Lake O’Hara, by Gerry Feehan
A Red Deer friend described Lake O’Hara Lodge in Yoho National Park, B.C. as the most beautiful place she’d ever been. I have done a fair share of travel to earth’s exotic and amazing places, so my expectations for our three-day visit to O’Hara were tempered with a grain of salt.
“…At every turn a mind-blowing vista opened before us. But always – far below – lay Lake O’Hara, an artist’s palette in aquamarine, the Lodge a tiny wooden appendage at its shore…”
The Lodge, accessible only by bus up a dusty gravel road, is tucked in the mountains west of Lake Louise. We were fortunate to secure a stay. Demand during the short summer season necessitates booking a year in advance – and priority is given to repeat clients, many of whom travel from around the globe to enjoy the natural beauty of this unique Rocky Mountain destination.
Our trip had an inauspicious beginning.
The O’Hara bus departs daily for the Lodge at 9 a.m. sharp from a parking lot near the TransCanada Highway. Rather than arise at 5 a.m. and drive from Red Deer to the O’Hara pick-up spot, we elected to spend a night at a BnB in Field, B.C. It was record-breaking hot that evening. Dinner was excellent – rainbow trout on a bed of wild rice – but the moment we turned in for the evening the hotel power quit. No lights, no TV, no a.c.; just darkness and heat.
A young woman came ‘round with a flashlight in the pitch-black offering solace: “Wow, this happened last week too. No power for 47 hours. We had to throw out most of our food.” I tossed and turned through the night’s sultry darkness, wondering whether my supper had endured the earlier blackout and was contemplating a fishy re-appearance.
Miraculously the power returned moments before our 8 a.m. checkout, in time for the hotel’s Visa machine to accept payment.
The drive into O’Hara was unimpressive: a bumpy ride on a school bus with six friends, plus a bunch of solemn strangers, all of us overburdened for the short stay with luggage, backpacks, hiking poles and superfluous personal items (in my case ineffective fishing gear). Eleven kilometers later we turned the last dusty corner. The Lodge and lake appeared in timeless beauty. Smiles erupted at the sight of rough-hewn timbers meeting cerulean waters.
While the staff discreetly unloaded our bags we were briefed in the rustic lobby and offered a pack lunch for our first day-hike. Camelbacks filled, our best lederhosen donned, off we went a wandering.
One of our companions, a Red Deer Judge, is not renowned for his hiking prowess – he’s usually meting out justice in a courtroom. But as a veteran of Lake O’Hara – and the one who was able to finagle rooms for four couples during peak season – he was the natural choice to lead our troop up the steep paths and along the precipitous ledges of O’Hara’s vast trail network.
We skirted the lake’s north shore and began the climb up Oesa Lake Trail. After an hour we reached an alpine meadow painted with delicate yellow columbine, fiery-red Indian paintbrush and shaggy green anemones – hippies on a stick.
“…The most-beautiful place she’d ever been…”
As we gained elevation the summer air became cooler. Lake Oesa was still dotted with orphaned chunks of ice sailing randomly in the wind. Spruce pollen weaved intricate patterns along the lake’s frigid shores.
At every turn a mind-blowing vista opened before us.
But always – far below – lay Lake O’Hara, an artist’s palette in aquamarine, the Lodge a tiny wooden appendage at its shore.
Although he performed admirably as pack leader, the Judge was noticeably absent when our damsels fell behind and needed a chivalrous hand fording the hazardous creeks. After tackling 16 kilometers of the toughest O’Hara could throw at us, in late afternoon we descended steeply to her cobalt shores and the luxury of a hot shower, a cold beverage and one of the better meals I’ve had the pleasure of sticking a knife and fork into.
After dinner the sated guests retired to the common room. Giant logs crackled in the open fireplace. Comradery ensued. I uncased my trusty ukulele. My Calgary buddy grabbed his guitar. He isn’t usually shy about sharing his musical talents but on this occasion I had to cajole him into playing. His reticence vanished after our first tune, when the whole Lodge clapped approval and started shouting requests.
Eventually the accolades turned to yawns. It had been a long day.
The Feehans were bunked in the rustic main lodge – with (how quaint) shared bath. Two of our snootier friends were booked into a private cabin on the lake’s edge. The rest of us selflessly included them in the group by appropriating their lakefront deck for cordials each evening.
O’Hara provides plenty of recreational options: one can tackle an oxygen-depriving climb along an alpine ridge, saunter slowly around the lake’s pristine perimeter, or just sit in the lodge and knit – admiring a view that evokes a Group of Seven painting.
But sitting and knitting is not my forté – having dropped a stitch or two in time I’ve now cast off that pursuit. I was here for the great outdoors, to experience the handiwork of Lawrence Grassi, park warden at Lake O’Hara during the 1950’s. He designed, built and for many years singlehandedly maintained the Alpine Circuit Trail. Generations of hikers have enjoyed his skillfully arranged rockwork. An elaborate staircase of stone skirting Victoria Falls is one of his masterful works. A simple plaque on the rock face beneath the falls honours his remarkable achievements.
“…I grabbed my pack and scrambled to safety – behind my wife Florence…”
On our second day we tackled another longish ramble but one involving less altitude. As we descended into a lush valley and neared a narrow bridge a rumble of distant thunder surrounded us. I looked up, puzzled by the sky’s uniform blue. Near the summit above us a torrent of meltwater and ice was erupting into the watershed. The Odaray Glacier was calving. A fresh blue gash scarred its frozen grey mass. We hustled across the flimsy log bridge and safely upward into the forest before the flood arrived.
We stopped for lunch on a rocky ledge overlooking Lake McArthur. The others sat and rested their tired feet. I stood, vigilant, acutely attuned to the surroundings. I was intent on photographing the rare hoary marmot. This elusive mammal lives a solitary life tucked amongst craggy alpine rocks.
As I scanned the distant horizon the Judge shouted, “Gerry, look out for your trail mix.” I turned my binoculars and was confronted with a nostril-hair close-up of a large blond rodent. The critter was within arm’s reach and marching my way. His long marmot claws suggested this was a business meeting. I grabbed my pack and scrambled to safety – behind my wife Florence.
