Since this is the only way to travel right now, kick back enjoy this rollicking good tale from Gerry Feehan.
This is the last in a four-part series on India
After three chaotic days in Mumbai we boarded a plane for the relative calm of Kerala on India’s extreme southwestern tip. The “land of coconuts” is a tropical paradise dense with rain forest, wild elephants, monkeys, tea plantations – and spices. Kerala is home to a wonder of zesty flavours: pepper, cinnamon, licorice, chili, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, coriander, cumin, turmeric. For centuries the colonial powers fought, won and lost wars over the exotic spice trade.
And from these amazing seeds and roots comes India’s great contribution to world cuisine: curry. We ate curry dishes breakfast, lunch and dinner for a month and never tired of the infinite variety and flavour. In north India meals were largely vegetarian, with the occasional chicken or mutton recipe thrown in. In Kerala, seafood is king and coconut accents every dish.
High in the hills of Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary we were enjoying a birding and spice plantation tour when I heard a loud voice boom through a bamboo thicket: “What da ya call that? How many acres ya got here? What’s the name of that spice?”
It was Joe Tourist (see Part 3 in this series). Our serene ornithological outing was ruined.
We’ve all met Joe Tourist. He’s actually quite an affable, well-meaning fellow. JT maintains a permanent grin even when fumbling through his pack or staring incomprehensibly at a map. He’s overbearing and yet teddy-bear likeable. He is demanding – but tips generously. His impatience is legendary. Mr. Tourist is not a “stop and smell the flowers” kind of guy.
When the guide explains something Joe Tourist repeats it, in case you weren’t listening. And when he isn’t listening (which is most of the time) he insists the story be repeated in precise detail. His wife chides him for his foibles – but loves him dearly.
I suppose we all have a bit of Joe Tourist in us.
After a spicy few days in Periyar we abandoned the temperate dry hills, the monkeys – and J.T. – for the hot muggy coast.
Kerala’s shoreline is chock-full of brackish waterways and canals, used for transportation, fishing and, during the annual monsoon, to irrigate the endless fields of rice. These beautiful languid backwaters have also given rise to a robust tourist industry: houseboating on a kettuvallum. We boarded our quaint floating lodge at Alleppey for a gentle overnight cruise.
The European colonists left a curious legacy in Kerala: many Keralans have a Christian given name. Thus our captain Matthew guided us down the canal while mate Mark manned the lines and, in the galley, Luke prepared roti and fresh prawns. The fourth member of the crew was named, naturally… Ganesh.
Keralans are a warm, gentle people. In the morning, as we disembarked and walked the rickety gangplank onto shore, the four disciples bid us a polite adieu. We had arrived at the luxurious Kumarakom Lake Resort where we would spend our final two nights in India.
When you ask an Indian a question, the answer is often a non-verbal head-bobble. This gesture can have a number of meanings: yes, maybe, maybe not. To us Westerners, this cryptic side-to-side head movement can be confusing, frustrating – and also enormously entertaining.
After checking in at the Kumarakom I noticed we were short towels. I returned to the lobby and asked the chap at reception if he could remedy the problem. “I shall try my level best, sir,” he said with an assuring head-bobble. “Room service will fulfill your request, anon.”
Indians have borrowed many quaint British niceties; the bobble is theirs alone. And the towels did indeed appear – quite a bit anon.
After a hectic four weeks, it was odd lounging around a quiet resort, removed from the overwhelming crush of humanity. We were soon bored with lazing in the infinity pool. Florence and I exited the guarded gate for one last dose of India. People nodded shyly as we strolled the narrow lanes. A storefront business advertised Ayurveda – Kerala’s ancient form of therapeutic massage. On a whim we pulled out our last rupees. Within minutes I was laying flat on a wooden-slatted table slathered in aromatic oil. When the session was done the masseur handed me a glass of water.
I quaffed the whole jar and then asked, “Is this water safe… bottled?”
