A Meeting of Minds
Later that evening in Barcroft Saloon, four desperate men sat at a corner table. Snake Larson, the leader, clenched his fists in rage. Trig Smith, beside Snake Larson, held a bottle of whiskey. Scars from a hard life marked his unshaven face, and his clothes bore evidence of hard work. Ace Parker, and Jock Jenkins, both trail worn and tired waited for Snake to speak. Trail dust lay heavy on their clothes from the previous nights activity, and clearly much was on their minds. Trig Smith poured each man a drink, then placed the bottle down near the deck of cards in the middle of the table.
Ace began to speak.
“When are we going to get paid.? A lot of the boys are getting anxious” he growled. “One.”
Trig looked around.
“Not so loud Ace-people might get suspicious. Two cards” he said as he threw two cards down on the table and accepted the new ones.
“Yeah, you’re right Trig-the big payoff comes when the boss finally says so. I am getting tired of waiting though, a raid here and there ain’t what I expected from such a big talking operation. I’ll raise 20.”
Snake visually reprimanded Ace.
“I know, wait. “
Silence met Aces angry words.
“When’s the next attack Snake?” Ace asked.
“When the boss sends word, that’s when. No sooner, no later.” Snake replied, draining his whiskey in one well practiced motion. “I’ll take two.”
Snake Larson took the cards.
Trig looked at his cards, then threw his down. Ace Parker pulled one, and Jock the same.
Snake laid his cards out. Full house, Aces and eights.
The three men laughed.
Snake Larson smiled.
“I know, it’ll wait until payday.”
Meanwhile, at Rex Allen’s sprawling hacienda Jim and Margaret rested comfortably. Rex had called an emergency meeting of the Cattleman’s Association to discuss the days events. One by one, Rex had called on each of the members at home and told them about the evenings meeting. And one by one, they agreed to come-something in Rex’s voice told them that salvation from the mysterious raids was near. It was a hard day of riding, but the hope that Rex carried in his breast pushed him on.
Evening fell on the Flying A Ranch, Rex, Jim , Margaret, the Ranger, and Tonto had eaten a hearty meal of mashed potatoes, fresh chicken, and oven hot buns. The meal passed quickly as the Ranger began to speak.
“Tonto, what did you find out when you went with Sheriff Stockton’s posse today?”
Tonto wiped his face with the generous napkin, then put it down.
“Me join posse. Watch men sheriff pick, them seem rough. We follow trail away from wagon wreck. Find nothing. We not look long, Sheriff seem distant. Then we go home.”
Rex looked over at Tonto.
“The men who volunteer for the possess are the same everytime. I’m surprised Bill let Tonto join them. Tonto, did the men seem to want to find a trail?”
Tonto thought for a moment.
“Me no think so. I see couple of trails, but Sheriff Stockton ride right by. Mebbe him see too many dead ends to care “ Tonto said.
The Ranger responded.
“If he’s had 11 posses find nothing, he may have ignored the trail. I guess you and I will follow those trails tomorrow Tonto. “
The three men sipped their coffee in silence.
“Are you sure Rex that we can trust all of these men?”
Rex looked up from his plate.
“I can personally vouch for all but Bud, he’s the newest member, still kind of wet under the ears, but we’re turning him into a first class cattleman. Us and his foreman Frank .” Rex replied.
“How many men are coming tonight?” the Lone Ranger asked.
“Near as I can tell, ten or twelve. The sheriff may come as well. I ran across him over at Nolan’s” Rex answered.
As the others finished eating, Rex’s cook, Gail, cleared the table and quickly washed the dishes. Before long, the cattleman started filtering in.
In turn, Rex introduced the men to ‘Clayton Moore’, the Lone Ranger in disguise. Sizing each man up as he met them, he formed an impression of each that would astound even the men he met! Soon, the room was bustling, and the Ranger’s mind was working feverishly beneath his handsome exterior.
