone know you shot him in the back… think most folks will believe that…. This is working out better than I planned. Thanks for your help… we’ll leave your cows… going take Tom’s body to La Sal and report the shooting. I’m sure a U.S. Marshall will be out with a warrant to arrest you… If I was you, I’d leave before that happens… think about it…”
Sarah felt sick to her stomach, but brushed herself off and retorted, “I’m slicker than a black-headed snake on wet clay, the last thing you wanted to do is rile me. You have. If you think I’ll run, you’d better think again.”
“You might be right,” he admitted, “I’ll take my chances… if you didn’t notice in La Sal, I have a Justice of the Peace in my pocket.
“We’ll see,” was Sarah’s reply.
“Come on boys, saddle up, throw Tom over his horse and lash him to the saddle…we’re done here.”
Off in the distance a small war party of Utes closely watched the Rudd ranch, as long as Mrs. Rudd was okay they did not help. They followed Mr. Hailey and his wranglers until they were off the Rudd ranch. Then the warriors rode to report to Corolla.
It was dusk by the time John and Roy rode into La Sal, stopping just outside the town at the livery stable. Old Man Baker was surprised to see them and asked, “it’s late and where’s you ma?”
John replied, “Ma didn’t come along… just came in to pick up a few things…but were held up at La Sal Junction for a while… need to put up our horses for the night.”
“No problem, got plenty of space tonight,” said Mr. Baker.
Roy said, “Good… John why don’t you run to the general store and see if you can pick up the items tonight… I’ll finish up with Mr. Baker… and then see if I can get us a room at the Dark Canyon Hotel… if not I’ll head to Tia Maria Cantina to see if Mrs. Lopez can put us up for the night… I’ll meet you at the store.”
As John creaked open the door, walked in to the store and looked around, he stopped…she stood inside the store and lifted her hand…his mind was distracted from looking for present for Ma. He felt so dusty and dirty from the trail and the events at the stage coach station… his mouth had a sour taste and he needed a bath…his clothes needed washing.
The store keeper Mr. Handler looked up and wondered why his niece, Mary did not go over to John…She just stood still, straight and tall, and stared at him.
John walked up to her and said, “You don’t know me and what I’m about to say is crazy, but tomorrow morning I’m returning to my ranch….I would hope you’ll ride with me…you can tell I’m poor at courting. Only when I saw you, I knew in my heart that my life will begin and end with you… I know there would be no happiness until you are by my side.”
She put her hands on the counter, looked at her uncle with embarrassment, and then looked John straight in the eye and said, “My Uncle is Aaron Handler, the store keeper…I don’t think he favors your talk.”
“My name is John Rudd,” glancing his eyes towards Mr. Handler, “your uncle knows me and my Ma…I wish to call upon later tonight and the choice of whether you come out or not is yours.”
“My name is Mary Gould… I’m only here for the summer to help at my uncle’s store… after I’ll be going back to Logansport, Indiana…where my parents live… they would be heartbroken if I didn’t return… my dad works for the Pennsylvania Road, he would be on connecting trains to haul me back home…. Isn’t that right Uncle Aaron…?”
Mr. Handler retorted, “Yup that’s right… I would be in trouble with my sister if you didn’t go home… yet, John’s a good boy… he’s about your age Mary… ‘Cept you’re both too young for marrying… but there’s no trouble in seeing him tonight…. he knows our house is at the street’s far end… John, come by if you will.”
“Sir, you can expect me.”
John turned around to leave…he saw Roy... and asked, “Did you get us a room at the hotel… I’ll need to clean up for later.”
“Yep, we got a room…I take it you didn’t get around to pick up your Ma’s birthday presents…seeing as how you were distracted. I’ll get ‘em if they come in…you just go to the hotel.”
As John went out the door, he heard Mr. Handler say, “The dress pattern and material came in a few weeks ago… there’s also a bonnet that my wife says would be fittin’ with the dress pattern Sarah picked out… don’t know…ordered it anyway. Just in case... What do you think?”
“I think it’s good…your wife is clever … never would have thought of that… please wrap them up… thanks for all your help... I’m sure Sarah will love the gifts.”
When Roy returned to the hotel room with the birthday presents, he found John cleaned up… ready to go… and posed, “ I take you like the girl…Mary… can’t say I blame you… but what were you thinking… were in La Sal for your Ma…and we’ll be heading out tomorrow…”
“Oh, I don’t know… She’s about my age, maybe a year younger or older…doesn’t matter…she is a girl born with beauty…slim, perfectly shaped and when she moved it was to unheard music… when she smiles…it was for me alone, intimate and personal. I’m happy that she is visiting her uncle and working in her uncle’s store for the summer. I’m afraid to ask her if she would like to stay in La Sal…all I know is I want her for my wife.”
“Not sure that’s what your Ma is supposing … us bringing home the news that you found a wife in La Sal… or us finding a new canyon to winter the cattle. It’s your decision… please think before you mention Mary…kind of… wait… let’s first confess we’d snuck off to get her a birthday present… Yeah, she already knows, Ben and Riley let it slip as to what we’re doing…”
“Sorry Roy, I’d believe she wants the new canyon… even though I’d hope she’d want both. I need to go now.”
