Cowboys and Indians
A brilliant sunset showing off a palette of colors provided a backdrop to the sleepy mining town of Hecla, Wyoming, as two tired and dusty cowboys rode into town. They glanced around the main street, taking in all of the details. The shoddily-built town was already showing signs of dilapidation, but there was a saloon, a hotel, a small mercantile, a livery and, most importantly, no sheriff's office. The two cowboys wearily nodded as they looked over at each other and smiled. The town offered all the essentials they needed.
"I don't know what I want more—a drink or a bed," Heyes sighed as he dismounted his horse. "You hungry and wanna eat?"
"Heyes, I think I'm too tired to eat. How about a big breakfast in the morning?"
Heyes smiled and nodded in affirmation; he was too weary to eat, also.
"Tell you what; you get us a room and I'll take care of the horses. They sure deserve a treat tonight after that last run," the Kid said as he untied his saddlebag and handed it to his partner.
Heyes took the proffered saddlebag. "Meet you in the saloon?"
Heyes removed his own saddlebag and handed his horse's reins to the Kid. Both headed off to complete their tasks so they could cut the dust in their throats with a drink before heading to bed.
Fifteen minutes later, the Kid walked into the saloon and joined his partner at the counter where the bartender was pouring drinks for them.
They downed the first drink and Heyes tapped the glass for seconds. The bartender poured a second round as Heyes threw a few more coins down on the bar. They waited for him to leave and then held the glasses up in a silent toast before sipping the whiskey as they looked around the room.
"That posse was close…too close," the Kid muttered under his breath.
"And we're not out of the woods yet. Too close to Cheyenne and Laramie for my liking. We need to get outta Wyoming for awhile," Heyes replied just loud enough for the Kid to hear.
"I agree, but first I need a good night's sleep," the Kid yawned and then swallowed the remaining whiskey. "Ready?"
"Right behind you, partner." Heyes stifled his own yawn and set his glass on the counter.
The moonlight brightened their hotel room just enough that they could see what they were doing, making lighting the lamp unnecessary. Heyes hung his hat on a hook, put his gun belt on a bedpost within reach, and removed his boots and clothes. He sank down on the bed and hit the pillow a few times.
Kid hung his hat on another hook, removed his boots and lit the lamp in the room.
"Why'd you do that? We're just going to bed."
"Gotta clean my gun first."
"What? Can't it wait until the morning?"
"What if we need to leave in a hurry? I haven't cleaned it since that posse started after us. Reckon your gun needs a good cleanin', too."
"Oh for Pete's sake, Kid. It won't hurt it if you do it tomorrow."
"No, Heyes. I'm doin' it now, before bed, just in case. It'll only take ten minutes. What about your gun?"
"Clean it if it'll make you feel better. I'm in bed." Heyes rolled over with his back to the Kid to emphasize the point.
The Kid methodically took his gun apart, cleaned the dirt and grime, oiled it and put it back together. He glanced at Heyes and sighed. He holstered his gun, putting it on the bedpost in easy reach, and walked over to the other side of the bed for Heyes' gun. Ten minutes later, he put a clean gun back into Heyes' gun belt, blew out the lamp and undressed for bed.
"It's about time," Heyes sleepily muttered. The Kid punched his own pillow a few times and fell sound asleep.
Late in the morning, the Kid woke to the sun streaming into the shabby hotel room and Heyes shaving in front of a broken mirror. He frowned as he looked around the room and saw the cracked ceiling, a rip in the curtain, and chipped paint on the thin walls.
"Sheesh…this room's seen better days. Hope you didn't have to pay too much for it."
Heyes stopped shaving long enough to reply, "It's a mining town, Kid, and everything costs more than it should. Didn't seem to prevent you from getting your sleep."
The Kid stretched and yawned. "It did feel good to sleep in a bed and not on the ground." He stood up and stretched again. "Any chance for a bath in this town?"
"Nope; I asked down at the desk when I checked in last night. We're just gonna have to make do 'til we reach the next town." Heyes finished the last scraping of the razor and rinsed off his face. "Hurry up so we can get going. I don't like being between Cheyenne and Laramie's prison walls."
"I'm starvin'! We're leavin' after breakfast, right?" the Kid checked.
Heyes rolled his eyes and picked up his saddlebags. "Yes, after breakfast. Only place to eat is the saloon. I'll meet you down there. I'm gonna walk around town to find out if there's any news about the posse…or us."
While the Kid washed up, Heyes walked around the town looking for news on the posse. What he found were messages tacked to the wall near the saloon door so he began to read them. Soon he ripped one down from the wall, entered the saloon and ordered two coffees before he sat down at the table. The Kid joined him at the table a few minutes later. They ordered their food and sipped their coffee.
"Whatcha got there?" The Kid nodded towards the piece of paper on the table.
"Notice for a job—a job getting us outta Wyoming."
"What kinda job?"
The Kid nodded in agreement. "Ponies are smarter than cows; can't be too hard to do. When?
"Sounds like they wanna leave when we do—right away. We'll go find this…" Heyes looked at the notice, "Mr. Adams as soon as breakfast is over."
Both men ate a hearty breakfast, having only eaten jerky while on the run from the posse. While paying for the meal, Heyes asked the bar's proprietor, "Do you know where I can find Mr. Adams about a job?"
"Sure…Jake is friends with Warren, who owns the mercantile. Jake's usually in there chattin' while Warren's workin'."
Heyes smiled. "Thanks." He walked over to the Kid who waited near the door. "Let's go to the store, get some supplies and meet Mr. Adams." The Kid nodded and the two partners left the saloon for the mercantile.
When Heyes and the Kid walked into the small market, they exchanged glances of amazement at the amount of goods the store provided. The walls were covered with tools, clothing and supplies, especially mining gear.
"May I help you?" a lanky gentleman wearing an apron and standing behind the counter asked.
Heyes and the Kid diverted their eyes away from the walls and toward the gentleman. The Kid smiled. "You sure carry a wide variety of goods, Mr…"
"Price…Warren Price. I'm the owner of the mercantile." He beamed with pride. "How can I help you, gentlemen?"
Heyes responded, "We need a few supplies and we're looking for a Mr. Adams about a job. We were told he might be in here."