Rex looked around the room. Sheriff Bill Stockton, Don Berry, Monte Hale, Harry Carey, Tom Tyler, Lyle Talbott, Ed Smith, Alex Raymall, Lash Larue, Bill Boyd, Allan Lane, and Bob Nolan sat waiting for the meeting to begin. The Lone Ranger, in disguise as a ranch hand, sat at the back. A few were chattering amongst themselves, comparing herds, horses, and hats. The sheriff was chuckling to himself, as Bob Nolan strummed an old guitar that hung on the wall
“Hey Bob, when are you going to learn to sing?” Monte yelled over the noise.
Bob Nolan looked over his shoulder and laughed.
“Just about the time you learn how to Monte!” he replied. “Hey, I’ve got a new tune. Let me hum a few bars.”
“Well it’s round up time and the weathers fine and the calves have all been branded.”
Rex stood up and waved his arms in the air. The ranchers quieted down.
“Well gentleman, time to bring this here meeting to order,” Rex said. “To make it simple, my nephew and niece, Jim and Margaret, were ambushed by the same bunch that’s been raising trouble around here these last few months. They were helped to town and here they are. I’ll let them tell what happened. Maybe we can come up with a plan to help Sheriff Stockton here find these owlhoots. “ Rex said.
Jim stood up and cleared his throat. His arm still hurt from the beating it took earlier yesterday, but the pain drove him to speak.
“Hello all, my name is Jim Allen, and this here,” he said pointing to Margaret “ is Margaret. We were ambushed yesterday by a bunch of men …”
And he told the story again, in full detail leaving out the Lone Ranger and Tonto. Wincing in pain when he got to the wagon crashing, the men listened to every word. The Ranger surveyed the men’s faces in the room, searching for any clue that might be revealed unwittingly.
“So, that’s what happened to Margaret and I. We were lucky to have survived.” Jim concluded.
Rex looked around the room at the men he called friends.
“So now how can we help you Bill?” he asked the Sheriff.
“I told you gentleman that I’m looking into the raids and attacks. Haven’t found anything of value yet. Even with a couple of trackers, nothing showed up, nothing at all. The attackers must know this territory better than I do.” he said shaking his head.
“What did you find today when you searched the area around Jim’s wreck?” asked Bob.
The Sheriff answered.
“Just the usual, lots of wreckage, mixed up footprints, and no real clues. The wreckage was cleaned up real good. Funny though, the horses were buried already. Other than that, just as good if we hadn’t looked around.”
“Sheriff-maybe you should get some help with this case. Hire a good tracker, another deputy to work just on this one,” added Harry.
“Another deputy to sit around, drink coffee, and get my desk dirty with trail dust-it’ll do no good, no how. There have been no clues. I am frustrated as you are men, we have to wait for a break, at least one substantial clue that’ll help us find one of them.” the sheriff rambled.
“What about the Adams’ ranch-Mrs. Adams couldn’t keep up her payments and she lost the ranch after the raid that killed old Sam!” commented Monte.
“What about the Dodds?”
“What about the Iversons?” echoed Bill Boyd.
“Don’t we owe them something? They were our friends and neighbours. Would they accept ‘no clues’?” Harry added.
“Okay men, okay. I’ll hire a deputy just for this case, when it’s solved, he’s gone. Maybe a man devoted to solving this crime wave will help. I’ll put a poster up tomorrow, will that satisfy you gentlemen?” the sheriff relented.
“Yes Sheriff, that will, and we will do all that we can to co-operate with you on this. Right men?” Rex said as he looked around the room. Frustration and loss etched on the ranchers weather hardened faces eased at Sheriff Stockton’s effort.
“Yes Bill, we’ll help. Just let us know what we can do.” Bill said.
The other ranchers murmured agreement.
Sheriff Stockton nodded, and smiled.
“Thanks for your co-operation men. I appreciate that. I guess I’ll leave now, by the time I get home…”
“Bob may finally get that tune right he’s been working on” Rex interjected.
