Writins of Weakeyes Cody
Talented and witty writings
Once Upon A Time In The Mojave ~ Chapter 2b
Strolling along the street I noticed Misfire and Smokey leisurely seated beneath the shade of the sheriff's office porch.
"Well good morning gentlemen, I see you are both laboring hard." I chided jokingly
"This is what we do after a hard night." Smokey replied grinning under his beard.
"Smokey I know how hard your night was unless you slipped out of that soft bed and returned to the offerings of the bordello." I shot back, finding a part of the bench for myself.
"I figured you'd be in church Cody." Misfire declared dangling his watch by the chain.
"I generally make it for weddings and funerals Misfire. Not a non-believer, just can't seem to get around to it."
"Yeah, I understand." He began. "Anybody packing a nickel plated six gun needs to do a lot of praying."
"Why is that you reckon?" I winked at Smokey.
"Because it sparkles in the dark and you wouldn't wanna get it dirty by shootin' it!" he laughed.
"You're the one with the dangerous job keeping the peace here in rip roaring Calico. I figured both you and Bismarck would be regular members."
"Nah, I figure I got the better end of religion." He said. "The man never forgave Adam nor Eve after the fall y'know?"
Smokey and I grinned at each other calculating Misfire was spring loaded to begin a harangue. "No, tell me about it Sir." I said, getting more comfortable on the bench.
"Wal, he kicked 'em outa the garden y'know for eatin' the fruit of knowledge. Then he never forgave 'em threatening them with havin' to work for their livin' and that she would suffer in childbirth and all." Propping his foot up on the support post he was off and running.
"But now they had the gift of the supreme art yuh see, and they would practice it diligently ever chance they got and fill themselves with contentment. Bare in mind he told them to go forth and multiply and be fruitful and that's one commandment he gives them that was a winner. Why they would practice it and practice it even if a thousand Deities told them not to."
Smokey had found a piece of good sized wood and was whittling away at it while I was wiping my belt cartridges.
"Well results followed. By the name of Cain and Abel. And these had some sisters; and knew what to do with them. And so there were some more results: Cain and Abel begot some nephews and nieces. These, in their turn, begot some second cousins. At this point classification of relationships began to get difficult, and the attempt to keep it up was abandoned." Misfire was rolling and neither Smokey nor I was about to interrupt.
"The pleasant labor of populating the world went on from age to age, and with prime efficiency; for in those happy days the sexes was still competent for the supreme art when by rights they ought to have been dead after eight hundred years. The sweeter sex, the dearer sex, the lovelier sex was manifestly at its very best, then, for they were even able to attract angels. Real angels. They came down outa heaven and had wonderful times with those hot young blossoms."
Smokey's shoulders were shaking with suppressed laughter and I was giving him my undivided attention by now.
"Well of course, the population exploded what with the help of these foreigners and sooner than you'd think, there were millions of people running around mainly just being fruitful and multiplying. But wouldn't you know it; the Deity didn't like their morals. And this is why I don't go to church. They were doing exactly what he told 'em to do don't you see, but now after doing it for a while, he deemed it unflattering and declared it immoral. Every rabbit, cat, dog, chicken, raccoon, horse, monkey and kangaroo was practicing it liberally and with perfect contentment but now mankind, he determined, must do it with proportion."
"This is why you don't go to church 'eh Misfire?" Smokey chuckled.
"Hell yes!" He answered. "And you know what happened after that?"
"No Misfire," I said. "What happened?"
"He flooded the place!" Misfire said with conviction.
"I heard about that." Said I. "It rained for forty days and nights."
"Yep. It's in the book!" Misfire said.
"We got about an inch and a quarter here on the Mojave during that time." Smokey grinned. "Let me tell you about that." Misfire said, dropping his foot to the ground.
"Here comes your boss Misfire." Smokey advised.
Bismarck Bob, approached from down the street leading his horse. "Howdy Boys." He greeted tossing the reins over the hitch rack.
We all nodded a response, watching him enter the office and closing the door. Misfire smiled to us, "Busy man." He said in a low tone, motioning toward Bismarck with his head.
"I think it's about time to eat." I said, snapping my watch shut and looking toward the tavern down the street. "I agree." Smokey concurred, shoving his knife back into his boot. "You two are too taken with food. How about a simple beer obtained just across the street?" Misfire suggested.
"I think I'll reserve that for later in the day - it's warming up and a beer would go good by mid-afternoon." I said, stepping off the porch.
