Monday, November 30, 2015

An Unedited Snippet from the The Curse of Billy the Kid's the LAST day of my 5-day hiatus at work and I'm busy writing the book this afternoon, but I set this post up to give you one last taste of a historical section that I did the other day. It takes place near the end of March, 1878, when the Regulators met with Alexander McSween at the South Spring Ranch owned by the Cattle King himself, John Chisum. In this scene you have a lot of the Regulators, Susan & Alexander McSween, Montague Leverson, and one Miss Sallie Chisum.

This is the last segment you'll get for awhile so it's a bit longer than the others.


Tamsin :)


Dismounting off of Colonel, the black beauty pranced about and let one of the farm hands of South Spring Ranch take him for some water, food, and a healthy rub down. Dick let his mare be lead to the stables along with him and we wandered toward the house. Not even to the gate yet, we heard the pounding of hooves behind us. Turning, we saw a group of ten men on horseback coming our way. Dick and I shared a glance of worry, so I cupped my mouth with my hands and let out a loud whooping call, only to have it answered in kind by none other than my pal, Charlie Bowdre.
“Looks like the message hit San Patricio,” Dick said.
“Looks like,” I adjusted my hat and gave him a side glance. “Your secret is safe, Dick. Breathe. They won't be able to tell by just lookin’ at ya. Now, you start actin’ weird and then they’ll begin to wonder and ask questions. Just relax.”
“Easier said than done,” he said, and dropped the topic, walking toward the arriving Regulators with his usual swagger, which I’d not seen in days.
I looked back at Uncle John’s one story home to examine it for weaknesses, but found none. The Spanish style ranch was long and surrounded by a white picket fence that stood no further than ten feet from the thick, adobe walls that protected all who were inside from attack. Unlike the common flat rooftops in the region, the Chisum home had an angled roof, with two chimneys. Both of which currently had smoke furling out of them likely due to the damp chill in the air that spoke of oncoming rain. The overhang of the room doubled as a cover for the narrow porch that ran along the entire front of the building as well.
The sight of the smoke made me eager to get inside the warm, dry, home, where it was likely Miss Sallie had requested the cook prepare coffee and cakes for us all. Anxious to head in, I turned my attention to my arriving compadres. Dismounting from their horses were Charlie, as suspected, Frank McNab, John Middleton, Fred Waite, Henry Brown, and Big Jim French. Chavez y Chavez and a few other Mexicans I knew were with the group as well. Men I trusted and who I knew were good in a fight. It was good to see them joining the group.
Charlie dismounted, his auburn hair catching the sun as he took off his hat to resituate it on his head. “There you two are! Wondered if you’d beat us here.” He clasped hands with Dick. “Good to see you’re feelin’ better. Billy here told us you were sick as a dog.”
“That I was,” Dick said. “Feelin’ better now though, mostly.”
“It’s just good to see ya, big man!” Charlie said before grabbin’ me for a hug that turned into an arm around my neck that he dragged down toward the ground and taking my hat with whoop before letting me up. Tossing it to McNab he said, “We thought maybe this one had gotten the sickness too since he’d not come back to San Pat!”
I walked toward McNab for my hat, “Nope, just takin’ care of Dick here.”
McNab tossed my hat to Middleton, “You missed out on some good trainin’.”
I eyed Middleton and my hat. “I will scale you like the tree you are, John, give me my damn hat!”
“Oh, is this yours?”
Standing my ground I crossed my arms and raised my eyebrows at him. “I got at least two souls in the chamber so I could lift a wagon on my own. Give me the hat.”
“Sure thing, kiddo,” Middleton said, his gruff voice sounding strange with the words as he handed my hat toward me.
As I reached for it he tossed it to Fred Waite, who was to my left. “If you know what’s good for you, Fred―” I started to say.
“Boys, stop the lolly-gaggin’ and get in the house,” Susan McSween yelled out at us. “Alex is waiting on you.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Dick said, opening the gate of the three foot high picket fence. “Fred?” He motioned giving me the hat.
Fred grinned and walked up to me, handing me the hat. I reached for it and he pulled it away, switching hands before putting it up on his right shoulder, which he hitched up as he leaned toward me, causing the hat to roll across his shoulders. Grabbing it with his left hand, he set the hat on top of my noggin’.
“Points for style, Waite,” McNab said with a laugh as he went through the gate, punchin’ Dick on the shoulder, not moving the man even an inch. “Ow! You been throwin’ bales of hay while you’ve been sick? Damn!” He shook his hand and kept moving.
If Dick had been a boulder before, he was a mountain of strength now. He looked at me with worry and I shook my head with a laugh to let him know he was being hypersensitive. In retaliation for me laughing, he hit the top of my hat, indenting my Surgarloaf Sombrero again.
“Damn it, Dick, I just fixed that.”
“I like it that way,” a young lady’s voice said from the doorway. “That high top looked too formal for the likes of you, Billy Bonney.”
I looked up to see Sallie standing there in a pretty blue dress with a white lace pattern at the top. “Why Miss Chisum, don’t you look lovely, and what for? A bunch of filthy cowboys comin’ in to dirty up your home?”