For the balance of the day I remained at the back of the group – to ensure we weren’t attacked from the flank by a malicious herbivore.
A few years ago Florence and I bought all the gear required for serious backcountry camping: lightweight sleeping bags, thinsulate mattresses, gas cooker: the whole outdoor shebang. Then we discovered places like Lake O’Hara Lodge, where mountain air and comfort co-mingle; filet mignon, a glass of quality red goof and a soft bed are the reward for a gruelling day in the alpine.
As for our Red Deer friend’s assessment that Lake O’Hara is the most beautiful place she’s ever been? Let’s just say I still respect her opinion. I had better. She’s organizing our trip to Bhutan this fall. She says it’s the happiest place on earth. I’ll let you know.
Gerry Feehan is an award-winning travel writer and photographer. He and his wife Florence live in Red Deer, AB and Kimberley, BC.
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“Can you tell me if there’s a good spot to fish around here?”
Fly Fishing Alberta
I remember the first time I played golf. It was a beautiful summer evening. That first shot flew out over the blue Edmonton sky and settled in the middle of the fairway. I was 12 years old and, from that moment on, addicted to golf. My appetite for fly fishing began many years later, but was also sparked by a single, memorable event – when, in a classic example of beginner’s luck, I landed a big brown trout on the Bow River.
Over the last decade I’ve wasted a glorious allotment of life’s brief flicker engaged in this new, perplexing pastime. Fly-fishing, like golf, is a pursuit that involves a litany of painful moments on the steep road toward competency. Unlike golf however, fishing does not entail the agony of a triple-bogey or the humiliation of a whiff. But, like the errant swing of a driver, casting a fly can result in plenty of frustration and some unintended consequences. There are missed fish, tangled lines – even an occasional need for the apologetic retrieval of a barbed hook from the derrière of a fellow fisherman.
There are a few different ways to wet a line. If you have a boat, you can drift a river or float a lake. If not, you can stand on a dock or cast from shore. But best of all is to walk and wade a shallow river. Nothing beats the solitary experience of crisscrossing a remote meandering creek, searching for elusive, rising fish. Plus I get to spend long peaceful hours alone with my favourite person. Haha.
Fly fishermen are notoriously secretive about their favourite fishing spots. One fall evening, at a secluded spot on the Oldman River in southern Alberta, I arrived late and, in the near-dark, set up camp. I wandered over to chat with a couple of well-fed fellows who were sitting contentedly by a campfire, cooking smokies and enjoying a few brews. A pair of hip-waders drying in the setting sun identified them as fly-fishermen.
‘Hi there,’ I said. ‘Can you tell me if there’s a good spot to fish around here?’ ‘
Yup,’ said the more portly of the two, taking a pull from his beer and looking downstream. ‘Just that way a bit. It’s called Zippermouth Creek.’
‘Where?’ I asked excitedly.
He looked at his buddy knowingly, then turning my way, pulled a thumb and index finger across his lips. Then he laughed, took another sip and returned his attention to the roaring fire. I slunk away – rebuffed but undeterred. And in the morning I did indeed hunt down a nice fishing hole. And since then I’ve discovered a few Zippermouth Creeks of my own.
Like every other endeavour, people who are skilled at fly-fishing make it look easy. A lot of time can be saved – and aggravation averted – by watching and imitating the pros. Turns out there are just three parts to the program. First, one must learn to operate a fly rod. Then, you need to figure out where the fish are hiding. Last is to determine what our pesce little friends are eating that day. My buddy Tony has patiently – and somewhat effectively – educated me in these three basic principles. But on occasion, even the master gets fish-schooled. We were drifting the Red Deer River on May 15th, opening day.
Tony was at the oars, scanning the surface, vigilant for signs of rising trout. Suddenly he pointed quietly toward a sunken log: ‘There, a big brown!’ He eased the boat toward shore and silently dropped anchor. Soon the telltale signs of a slurping snout re-emerged. Tony ambled onto the bank, tied on a green drake and, with precision, dropped the fly a few feet upstream of the log. The drift was textbook, directly over where the trout had been feeding. Nothing. Puzzled, he tied on a stonefly pattern and made another perfect cast. Nada. Finally he tried a caddis. Sure enough, the fish struck. But it was foul hooked and easily busted off. Tony, frustrated, gave up and, muttering about ‘dumb fish’, wandered up toward another hole.
I looked in my fly box, pulled out something that looked like a beetle, and tied it on. First cast the monster attacked. I set the hook and, to my utter amazement, the fly was firmly attached to the maw of an enormous brown. I reeled in the line but when the fish saw me – and I it – we both panicked. It set course for the middle of the river and the safety of strong current while I stumbled and fell on the slippery rocks. I regained my footing and after five minutes fighting the brute I called for help: ‘Tony, bring the net!’ But the cascading river drowned out my wails. I’d have to land the beast solo. Which, amazingly, I did, although the fish’s mouth and tail were spilling out the edges of my cheap net. Tony arrived in time to snap a picture, verifying what otherwise would have gone down in history as just another of Gerry’s fictional fish stories.
Do I tie my own flies? Certainly not. I get everything from my dealer, Tony. It starts with a phone call:
G: ‘Hey, Tony, I’m outa green drakes and I need some, real bad.’
T: ‘I ain’t got no green drakes, I can get ya some browns. Maybe.’
G: ‘No, Tony, please I really need the greens.’
T: ‘Ok, ok, calm down. I’ll leave a packet in the rear mailbox. Leave cash. Use the back gate and don’t let nobody see ya.’
G: ‘Thanks Tony, you’re a life saver.’
Then the conversation changes:
G: ‘Oh, Tony, did I mention the big cutthroat I landed at Prairie Creek last week.’
T: ‘No, Gerry. Tell me more. Was it male, female? Any colour?’
G: ‘Golden red. A fat male. 18 inches. Maybe more. With a huge kype.’
T: ‘Oh, Gerry, that is so-o-o exciting! Tell me more.’
I call this 1 (900) FISH TALK. It’s kinda weird. But then, fly fishermen really are fanatical.
These days I spend about as much time casting about as I do strolling fairways – and if I have the choice between fishing and golfing, more and more I’m leaning toward avoiding those nasty three-putts and instead trying to land that big one.
