Disclaimer: I don't own High Mountain Rangers, not making any money, just cheap thrills.
Warnings: AU, Angst, Violence
Summary: A tale of the Hawkes family in the Sierra Nevadas, their tragedies and triumphs.
A/N: This story is set in the 1860s and 70s. While I will do my best to keep the story historically accurate, some things will necessarily change in order to fit the story. Lake Tahoe was first discovered by white men in 1844 and was first used as a resort town for the nearby Virginia City in 1864. The main industries in the area were mining and lumber. While the Shoshone of that time didn't live in the area, they did visit the Tahoe region each summer to hunt, fish and gather medicinal plants. All of the names of the characters will essentially be the same, with the exception of Frank Avila. As a Shoshone of this time wouldn't have used a white name, he will be known by his call sign from the show; White Eagle.
A Man Called Hawkes
A smile spread over his face as Jesse took in the view before him. This was it, the land he would claim for his family. Yes sir, life in these mountains, surrounded by beauty, would be as peaceful as any he could ever hope to give his family. Consulting the map he carried, Jesse checked it against the landmarks in front of him. It wouldn't do to stake his claim only to find out he'd claimed the wrong quarter section.
When Jesse had first struck out on his own he never would have thought he would end up here. He had been happy as a sheriff back in Colorado territory, but then had come the bank robbery that changed everything. Jesse had never considered himself a coward, neither was he a foolhardy man. As the bullet had entered his side on that fateful day, he had found himself praying that his son would never forget him. He had woke up three days later, surprised beyond measure to find himself alive. Within minutes, Jacklyn had been by his side, her beautiful eyes filled with a combination of fear and relief. He never wanted to see such fear there again.
By the time he'd recovered, the decision had been made. He would quit his job as sheriff and they would move further west. Lay claim to a homestead, somewhere they could raise their son without the fear of some outlaw leaving his family to find a way to survive without him. He'd seen too many women left to raise children alone to ever want his beautiful Jacklyn to suffer the cruel fate that had been visited upon the widows of men taken before their time.
Several hours later, he rode into the small town that sat on the shores of Lake Tahoe. If he hurried he would be able to make it to the land office before it closed.
"May I help you?"
Jesse grinned, "Yes sir, I'd like to file a claim."
Ben Tucker nearly bit his tongue in half as he choked down the snide remark that rose to the surface. "Of course, do you have the application ready?"
Jesse fished the document from his pocket and laid it on the counter, smoothing it out. "Right here," he announced unnecessarily.
Ben took the document, quickly reading it over. "Well Mr. Hawkes everything seems to be in order." Dipping his pen in the inkwell, Ben quickly certified the document. "Welcome to the Sierras Mr. Hawkes," Ben smiled, reaching over to shake the other man's hand.
"Thank you," Jesse smiled in return. Pocketing his receipt, he hurried off to join his wife and son.
Jacklyn sighed, raking a hand through her thick blond hair. She hoped Jesse returned soon, Matt was becoming more restless and harder to keep at the wagon with each passing hour. Ordinarily her son was a well-mannered little boy, but when he grew restless the devil himself couldn't keep up with him.
"Pa! Pa!" Matt cried out, running towards his father.
Jesse grinned and reached down to take Matt by the arm, hauling him onto the horse to sit in front of him.
"Did you get it Pa? Did ya?"
"I went after it didn't I?" Jesse asked.
"Well what do you think?"
Matt giggled, "You got it?"
Jesse gave the little boy a squeeze, "I got it," he confirmed.
Jacklyn looked up at her husband and son, a soft smile on her lips. "Well? Don't keep me in suspense Jess."
He dismounted, lowering Matt to the ground first. Stepping forward, he wrapped his arms around his wife. "I got it darlin and a prettier piece of land you'll never see," he smiled, kissing her soundly.
Jacklyn smiled. "Thank goodness," she sighed. "Supper should be ready by the time you get your horse settled and wash up."
"But Ma ain't we gonna go to our new place tonight?" Matt nearly whined. Of course he hadn't whined. Big boys didn't whine and he was a big boy of five, almost six.
"Aren't we going to and no we're not," Jesse corrected. "It's too late to start off tonight son, we'll leave right after breakfast." He tousled the boy's hair and took his hand. "Come on now, you can tell me all about your day while I unsaddle the horse."
Jacklyn gave him a grateful smile, mouthing the words thank you. She watched them walk away for a few seconds, her heart swelling with the love she felt for her family. Her only regret was that they hadn't been able to give Matt any brothers or sisters. The three pregnancies she'd had after Matt had all ended in miscarriage or stillbirths. Maybe living in the crisp, fresh air of the mountains would make a difference. Sighing, she turned away and walked back to the campfire. There was no point in speculating, if God intended to bless them with more children, he would.
The next day saw them climbing into the mountains. It was a day Jacklyn had despaired of ever seeing. She would be glad to stop traveling. "Are there any neighbors Jesse?"
"There's a bachelor that lives a few miles to the west of us and I saw another family a few miles before our place. Before you ask, I didn't get their names. Fact is, I didn't even speak to them, I wanted to get back to town to file the claim."