A man sitting on a chair in the corner stood up and walked over to them. With all of the merchandise, he seemed to blend into the wall until he moved. He was of medium-build with silver-grey hair. "I'm Jake Adams. Are you inquiring about the jobs I'm offerin' herdin' mustangs to Utah?"
"We are." Heyes smiled at the man and held out his hand. "I'm Joshua Smith and this is my partner, Thaddeus Jones."
"Pleased to meet you," Adams replied as he shook hands and looked over the boys, noticing the tied-down guns. "Got any herdin' experience?"
"Yup, we've been on a few cattle drives. Ponies gotta be smarter than cows," the Kid commented.
Adams laughed. "They sure are. Pay is $100 for each man." Heyes and the Kid nodded in agreement. "How soon could you be ready to leave?"
Heyes and the Kid looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders. Heyes replied, "Just need a few supplies and we're ready to go."
"Great; I'll meet you at the livery in about half an hour. I hired another man who's waitin' for me in the saloon. I'll go tell him we're about ready to go."
"Hired another man?" Heyes nonchalantly asked. "What's his name? Maybe we know him."
"Name's Gus Wilson. Heard of him before?"
Heyes and the Kid glanced at each other. "No, can't say we have," Heyes replied with a smile.
The Kid and Heyes replenished their supplies with extra socks, foodstuffs, a couple bottles of whiskey and a few cigars. They loaded the supplies in their saddlebags and strode to the livery. They had their horses saddled when Adams and another man arrived leading their horses from the saloon.
"Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones, I want to introduce you to Gus Wilson." The men proceeded to shake hands as they eyed one another. Wilson was about ten years older than they were and looked like he had led a hard life. He had a long scruffy beard, dirty clothes and didn't look or smell like he had taken a bath in quite awhile. He also wore his gun tied down.
"Smith and Jones, huh?" Wilson glared at them.
"That's right, Wilson, this world is full of people named Smith and Jones. We just happen to be two of them," Heyes offhandedly answered.
Adams watched as his three new hired hands eyed each other. "There's not gonna be any problems on the trail, is there? You think you can all work together?"
Heyes gave Adams a dimpled smile. "No problem at all. Thaddeus and I get along with most everyone."
Wilson spit out a wad of chewing tobacco. "Ah can't see no problem."
"Good; I'm glad we got that settled. If a problem does develop, I want to know about it. You are not to settle it with those tied-down guns. Do I make myself clear?"
Heyes, the Kid, and Wilson nodded their heads in agreement.
"Well, then, let's go out to my place and get those ponies and supplies for the trip."
All four men mounted their horses and Adams led them to his ranch, an hour's ride away. Heyes and the Kid slowly fell back from the others.
"Kid, does Wilson look familiar to you?"
"Nope, doesn't look familiar to you either?"
"Not at all. Let's just play it safe around him, be cordial and see what happens."
"Got it," the Kid agreed as they kicked their horses to join the others.
The ranch was small, but had several large corrals filled with mustangs. The men rode to the corrals, dismounted and observed the stock.
"Where'd you get all those ponies, Mr. Adams, and who helps you?" the Kid asked. "Those are some real impressive mustangs you've got there."
Adams smiled. "I'm pretty much a one-man operation here. The ponies are wild and free for the taking in this area. I capture one or two a day until I have enough to sell in Salt Lake City.
"You got yourself a nice little business here," the Kid observed.
"I have a wagon of supplies about ready to go. How about we get a good night's sleep and head out just before the sun makes its presence known?"
Heyes and the Kid smiled wryly at each other.
"That a problem, boys?" asked Adams.
"No. No problem at all," said the Kid.
"That's right, Mr. Adams. There's nothing my partner and me like more than waking up before the sun, right partner?"
The Kid rolled his eyes. "Whatever you say, Joshua."
Heyes continued, "Anything we can do to help you get ready, Mr. Adams?"
"Sure is; let's fill the barrel in the wagon with water and…" Wilson joined Heyes and the Kid in the last-minute preparations for the trip. The three made pleasant conversation as they worked beside each other. Adams was pleased that they seemed to be getting along and worked well together after their brusque introduction.
"Since this is gonna be our last home-cooked meal before we get to Salt Lake City, I'm making it a big one. How's a steak sound?"
"Sounds good, Mr. Adams. Real good." The Kid put another sack of flour into the wagon.
Heyes stopped loading for a moment to stretch his back. "Think we can finish the rest if you want to start on that dinner."
Adams jumped down for the wagon. "Okay, I'll get started on those steaks."
Just before sundown, the supplies were loaded and everything was ready for the trip.
Adams turned the steaks over. "Good timing; the steaks are almost done. You fellas can wash up some and they'll be ready."
While eating, Adams asked, "Smith and Jones haven't herded ponies before, Wilson, only cattle. How about you?"
"Cattle drives, but not ponies," Wilson admitted.
Adams explained, "Well, let me tell you boys how to herd ponies. There's a natural peckin' order with wild horses. There's a boss mare in charge of a band of mares, foals, and young'uns and a stallion protectin' the band. Figure out your boss mares and stallions; concentrate on herdin' them. The others will follow 'em."
"How do we know who the boss mare is?" the Kid wanted to know.
"Should be easy to spot who the lead mare is; she'll nip at any horse with bad behavior, leads the band where ta go and gets first drinkin' rights at a waterin' hole. Any more questions?"
Wilson, Heyes and the Kid shook their heads.
"Morning's coming soon enough. Think we better call it a day," Adams suggested. "Sorry I don't have beds for you all to sleep in. Cabin's too small to fit us, but there's the hayloft. It'll be more comfortable than the ground."
The men agreed and, after making beds in the soft hay, went to sleep.
Very early the next morning, before the sky began to show color, Adams roused the sleeping men from their bedrolls. "Rise 'n shine—it's mornin' time!" he shouted.
"Dang…he better not wake us up like that every mornin' or else…" the Kid muttered under his breath while he threw his covers off and started putting on his boots.
Heyes looked over at his sleepy partner and smiled as he stretched and got up to dress. "Could be worse…" The Kid glanced over, waiting for the rest of the comment. "He could've beaten on a kettle in your ear."
After a few quick cups of coffee and a breakfast of eggs, the horses were saddled and everyone was ready to go. Adams stood by the gate of the first corral, prepared to unlatch the lock. "Ready?" he shouted.
