The Lonesome Wanderer
August 3, 1862
He looked at the foreboding, grisly image before him. It was clearly what appeared to be the week-long decomposed body of a man hanging off the back of a prairie schooner wagon, with a tattered cover, and broken wheels. Probably deliberately so, he had thought to himself. The oxen were long dead as well, again badly decomposed.
The smell was nearly unbearable the closer he drew towards the ominous sight. He wrapped a navy blue bandanna around his face, and tried to cover the nostrils of his nose with his hands as he stepped closer to examine the corpse. At this point, his breathing was drawn in entirely by his mouth.
The man seemed to be a rather well-off man; he was wearing a dark grey frock coat, trousers, tattered black leather boots, vest, and a cravat necktie at the time of his death, whatever the cause may have been. As he looked closer, he found the man's facial features hard to make out, due to the horrid mixture of dark green and grey on the tone of his skin. Besides these effects, the surface of his skin was also skeletonized in certain areas. He dared not to touch him.
By now, he was terribly decomposed, so he could not make out the man's age, although his hand's appeared to be very wrinkled and calloused, what little he could make out that didn't seem to be the result of rotting in the heat of the Indian Territory.
"Must have been Indians," he thought to himself cynically, "Can't say I'm surprised, I'm in their territory after all…"
The man passing through found nothing of interest he'd be willing to keep off the dead man's possessions. They were few that he spotted; a pocket watch visibly tucked inside of his vest, or waistcoat, a silver walking cane, fashionable in the eastern cities, and an old beaver felt top hat, one of which appeared to be reminiscent of the styles most common during the 1840s. Apparently, he must have owned it for many years, as the narrow brim was warped, the crown was tapered in a bit by the constant rains, and the hat itself was dusty and moth stained. He seemed to be a rich man, probably a gentleman of the eastern cities such as New York, Boston, or Atlanta, but one which did not care very much for keeping up with the latest fashions of the day, like a dandy.
The lone rider thought it best not to interfere with anything; the wagon, the body, or the possessions inside. It was already clear what had happened, two possibilities, in which he had either been attacked by marauding Indians, or he had been held up by the roadside to be robbed and killed by outlaws from the United States.
At the very least, he thought it would be decent to take off his hat and say a prayer. His hat was weather-worn, and showed signs of hard-wearing throughout the years he had owned it. It was a fairly narrow-brimmed gaucho hat, it must have been no wider than three inches, and it featured a telescope crown, with very subtle front pinches. The brim had its sides curled up slightly; a kettle brim, as it's called. After his regards for the deceased, he immediately left the ghastly scene. He must have spent no more than five minutes total, but what five minutes those must have been with the stench.
For what seemed to be a long time, he rode his horse hard and fast; furiously. Time was too precious a commodity for him to waste out here in such dangerous country. He wasn't planning on any unnecessary encounters with hostile bandits or natives. The man then pulled out his pocket watch. The time was 4:38 PM.
Knowing that there was going to be only three more hours of daylight, he started scouting for a location along the trail to spend the night. Preferably, he wanted an area that he had access to water nearby, and perhaps a den of rabbits, in which he could roast one over an open fire for supper. He was hungry, having not eaten since dawn. He was constantly on the move. He knew all too well why; to cash in his bags of Confederate gold that he had obtained from the Sad Hill Cemetery. He had defeated his two rivals there, also in pursuit of the buried Confederate gold.
Greed had consumed all three men, and as a result, one met his end violently, although another had emerged from the struggle more fortunate, ultimately having four bags to himself, due to the winner's surprising and unexpected generosity. It was uncalled for, and perhaps even irrational. The good man felt it in his heart to reward one of his rivals, at times a companion during his travels, half of the loot for his efforts. This rival in particular, the Mexican bandit known as El Tuco, had made it far, granted. Nevertheless, he was ungrateful towards him in the end.
About two hours later, he had already set himself up with a meal for the evening. He was hunting for small game, and ended up with a rabbit suitable for his meal. To supplement this, he had picked a handful of berries he knew to be edible, that he had found along the trail.
After a hearty meal, he had gone to sleep. He first hitched his horse, making sure to reinforce his makeshift hitching post of a log, with rocks and sticks. It was not perfect, but could be enough to prevent it from escaping. Then he had used the leather saddle to function as a pillow to lean his head against, wearing his hat sitting lopsided on his head for additional warmth. It may have been August, but the nights were bitterly cold.
To be continued.