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The Road North - the saga continues


Grizzly Dave

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I sat out to ride the line. Had folks on picket and needed to check on them...to see what they needed and to see if they where roating right. And they where. Each time as I rode closer I would call out to the picket line, least I get shot ! Everything was fine so I headed back to camp.

 

As I entered into camp, I unsaddled my Appy, toweled him down, curyed and combed him and checked his hoofs and shoes. Then I head over to where Grizz was setting, drinking something sweet smelling.....Something I never had before. "How's the pickets ?" Grizz asked. "Fine......." I said. "Don't know what dat sweet smelling stuff yur drinkin' but I think I'll have some !"

 

Crying One came over with a cup of that hot stuff and I poured some whiskey into the cup and sipped on it. "Now...dis is good !" I said and smiled at Grizz.

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Running a picket was a tried and proven tactic so that you could set the whole of a camp against the wind, the camp could watch out front, and the pickets would watch into the wind. It was miserable for those on picket duty however. And with a bunch of greenhorns, it was a bit risky, but they really didn't have much choice.

 

Obermann had been excited, or relieved to see his men ride in, and that bit of information would come in handy, the man didn't have a good poker face, they could use that against him. Yet, he still was as smug as he'd ever been, there were still others out there who would try to rescue him.

 

Grizz took first watch and led out a new batch of pickets, the old ones were quite glad to be relieved. Hawk got some much needed sleep. About two in the morning the sky cleared off, and it got colder. The group would be cold sitting there or moving, might as well get them moving. Grizz woke Hawk and the rest of the camp and they moved out under bright moon and starlight. The snow and wind was all but gone, but it would only get colder each passing day as winter came on, they needed to get to Denver as quickly as possible.

 

They led Obermann as before, with a wire noose around his neck. About sunup, Hawk came back from scouting and took over Grizz's end, Grizz fell back and slept in the saddle for a while.

 

The group ate while moving and stopped rarely only to allow folks to relieve themselves. About mid morning they spotted dust from riders on the trail ahead on them, maybe a mile out or so. From the amount of dust they were coming hard and fast. Grizz rode up front, warning all to be alert and keep an eye on the sides and backtrail.

 

Four men, the man in front was a tall feller, and was wearing a badge, not that anyone in the group put much stock in that, anyone could wear a badge, it was the man behind it that mattered, and even then sometimes it was the circumstances on the encounter that told the tale.

 

As they got closer Grizz recognized the man with the badge, it was Stretch Dugan, last he knew ol Stretch was sheriff somewhere in Wyoming.

 

Grizz eased his shotgun out of the pommel holster and rested it across the horses neck. "Hold up there Stretch, I'll come to you." Grizz hollered.

 

"No need for that scattergun Grizz" Stretch smiled and said as Grizz rode up.

 

"What brings you this far North Stretch?" Grizz asked.

 

"Chasin three outlaws, robbed the bank and killed a couple fellers and ladies back in Wyoming." Stretch said resting back in the saddle.

 

Grizz nodded, "bit out of yer jurisdiction ain't cha?"

 

Stretch laughed "like that ever stopped you!"

 

Grizz laughed, "true enough, but gotta be something personal to drag you out this time of year"

 

"They killed my wife!" one of the others spat. "Shut up Bob" Stretch ordered.

 

Grizz and Stretch chatted a bit in low voices, Grizz asking without being obvious if the others could be trusted, Stretch assured him they could be.

 

"You'll find yer men about ten mile back" Grizz told them, "we didn't bother to plant them." The others seemed astonished, Stretch took it in stride. "What's up with your party Grizz?"

 

"What party, you ain't seen me, nor have your men, savvy?" Grizz replied.

 

Stretch rolled his eyes but nodded, "I ain't seen ol Grizz in a coons age."

 

"Take a wide berth round my party if ya value yer hides, got some that might have itchy fingers" Grizz advised. Stretch led his bunch off the trail and gave them a very wide berth.

 

With the trail their again, Grizz moved out the group.

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I felt uneasey and I feel back abit to watch our backtrail. I don't know what it is, but, something about whites coming up from behind sets my skin to crawling. I watched them closey as they find the outlaws that came up on us. "Lawdy, looks like these fellers didn't stand a chance !" one of the posse members said. "It would seem so !" Stretch said. "Looks like Injuns got guns too, this far north." Bob shouted out, "But what of the Marshal and his party ?" Stretch nuddged his horse over to Bob and while looking him in the eye, said, "You did not see a damn thing but these dead men, ya hear ? Nothing !" Bob nodded and said in a shaky voice "Alright." Then I eased my way out of there. They did not know I was even there.

 

I rode back to Grizz and told him what I saw. "Stretch is a good feller most of the time."he said. I looked confused. "Most of da time ?" I asked. "Yup" Grizz said. "He will work for the highest bidder, that's why I rode out and meet him and his posse with the scatter gun out in plain view." "OK. Glad I slipped back ther to watch dem fellers, den !" I said with a sigh of relivef.

 

I dropped back to the wagon Crying One was driving. She always had a smile on her cute face and always a true, good word for others. I looked at her and said, "Ya know, as soon as Grizz gits Obermann to Denver, We gonna have to work on yur name !" She looked surpised and asked, "What's wrong with my name ?" And I said, "It don't fit ya. I've never seen ya cry and yur name sounds like ya cry all da dang time. So it don't suit ya none. Think about what ya want to be called and hand me my rifle, wood ya ?" Crying One had a look of fear on her face and I kissed her and said, "It'll be fine !"

 

I rode back to Grizz and told him, "I think someone is coming on our left flank....coming hard. I'll check it out, but you need to git des wagons movin' to dat knoll younder quick ! Put da wagons in a tight circle and wait fer me !" I didn't wait fer a responce as I rode out to see what the threat was about. I hope Grizz would do what I told him, and then reason about it later.

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Sounds good to me Grizz .................................

 

 

Sleep well.

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I rode out in that direction at a galop, chembering a round in my 1860 Henry. I didn't know what I would find, but I was going to be ready, no matter what. The flat ground I was riding on suddenly dropped to another hill and that's when I saw it.

 

My Appy showed fear for the first time. He reared and almost threw me off. I wheeled him around and made a full run, as fast as my horse could carry me back for the wagons, hollering at the top of my lungs....."Barracaides.........Barracaides !!!" I was not going to stop my horse to allow them to open a wagon tounge or something, I just let him jump over that wagon tounge and slide to a stop !

 

"What the hell's going on Hawk ?!" Grizz asked. We have know each other for many a year, and this was the first time that he could see fear in my eyes. I jumped on the wagon seat and fired at shot in the air. "Buffalo........Thousands of'em.....comin' dis way !" The shot I fired was done in the hopes of turning this gigantic herd, but it was of no use.

 

Grizz looked at me and then we felted the ground starting to rummble under our feet. The horses where whining and trying to get loose. Then the sound of thousands of thousands of hoofs. Grizz and I truned as white as snow when we saw this herd. It must have been a mile wide and no end in sight as to how long it was. It seemed like the land was a moving black and brown object and we where caught up in it.

 

The buffalos shallowed up our hasty made fort. The spilt and went on by and then closed up again. More than onced a buffalo ran into our wagons. Some just bouncing off, still others doing damage of some kind. Screams of children, tenns, young women and men was heard over the thunder the aminals made. A cow somehow, broke through our hastly made fort and three shots rang out at almost the same time and the cow fell dead to the ground. Me, Grizz and Crying One had fired almost at the same time.

 

It seemed like this herd was never ending for it just kept coming and going, but in time, it did. I went out to look around and the ground looked like a farmer put it to the plow, it had been that chewed up by the hoofs. I looked towrd my right and watched the herd disaippered into the distance.