She grinned. “You all will be takin’ your boots off as you enter, and you’ll let Miss Lavetta give you all a damp cloth to wipe your pants and such of dirt, dust, and so on.”
I took my hat off to her as I stepped behind the adobe wall that blocked the main door. “Really? Better with the dent?”
I hummed in an acknowledging thought as I nodded, following the rest of the men into the house. Here by the door, each of the cowboys were workin’ to take their boots off, hopping this way and that. Trying not to laugh at the sight at all the big touch cowboys jumpin’ around, I leaned my backside against the wall and pulled my boots off with ease. The beauty of having small feet and boots that were a bit too big.
Setting them in the corner, I took a cloth from Miss Lavetta, and wiped the dirt and horse hair from my britches. Tossing it in a pail she indicated near the door, I walked into the center room, which was one of eight large rooms in the home that surrounded a patio at center. However, it was always his dining room that I loved the most. Mostly because it had a wooden floor and after meals he would have it pulled to the side and turn the room into a dance floor as others would play instruments.
This was no small feet considering the table sat twenty-four people. Uncle John would fill plates to capacity each meal for each person seated in his home to eat. It was one of the evidences of his hospitality. For he could be a generous man when it came to sharing the things he had an abundance of due to his successes with his cattle, but in business he could be ruthless. I suppose one has to be if they are to be the Cattle King.
No sooner had I walked into the room than Deputy Sheriff Barrier walked past me with a polite nod, grabbed his shoes, and was out the door before I could ask where he was going. I threw a questioning look at Sallie but she just shrugged her shoulders.
Glancing into the main room, my eyes landed on Alexander McSween first. He sat in a rocking chair near the fireplace with Susan standing beside to his right, her hand on his shoulder. He patted it and she smiled down on him, her other hand smoothing out a section of his bright red hair, which was thinning a bit, but we were never dumb enough to mention that.
Without knowing if Susan had mentioned to her husband that Ben and I had been to the house about three weeks ago, I walked up to her and gave her a peck on the cheek. “Good to see you are back in town, ma’am.”
McNab actually took her hand and kissed the top of it, “Good to see you are safely here, Mrs. McSween.”
She, as well as the Regulators sworn by oath, knew the real meaning of this. We were happy she had made it safely to the Chisum ranch after suggesting she and Leverson come here to be away from Lincoln town.
“Thank you, Billy, Frank, it’s good to be back. Missouri was nice but it’s always nice to be home.”
“I wish you were returning to more pleasant news,” Dick said.
“Yes, I’m so very sorry to hear about John’s death, he was a dear friend to us all. Alex here sent me a letter while I was visiting family to let me know about this and the arrest warrant.”
“We’re not going to let that happen, ma’am,” Dick said.
She laid a hand on his arm, “I know he is safe with you keeping an eye on him, Richard.”
Coffee and cakes were served as more pleasantries and hellos were said, then McSween cleared his throat and started in. “I’m glad the Regulator Network got messages to you all, as well as me, last night. Thank you for coming.”
“I’m guessing we’re here either for the same reason Barrier left or because he did.”
“Deputy Barrier left?” Fred asked.
“Out the door like his behind was on fire,” I said.
There was squelched laughter through the room and I mouth the word, “Sorry,” to Alex.
“He has left to be with his family,” McSween informed us.
“What?” Dick said, and he wasn’t the only rumblings in the room, just the loudest. “But he’s your assigned protection until Spring Term of court.”
McSween smoothed his long mustache, which ran all the way to his jaw line. “He’s been with me non-stop for three months. He was anxious to return home to his family.”
“Umm...did I miss something?” I said, “Do you not need protection anymore?”
Susan spoke up. “Captain Smith from Fort Stanton was here yesterday and gave his word as an officer and a gentleman that Sheriff Brady would make no attempt to serve the warrant he had for Alex’s arrest.”
Leverson stepped forward, “I believe his words were, ‘You may make a football of my head if a hair of his head is injured or if the least insult be given him by word or sign for the highest to the lowest, madam.’“
“Is he going to tell Sheriff Brady that?” Middleton asked.
“No need,” Leverson said, “Brady was standing right next to the military Captain when he said it.”
This caused the room to burst into chatter. To hear one of our main enemies had come here just yesterday had us all very upset, to say the least.
“What was he doing here, and with a military escort?” Middleton demanded to know.
“It seems he was unable to convince any civilians to travel with him down to the Pecos Valley to summon veniremen for grand and petit jury duty. He apologized for showing up with soldiers,” Leverson explained.
“Oh, well, isn’t that just swell of him,” I said sarcastically. “Because that makes it all okay.”
“No it doesn’t,” Jim French said, misunderstanding my meaning.
“I know, Jim, I was just kidding.”
“Oh, okay.”