"Ready as we'll ever be," Heyes answered for the Kid and Wilson.
Adams opened the corral and waved his hat as he yelled at the horses to make them exit through the gate. He then walked to the second corral and repeated the process. Once the ponies were moving in a westerly direction towards Salt Lake City, Adams jumped into the wagon and followed behind.
It took most of the morning for Heyes, the Kid, and Wilson to get into a rhythm and for the ponies to understand what was wanted from them.
Heyes rode up next to the Kid and pointed to a horse. "Reckon that buckskin mare is one of them lead mares?"
The Kid shrugged his shoulders. "Easy to tell the stallions—the boss mares are harder to figure out. I'd say so the way she's pushin' that young'un."
"I'll herd that stallion back in line." Wilson spurred his horse to catch up to the wayward horse.
By dusk, they reached the area where Adams wanted to set up camp. They used a small box canyon there as a corral for the evening. Adams prepared dinner as the Kid and Wilson settled the ponies and Heyes took care of the men's horses.
The men hungrily ate the pork and beans dinner around the fire. "How'd it go out there today?" Adams asked his new crew.
The Kid smiled. "Ponies are definitely smarter than cows."
"After we got into a routine, they moved along fairly easy," Heyes expounded.
Wilson agreed, "This is better than a cattle drive—pays better, too." He coughed. "Still gotta deal with the dust, though."
The men helped clean up after dinner while Adams got the coffee ready to put on in the morning. Heyes pulled out a bottle of whiskey and everyone enjoyed a small drink.
Adams yawned. "Think I'm gonna go to bed now; tomorrow's another long day."
"Me, too," Wilson said as he headed off into the distance near his bed roll.
"Need to have two hour watches so nothin' bothers the ponies. You two go first, then Wilson, and I'll take the last shift in the early mornin'. Hear that, Wilson?"
Wilson waved his hand to indicate he heard as he continued to walk to his bedroll.
"Sounds good. I'll take the first watch and wake up Jones in two hours," Heyes said aloud and then whispered to the Kid, "Thaddeus, just a minute-what do you think about Wilson?"
The Kid thought for a moment. "He's a hard worker and pitches in to help. Not much with words and kind of a loner."
"That's what I was thinking. Didn't make a good first impression, but he seems okay."
"Well, he's not the first to wonder about Smith and Jones…"
"Yeah, I know, and he won't be the last."
"Still don't look familiar to me. Does he to you?"
Heyes shook his head. "Nope, doesn't seem to know who we are either."
"Well, that's a relief."
"I'll wake you in a couple of hours."
"Lookin' forward to it, Heyes," the Kid commented sarcastically.
Early the next morning, the Kid and Heyes again woke up to "Rise 'n shine—it's mornin' time!"
The Kid mumbled as he put on his boots, "Anyone that cheerful in the mornin' oughta be shot."
Heyes gave a dimpled grin as he buttoned his shirt.
The day repeated the one before, but they were able to cover more miles now that they all were more accustomed to handling the horses. Adams knew of good places to camp where there were natural corrals for the ponies.
On the third morning, the Kid rode up to Heyes. "Do you have a feelin' we're bein' watched?"
"Watched?" Heyes looked around. "By who?"
"Don't know…just got that feelin'."
"Have you seen or heard anything?"
The Kid hesitated. "Well…probably ain't anything."
"Yes, but it could be something. What's making you feel like that?"
"You know…just a feelin'. And last night on watch I heard an owl hoot, but I don't think it was an owl."
"Let me know if you see anything." The Kid spurred his horse towards a stallion which was breaking away from the herd.
In the afternoon the Kid rode near Heyes, again. "You see anything?"
"Nope, did you?"
"Thought I saw a flash of light on top the cliff, but, I dunno…Heyes, there are Indians in this part of Wyoming, aren't there?"
"I guess. You thinking there are Indians watching us? Adams has been on this trail before. Maybe you should mention it at dinner?"
"Yeah, guess I will. Dang that horse!" the Kid yelled as he went after the stallion breaking away.
That night at dinner, Heyes elbowed the Kid and nodded towards Adams. The Kid looked puzzled for a moment, but realized what Heyes wanted him to do. "Mr. Adams, are there Indians around here?"
Adams looked up from his plate. "Sure. Have you seen some?"
"Not sure, but I thought I saw a flash of light on top of the cliff this afternoon."
Adams pondered this new information. "Sounds like a method the Arapaho use to communicate. They're usually pretty friendly Indians, but I wouldn't want to get them mad."
Wilson scowled. "There's no such thing as a friendly Injun; they're all bad."
"Why do you say that, Wilson?" Heyes asked.
"They murdered my sister's family, even her babies. Only good Injun is a dead one."
Heyes and the Kid made eye contact with each other.
Heyes sighed, "Well, Wilson, we can tell you from personal experience that you can't blame a people for what a small group did. Our families were murdered in the border wars, but we can't blame the Southerners for their deaths."
The Kid stared into the fire while Heyes talked and then, shaking his head as if driving a memory from his mind, he changed the subject back to the Arapaho. "Adams, have you seen Indians before on these trips? Have they left you alone? I sure get the feelin' they're watchin' us and, I don't mind tellin' you, it's makin' me uncomfortable."
"Well, I did spot Indians watching us last time we came through here, but all they did was watch us. Let's all be aware of the possibility, but I think we'll be alright. And with that said, it's time for me to get some shut-eye."
Wilson joined Adams in getting to bed early while Heyes and the Kid cleaned up from dinner and then removed a layer of dirt from themselves the best they could in the nearby creek.
As the Kid was turning in for the night, he whispered, "Heyes, I sure don't wanna meet any Indians after our encounter with them in Apache Springs."
"Me neither, Kid. Me neither."
After doing their watches, the boys were sound asleep, only to be woken up a few hours later with "Rise 'n shine—it's mornin' time!"
"Adams, do you hafta be so dang happy in the mornin'?" the Kid complained.
Heyes smiled. "Don't mind him; he's not a morning person." The Kid gave Heyes one of his looks that most men feared. "Just give him some coffee and he'll be okay."
Adams poured a cup of coffee and walking over to the Kid and handed him the cup. "There you go, Jones. A cup of hot coffee."
