don't be a goulker!
DeWayne Wade did not wake up on the twenty-first of August with any premonition of death ...
BOOK I: The Trail To Laramie
Notes: This was originally written when a friend (NOT my agent at the time) told me that a fellow named **** at **** was looking for western series concepts. This, while my agent claimed that there were NO SUCH gigs available. Agents suck, frankly. May they all burn in hell. Right Jim Trupin?
At any event, I remember a long talk with the late Louis L'Amour, who was my Dad's hero, and who loved Western history, as did I, and evidently we three all felt that REAL history was more interesting than made-up dime novels. I can't say, thoughL'Amour and Dad are both dead now. See "The West" for a few more thoughts on the subject.
Nolan Wade was a vigilante/bounty hunter who hunted down and murdered bad people. A lot like Kojac, now that I think of it. Anyway, we begin with a true historical event.
Hart Williams © 1985
Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished: but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered.Proverbs 11:21
AUGUST 21, 1863
DeWayne Wade did not wake up on the twenty-first of August with any premonition of death. The War was on, and Confederate troops were rumored to be in the area, but if you'd lived through the bloody days of John Brown's boys, as DeWayne had, you didn't give the matter much thought. It was hot and humid, and there were chores to be done. DeWayne swung his legs over the side of the tarnished brass bed he shared with his wife, Livia, pecked her on the cheek, and stepped onto the cool floor. It was still warm, even at four-thirty in the morning. He peered at the sleeping baby in the crib at the foot of the bed. Livia was just about worn out from the new arrivalonly fourteen days old. Two weeks ago, DeWayne thought, Nolan had just been a lump in Livia's belly.
DeWayne walked into the narrow hallway of the house, called at Zechariah's door and continued into the kitchen. He looked at the second-hand pot-bellied stove they'd purchased from Livia's sister, Martha. Too hot to cook, he thought, even though he dearly would have liked a pot of coffee.
"Zack!" he hissed as loudly as he could without waking Livia. A moment later his son came padding into the kitchen, all of eleven years old, hitching at his overalls and trying to rub the sleep from his eyes.
"I'm up, Pa," the boy said.
DeWayne had to smile. The boy had so much of his mother in him. A little of the prairie sternness left the father's face. He tousled the boy's straw-colored hair roughly. "Got chores to do, son," he grunted.
Zack grimaced. He was usually cranky in the morning, DeWayne reflected. Didn't know where the boy got that from. Probably from Martha, or Livia's parents. Sometimes he wondered how Livia had ended up so even-tempered when the Gibbets clan were so universally foul-tempered otherwise. "It's gonna be too hot to have much business," Zack said, giving his father that look of his. "If I finish all my chores early c'n I maybe go to the pond with Brock and Jim?"
"If you finish all your chores," DeWayne agreed.
At that, Zack was out the door like a shot. Zack collected the eggs from their fifteen laying hens, while DeWayne milked the two cows. He made some money selling his extra eggs and milk in the small dry-goods store he was trying to make go. Inside the house, DeWayne heard the wail of his new son, followed by Livia's cooing. It was tough on a woman, giving birth in the August heat. But Livia seemed to be taking it well. Still, DeWayne worried, in the still of the morning. Hadn't the Parsons woman died in July bearing a daughter?
The sun was barely up, but DeWayne noticed the heat when he opened the store. Immediately, Zack opened the trapdoor DeWayne put the eggs and milk in to keep them cool for the morning. Zack handed the eleven eggs to his father, and the gallon container of milk. DeWayne stored the things away and sat behind the counter of WADES DRY GOODS with Zack, fanning himself. Not much business, he thought. Gonna be another hot one. He chewed on a plug of tobacco and practiced shooting thin streams at the battered brass spittoon that sat in the corner, by the big pot-bellied stove.
Livia had wondered, in her best wifely way why DeWayne didn't have the good stove in the house and the used stove at the store. That was the way women were, DeWayne reflected. She didn't realize that most of his business would be from farmers, and farmers like to sit around the stove and tell yarns and compare fish and all the rest before they bought their (large) orders. You had to give them something to put their feet on in the cold winters, and someplace to keep a large pot of coffee, and talk about their dreams. That was the reason why it was more important to have the stove at the store than in the house. Livia said she understood, but DeWayne was pretty certain that she didn't . It was a sore point between them, coming up, as it did just about once a week. Especially through the last part of the pregnancy, when Livia was all but impossible in her demands. DeWayne was glad that was over. He didn't intend fathering any more children in the near future. It had been hard enough just to have another one, after Zack.