“Oh no sir, good water, not bottled,” he assured me, pointing to an earthenware vessel in the corner. I detected a slight head bobble.
It was Monday. We’d be home Wednesday. I prayed that any intestinal distress would be deferred for at least 48 hours.
The journey home was a two-day endurance test. To avoid a nation-wide general strike and highway blockade brought on by the demonetization of the rupee, we left for Cochin airport at 5 a.m. for our flight back to India’s capital. We then had a half-day layover in Delhi before a 14-hour flight to Toronto.
As we searched for the Calgary departure gate at Pearson International, a hubbub emerged from the Air Canada first-class lounge. A guy was bellowing to his wife, “Okay, okay, we’ve done India. Where’da ya want go next. I say we see Belize.” It was Joe Tourist.
We hurried by.
It was tough navigating the icy road home from Calgary. On arrival in Red Deer, unable to keep eyes open, we collapsed into bed at noon. Before passing out I turned to Florence and said, “Oh my god, we’re going to Belize next year. Do you think we might run into that Joe Tourist guy again?”
“You never know,” she said. ”It’s a small world.”
If you go: Explore India from Vancouver B.C. (www.exploreindia.ca) capably and professionally handled all aspects of our private month-long tour – air and land travel, hotels, meals, guides, drivers, entrance fees and activities – for one all-inclusive price.
Here’s are Parts 1-3 of Gerry’s series on India.
We hope you enjoyed The spices of Kerala. Click here are more travel stories.
Lone Ranger and The Riders of Justice Chapter 6 and 7
The New Deputy
The early morning sun found Sheriff Stockton half heartedly hanging up the “Deputy Wanted” sign in front of his office. The previous evenings events had forced his hand, and obviously his own ’best’ efforts weren’t good enough for Rex and the frustrated ranchers.
“Just a formality” he thought to himself as he whistled a nameless tune. “One of Snake’s boys will be in soon to snag the job up, and then smooth sailing.”
“Morning sheriff” Pat Brady said as he passed by.
“Morning Pat” he replied barely taking the time to look up.
Pat turned around and stopped walking.
“Say, what’ya doing?” he asked.
Bill looked up and stopped tacking the poster down.
“Hiring a new deputy to catch the rustlers around here.” he replied matter of factly.
Pat stepped beside the sign and began to read.
“Dep-uty Wanted. Must be able to…. Must be able to” Pat read.
“Read tracks and be good with a gun.” Bill finished.
“You know sheriff, it’s about time I got me some of them new fangled reading glasses.
I can barely read the menu at Dale’s Place anymore. Good thing I got it memorized now, hope she doesn’t change it soon. Why, I remember one time, she switch page one and three, and I ordered a hot roast beef pie, and an apple coffee!”
“Well Pat, I guess you’d be the perfect tracker, as far as the rustlers are concerned. You want the job?” Bill asked.
Pat looked around quickly.
“No, not me. You know, my leg. Hurt it in a fishing accident. Cast off in my boat, fell into the water, and bruised my knee. Still aches when the weathers bad. Besides I don’t know the first thing about tracking other than mud on the kitchen floor.”
“Just thought I’d ask, good day Pat” Bill replied as he stood up and walked into his office.
Pat Brady turned and walked down the street again. Taking a few long strides, he suddenly stopped and smiled .
“Me, deputy! Who’d have thought of that!”
A few paces down the street, Ma Pringle was returning from the store. Dropping one parcel onto the street, she knelt down and picked it up. As she looked up, a tall lean stranger offered her his hand to help her up. She took it, and held her groceries tightly.
“Thank you young man.” she said.
The young man smiled.
“Excuse me ma’am, can you tell me where the sheriffs office is?” he asked.
“Yes, I can. Bill’s office is over there, past the bakery” she said pointing thirty yards down the street.