 

"What the hell was that all about, Hawk ?" Grizz said, scratching his head. "Don't know. I think some injun huntin' party got some meat and stampeded da herd !" Grizz looked at me and said, "Lawd God !" I took another bullet out of my belt and as soon as my hands stopped shaking, reloaded the one round I had fired in my attempt to turn that herd.

 

"Well," I said as I drew my scalping knife from my belt. "Looks like we got as much fresh meat to skin and jerk as we can eat. Best git to it !" I went straight for the hump, cause it tastes the best when it's cut fresh.

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Sorry, been busy looking thru boxes for documents needed when I request a variance for the fence, can't get a straight answer via email from the city folks so I'm gonna take tomorrow off and go camp out in their office til I find out what I need to know, and need to do.

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Sorry, been busy looking thru boxes for documents needed when I request a variance for the fence, can't get a straight answer via email from the city folks so I'm gonna take tomorrow off and go camp out in their office til I find out what I need to know, and need to do.

 

 

 

I always like to go to city hall and say, "You over payed flunkies ain't goin' home till I git an answer and I got all day and nite !

 

 

 

That unsally works well !! :lol: :lol:

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Grizz rode out while the others were working to dress out the buff, he'd have been able to do it faster, but he had to find out what caused the herd to stampede. He'd seen it before, but not for some time. In many ways he was amazed, and shocked, and even glad to see a herd that large, so many buff had been slaughtered in the name of progress and western expansion that you were hard pressed to find any.

 

He worked his way to high ground and surveyed back on their path, they'd been running a fair ways. The only way to tell what caused it would be to keep tracking the path of destruction, but it went on for miles as far as the eye could see.

 

About as far away from the group as he dared to go, he went down to the torn up path looking for sign. Something had to have been pushing them or they'd have not gone on so far. Grizz found his answer in hoof prints, horses, both shod and un-shod. Indians most likely, but why would they push the herd like that? Most times they'd take what they could use and leave the rest for another day, but from the tracks they were just pushing the buffs, there were no signs of any being taken for meat, hides, nor anything else. He only found two dead buff, and they'd been trampled to a bloody pulp.

 

Grizz whirled his horse back towards the wagons at a dead run, following the tracks as best he could. Still several miles out they broke off to the west. Normally he'd have followed, but right now he needed to get back to the group, if that band crossed their path, they'd need his guns.

 

By the time he got back Hawk and Crying One had the buff skinned and quartered. "Load up, move out!" Grizz ordered. It took a while as one of the wagons needed repairs, but soon they were on the way again.

 

Hawk rode up to Grizz, the unspoken question on his face. "Six riders, shod and unshod horses, took off to the west 3 miles back" Grizz muttered.

 

"You run into the tribe cleaning the buff they killed?" Hawk asked.

 

"They wasn't huntin" Grizz said with a puzzled look, hoping Hawk could shed some light on it "only dead buff was trampled, near as I can tell they was just running the herd for no reason."

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I looked Grizz in the eye...."Ghost Riders !! Grizz I'm droppin' back !" Grizz looked confused but lead the way, any way.

 

I went to the wagon Crying One was driving, along with a young girl. I looked at her, "Can you handle dis rig ?" She shrugged her shoulders. "You better learn, Girl !" and Crying One handed her the reins. I looked at Crying One and told her, "Ghost Riders ! " I saw the color drain from her face and glacned over her shoulder at the child driving the rig.

 

"Grab my 66 and a box of shells and stay in dis wagon ! I want to know where yur at all da time ! Cover our back trail....ifin' it moves, shoot it !" She nodded with a determined look now on her face and asked, "How many ?" I told her "Six !"

 

I rode back up to Grizz and he asked, "You want to explain that out burst to me Hawk ?" I took a deep breath and said, I've never seen'em , only heard stoires bout'em from GrandFather. White man ridin' in da mist of da buffalo herd till dey find a village and den stampde da herd to go into da village. But dey ain't huntin' captives or stole horses, dey huntin injun scalps to sell to da English !

 

Grizz, deys aint no hired thugs like before. They be professionals. And ifin dey hit our party, dey'll kill us all ! And dey ain't no tellin' when or whar dey'll hit us, seein' as dey left da herd. And dey don't even care ifin' we know !! All I know is dey will hit some time, some where twix here and Denver. And Obermann is counted amonsgt da dead !"

 

The look of confusion on Grizz's face left and a look of determanation took it's place. Grizz lungkered down in his saddle and as he rode on, he asked me, "Hawk , do ya think that wagon y'all was working on eairler, will make it to Denver ?" I shook my head, "Nope....didn't have time to fix it proper. It'll need fixin' again for we get der !" Grizz sighed a heavy sign and took off his hammer tie downs on each of his colts. "Well, I guess we'll have to chance it. Ain't got no choice now !"

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The farther south they got, the better Grizz knew the country, there was a town coming up, the plan had been to skirt around it, But the ailing wagon demanded they pay it a visit. With not only Obermann's outlaws hunting them, but now ghost riders as well, they couldn't risk splitting up, they'd all have to go to town.

 

The livery and blacksmithy was on the edge of town best Grizz could recall, it was after night fall when they rolled in. Grizz bartered a deal to leave the ailing wagon, but two new wagons and another two teams. The livery owner whined how it would leave him short on stock, but was all too happy to take Grizz's money, well, Obermann's money. Grizz had him throw in 3 extra wheels, a bucket of grease and a few other odds and ends that would make maintaining the wagons on the trail easier.

 

Leaving Hawk and most of the others to tend to hitching up the wagons and situating everyone, Grizz took one of the ladies and one of the boys to the back of the cafe. He bought all of the hot food they could carry and arrived back at the livery just as everything was prepared.

 

"What in the sam hell is goin on here?" a voice shouted out as they were loading up.

 

Hawk and Crying one quickly took cover with rifles, Grizz turned to face the voice. "Nothing of your concern." he called back.

 

"Well that's where you're wrong" the voice called out, getting closer, "I'm the law here, that makes it my concern." As the man got closer Grizz could see the glint of a badge, but not quite yet make out the man's face. Grizz shot Hawk a glance and quick hand signal telling him to make sure there were no others afoot.

 

Grizz sat the food in the wagon and strode towards the man confidently, dropping his hand to his sides and flicking his thumbs to be sure the hammer ties were off his colts.

 

"US Marshal" Grizz called out, pulling his coat back to reveal the well worn badge on his vest.

 

"thought it might be you" the voice called out as he stepped into view, "took a big risk coming to town, got bounty killers all over lookin for ya. Names Barton, Carl Barton."

 

Grizz walked up and extended his hand, Barton took it and shook. "You ain't seen Stretch out that way?" Barton asked indicating north. "Yup" Grizz said, volunteering no other information. "He come through here a couple days back, got paper today on two of the fellers that was with him."

 

"Not my concern" Grizz said, "be obliged if'n you didn't tell nobody we was here"

 

"Not a problem" Barton said, "but the word is likely already out, you'd best get a move on."

 

Hawk had the wagons moving by the time Grizz swung up on his horse, his eyes never leaving Barton. He'd heard tell of the man, but never met him. He was said to be an honorable man, but you just never knew.

 

They rolled out of town quickly and quietly with no problems, though all were on high alert and each shadow brought cause for concern.

 

It was an hour down the trail before Grizz relaxed enough to eat something. They'd saved him a couple pieces of fried chicken, not his favorite, but dang it sure tasted good. The extra wagon made things more comfortable for the kids, and allowed several to stretch out and sleep as they rolled.

