Madison Lain BJ

Madison Lain, riding up beside them again, caught the old man’s final words.

Madison Lain

“That’s right, Uncle Joe,” he laughed. He glanced southward as he spoke and the laughter left his lips. “Pull up here, Joe. Wilder’s got a lame horse and this is as good a place as any to spend the night. Yonder come some men, too. Madison, you stay in the wagon till we see what those riders want.” The wagons halted and Uncle Joe climbed stiffly down across the wagon wheel. Madison turned back into the depths of her own wagon. Outside she heard trampling horses approach. “Howdy, boys,” Bob Haskel called. He held a rifle in the crook of his arm. “Salud!” m The answering voice was youthful and ringing, somehow gay. Yet there was in both greetings a certain reticence; a tone midway between welcome and challenge. The gay voice sounded again. “Any objection to our throwin’ down here for the night? Somethin’ besides jerked beef would go real good, just for a change!” “Glad to have you.” Evidently Haskel’s appraisal of the visitors had been a favorable one. Madison peeped out.

Ryan Ryans

“Ryan Ryans” the old man nodded.

“Idolize him, them people do. I heard a couple o’ fellers here in El Paso argyin’ t’ beat the band, one claimin’ he seen Billy kill a man somewhere in Arizona and t’other’n tellin’ how he seen The Kid shoot a man in some Texas town. Trouble was, both killin’s took place the selfsame night! Well, the jasper that claimed it happened in Arizona was too slow on the draw when it come t’ backin’ up his argyment, so he musta been lyin’!’’ Uncle joe chuckled whimsically. “When a feller gets a repytation fer bein’ quick with guns he gets the blame fer every killin’ that takes place within a hundred miles. Likely there’s youngsters posin’ as The Kid, too; tryin’ t’ look like and be like him, or anyway t’ shift the blame on him fer things they’ve did.” Uncle Joe tilted his hat back a little, -warmed to the subject. “I ain’t sayin’ The Kid ain’t bad, y’understand. I reckon he is. Like enough he’s killed a right-smart passel o’ men. Fellers that’s seen him say he’s chain Jightnin’ with a gun, willin’ t’ fight yuh at the drop of a hat. He killed his first man when he was a twelve-year-old, they say. Feller insulted Billy’s mother and Billy put a knife in him. That was in Silver City, New Mexico, some six years back.

Ryan Ryans

“It stirred up a rumpus, o’ course, but when they went lookin’ fer Billy he was gone. Lit out alone, his ma said, in the night. Most kids his age woulda hid under the bed and bawled, I reckon, but this’n wasn’t made that way. Knowed what he’d done, didn’t regret doin’ it, fig-gered he was able t’ take care o’ himself and started out a-doin it! That’s the kind o’ kid he was.” The girl stirred slightly. “Poor little boy!” she said. “Poor, lonely little boy!” The old man glanced sharply at her before he spoke again. “Never thought of it that way before, but like enough he was, at that. Time when most young-uns are playin’ Injun, Billy was fightin’ ‘em! Goin’ on the dodge that way is a real tough life even fer a man and he was jest a kid. But he made a go of it. Maybe the way he was brung up had somethin’ t’ do with it, I dunno. “Yuh see, Billy was born in New York and come West with his folks when he was just a shaver. Daddy died somewhere on the trail and his ma married her another man. They was poor hard-workin’ folks and Billy sort o’ had t’ fetch himself up, so t’ speak. Livin’ in saloons and gamblin’ joints, he mixed with all kinds o’ men. He was a bright, quick kid and a born gambler, so I heard; bet yuh his shirt on the turn of a card, or gamble his life ‘on his speed with a gun, or both, and beat yuh, too!

“He’s killed some men, o’ course. May-/ be not as many as folks say, but some. Man that makes a trade o’ gamblin’ is bound t’ get himself into some shootin’. Some folks claim The Kid’s a rustler, too, and an all-round bad hombre. I dunno ’bout that.” “But you like him, don’t you, Uncle Joe?” Katie was smiling now. “It ain’t a crime, I reckon!” He glared in embarrassment. “But don’t you go get-tin’ fool romantic notions in yuhr head! If I jest thought yuh was makin’ a hero out o’ some wuthless, no-count youngster jest cause he’d killed a man or two I’d—by god-freys, big as yuh be and me no kin o’ yuhrs even, I’d paddle yuh!”