“Thank you ma’am. Appreciate that. “ Roy said as he strode towards Bill Stocktons office. Seeing the Deputy Wanted sign on the billboard, he read it closely, and grinned. Ripping the poster down, he covered the last few steps to the Sheriffs door with a spring in his step.
Holding the poster in his hand, Roy Rogers opened the sheriffs door. Stepping through the threshold he saw Bill at his desk, his feet resting on the scratched mahogany surface.
“Sheriff Stockton I presume-my name is Roy Rogers” Roy said as he offered his hand to the sheriff.
“Sheriff Bill Stockton, pleased to meet you Roy” he replied. “What can I do for you?”
Roy took his hat off and held it in his hand.
“Have you hired a deputy yet?” he asked
Bill looked at Roy. He sized him up quick. Tall, lean, and muscular, with bright squinty eyes, no quiver or shake in his hands, he seemed to be a good pick, perhaps too good.
“No, no I haven’t yet” Bill replied.
“ I’d like to volunteer for the deputy’s job” Roy said.
The heavy set man took a deep breath, then moved his feet from the desk. He stood up, and straightened his hat.
“Did I hear you right-you want to volunteer?” Bill asked, confusion in his voice.
Roy looked Bill in the eyes.
“Yes, that’s what I said” he replied.
Bill Stockton shuffled back and forth on his feet, crossed his arms and looked across the room.
“How’d you hear about the job, did someone send you?” Bill inquired.
Roy passed the handbill over to Bill across the desk. It floated silently to the mahogany surface, the words “Deputy Wanted” stared up at the sheriff.
Roy looked down at the poster.
“Saw the poster outside your door, besides, I was sent here, to give you a hand. That’s why I said Volunteer” Roy answered.
Sheriff Stockton crossed the floor and stopped in front of Roy. Roy stood two inches taller than Bill, but Bill’s size overshadowed Roy’s physical presence.
“Care for a coffee Roy, just made a pot?” Bill asked Roy as he walked over to the pot bellied stove in the corner.
He poured himself a cup of the hot steaming liquid, and then one for Roy as he nodded yes to Bill. Bringing the mug over to Roy, they both sat down at the desk, the sheriff stopping himself from putting his boots on the scuffed surface.
“What are your qualifications Roy, if you don’t mind telling me why I should accept your generous offer?” Bill asked.
Roy took a sip of the hot liquid, then started to speak.
“Tracker for the US army ten years, deputy in Amarillo three years. I’ve got letters from the army, and Sheriff Barry-if you’d like to see them?” Roy offered.
Bill looked over at Roy, his dark eyes searching Roy’s clean face for signs of dishonesty.
“Please, I’d like to.” Bill responded.
Roy reached into his deer skin ruffled shirt pocket and pulled out the letters, he handed them across the desk. Bill took them and opened the top letter. He read.
Major William Whitney
First Army Division
Fort Worth, Texas
May 19, 1875
To Whom it May Concern:
This letter of commendation has been issued to Roy Rogers, of the First Army of the United States of America, upon 10 years of exemplary duty above and beyond the call of duty.
In defence of his Country, and his fellow man, he has few equals.
Major William Whitney
Bill looked up at Roy and whistled.
“That’s some letter young man.” he commented.
He read the second missive.
Sheriff Don Red Barry
To: Bill Stockton
Sheriff, Kievers Creek
Hoping this finds you well. I’m sending Roy Rogers over to you as a favour. Some years ago you helped me, and I found my way to the right side again. You can trust Roy with your life.
If you have any questions, send me a telegram.
As the sheriff read the letters, his mind began to work quickly. Obviously Snake Larson hadn’t sent THIS man. Too honest, too many credentials. This was no time for a glitch like this in the plans, with the end so very near. I can’t say no, if the ranchers find out he applied and get a look at these letters, they’ll hang me. But if I say yes, I may hang anyway if he manages to find the truth. But there could be an accident…
Roy watched Bill read the letters, he saw concern cross the sheriffs face, and then it disappeared into a wrinkled forehead. He saw a glint in Bill’s eyes, then he looked up.