Kid scowled at Heyes as he took the proffered cup. "Thanks."
After a quick breakfast, the cowboys and ponies were back on the trail. At noon, Adams pointed out Skull Rocks to the crew; they were almost half way to Salt Lake City.
"Any signs of Indians?" Adams asked as the Kid rode near the wagon.
"I don't see 'em, but I still have the feelin' we're being watched."
Heyes, the Kid, and Wilson continued herding the mustangs towards the west. Wilson rode in the back, keeping the slow horses moving with the rest of the herd. Heyes kept an eye on the right side of the herd while the Kid watched from the left side. The Kid continuously looked over his shoulder towards the hills on the north side. After about an hour, the Kid glanced back and scowled as he spurred his horse towards his partner.
The Kid rode up fast to where Heyes was herding ponies and pointed towards Skull Rocks. "Heyes, we have company!"
Heyes' eyes followed to the place the Kid pointed and saw about a dozen Indians riding fast towards them. The Kid and Heyes rode to the wagon. "Adams, there's Indians coming this way and they don't look too friendly. What do you wanna do?" Heyes inquired.
Adams stopped the wagon and stood up to observe the approaching band of Indians. "They don't appear friendly, seems like they're on the warpath." He hesitated for a moment. "Get Wilson and let's stick together. Don't shoot at them!"
The Kid spurred his horse off in the direction of Wilson, who had just spotted the Indians. "Jones, there's…"
"Adams says to come over to the wagon and stick together. And no shootin'!"
Heyes, meanwhile, remembered the bottles of whiskey in his saddlebags. Realizing they may be needed later, he hurried took them out and climbed into the wagon of supplies to hide the liquor.
Adams, who had been watching the Indians, suddenly realized Smith was in the back of the wagon. He barely glanced back to him. "What d'ya think you're doing?"
"Checking out what supplies they might be after," Heyes lied as he opened a twenty-pound sack of beans and shoved a bottle into the middle so dry beans were all that was visible.
"Oh." Adams' attention was distracted when Wilson and the Kid approached.
Heyes hid the second bottle in a twenty-pound sack of flour. When he was satisfied the Indians would not find it, he jumped off the wagon and walked over to his partner.
The cry of the approaching Indians reached their ears as they banded together by the wagon. The herd of ponies became anxious at the sudden disorder and started scattering. The Indians, decorated with war paint, circled the group of ponies and men around the wagon, firing shots and enclosing the circle.
Heyes, the Kid and Wilson instinctively drew their guns when they were fired upon. "Don't shoot!" Adams shouted. "Don't shoot no matter what!"
Heyes holstered his gun to avoid the strong temptation to shoot back. He put his hand on the Kid's right arm. "Put it away so you aren't tempted to shoot. There's too many of them and we don't need them madder." The Kid reluctantly holstered his gun.
The men watched as the Indians circled closer and closer, firing into the circle. The bullets were flying over their heads. The ponies and horses were panicking around them. Soon the firing was being returned from the center of the circle.
"DON'T SHOOT BACK!" Adams cried out.
The Kid glanced over to Wilson. His gun was smoking and an Indian fell to the ground.
The sight of the downed Indian enraged the band. The circle closed as the Indians jumped off their horses with guns aimed at the men. Adams put his hands high in the air and the others followed his lead. Indians grabbed the guns from Heyes, the Kid and Wilson while others wrestled them to the ground on their bellies. Leather thongs were used to tie their hands behind their backs. Some of the Indians sat on the men's back ends to prevent them from moving.
An Indian with an eagle feather, the chief, rode up to Adams and stared at him. Adams slowly lowered his arms to make the peace symbol when guns were pointed at him. He continued to lower his arms and made a sign of a broken arrow. The leader shook his head and pointed to the dead Indian nearby. Adams exaggerated a look a sorrow on his face and made a sign of a broken arrow. Again, the leader shook his head and spoke to one of his men, who tied Adams' hands.
"Dang-it! I told you not to shoot," Adams growled at Wilson. "Now we are in trouble."
Half of the Indians rounded up the ponies that had scattered and half stayed with their chief and the prisoners while checking out the supplies in the wagon. The Indians roughly lifted Heyes, the Kid and Wilson off the ground and put them on their horses. They tied the captives' feet with rope that they pulled under the horses' bellies. Adams was thrown into the back of the wagon along with the dead Indian. The reins of all the horses were held by Indians and the entire party, including the ponies, headed in a northerly direction.
They rode until late in the evening when they could no longer see by the moonlight. The leader motioned for the party to halt and everyone dismounted. Braves dragged the prisoners off their horses and made them sit on the ground near other Indians kindling a fire.
The Indians settled the ponies down for the night and roasted antelope meat as they talked in earnest around the fire.
"Joshua, you don't suppose they're talking about us?" the Kid whispered.
"They are talking about us," Adams answered. "I know just enough Arapaho words to pick up bits and pieces of what they're saying. And they are not happy."
"Can you tell what they're gonna do with us?" Heyes asked Adams.
"Shhh…" the Kid warned the others when braves walked in their direction. The braves broke off pieces of meat from the antelope carcass and fed it to the prisoners. They then joined the rest of the party in an animated discussion by the fire.
"The chief is Lone Wolf. Sounds like he's protecting us. Many of the others want us dead," Adams informed his crew.
"Damn Injuns!" Wilson cursed under his breath.
"If you had listened to me…" Adams started to say, but stopped when four braves came in their direction.
The braves grabbed a resisting Wilson and forced him to an area away from the fire where others were driving four stakes into the ground.
"Where are we goin'? What are you gonna do with me?" Wilson cried out in a panic. "Adams…Jones…Smith…help me! Dear God, somebody help me!" he screamed.
One brave stood by the rest of the prisoners, while the others stripped Wilson of his clothes and tied him spread-eagle to the stakes on the ground. Without communicating to each other, ten braves danced around Wilson and touched him with arrowheads heated in the fire. They threw knives into his body to hurt, but not to kill. Wilson screamed in agony from the pain.
Throughout the ordeal, Heyes, the Kid and Adams looked away and tried to focus on something…anything…but Wilson. Adams sadly shook his head. "If only he'd listened to me," he muttered.
Heyes swallowed hard.
"Not good," the Kid whispered, barely loud enough for his companions to hear.