John walked to the end of town and rapped on Mr. Handler’s front door. The door opened and Mary stood there in a pale blue dress, even lovelier than I imagined.
“Why it’s you, but I thought Uncle Aaron?”
“May I come in?” I asked.
Startled she stepped back, let me in and closed the door behind me. Hat in my hand, I bowed to Mrs. Anne Handler, who was behind her. The room was cluttered and lacking comfort. There was too much stuff and not a place where I could really sit. She looked at me carefully and seemed to withdraw, a change I could not grasp.
She flushed, “I certainly didn’t believe…you weren’t serious? I thought it was fun in the general store…but I can’t imagine me going out with you...we’re both so young.” She stared at me, astonished.
Something went out of me then, I stood there feeling like a fool…undoubtedly I was. The flame of my love flickered…then caught by a gust of wind was snuffed out…I guess I grew up a little that day...”
“Good night,” I said, “I’m sorry that I intruded.”
As I opened the door, about to leave, Aaron Handler pushed past me, “Sorry John…you’re going… I heard about you and Roy stopping the McCartney brothers from robbing gold shipment at La Sal Junction… had to kill all three, huh… also heard to night that Tom Hart is dead…brought into town strapped across his horse…Oscar Hailey claims your Ma shot him in the back… I don’t believe that…anyway he is contacting the Justice Stewart about getting a warrant for your Ma’s arrest… Mr. Hailey is fuming and bullying… angry that his wranglers and his friend Tom got killed… I think it best if you and Roy stay out of his way…leave early morning and head for home... give my best to your Ma….”
Next morning, Roy and John ate an early breakfast at Tia Maria Cantina, picked up there horses from Old Man Baker before setting out for home. As usual Mr. Baker acted very nervous and anxious…wanting them to vamoose before Mr. Hailey showed up. He didn’t want any trouble at his stable.
The rising sun would soon parch the trail on their long ride home … their ride was peaceful and uneventful as Roy and John kept their thoughts to them self. Arriving late afternoon at the Rudd Ranch… Sarah saw them and stepped out of the porch of the ranch house, “About time you returned…. Find what you were looking for… I sure hope so… ’cause we could’ve used at the ranch… had trouble with Mr. Hailey wanting to take our cattle… Tom Hart was here…tried to help me and was shot in the back by one of Hailey’s men. He and his men took Tom and headed to La Sal… going to blame me for killin’ Tom. I suppose you already know that… seeing as how you were very busy stopping a stage coach robbery at La Sal Junction and then headed to La Sal to get me a birthday present…”
Roy answered, “Yes Mam. We’re sorry… we didn’t know what the McCartney’s were planning… just got caught in the middle… didn’t know what Oscar was planning ‘bout the ranch… but we’re glad you, Ben and Riley are okay… you sure do have a way of speaking your mind…”
“Well you’d better take care of your horses… get washed up…and we’ll talk later about this at supper.” As Sarah turn to go back into the house, she muttered, “Men! Two sides of a coin… hard for us women to understand…” She went back into the house to get supper ready.
Later that evening when all were at supper, eating quietly and if they talked it was mainly about the coming winter. Sarah having had just about enough of this silence, turned towards her son and said, “You know I was angry that morning you left… the note just made me madder… you could’ve told me the night before…fortunate for you Riley slipped up and said what the two of you were really doing… otherwise I’d been on your trail to drag both of you back…”
John opened his mouth, but before he could utter a word.
Sarah continued, “Now don’t even think of interrupting me… I’m going to say my piece… I was still upset, but had a lot of work to do… around noon I took Jeremy out for a ride to help settle me down… I came across Tom Hart…he was coming by the ranch to apologize… I just wanted to get away from him and headed back to the ranch …couldn’t stop him from riding along with me… he began telling me all about what happened at La Sal Junction… and then telling of his past… I was getting more upset by the minute… as we neared the ranch we heard gunfire... both spurred our horses…. Oscar Hailey and his men had Ben and Riley pinned down at the bunkhouse… Tom told me to stay back, let him find out what’s going on… he rode into the ranch yard and confronted Oscar… one of Hailey’s boys shot Tom in the back… then Oscar took his pistol and shot Tom in the head…I grabbed my pistol and raced in wildly shooting. Jeremy stopped abruptly in front of Oscar… Hailey pulled me down from my saddle… gloated that this was working out better than he’d plan…. strapping Tom to his horse he gathered his men and claimed we’re going to bring Tom into La Sal and have a warrant for your arrest for killing him… so now you know what happened here.”
Roy spoke up, “In La Sal we heard that Tom Hart was dead… Oscar Hailey claimed you did it and he and his men were witnesses… we knew we had better get back home… there’s nothing else to tell.”
Ben and Riley started to get up, Ben began, “we’d best off to the bunkhouse.”
Sarah said, “Ben and Riley you just sit back down…you’re not going anywhere…. We’re family…even if we aren’t all related…. Just the five of us… this is our home… you’re apart of us whether you want to be or not... You need to hear the rest...”
Then Sarah looked at her son and said, “John, I want to know what else happened in La Sal, I can see by your face you are hiding something.”
“Ma that’s not fair…nothing happened.”