"After we eat I'll introduce you to George my leather man." Smokey said. "He makes a lot of my belts and holsters and he's pretty good at what he does."
"Good." I grinned. "I've been thinkin' about a holster that's somewhat stiffer. The one I'm wearin' is getting' too soft."
Smokey grinned. "I hear that happens to old guys."
"Bite me!" I replied.
For the likes of me, there wasn't much to do after sundown in Calico. Miners like to gamble so the saloons were full of tables with miners huddled around various size tables crouched over card hands dealt sometimes by women sometimes by professional gamblers working for the saloon owners or maybe who owned the saloons themselves. None of the saloons were what I would call classy taverns like the ones in Saint Louis or even Frisco. They consisted of rooms of about thirty by forty feet or less, with diverse bars some merely four by twelve boards sitting between barrels, others that had been built by tradesmen still others of polished oak with brass rails and polished brass cuspidors. All were lighted by everything from candle chandeliers to kerosene lanterns and lamps of different degrees of illumination, hung strategically to shed the best lighting for bars and card tables.
Saloons all smelled of tobacco, alcohol, kerosene and sweat. Visibility was always reduced to about ten feet because of tobacco smoke, and chairs to just lounge in were rare. So if a patron wanted to kill time here his choices were limited to bellying up to the bar or leaning against the wall and away from the tables because one good way to start a fight was to stand overlooking a card game. And so I, being one who preferred the open air, usually found a bench outside a saloon or store to do my lounging. Smokey, on the other hand was occupied in the Blue Ribbon Saloon at a poker table.
I was nearly lost in my reverie, listening again to the distant singing up in the brothel when the light from the saloon struck a familiar face.
"Laredo?" I called out, and the tall figure stopped.
"Who's that?" He asked, changing course and approaching slowly.
Standing, I extended my hand. "Cody." I said. "Remember me?"
"Weakeyes?" He asked, still standing a pace away trying to figure me out.
"That's right." I grinned. Some called me that awhile back. When I was a kid back in the nations, a girl said I had squinty eyes. Another kid said I had weak eyes and it stuck.
"What're you doing here?" He asked shaking my hand.
"I might ask you the same thing. You're a long way from home cowboy."
"Yeah, I suppose I am. Sometimes I have to come back to this god forsaken place."
"You think it's an improvement over the gold mine towns?" I asked.
"Not really," He replied. "Same happenings, different town."
"How's your lovely wife, China?"
"She's fine. Probably a little lonesome. I've been gone for a week." He said.
"You were a lawman here in this camp back when it first opened weren't you?" I asked. "Matter of fact I was." He said. "It was pretty wild back then we probably had two, three, shootin's a day."
"Was it Bismarck, you worked with?" I asked, remembering a little of Calico's beginnings.
"Yep, Bismarck, Misfire, then Ricochet. I got fed up and took myself back into Arizona Territory. If I was gonna get shot at I wanted more money."
"They pay you better back there? I inquired.
"I reckon gold is more valuable than silver." He grinned. Then began looking on up the street. "Hey it's good t'see yuh Weakeyes. Maybe I'll see you later and buy yuh a drink. How's that?"
"I never turn down a free drink." I smilingly replied. "Good to see you again, Laredo."
Watching him step into the darkness I noticed he had abandoned his Schofields. He once said he liked the quick reloading of them. I liked them too, but I never could get used to the grip. Like the 1875 Remington, the hammer was a tad distant for my thumb. Sitting back down on the bench my mind couldn't unload Laredo's reason for being here. Four hundred fifty miles was a far piece for a married man to drift. It had to be profitable in some way for him to venture that far for business. Damn! I was letting this Bismarck plan take over my whole mode of thinking. I was acting too much like a lawman. The sweet voices of the girls up in the bordello were far more interesting, so I began slowly making my way toward my chair across the street from it. I felt more secure in the shadows of the hotel porch and could hear the girls much better.
"They are quiet talented aren't they?" A female voice came from behind the screen door of the hotel. I quickly stood up and the owner or land-lady stepped out on the porch.
"Mind if I join you Sir? I often spend summer nights out here listening to the girls sing."
"Not at all Mrs. Hazen." I said gesturing to the chair with the small padded pillow.
"Call me El." She smiled. Then tucked her dress and sat in the rocker. I sat back down and eased back again listening to a rendition of Annie Laurie from across the street.
"You seem to enjoy their singing Mr. Cody, why don't you go over there and join the crowd?" She suggested. "I might have a little trouble justifying that Ma’am; I've been married for a very long time." I replied.