Wilson cried out again, louder.
Heyes and the Kid closed their eyes. Adams lowered his head, still shaking it and muttering to himself.
After about a half an hour of torture, a brave shot Wilson in the head ending his life and the Indians gave a yell.
The prisoners involuntarily twitched when the gun went off.
Lone Wolf stood by the fire and watched, having given his approval.
"Rest in peace," whispered Adams.
Four braves came back to the prisoners and scowled at them with their arms crossed over their chests.
An Indian with paint on his face pointed towards Curry and walked back while the others grabbed his arms and hoisted him up. Terror reflected in the blue eyes as he made brief eye contact with his partner. "Heyes…Heyes!"
"NO! KID!" Heyes struggled with his bindings trying to get closer until the guard kicked him in the small of his back. "Aww…" he groaned in pain and stopped his futile attempt to help his friend.
Heyes watched in horror as the Indians dragged his struggling partner to the stakes where others were removing Wilson's mutilated body.
The vacant expression in the eyes of his recent acquaintance seemed to glare at him causing Curry to stop fighting for a moment. Wilson had been burned and stabbed numerous times all over his body. The horror of what had been done to Wilson caused a wave of nausea and he swallowed down the bile in his throat. Would this be his fate, he wondered?
As the bloody body was tossed aside, the Kid resumed his efforts to break free with more fervor. The Indians wrestled him to the ground so his face in the dirt and several laid on top of him to hold him still as another untied his hands from behind his back. As they turned him around, Curry's shirt was ripped off, exposing his heaving chest. He was laid flat on his back with his arms extended and his hands tied to the stakes, stretching out his upper body.
"NO!" Heyes heard the Kid shout over and over again as he kicked and squirmed from under the men on top of him.
Indians trying to grab the flinging legs blocked the view, but a few thuds and loud exclamations made Heyes realize Curry's kicks made contact.
"Oh!" Heyes whispered in anguish when one of the Indians kicked his partner in the groin. The Kid quit fighting as he doubled over in pain.
Curry tried catching his breath and could offer no resistance as two Indians gripped his legs. They straightened his body, increasing the pain, and removed his boots.
Heyes found himself breathing heavily in rhythm with his partner. "No!" he cried out. It was not supposed to end this way. A gunslinger's challenge, a bounty hunter, or a posse, but not being tortured to death by Indians.
Arrows were being heated in the fire and a chatting began among the Indians as one unbuttoned the Kid's pants.
Curry's breaths quickened as he closed his eyes and mentally prepared himself for the torture which would end his life.
Closing his eyes from watching his partner's pain, Heyes heard Lone Wolf go over and stop the ceremonial dance his men began. A glimmer of hope rose as Heyes watched an angry exchange between the Indian who chose the Kid for death and the chief.
Lone Wolf turned from the furious brave and ordered the prisoner to be returned. Others untied Curry's hands and dragged him back to Heyes and Adams, throwing him on the ground.
The Kid lay on his side, his legs raised to his chest to ease the pain in his groin. He closed his eyes and took deep breaths, holding and then slowly releasing them, as he fought to gain control.
Heyes maneuvered himself so that he was as close to his partner as he could get and briefly rested his forehead on the Kid's shoulder, trying to reassure both of them. Heyes let out a breath. "Oh God, Kid, I thought…thank God you're alright."
"What happened, Heyes…why'd they stop?" the Kid asked in between deep breaths.
Adams looked sharply from one man to the other.
"The way I figure it, Lone Wolf said only the man who killed the Indian brave should die and not the others," Adams told them as he looked quizzically from Smith to Jones.
A brother to the Indian who had been killed, the one with the painted face, went over to Wilson's body and removed the scalp. He attached the bloody scalp to his belt and sat by the fire. The Kid could take no more and became physically sick, turning away as he retched into the dirt.
"I'll be okay…just give me a minute."
The heated discussion around the fire abated and the Indians settled down to sleep.
Several braves came over to the group of prisoners. They threw Curry's boots at him, one hitting the Kid in the head and the other one caught Heyes in the back.
"Oww…" Curry groaned as he rubbed his head.
"Hey…" They grabbed Heyes and dragged him away from his partner, as one of the guards forced the Kid's arms behind him to retie his hands.
"Wait…wait!" Kid cried out. "Adams, can you ask 'em to wait so I can button my pants and put on my boots?"
Adams spoke a few words and pointed to the boots and pants. The guard nodded and waited for Curry to dress before tying his hands.
They forced the prisoners to lie down and tied them together with Adams in the middle. The braves lay down with the prisoners between them and fell asleep. Adams, Heyes and the Kid dozed restlessly.
The Kid moaned in his sleep, waking Heyes who pulled himself up. For a few minutes, he watched his partner thrash about and groan while deep in a nightmare. Wanting to wake his partner or in some way reassure him, Heyes realized he couldn't do either. He looked at the sleeping Indians and at Adams, shook his head in frustration, and lowered himself again. "Oh Kid, that was close…too close."
At the first streaks of dawn, the Indians woke up, almost in unison. The guards kicked the captives awake and took them to Lone Wolf, where they were forced to kneel. Lone Wolf communicated to Adams and then they were dragged over to the dead Indian.
"What's going on, Adams?" Heyes looked concerned.
"I'm guessing we have to bury the Indian. Arapaho bury their dead, unlike the Cheyenne and Sioux, who put 'em on scaffolds."
"What about Wilson?" The Kid looked over at the mutilated body. "Are we buryin' him, too?"
"Don't know. All I know is that one over there," Adams said pointing to the brave who had been arguing the most with Lone Wolf the prior night, "is the dead Indian's brother."
The braves untied the captives and, giving them stones, signed that they should dig. A couple of hours later, the grave was deep enough and the Indian buried his brother. The rest joined him in dancing a ritual ceremonial.
Adams pointed to Wilson's body, but Lone Wolf shook his head.
"Guess they don't see fit to bury Wilson, but let the coyotes and vultures take care of him." Adams, the Kid and Heyes locked eyes and then lowered their heads for a moment. It was the only thing they could do to honor the memory of Gus Wilson.
The Arapaho prepared to leave camp and tied their prisoners to their horses again. The party rode north, herding the ponies with them.