“Okay… it’s still not fair…when I went to the General Store I saw Mr. Handler’s niece… Mary Gould… she was helping out at the store for the summer…she lives in Indiana with her parents…she is young as me and very beautiful… I kind of like her a lot… I made a fool of myself…asked her to come home with me… she thought I was joking… I wasn’t… how you do go about courting… I really believe I saw my future wife… I wanted her by my side… I got carried away… anyway.”
Sarah looked at her son and sighed, “You are good son John…be patient…Mary is your dream... your offer wasn’t her dream…You should marry someone with a love of the land…willing to spend her honeymoon at the ranch…you should not have to force her… or force you to give it up. Son love your dream… don’t expect too much, for there will be other times…other dreams… each time you love you grow a little and lose a little… and maybe, just maybe you planted this idea in her mind…and she too is thinking about your offer…. And wondering if she could enjoy the cottonwoods, the creek, the meadows and the sandstone canyons… and ranch life…. And eventually it may also be her dream.”
Roy smiled and added, “Sarah, your son managed himself proper on our ride to La Sal ride …. You’d be proud of him…you’d taught him well… even at his first chance at courting… as for Mary, she is a right pretty girl… had good common sense… you might be dead-on… when she’s had time to ponder… change her mind… wouldn’t be surprised.”
“I know my son and trust his reckoning … I’m proud of him.”
“Now let’s get back to Oscar Hailey,” Roy urged, “How do we plan to handle Tom Hart’s shooting?”
“I’m not worried…” Sarah spoke as she relaxed at the table, “You see… Mr. Hailey has his witnesses and I’ve mine… don’t know if the undertaker looked at Tom’s body… bet he’d know that Tom was shot in the back by a rifle… didn’t have my Winchester with me… Ben and Riley could swear to that…. Also know that rifle shot was fired to the far left of me… away from the main shooting at the bunkhouse… that’s where Oscar Hailey’s two sons were… stayed away from all the shooting… just watching with rifles in their hand…. Guessing he didn’t want them hurt… so if Justice Ralph Stewart wants to summon me about the killing… I will testify that Mr. Hailey’s son shot Tom Hart in the back and killed him… don’t know which one… but one of the two did it… As for the pistol shot to the head… that was Oscar Hailey’s doing…. if he claimed it was me… I’d say he was lying… just to protect his son… my Colt pistol was emptied trying to shoot Oscar as I rode towards Tom’s body… I’m sorry I missed.”
Ben, Riley, Roy and John stared at her… before them sat a woman of character… one being articulate and cultured… the other a hardened and tough pioneer woman… extremely capable and independent. Roy spoke up and said seriously, “Sarah, you’ve given Oscar Hailey a declaration of war… once he learns that you will charge his son with Tom’s murder… his wife will intervene to protect her sons… I doubt he will follow up his threat… I think your tactics can foil Oscar Hailey’s plan to steal away your ranch …”
On a brightly moonlit night, Corolla and his band of 100 Utes looked at the Double Bar Ranch from the northern ridge of the high ground… the ranch was on an upland meadow… a herd of cattle grazing on grass under the shade of a fringe of willow trees near a small stream… a barn with a corral… horses in the corral… a large bunkhouse on the other side of the barn with a cook shack angling off it… two outhouses, a big one near the bunkhouse and a smaller one near the low rambling ranch house. Corolla saw that there was no cover…maybe a little by the trees… adjusting his tactical warfare plan to the terrain. .. Tactics he learned from his father’s father… adapted from the Spanish … splitting his band, he sent 50 Utes to the southern ridge while the other half remained with him on the northern ridge. The Utes lied down with their repeating Winchester rifles in their hands… not more than four yards of space between each Indian extending the line for 200 yards. The ambush was ready with the Utes occupying the high ground to the north and south of the east facing ranch house... Corolla knew he not only had the advantage of surprise attack but also the 5th cavalry patrol would not return to this area until the next full moon.
Dawn was just starting to streak in the Eastern sky… smoke began to rise up out of the cook shack. A couple of ranch hands stumbled down to the big outhouse…somebody lit a lamp in the main house. The Utes waited patiently for their attack to begin
Oscar Hailey came out of his bedroom shirtless with his pants on. He sat down to breakfast at one end of the long table in his ranch house. He smiled, but felt restless, all things considered … a month has gone by, since he and his boys dropped off Tom Hart’s body in La Sal… his plans for taking over Rudd Ranch now rested in the hands of Justice of the Peace, Ralph Stewart… surely he will find Sarah Rudd guilty of killing Tom Hart. The trial is coming up soon… wonder how many witnesses I need… take a few ranch hands and my sons… it’ll be good for my sons to see how powerful their dad is.
Up early in the morning, Mrs. Jane Hailey and her friend Mrs. Ruthann Hart stepped outside of the ranch house to stretch and breathe fresh air, both noticed grass was burning along the bottom land of the ranch… they shrieked and pointed their arms towards the fire.
Oscar ran outside quickly… seeing fire along his bottom land … he looked to the south and saw three Indians disappear over the ridgeline… turning his eyes to the northern ridge he caught the glint of several metallic refection lying on the ground several yards of space between each... seems to extend forever. He shouted to Jane and Ruthann to get back into house and hide in their bedroom.
