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Land of Sunshine: A Tale of the American West

montanaskyjk6.jpg


Table of Contents

I
II
III
IV
V - VII
VIII - IX
X
XI - XIII
XIV-XV
XVI
XVII-IXX
XX
XXI-XXII
Interlude
XXIII
XIV
XV
XVI
XVII-XIX

* * * * *​

1.

June 4, 1871: Fort Shaw, Montana
"What's all the gor'damn commotion?"

"Sorry to disturb, Doc... It's just that Jeb here's gone about his business and got himself shot quite well. We heard you was the man to consult for help in these parts."

A young man, dirty and unkempt, hangs limply between the supporting arms of two other persons. The injured man has a deadly pallor, and his pants are soaked with blood. Stepping out of the doorway, William "Doc" Sikes allows the men to tramp into his living quarters.

"There's not much I can do for him...,” mutters Doc, “Reckon he's lost too much blood to have that which is necessary to sustain life."

None of the visitors respond. They simply watch mutely as Doc cuts off the hurt man's - Jeb's - pants. The physician looks pensively at his patient’s leg. A large and angry wound is upon Jeb's thigh. Doc steps away from his bloody guest with a grimace.

"There ain't nothing I can do. He's good as gone with a scratch like that."

Lying prostrate on the doctor's table, Jeb lets out a weak gasp of protest. He is almost gone. The uninjured guests appear most undisturbed by Doc's prognosis. They begin to slowly shuffle toward the door.

"You'd best run down to town and tell Sheriff Tate about all this. I reckon he'll be wanting a word with the man who scratched up your friend here."

"Right. We best be getting on to do that right quick."

The two men exit Doc's simple abode without so much as a glance back at Jeb, who has just expired on the table. For a moment, Doc watches the receding backs of his guests as they disappear into the night. Then he closes the door.

"Well," he says while wiping a grimy mixture of blood, sweat, tears, and dirt from Jeb's cold brow, "You are in a right state. Aren't you?"​
 
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2.

Great Falls, Montana: June 6, 1871
"Will we be attacking, sir?"

"Yes. Dawn tomorrow, I suppose."

"Should I spread the order?"

"Yes. I suppose you might do that. . . . Well? What ya' still standing around here for? Get goin' with that, boy!"

"Yes, sir."

The lieutenant backs quickly out of the tent. Captain Aldo P. Chester glares angrily at the retreating back of his subordinate. Spineless fool, he thinks, I'll put him up front tomorrow. The savages will scare the stupid right out of him.

The Captain turns away from the tent flap and admires his other guests hungrily.

"So," he inquires, "You ladies are from in town?"

* * * * *​

The Cheyenne camp is placed picturesquely upon the endless plains. It is a beacon of life amid a vast wasteland of nothingness. Women and children begin to go about their daily affairs as the sun rises steadily into the heavens. The warriors are away hunting. Standing at the camp's edge and gazing transfixed off into the distance, a young girl lets out a horrible scream.

While white soldiers ride toward the camp with guns aloft, the defenseless Cheyenne attempt to flee. Women are shot. Children are trampled. Captain Chester, observing the carnage from a safe distance, declares the "battle" a great victory for the United States. His report to Washington will say that it was a bitter fight and that victory was never an assurance for his intrepid horsemen.

The warriors are away.​
 
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This looks interesting. I'll be following!
 

coz1

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Interesting. I do so enjoy a tale of the old west, more than some you might say. ;)

Looking forward to where you go with this. Good luck. :)
 

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3.

Kentucky: June 12, 1871
"But you'll starve, John!"

"So will you! So what’s the difference?"

"I'll die with family. You'll be alone."

"I wouldn't have to be alone. You could. . . well, you already said you ain't up for it"

"That's right. I'm not goin' nowhere with you, not even a short way."

"Well, that settles it. I'll die alone. . Send Ma and Pop my love, Cora."

John, a tall and slender young man turns away from his sister and continues to walk down the road. He kicks up a cloud of dust as he goes, and his strong, black brow gleams with sweat.

". . . . . Wait, John, wait up! Slow down, won't you? My legs ain't half as long as yours."

"So, you're coming with?"

"Yup, I reckon I'd rather starve elsewhere rather than here."

Together, the two siblings walk down the highway. Their slow, methodical steps carry them to the West. In the distance behind them is the plantation they grew up on; the plantation where their parents were once slaves. They still are slaves in everything but name. As Cora and John stride away from the place of their birth, they become, in a more real way than they ever were before, freemen.