"A lot of miners go there just to hear them sing and some bring their instruments and play."
"Yes, I was here on this very spot last night and I thoroughly enjoyed a whole string band and several pieces that I'm acquainted with." I answered.
"Do you play?" She asked.
"I can chord a guitar and manage a harmonica well enough to please myself and my bride." I said. "But beyond that, I'm afraid I lack quite a bit."
We sat in silence for a long while listening to the songs followed by applause and sometimes laughter. Music being the opium of these mining towns and whisky being the pain reliever of both mental and physical maladies. Then Mrs. Hazen bade me good night and I was alone with my thoughts. Tomorrow I would snag the stage down to San Bernardino, and have a talk with my superiors.
It was a long walk from the stage stop to the Central District Office of U.S. Marshal's on Front Street in San Bernardino, and my old legs were protesting and I was tired when I labored up the steps and into the office of Arthur G. Hunnicutt, District head honcho. The lady advised me to have a seat, which I did, and waited twenty minutes for no obvious reason because there was no one in his office but himself. "You may go in now." She smiled as I replaced my watch into my vest pocket.
"Sir, my name is Cody and I have somewhat of a dilemma," I began. Never arising, he presented his hand and dragged his cigar ash tray closer while uttering his name. I could see I was interrupting what was probably his afternoon nap and that coupled with the fact I was tired and grumpy set the scene for a short parley. I explained in detail my knowledge of the conversation I had overheard in Calico's stable then leaned back and tried to suppress my ire at his obvious aggravation.
"You know you have no legal leg to stand on. Plus you don't work out of this office do you? He growled.
"The office I would work out of would demand I ride all the way to Independence up in Inyo County and I figured you could advise me and save me a long ride. Is that a fact or not?" I shot back, in not a very diplomatic tone.
"I can't put much credence in what you allegedly overheard in a livery barn between two probable drunks." He replied through a haze of smoke as he drew on his cigar.
"Maybe you missed the part where I told you one is the sheriff of Calico." I reminded him.
"Well, Cody, go ahead and arrest him. Then what are you going to do?" He smirked.
Reaching into my vest pocket I whipped out a sheet of well used paper and dropped it carefully on his desk unfolding it for him. "What about article two?" I asked, thoroughly pounding the paper with my trigger finger. '2. Shall arrest without process all persons who commit an offense within his view take them before a court having jurisdiction, and detain them in custody until the cause of the arrest has been investigated.
His smirk persisting he picked up the paper and glanced at it, then replied, “What about one, three, four, five and six?"
1. Shall serve all process directed to him by the town court or legislative body.3. Shall suppress breaches of the peace;4. May, if necessary, call the power of the town to his aid;5. May execute search warrants and arrest warrants; and6. May pursue and jail persons who commit an offense.
"What about them?" I asked.
"As I initially asked you Sir, what will you do after you apprehend these two? Set them down in some undersized jail cell and feed them until they have to be released for lack of any violation? You need to understand Sir; people are always talking about making money, dreaming of making money, even plotting to rob for money. It's a hobby with most, and according to what you say there may be at least four more perpetrators involved... Please, you're unsettling yourself for nothing. How old are you Sir? How many arrests have you made lately?"
Picking up my paper and refolding it, I returned it to my pocket. This man, it seemed, had totally made up his mind in judgment of me before I ever stated my mission. His pale face and curled mustache told me that his world was right there behind his desk and he had never ventured forth into the twenty-thousand square miles of just San Bernardino county alone. I was infuriated that such men could sit in judgment and render ignorant opinions of the likes of me. But there was nothing I could say or do to summon justice to the situation.
"Thank you Mr. Hunnicutt for your time." I said standing and replacing my well-worn Stetson, which I tipped to the lady as I left the office. Now I would have to find a hotel to spend the night because it was too late to catch the northbound stage.
It was just sunup when the rattle of the stage brought the four of we awaiting passengers to our feet. The coach careened around the corner of Fifth Street in a cloud of dust with a team of six horses at a gallop. A young couple with a little girl of maybe seven boarded as I stood holding open the door of the red and gold Concord coach. I could see it had just been washed and I could smell the clean leather of the seats as I sat down in a front facing window seat. Our luggage was tossed atop the coach and strapped down all in not less than a minute and the crack of the driver's whip was followed by an instant jerk of the vehicle. We were on our way.