As Oscar turned to go back into the house, he was met with a hail of bullets that cut down one of his ranch hands coming out of the bunkhouse. Rifle fire erupted from both sides… the Utes occupying the higher ground and using their repeating Winchester rifles kept steady pressure on the ranch with their constant sniping. Oscar and his men were forced to retreat into the house; barn and bunkhouse… some of his wranglers pushed a wagon along with sacks of grain to form temporary shelter for access to the well for water. The ranch was besieged day and night… Any time someone tried to leave their shelter, shots rang out from both ridges forcing the person to return to safety.
Oscar said to his family and Ruthann, “I don’t understand why they are attacking my ranch… but were safe inside… we needn’t go outside… they’ll probably leave when they tire of this amusement.”
Jane was angry at her husband, “I’m… we’re scared… how you know we’re safe in the house… why… a game… for their amusement…. how long do you think they’ll keep this up?”
Heatedly Oscar retorted, “I don’t know… but the grass fires have stopped at the stream... I hate Utes… they’re lazy and useless… the only good ones are dead ones.”
On edge Ruthann asked, “Why doesn’t the government do something about the Utes… send them somewhere else away from us settlers.”
“That’s a good question… they should be pushed further into the desert…that’s where they belong.”
As the raid continued for the third day, Oscar recognized several problems… their lack of water…any attempt to access the well usually resulted in death and no water… those attempts created another problem… ammunition was running low… the demand… the need of their return rifle fire to protect anyone attempting to get water.
By the sixth day, everything turned for the worse… Oscar truly worried for his family… told his wife Jane and Ruthann to hide in the storm cellar at the back of the house… his sons to remain in the house …until all is clear. He walked out the door…pretended to surrender by waving a white flag… he and his wranglers walked out into the middle of the ranch yard… put down their rifles and pistols… Oscar then stepped out in front of his men with the white flag and put his other hand in the air.
Corolla saw the white flag… understood its meaning from previous battles with the U.S. cavalry and soldiers, but wary of Oscar’s reason… if it concerned the two women… he would offer the women safety... allowing two ranch hands to escort them from the ranch. Corolla selected five warriors… they rode their ponies from the northern ridge towards Oscar and his men. Corolla saw two ranch hands creep behind the over-turned wagon… he wasn’t sure why… maybe to get water … or is a trap…retrieving the rifles and pistols from the dead men… Corolla told three warriors to return to the northern ridge while he and his two warriors rode into the ranch’s yard. Corolla stopped his pony and raised his right hand in greeting…Oscar and his men dove for their weapons on the ground. Corolla and his braves quickly turned their ponies and raced back for safety.
A wild orgy of violence occurred… the Utes from both ridges showered the yard with bullets from their Winchester rifles… wounding or killing the ranch hands. Corolla was grazed by a bullet... his two braves were killed… when the shooting stopped…Corolla returned to the ranch’s yard with twelve Ute warriors… the Utes then murdered the remaining wounded ranch hands. Oscar Hailey wasn’t among the dead… he had run back into the ranch house and hid with his family and Ruthann... Corolla sent five warriors into the house… telling them to look for a cellar at the back of the house… a trapdoor on the floor or low on a back wall… the warriors found the survivors huddled together in the cellar… there was no resistance … and were brought before Corolla.
Corolla spoke in English addressing the five of them, pointing at Oscar Hailey he said, “You are responsible for Sarah Rudd’s husband death… you have stolen her cattle…you have attacked her ranch… your sons shot a man in the back and you blamed her for his death… you wanted to own her ranch… you are like a hunter… you shoot the buffalo… then waits until it lies down and dies. I cannot let this be… for Sarah Rudd treats the land well… she sees the beauty in the wild flowers, the trees, the grasses, the wheat, the cattle, the horses and everything … she understands she is a custodian… the land is borrowed… and is to be given to our children.”
Corolla took a deep breath and continued, “Your cattle and horses will be released… we will burn down your ranch. You will watch… we will take your women as hostages… for they cannot remain here alone… they would not survive… we will protect them from winter ahead…they are not prisoners… when Spring arrives, if they wish to go back, we will bring them to the Fort Steele… that is our promise to you.”
Jane and Ruthann were sobbing... they were terrified and confused. Corolla said to them, “You are going with us… you should give-in… You will be brought to our winter camp on the Grand Mesa.”
The Ute warrior Ursine took Jane Hailey and another warrior Piah took Ruthann Hart … and the band of Utes began the slow trek to their winter quarters on the Grand Mesa. Jane and Ruthann realized their futility… each walked alongside her warrior’s horse… a long rope loosely tied to their hands forced them to keep up with the pace.
Corolla and twelve warriors remained behind… six of Utes went off to set fire to all of the structures and buildings on the ranch. As this was happening, Corolla spoke to the three remaining captors, “you will be shot and killed.” He made Oscar kneel down on the ground and his two sons kneel down facing Oscar. Corolla said, “Make your peace with your Great Spirit.” Oscar and his sons belligerently turned towards Corolla and spit on the ground.
Corolla eyes flashed hatred, six rifle shots rang out…killing all three captors… then Oscar’s body was turned over … his opened eyes appeared to stare at the sky… a barrel stave was driven through his mouth and skull… a symbol of untruths. Corolla and his warriors rode to catch up with the rest of the band of Utes on the way to their winter quarters.