By the way, did I mention that, after hitting that first big drive all those years ago, I duffed three shots in a row?
contact Gerry at [email protected]
Gerry Feehan is an award-winning travel writer and photographer. We hope you enjoyed his Irish adventure. He and his wife Florence live in Red Deer, AB and Kimberley, BC.
The Lone Ranger and the Riders of Justice-Chapters 8 and 9
Tonto had ridden hard back to the campsite after the evening conversation he had overheard. He had much to tell the Lone Ranger. The miles flew by quickly as lives hung in the balance. Arriving breathless a the fireside he dismounted Scout and tied him to the nearest willow. The Ranger sat up and moved over to Tonto.
“Did you learn much Tonto?” the masked man asked.
Tonto rubbed scout down and began to talk.
“Yes Kemo Sabe-me learn much. Lyle Talbot ride up to Blindmans Plateau. Meet masked man and man named Snake. “ he said between strokes. “Men talk for some time. Tonto hear words ‘Ambush’, ‘railroad’, and all 3 men part of bigger plan to buy railroad land.”.
The Lone Ranger listened intently to Tonto’s narrative. His powers of observation and keen hearing missed little.
“They plan more raids before railroad man come to town” Tonto added.
“Did they say anything about when this would happen?” the Ranger asked.
“Next week, maybe two weeks. They not know when.” Tonto replied finishing Scouts rub-down.
The Lone Ranger looked solemnly up at Tonto.
“Did they say anything else?”
“Masked man tell man named Snake to send man into town tomorrow. He supposed to apply for Deputy Job, he get job. Plenty bad for town people.” Tonto replied.
“So Tonto, the very man Kievers Creek looks to for help, is one of the man they live in fear of!” the Ranger summarized.
A few minutes passed.
“What do we do next Kemo Sabe?” Tonto asked.
The Ranger moved back to the fire and stirred the faggots, the flames danced higher as sparks flew to the heavens. Tonto sat down, the Ranger handed him a coffee.
“Thank you” he said.
The fire licks made strange shadows around the seated pair. The warmth of the burning logs took miles of saddle aches away, and fatigue soon set in. Tonto’s handsome face was silhouetted in the flickering light as he listened to his wise companion.
“Tonto, it’s time to act. This is what I propose…” the Ranger and Tonto talked at length and planned the next days activities. Their plans made, sleep soon overtook the pair.
The rising sun found Tonto and the Lone Ranger readying themselves for the day. Frying bacon and boiling coffee provided both men with needed nourishment. Cleaning their dishes took a few minutes as Tonto prepared the horses for a long day of riding. He fed them from their feed stores and led Scout and Silver over to the cool creek for a good drink of water. With Scout and Silver both fresh and well rested, few horses in the West could match their endurance or speed.
Emerging from the trees, the masked rider of the plains and Tonto, cantered towards the rock Snake Larson had reclined on. Dismounting Silver the Ranger walked to the spot Tonto pointed at.
“Kemo Sabe, the men stand here. These prints here, are the masked leaders, these” he said pointing to a deeper set of prints “ are Snake’s, and these here are Lyle Tablots.” he added, kneeling down beside the Ranger.
Pressed down grass surrounded the rock, dew soaked prints revealed much to the trained eyes of the Ranger and Tonto. Turning back his minds eye to the prints he saw after following the tracks to the wooded knoll, he saw the same irregular heels once more. Snake Larson had raided Jim and Margaret Autry’s wagon. Justice would soon follow him to his doom!
“Tonto, the prints are hard to see. They did a lot of pacing didn’t they?” the Ranger commented.
“Tonto, Snake Larson stood here?” the Ranger asked.
“Yes Kemo Sabe” Tonto replied.
“And the leader here, and Lyle here?” he verified .
“Yes, you recognize footprints” Tonto asked.
The masked man looked more closely.
“I think so Tonto, Snake Larson’s I saw when the man with shiny boots surprised me. The Others, Lyles’, I’m not sure but if he’s in league with the sheriff and Larson they probably are his”
Rising to his full height, the Ranger brushed the dust from his knees. Walking towards the horses, the pair talked further.
The Lone Ranger looked solemnly at Tonto.
“Tonto, did you overhear how many men are in the gang?” the Ranger asked.
“They no say kemo sabe” Tonto replied.
“We’ll have to assume they have at least six men, the ones that Jim and Margaret saw. Two of those men, we know were Snake, and possibly Lyle. Tonto, Snakes tracks are still fresh, let’s track them if we can.” he said.
Tonto mounted Scout and reined him towards Snake Larsons horse tracks. Proceeding slowly, the pair alternated picking the imprints. Much to their disappointment, the trail led to prairie scrub brush, then disappeared.
Taking the lost trail in stride the Lone Ranger and Tonto turned back to town more confident in their suspicions. They pushed Silver and Scout to their limit to get back to Kievers Creek early in the day. By noon, unless the Ranger and Tonto got to town, one of Snake Larsons men would be Deputy. With the law fully behind them, nothing could stop their tyranny!
Stopping at their campsite, the Ranger dismounted Silver and proceeded to effect a disguise. Removing a small kit from his saddle bag, he extracted two vials of pigment. Covering his hands with dark brown he rubbed his face, hands, and skin. Removing his mask and shirt he continued to colour his skin. Opening the second vial, he applied the contents to his hair, turning a deep rich black to a medium brown. Returning the vials to his saddle bag, he pulled some faded clothes out, and put them on. Replacing his familiar blue pants and shirt, he turned to Tonto.
“Will this do amigo?” he asked in a thick Mexican accent.
“That do plenty good kemo sabe” Tonto replied.
“Tonto-let’s ride!” he said as he strapped on a tattered gun belt to complete the disguise.
Arriving in town almost breathless from the strenuous ride, the pair of Frontier Avengers reined their horses in front of the Hodgsons General Store. They tied them to the railing and walked toward the sheriffs office. Tonto, stopped in front of the store window, and wrapped a blanket around himself. The Ranger kept on walking and stopped at the notice board. His eyes found the Deputy Wanted sign. Reading it quickly, he moved further on and walked into the Sheriffs office.
“Howdy Sheriff” the Ranger/Manuel said.