Zack looked up, with that look of young boys, and pleaded: "Can I go to the waterhole now, Pa?" He had that little puppy dog look that always got whatever it wanted from Livia. He was half- tempted, but Dewayne didn't believe in coddling the youngsters. Zack had to learn discipline if he was ever going to be a man.
"As soon as Guerney shows up and we get that barrel of horseshoes loaded," DeWayne said, his face as stern as he could make it.
"Paw?" Zack whined.
You couldn't let them grow up to be whiners. "I'll use the strap, next time you ask that."
"Yes, Pa," Zack sighed, glumly. He went back to whittling a whistle from a branch he'd picked, with the barlow knife his father had given him.
There was a small rise to negotiate, and then, the Kansas farmer had assured him, Lawrence would be in sight. William Clarke Quantrill surveyed the early morning, peering back over his shoulder at the sunrise. It gave him a warm feeling of pride to see the four-hundred-and-fifty men who followed him. Quite a change from just, what was it? four years before when he'd made a living selling stolen slaves.
Quantrill pulled out the snuff box he habitually carried, and put some to his nostrils. This was the morning he had waited for. That bastard James Lane was going to learn a lesson.
Sergeant Lewis rode back from the rise, the Kansas farmer in tow.
"It's there, Captain," Lewis said. He was a big, ugly man with a temper to match, and a few scars to show it. "Him?" He pointed to the farmer.
"Muster him out," Quantrill said, and turned back to regard the ridge.
Sergeant Lewis turned on his mount, and withdrew his revolver. The farmer, whose name was Bates, sensed something wrong.
"I did my part," Bates said. "Let me go back to my farm. I'm no threat to you."
He started to say something else before the bullet hit his face. The impact drove the farmer back off the horse. He hit the ground with a wet thud and twitched for a moment before he was still.
Quantrill didn't look back. Not even when the Sergeant asked:
"What shall I do with the body, sir?"
"Leave it. We've a job to do, Sergeant. Five minute rest."
DeWayne hated the idea of being in his store this early in the morning, but the way business was going, he needed Guerney's purchase. Guerney was one of those rock-ribbed Yankees who had migrated through the aid of the New England Emigrant Aid Company, in '55, when Lawrence had been the capitol of the anti-slavery movement, and just after President Pierce had signed the Kansas- Nebraska Act in 1854. DeWayne didn't care much for politics, himself, but Livia was a mild Abolitionist, and Guerney was wild on the subject. He would, as always, tell Zack two or three blood-curdling stories about the border ruffians, or the sack of Lawrence by the pro-slavers in '56, or about the Battle of Gettysburg, which was still new, or Vicksburg a month before, on the fourth. Guerney got his 'tales' from the papers.
Guerney showed up, as promised, and slapped the dust from his hat before stepping into the store. He was a large man. Built like a bull, and he spoke with a New England twang.
"Sorry to get you up so early, DeWayne," Guerney said, extending his hand.
"It's no trouble at all," DeWayne said, shaking. "Zack! Get the receipt from the cash-box."
Zack ran over and opened the lid, extracted the bill of sale Livia had written in her clear, firm hand, and brought it back over. The boy waited expectantly for some sign of acknowledgment from the big man.
Guerney laughed. "I wonder if there's anyone here who'd like a piece of rock candy?"
"I would!" Zack chirped.
Guerney dug in his pocket and produced a piece of Massachusetts rock candy. The boy took it greedily.
"What do you say, son?" DeWayne said.
Zack didn't bother to stop the tedious process of unwrapping the candy. "Thank you, sir," he said, popping the prize in his mouth.
"Got it in the back," DeWayne said, and pointed to the barrel delivered from St. Louis the night before.
"No hurry," Guerney said. "Unless you've got something to get back to."
"No," said DeWayne. "Livia's probably feeding the baby now."
"He was a big one, wasn't he?" Guerney asked. "Mrs. Gibbets was telling Tess he was something over seven pounds."
"Seven pounds, seven ounces," DeWayne said. "The Doctor figured he was almost three weeks late."
"I imagine it's quite a load off your mind."
"He's healthy," DeWayne said. "Thank God for that."
"Amen," Guerney said.
Zack cleared his throat.
"I think someone wants to hear a story," DeWayne said.
Guerney laughed. "Is that true, son?"
"Yes sir," Zack said.
Captain Quantrill stared out at the morning. Quite a bit different from the days he remembered, before the War. Charley Hart knew this area. Quantrill remembered how he'd talked those Quaker boys into freeing the slaves. Big, sincere and stupid, they'd been. They called him by his outlaw name, Charley, or Mr. Hart, thinking he was in league with John Brown, and so anxious to do the Lord's work.