By late afternoon the women had fallen numerous times as the path was rough, rocky and was steeped with ridges covered with pine, oak brush and sage brush… their dress and footwear was not made for walking in this terrain. Both Ursine and Piah realized the women could not continue this way… halting their ponies… they slide down… approached the women… taking out a long knife… Jane and Ruthann stopped, frozen in terror as they watched the skirt of their dress slit front and back… the warriors removed the rope binding their hands…. lifted them onto his pony… gripped the reins and climbed on behind them… mixed feeling overcame Jane… she couldn’t help thinking of the conditions she and Ruthann had fallen into…but no tears fell. Her thoughts churned in her mind and sourness churned in her stomach… were Corolla accounts truthful… was my husband a thief… did my husband try to steal Sarah Rudd’s ranch… and who is Sarah Rudd… why would my son shoot Tom Hart in the back... Ruthann must be furious with my family… I hate Corolla and the Utes for this… I’m afraid… for my life… all these thoughts came and went meaninglessly as they rode on….
After five more days, stopping only for food and rest, Corolla and the Utes reached the Grand Mesa winter camp. Jane Hailey and Ruthann Hart felt utter hopelessness upon reaching the camp… no cavalry came to rescue them… hence no one knows about the Ute attack on the Double Bar Ranch or about their capture…their lives are now in the hands of Corolla.
Their Ute guards Ursine and Piah helped them off the ponies and stood by them… as Jane and Ruthann looked out over the camp they saw a village of shelters…. Some were round, others in the shape of a cone… most of the frames were covered with brush… but some of the taller cone shaped frames were covered with skins of animals… it looked very much like the beginning of a small town….
Soon their worry heightened as Corolla approached them. He stopped before them and said, “You will begin to learn the way of the Utes… our customs… each woman needs a good man…” Corolla pointed to Ursine and then to Jane, “you are his wife”… he then pointed to Piah and then to Ruthann; “you are Piah’s wife” He said something in Ute language to the men. Then continued in English, “they will take you to their home to live with their other wife and children… you have the same freedom as all Ute woman… I give you one more special right… not normally given to our captives… you are not required to have sex or children with your new husband.” Corolla turned and walked away.
Piah’s wife, Magena helped Ruthann… Ursine’s wife, Taimi helped Jane…to adapt to their roles as new members of the tribe… the first thing… they changed their clothing… each was given a long dress made from a woolen blanket fringed and decorated with beads and shells to wear and given moccasins for their feet. Since both Jane’s and Ruthann’s hair was long, Magena and Taimi helped them braided their hair into two braids… since none of the Ute wives spoke English… Magena and Taimi began lessons in Ute language… just like an infant… pointing to objects and saying the Ute word or words for the object… Jane and Ruthann tried to repeat it… slowly they began to acquire the words needed for survival in the Ute family.
Ruthann and Jane learned that life as a Ute was not very different from that of the settlers… women did the gathering of roots, pine nut, seed and fruits… all the domestic tasks such as child care, cooking, cleaning, making clothing and household tools. Ute children had many chores to do and less time to play… but they did have dolls and games such as footraces and a ball game called shinny. Ute men were the warriors and the hunters of deer, elk, buffalo and small game… the men were not farmers, nor wanted to be farmers… their responsibility was for feeding and defending their families.
Slowly Ruthann’s fears lessened as she began realizing all the freedoms they received… both she and Jane were becoming a part of the Ute’s community… Magena has really helped me to adapt to their way of life… as I learned the Ute language… she learned English… surprisingly we began to talk about family and our lives… she asked about my family, children… it was difficult to explain… told her I had no children, that I could not have children… she asked if I wanted children… truthfully I told her yes… she said that Corolla was a great Medicine Man… he could help me… replying that my husband was dead… she offered Piah… he’s good warrior... good man… good husband… she wept when I rejected Piah….
Nonetheless the next day she dragged me to Corolla… explaining what I needed…he said in English that he could help me… I had no reply… later that day Corolla brought me a leather pouch with mixture of dried leaves, seeds and stems … he said that when I want a child… put hand full of medicine in a water bowl pottery, add water to top… then next day drink some water… each day fill pottery with water to top… do this for one full moon cycle… then after 10 sunsets… sleep with husband for three nights… and you will have a child. He turned and left me. Oh, I wished that Tom was still alive… we both wanted to have children… do I believe in Corolla’s medicine… not really, but I surely would have tried it…
As the days passed by, Jane’s and Ruthann’s roles in their new family grew… they were helping to make clothing out of blankets and animal hides… learning to cook the Ute way… and doing the unskilled cleaning chores along with the Ute Children ... by nightfall they were always tired…their new life was primitive, they ate with unwashed hands…their rations were usually meager consisting of either dried meat or stews made from whatever animal was shot that day… they had to huddle under animal hides at night to keep warm… over time, their weeping lessened… their hope rested in Corolla’s promise of going home after the winter.