"Of course," Jacklyn smiled. She hoped the family Jesse spoke of was nice. She wondered if they had any children near Matt's age. She agreed with Jesse about moving away from the towns. Never again did Jacklyn want to see her husband shot down in the street. She could still feel the fear that had spiked through her that day as if it had happened only minutes ago. Still, she was glad there would be other people nearby, providing them all with some company other than their own. "Did you notice if they had any children?"
Jesse smiled over at her, "Tell you what, why don't we stop there and introduce ourselves."
"We don't have to do that," Jacklyn sighed. She knew Jesse wanted to get to the homestead. Truthfully, she did as well. They could meet the neighbors another time.
"It's alright darlin," Jesse squeezed her hand. "Be a good idea to meet them anyway. I'm sure they'll be a big help to us in getting settled and we to them."
That had been hours ago. The ride that had taken Jesse four hours to make, had taken them twice as long in the wagon. Finally, however, they pulled up in front of a small cabin. Jacklyn smiled at the woman standing in the doorway, one hand behind her. It was a pose Jacklyn easily recognized, the other woman was keeping one or more children in the cabin until their father ascertained the intentions of the folks on their doorstep.
"Can I help you folks?" a gruff man who looked to be a few years younger than Jesse asked.
"I'm Jesse Hawkes," he introduced himself.
"Bill Cutler," the younger man replied, shaking Jesse's hand.
"We just filed claim on the quarter section near Carson meadow."
Bill smiled, "I recollect the spot ya mean, it's a real nice one. Why don't you folks come on in and visit for a few minutes? I'm sure our womenfolk would like to meet."
Jesse nodded. Turning to the wagon, he helped his wife down as Matt jumped down from the back of the wagon. One hand on the small of Jacklyn's back, he guided her to the door.
"This is my wife Sarah," Bill said, one hand wrapped around the pretty redhead now standing next to him. "Sarah, this is Jesse Hawkes and his wife...?"
"Jacklyn," Jesse supplied. "Our son Matt," he added, nodding to the blond who was currently eyeing a boy about his age and a girl a couple of years younger. "Darlin this is Bill Cutler," Jesse introduced his wife.
"It's very nice to meet you both," Sarah smiled. "Won't you come in," she invited.
"It's a pleasure to meet you Mrs. Cutler," Jacklyn smiled, "Mr. Cutler," she nodded.
"Jimmy you play nice with Matt now and look out for your sister," Sarah called over her shoulder as she took Jacklyn's arm and led her inside.
"Yes ma'am," Jimmy acknowledged the order. "How old are you?" he asked the blond after the women went inside and the men moved to the small corral.
"I'm almost six," Matt proudly declared. "How old are you?"
Jimmy smirked, "I'm almost seven," he countered. "You should play with Molly, she's five, same as you." He wouldn't be seven for six more months, but he wasn't letting this little runt know that.
"I ain't playing with no girl," Matt glared at the older boy.
"Who says I want to play with you anyway?" Molly snapped. Delivering a stinging slap to the blond's face, she turned on her heel and flounced into the house.
Matt looked around quickly to see if his father had witnessed the scene. If his Pa knew he'd upset a girl he'd be in big trouble. Of course it probably didn't matter he thought as he realized that Molly was most likely right this minute telling both their mothers what had happened.
Jimmy saw the look on his face and felt a moment of pity. "Don't worry, she won't tell," he whispered.
"Nah, Molly ain't like that."
"I didn't mean to hurt her feelings."
Jimmy shrugged, "She'll get over it," he assured the other boy. "You ever seen a two-headed snake?"
"There ain't no such thing," Matt scoffed.
"Sure is," Jimmy countered. "I've got one," he boasted.
Matt's eyed him skeptically, "Really?"
Jimmy nodded, "Don't know if I should let you see it though. You'll probably run off screaming like a baby."
Matt glared, stepping up to the other boy, his fists clenched at his sides. "I ain't a baby," he declared. He looked Jimmy right in the eye, his green eyes hard and unyielding. He smiled when the older boy blinked and took a step back. "You probably ain't got one anyway."
"I do too," Jimmy hotly declared.
"Prove it," came the immediate challenge.
"Come on," Jimmy said, turning and leading the way to his secret spot several yards from the cabin. Crouching down behind a small hillock, he reached for the lid of a packing box with holes drilled into the sides for air. "You sure ya ain't gonna scream?"
Matt just glared.
"I was just asking," Jimmy sighed as he pulled the lid off and reached into the box.
Matt strained to peek over the older boy's shoulder. His eyes grew wide. "Golly, where'd you get him?"
"Found him," Jimmy replied. "Can't tell ya where, it's a secret."
Matt swallowed his disappointment, he hadn't really expected the other boy to tell him where he'd found the snake. "What kind is he?"
"I don't know his proper name but the injuns call him a two-headed snake," Jimmy answered in a tone of superiority.
"Matt! Where are you boy?"
The boys started at the call from the front of the cabin. "Guess we're leaving," Matt sighed. He had just opened his mouth to ask if he could hold the small green snake when his father had called to him. Reluctantly he stood up and hurried back to the front yard of the small cabin. "I'm right here Pa."
Jesse smiled, "Climb into the wagon, we need to get on our way if we're going to make it to our claim before nightfall."
"Yes sir," Matt nodded.
Hope y'all liked this first chapter. Please feed the muse with reviews.
A/N: I'm not sure when Jackie began to be used as a nickname for Jacklyn or Jacqueline, hence my use of Jacklyn rather than Jackie.