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I was getting concerned about our passnengers not being able to rest. We had been on the trail.....more like on the run since we captured Obermann, for 3 or more weeks. I had last count as the days where just a blur to me. This was a nightmare that would not end. But when I looked at Crying One, I found strenght to go on. But the kids was not as lucky. They just could not get the rest they needed.

 

I was eating chicken, when something caught my eye. Something samed out of place in the shadows up ahead. Crying One saw it too, at the same time. "Hawk......NO !" I rode up to Grizz from the rear and said to him, "Amigo !" and galloped off. That was our code word and I hoped he would stop the wagons right there.....right on the road.

 

I rode into the shadow, charging hard and screaming my Apache war cry. If you never heard it, it would send chills up any normal man's spine. I held my rifle and dropped the reins of my Appy, telling him where to go with my knees, and fired. I saw an explostion of blood. The top of a white head went flying off, along with some brain matter. I chamblered another round, fired, striking in just below the collar bone, sending his head and neck flying into the night air and his horse into a panic run.

 

Bullets where flying all around me, but they where missing me as if these "Ghost Riders" could not see me. The last one was laying prone on the ground, firing at me. I wheeled my horse around and charged him, firing as I went, but he didn't move,. I turned my horse around and trouted over t him. I was behind him now and still he didn't move.

 

I slide down from my horse, panting as I moved toward the figure. I rolled him over and counting five shots, all in the shoulders, traveling down through the chest. I drew my scalping knife and cut long and slow. I hung the dripping scalp from my saddle horn, by cutting two small holes in the scalp and running a leather strip through it and tieing it off. I then nuddged my horse into the moon light where Grizz could see me. I had fought three Ghost Riders and had the trophy to prove it and I could tell the tale to boot !

 

Grizz rode out to me at a full gallop, thinking I was hit. "Hawk....you alright ?!" Grizz asked. I was still out of breath and I nodded that I was . I then held up and red and white long hair scalp for him to see. "Lord, Almighty ! Never saw you like this before Hawk ! You rekon they'll be back ?" Grizz asked me. I shook my head no and said to him, "Not da ones da tangled wif me ! Da trail's clear ahead."

 

I went to the back of our wagons and showed the fresh scalp to Crying One. She gasped for the first time and said to me, "So they are human !" She flung her arms around me and weoted tears of joy.

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"Get it moving" Grizz ordered and the wagons started down the trail again.

 

Hawk was on a major battle high, he wouldn't be much fit to talk to for a while, so Grizz took over one of Obermanns ropes and rode out front, keeping his nope to the wind and an eye on the horizon.

 

After a few miles, Hawk was coming down, and ready to talk and signaled Grizz. Getting someone to take over the rope, Grizz dropped back to where Hawk was. "How many horses you say was running that herd of buff?" Hawk asked. "Six horses, hard to tell in the tampled earth how many carried riders" Grizz answered.

 

"Well, there be 3 or 4 less of 'em now" Hawk chuckled. "I reckon so" Grizz said, a bit lost in thought. "These kids need sleep, have crying one organize a shift system, 4 hours on, 4 hours off, and if they can't sleep give 'em a wee bit of that laudanum."

 

Hawk raised his eyebrows, "awefully strong medicine to make them sleep a bit."

 

"Give 'em whiskey if you prefer, just make sure they sleep!" Grizz growled, "we have no choice but to count on them, and if they're all too tired to keep their eyes open we're in trouble." Grizz eased his horse off away from the wagon, he needed time to be alone. But Hawk wasn't done yet, he jumped on his appy and trotted out to where Grizz was riding. "We're gonna need more help than those kids to get through the rest of Wyoming and down to Denver, you know that don't you?" Grizz snapped his head around ready to lash out at the comment, of course he knew that, it was only by the grace of God and good luck they'd made it this far. Anyone but Hawk would have been picking themselves up off the ground, but Grizz just drilled holes in Hawks face with his glare for a while, before he spoke.

 

"I ain't senile yet" he growled, "and I got help comin. Sent a wire in that town a couple of days back."

 

"So that's where you was all night a few days back, everyone though you was scouting." Hawk said with an even tone, trying to calm Grizz down a bit. "Another day I reckon" Grizz stated, "my foreman will be meeting up with us, with a few of my trusted hands, and a heavy wagon and some things outta my barn."

 

Hawks eyes lit up. "They bringin what I think?"

 

Grizz finally let a grin escape his mouth, "yup, bringing the gattling guns and lots of ammo."

 

"You ain't worried someone intercepted the wire?" Hawk asked. "Nope, keyed it my own self, and in code, anyone reading it might know something is up, but not what, and besides it already seems like the whole dang country knows we're heading for Denver."

 

"That it does, and seems like half of it don't want us to get there." Hawk added and then turned his appy to head to the front of the column to keep watch.

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I was leading the way, I also was scaning the plains, looking for any little thing to give me pause. I knew help was on the way. We could certainly use them as Grizz and I didn't know just how many men where waiting for us or even when they would strike. And those kids we have with us, they need alot of rest.

 

They have been sleeping on horse back, in wagons and on the cold ground. It was a hard life for ful grown men, but it was nealy impossible for children. Crying One was keeping an eye out, watching the kids, four hours sleep and four hours on watch. She was a natural at mothering, she cared for all of them, just the same. And yet, she kepted watching our back trail. Was she looking for Grizz to return, or was it something else.

 

I looked at her when she was looking back, and caught her as she turned back to the trail. "You see some thin' comin' behind us, you sing out, hear ?" She nodded and we rode in quite for a spell, no one wanting to speak. "Morning Sun," I said to Crying One, and smiling just a bit. "What ?" Crying One asked me, looking me straight in the eye. "Morning Sun.......Think that's what I'll call you." She smiled sheepishly and asked, "Why ?" I told her, "Dat's easy. When you smile, like you do all da time,it's like da morning sun strikin' my face. I think I will call ya dat from now on,...ifi' we make it to Denver alive ." Still smiling, she said, "You'll have to take that up with Two Crows." I smiled at her and said to her, "Been done....He's waitin' fer us just outside Denver now."

 

Some movement caught my eye up ahead. I brought the wagons to a stop and pulled my spyglass from my saddle bag. I didn't see anything, but dust.....alot of it. "Morning Sun,....hand me a box of shells and keep my 66 handly. I'm going up ahead to scout it out. Ifin' Grizz gits back before me, tell'em what I saw and what I'm doin'. Be back as soon as I can." I leaned over and kissed her sweet soft lips, and nugged my Appy onward as Crying One had the wagons moved off the main trail.

 

When I reached the raise where I saw the dust cloud, I checked the sky line to make sure no one was about. Then I started looking for sign. I found hoof prints, alot of them. I thought these was Obermann's men, and they must be looking for water as I found a whiskey bottle or two on the ground. I rode back to where Crying One had the wagons and I said, "Let's move !"

 

Crying One snapped the reins and the wagon jerked forward. "Where, my husband ?" I pointed to a slight raise in the land, a horse shoe shape. Ifthese are Obermann's men, they'll be in full view, if they attack. As we got up on the raise, I handed out rifles to every one who could shoulder one. The wagons where circled in a loose circle, and those that where to young to shoulder a weapon, where tapped to reload for the others. After what I saw, I was gearing up for a big fight. I didn't have to wait for long !

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I was leading the way, I also was scaning the plains, looking for any little thing to give me pause. I knew help was on the way. We could certainly use them as Grizz and I didn't know just how many men where waiting for us or even when they would strike. And those kids we have with us, they need alot of rest.

 

They have been sleeping on horse back, in wagons and on the cold ground. It was a hard life for ful grown men, but it was nealy impossible for children. Crying One was keeping an eye out, watching the kids, four hours sleep and four hours on watch. She was a natural at mothering, she cared for all of them, just the same. And yet, she kepted watching our back trail. Was she looking for Grizz to return, or was it something else.