“Well Roy, if Don sent you, how can I say no.” he said as he smiled.
Bill showed Roy the office, desk in the corner, gunrack on the west wall, ammunition beneath in the locked drawer, coffee pot on the black iron pot belly stove in the opposite corner, and through the double door, the two sets of cells, complete with new mattresses.
“You’ll be wanting to see my files on the raids I suppose Roy?” Bill asked.
Roy looked around the office.
“Please, but after lunch.” Roy replied.
“Do you want your own desk?” Bill asked.
“No, no thank you Bill. We can share your desk, if you don’t mind. Besides, I’m not one for sitting down when there’s a job to be done.” Roy said.
“Suits me fine, I suppose you’ll be needing a place to stay in town ?”
Roy looked around again. A mighty nice layout indeed..
“Sure, know a good place?” Roy said as he turned to face the sheriff.
Bill replied quickly.
“Try Dale’s place, they’ve got good grub, and clean beds” he offered. “You can get there by turning left at the big oak on the corner and walking straight for about half a block. You can’t miss it.”
“Thanks-I will. But I’ll be wanting to start right away, after I get settled in. Do you know a good stable? Triggers a little picky, he likes his stall pretty clean.” Roy asked.
“Try Boyds, Bill’s got a great outfit. He’s a couple of blocks over. If you have any questions, I’ll be over at the Hotel Cafe for a couple of hours. Catching the pulse of the town you know.”
“Nothing like a little town gossip and a good meal.” Bill added.
“Howdy sheriff” a husky voice growled.
“Morning” Bill returned.
A squat fellow stood in the doorway, his wrinkled clothes and black hat were covered in trail dust. Tears and rips in his clothes showed he lived a hard life. His brown eyes, hidden beneath a wide black brim, looked hard and piercing. His face too was weather beaten and rough, a scar accented his left cheek. He walked in.
“I hear you’re looking for a special deputy sheriff. Do you have one yet?” the burly man asked.
Bill looked at Roy.
“Got one now-his name is Roy Rogers.” he said.
The man’s tone dropped a little.
“Ace Parker” he said as he offered his hand to Roy.
“Pleased to meet you Ace” Roy said. “Bill, I’ll see you in a couple of hours. Adios.”
Both men watched Roy walk away from the sheriffs’ office. He mounted Trigger, then turned and cantered towards Dales Place. They waited until he was out of sight, then sat down in the office.
The man called Ace Parker swore under his breath.
“Sheriff-Snake Larson sent me here. I was supposed to get the job, not some Roy Rogers!”
Bill wiped his chin off.
“Yeah, I know. He sort of caught me off guard too. If I hadn’t hired him with his credentials and Allen found out, the ranchers would have me strung up before the day was over. Besides, as sheriff, I could send him into an ambush, or arrange for a convenient accident. Roy Rogers, is only a temporary bump in our plans” Bill replied.
Nervous silence filled the air.
“Ace, when you get back to the hideout, send Snake into town. On second thought” he said thoughtfully, “I’ll meet you and the others at the hideout in a couple of hours. With the end so near, the loss of my NEW DEPUTY can’t come too quickly for my likes.” Bill finished.
Ace Parker stood up and started to leave.
“Good thinking not using my name when you walked into the office earlier Ace. That’s why you’re still part of the gang. Adios Ace.” Bill said.
“Adios sheriff.” Ace said as he closed the door.
“See you at the camp later” Bill replied, his mind already plotting his new deputy’s destruction! A treacherous smile crossed his face and a low laugh escaped his lips, a laugh that spelt doom for Roy Rogers!
