Gettysburg Pennsylvania, 2 July 1863 A.D. Position Held by 34th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.
Wilhelm H. Grubber’s mind floated back to a time when he and his father plowed the east field on a rainy day in May. They were ready to lose the harrow plow and spade it when his sister came running up announcing the arrival of a Union Army Captain. At first, his father, Hans, didn’t pay much mind, but then the Army Captain road out across the field. He and Hans exchanged a few shallow polite words, and then Union Captain informs Hans that if someone from the homestead didn’t ‘volunteer’ that the farm would be confiscated under Lincoln’s directive. After an implacable silence, he got his reply.
“Ich bin zu alten fur dis hundschitzen,” Hans spat, his Bavarian accent laced with typical Germanic callousness. The two plow horses stood silently, their ears twitched and the lead animal, Gross Franz turned his massive head around and grunted.
“What’d you say?” the Captain said annoyed and angry.
“He said he’s too old for this dog shit,” Wilhelm unflinchingly translated.
“Well how old are you?” the Officer asked Wilhelm.
“Sixteen,” Wilhelm responded.
“You got any brothers?”
“Older than you?”
“You read English?”
“Of course, I went to school for it.”
“Then,” the Officer said, not talking anymore, but ordering. “I highly suggest you high tail it on down to the register’s office in town and volunteer or I’ll be back with a warrant to seize the property.”
“Jungen, sie haben grosse mous,” his father said harshly. Both stood there and watched the small man in the blue uniform ride off toward the next farm. His sister smiled at the man and blithely waived as his horse trotted by her. Wilhelm shrugged it off and went back to plowing the field with his father.
When the first round fired by the Confederate artillery slammed into the center of the Union army’s position, his mind jerked back to the present-day festivities. He couldn’t tell exactly how long the exchange took place; it seemed more prudent to try to squeeze into the ground past his shiny brass uniform buttons. When the smoke cleared somebody yelled ‘on your feet!’ His squad’s sergeant added to the command by shouting ‘my squad fix bayonets prepare to charge!’ He actualized the action out of reflex, the fear that compelled him to consider running away left and at this point he accepted his death. Not seeing well past the first two ranks in front of him, but he glimpsed a massive gray line across the field. It seemed to lurch in a hazy pall moving but not really. Five minutes pass, that seemed to take years, he heard the funny twirling of mini-ball zing overhead.
To his astonishment he found that the third rank, his, is now the first. The gray wall is now a clearly visible formation of thousands of confederates from Virginia. Things happened in slow motion at this point. He remembered leveling the front sight on a bearded ragged soldier. He didn’t have boots on, despite the outward appearance of an animal that’s been beat too much, he carried himself with élan. Screaming fear from the depth of his soul jumped up and seized Wilhelm’s mind at the realization of events.
The rifle normally kicked like a mule but wasn’t felt, the sight picture jumped, and thunderous bang seemed distant. Things went blank for a minute, or maybe an hour, he didn’t know. The next thing he saw was green grass, and then he saw the bodies around him. In a panic, he tried to get up and run. His right leg felt anchored by a great weight to the ground. He reached down, pulled up a hand full of blood, and passed out again.
Lawton, Oklahoma, 12 June 1879 A.D. Present Day …
Sheriff Wilhelm ‘Billy’ Grubber woke from a disturbed sleep, his head filled with nightmarish disjointed images of Angels strolling among the dead and dying on a distant battlefield. Rain slapped hard against the windows discordantly, as he rubbed his right leg below the knee. He noted that when it rained, it stiffened up. He stood up, walked the stiffness out of his leg, and gazed into the muddy street. A wagon slowly drove past, mud sticking to it in clumps, with horse sinking in it halfway up her shanks. His Deputy, one of many, but one Billy considered the best of the lot, rushed into the office-dripping wet. His oilskin shed the water into a puddle in front of the door.
“Get back from the magistrates?” Billy asked.
“Yep,” Evans answered, deadpan. He reached into his breast pocket and pulled out some neatly folded official papers. One of the reason’s Billy sent him is the fact he reads well, a mild fact not generally reflected in his characteristically parochial speech. “Judge put out an arrest warrant for Jason Cottonwood. Wanted for smuggling opium and smacking around one of the girls over at Nellie Parker’s house.”
“What’ya you say about it?”
“I say he’s guilt as sin! No need to go smacking Buck-toothed Alma even if she is a loud, mouthy sapphire.”
“That assumed man and his brother were never any good, least not since I’ve been here,” Billy said absently tapping the butt of his Harrison and Richards’s .44-conversion revolver.
“Well, I’ve been here longer and I can tell you neither those boys right in the head.”
“Go get Deputies Marshall and Taylor. Get out the Winchester repeaters and my double ten bore. I’ll convince them of the error of their ways.”
“Frankly, I think you’ll just have to kill them.”
“Let’s try to avoid that,” Sheriff Billy responded. Silently he agreed with Evans, more than likely this murder is unavoidable by default.
“You can try all you want; I think the decisions are on them. Anything else?”
“Yeah,” Sheriff Billy responded as he grabbed his Drover coat from a wall-mounted peg. “Have Doctor Philips stand by. I’m going to track down Chief Crazy Elk and get him to mind the store.”
“Crazy Elk? Why him? We could get somebody else.”
“How many times have we locked him up for public drunkenness?”
“Oh about twice a month for the past ten years.”