 

I looked at her when she was looking back, and caught her as she turned back to the trail. "You see some thin' comin' behind us, you sing out, hear ?" She nodded and we rode in quite for a spell, no one wanting to speak. "Morning Sun," I said to Crying One, and smiling just a bit. "What ?" Crying One asked me, looking me straight in the eye. "Morning Sun.......Think that's what I'll call you." She smiled sheepishly and asked, "Why ?" I told her, "Dat's easy. When you smile, like you do all da time,it's like da morning sun strikin' my face. I think I will call ya dat from now on,...ifi' we make it to Denver alive ." Still smiling, she said, "You'll have to take that up with Two Crows." I smiled at her and said to her, "Been done....He's waitin' fer us just outside Denver now."

 

Some movement caught my eye up ahead. I brought the wagons to a stop and pulled my spyglass from my saddle bag. I didn't see anything, but dust.....alot of it. "Morning Sun,....hand me a box of shells and keep my 66 handly. I'm going up ahead to scout it out. Ifin' Grizz gits back before me, tell'em what I saw and what I'm doin'. Be back as soon as I can." I leaned over and kissed her sweet soft lips, and nugged my Appy onward as Crying One had the wagons moved off the main trail.

 

When I reached the raise where I saw the dust cloud, I checked the sky line to make sure no one was about. Then I started looking for sign. I found hoof prints, alot of them. I thought these was Obermann's men, and they must be looking for water as I found a whiskey bottle or two on the ground. I rode back to where Crying One had the wagons and I said, "Let's move !"

 

Crying One snapped the reins and the wagon jerked forward. "Where, my husband ?" I pointed to a slight raise in the land, a horse shoe shape. Ifthese are Obermann's men, they'll be in full view, if they attack. As we got up on the raise, I handed out rifles to every one who could shoulder one. The wagons where circled in a loose circle, and those that where to young to shoulder a weapon, where tapped to reload for the others. After what I saw, I was gearing up for a big fight. I didn't have to wait for long !

 

Sorry folks...............too big of fingers !! :wacko:

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I saw the white puff of smoke from a rifle and shouted, "TAKE COVER !" I was near an old abandon building, looked like it had been empty for years, and took cover there. Crying One was firing fast, as where all those that had rifles. I didn't see any hits, but it kept they're heads down. That's when I saw one of those outlaws, break cover, and line up a shot at Crying One. That pissed me off !

 

I put my sights on his belly and cranked two ones into his gut and he dropped like a rock. I shouted out for someone keep a watch on Obermann and if he moves an inch, shoot him ! I reloaded after a fire fight and then I heard some one call out, "Marshal... You give us Obermann and some water and we'll leave. How's that sound to ya ?" I shouted out from my cover, "Marshal aint here just now. You go tell yur boss ifin' he wants Obermann, he'll have to come git'em. Now, what do ya say bout dat ?"

 

"Lawdy," groaned the man who I shoot in the gut, "I ain't had a belly ache like dis since I was a kid ! Ok, I'll tell'em ! Just don't shoot !" I saw him slide down that slight hill, on the gravel, from a wash out river bed. "Damn, Of all da times fer Grizz to clear his mind. I sure hope he heard da gunfire and is riding into'em from behind." A few hours passed and I saw movment from the bottom of the wash, and then I saw a white flag. "Marshall, ya hear me ?"

 

I drew a bead on where the voice was goming from and yelled "He's not here just now ! What do ya what ?" "You in charge ?" the outlaw asked. "Appears so....what do ya want ?" He slowly broke cover, with the white flag, "I'm gonna walk up dis hill. Don't shoot.....Just don't shoot me !" the outlaw said. "Come on up...I give ya my word I would shoot !" I saw him walking up, a big heavy set man, one who was used to giving orders, not takeing them. I stepped out to meet him and he said as he reached the top of that slight raise, "A Breed....a stinkin' Breed."

 

"You wanted to talk......so talk !" I said. "We all work fer Obermann. Now, I dont much care if he lives or dies myself....But we left town wif whiskey and no water. You're a hell of a fighter ! Saw what ya did to those white fellers back a ways. Well, you give us water and Obermann and you can go." And what ifin' I don't ?" I asked. You aint got da ammo, nor food to wait us out. You can even keep Obermann fer all I care, but dat means my men would'nt git payed. What ya say ?"

 

I had my rifle cradled in my arm and said, "I gave ya my word, ya could come up unharmed. Didn't say nothin' bout gitting down !" I leveled my 1860 Henry at him as he slide down that slight hill, cussing and hollaring as he did. Funnest thing I ever did see ! I just got to tell Grizz about this.....If we get out of here alive. But one thing was sure.........I wouold die before I would let any one of the kids or Crying One came to harm.

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Hawk had just got back and hunkered down when shots started singing out again, the outlaws would peek up, daring Hawk and the others to shoot out them. Their leader was half right, Grizz and Hawk didn't have enough ammo for a prolonged fight, but he hadn't counted on them being smart enough not to waste it when provoked. Truth was, they could hold out longer than the outlaws could without water.

 

The big man, leader of the outlaws must have finally been putting the pieces together, Hawk could hear him calling for riders to mount up for a charge. As he was waiting for riders to appear over the rise, something caught his attention out of the corner of his eye.

 

An arrow, flying towards the outlaws, then another, and something was burning on those arrows.

 

Though Hawk nor Grizz could see it, the first arrow found it's way to the big man's leg, right before the dynamite exploded. The second hit a horse and then exploded. Men were screaming, horses were thrashing about and broke their tie ropes and ran. In came two more arrows. Neither arrow struck anything living, but the dynamite charges took their toll throwing shards of rock and debris in the air.

 

As the dust cleared, the cries on the injured men fell away as the life drained from their bodies.

 

Grizz came galloping out into the open, another dynamite arrow nocked and a glowing cigar clenched in his teeth. His buckskins were spattered with blood, Hawk prayed that it wasn't his own. Hawk swung up on his appy and rode out to join him and they crested the rise to meet what was left of the outlaw band, there wasn't much left, and those that hadn't been killed or run off didn't put up much of a fight, oh, they tried, but they got dead for the effort.

 

Grizz unlashed his spear and checked each man to be sure they were dead. They'd come back and gather any guns and ammo they could, but he didn't want to leave the others alone too long.

 

"Whar da hail was ya Grizz? Dint cha hear da battle we was havin?" Hawk hollared angrily.

 

"I was a mite busy with the bunch they sent to sneak up yer backside" Grizz told him, holding out his blood stained arms.

 

"How many?" Hawk asked, calming down a bit.

 

"I didn't stop to take a tally" was all Grizz said, turning his horse back towards the wagons.

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As we gethered up the guns and ammo, I lead my horse over to a rock, dropped the reins, learning back against a rock,and said to Grizz, "I hope we reach Denver soon, or I'm gonna accidently pull just a bit too hard on dem wires round Obermann's neck. I'm tryed !" Grizz sighed and said, "We'll spend the night here, then get an early start tomarrow for Denver. How we set for food ?" Ilooked into the sky, trying to remember. "Plenty of food from da cafe you went to at dat town. And fresh water too.

 

Hey, you member dat Mountie Benton ? Wonder what happened to him ?" I asked Grizz. To which he responded, "Don't rightly know about him. He said he wanted to become a US citizen, so I figure he's found a way. And speaking of figureing, I figure my men will meet up with us in two days time. The'll have more wagons and guns, so we'll be pretty safe."

 

Grizz looked over at me, fore there wasn't any noise coming from me, just head between my knees and I was sound asleep,....snoring !!