Those were good days. He'd been the local teacher, and taught Sunday School classes as Mr. Quantrill, and 'freed' slaves as Charley Hart. He wondered what those dead Quakers would think if they knew that he took the slaves over the river and sold them in Missouri. Quakers would do just about anything if you could show them the Lord willed it. Of course, there was that Preston fellow and his wife, with their Underground Railroad. No matter how he tried to rile that man, he just wouldn't allow Quantrill to get under his skin.
But that seemed a long, long time ago. Then, Charley Hart had been an outlaw. Now, he was Captain Quantrill, maybe Colonel Quantrill, or even General after this War was over. Perhaps he could even become Governor of Missouri. Missouri would join the Confederacy when General Lee won the War. Too bad, the news of Gettysburg. That would just about have ended it. Mr. Lincoln, that Abolitionist milquetoast, would have had to give up the War.
Well, one way or another, he was going to finish up the War a rich man. He wondered what it would be like to be a respectable citizen of the Confederacy. Old John Brown was in his grave now. Quantrill wondered what Brown would think, this time? The last time Lawrence had been sacked, the old Bible-thumper had taken a bloody revenge. There would be no reprisals this time, Quantrill thought. This time, he would burn Lawrence to the ground and salt the fields. And that, he thought, would show those Jayhawkers a lesson.
But it was Lane he wanted. That bastard Jim Lanethe "Senator"had shot his mouth off too often. He put away his snuffbox and turned to his troop.
"Sergeant," Quantrill breathed. "I wish to speak to the men." The Sergeant put his fingers to his lips and let out a shrill whistle. "At - ten - SHUN!"
The men stood by their mounts, or looked at their Captain from where they sat. Scruffy men. Most wearing tattered, irregular Confederate uniforms, but nearly everyone having modified his uniform to personal taste. There was Bloody Bill Anderson, and his boys. There were those James boys, and the Youngers, whom the Captain had seen distinguish themselves as gunmen and fierce soldiers. Jesse's hatred of Union soldiers knew no bounds, Quantrill knew.
Quantrill cleared his throat. "Gentlemen of the Confederacy cy," he began, "We have come to teach these Jayhawkers a lesson. And we mean to do it as rough as it takes. I know that many of you have lost loved ones recently"he thought about Matilda Anderson and Christie McCorkle Kerr, John McCorkle's sister, crushed in the collapse of that Kansas City prison"and we mean to show those blue-bellied devils what Missouri men are made of. We are going to show General Tom Ewing what we have waiting for him and his Kansas City murderers."
The men cheered. Quantrill could fire their blood. "I have no use," he continued, "for any man here who wishes to be slack in performing his duty. We shall show no mercy, and we shall rid this country of every last Jayhawker. We are going to capture that Lane fellow and we will see him burned at a Missouri stake. This is the only captive that it is my intention to take. Gentlemen, you know your duty. Let us write a glorious page in the history of the Confederacy. Long live Jefferson Davis and the Confederacy!"
The men shouted, "Long live the Confederacy!" and let out rebel yells.
"Mount up!" the Sergeant barked, and they did. He looked at Quantrill.
"Sound the charge!" Quantrill shouted, and the trumpets began to sound....
"It was during the summer of '56 that I rode with John Brown," Guerney told Zack, who cradled his chin in his hands and stared up slack-jawed at the big man. "The slavers had burned our town, and thrown our presses in the river, but they were not about to stamp out the fire of freedom that burned in God-fearing men."
DeWayne smiled and nodded. Inside, though, he felt differently. He remembered President Buchanan, that portly fool from Massachusetts, who had refused to aid the anti-slavery settlers, and who had refused to do anything to stop the secession that had begun this bloody War. It began right here in Kansas, and nobody had bothered to stop the shooting. Now the shooting was everywhere, and there was no end in sight. All he wanted was a clean chance to build a home and father a family in the unspoiled prairie. Another chance, after his father had lost the family fortunes in Ohio. He shared Livia's bewilderment that man would take up arms to kill his fellow man. He did not share Livia's maddening idealism about what the abolition of slavery would accomplish. But there was hope, now. He only prayed that the War ended before Zack came to soldiering age. Three years ago such a possibility had seemed remote. But now, well, fourteen was not an unreasonable age to go off to war. Perhaps the Fall of Vicksburg last month would change the complexion of the War. He prayed that Zack would be spared "Glory."
"What was John Brown like?" Zack asked.
Even though he'd been over it a thousand times before, Guerney patiently recounted the story again. "John Brown was a tall man, a big man. He looked like you'd imagine John the Baptist must have. There was a wildness in his eyes, but you could see that it had been given from the Lord. There was no doubt as to the justice of our cause after you had spoken to John Brown."