Isinglass curtains kept the dust from our nostrils as we cleared the limits of the town and began the ascent up Cajon Pass. The experienced driver reduced the gait of the team to a ground covering walk up the twelve mile grade and our jostling about was thankfully reduced. Conversation was encouraged due to less noise and the young man began with a question. "Are you bound for the silver mines Sir?"
"No. I'm merely a temporary resident of Calico." I answered. "And you?"
"I'm a mine engineer, we're from San Francisco." He announced with obvious pride.
This young man was no more than twenty-five and looked like a razor had never touched his face. His wife was attractive and spoke with a New England crisp accent. Both appeared to be well kept and totally unused to this specific region.
"Are you about to work for a specific mine?" I asked.
"Any one of them or all of them I can find work for." He grinned.
"Well you've got several to look into." I said. "Calico has several and I hear Pacific Coast Borax is opening mines on north in the mountains."
"My name is Joseph Alcorn Sir. This is my wife Phoebe and daughter Jennifer."
Touching my hat brim I nodded to each one in turn. The little girl Jennifer asked, "May I hug your neck Mister." And before I could reply she did, then touched my cheek.
"Thanks Jennifer." I smiled a little at a loss as to what to say. "My name's Cody."
"You look like my grandpa." She said a slightly sad look on her little face. "He went to heaven last Christmas."
"I'm sorry Jennifer." I said. "I'm grandpa for a number of little people like you whose grandpa's have went to heaven. I'd be honored to try to be yours if you wish?"
"That would be really good!" She exclaimed with a smile that could win her the world.
Her young papa was smiling as he asked, "What's the name of this Pass Sir?"
"This is Cajon Pass Joe." I answered. "A very old and well used pass formed by a major earthquake fault they say."
"Oh do you know about geology?" He asked.
Laughing I said, "I know it's the study of the earth's formations but that's about it. They say Jed Smith, was the first Anglo to pass through here but surely the Spanish folk used it a great deal."
"How high do we climb? Or do you know?"
"The pass is forty-one twenty at the crest." I said. “I knew some surveyors who surveyed this area awhile back"
"We seed some verrrry high mountains on the way here." Jennifer announced.
"Yes, I'm sure you did Jennifer." I smiled.
The conversation rolled easily between us and I was glad to have someone to talk to. Until I grew sleepy around my usual afternoon siesta time, then I dozed off for about ten miles. Looking around I determined we were coming into Cottonwood Stage Station.
"We'll be changing horses here." I said to my friends. "The food is adequate and if you're at all hungry I recommend you eat a bite we won’t be near Calico Junction until well after sunup."
"Is that the Mojave River out there? Asked Joseph.
"Yes it is. We'll be following that all the way into Calico Junction tomorrow."
"It's good that we have water so near."
"I doubt you'll see much water after we're near the Junction. The water they say goes underground and we'll be following a sandy streambed." I declared.
"Isn't the river mainly running north?" Mrs. Alcorn asked.
"Mainly." I replied.
The station was equipped with a long wooden table made of two by twelve's, benches, a fireplace, a well, a horse corral, toilet, blue patterned dishes a Chinese cook. And a horse wrangler. The wrangler would have all six horses harnessed and ready to be hitched to the Concord, then would unharness and check out the incoming team, feed and water them and tomorrow they would be harnessed and ready for the return trip down the hill into San Bernardino. The Chinaman cook usually produced good food but most people carefully examined the food. Chinese ate many things we Anglos considered bad. This afternoon, it was stew. On my trip down it had been fish. Probably from the Mojave River? I watched as the little family turned over the meat in the stew and tasted it warily.
"It's beef." I said. "They bring in a few head when they need meat."
"How do you know, Cody?" Joseph Alcorn wanted to know. He was skeptic which was normal.
"I supply a number of stage stops north of here and I'm sure it's done the same down here." I assured him. After that they tied into the stew and made short work of it. By then the Concord was hitched up and ready to move on.
"Load up!" Came the cry of the driver and we were soon tucked into the seats again north bound. By now the isinglass curtains were rolled up to allow in some cooling air. The inconvenience of the dust was accepted. About sundown we reached the second stop. Horses were exchanged but no other accommodations except the use of the outhouse were offered. Within twenty minutes the driver shouted "Next stop Calico Junction!" and we were away.
I slept until early afternoon having gotten to bed a little after sunrise, and saddled old Basil for a trip down to the Railroad Station. I wanted to try to discern where Bismarck was going. A tent roofed saloon and a few mud walled cabins made up the Junction so there wasn't many places he could disappear into. Anyway, I rode on through and took up residence among some greasewood about two-hundred yards east. The bush was high enough to hide me and Basil yet I could see through it if I sat just right.