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As Grizz walked by me, he layed his hand on my shoulder and sighed, "I'm looking at this counrty and Lordy, how it's changed !" I stired and was awake and on my feet as Grizz spoke. "Seems men would only do so much cause it just ain't right to go any farther. But Now, it seems, there aint no telling how for a man will go !". Grizz was looking out at the vast plain before him and having all this responceibiltiy was weighting him down. Those kids back at the wagons, Obermann. Oh, how he wanted to take off his head and be done with it.

 

"Thank da Spirits fer men like you and me, Brother. When evil shows it's ugly head, we'll hack it off. Da way we do things may not be, ahhh, ...socailly right, but da out come is still da same. We see just how fer da law will give, but we never break it.....least while da other's lookin !" Without saying a word, we got back on our horses and rode toward the wagons.

 

"Lady, two riders comin up real slow !" I was happy to hear that. Now these kids knew what to look for. "Hello the wagons.....Grizz and Hawk here....coming in !" Grizz shouted out. As we nudge our horses toward the wagons, I told Grizz, "We're beenin' watched from behind !" I nor Grizz looked back.... "Let'em make their play. My men will be here tomarrow, and then we'll ride to my ranch, to rest and resupply. Then you and me will take that sombitch Obermann to Denver."

 

"Whar he'll get a real fine trail and a first rate hangin !" smiling.Obermann had started to weight on my spirit. Not the me, but what he had done to Martha and these kids. If it where up to me, I'd lope his head off now......Of coruse, after the scalping. Grizz went to check on every body and I went straight to Crying One. She meet me with a helping hand, as my leg had gotten sorer from the battle I had and the all day of riding. After I got down, she handed my a cup of coffee and a picec of fry bread.

 

She could see the worry on my face and said, "Do not worry my husband, we'll be ok." I took a bite of a jack rabbit, which the kids had scared up, and put on the spit. "I don't know, Crying One. Grizz said his me will be here marrow, so dat means Obermann's men will make der play marrow or at Grizz's ranch or in town. Ether way, I must ask ya ta look out fer dem kids, ok ? Dey as much victums as Martha was." She smiply nodded her head and said, It will be done !"

 

I walked over to the rope line, tied my horse to it and unsaddled him. The poor thing was played out and I rubbed him down with his blanket, picked his hoofs, and put the feed bag on him that was filled with grain. I know how he felt. I too, was almost played out by this Obermann thing. Martha was the only white women to treat me as her equal, not a half breed. I was out to get Obermann for the way he treated her and those kids in the wagons.

 

Apache way was slow and painfull. I helped in this was one white man rode right through our briual grounds. We tied him to a catus and sewed his eyes open and forced him to look at the sun. This way, he could not see as the sun blinded him. Then, we cut out his tounge so he could not tell anyone where the place was. Then we cut out his heels so he could not walk to bring whites back to the bruial grounds. This was my way, the Apache way.

 

But Grizz was white, and I've been as deputy marshal long to know that white man's laws is what Grizz followed almost to the letter. That's why when he said he would kill Obermann and then hang for it, pulled at my spirit and there was no way this side of hell, I was going to allow that ! There just had to be another way.

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Grizz kept his eye to the horizon, he'd told everyone a day longer than he really thought for his men to arrive, they should be getting close. And the sooner the better. The rag tag band had become a tight group, each taking on duties that they'd never imagined themselves capable of, and had performed admirably. But in the end, they were what they were, two mostly worn out warriors in Hawk and Grizz, a couple of half growed boys, a small handful of women, and a bunch of kids.

 

The bunch that had attacked them most recently was actually encouraging, while there were a few seasoned fighters, the majority were bums, happy to work for whiskey which they seemed to consume all the time. And they were poorly organized, what fool would be out on a manhunt with out water? And the whiskey they drank just added to the dehydration.

 

It was about dawn when Grizz caught site of something coming their way, it was quite a ways off, but from the dust lit up by the morning sun, it looked to be either a big bunch of riders, or a wagon and a few riders. Hawk saw it too, and one by one so did others in the group.

 

After the last encounter, they picked the best place they could defend, and pulled off the trail and quickly dug in for a fight, though hoping there wouldn't be one.

 

As they grew closer, Grizz realized he'd been right on both counts, it was a wagon, heavy one at that, and about ten riders. And the rider out front led a horse that Grizz recognized, it was one of the paints he'd been working with over the winter, he'd planned it for Martha, though it was a bit big for her.

 

Sure it was his men, Grizz still waited until they were close enough to be sure. It was his men, he knew each one, and they knew him. They all knew that Grizz would fight and die for them, and now expected the same from them, and if one ever crossed Grizz, they'd wish they were dead long before they actually were.

 

"Thought you might be wanting a fresh horse" Grizz's foreman hollered out. "Got a few more back of the wagon too"

 

"Any trouble on the way?" Grizz called back.

 

The foreman laughed, "nothing we couldn't handle, hopefully we cleared the way for ya."

 

"Might have thinned the herd a bit, but I reckon we'll still see some trouble." Grizz said.

 

With the reinforcements, they stopped and had a hot meal.

 

As they ate, Grizz wrote out a wire to his friend the Governor..

Have the show ready to go

no time to waste

see you in the time it took us to get that big brown

G

 

His man looked at it as if to ask 'what the heck does that mean?'

 

"He'll know." Grizz said, and sent three riders to take the wire, and meet up with them after it was sent.

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I looked at the men from the ranch with a smile across my face. "Got ya fresh supplies on the last three horses. Help ya self !" I built a fire and had some kids pack those supplies into camp while Crying One and the other women there perpaired the food. It was good to eat something that could be shallowed easyly.

 

I put some coffee on to boil and joined Grizz and his men. "Howdy Ben." I said, extending my hand out. "How Do Hawk !" he said. "Been a while " he said to me, smiling. "Been a long while !" We sat on a large rock and caught up on old times. Some of the kids where eating whole heartly as the food from the resturant a few weeks back had gone bad. Crying One brought us a cup of hot coffee and the bottle of whiskey.

 

"Who is this fine looking women ?" Ben asked me. "Dat's my wife, Crying One !" I said with pride. "Yur wife !? Well I swear Hawk...didn't take ya for the marrin' kind !" I just laughed and looked at the dirt and asked Ben, "Well anit no gittin around it no more....How long ya been workin' fer Obermann ? How long ya been on his payroll ?" I asked as I drew my crossdraw, cocking it and leveing the barrel at him. Grizz and the rest of the party went silent. Grizz's foreman charged forward, but Grizz held his arm out to stop him.

 

"Been on the payroll a long time now. Just keeping eye out on things, the comings and goings of things. When I learned te Boss and you had blown up the tradinge post to get to the mine, I knew it was just a matter of time before ya caught up to me ." I asked him "Why ?" and he said "I'm in debt. Up to here !" he said as he rasied his hand over his head. "I leveraged my farm asginst him and the drought came and I lost."

 

"Why da hell didn't ya tell me ? I could've helped ya some how ! Hand me yur gun Ben. Don't make no differance now. Hand it over !" He did as I asked, and Grizz's foreman tied him up and put him in one of the wagons. The foreman came over to me and said "Hawk...How did ya know ?" I again looked at the dirt at my feet and said, "I saw how Obermann light up when Ben came riding in wif y'all. And saw Ben nod at Obermann. Just put da two tagether."

 

"epect there'll be a battle here before we can move out, so I want that Gatling Gun set up here and the other gun set up there." Grizz said as he pointed to a plebo looking like dug into the hill. "I 'll take the bow and blowing to kingdom come when they get here !" "Brother, I'll scout !" I said to Grizz, who nodded he understood. "Boss, Hawk called ya Brother......." Grizz held up his hand and replyed, "Long story...Some other time !"