The three prisoners' horses were tied by rope in a line with Adams on the first horse and the Kid at the end. A guard in the front led the horses and a guard rode in the rear.
Past noon, Heyes could be quiet no longer. "Adams…" he paused to see if the guards would stop the conversation. When they didn't, he continued, "you sure seem to know more Arapaho than you led us to believe." The Kid looked up from resting, interested to hear the response.
"I know a few words, enough to understand what they're saying most of the time. Not as good talkin' it as I am understandin' it."
"What are they gonna do with us?"
"Not sure…I don't know if they know. Last night, most of the band wanted us dead."
"But the chief defended us?"
"Chief Lone Wolf basically said taking the life of the man who was the killer was enough."
"How'd they know it was Wilson who killed the Indian?"
"Indians are observant, very observant. Must've seen you two holster your guns."
The Kid spoke up, "Joshua, some day remind me to thank you for tellin' me to put my gun away."
Heyes looked back at his partner and smiled, but soon frowned as he realized the Kid was without a shirt. "You're getting burned."
"Tell me somethin' I don't already know. Hey, Adams, do you know the word for shirt?"
"Yeah—they tore my shirt off last night and my back's gettin' burned by the sun."
"Hmm…I think I can get them to understand me. Do you have another shirt?"
"Yup, in my saddlebags."
Adams struggled to speak to the guard, asking for Lone Wolf. The chief was summoned and came back to the prisoners. The front guard halted the horses as Adams strove to find the right words to obtain a shirt for the Kid. Lone Wolf looked at the blond-haired captive and then spoke to his braves.
"What'd he say, Adams?"
Adams smiled as he turned to the Kid. "Well, best I can tell, he agreed you can have your shirt. He says Blue Eyes must be weak as a woman and it is a good thing that they didn't torture him last night. It would have humiliated the other white men."
"Tell the chief thanks, will ya?" the Kid said as he grimaced. Glancing at Heyes, he noticed he was smirking. "And don't you say a word."
Heyes continued to grin. "Hey, I didn't say a thing."
The rear guard jumped off his horse and opened the saddlebag. Finding a shirt, he untied the Kid's hands and watched him put the shirt on. Once the shirt was buttoned, the Indian tied his hands behind his back again.
Adams said a few words of thanks and the chief nodded towards the Kid before riding off to be in the front of the party.
"Better?" Heyes asked.
"Not gonna help the skin that's already burned, but at least it won't get any worse."
They rode all day with just a few short breaks until they came to a river. The ponies drank deeply while the Indians jumped off their horses and waded in the water to cool off and clean up.
The prisoners, left on their horses, waited and hoped for their turn in the river. Lone Wolf noticed the way they looked longingly at the water and talked to his men. Six braves came over and untied Adams', Heyes' and the Kid's feet and hands. The captives rubbed the circulation back into their hands, as they walked to the edge of the water. Adams hesitated getting into the water and pointed to his boots. A brave nodded and motioned for them to remove their boots. Two guards watched each person as they waded in the water and cleaned off the dust.
At first Curry winced as the cool water touched his back, but after a few moments, "Ahh…does this feel great!" the Kid exclaimed as he came up from dunking his head under water.
"It sure does," Heyes agreed as he rinsed off a few layers of dirt.
Too soon the guards signaled for them to get out of the water. They picked up their boots and walked back to the makeshift camp where they were forced to sit with their hands tied behind their backs.
The Indians killed another antelope and cooked it for dinner. They hand fed their prisoners some of the meat and gathered around the fire. Another heated discussion took place as the brave who buried his brother talked animatedly and pointed to the captives.
Heyes and the Kid looked at each other; Heyes could see his partner becoming anxious after his ordeal the night before.
"Adams, what's going on?" Heyes nervously asked.
"Same thing as last night, I reckon."
"Is Lone Wolf still defending us?"
"Do the chiefs always win the argument?"
"Well, that makes me feel better," the Kid retorted.
Moments later, two guards walked over towards them. The Kid took a deep breath and held it as he tensed up, waiting to see what they were going to do. As the braves made the prisoners lie down, Heyes heard the Kid slowly release his breath and relax. They were tied together and fell into fitful sleep.
The braves rose, along with the sun, and in a short time packed and were on the trail again. They had another long, hard day riding north. Again, the captives rode single file with Adams in the lead and the Kid in the back.
Adams looked back at the men he hired. "So…Smith and Jones, huh?"
Heyes and the Kid, who had been resting with their chins on their chests, looked up at him.
"That's right," Heyes replied. "Why are you asking?"
"Funny thing…I could've sworn I heard you two refer to each other the other night as Kid and Heyes. I've been thinking where I've heard those two names before and then it dawned on me. I read in a newspaper about the notorious outlaws Kid Curry and Hannibal Heyes, who rob banks and trains."
"So are you Smith and Jones or Curry and Heyes?" Adams wanted to know.
"Does it matter?" asked the Kid.
"In the predicament we're in now? No."
For a while, no one spoke again.
Suddenly, Heyes looked up and all around. "Where's the wagon?"
The Kid didn't bother looking up. "Up in front of the ponies with Lone Wolf. We get to be in the back where we can eat the dust."
"Oh… Did the Indians ransack the supplies?" Heyes asked.
"They went through them and know what's there. That's about it," Adams replied. "Why?"
The Kid glanced up at his partner and wondered what Heyes was thinking.
"Do we have enough beans and pork to feed the Indians?" Heyes inquired.
Adams looked over at him perplexed. "We should. Why all the questions about the supplies?"
The Kid looked as his partner. "You're formin' a plan, aren't you?"
Heyes smiled. "As a matter of fact, I am."
"And this plan has somethin' to do with the supplies?"
"I was just thinking that our hosts have fed us the last two nights. Maybe we could prepare them a meal of pork 'n beans and biscuits in return."
"Why in tarnation would you think that?" Adams gave them a puzzled look.
"'Cause I got the whiskey hidden in the supplies. We could make them dinner, bring out the bottles for dessert and get them drunk. While they're sound asleep, we make our escape." Heyes beamed with the revelation of his plan.
"Drunk Indians could be dangerous," warned Adams. "Most still want us dead."
"It's a risk we'll hafta take. We gotta be getting close to their camp and then what are they gonna do with us?"
"I dunno, Joshua…you ain't come close to bein' killed like me."