"Oh! Ma's gonna' be right stirred up when she wakes up and finds we ain't where we supposed to be!"

"Walk faster, then."​
 

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4.

Fort Shaw, Montana: June 10, 1871
Doc sits stiffly. He doesn't like the saloon much. Drunken people tend to disturb the peace, and Doc is fond of the quiet. In fact, his life during the past decade has been little more than an attempt to hide from commotion. Loud noises still frighten the physician; they remind him of the dark times.

Sheriff Tate strolls into the saloon, and takes a seat across from Doc. The lawman is young and handsome, his gaze warm and amiable. Sheriff Tate is not the type of man you'd expect to be capable of killing.

"Sal said you was looking for me, Doc?" inquires Tate.

"I was," says Doc, "I got some mighty queer visitors the other night: an injured man and two other sketchy-looking fellows. Wasn't anything I could do for the injured one. Afraid he died."

"Died, eh? Well, I suppose a well-aimed bullet can do that to a man... They say how it happened?"

"Nope, they just wanted to know if I could grant a helping hand. When I said I couldn't be of any useful service, the two uninjured men took off right quick. I thought the whole affair to be out of the strictly ordinary, thought I should tell you."

"Well. . . I'm obliged for your information, Doc. I reckon I'll keep it in mind"

Doc gives Sheriff Tate a nod as the lawman stands to leaves. Tate seems preoccupied, and does not return the parting gesture. The physician finishes his drink and leaves the bar. Standing in the adjacent street, he watches as a wagon pulls into town. He can smell the driver from a good distance away. Immigrants to the West are never particularly clean upon arrival.

The wagon and its cargo of people and sifting-pans are probably headed further into the wilderness. Most settlers these days are looking for the fabled gold of California. Doc idly watches the wagon rumble on up the road. Then, while wondering what fortunes await the nameless travelers, he sets off for home.​

* * * * *​

Comments: Thanks for reading, likk9922 and Coz1. I appreciate it. :) I'm trying out a different writing style than my last AAR-project. Thus, I would welcome any suggestions on how to improve the content of this story.
 

likk9922

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Looks good so far. I'm looking forward to see what will happen. :)
 

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Nice reading. :)
 

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Methinks Sheriff Tate will have a new project finding these strangers the Doc told him about.
 

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A very interesting start. I wonder what the Sheriff knows - he seems a bit preoccupied.
 

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5.

Great Falls, Montana: June 12, 1871
Captain Aldo P. Chester leans back in his chair contentedly. It has been a long time since he ate a proper meal, a steak with all the fixings. Holding his wine-glass deftly between two fingers, the military-man compliments his host in a booming voice, "A fine meal, Judge. I do declare: it was first-rate cuisine."

Positioned across the dinner table from Capt. Chester, Harold Wilks smiles graciously. "Well," he intones, "I couldn't let your fine work with the savages go unrewarded. You make our land safer with each passing day." Wilks lets the words come out slowly and sweetly. He gladly allows the Captain to bask in undeserved self-importance for a moment. . . If the judge is ever going to get a gubernatorial appointment in this God-forsake country, he will need strong advocates. A heroic, Indian-killing soldier is a fine start.

"Thank ye' for the comment, Judge Wilks. . . I don't give 'em Indians any quarter. Some of the folk out East complain that what I'm doin' is not precisely 'humane.' Well, I say we drop those people in a Cheyenne camp for a week and see if they come out singing the same tune. I reckon they won't."

Wilks chuckles politely and pours the Captain another glass of wine. Compliments and alcohol are the two surest ways to get into the favorable graces of a military-man.

"Precisely," agrees Wilks, "The people out in Washington haven't the slightest idea how to manage things here. That's why the governors they send out are never particularly well-suited to their posts."

"Aye!" bellows Capt. Chester, who has partaken in rather too much wine, "That slicker they've got running the show now - what's his name, Barrack? Barnack? - he's a spineless fool. Ain't got half an idea how to deal with the savages. What we need in the government is a man like you, Judge: an upstanding sort of Western-born man."

Wilks leans back in his chair and grins contentedly. He's got the Captain in the palm of his hand now. It's only a matter of time. Just a subject of when, not if, he will seize power.​
6.