 

I rode straight down the trail, figuring that if someone saw me, they would let me pass. Thinking I would be one thing less they would have to worry about. But I would teach them a thing or two on that bad idea !!

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Grizz would have liked to have moved out right away, but they all needed the rest, his hands had been riding thru the night pushing as hard as they could to get there, and Grizz and Hawk had been doing likewise.

 

Grizz thought back to when he'd hired Ben on, no way he was working for Obermann back then, someone must have gotten to him after Martha had come into the picture last year. Ben was a good hand, not a top hand though, and he'd kept him over several others a couple years back because he had a wife and kids to feed. "Damn" Grizz growled and spat into the fire and walked away.

 

Grizz inspected the wagon that had been brought from his ranch, with only a little work it would hold one of the gattling guns ready to fire, with a bit more work the wagon they'd bought a while back would hold the other. Grizz showed his foreman what he wanted, though it wasn't necessary, he was already setting to rigging the wagons for the guns.

 

In the middle of the night, two of the three riders he'd sent out came back in. "Lost Scotty on the way back Mistah Grizz" one told him, "they tried to bushwhack us, but we got all of 'em we could find. We got the wire sent though."

 

"Damn" Grizz muttered. That's two men he'd lost already, one dead, one a traitor tied up in the wagon. Ben Had been stupid and taken money from Obermann for information, but Grizz didn't know for sure if he'd done anything else, he'd let the lawyers in Denver figure that out.

 

Grizz walked over and talked to Ben for the first time since the revelation. "Boy, yer in a world of hurt." Ben wouldn't meet his glare and looked away. "Best tell me what you know, and what you done, might go easier on ya in court if ya do."

 

It was as Grizz had thought, associates of Obermann's had lured him with money to spy on Grizz, at first it was easy money, but when Martha got sick, and Grizz went on the warpath, he was in too deep and reported what he had seen. He hadn't been along with the group that busted Obermann out of the prison wagon, but he'd passed along information about it, but that information was already common knowledge. "I'm sorry sir" Ben pleaded, "it was the only way I could see to save my farm."

 

"Then you wasn't lookin in the right places" Grizz said. "Don't try to escape, you'd be dead afore you reach a horse, you got a chance now with the court, don't waste it" and he walked away.

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As Grizz went about making his plans for war, I was making my own plans for war. I sharpened my fighting knife and scalping knife as I knew the fighting knife would come in handy and I also knew the scalping knife would be of use to.

 

I painted my face with war paint, loaded both rifles and left one with Crying One. "I know ya know how to use dis", I said handing her my 66. "But ya gotta know how to use dis. " I handed her my GreatGrand Father's fighting knife. It was a knife like no other I carryed. The handle was made from buffalo bone that had yellowed over the years, the blade was black and had a razor's edge on it. The sheith was beaded a sunraise sence from the desert. "Make sure ya give it back to me. But once it's clear of it's sheith, it must taste blood before it can be returned, ya hear ?" Crying One said she understood.

 

Even though it was a might cool there at night, I took my shrit off. If I was going to fight and possibly die, I would do it like a red man, not a white man. Even though I was half white, that part of me had not be alive for years and I saw no need of it now. I paced back and forth, like a caged animal, waiting to strike. I wanted this "war". I wanted Obermann in Denver, hanged dead and me and my wife on our way to the southwest.

 

I had to think of a way to say to Grizz thanks for all he has done for me in past. Now, the time has come for some much warmer weather. I would tell him.....after this war was over. We would win, I had no doubt as I was going to be as unmercyful as I could be. I had the blood lust and it was strong.

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Sorry, no chapter from me, my offspring went into the big city to listen to a band, and locked his keys in the buckboard, so I had to ride all the way down town big city, find him and rescue him, then find my way back out again.

 

Da big city ain't fer me I can tell you that!

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Grizz saw that Hawk was putting on his war paint, he would not sleep until they got to Denver. Knowing that, Grizz got a couple hours of sleep.

 

It would take two days hard traveling to get to Denver. The wire he'd sent would likely result in several things, Obermann's trial would commence as soon as Grizz marched him into the courthouse, and Obermann's men would be waiting between here and there to see that it didn't happen. But they didn't know exactly when the group would be getting there, nor did they know the route they would take. Not that either would deter them much, but it would result in them dividing their forces to cover more ground.

 

Grizz woke and checked the gun mounts, all was as it should be. With a gattling gun on the lead wagon, and one on the last wagon they could lay down a whole world of hurt for any attacking force.

 

They had just started rolling again when three riders came into view.

 

"Damn" Grizz muttered. As the three got closer it was clear that they were army. Grizz had run into problems with the army up in these parts before, their commanding officer felt it was his job to protect the masses, and didn't care for Grizz, or his methods, or his presence for that matter.

 

Grizz handed off Obermanns rope and rode out to meet them.

 

"Colonel" Grizz said, without extending a hand.

 

"Marshall" the officer returned the terse greeting.

 

The two stared at each other for a minute or so, sizing up the others resolve. The silence was broken by one of the junior officers, "iz that a gattling gun on that lead wagon?" he asked, clearly shocked that it might be.

 

"One on the drag wagon too, we'll cut down any man who tries to get in our way." Grizz stated.

 

"We'll give you an escort" the Colonel offered, trying hard to make it an order rather than an offer open to negotiation.

 

"Like hell you will Bob." Grizz snapped back.

 

The Colonel tried to keep an even face, "those are orders from the General, not me"

 

"I ain't got time for this Bob" Grizz said, purposely calling him by his first name and disregarding his rank, "we both know that one wire from me and those orders will change."

 

The Colonel was getting rattled, Grizz was making him look the fool in front of his men, and seemed to be enjoying it at that. "Just like last time" the Colonel muttered, shifting his weight in the saddle, "very well, but we won't be far off."

 

"Just keep yer men plenty far away, my men have orders to shoot to kill anyone coming in, no matter what clothes they be wearing." Grizz turned his horse and rode back to the group. Several of the ladies were chattering, excited to have an army escort, they were dismayed when Grizz told them it wasn't so, Obermann likely had men in the army, they couldn't trust anyone, hell, Obermann had even had a spy in Grizz own crew.

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The wagon set up and repair was not going fast enough to my liking. "You der....Git dat damn gun mounted whar ya can sweep dis whole area !" I shouted at Grizz's hired hand, waving my arm towards the place where I knew Obermann's men would come. And I shouted to the other men workinbg feverishly to repair the other wagon. "Git da wagon fixed now and mount dat gutlin' gun to it !" I shouted as I rode up and down , my eyes on the skyline. "We aint got da tools here to fix as fast as ya want !" shout back another one of Grizz's hired hands.

 

I slide off my Appy, very angery and shouted back at him , "Ya will ifin ya don't want a bullet in da back ! Obermann's men are heartless and don't gave a damn ifin'it's a full grown man or women or kid, dey'll shoot first and any dat's left alive will be taken back to da mine in Canada ! Ya understand ?" He muttered, "I aint takin' no orders from no half breed !" I was on him in a flash. I back handed him so bad, it lefted him off his feet and sent him flying backward.

 

"You will or die ! Yur choice !" I shouted back at him. "We'll settled dis later, Breed !" the hired hand said. I replyed, "Ifin' we be alive !" And I pushed it no further. I think they got the message as to how much trouble was heading our way. I went back to the rest of our party and checked things there. A fire was burning and several irons where in it, glowing red. Plenty of torn sheets for bandages. Hot water, and a full bottle of whiskey. A box of bullets with each rifle or pistol. The women who stole these wagons from the town in Canada asked me, "Little over kill, don't ya think ?" I turned around and asked her, "Want to go back to dat mine ?" She shook her head. "Didn't think so. Gave Crying One a hand. The irons in da fire is fer when one of us gits hit. Just sing out and slap hot iron to da wound.