Sheriff Stockton looked up from his paper.
“Howdy stranger-what can I do for you?” Bill asked.
“I’d like to apply for the deputy job senior. My name is Manuel” the Ranger said.
The Sheriff quickly gauged the Lone Ranger up.
“Any tracking experience Manuel?” Bill asked.
“Si senior, many years of finding lost horses on my fathers ranchero in Mexico.”
“Are you good with a gun?” Bill said.
Manuel, drew his battered gun from his holster in one fluid motion, spun it round his finger and smoothly returned it to the worn leather belt. He smiled, black teeth showed.
“A man named Snake sent me” Manuel added.
Bill Stockton stood a little straighter.
“Do you have any references, other than Snake?” he asked.
“Tom Steele, I was there last as his lead horse trainer, before his killing.”
“In that case Manuel, where can I get hold of you if you’re hired?” he replied.
Manuel stood back confidently.
“At the saloon.” he answered.
“I’ll let you know later, I have to think about it.” he said, a little hesitancy in his voice.
Manuel turned to leave.
“Thanks for coming in Manuel. I’ll know later today.” Bill said.
Manuel left the office and walked over to Tonto. Standing beside him and conversing quietly in as few words as possible, they spoke.
“Tonto, watch the office. He didn’t hire me on the spot. They must have arranged a signal or code. I’m going over to the saloon, as I said I would.” Manuel said quietly.
Tonto, not looking up from his blanket, nodded.
“Yes Kemo Sabe.”
The Lone Ranger left Tonto and continued over to Barcroft’s Saloon. Sitting down on the well worn bench in front he observed Tonto on his far right and the Sheriff’s office slightly to the left. So far, the Sheriff had acted as suspected
Some time passed as the people of Kievers Creek lived the rhythm of their daily lives. Mothers left Hodgson’s store with groceries and children in tow; the stage coach rumbled through main street leaving dust in the air; Business men swept their wooden walks, and greeted passers by with a smile and a wave; carpenters and farmers left the hardware store arms laden with supplies; and children ran from corner to corner, and from home to school. The sounds of life echoed through the streets-laughter and the occasional loud discussion floated out of the saloons double doors. Moving as they always had, the people of Kievers Creek had no idea of the villainy afoot in the office of the sheriff.
Watching the sheriffs office closely from his bench, the Lone Ranger saw no-one enter the office. Soon though, a tall lean stranger entered. Five minutes, ten minutes, twenty minutes, and finally thirty minutes passed.
The Ranger stood up, then walked over to the store where Tonto sat.
A burly gentlemen approached the office, opened the door. Tonto looked up at the Ranger.
“Tall man in plenty long time Kemo Sabe” Tonto said.
The Ranger nodded in agreement.
“Maybe man member of Snake’s gang?” he suggested.
“Could be Tonto. Have to find out somehow” the Ranger replied.
The Ranger/Manuel gazed intently at the sheriffs office. Roy Rogers stood in the doorway for a moment, then turned and left. The swarthy gunslinger stood beside the sheriff just inside the door with a scowl on his face. Conversing intently, a worried look came over the sheriff’s face. The other man gesticulated madly, then the door was closed.
The Ranger/Manuel looked down at Tonto, a nod of understanding passed between them. The Mexican came out a few minutes later and quickly mounted his horse. Locking his office door, the sheriff left a couple of minutes later. Trouble, it seems, was on it’s way.
Tonto got up from the wooded sidewalk and moved towards Scout. He and the Ranger reined their horses around and galloped out after the Mexican outlaw. With Tonto’s superior tracking skill, he was not far enough ahead to lose them. At best, a cloud of dust showed them the way Ace Parker went. Following behind at a safe distance, the pair galloped in silence, each lost in thought.
Ace Parker, still visibly upset, hurried towards their hideout in the hills. There were plans to be made, and Snake Larson had to know about the newest wrinkle in the plans. Passing by Blindmans Plateau, he carried on pushing his horse to it’s limit. Arriving at the hideout’s secret entrance he pushed through the covering shrub and sought Snake Larson out.
The Ranger and Tonto, arriving at the entrance paused. They had no knowledge of what lay beyond the veil of secrecy! Tonto went first, leaning against the wall with his six guns raised high. He forced his way through the slim opening. Making no sound, he quickly surveyed the area. A vast valley met his gaze. THE RUSTLERS HIDEOUT HAD BEEN FOUND!! Motioning the Ranger forward, Tonto and the masked man explored the entrance, learning any possible escape route should it be needed.
The pair looked in amazement at the scene before them, hundreds of cattle grazed on the sweet grass of the hidden valley. Ranging for almost a mile either way, and surrounded by steep hills and dense bush and trees, the valley was a perfect place to hide. A creek ran through the north side, disappearing into the rocks, supplying water to the valley’s inhabitants. Surely, the familiar brands of Kievers Creek’s cattlemen would be amongst the content animals.
Hypnotized by the scene before them, the Ranger and Tonto were snapped to alertness by the cracking of a twig. Someone was near! Every sense fully aware, the pair moved stealthily through the low bush. Peering left and right, the sight of the Mexican Ace Parker met their eyes. He, too was searching. The Ranger and Tonto must have made too much noise. Straining his ears to catch any further noise, he heard nothing more as the Masked Man and Tonto stood still. Moving back towards the cabin one hundred yards distant, Ace Parker ambled along slowly at first, then he picked his pace up as he recognized the outlaws standing outside.
Waiting in the bushes in the edge of the clearing, the Ranger and Tonto moved after Ace and his partners went inside the cabin. They moved efficiently until they stopped behind a wagon at the edge of the bushes. Their heads poked above the top of the buckboard, perfect targets if anyone were looking. Motioning Tonto with his silver pistol, the pair of men snuck towards the cabin. Flattening themselves against the rough hewn wall, they inched forward until they came to an open window. Carefully looking inside the room, the Ranger motioned Tonto ahead to the other side of the broken window. They listened, and learned.
Ace Parker, Snake Larson, Lyle Talbot, and several other men sat around a large oak table. A bottle of whiskey stood on either end, dirty cups and plates littered the edges, and several half smoked cigars balanced precariously on the sides. The dozen unmade cots which lined the walls, and the sooty pot-bellied stove in the middle of the room boiling a well used coffee pot evidenced the outlaws long presence.