Fort Shaw, Montana: June 16, 1871
Bang - the gunshot echoes vibrantly upon the prairie wasteland. Then: silence. Everyone holds their breath as the bandits brandish their pistols menacingly. The warning-shot still ringing in their ears, the stagecoach’s passengers scrabble down onto the sandy ground and keep their heads bowed. Silently and efficiently, the robbers go about their sordid business. They gather the valuable cargo within minutes.

As the desperados prepare to depart upon their heavily laden horses, one of the men finally speaks, "Much obliged for yer' good behavior folk. If all our customers were as nice as you, I expect we wouldn't be needing to use these 'ere guns so much. . . Now, we had best be getting off before the law comes riding on up." Cackling manically, the bandits gallop away. Bang - they signal their departure with another shot into the cloudless Montana sky.​
7.

Kentucky: June 20, 1871
“Please, sir!” John pleads desperately, “I’m begging you to take us along. I’m good with a hammer and a mighty fine shot. And I – swear it upon my mother’s grave - will reimburse you for expenses. I’ve just gotta’ get out West where the work is before I can pay. . .”

“Why should I trust an oily little rascal like you?” growls Jeremiah Fritz, “Don’t answer that, boy! I reckon it wasn’t a real question.”

“Please, Mister Fritz. We ain’t got no other path to follow here!”

The wind suddenly rushes out of John’s lungs. The young, strong man is thrown several feet as Jeremiah smacks his squarely in the chest. Standing over John’s limp frame, the burly mountain-man appears ready to end the discussion by spilling blood onto the damp, verdant Kentucky earth.

Why you not listening to me, boy? . . . I told you not to say nothing and you go and blabber on about the subject anyhow. I oughta’ tear you up right good for that! . . . But, well, I suppose it does take some gumption to come up here an' plead as hopeless a cause as you got on your hands. . . That's especially true if you're pleading that case to a man that looks mighty prone to bash your head in – make no mistake, boy: I am ready to bash your head in. . .”

Jeremiah spits derisively down onto John’s face. Like the overgrown wolf-hound he is, the frontiersman is marking his territory. As he walks away - the young, black man is still sprawled prostrate on the cool ground - Jeremiah shouts over his shoulder, “We’re leaving town tomorrow. Be ready, or I reckon I’ll shoot you something nasty in the head.”

Regardless of the threat, John smiles. He has won himself and his sister, Cora, passage on a wagon-train to the West. He has won them passage to Eden. . .

Jeremiah Fritz, meanwhile, has won himself two de facto slaves. As the mountain-man gulps down whiskey, he wonders how he can make the most profit off of John. He reckons he'll keep Cora for himself once the boy is gotten rid of.​
 

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Comments:
stnylan: Tate most certainly suspects something about the crimes that are underfoot in his town. However, I imagine he would shoot me if I told you what that suspicion is.

coz1: Indeed, he has some kind of project on his hands. . .

Sir Humphrey: Thanks for the compliment, sir. It gives me the energy to write.

likk9922: I hope you continue to enjoy where the story is going! :)
 

coz1

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I am getting a feeling like there is a meeting of minds coming up...well, perhaps not minds...but brute matter instead. ;)
 

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Aldo is a mighty fine name, and this is shaping up to be a fine story, too. :) I just saw 3:10 to Yuma a couple weeks ago and fell right back in love with the whole epic nature of the Western. You, sir, have excellent timing - or perhaps you were inspired by the movie too? ;)
 

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Hajji Giray I said:
Aldo is a mighty fine name, and this is shaping up to be a fine story, too. :) I just saw 3:10 to Yuma a couple weeks ago and fell right back in love with the whole epic nature of the Western. You, sir, have excellent timing - or perhaps you were inspired by the movie too? ;)
I've actually been kind of addicted to the Western genre for awhile now. Aside from seeing 3:10 to Yuma, which was awesome, I rented A Fistful of Dollars and Hang 'em High. Plus, I reread Guthrie's The Big Sky.
 

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Might I suggest a few others - The Cheyenne Social Club with Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart is a great one, and of course, Gary Cooper in High Noon. The Searchers with John Wayne, and Stagecoach (or damn near any John Ford western is a winner.) Outlaw Josey Wales of course, and Unforgiven and my personal favorite, High Plains Drifter. Then there's Open Range, which is terribly underrated if you ask me, and of course, Lonesome Dove. I watched quite a few when working on my own western so if you ever want any other recommendations, just send me a PM. :)
 

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8.