“That’s why Barrier has left,” McSween said. “Now that I’ve been promised military protection he headed home. I would’ve preferred he stayed, but I can understand being away from your wife and missing her, so I can’t fault him much.” He reached up and took Susan’s hand from his shoulder and kissed it, letting his eyes stay on her just a moment before turning back to us. “However, I still believe that as soon as I arrive in Lincoln that Brady is going to try to arrest me. I called you all here to say you shouldn’t let him get away with it. For if I am arrested, they’ll lynch me for sure.”
“So what do you wish we should do, Governor?” Middleton asked, using a name we’d started to call him since he was the man in charge of the fight for justice concerning Tunstall on a legal front as well as the bank roll of the Regulators.
“Seeing as I’m to believe I’m fully under the protection of the military, I want you boys to head out, as if you’re no longer acting as my protection either. But I want some of you in Lincoln on Sunday when I come through town on my way to Fort Stanton to give myself over to Captain Smith. And if Brady goes against his word to follow Smith’s orders, you stop him.”
“Are we to kill him, Governor?” Jim asked.
McSween shook his head. “I’d love nothing more than to tell you to kill Brady and earn a mighty reward, but I can give no such command.”
It was evident by his tone and facial expression that what he was really saying was that if we just so happened to kill Brady to save McSween, we would be rewarded. I knew it and I was sure everyone else in the room knew it. But no one said a word about what he'd said.
Chavez y Chavez stepped forward though, for he had a different issue to address. “Governor, I’m low on ammunition, sir, and low in the purse, if you get my meaning.”
“I do,” McSween said. “That’s why I want those of you who go to Lincoln to go into the store and take anything you wish prior to meeting me there. For those who do not go to Lincoln, I have a bit of coin for you after we are done here.”
Once we discussed the logistics of his surrender at Fort Stanton, there wasn’t much more to cover, so McSween dismissed us. We spent the day at the ranch relaxing, socializing, and getting a good meal in. However, before it got too late, I mentioned the fandango I’d heard about that was going on over in Berrendo, a small hamlet east of South Springs, and suggested we attend.
“A fandango?” Sallie asked with light laughter. “What is that?”
“You know,” I said, doing a few dance moves, “It’s a dance. But this one is done in triple time by couples with castanets.” I snapped by fingers in place of the wooden instrument and took a silly pose to make her laugh, which she did.
“Oh, Billy, you’ve a weak spot for dance parties.”
“And for the pretty Latina women who go to them,” Charlie said quietly.
I hit his arm. “That is not the only reason I like to go, and you know it.”
“But it is one of them,” Sallie said, her smile accusing me in a playful manner.
“Might be, but I’ll not admit to such things in such company.”
Sallie set empty coffee mugs on a tray Lavetta held as she walked by. “Oh, so you think we ladies don’t know you boys attend dances to flirt with the skirts?”
“Miss Sallie!” Lavetta said, her tone mildly astonished.
“Oh please, Lavetta, that wasn’t nothin’,” Sallie said before looking to me. “So, do you?”
“I’m going to plead the fifth right about now,” I said, “But you should come with us and see for yourself.”
“Thank you, Billy, that’s sweet of you. But this time I must stay here and tend to our guests.”
“And tend them well you will, I am sure,” I said, placing a peck on her cheek. “We will be getting’ out of your way then.” I gave her a slight bow and headed for my shoes.
She followed me toward the door and looked down at the pile of boots, most of which were the same make and brand, and said, “How do you all tell which ones are whose? They all look the same.”
“Well, Dick’s are too big for anyone other than maybe Middleton so they usually set theirs far apart from each other,” I said, shoving my foot into one of mine as we watched Fred put a boot on and take it off again, picking up another. “Or we try on and try again,” I explained, giving her a big smile before picking up my second one.
“And you know those are yours because they are smaller than most?”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “No, because I etched my initials inside ‘em,” I told her, showing her the inside of my other boot.
“Well, look at you, using your smarts,” she said.
I couldn’t help but beam at her as I put my second boot on. With a wink I said, “It can happen from time to time, but don’t get used to it now.”
She laughed and Dick walked up, grabbin’ his big ol’ boots, and said, “We best get going before sunset.”
“Yes, yes we should,” I agreed, and stepped out the door, turning back to Sallie. “As always, it was good to see you again, Miss Chisum,” I said with a slight bow, my hat on my chest.
“It’s good to see you too, Mr. Bonney,” she replied with a small curtsy.
I put on my hat, dent in the top and all, and walked out, unsure when I’d see her again. 


And that is the end of this segment from another "raw" chapter and the last you'll get for awhile. I hope you've enjoyed these and I will post a few more when I can. Sadly, I cannot share the exciting sections that give away big plot points in my story that revolves around the history, but I'll share what I can.

Take care and maybe at Christmas we'll (Billy, Dick, and I) share something new...until then, stay tuned to the Facebook page for The Curse of Billy the Kid!

Hope you and your family had a great Thanksgiving weekend!

Tamsin :)

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