 

Da bandages...Use as many as ya need. Same goes fer da boilin' water. But go easy on da whiskey. It's all we got !" She looked at me with a question in her eye and asked it. Confederate, whar ya ?" I nodded yes. She looked around and said, "Thought so. Looks like ya expecting a battle here fore long." I shook my head and said, "No......more like a war ! Now, git movin' !" I worked my way back up front and folks where as busy as possible. I looked around and said to myself...."Spirits, guide me and my charges now as we go forth into battle !"

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Hawk had been on edge since the encounter with the army that morning. Now that they were camping for the night, he was snapping at Grizz's men, and one had made the poor judgement to use the 'breed' word. After Hawk walked away, Grizz went over to have a word with the man.

 

"Are you stupid or just pain dumb?" Grizz demanded. No answer came. Everyone was on edge, his man had been no different and had let his temper get the best of him, it happens to everybody, but there was no room for it here, not now. Grizz leaned in close so that no one else could hear, "if you pull that crap again, you won't have to worry about drawing your wages, more than likely you'll be drawing your last breath, understood?" The man nodded. Grizz made sure each of his men knew that an order from Hawk carried the same weight as an order from him.

 

Having the army at hand was a two edged sword, on the one hand they might delay any attackers, or engage them, but on the other Grizz and Hawk had no way of knowing who was moving off in the distance, it would have been easier to just assume it was an enemy.

 

Obermann taunted Grizz was he walked by checking preparations, Grizz responded with a backhand that knocked him out. "Someone gag that maggot before he wakes up" Grizz ordered.

 

Camp was set up in a circle, and Grizz had Obermann tied to a tree in the middle standing up. It was cruel, true enough, but it also put the object of the outlaws desires into the line of fire from many angles.

 

If they got underway early, before dawn, they could make Denver the next day, but that would depend on what happened tonight first, and tomorrow on the trail second.

 

No matter how it played out, it was going to be a long night.

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I just could not take it, so I rode out under a moonless night. Seems even the stars where not shiny as they once where. I easy and quitely rode northeast and was upon the Army's camp. "Did not realize dem blue bellies was so close !" I thought. I was laying in the moss and it was cool to the touch of my chest. I took out my spy glass and took a look see. I saw another camp fire in the far distance, "Dis fire'e too bright. Da Army's gonna see it." I thought. "A rouge !" I thought.

I looked around even harder and then I saw it. A faint dust trail, coming straight at the Army's camp and another faint dust trail coming straight for us ! "So, Death comes....it will leave with souls !" I said to myself. I slowly slipped back toward camp.

 

While on the way back to camp, I thought, "What da hell,...Let Obermann's hired killers caught'em wif der pants down !" Suddnely, I found myself ride as hard as my Appy would carry me right through the Blue Belly's camp, sreaming and flashing my rifle in the air. It worked, the Army begain chasing me and I was going to lead them right to the 2nd dust trail ! I was going to get the Army to work for me !

 

But then I though, as a bullet whizzed past my head, what about the first dust trail ? I had to get back to camp and prepair for a full assult on my front ! I thought this was my war, but it was just as my Grizz's war as my war. I rode hard, at a full run, laying low on my horse's neck. I was seeing red now. My blood lust had almost be satisfiyed and now bullets where flying by me ! I rode up to camp, jumped the wagon tongue, screaming at the top of my lungs the Apache war cry. I leaped from my horse and took up position across from Grizz, who already had a target in his sights.

 

I took aim, standing up right, on my feet, and fired. I leveered my Henry as fast as possible. When it was empty, I pulled my dragoons, letting Obermann's 2nd wave of men get closer untill I could see the fear in their eyes and fired. Again and again, I fired, each time sending one of those outlaws to hell. The dragoon's where now empty, I dropped them to the ground, and grabbed my scattergun and cut the next outlaw into. I then pulled my fighting knife and stood my ground. Ready for the rider coming at me with death in his eyes. Only thing he misjudged me is death and me are old friends. He leapted out of his saddle at me and I caught him in midair, turned him and forced my fighting knife knuckle deep inrto his chest.

 

I could not see what was happeing with Grizz. I had my hands full at the moment !

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As soon as the riders started coming in, Grizz looses a couple of dynamite arrows with short fuses to light up the sky so the gunners on the gattlings guns could take a bead. But as soon as the light was gone, it left them blind. Grizz loosed several more around the perimeter out of the camp, they struck ground, or trees, or men, and lit fires when they exploded, a much better light source.

 

The gunners were doing as they'd been told, firing only when a sure target was in the sights, or when others needed cover fire. Obermann still stood in the center of camp, tied to the tree and he was laughing like a mad man. Perhaps he thought he was almost free, or perhaps he figured he'd soon be dead.

 

Those who were old enough and able loaded rifles for Grizz and his men so that they were never without a rifle ready to go. Grizz smiled, this rag tag bunch was working better than most military operations he'd been involved in did.

 

A few outlaws had broken thru the outer defenses, but they'd been cut down with pistol fire, or Hawks knife. Grizz noticed that Hawks leg was bleeding again, but couldn't tell if it was the old wound, or a fresh one. Either way it needed to be tended, but Hawk was going to have to come back out of the battle fog before they'd dare touch him to treat it.

 

The first wave faded out, the smell of burning powder, blood, and dust filled the air. It made Grizz long for his valley, the smell of wild flowers on a sunny afternoon, maybe fishing in the pond with Martha nearby reading a book...

 

"DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!" Grizz shouted as he ran to his horse and got something out of the saddle bags and then ran over to Obermann.

 

His face in Obermann's he repeated his outburst "DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!" Obermann was shaking, and lost control of his bodily functions. Grizz was shaking in rage as he held up a bundle of banknotes that he'd retrieved from the saddle bags, the saddle bags that Obermann has waiting on his escape horse.

 

"How many have you killed?" Grizz demanded of him. "How many innocent children in the mines? How many men protecting you along the way? How many here tonight? What of their families? And all for this? All for money?"

 

Obermann said nothing, he was shaking so badly he cuoldn't speak, only the ropes that bound him kept him on his feet. Grizz lit the bundle of notes with a match from his vest pocket.

 

"Here's what they all died for, I hope you enjoy it!" Grizz yelled as he stuff the bundle of burning bills down Obermann's shirt.

 

Obermann's eyes nearly bulged out of his head as the smell of burning hair and flesh reached his nose, and the sound of sizzling flesh reached his ears.

 

"You will die, but not tonight" Grizz said in an even steady voice, as if he was speaking to a store clerk, then he picked up the pee bucket that Obermann had been using and dumped it on Obermann's burning chest putting out the fire.

 

"Put some axle grease on those burns" Grizz ordered one of his men "I want him to be healthy when he hangs"

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I saw light in the darkness, then heard the Gatling guns open up. Grizz was lighting up the sky and ground and the enemy became clear. The 2nd wave fell back, regrouped with the 3rd wave , and came at us again. This would be their fanial assult.

 

I grabed my bow and quiver of arrows, found a target and let one arrow fly. It found it's mark into the chest of the outlaw and sent him falling head over heals off his horse. I took another arrow, and followed an outlaw as he tryed hard to breech out lines, but he did not make it, for an arrow found his throat.

 

I took another arrow, and looking for the leader of this wave, I found him. I broke cover, stood and let fly two arrows into him, the first striking his chest and the 2nd drove the firt arrow deeper, till it came out his back. With no more arrows, all my weapons now empty, I grabbed my war lance, mounted a horse and charged into the fray. I was spearing any and everything within my lance's reach.