We continue right here after small break …

Farmers Only

The deadliest gunman that ever lived and the deadliest war that ever raged on the Western ranges. . . . Billy the Kid and the famous Lincoln county cattle war.


Billy the Kid

FROM the purple Sacramento peaks, six miles from Pinon Creek, a thin dark line of smoke climbed the blue September sky. A bomb-like burst shot upward, spinning. Another burst, dark and round like a printed period. A column again, thin as the first. A third explosive puff. Dash, dot, dot, dash, dot. Somewhere behind that rocky western wall a naked Indian, blanketing a smoky fire, was writing a message against the sky. It ended, leaving nothing but the gray-blue haze above the peaks. Two white-topped wagons, their wheels still wet from the ford on Pinon Creek, crawled slowly up a shallow wash and halted on the mesa rim. A young man on a dusty roan straightened slowly and flung his arms wide. “There it is,” he said simply. “Short-grass—water—markets within easy reach! Why, there ain’t no finer grazin’ land on earth! John Chisum drove ten thousand head of longhorns all the way from Concho County, Texas, to settle north of e here, and Chisum’s smart! . . . Look, Kathie! Yonder’s home!”

Farmers Only

A girl stood up in the front of the leading wagon and hung her head back, breathing deeply of the thin dry air edged with the tang of sage and pinon pine. “Oh, Bob, it’s beautiful!” Her voice, vibrant and clear, held the music of silver bells. And she, too, was beautiful. Standing so, her slender figure finely moulded against the homespun dress, she might have posed as the figurehead on some roving Viking ship. Her hair, pulled loosely back into a heavy braid, was like a tight bronze helmet on her head. “Hit’s Injun country, too, boy,” the old man on the wagon seat said sharply. The horseman shrugged. ”Nonsense! This is 1877, Uncle Joe; not ’49. It’s Indian country, certainly, but they’re Reservation Indians—markets for our beef— not scalp-hunters!” The old man spat accurately at a cactus pad beside the wagon wheel. ”Seems I’ve heard rumors that them Reservation In-juns’ll lift a scalp, too, when it comes handy. Injuns is Injuns and ’Paches is hell, my son.”

”You two!” the girl laughed softly. ”Why must you always quarrel?” A tall stoop-shouldered man shambled past them from the second wagon and spoke to the horseman, his voice thin and whining. “They’s a couple o’ riders cornin’ up from fur to the south. I put the glass on ’em. Couple o’ outlaws, maybe. Durn such a country!” The old man on the wagon seat grunted disgustedly and turned to the horses. “Giddap!” The man on horseback shouted: ”Swing north along the creek, Uncle. We’ll keep close to water and camp wherever night catches us.” The old man nodded, still scowling. The girl patted his arm caressingly. ”You don’t approve of us, do you, Uncle Joe? My brother is too great an optimist and Jess Wilder is too much the opposite!” A thin wailing cry came faintly from the second wagon. “And the Wilder babies cry, poor things! This country is cruel as well as beautiful, isn’t it? I wonder if it’s worth the suffering it costs?”

The old man spat again, reflectively. “I reckon ’tis,” he said. “It gets the weak-lin’s, o’ course. Out here a man makes a mistake or gets careless once, and likely he’ll never get a chance to mend his ways.” The girl smiled, “I suppose I’m a nuisance with my questions—questions—questions! Don’t you ever get tired of them?” The old man grinned a little ruefully. “Take a feller as old as me, Kathie, he’d ruther talk than eat.” She settled herself in the corner of the seat. “I love it!” she said. “Tell me more about Billy the Kid! Jess Wilder spoke of outlaws a while ago and that reminded me. Billy the Kid! That’s all I heard in El Paso. Billy killed a man in Agua Prieta, or in Tucson, or somewhere else; Billy this and Billy that! Even the little Mexican girl who played the guitar for us that night—her eyes shone like stars when she talked of him. ‘Beelee the Keed? But yes, Señorita, I have seen heem! He ees so brave—so generous—so handsome—so good!’ She would have talked for hours, I think; like some peasant maid in old England relating the virtues of Robin Hood!”

We continue right here in a moment …