The men laughed.
“Say, I’d like to hear you do any better!” Bob said in mock defiance.
Sheriff Stockton took his coat from Gail, stood up and left.
The remainder of the evening was spent tying up loose ends. Neighbours, so abruptly brought from their homesteads, passed the evening in conversation.
Sitting in the back of the room as the meeting went on, the Lone Ranger looked at each of the men in turn again. Evaluating their character was his prime concern, and this time gave him much opportunity for analysis.
Tonto waited outside for the Ranger’s signal. The Masked Man realised that if anyone was involved in this villainy they’d be the first to leave. And if they felt comfortable enough around these men, they would evidence their true intentions. If one of the cattlemen left, and the Ranger felt uncertain about them, Tonto would be on the trail.
Inside the Ranger mingled with the ranchers, introduced as Rex Allen’s new ranch hand he easily fit in and was immediately accepted.
“Harry,” Rex said.
“How many cattle do you figure the Dodds lost? You were there first I recall”
Harry Carey rubbed his clean shaven chin and mentally revisited the site of so much destruction. His minds eye reviewed each corpse, each victim and he reeled once more at the mental stench invoked. Feeling once again the horror of finding Frank Dodds body beneath a stampeding steer, feeling the ugly loss of life and livestock, his face betrayed his inner emotions.
“Rex, that was an ugly scene. Real ugly, there was probably one hundred and sixty head of prime stock, as well as a couple of barns and of course Frank, God rest his soul,” Harry replied. “Elizabeth, left soon after for the east after she sold the land.”
Bill Boyd spoke up.
“I reckon Rex, that the Iversons lost about two hundred and eighty head in their trouble, quite a few also got rustled before that. They were lucky though, we were all able to stave off the fires.”
The group of men nodded in agreement. They remembered the many man hours that were lost fighting fires and searching for the lost cattle.
Monte Hale chimed in-
“The couple that came west, the Robinsons, lost all that they had the first week, about thirty head. Then they went back east I heard.”
The other ranchers responded with a wealth of information, from numbers of cattle lost to how a dream of new life was shattered by ruthless villainy!
Lyle Talbot stood up.
“You know gentlemen, we’ve heard lots of stories tonight, and relived many tragedies. But most importantly, by even having this meeting and the sheriff here means that somethings going to happen. Rex, ” he said pointing “you’ve been a good leader, but we should let the sheriff and his new deputy, whomever he may be, do the job they’re supposed to do” he said turning to leave.
The men in the room nodded and murmured in agreement.
“Yeah, you’re right Lyle. Let’s give the sheriff another chance.”
Lyle smiled and headed for the front door. Gail handed Lyle his coat.
“Goodnight all” he said as he left and started for home.
As Lyle mounted his horse, his face underwent a transformation; his smile now replaced by a determined tight lipped grimace, and his eyes, once friendly and open, now emanated treachery, their dark shades of blue deepened by the villainy in his heart.
“Yeahhh!” he said as he urged his horse towards Blindmans Plateau. His horse responded with a rein to the left and then, the pair left Rex Allen’s ranch at a gallop.
Miles away, the Masked leader and Snake Larson waited atop the heavily treed Blindmans Plateau. Named after the Hillside Massacre of 1858, it still evoked a sense of mystery and despair, some said the ghosts of the slaughtered victims still writhed in agony whenever the full moon rose. From east, west and south the flat was heavily treed, it made the perfect meeting place.
Snake Larson, resting on a large boulder, looked around comfortably.
“I like this place boss” he commented. “Yeah, a perfect spot for a house , right over there, just on the edge of the flat. You could see for miles, and the sunrises and sunsets would take your breath away. If I was the settling down kind, it’d be perfect” he said pointing to the plateau’s edge.
The leader looked at Snake Larson through eye slits, then shifted his weight from left to right foot. Rubbing his arms to restore circulation, he stamped again and pulled his jacket tighter around him. His breath formed cloudy white puffs as he waited for Lyle Talbot to arrive.