“I tell you Snake, by the time I got to the Sheriffs office, he already hired this Roy Rogers guy. Sheriff Stockton told me he had no choice, letters of recommendation from one of his old lawman friends, from the US army, and he’s an expert tracker as well. If Bill had refused his services, and word had got back to Don Barry, or Rex Allen, trouble would really be brewing.” Ace said defensively.
“So, what was your impression of Roy Rogers Ace?” Snake asked.
Ace Parker took a shot of whiskey, and wiped his mouth with his sleeve.
“He’s like a snake, coiled. If we’re going to get rid of him, it has to be soon before he learns too much. Bill suggested an ambush on the trail. Apparently he’s going over to Allen’s later” Ace related.
“Well, that’s what it is then. Around sunset we’ll…” Snake Larson planned.
The Lone Ranger and Tonto, motioning toward the hidden valleys entrance listened for the end of the conversation, then turned to leave. Tonto’s foot caught on a stone, and down he went. He looked down, and stood up quickly. The sound of his fall carried through the hidden valley like a gunshot! The Ranger, peered inside and saw the outlaws run to the window. Realizing that speed was of the essence now, the pair of avengers abandoned stealth.
Snake Larson, still talking, heard the sound and ran to the window.
“It’s a mexican, and an Indian! They must have heard our plan! Get them!” he commanded, running for the door.
The men poured out from the cabin and ran towards the fleeing pair. A couple of men mounted their horses and galloped ahead. Gunshot flew around the Ranger and Tonto as their brains worked feverishly to plan their escape.
Returning the gunfire, the Ranger and Tonto sped towards freedom. A mounted pair of gunmen blocked their path. Never willingly taking a life, the Ranger shot the gunmen’s weapon out of their hands. Their hands stinging with pain, the twosome charged the fleeing duo. The gang behind Tonto and the Ranger fired indiscriminately. So intent on killing the mexican and Tonto, Snake Larsons wildly aimed bullet took the life of one of the approaching outlaws! He fell to the ground, the horse galloping past the Ranger barely missing him by inches. The other, seeing his partner fall, started to yell, but he too took a wild bullet. His arm stung with the deadly projectile, he lost his balance, and fell to the ground. The path to freedom was clear! The Ranger and Tonto ran a zig zag pattern to avoid the gunfire.
“Silver” the Ranger shouted. “Here Boy!”
“Scout! Come Scout” Tonto echoed.
Tension grew as the entrance loomed closer. Snake Larson and his gangs bullets careened wildly around the fleeing pair. Firing back at their pursuers, silver bullets found their mark sending pistols flying through the air.
Just then, the mighty steeds, Silver and Scout crashed their way through the arboreal barrier. Caught by surprise, Snake Larson and his gang hesitated for a moment. But that’s all it took for the Ranger and Tonto to mount their horses, rein around and leave!
“Hi Yo Silver Away” the Ranger shouted in triumph!
The mounted pair crashed through the barrier sending branches scattering.
Still in shock at the last few moments, Snake Larson came to the realization that the Lone Ranger and Tonto had been in their grasp. And now they were gone!
Motioning his men to their mounts, the outlaws gave chase. Leaving Hidden Valley in a full gallop they pursued the fleeing pair, a full three minutes ahead. The outlaws horses, even pushed to their limits, were no match for the magnificent steeds Silver and Scout. Firing a last volley of shots towards the Ranger and Tonto in frustration, they slowed down and turned around looking back to see the disappearing horsemen on the horizon!
“Whoa Boys, let’s go back. There’s lots to do before tonight!” Snake yelled. “With the Masked man around here, we’ve got to be pretty careful.”
The Ranger and Tonto sped towards the Flying A Ranch. Rex had to be told about the newest developments!
Roy Roger had gone back to Dale’s place to tell her he wasn’t going to be there for supper. Riding Trigger gently, they arrived as ‘George’ was leaving.
George was a white whiskered, cantankerous prospector type. Wearing brown dungarees, and a bright red flannel shirt, he beamed curiosity. He pulled his dusty hat off his head and stopped Roy short of the door.
“You be the new deputy?” he asked in a growly voice.
Roy Rogers replied.
“I’m the new deputy, name’s Roy Rogers, and you are?” he asked.
“George Gabby Hayes at yer disposal. How can I help you young’un?” he said.
“Is Dale in right now?” he asked.
“Na’aw, she’s off at the store. Care to leave a message?” he said protectively.
Roy thought for a moment.
“I’ll write a note.” he replied.
They went in and found a paper and a pencil. Roy wrote his note and left it on the table. Gabby, naturally curious, looked over Roy’s shoulder as he wrote. As Roy wrote, Gabby’s eyes widened. Roy looked up, and Gabby quickly turned away. Roy turned to finish the note, and Gabby looked strained to look again. Putting the pencil down, Roy turned around.
“Do you want me to read the note to you or can you read it fine from there?” Roy asked.
“Fine from here young’un. Thanks” Gabby replied.
Roy grinned and finished the note.
“Dale’ll find it here.” Roy said as he put the note on the table.
Roy and Gabby left Dale’s place.
“Young’un” Gabby began.
“Call me Roy” Roy asked.
“You can call me Gabby-everyone else does” Gabby responded.
“Okay Gabby” Roy said. “What do you know about the raids and ambushes around here?”
Gabby sat down on the porch bench and Roy followed.
“Well, Roy, it’s might suspicious these raids. You know, I’ve been on every posse except time ‘cept the last one.”
“You don’t say?” Roy responded.
Gabby looked at Roy, a hint of indignance in his eyes.
“You don’t believe me, do you Roy?”
“Gabby, of course I do. If you have as much experience as you appear to have. There’s not much you could say that I wouldn’t believe” Roy replied.
“Now, that’s better. One thing about the young’uns of today. No respect for their elders. Now, where was I?” Gabby asked.
“Have you noticed anything strange about any of the posses?” Roy asked?
Gabby rubbed his chin, cocked his head left then looked at Roy.