That was when they heard the noise in the distance.
"What was that?" DeWayne asked.
"It's Rebels!" Zack screeched.
"Now, Zechariah," DeWayne began.
"The boy's right," Guerney said. "I had better get my rifle."
"No," DeWayne said. "We offered them no resistance in '56, and they didn't kill anybody."
"They burned the town," Guerney stated flatly.
"They'll burn it this time, too," DeWayne said. "I won't do anything to endanger my family."
"You must follow your conscience," Guerney agreed, and went to get his rifle.
Ironic, DeWayne Wade thought. He's a Quaker, and he's getting his gun, while I, good Methodist, do nothing.
"They're coming," Zack shouted, jumping with excitement. "We're going to shoot some Johnny Rebs!"
DeWayne looked at his son, and suddenly he felt very old. Much older than his thirty-five years. "We are going to turn the other cheek," DeWayne said. "And you are going to keep still."
Livia Wade stood at the porch of her house, her babe in her arms. She could see the smoke rising from the downtown area, and though what she beheld horrified her, she grimly refused to obey the urgings that wanted her to get back inside and wait. Riders were everywhere, and there was gunfire, but there didn't seem to be any resistance.
She was frantic with anxiety about DeWayne and Zack. She knew her husband well enough to know that he wouldn't do anything foolish. They had discussed it too many times late at night. They were undoubtedly hiding in a root cellar. But a strange black dread filled her.
One of the riders stopped in front of the house. "You had best get inside, Ma'am," he said. "The men have been drinking, and I fear for your safety." He tipped his hat and rode on.
No, Livia thought, I won't leave until I know what has become of my husband and my son.
And then the shooting stopped.
The soldier had not been very cordial, DeWayne thought.
"Put your hands behind your back," he had ordered, and that was the end of that.
DeWayne had tried to explain he was not a Union sympathizer, or at least that Zack should be sent home to his mother, but his entreaties fell on deaf ears.
They bound his hands behind his back, and bound Zack's.
"I'm scared, Pa," Zack whispered.
"No crying," DeWayne said with a courage he didn't feel. "We'll be just fine."
They marched them out into the main street. Many of his friends and neighbors were already out there. They had them stand in the August sun. More and more men were brought out. And boys. Until there were what DeWayne estimated to be nearly one hundred and fifty. Almost every man and boy in Lawrence was standing in the center of a large band of mounted riders. DeWayne noticed that Jim Lane was not there. God, he thought. They've killed him.
The rebels had 'liberated' quite a large amount of liquor from the two saloons. They stood, laughing and drinking, by their mounts. Well, DeWayne thought, seeing Guerney similarly trussed, at least they're not going to kill us.
The rebels began putting Lawrence's businesses to the torchexcepting, of course, the saloons. The men of Lawrence bore it stoically. A group of women began to gather along the street, away from the Confederate soldiers, whether voluntarily or because they'd been rounded up, DeWayne couldn't determine. Zack buried himself against his father's side, crying softly.
"They mean to kill us, Pa."
"Shhh," DeWayne whispered. "We'll be all right." Then he saw Livia.
Livia held Nolan to her breast and prayed he didn't cry. The soldier had been right. But when a rag-tag band had taken her into the bedroom and begun ripping open her dress, an officer had happened by and ordered them to stop and bring the women to the center of town.
She walked with her child through the dusty streets, seeing the bodies lying here and there. She turned her eyes from the carnage. At least, she thought, there aren't too many dead. She saw no Confederate dead. Much of downtown, she could see, was in flames. And then, she saw Martha, and nearly wept with relief.
"Sister!" she called, and Martha came over and held her.
"Shhh, now," the older woman told Livia. "They're drunk and liable to do anything."
Livia looked out and the blood drained from her face.
Most of the town's men were in the square, their hands bound behind them. But it wasn't that that made her go pale. She saw her husband and son among them.
"All right, then!" a rideran officercalled.
There was a silence in the square.
Then, the rebels raised their rifles, and began to shoot every defenseless man and boy in the street.
Livia saw the bullet tear into her husband's chest and she began to scream. Another bullet tore into Zack.
She was not conscious of her screaming, nor did anyone else notice it. Everyone was screaming. She did not see DeWayne and Zack go down, as the father desperately tried to shield his wounded child. She did not see the smile on Bloody Bill Anderson's face as he fired his pistols again and again into the crowd. And she did not see Captain Quantrill give the order to move among the wounded and dead, and "make certain we've finished the job."
She did not see these things because she had fainted.
© 1985 Hart Williams
Oh, there is a chapter 2, someplace.
That's it! No more stories for now.