“See there? He knows the place better than most.”
“Sheriff, I know your boss around here,” Evans protested. “What’ll people think if you leave the Sheriff’s Office in the care of that drunken Cherokee? Ever notice how he sounds almost British when he speaks English? Odd isn’t it.”
“You know what’s really odd, besides having a Cherokee medicine man with a mild British vernacular? That nobody notices it besides us two. As far as the townsfolk, they’ll think what they always have. That this damn Yankee slipped his gourd again,” Billy clumsily answering all points.
“They don’t say that Sheriff! Not too much anymore, anyhow.”
Several hours later on a ridge over looking the base of Mt. Scott, Sheriff Billy looked down on a small ranch. Not a big affair but big enough. He cradled the short, double barrel shotgun in his arm and pondered the situation. The horse of Evans and Taylor grunted while his mount stammered around.
“You know the first one to go down there and try to serve the warrant will probably get it,” Evans said. Taylor and Marshall sat to Billy’s right, nodded in agreement.
“Suggestions?” Billy asked to no one in particular.
“Sneak up on them, on foot. I’ll stay with the horses,” Taylor said.
“Get a cannon from the soldier’s fort and shell them. They have a twelve pounder that’ll rip that place to shreds,” Marshall suggested.
“Put a hole in the ground the size of a chicken coop,” Taylor interjected approvingly.
“No wait until nightfall. By then they’ll be too laid out by drinking and opium to put up a fight. The worst they could do is stagger around a bit and puke,” Evans suggested.
“We’ll wait. We’ll go in at night when they’re passed out well. There’s only three ways they can go. Taylor with the horses can see all of them,” Billy decided.
“Three ways?” Evans asked. “I count east and west.”
“Up,” Billy corrected him.
“Good idea,” replied Marshall nodding his head in agreement.
“Marshall you fought with the last war didn’t you? Southerner right?” Billy asked.
“Yep,” Marshall replied. “Ain’t ashamed of it either.”
“Just a stupid question.”
“Sure but can I give you a stupid answer?”
“As long as it’s honestly stupid.”
“Shouldn’t be too hard there,” Evans snickered.
“Did you guys rub garlic or anything on your bullets?” Billy asked blandly.
“Nope. Couldn’t find any.”
“Damn,” Billy said. “My knee's throbbing again.”
13 June 1879 A.D. Noon.
Sheriff Billy and his deputies’ road into Lawton with the body of Jason Cottonwood draped sideways over his former horse. A thunderstorm lazily captured the horizon, the rolling hills stretched on forever in any direction. When Sheriff Billy cleared the crest of Adam’s Hill he could see Ft. Sill on one side, the Wichita range on another and the loose collection of buildings called Lawton in front. Tied to a pony Jason’s brother Adam, shackled and bruised, he had emptiness in his eyes. The lawmen, the bandit, and the dead, turned toward Lawton as the rain came. None looked too happy.
Crazy Elk sauntered out of the front door of the Sheriff’s Office and took the reigns of Marshall’s horse. Tying the wet animal off to the hitching rail, he surveyed the situation. Nothing surprised him, he expected both Cottonwood brothers to be dead though, both had bad medicine. Some people made mistakes. Others were mistakes. The Cottonwoods, from the perspective of Crazy Elk, which stretched a distance of ninety-years, were individuals who choose wrong, simply because it’s easy.
“Looks like things went sixes and sevens. Unfortunately expected,” Crazy Elk snorted. When he spoke English, he sounded British. Not much, but just a hint.
“Yeah. It’s raining like hell and these Cottonwood types smell worse wet than dry. Especially the live one,” Evans said as he dismounted.
“Anything interesting happen while I was away?” Sheriff Billy asked Crazy Elk as the rain lightened up.
“Nope,” Crazy Elk said. “The locals think you gone barmy, but I stuck up for you.”
“Well what did you say?” Sheriff Billy responded.
“I said you born that way.”
“He knows you boss. I’m going over to the undertakers and get Jason here…uh, undertook. I’ll also get with the Justice,” Deputy Marshall volunteered.
The other deputies dragged Adam Cottonwood into the back and casually threw him into the iron cell. He hit the floor with a thud and laid there a minute before sitting up. He didn’t say anything but kept staring off into regions unseen.
“A moment please,” Crazy Elk requested as he followed Billy to the coat rack.
“What’s on your mind?” Billy replied hanging up his Drover coat.
“Here you are, a good job, place outside town facing the grand Wichita mountain range, you need a spouse,” Crazy Elk said flatly.
“And who do you have in mind?” Billy replied. He knew he shouldn’t ask but did anyway.
“My daughter Honking Goose” he replied and turns to walk away.
Billy wondered which daughter that one is. He met all seven of them over the years but couldn’t put the name to the face. Not that it mattered they all had a strong family resemblance. Fortunately, for them, they looked like their mother.
“She’s the one with wide childbearing hips and strong thighs. Absolutely no chest. Oh by the way, while you were out being the hero, I heard some cattle drive is passing through to Texas. Soldiers at Fort Silly get passes next weekend. Good luck on that orgy of sin and villainy.”
“That’s Fort Sill,” Sheriff Billy said as Crazy Elk walked out the door.
“That’s what you call it. I think it is a silly place that’s all,” Crazy Elk said without turning around.
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Scott Wahrenberger.
Published on e-Stories.org on 04.02.2009.