"It's a risk you'll hafta take, Thaddeus."
The Kid gave Heyes a look. "Maybe they'll come after you this time and leave me alone."
"What choice do we have, Thaddeus? Adams?"
"Okay," the Kid agreed. "Better out here where there's only a dozen of 'em than when we reach their camp."
"That's the spirit," Heyes said sarcastically. "Adams, are you in?"
"Guess I'll hafta be if I wanna get outta here alive."
Heyes began hatching his plan. "So can you tell Lone Wolf we'll cook dinner tonight?"
"Sure; that shouldn't be a problem. The females usually do the cookin' and they'd let prisoners do that kinda work. They might enjoy watchin' us do a woman's job."
"Great…" the Kid rolled his eyes, "now I get to do women's work."
Heyes ignored the Kid's remark and continued to observe the Indians. "Lucky thing we know this territory. We shouldn't have any problems getting away once my plan works."
"If your plan works, you mean," the Kid snorted.
Heyes feigned hurt. "Thaddeus, when didn't one of my plans work?"
"Now's not the time to discuss that, Joshua."
Adams got the attention of the guard and communicated his need to talk to Lone Wolf. An hour later, Lone Wolf rode up next to the line of captives. Struggling to say the right words since he couldn't use his hands to point or gesture, Adams made clear to the chief that the prisoners wanted to prepare a meal. Lone Wolf pondered the request and agreed.
Mid-afternoon, Lone Wolf halted the party and had camp set up near a creek. The captives were untied and roughly yanked off their horses. Adams requested a fire and the wagon of supplies.
"Well, at least we can get some circulation back in our hands," the Kid grumbled as he rubbed his sore wrists. Braves started a fire and one brought the wagon nearby. Six braves guarded the captives as they began to make supper.
First thing Heyes did was look in the flour sack…the bottle was still there. And in the bean sack…he looked at the bottle and grinned to himself while releasing a breath he held.
Heyes was in his element delegating work to Adams and the Kid as his plan unfolded. "Adams, you get the beans started. Thaddeus, you cut some slabs of pork."
The Kid gave Heyes a look. "What are you gonna do, Joshua?"
"Well, I'm organizing the dinner."
"I can see that. What part of the dinner preparin' are you gonna help out with?"
"Fine, I'll start the biscuits." Heyes glared at the Kid.
The Kid smiled at his partner, who gave him an impish grin back.
Adams came back from the creek, two guards following him, with water to cook the beans. Soon the dinner was cooking and the aroma brought other braves to the fire. Two guards stayed with each prisoner at all times. Seeing the captives cooking entertained those who came to the fire. Although they couldn't understand them, even Heyes' and the Kid's bantering amused the group and Adams.
"Joshua, you're not makin' enough biscuits."
"Yes I am."
"To feed this hungry crowd? Dang, I could almost eat that many myself."
"Fine, I'll make more," Heyes said brusquely as he walked to the wagon for more flour.
"Lots more, Joshua."
Heyes turned and glared at him. "No."
"No? Why not? And why you lookin' at me like that?"
"'Cos, that's where IT is."
"Yes, it. You know, dessert."
"Oh. Well, why didn't you say so? Though, we should make more to take with us when we ride out."
"Instead of worrying if we have enough food, why don't you think about where our guns might be?"
"I already know where our guns are."
"Yeah, I know where my gun is. I make it my job to always know where it is."
Heyes looked pleased. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I didn't know you didn't know."
Heyes rolled his eyes and sighed. "Where are they?"
"They put 'em in the wagon under the seat."
"They're right there?" Heyes couldn't believe their great luck.
"Yeah, well, think about it. We haven't been near the wagon and an Indian has been drivin' it up front away from us."
The Kid looked frustrated. "Of course I'm sure. Haven't you noticed how that one brave gets mad if you go near the front of the wagon?"
When the rest of the Indians gathered around the fire, the six braves guarding the captives became less attentive in watching them, as long as the prisoners didn't venture too far away from the wagon. The pork and beans were almost done and the biscuits ready; the hungry Indians were becoming impatient to eat.
The Kid was rummaging around in the wagon. "Joshua, what'd you plan on servin' your dinner on?"
Heyes looked up at his partner puzzled.
"Serve the beans in…we don't have enough plates," the Kid said in frustration. "I found only five and there's over a dozen of us. You know, this is the last time I'm gonna let you talk me into havin' a dinner party."
Heyes glared at the Kid as he hopped into the wagon and searched, too. "Well, we can use the plates and the cups…that's almost enough for the Indians…and, here's a few more pans. That should take care of our guests."
"And what are we gonna eat with?"
"Well, we're eating what's left over so the plates should be available by then."
"Do you really think there's gonna be food left over for us after they eat?"
"Would you quit worrying about food and remember what this is all about?"
"Fine!" The Kid jumped down from the wagon and took the plates, cups and pans Heyes handed down to him.
"Beans are about done…you ready to serve?" Adams asked Heyes.
"Yup, let's get this part of the plan over with." Heyes got out of the wagon and headed to the campfire. "Thaddeus, you help dish up and you can hand out the biscuits, Adams."
Soon the Indians were enjoying dinner as the captives watched and ate by themselves. Heyes whispered so the Kid and Adams could hear, "Phase One is done. Now for the hard part, Phase Two."
"Cookin' for all them Indians wasn't very easy either," the Kid sarcastically commented.
"You sure this plan of yours is gonna work?" Adams looked with doubt at Heyes.
"Don't have much of a choice, do we? Ready for the drinkin'?" Heyes asked Adams and the Kid.
"As ready as I'll ever be," the Kid replied.
Adams took a deep breath and slowly released it. "Yeah, I guess so."
Heyes pulled out a bottle from its hiding place and, pretending to be discreet, drank from it. As Heyes had planned, one of the Indians saw him and grabbed the whiskey bottle away from him. The Indians ransacked the wagon as they looked for more bottles. They discovered the second one and soon the Indians had both bottles emptied.
"Think that's enough alcohol to make 'em drunk?" the Kid whispered to Heyes.
"Doubt it," Heyes truthfully replied. Seeing the Kid's uneasy expression, he continued, "I'm just hoping it's enough for them to get careless in guarding us and make them sleep real sound."
"Let's just hope they don't get violent," Adams whispered back.