Montana Territory: June 25, 1871
Tamílapéšni – the white men call him Dull Knife – gazes silently into the contorting inferno of flame. He perceives within the fire’s twisting form the faces of his ancestors, of his unborn descendants. They are speaking to him. They are saying, “Avenge our fate, wise and noble Tamílapéšni.”

Dull Knife listens to them for a long time; he makes sure he knows their message. Then, in the ancient and beautiful cadences of the Cheyenne language, he speaks, “The white-men have done wrong. Though we agreed to peace with the intruders, they have burned our camps. Though they were unarmed and their protectors were away, our women and children were slaughtered in the white-man’s raids. These crimes can not go unpunished.”

Tamílapéšni's words slip off of his tongue, are briefly heard by his Cheyenne brothers, and then disappear into the dark Montana sky: an endless plain of black that only the stars live upon. Everything in this world is fleeting. Nothing except the land endures forever. Dull Knife acknowledges this great truth as he listens to his words and thinks of the lives which the white intruders have ended

“The whites will try to force us off these sacred lands – the spirits tell me so. We must not abandon the land; there is not life without the sacred soil of our ancestors. We will not be made slaves to the intruders. Hena'háanéhe – that is it, there is no more to say.”

Silence swirls. None of the other men have anything to say, for Dull Knife has made the correct final words. Vengeance will be had if the whites do more violence onto the Cheyenne people. There will be blood.​

9.

Fort Shaw, Montana: June 27, 1871
The rapping at Doc’s door grows incessant. Reluctant to abandon the warmth of his bed, the physician stumbles through the darkness toward the front of his shack.

“What’s the god-forsaken idea? Waking me up at this hour, you sons of …"

Doc throws open the door and glares angrily out at his midnight visitors. Upon seeing just who the guests are, however, his demeanor softens somewhat, “Oh. . . Sheriff Tate. . . I wasn’t expecting you. How might I be of service?”

Tate is grim-faced. He, like Doc, appears tired and disgruntled at having been pulled out of the happy refuge of his dreams. “These fellows here,” Tate rumbles in his usual drawl while acknowledging the presence of two other men, “Reckon there’s a group of folk in distress a ways up the road. They heard some screams and general outcries of anguish. I thought you might be obliged to accompany me up in case there’s a man in need of medical attention.”

Doc nods in the affirmative and throws on his jacket to fend off the cool night air. Having done that, the physician leads his three guests around to the back of his humble abode, where his old horse is dozing. Moments later, the small party is riding off into the empty wilderness that surrounds and suffocates the tiny settlement of Fort Shaw.

Coming over the crest of a small hill, the men suddenly perceive a fire in the distance. Doc sees Tate covertly pull out his revolver. Upon approach to the fire, which is now vigorously sending a pillar of red flame and dark smoke swirling up into the endless heavens, the men are overcome with nausea.

Scattered around the burning remains of a pair of covered wagons are several blood-soaked bodies. Doc dismounts from his horse with a single bound, and rushes toward the nearest victim: a young man. There is a bullet-wound squarely in the middle of the man’s forehead. His blood, mind, and soul have leaked out through the hole.

Doc is scared. It feels as though he is being compressed between two heavy stone walls. He remembers seeing scenes like this before, only a hundred times worse and a thousand times less orderly. Doc is dizzy. He is falling, falling into a deep and bloody chasim. A hand clasps onto the phyisican's shoulder and pulls him out of the darkness.

Tate is leaning over Doc, who has fallen down upon the ground. The lawman is stone-faced. His eyes betray no emotion toward the gruesome scene around them. “There’s so much blood,” gasps Doc.

“Yeah,” Tate aggres, speaking more to himself than Doc, “There ain’t supposed to be this much.”

Out of the darkness rushes one of the other men that woke Doc up. He is flushed and scared looking. “A live one,” he says breathlessly, “She’s yet breathing, I reckon.”

Indeed, a young girl – no more than twelve years old – lies heaving in pain upon the plain. Doc can save her; he prays he can save her.

While the physician tends desperately to his patient, Tate stares off into the vast night. He is angry, but he is pleased.​
 
Last edited:

unmerged(61559)

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coz1 - Thanks for the suggestions! I'm afraid the glory days of the Western genre were a little bit before my time, but I've been immensely enjoying catching up on all the classic films.​
 

stnylan

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It looks like there is a confrontation coming.
 

coz1

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Ah, very good..well, not so god but appropriate. I am liking the focus you have done so far on the American Indian and the struggle to open the west.