 

Blood was flowing freely, the smell of black powder in the air, the smoke was as thick as fog. I heard men moaning, crying, cussing Obermann and all like him. Then the was quite. It was very loud as it was heavy. I rode around looking at the dead and drying. And I took out my scalping knife and let it do it's dirty deed. After it was done, I swung back onto a horse and rode back into camp.

 

I came riding into camp passing by Grizz, who was looking very tired and very bloody. I heard the gaspsed of the folks in our rag tag army as I siped off my horse and walked toward Obermann. I was covered in blood, some of it was myown, dirt and smoke. I walked up to Obermann, who was shaking by now. I tossed a pile of scalps at his feet and he realized right then and there that it was not a question of if he was going to die, but where and by who's hand.

 

I looked him in the eye and his eyes showed my fear, pure and simple fear. "These sombitchs die fer ya, you bastard ! I got to hand it to ya, you got gumion , dat's fer shore. But it stops here..........." I said, looking around at the horrifiyed, dirty and tired faces. "And now !" I said, pulling my fighting knife a cutting off an ear. I held it high, singing an Apache Victory song and delighted in Obermann's screams of pain. I walked over to the wagon and took out a bucket of axile greas and rubbed some of it hard into the fresh cut.

 

"No Hawk....Leave him to hang !" I barely heard Grizz shout at me, for I knew Grizz thought I was going to kill Obermann. I felt a stinging in my leg now and I though to myself, but I said it out loud, "This is fer you Martha. I kept my promise ! Rest in peace and the Spirits will receive you !"

 

I hobbled over to Crying One, who backed away in utter horror. She had never seen anything or anyone like this before, not even her husband. She cryed when she realized it was me, tears for not knowing wo or what I was and tears of pride. All I know was I wnting this damn ringing in my ears to stop and wanted to sleep. I slide up into the back of a wagon and as darkness enclosed around me, I thought, "It felt good to be a warrior again."

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Crying one tended to Hawk, from the looks of it, he was just exhausted, but with all the blood on him it was hard to be sure.

 

Obermann was a sight, covered in blood, urine, axle grease and ash from the burning fires. They'd have to run him thru a river before they got to Denver. For that matter, they could all stand a bath and change of clothes.

 

Grizz sent out riders to clean up any stragglers, but only a few shots rang out, any who had survived the battle must have skinned out.

 

"Stay alert! Reload all the guns!" Grizz ordered. Those who were not tending the wounded complied. They hadn't suffered many wounds, but one boy from the mine had been hit bad. Grizz looked over the shoulder of the woman working on him, then knelt down beside the boy, putting his hand on his shoulder. "You fought well boy, better than many men I've known" Grizz told him. That brought a smile to the boys face, "thanks" he croaked out, and then he died. Grizz reached down and closed his eyes, "at least you died free boy" he whispered.

 

The dead outlaws they left lay where they fell unless they were in the way, the boy they quickly buried and said words over.

 

They slept in short shifts, and down came much too quickly, but without any further attacks. In the morning light they collected ammunition from the dead outlaws, but left guns and everything else, and after a quick meal, loaded up and headed down the trail.

 

Obermann was sullen, perhaps his fate was finally clear to him, every attempt to rescue him had fallen short, and if last night was any indication Grizz's resolve to deliver him for trial might be wavering.

 

Grizz was as resolved as ever though, Obermann would stand trial, and he would hang, he'd see to it.

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I was flat out exhausted, and I felt it. Being covered in blood, sweat and dirt and shirtless, I was a sight to behold. My buckskin pants where so blood soaked, Crying One got a fresh pair from my saddle bag. As she and the women who stole that wagon from the small town back up the trail, tended to my wound. They washed the blood off, and when they saw it too, was my blood, they washed me even more carefully.

 

I heard them talking about two young boys who fought was amazing hard and valent., one of them just passed they said. I told Crying One, "Take me to the boy." I hobbled up to the boy who was laying on the cold hard ground, his bleeding had almost stopped. He was pale and I looked to Crying One but the other women, Sharron, anwered saying, "He'll be fine after we get to Denver !" and she smiled. I looked at her qnd she read the question in my eyes and said, "He's my son, and I'm very proud to be his mother !" That explained why this women would do anything at any time.

 

I neld beside him and asked, "What's yur name, son ?" He coaked out "John, sir ." I told him to drop that "Sir" stuff and pulled the cork from the whiskey bottle and gave him a little drink. "John !" Sharron said, gasping. "With all we have seen here today, he deserves a drink.....you too !" John sallowed the whiskey like a real trooper, then I lite a ceegar, pulled a puff on it and gave it to him. Crying One came back with my Reb coat, and covered him with it. "You'll git it back Sir." John said to me. "Damn right I will and yuo'll be bringing it too !" I said and walked away. Not sence Gettysburg, have I seen such coruage.

 

I put my Red Colonel shirt on and walked through this rag tag outfit of veterans, admiring all that they went through and all they had dished out to the enemy. We had withstood many attacks, and we fought back with just as much hair of the dog. I had the whiskey bottle with me and I was looking for Grizz. I found him leaning on his horse.

 

"We put a woppin' on Obermann's men, rat ?" I said and handed Grizz the whiskey bottle. He polished off the whiskey and said, "Under the seat, slide the cupboard door open." I did as told and smiled as I found the amber liqud. Walking back over to him, I pulled out a ceegar and said to him "Smoke ?" "Thought you Injuns held tobacco sacred ?" Grizz saked and I said, "Dis is da white man speakin' now. " I took a long pull on the whiskey bottle and a puff on the ceegar and asked him, "What bout Obermann. It was all I could do to keep from killin' him...wanted to scalp him rat der and den. But I held off, heheh, just took his right ear."

 

Grizz smiled and said "Yup, thought that was yur handy work. I was gonna kill him too. But that's not the way Martha would have wanted him to die." He passed the bottle back and after taking one last pull off it I said, Yup, fair trail and rat fine hangin' in Denver !" Smilin as he was about to swing up into the saddle, I stopped him and said, "No, do not go out on the field of battle. Many wondering evil spirits there."

 

Grizz stepped down and said, "I was going to ask ya if ya still beleived that stuff, but after the sweat lodge, I do too." We walked over to Crying One's wagon, who, had a small fire going, hot food and bisciuts. We ploped down and fell asleep in no time.

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We had the group up and moving before first light, Grizz didn't want the kids to see the horror of the battlefield that was all around them. Many of the kids went back to sleep on the wagons after they'd been moving a while.

 

Come sun up, they stopped at a river to clean up. Obermann was force fed laudanum and then cleaned up, his bandages changed and fresh clothes put on him. Grizz didn't want any of the onlookers in Denver to be able to say the man looked horrible, or had been mistreated. Truth was, the worst mis-treatment was to have kept him alive this long, reminding him at every turn that he'd soon hang.

 

A couple of Grizz's most trusted hands took charge of Obermann, the wire noose back around his neck as they moved out again. Grizz felt good, the warm sun drying his wet face, clean clothes on, and riding a horse that he'd trained, well, mostly trained. His foreman had obviously been working the gelding since he'd been gone.

 

"How sure are you about this trial Grizz?" Hawk asked, perhaps wondering if he should have killed Obermann last night, or before after all.

 

Grizz smiled broadly, "well sir, this trial will be for his escape, he personally shot down three marshals in the process."

 

"What proof is there though if he killed them all?" Hawk asked.

 

Grizz chuckled, "well, see that's what ole Obermann don't know neither, but one of them was just to blame stubborn to die, and he will testify, ya see one of the others was his son."

 

Hawks mood brightened, "yup, I reckon he'll tell the tale at that, ole Obermann killed his boy an all"

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