After about a two hour wait he rode in and went into the saloon. I swung up on Basil and rode back to the saloon and walked in. I wanted to see who he was meeting and I got an eye full straight away. Bismarck was sitting at a table with Purgatory and Laredo who I knew, but the other three I didn't. "Cody!" Bismarck shouted as I stood in the door. "C'mon in and buy us a drink!" He laughed. As I strode slowly over to the table and on closer examination recognized one more from the past.
Laredo nodded, Purgatory frowned and the one I recognized stood and offered a hand. "Been awhile since I’ve seen you Weakeyes." He grinned.
"Renegade Joe!" I said gripping his offered hand. "Or Joe Renegade."
"You remember Delque?" Joe gestured to the next man near him. "No, can't say I do." I said shaking hands with a man who's unsmiling face was the epitome of an outlaw.
"And that there red bearded one is White Horse." Joe continued. "Gentlemen, this is U.S. Marshal Cody. Or Weakeyes Cody."
Shaking hands with White Horse, my eyes went to Bismarck for his reaction. I know I saw his jaw clinch and his body stiffen. But I continued on as if nothing unusual had happened.
"Siddown there Marshal, make yourself comfortable." Bismarck continued. "We were just about to start a rousing poker game. You got lotsa money, have a seat."
"Thank you, no." I replied. Glancing toward the bar. "I just came in for a cool beer if there's one available."
"Hell, you must be joshin'" Bismarck said. "All they got is whisky here."
"Are you still a lawman?" Laredo asked, pushing his hat back.
"Once in a while." I replied, from behind a grin.
"Where's ya badge?" Delque asked all eyes on me.
"We're all lawmen when it's profitable." The one called White Horse joined in.
The bartender touched my hand with a shot glass and poured from an unlabeled bottle. "Good whisky." He said. "Made it this week."
"Actually, it's not bad." Bismarck said, shuffling the cards. "Try it old-timer."
Turning my back to them I hoisted the shot glass and swallowed the drink knowing it would probably rip the hide off my throat, but it didn't. "You're right Bob; it's not at all bad." I announced.
"What're you doing down here away from the comforts of Mrs. El's hotel?" Bismarck wanted to know.
"Getting acquainted with the area." I returned turning again to face the group.
"Maybe he's bein' a lawman?" Delque said, eyes burning into me.
"You should know the area pretty good, Cody." Laredo put in. "You've lived around here before."
"When I did there wasn't silver comin' outa that Calico mountain, Laredo."
"Yeah," He replied. "Things have changed haven't they."
"Enjoy your poker game men." I said, turning for the door.
"How was your trip to San Berdoo?" Bismarck shot at me.
Stopping I turned around, hands hooked in my vest pockets, "Enlightening Bob." I said, then left the make-shift saloon.It wasn't all that important that they knew I'm a lawman. If they had knowledge that I overheard their initial comments in the livery they might try to put a hole in me, but they didn't. Unless Misfire or Smokey had told them and I think that either of them would know the cost if they did. But now what to do? I was going to need some help and there was sure to be shooting involved. How could I ask anyone to put their life on the line to stop a payroll robbery? I couldn't.
I rode back up the hill and stabled Basil. Then remembered that I needed to have George make me a new holster. I needed one of rather hard thick leather with no leather to shield the hammer from my thumb. My thumb was getting arthritic and I needed to fan back the hammer with my hand once it cleared leather. This wasn't the best for what I believed to be accuracy but it certainly allowed the single action a rapid fire. Once I explained to him what I wanted he would have it for me pretty quick.
I found George, Smokey and Misfire in the saloon and gave a salute as I walked in.
"Well, well, here comes man of the hour!" Misfire began.
"Yeah," I replied. "I thought I'd join you fellers and impress the girls here in the saloon."
"Well I can't think of a better entrance," Misfire grinned, "than to walk in with your fly open. That most all us gets the girls attention."
Then he sits there winking and grinning at the others while I struggle with the buttons. "It's hard to maintain any dignity around you guys."
"But you did that for the girls." Smokey joined in.
"Okay, okay, someone buy me a beer." I whined. I began explaining to George the kind of holster I needed and he jotted down a few notes.
"You want one sort of like the one I made for myself." He said.
"Yeah, except maybe a silver dollar on it."
"You got it."
- to be continued.....
~ Weakeyes Cody 2012