Dale Evans was busy at her boarding house that morning. The drought of the summer had brought no relief to her dusting and sweeping duties, not that she minded but she’d much rather be sipping lemonade in the hot summer sun, at least once a day anyway. Her boarding house was the only one in Kievers Creek, which meant that there was no real choice if you didn’t want to live above a saloon. Her tenants were quiet and for the most part, kept to themselves, except one. Not that he was bad, but when George got ornery, he was intolerable. If he was in a good mood, he’d sit outside and smoke his fancy Ceegar, as he put it, cause that was the only thing God didn’t say you couldn’t do in the bible. But today he was out working so Dale swept the wood planked veranda and beat the fading rugs, the dust swelling over her delicate features.
Dale took a break from her rug cleaning and looked over the verandah banister, a tall lean handsome cowboy was tying his golden palomino to the railing beside the fence. Clad in blue denim, Roy struck a dramatic almost foppish figure. His buckskin shirt was neat and his hat was hat was white, and he almost looked as if it had never seen an honest days work in his life. His whistling echoed over the railing and caught Dale unaware. She began singing the words to the finely rendered tune, then stopped and waited for the cowboy to get up to the house.
Roy Stopped at the steps and looked at Dale.
“Is this Dales Place?” he asked.
Dale, still singing inside, replied.
“Yes it is.”
“Are you Dale?”
“None other” she replied.
“Nice place you have, any vacancies?” Roy asked.
“Yes, one room left.” she said.
“If the room is as pretty as the host, I’ll take it” Roy said, smiling.
“Well, the room is clean, and I hear my food is good, the pretty part I leave up to you.” she answered. “Do you always go around whistling catchy tunes?”
Roy tipped his hat back a bit, then pulled it down again.
“Only when I’m feeling happy” he said. “My name is Roy Rogers, I’m the new special deputy to Bill Stockton. I hear you make pretty good grub here, at least that’s what Bill said anyway.”
Dale put her broom down.
“That’s Bill for you, eats here almost every day, has for years” Dale said.
“How much?” Roy asked.
“How much does he eat? No more than the normal person, except for apple pie. Oh, how much for the room?” she carried on.
“Yes, how much for the room. How much Bill eats is fairly obvious” Roy said.
Dale put one hand on her hip, and wiped some dust away from her face with the other.
“Five dollars a month for room, and Seven-fifty with meals” Dale answered.
“It’s a deal, Dale” Roy said offering her his hand.
“Accepted Mr Rogers” she said, shaking his hand enthusiastically. “Lunch is on in half an hour.”
Roy smiled widely at Dale, “I’ll go get the rest of my gear. I could use a good lunch. It looks as if it’ll be a busy day.”
Dale looked at Roy quizzically.
“New Deputy? Didn’t know he was looking for one?” she said in a confused voice.
“I’ll tell you later, at lunch if you don’t mind” Roy said.
Dale turned around and went into the boarding house. It was lunch time, and the soup she started earlier that day would certainly be ready by now.
Roy, walked out to Trigger, and grabbed his bedroll, and saddlebags. Trigger whinnied in response to a gentle pat.
“She seems real nice Trigger, doesn’t she? I’ll be out in a few minutes, then I’ll take you over to Boyds stable. “
Some time later, Roy was sitting down in the dining room. Finishing his second helping of chicken and potatoes, he took a long sip of hot coffee. Placing his mug down, he wiped his face clean.
“That was some good meal Dale, Sheriff Stockton was right. You do make some good grub!” Roy complimented Dale.
Dale picked up Roy’s plate and cup.
“Thanks Roy” she answered.
Roy looked up at Dale.
“How did you ever get to run this place?” he asked.
“Dad left it to me when he died-he told me that if anyone could run a boarding house right, I could. So far, I have, but it hasn’t been easy.” she relied sitting across from Roy.
“Well, as near as I can tell you’ve done a great job. Do you have another cup of coffee left? I’ve got some riding to do this afternoon, may as well wash the dust down first.” Roy said.
Dale got up to pour Roy a last cup of coffee.
“Say, you forgot to tell me why the sheriff needed a deputy. “Dale asked remembering Roy’s promise.