Jane and Ruthann remained friends… bound together by necessity… but their views of the Ute Indians began to diverge Jane’s hatred of Corolla and the Utes simmered… what they did to her husband, to her sons… judgment was not theirs… why should she believe them… her husband was a respected rancher, not a thief… he gave a few crooks a second chance… yes… but most of the men were tough wranglers… nothing else… and her beloved sons would never shoot anyone in the back…especially Tom Hart… I’m sure Ruthann doesn’t believe that… if Corolla does take us to Fort Steele in the spring… I’m going to make sure the army investigates the massacre at the ranch…and I’ll testify to the fact that Corolla and all the Ute Indians were responsible for the massacre… payback will be sweet.
Justice of the Peace Ralph Stewart left Green River, Wyoming on Saturday morning in late September on his judicial circuit ride to La Sal, Utah… planning to first stop by the Double Bar ranch to see Oscar Hailey… then to the Bar R ranch to serve a warrant to Sarah Rudd and escort her to La Sal for trial for the murder of Tom Hart.
As he crossed into Utah, heavy clouds began to gather in the western sky, a faint stir of the wind sent a chill through his body… he thought… this is the beginning of a blizzard... better head to the Vernal, it’s the nearest town…just as they say Utah has three seasons winter, July and August. Pulling his hat down low over his eyes, wrapping his bandana to mask his face from the snow and wind, buttoning his woolen coat, he followed the lone trail towards town. It may have been an hour or so when he glanced back up at the sky… the clouds were blowing off to the north and the sun began peeking through…another thing you can say for Utah, it didn’t take long to clear up. Yet, he was glad when he got to the town.
That evening he was sitting at a table in the Spring Creek Saloon, when a barmaid came forward and said, “Justice you look very tired… I have a small room in back with a bed… if you don’t mind ruffles… I got to work ‘til morning… my Pa says I should offer it to you.”
“Now that’s right nice … what’s your name?”
“Annie… Annette Trudeau …my Pa’s the owner… he says we should always treat the law kindly …”
“Well Annie…if you don’t mind… point me to your room… I have a lot of riding to do in the next few days… be nice to get into a bed… I should be thanking your Pa… What’s his name?”
“His name is Richard Trudeau, but everyone calls him Rick… if you want to thank him personal…he’s at the bar… bartending. My room is to the left of the bar … following the hallway… it’s the last door on the right.”
Justice Stewart strode to the bar and found Rick talking to an army captain… not wanting to interrupt their discussion… he listened in… until he heard the captain say that he had a small detachment of men that are on a reconnaissance mission… there were settler reports of a small band of Ute Indians roving the area between Green River and Moab… all Utes should already be at the Uncompahgre reservation for winter.
Justice Stewart spoke up, “Captain, I’m Justice of the Peace Ralph Stewart… just over heard what you said… I’m heading your way… need to go to the Double Bar Ranch, then Southeast to Bar R Ranch and finally at La Sal for a trial…. Mind if I tag along.”
“No… name’s Captain Joseph Wesley from D.A. Fort Russell … I don’t expect trouble… just a peaceful mission… making sure the roving band of Utes heads for the reservation. I have one scout Charlie Houston and 35 men of D Company 5th Cavalry and two pack mules.”
“Well the Double Bar Ranch is just south of Green River… thinking you could start looking there?”
“We’re heading out at sunrise… towards Green River… Charlie will scout ahead and report back on which way we’re to go…. you’re welcome to come along…”
“Thanks.” Changing the subject, Stewart said, “Mr. Trudeau your daughter said there was a bed I could use for the night…I’d certainly appreciate it… its very decent of you.”
“Rick’s my name… no problem… take a right and the end of the bar… head to the end of the hallway… rooms on the right… my wife will have breakfast ready a little before sunrise… you’re welcome to some.”
“Thanks to both of you… goodnight.”
Early next morning Captain Wesley entered the saloon looking for the Justice Stewart… saw him at a table finishing his breakfast and asked, “You ready to go… we’ll be waiting outside…”
“I’m ready… my horse is saddled out front… just pay my respects to Rick and family before I leave… hope the winter weather holds off… once it starts it seems to go on forever.”
“Sun’s not up yet…the clouds are blocking the stars… a cold wind is blowing… but it doesn’t matter… Charlie left a half hour ago to scout ahead… we’ll go towards Green River… needs to get going.”
“Okay, I’m coming… don’t want to be the one to hold you up.”
As the cavalry rode towards Green River, the sun began poking its head through the clouds and the wind died down… the day was clearing up. Just before noon, Charlie Houston returned and reported, “ A band of Utes … about fifteen… we’re seen heading towards the Double Bar Ranch… think that’s the way we should head… they’re not going to the Reservation… feel something is up and it’s not good.”
Captain Wesley agreed, “Charlie stay back with us…Justice, we’re heading towards the Double Bar Ranch … you’re in luck.”
They quicken their pace, riding towards the Double Bar Ranch… reaching the top of the northern ridge overlooking the Double Bar Ranch, just before sunset…what they saw was a smoldering ruin… riding in they found bodies lying on the ground. Justice Stewart found Oscar Hailey… his head smashed in and a stave driven through his mouth… his two boys were dead and lying next to him… he searched, but did not find Oscar’s wife. What happened here… it was a massacre… but why?