“Well, a few times I’ve seen some tracks that should’ve been followed. But for some strange reason, we went the other direction. Couldn’t figure out why though. Course, being an unofficial deputy, I couldn’t say anything. Bill is quite a tracker you know. He and I tracked a black bear near twenty miles, most of it almost pitch dark. Had to stop though, our supply of chewing tebaccky ran out. “ Gabby continued on.
“You mean Bill is an excellent tracker?” Roy asked quizzically.
Gabby smacked his lips.
“One of the best Roy, one of the best. Of course, I taught him all I knew. Known him since he was knee high to a grasshopper.”
“Has he been acting strange lately?” Roy asked.
“Well, now that you mention it. He has been a little different. Stopped coming to church socials as a matter of fact. He’s stopped doing anything but working the last few months.” Gabby observed.
“Have you ever seen him with anyone else recently?” Roy inquired.
Gabby thought for a minute while the wind blew across the deck.
“It does seem that he’s taken up with a couple of strangers. One comes in, and they leave. Come back a couple of hours later, don’t know where they go though, ain’t bothered figuring it out neither” Gabby replied.
Roy stood up.
“Thanks Gabby, you’ve been a big help. I’m off to Rex Allen’s ranch, so I’ll talk to you later” Roy said as he mounted Trigger and reined towards the east. He hadn’t gone far when..
“Where’re you going Roy? Rex lives in t’other direction” Gabby yelled.
Roy pulled Trigger back, and cantered towards Gabby.
“You’d better show me the way then, the sheriffs map is all wrong.” Roy said as he put the map in his shirt pocket.
Gabby nearly jumped for joy.
“Weeell, I never thought you’d ask Roy. I’ll saddle Emma up, give me a couple of minutes. Just when you thought your day was going no-where, action! Yee Haa” Gabby said excitedly.
Hobbling to get his horse from Dale’s stable, Gabby threw his well worn saddle on Emma, a charcoal mare with bright eyes. Like Gabby, trouble didn’t seem too far beneath her pleasant exterior.
As mid-afternoon passed onto early evening, two pairs of riders galloped towards destiny: Roy and Gabby were going to meet Rex, from one direction, and the Ranger and Tonto were coming from the other. Before the week was out, the world that was Bill Stocktons villainy was going to pass into obscurity!
Information on Angels Wings
The Lone Ranger and Tonto galloped towards the Flying A ranch. As the miles flew by Silver and Scouts hooves, the pair of riders saw acres of beautiful land and thousands of cattle. Working cowboys moved their animals and waved to the pair as they passed by.
Roy and Gabby approached Rex’s ranch as the sun reached 3:00 high. The sprawling hacienda, even basked in the mid-day sun, radiated a sense of solidarity and confidence in the future. Roy dismounted Trigger, looped his reins over the deck railing. Gabby, still complaining bitterly about Emma’s comfort, happily left his perch.
“Nice Layout” Roy remarked to Gabby.
Gabby smacked his lips and answered.
“Yep, helped Rex build this place. I’ve know’d him since he was oh, yeah tall. Seen him start from a few cattle, to this” Gabby swept his hands from east to west.
“I suppose you taught him all you knew about cattle too” Roy jibed.
“Almost, except he added a little and a lot of cattle too!” Gabby replied.
Roy and Gabby knocked on the ranch door. Gale let them in.
“Gale, this here is Roy Rogers” Gabby said.
“Pleased to meet you Mr Rogers. Hello Gabby, been telling Roy how you helped build this place?” Gale asked, a mocking smile on her face. She laughed.
“Mr Allen is this way” Gale replied leading Roy and Gabby into the hacienda. “Please sit down. Can I get you something? Iced tea, lemonade?”
Rex Allen was standing beside his tall backed chair. A smile crossed his lips.
“Rex, this here is Roy Rogers, the new deputy” Gabby said.
Rex offered his hand to Roy.
“The Sheriff worked fast, didn’t he Gabby? Pleased to meet you Roy, I’m Rex Allen, chief wrangler on this here range, when Gabby isn’t around that is. Welcome to my home” he said offering Roy his hand.
“Mighty glad to be here Rex. Nice spread you have here.” Roy firmly shaking Rex’s offered hand. A look of respect passed between them.
“Please” he said waving the two toward the couch.
“Gabby here” Roy said “ is quite a genial host, would’ve got lost coming out here if he wasn’t along with me. Reminds me of my old dad in some ways.”
Gabby looked away shyly.
“Shucks Roy, just trying to help that’s all.”
Rex nodded in agreement.
“Gabby’s just like one of the family.”
Gale entered the room carrying the cool drinks, she handed Roy, Rex, and Gabby their teas, and left.
“Thanks” Roy offered.
“Thanks Gale” Rex said.
Roy took a sip of his drink, then set it down on the oak table.
“So where do you hail from Roy?” Rex asked.
“I was born and raised in Duck Run, Ohio. Spent the last few years with the army as a tracker, and the last couple with Sheriff Don Barry. He sort of sent me” Roy answered.
“Don Barry sent you?” Rex asked.
“Yes, a couple of days ago he got wind from an anonymous source telling
him that there was trouble down here. So, he told me to come down and help Bill Stockton out. I guess Don owed Bill a favour.” Roy said.
“Don’s a good man. Hope he’s doing well.”
“He’s doing fine. He’s a grandfather now, got two wind’em up tight grandsons that keep he and April busy” Roy replied.
Rex took a sip of his iced tea.
“So Roy, how are you going to start out?” he asked.
“Well, Bill gave me his files on the raids thus far. I brought them with me. You know where the ranches are, so hopefully I can go visit the families over the next few days. I’ll go get them” Roy began. He went out to Trigger, opened his saddlebags and brought the package of files in. Laying them on the table, he and Rex began to read.
As Roy read the files, he noticed Rex’s wall hanging. Some years earlier, the Cattlemen’s Association had a hanging map done as a thank you for years of service. Showing landmarks, homesteads, land grants, and of course the insignia of Kievers Creek County, it added a distinctive touch to the Allen household.
“Nice wall map Rex” Roy said.
Rex stood up and walked over to the hanging.
“Thanks, mighty proud of it I am.” Rex replied.
Gabby chimed in.
“Dale outdid herself, didn’t she Roy?”