“You’re right. As far as I can tell, he’s had some trouble with raids on farmers, settlers, and some cattle rustling. The rumours are that no clues or evidence of any sort has been found. He seems to think that I can help.” Roy remarked.
Dales eyes lit up.
“Yes, that’s for sure. About a dozen or so raids already. The towns folk are real upset about it too. If there were an election tomorrow, Bill would be gone. At least four or five ranches have been lost to the bank already. Two other families have sold out and gone on to other towns. It’s real sad to see, their hopes for a new life dashed. Hope you can help Bill out Roy, he done his best but the raiders are too smart.” Dale blurted out.
“I’ll try Dale. You said Bill eats here everyday almost?.” Roy commented.
“Yes, usually every day except Sunday. He’s not here today, and I made his favourite. That’s strange” she answered.
“Well Dale, thanks for lunch. I’ll try to be back for supper if you’ll have some of that apple pie again. A guy could get used to living here. See you later Dale” Roy said as he got up and left the dining room.
Roy found Sheriff Stockton at the office sipping the syrup like coffee.
“Yes Roy, nothing quite like old coffee to start the afternoon off. Care for some?” Bill asked.
“No thanks Bill, just had a feast over at Dale’s. Is that girl married?” Roy inquired.
“No, no she’s not. Did she make some apple pie today?”
“Yes, she did. None left though. Finished it myself. Might be some more later. What can you tell me about the trouble around here Bill. I need a starting point.” Roy asked.
Sheriff Stockton squirmed a little in his chair. He’d been rehearsing this for the last hour already, now it was time to set Roy up.
“So far there’s been twelve raids, five fires, four cattle rustlings, and three murders, and some things I don’t count, somewhere between five and ten families have been scared off before settling in to Kievers Creek. My files are here” he said as he pushed the stack of papers towards Roy. “Take the day and look through them. I could find no pattern, may be you’ll spot something we missed.”
Roy looked at the papers.
“I see the last attack happened a couple of days ago, to Jim and Margaret Autry” Roy said concerned. “Where are they now?” Roy asked.
“At their Uncle Rex’s a couple of miles out of town. I’ll give you directions out there if you’d like” Bill offered “seeing as you’re not familiar with the territory.”
“I’d appreciate that” Roy replied.
Bill looked seriously at Roy, then scratched his head.
“One thing though, the tracks always led in the direction of Blindman Plateau, then disappear without a trace. “he said, a hint of co-operation in his voice. “You going out to Rex’s are you?”
Roy looked at the stack of papers, flipped the top few back down, and breathed deeply.
“Yeah, I’ll start there and follow my nose. Now how do you get to Rex’s?” he asked, his hands on the stack of papers.
Reaching into the top right drawer of the desk, Bill pulled out a piece of paper and pencil, and drew a map for Roy. He labeled the directions, and town, folded it up and gave it to Roy. Roy got up from the chair, put the map into this pocket, and grabbed the files Bill gave him.
“Thanks Bill. See you later if I find anything out.” Roy said as he headed towards the door.
Bill reached into his top centre desk drawer, and pulled out a Deputy Star. He pointed it towards Roy.
“Do you want one of these, Deputy? ”Bill asked.
Roy turned and grinned.
“Might be a good thing if I’m going out on official business.” Roy replied.
Bill crossed the few feet between he and Roy. He pinned it onto Roy’s shirt.
“Thanks. See you later Bill.”
Bill watched Roy mount Trigger and leave.
“See you later, Deputy.” he said under his breath. “When you get to Rex’s…”
A look of astonishment crossed his face. He mentally rode the trip out to Rex’s. The map he drew led not to Rex’s, but the HIDEOUT!
Down the street, beyond Bills line of sight, Roy and Trigger stopped at the edge of town. Roy took the map out of his pocket, and found his bearing and started to gallop away to his private death trap.
The Lone Ranger and the Riders of Justice…Chapters 4 and 5
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!
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