Braves forced the three captives to lie down and then they tied them to each other. The alcohol caused the Indians to go to sleep earlier than they had the nights before, and soon deep snores were heard.
Heyes and the Kid immediately started working on their bindings, hoping to find a loose one. The Kid found a poorly-knotted spot and worked on it until he had a hand free. He worked on the other knots and tapped Heyes on the shoulder.
"What?" Heyes whispered.
The Kid showed him his unbound hands and Heyes smiled. The Kid quickly had Heyes' and Adams' bindings untied. They silently walked to the horses with the Kid taking a detour to the wagon to get their weapons. He checked and loaded bullets into the guns. He holstered his Colt with a smile and then joined Heyes and Adams saddling the horses. He handed them their guns and soon the captives quietly led their animals a few hundred feet away from the sleeping party. Phase Two was complete; now for Phase Three of Heyes' plan…the escape.
They heard a cry of alarm go out just as they mounted their horses. "This way!" Heyes yelled and the three horses galloped south.
Within a half an hour, the Indians, riding the faster ponies, started catching up to the escapees. Bullets flew around Heyes, the Kid and Adams. Heyes and the Kid turned and shot back, slowing the Indians slightly.
The Kid spurred his horse up a steep embankment. "Had to pick the hardest path to travel on, didn't you Joshua."
"The hardest path to travel on is the hardest to follow, isn't it?" Heyes retorted as he urged his animal to follow.
Adams, uncertain about the direction they were taking, yelled out, "Do you know where you're going?"
"Yup," Heyes shouted back. "We rode these hills before. Just follow us."
After several hours, the Indians were further back, but still following their former captives. The horses were tiring and Heyes had to make a decision.
He reined in on his horse, coming to a quick stop, and the others followed suit. "We're gonna have to split up. The horses can't last much longer."
The Kid slightly shook his head as their gazes locked; Adams could tell they were silently communicating. The Kid was not going to separate from his partner—not this time.
Heyes sighed. "Adams, I want you to take that small path to the left. It's a short-cut to the town of Pine Valley. Should take you about three hours of decent riding. It's just an animal trail, really, and not well known. The Indians shouldn't follow you." Heyes pointed to large rocks with a small gap between them. "Once your horse is past those two rocks at the beginning of the path, come back and sweep away any hoof prints."
"Where are you two going?"
"We're taking another path we know up a little further. We'll be okay."
The Kid reloaded his gun. "Joshua, we gotta go!"
Heyes shook hands with Adams. "Take care."
"You two be careful; they'll kill you if they catch you."
The Kid nodded to Adams and spurred his horse up the path. Heyes hastily followed his partner.
Adams rode his horse past the rocks and swept the hoof prints as directed. He had just enough time to hide behind the rocks when the Indians rode past him, following the others. Adams chuckled, "Smith and Jones, huh? More like Heyes and Curry from what I've just seen." He was sure now after seeing how they escaped and how the two took care of each other. He followed the path and safely made it to the little town of Pine Valley, just as Smith, or Heyes, had told him he would.
Meanwhile, the Kid and Heyes were still in a ride for their lives. Their horses were tiring and the Indians closed in behind them.
"Heyes?" the Kid asked as they stopped so the horses could rest a moment.
Heyes shrugged his shoulders. "I can't figure out why they're still after us. I thought they'd give up when we headed into the hills."
"How many bullets you got?"
"Enough; what d'ya have in mind?"
"I figure we should stay put up here behind these rocks and do some dissuadin'. Don't shoot to kill, but give 'em something to think about."
"Can't hurt none."
The Kid and Heyes tied both of their horses to a tree out of the way, loaded their guns and made sure they had extra bullets within easy reach to reload.
"Ready?" the Kid asked as they waited for the Indians to come into their sight.
"I'll go first and you start shooting after my last shot—not too fast so I have a moment to reload and continue firing."
When the Indians came around a bend, they took turns shooting, hoping to discourage the Indians from continuing their pursuit. It didn't take much persuasion. After a few rounds, Lone Wolf and the Indians retreated back down the path.
The Kid and Heyes waited several long minutes to make sure the Indians did not return. The Kid glanced from behind the rock and cautiously looked around.
"See anything?" Heyes asked.
Heyes stood up from behind the rock, sighed and pushed his hat back. "Good idea, partner."
The Kid walked over to Heyes and put his arm on his shoulder. "Heyes, remind me never to go to one of your dinner parties, again."
"Hey, my plan worked." Heyes looked put out for a moment, but then smiled as the Kid grinned back. They walked over to their horses, untied and mounted them.
"What direction d'ya want to go, Kid?"
"Adams is heading to Pine Valley—wanna go there and maybe get a few days' wages from him?"
"Nah, too risky. Adams suspects he knows who we are. Besides, he lost the ponies and don't have much money."
"Speakin' of money, how much do you have?"
"After buying supplies in Hecla…about $23. How about you?"
"I got $37, so together we have…"
"Sixty, which is enough for a clean bed, a bath, and some poker to add to the amount."
The Kid smiled. "Sounds good to me. What's the nearest town 'sides Pine Valley?"
Heyes thought for a moment. "Probably Riverton?"
The Kid nodded his head. "Riverton it is."
After the harrowing days they had just been through, Heyes and the Kid continued down the path in the direction of Riverton, where they hoped to enjoy a hot meal, several drinks and soft beds.
A few weeks later in Hecla, Jake Adams sat in the corner of the small mercantile chatting with his good friend, Warren Price.
"Yup, I rode with Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry," Adams boasted.
"Those two cowhands that were in here were Heyes and Curry? You sure?" Warren was not convinced.
"As sure as my name's Jake Adams."
Cowboys and Indians is based loosely on a true story by Walter Glazier called Captured by the Arapaho, 1875. In Glazier's account, there were three herders taking mustangs from Cheyenne to Salt Lake City. I exchanged one of the herders to be Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones. At Skull Rocks, the Arapahoe did attack the group and a herder killed an Indian. The enraged Indians killed the herder who had killed their brother. They wanted to kill the rest of the herders, but Chief Lone Wolf intervened that one death for a death was enough. The last two herders escaped from the Indians and quickly went in different directions.
Reference: "Captured by the Arapaho, 1875" EyeWitness to History, .com (2008).