Captain Wesley and his men made camp on the northern ridge… next morning they proceeded to begin burying all the bodies. Charlie Houston search the grounds and estimated that over 100 Utes attacked the ranch… looks like they then headed towards Grand Mesa mountain… also looks like they had two captives, possibly women or children by their footprints…forced to walk behind the horses.
Wesley reasoned that he might be able to overtake the Utes, but unless he had reinforcements he probably could not rescue the two captives. Instead he decided to remain … he sent two riders to Fort Russell to report their status and request reinforcements… deciding he would wait … finish burying all the bodies before he began his pursuit of the Utes … with reinforcements he’d have a chance in rescuing the hostages, hopefully before the Utes reached the Grand Mesa mountains.
Justice Stewart grasped that this massacre had something to do with Sarah Rudd, but what was her connection to the Utes… why would the Utes attack the Double Bar Ranch… are they going to attack other ranches on their way to Grand Mesa mountains? What was the meaning of the Ute’s message …the stave through the mouth of Oscar Hailey… the only thing that came to mind was that Oscar was a liar. Should he pull Captain Wesley aside and briefly explained his thoughts… or should he just forget it.
Nine and half days later both riders returned catching up with Captain Wesley and the patrol. A short cryptic written order stated, “Do not engage the Utes in battle… and continue your reconnaissance mission… confirm where the Utes took their hostages…. Your orders are to wait for spring…. US Congress will plan the attack of Corolla’s camp from all sides.”
Captain Wesley understood that if the Utes reached the Grand Mesa mountain, it would be impossible to rescue the hostages in winter… the rugged terrain provides little protection for the assault on Grand Mesa... logistically he would require more troops, maybe two or three companies and the necessary support to maintain the attack would be too great…the army is right, wait for the end of winter or at least when the snow begins to melt… yes, that’s when they’ll mount a campaign to rescue the hostages.
Justice Stewart approached Captain Wesley and said, “I’ll be leaving tomorrow for the Bar R Ranch… its south of here… I would appreciate it if you and your men will come with me…I’d like the company and the safety… if your orders allow you to go further south… it’s possible that other ranches have also been attack… we might even learn something about the Utes attack on the Double Bar Ranch.
“I can’t really say now, I have a hunch and if I’m right, I think it will become important.”
“Okay, we’ll head that way… Charlie will scouts ahead of us.”
“I think that would be very wise.”
Sarah Rudd was in her kitchen making breakfast for herself, she was alone, thinking… “her son and the boys, ha, not boys they’re men… anyway they were out putting the cattle up for wintering in a protected canyon… they’ll be back later today. The last few days have been peaceful… even the weather today wasn’t bad for October….winter rose its head in late September , but today it was a beautiful, clear, crisp October day… need to enjoy this day, because there won’t be many more like it.
She sat at the table and sipped her hot coffee… reflecting, “Where was Justice of the Peace Stewart… I was expecting him to be coming by and escort me to my trial for the shooting of Tom Hart… I’m not worried about it, but I’d rather it’s over….
Later that morning, John, Roy, Ben and Riley returned… they looked tired… Sarah came out; wiping her hands on her apron and said, “Guess you’ll want supper early… I’ll get it started… John come in… get the hot water from the kettle for washing up… and all of you get some rest… I’ll call when supper is ready.
Supper was ready around four in the afternoon, everyone sat around the table and just ate… there was no talking accept for “pass the biscuits… pass the gravy… pass the chicken”… when supper was over, Ben and Riley went back to the bunkhouse to rest…John and Roy helped Sarah cleanup after supper… then they all went outside and sat on the porch in the crisp clean air of the of October.
As John looked at the yard, he began to speak, “Ma, we found a new canyon for the herd… it’s has nice grass and even a little waterfall on the west canyon wall… it looks perfect… sure hope winter will be kindly …better than last year.”
“Hope so too son… we need some luck … we need to build up our herd if we’re going to continue ranching… successful ranching that is.”
Roy agreed, “Yeah, that’s right Sarah… you also need to think about getting a least one new bull… for the herd…”
“Roy, where am I going to get the money for a new bull…?”
“Maybe trade one of your bulls for a younger bull… there are a few ranches around here… I’m sure one of ranchers would be willing… your bulls are already proven breeders… that may help you get one.”
“Maybe your right… but it’s not going to help us this year.”
“No it’s not… but John and I will go out to the canyon in late December to bring the herd some salt lick and cattle feed… that should help… it all depends on how bad this winter will be…”
It was late afternoon when Justice of the Peace Ralph Stewart rode into the ranch yard along with Captain Joseph Wesley and his patrol of D Company 5th Cavalry. Sarah stood up and said , “Justice Stewart, you needed the cavalry to help you bring me La Sal for the trial… you think I’d fight you… and not go quietly… I know that I’m innocent.”
Captain Wesley spoke up, “No Mam, we didn’t expect trouble from you… my patrol is looking for a reported band of roving Utes… we’d needed to make sure we pointed them back towards the reservation for winter.”
“You think they were heading this way?”