“Blast it man-how can you be so warm out here!” he spat out at Snake.
Snake looked at the leader, then stood up.
“Easy, I’m used to this. Lived most of my life outside, but soon though, it’ll all be over, when the railroad comes through. Say, the boys’n me are getting tired of waiting for the pay off, how soon until the land buyers come through?” Snake asked.
“Should be by the end of the month or so-two weeks at the most” he said . “Should have time for a couple more jobs, although we’ve done pretty well so far, these last jobs will be the icing on the cake.”
Snake reached into his pocket and pulled out a flask, twisted the lid off and offered the vial of liquor to the leader.
“Care for some?” he asked.
The leader rolled back the mask bottom, lifted the flask to his lips and took a deep draw of warmth. Taking a second sip, then tightening the lid back on, he lit a cigarette and watched the smoke curl up into the night sky. He handed the flask back to Snake Larson.
“Thanks” he replied “Getting blamed cold though. You did tell Lyle around midnight, didn’t you?” he asked.
Snake Larson glared at the leader.
“Of course, he should be here right soon I reckon. What went on at the meeting tonight anyway?” Snake growled at the man of mystery.
A sound of hoofbeats thudded across the moonlit prairie as Lyle neared the top of Blindmans Plateau.
“Hoofbeats, let’s spread out and see who it is” the masked leader ordered.
Snake Larson and the masked leader crouched down and searched the open prairie for any signs of a rider. Snake’s eyes found the racing form first, he strained to pick out who it could be.
“It looks like Lyle from here boss” Snake observed.
“I think so too, but let’s be sure” he said cautiously.
“I agree. Better safe than in prison!” Snake added.
Time passed as the crouching pair stay hidden. Flexing tenses muscles helped the Masked leader warm up. Standing up and moving towards the edge of the trees, the pair waited for the elusive rider to reach them.
Passing through the trees, Lyle emerged at the cut line beside the mysterious figure and Snake Larson. The waiting pair had their firearms raised and ready for action.
“Hold on boys, its me, Lyle.” he said as the moonlight glinted off their well oiled gunbarrels.
The leader and Snake holstered their weapons. Riding to the rock where Snake had reclined, Lyle dismounted and shook the trail dust off. Looking at the man with the face mask, he began to speak.
“You know Mask, it’s a good thing the end is almost near. The sheriff could’ve been lynched in there. Men were spitting nails, and if I didn’t know what was coming, I’d be lynch happy too.” Lyle responded. “Got a shot of whiskey Snake?”
Snake Larson handed the vial over to Lyle.
Lyle took a deep sip, replaced the lid, and handed it back. He wiped his face with the back of his hand.
“If it weren’t for the sheriff promising a special deputy to look into this a little closer, he’d be a dead man!” Lyle added.
“Well-Did the the promise of getting a deputy calm them down?”
“Yeah, it did. They started talking about their friends after that. They seem to be behind the sheriff, at least for now.”
“Do you know anyone Bill could hire? Somebody accident prone, if you know what I mean.” the leader asked.
Snake Larson rubbed his chin.
“Well Snake, Gene and the boys got real hot under the collar so Bill had to defend himself. Somehow, someone suggested the he couldn’t do this job, so Bill said he’d hire a special deputy just to work on this case.” Lyle answered.
Snake looked at the masked leader, then rubbed his chin.
“Say, one of my boys could apply for the job, and we can do what we want, when we want.” he said deviously.
The Masked leader nodded in agreement.
“That’s what I was thinking Snake. Send one of the boys around noon. The job’ll be his guaranteed. After a week or so of no more clues, no more deputy, and we can get down to business again..”
Now re-enthused, the group planned the coming week. What had once seemed insurmountable, now was near its dire conclusion. Snake Larson began to laugh a laugh of victory. Months of planning was nearing fruition, and traps set in secrecy would now be sprung in the light of day. Fully confident in their villainy, the three men began savouring their bloody profits. Nothing could stand in their way now-nothing except the justice of the Lone Ranger and Tonto!