“She made that?” Roy asked.
“She sure did Roy” Gabby replied.
“ I wonder if we could use this and plot where the raids, ambushes, and rustlings happened?” Roy asked with a spark in his eye.
Rex nodded in agreement.
“Great idea Roy! Gail, can you come here?” Rex asked.
Gail came into the living room wiping her hands on her rose covered apron.
“Yes Mr Allen?” she responded.
“Gail, could you bring coloured ribbon, scissors, and some stick pins please?”
She turned around and left the room. A few minutes later she returned, pins, ribbon, and scissors in hand. Somehow she managed to hold the pitcher of iced tea in one hand.
Handing the items to Rex, she refilled the glasses, and left the room.
“Thanks Gail” Roy and Rex said.
Gabby quietly stood up and followed Gail.
Roy and Rex. absorbed in conversation, turned to the stack of papers on the table. Rex, standing beside the map held a red pin in his hand.
“Okay Roy, the first file we read was …” Rex prompted.
As Roy read, Rex plotted. Red marked raid, blue ribbon meant ambush, and green ribbon rustling. The map was soon dotted with red, blue and green. Broken down into manageable bits of information, patterns soon emerged. The red pins formed a rough line with Kievers Creek in the middle, the blue and green pins were more random, yet seemed centred around some mysterious point.
“Curious Roy isn’t it?” Rex commented.
Roy rubbed his chin.
“Yes, the only information we can gather is that the raids occurred in a straight line sort of. You say there were effects of these raids as well.”
“Well, about ten families canceled their homesteading plans after the raids started.
Three families left after they were raided. Some strangers bought them out real fast, lock stock, and barrel. The banks got a couple of parcels of land, and the cattlemen absorbed the losses as well as we could.. All in all, things could be much worse. “
Rex sat down beside Roy, and re read the reports. His face showed emotion as he remembered each of the ‘files’ in turn. Faces of friends, now departed came to mind as he read the cold heartless details. Tragedies, easily dismissed on paper, came back to life to Rex, who lived beside many of the people mentioned.
“Roy, these reports seem accurate enough. But for all the possess we’ve set up, no clues were found, until now. Why would there be a straight line from east to west?” Rex asked.
“Could be almost anything from land syndicates to fencing lines. By the way, how many cattle have been lost in the raids?”
“The cattlemen’s Association figure around five hundred to seven hundred cattle have been stolen, run off, or killed. Haven’t found many though. They just vanished. It’s not the loss of cattle or buildings that concern us though. Cattle can be replaced, buildings can be rebuilt. But good friends, families and hope for the future can never be replaced. We lost good men in some of the raids, fathers lost sons, and wives lost husbands. God willing the rustlers will make one slip, just one small fatal slip. Then, and only then will peace return to Kievers Creek County.” Rex said emotion thick in his voice.
Roy, caught up in Rex’s speech, stood there quietly. He had to do something.
“I promise I’ll do my best. For Kievers Creek, for the families that have lost much, for the future. Could Jim show me where he was ambushed the other day? Maybe seeing the area will jog his memory a little bit. I was thinking around noon.”
Rex walked Roy to the door.
“I’m sure Jim would be glad to show you where he was attacked. He and Margaret are feeling much better now.”
Roy closed the door behind him and walked up to Trigger. Patting his golden stallion affectionately, he got into his stirrups and reined Trigger around.
Gabby rushed out of Rex’s hacienda, his short legs pumping wildly. Almost spitting with excitement he yelled at Roy.
“Hey Roy! Don’t forget about me. I’m coming.”
Roy stopped Trigger.
“Where were you Gabby?” Roy asked.
“I was testing Gail’s cooking, you know, to make sure that it was satisfactory.
I just had a spoon to my mouth when Rex came into the kitchen an’ told me you just left.” Roy waited atop Trigger, his hands now gloved with fine leather. Trigger sensing Roy’s unease, whinnied.
“Easy boy, we’ll be off as soon as Gabby is ready.”
Gabby untied Emma’s reins and jumped on.
“Are you talking to that horse?”
Trigger nodded his head.
“We sort of understand each other. By the way, Trigger wants you to hurry. You wouldn’t want to get him upset. He’s likely to leave you behind.” Roy said chidingly.
Gabby turned Emma around, and galloped off out of the Flying A’s gates. Roy waited a few feet ahead for Gabby then adjusted Triggers speed to match Emma’s.
The Lone Ranger headed towards their campsite. Arriving as the afternoon sun passed four o’ clock, he dismounted Silver and quickly opened up his saddlebags. Finding the stain remover, the Ranger applied it to his hands and rubbed them together. Applying the cream to his face, the dark stain disappeared quickly revealing a smooth handsome face. After washing his upper body down with a little water, he went to his clothing roll and found his familiar uniform. Turning towards Silver, the Ranger adjusted his mask and picked his hat off the willow branch. The Ranger would soon be in action!
Watering Silver for a few minutes, the Ranger chewed on a simple meal of beef jerky. The flight from the outlaws took much from the Rangers and Tontos seemingly endless reserves. Feeling much refreshed, the masked rider of the plains mounted Silver, reined around and galloped towards Rex’s ranch. Much news and important plans had to be shared if tyranny was to be thwarted.
The Ranger and Silver covered ground rapidly, the urgency of their mission driving them on. Arriving at the Flying A breathless, the ranger dismounted Silver, tied his reins to the post and knocked on Rex’s door. Gail answered.
“Come in Mr Ranger” she said “ Rex is…”
Rex appeared from around the corner.
“Right here” he said, graveness in his voice.
The Ranger relaxed somewhat.
“Rex, Tonto and I have discovered who is behind the raids around here!” he stated calmly.
Rex looked surprised.
“Where is Tonto anyway?” Rex asked.
The Lone Ranger replied.
“Tonto rode out to Harry’s to warn him. They were going to tell the other ranchers about the raid and assemble a counter attack.”
“Don’t like sitting down when there’s work to do, do you Ranger?” Rex commented.
“When lives hang in the balance Rex, nothing is more important!” he replied stoically.
Rex motioned the Ranger to the kitchen.
“Can I offer you a coffee while you tell me what you’ve discovered?” Rex asked.