Justice Stewart broke in, “Sarah, I need to explain… Captain Wesley and I met up in Vernal…we rode out together… as the band of Utes were heading towards the Double Bar Ranch… we joined forces so to speak … I was on my way there to tell Mr. Hailey about the trial next weekend in La Sal… and then head out to the Bar R Ranch to tell you … I’d thought we could ride into La Sal together.…however the trial won’t be…. We found a smoldering Double Bar Ranch… there was a massacre… bodies were all over… Oscar, his sons and all his ranch hands were killed… cattle and horses were gone…scattered… we stayed there eight days burying all the bodies… it appears the Utes are headed towards Grand Mesa mountains… they also seemed to have taken two hostages… maybe Oscar’s wife… and another woman or child… I’m suspecting it maybe Tom Hart’s wife. Don’t know… but we rode to warn all the ranches in this area of the Utes… you happen to be the last of the ranches.”
Roy spoke up, “Did any other ranches get attacked or have trouble with the Ute band?”
Captain Wesley said, “No other ranches reported any problem with the Utes… it could be that the Double Bar Ranch somehow angered the Utes… it appears that the ranch was attacked by far more Utes than the reported roving band… I don’t have any idea why the Utes attacked the ranch… but I have no doubt the Double Bar Ranch owner, Oscar Hailey was the trigger for the massacre….his head was smashed in and a barrel stave driven through his mouth. None of the others were treated as Mr. Hailey… plus the Utes didn’t take any scalps.”
“Oh my…how horrible,” exclaimed Sarah, “You do know Captain Wesley that Ute Indians never take scalps.” Her thoughts then drifted in her mind, remembering that Corolla told her that his people will no longer trouble her… he even brought her a warrior to be her husband… luckily Roy saved me from that peril … was Corolla looking out for me… did he attack and kill Oscar Hailey for my sake?”
“So are you going after the Utes?” asked Roy.
“No… We think they’re headed to join Corolla, the Medicine Man and his renegade band of Ute warriors in Grand Mesa Mountains for winter… our patrol will confirm that’s where the Utes took their hostages…. Our orders are continue our reconnaissance mission… then in spring… then US Congress will plan the attack of Corolla’s camp from all sides… probably using the 3rd Infantry troops and the 5th Cavalry from Fort Steele, Rawlins, Wyoming, the 9th Cavalry from Sulfur Springs, Colorado and maybe even the 4th Cavalry from Fort Garland, Colorado… it’ll be an all-out war to stamp out the Ute renegades.
“What about the two hostages,” Sarah asked, “wouldn’t they most likely be killed in that plan?”
Captain Wesley explained, “It’s unfortunate, it’s war, sometimes civilians get caught up and are sacrificed for the greater good… it can’t be helped.”
“I’m sorry captain… I don’t see it that way… maybe you should first asked Corolla to release the hostages… tell him if he surrenders to you for punishment, you’ll allow his followers and their families to return to the Ute Uncompahgre Reservation… I’m sure with his camp surrounded by all of those soldiers… he would not only consider it, but would agree to it… at least before fighting broke out.… however once the fighting started… the Utes would fight the soldiers until death… it would be another massacre only this time it’ll be by our soldiers.”
“Mrs. Rudd… I’m only a captain… I follow orders… I don’t have the authority to do that… besides there will be a general commanding the troops… he will be following the orders of the US Congress… to stamp-out the renegade Utes…”
“Captain, this war is to begin in spring… what if someone would go to Corolla and plead for the release of the hostages and plead for Corolla and his Utes to surrender to your patrol and all return to the Ute Reservation before winter is over…would it stop the war.”
“I don’t know Mrs. Rudd… it may… but who would even try… we have no idea where his camp is…the Grand Mesa Mountains is a large remote area and it’s been snowing on the top of the mountains for the last month.”
“Well I have had a run in with Corolla and his warriors about the time my husband was killed... I stood up to him about stealing two of my horses…we came to an understanding about my land… I allowed the Utes to travel it and take water from my stream… I know he could have easily killed me… he didn’t… I believed we had an agreement when he returned my two horses. If I can find him in Grand Mesa, I think I can convince him to release the two hostages… not sure of anything else… but will try to get him to return to the Ute Reservation and surrender to you Captain Wesley… that is, if you will be patrolling in this area later this winter.”
“Yes Mrs. Rudd… the patrols will be continued throughout the winter… but I do not think you should go… it is too dangerous.”
“Sarah, you shouldn’t do this,” remarked Justice Stewart, “But if you do, I’ll need to get your version of what happened here when Tom Hart was killed… there will be no trial… it’ll be a hearing… I have Oscar Haley’s version… I’ll need yours… then I’ll decide on what I put in the legal summary… I know most folks believe that my decisions are swayed by money… but that is not so… I really do try to exercise the law correctly… problem is, facts are muddy and a person’s actions are unclear… my judgment is try to identify the truth among all that is presented… not an easy task, but necessary… sometimes I make the wrong decision… but it settles the problem.”
“Okay Justice, I’ll do that later… I know that I can’t put all of you up for the night… but the bunkhouse has two more beds… I’ll get the linens for you and the captain…. I’m afraid that the rest of the troops need to make camp… you can put your horses in the coral and we’ll feed and water them… as for supper… we ate early… but I can get something together for you and the captain… I’ll also make Johnny cakes and extra Texas white gravy for the troops… although that’ll be for their breakfast… sorry didn’t plan ahead for company….
Adopted and Modified American Indian Proverbs:
Treat the earth well, as we do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, but borrow it from our Children.