As the meeting progressed inside Rex Allen’s hacienda, Tonto lay in wait behind a bush outside the front door. Much time and conversation passed as Tonto waited for a sign from the disguised Lone Ranger. The troubled conversation drifted out to Tonto’s keen ears through a partially open window. He heard the frustration in the raised voices of the cattlemen as they voiced their concerns to the stony faced Sheriff. He raised his head and peeked into the crowded room, and saw the ranchers faces full of desperation, and then hope as the Sheriff finally gave in and promised a Deputy to help with the raids. The Ranger, seeing Tonto out of the corner of his eye, signaled Tonto down.
“Well gentlemen, thank you for inviting me to this meeting. I hope the new deputy we hire can find what my best efforts couldn’t. Good evening gents. Rex, thanks for the coffee” he said as he left the hacienda.
Mounting his horse, Bill galloped off into the darkness.
Tonto, looked inside towards the Lone Ranger. He gave no signal to the faithful watcher.
A few minutes later, Lyle Stockton got his hat from Gail. He hesitated slightly in the doorway, then turned around and walked towards his horse.
Tonto watched the rancher leave Rex’s hacienda, and head towards his horse. The Ranger signaled Tonto. The moonlight showed the grim smile now there, and solidified the Rangers suspicions in Tonto’s mind. Waiting for Lyle to ride ahead, Tonto stayed in the bush besides the house. Quickly, Lyle lept atop his mount, and reined out towards the prairie. Tonto, seeing Lyle pass through Rex’s Flying A gate, called for Scout and quietly mounted him. Patting Scout gently, he urged him on to follow Lyle. Passing through the gates, Tonto looked back at the house, turned around and searched for Lyle on the flatland ahead.
He rode on in silence as Lyle determinedly galloped on, suspecting nothing. Tonto looked on beyond Lyle and saw the flat landscape. Only one landmark stood out, Blindmans Plateau. Inwardly Tonto wondered if that could be his destination.
Tonto saw Lyle head South toward the plateau and climb the hill with vigour, following from a safe distance he waited until he was sure of Lyle’s destination to push Scout. A burst of speed came from his endless reservoir and soon Tonto was only a couple of hundred yards from Lyle. He saw Lyle push into the trees and followed as closely as he dared.
Lyle, not suspecting anything, made volumes of noise as Tonto and Scout’s sound was easily muffled.
Looking ahead Tonto saw the edge of the trees opening into the plateau. Taking a veer right he plunged into the trees, stopping near the edge. Climbing off Scout, he crawled towards the break’s lip and peeked out just enough to see Lyle in conversation with two men.
They lowered their guns and walked toward a flat boulder. Recognizing Lyle, Tonto strained his keen hearing to the limit. Recognizing the word “job” and “railroad”, his desire for information drew him closer to the three men. Hugging the edge of the trees he crept stealthily to overhear the conversation more clearly.
“Hmm-Kemo Sabe plenty right” he said to himself.
Listening intently to the three men, he heard more snippets of phrases.
“One of the boys.”
A look of fear crossed Tonto’s eyes, how many people had died already, and how many more until the web of tyranny was ended?
Thoughts crossed his mind as the three men spoke . Waiting patiently for them to leave he listened, and learned. Any information gathered now would save many lives later!
Minutes later, Snake, the Masked Leader, and Lyle Stockton left, each going a different direction. One by one, they gathered their horses, and headed off .
Standing up now, Tonto listened carefully for the sound of hoofbeats to fade away. His keen hearing differentiating between the 3 sets of rhythmic beats, he watched and listened Lyle Stockton go south, Snake Larson go east, and the masked leader, north. Satisfying himself that they were sufficiently far away, he too mounted Scout, and traversed the rocky slope fronting Blindmans Plateau. Reaching the level prairie, he turned Scout towards the duos hidden campsite and galloped hard.