“Please” he replied.
The Ranger took a sip of the hot steaming liquid, then placed the mug down on the hand made place mat.
“You could sure use some moisture around here Rex, trails pretty dusty.”
the masked man commented taking his doe skin gloves off. He placed them on the table.
Rex sat across from the Ranger at the breakfast table, coffee mug in hand.
“Rex. . last night Tonto trailed Lyle Talbot after he left the meeting here to a flat around five miles from here. I gather it’s called Blindmans Plateau. He found out that Lyle is in league with the Sheriff and a man named Snake Larson.” he offered.
“Do you mean Sheriff Bill Stockton masked man?” Rex exclaimed. Surprise registered on his face, then he quickly schooled his thoughts and his expression became one of interest. His eyebrows angled down and his attention was focused again on the Rangers words.
“Yes Rex, it seems Bill Stockton is in league with the raiders!! He may very well be the boss. But as far as we can tell, Snake Larson holds that authority. What’s more, a railroad is coming through Kievers Creek. Sometime soon, the land agent will be in town, that’s why the raids have been done, to get control of the proposed land” the masked man revealed.
Rex’s face lit up.
“You know masked man. Roy Rogers, the new deputy, and Gabby were just here.” he stated.
The Ranger wrinkled his brow.
“Roy Rogers?” the Ranger queried.
Rex turned his head to look at the Ranger as he got up from the table. They headed towards the living room.
“Gabby and the new deputy Bill hired were here today, I’d like to show you what we discovered as we looked at the reports Bill had made. Bill may have made the biggest mistake of his life, hiring Roy! He’s dynamite Lone Ranger, dynamite!”
Gail brought fresh cups of coffee to the coffee table and put them down in front of the two men. They looked at the map on the wall. Different coloured pins traced partial patterns, now made clear by the masked mans information.
Rex pointed to the pins.
“See the pins, each colour denotes a different activity. Each pin is the location of either a ranch or ambush. The ambushes are not as ordered as the raids, and rustlings. But, we should have thought of the railroad angle earlier today. It makes sense, the railroad going through” Rex talked as he drew an imaginary line from east to west, right through Kievers Creek, and each of the attack sites. Yep, we should have seen it before. We heard it might be
coming, but no-one knew when…” he mumbled slightly.
Rex looked at the map.
“If Bill was here now” he said angrily wrenching an imaginary neck in mid air. “All of those lives, gone.”
The Ranger listened quietly.
“We also followed the man who didn’t get the deputy’s job to a box valley.” he said “ right about here” pointing to a blank spot on the map. “There’s nothing on the map Rex. What is it?” he asked.
Rex looked carefully at the spot on the map. He shook his head in confusion. “You know, I’ve always wondered what was missing from this map, now I know what it was-Republic Valley!” Rex exclaimed s he realized the importance of the masked mans discovery.
“There was at least five hundred cattle in there. Some may have been the rustled ones, we really couldn’t tell. There wasn’t much time to examine the brands. Our goal was to listen to the conversation in the cabin.” the Ranger narrated. He took a drink from his coffee.
“Snake Larson was in the cabin along with the man Tonto and I followed from town. They were talking about the new deputy, Roy I guess. They are under the impression that he’s dangerous.”
Rex nodded in agreement.
“I’d say so, he’s right on top of things. In one day he’s done more than anyone expected. But if Bill is the leader, Roy is in danger, especially if he tells Bill what he suspects.” Rex exclaimed.
“Yes, Rex, he is. The gang plans to raid Harry Carey’s ranch tomorrow night to set a trap for Roy, they mean to kill him! Harry, Tonto and I have already planned a counter trap. This is what we have in mind…” the Ranger concluded.
And the Ranger filled Rex in with the details. Soon Rex was nodding in agreement, and a grim look overtook his face.
“My only worry Masked Man, is getting the co-operation of the cattlemen, without Lyle finding out!.”
The Ranger agreed.
“Rex, we’ll have to take that chance-the lives of so many people are at stake now. The element of surprise, if our plan works, can make up for many tired horses. Adios Rex.” The Lone Ranger turned around and left. Mounting Silver, he reared him up and started off towards camp.
Rex Allen stood at his door step and watched the Ranger gallop off into the distance. As he turned into a speck on the horizon, Rex looked for his foreman, Pierce.
“Yeah, I knew the masked man would change things. I have a good feeling about this. It’s going to be an eventful couple of days” Rex said to himself as he searched the yard for
Pierce Lyden, his foreman.
“Pierce, come here!” he yelled.
Pierce walked over from the corral. His tall, gaunt frame easily traversed the hundred yards from corral to hacienda hitching post. Experience showed in Pierce’s face, hard lines evidenced hard winters of work, tough callused hands echoed years of punishing physical labour. Pierces brown eyes, twinkled as he neared Rex Allen. A smile covered his face letting his genuine affection and respect for Rex show through.
Rex mused as Pierce ambled towards him.
“Soon, all of these troubles will be over. We have to rely on all my men, and my neighbours men. I can trust Pierce and my men, but what about some of the drifters…”
Pierce reached Rex, and stopped. He leaned over the hitching post and picked a sprig of grass.
“Yeah boss, what can I do for you?”
“Pierce, I want you to tell the boys to come ready for a meeting after supper tonight. “ he asked.
“Sure thing Rex, anything wrong?” he asked concerned.
Rex put his hands in his pocket and looked up the sky.
“No” he said looking at Pierce. “ Far from it, things are finally going to be allright
before the sun sets tomorrow. I’ll tell you after supper.”
Pierce sauntered off to finish the fence he was mending. Whistling as he walked, he yelled over to a couple of hands to come over to him.
Rex Allen turned and entered his house. It had been an eventful twenty four hours. Justice comes swift when the Lone Ranger and Tonto blow into town!
Tonto and Harry finished riding out to the ranchers by sundown. They rode back to Harry’s spread and hungrily devoured a hearty meal of steak, potatoes, and freshly baked buns.
As through the western states, neighbours easily volunteered for the counter-attack. The prospect of revenge suited some more than others, Lyle Talbot, once trusted, was now an object of derision and distrust.
“Can you tell me if there’s a good spot to fish around here?”
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