The Lone Ranger had much to learn!
“Sweet Alberta” could be just the song this province needs right now!
If you’re a music lover you know that sometimes when you’re feeling down a good song played at just the right time can turn it all around. If you think of all that’s gone wrong for the province of Alberta during 2020 you might say this whole province could use a hug and a great tune! Just as it looked like the oil and gas industries might be able to turn a corner, a dispute between Russia and Saudi Arabia early this year resulted in an historic downturn. Then.. COVID. Need we say more? Well hopefully we can all get a hug from someone we love. As for the tune, here’s a brand new option produced by Alberta artists.. for the entire Province of Alberta to enjoy. It’s called “Sweet Alberta” and it just might be that special tune that becomes an anthem. It’s that good. Co-written by Red Deer’s Scott Wiber (who also plays base on this track) and a fellow musician from London, England, this new single is officially out today (Friday, August 7).
Jesse Roads also from Red Deer is the lead singer and front man for this production. Based in Red Deer, Jesse’s a been touring Alberta and beyond for over 20 years. Right up until COVID swept artists off the stage back in March he was filling up bars and performing for raucous audiences wherever he went. Check out this tune and you’ll see why this should be the song that takes you out of the summer of 2020!
Here are a couple of other tunes performed by Jesse Roads any new fan is going to want to hear.
Enjoy a taste of “No Love” a Jesse Roads classic.
This “COVID” concert was recorded live at The VAT this spring. Check it out to get a real good taste of Jesse Roads and his fabulous band. (Click ahead to the 41 minute mark for the start of the music)
Business Spotlight: Capturing Life’s Most Memorable Moments
Vannessa Brown is a professional birth, motherhood and family photographer specializing in the documentation of life’s “unplanned, unposed, and unexpected moments.” From a child opening its eyes for the very first time, to a father holding his wife and new baby beside the birthing pool, to a toddler gently cradling their new sibling on their lap, Vannessa is passionate about capturing the beautiful and fleeting moments of birth and life.
With an academic background in engineering, Vannessa began to explore photography when she was pregnant with her son, and it was her research on birthing that inspired her interest in birth photography. Based in Edmonton, Alberta, Vannessa Brown Photography was officially launched in 2011, and after photographing her first birth in May 2012, Vannessa never looked back.
As a photographer, each experience brings with it its own unique demands – for periods of up to 5 weeks, she has to be available at a moments notice, and it can take up to 50 hours to properly document a single birthing experience.
Photo Credit: Vannessa Brown Photography
In the last 8 years, she has documented nearly 100 births in hospitals all across Edmonton, in birthing centres, operating rooms and midwifery clinics, as well as home births in bedrooms, bathrooms and living rooms. “It is an honor,” she says, “I am so grateful and thankful to the families who trust me to be a part of these life-changing events.”
Much of her focus and creative approach has been informed by her own experience as a mother of two. From the moment of the actual birth, to the weeks and months after bringing a new child home, it is easy for special memories and moments to get lost among busy schedules and exhaustion. “You think as a mom, you’ll always remember, but you don’t,” she says, “it breaks my heart that I don’t remember all of the little things.”
According to Vannessa, it is common for clients to be on the fence regarding birth photography. However, having been on both sides of the camera herself, as both the photographer and the photographed, “It is worth it,” she states simply, “these are details that are unique to each family’s journey. They are priceless.”
In addition to birth photography, the packages offered by Vannessa Brown Photography include the Family Documentary Session, the Motherhood Session and the Family Mini Session, all specifically designed to capture life as it is. With a focus on real personalities and authentic family dynamics, Vannessa captures the moments you never knew you didn’t want to forget. Sessions can take place in your home or on location at a favorite local restaurant, park, or play area, creating real and lasting memories beyond the classic “Sunday best” family portraits.
To learn more about birth, motherhood and family photography by Vannessa Brown Photography, visit https://www.vannessabrown.com.
For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.
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