Much Ado About Marshals

Before the Story--
Straight from Cole's Mouth

Copyright © 2011 Jacquie Rogers

Much Ado About Marshals at Amazon Cole Richards

I was born June 9, 1860 in Kansas to Cecil and Virginia Richards, the second of three children. My brother, Jed, was born in 1858, and my sister, Birdie, was born in 1864, while we were traveling by wagon train to Colorado. My father had heard that mining was profitable, and decided to make his fortune at it. My parents had a very loving marriage, so Ma agreed to go, even though she hated not having the conveniences of city life.

I loved horses since the day I was born. Pa gave me my first pony shortly after we arrived in Colorado. Ma started a restaurant and kept the family afloat financially while Pa worked his claim. But he never found the promised fortune, and, after most of the other miners had already left in 1872, when I was 12, he and Ma packed up the family and moved us to Winnemucca, Nevada.

There, Pa and Jed worked in the mines, and I took my first job as a ranch hand. I worked the jobs no one else wanted to do, but by doing so, learned the intricacies of running an operation. A fellow about ten years older than me, Bosco, befriended me and showed me what I needed to know. He taught me how to rope and herd cattle. I soon learned that while he was as loyal as a pup and could rope anything on four legs, he wasn't all that smart, and I had to extract him from several minor pickles he managed to get himself into while in town. Where people were concerned, he had no common sense whatsoever.

By the time I turned 20, I had worked myself up to the position of second man to the foreman. I had also fallen in love with Stogie's daughter, Etta Black, the most beautiful woman in the world. I courted her some—taking her to what few dances there were, but Stogie didn't want his daughter to marry just yet, and said we'd have to wait until she turned 18. Most people thought he was unreasonable about that, since most young ladies married at 15 or 16, but I didn't want to go against his wishes, so we set the wedding date for 1882.

Meantime, Stogie took me to town and introduced me to the sporting ladies. I liked that a lot, and, as Stogie explained, good women only submit when they want to have a baby, so a man ought to take his baser desires to the sporting women who liked to do that sort of thing. I visited them every Saturday night, but limited myself, since I wanted to save as much money as I could to provide for Etta. The rest of the time in town, I chased after Bosco and kept him out of trouble. We had a good time, though, and fought beside one another in many a good brawl. A young man has to have a way to work off all that energy.

About six months before the wedding date, a mining explosion killed Pa and shut down the mine. Jed needed a job, and Stogie agreed to hire him on, mostly as a favor to me. That was the stupidest thing I ever did, but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. The other stupid thing I did was to let him talk to Etta. I trusted them both--her, with my heart, him, with my life. A month before our wedding date, Jed and Etta got married.

I can't tell you what that did to me. I was a grown man, but I was so tied in knots, I didn't know whether to bawl like a baby or go kill someone who needed killing. But family sticks together, so I vowed to be civil no matter what it cost me. I didn't stick around much, though, and saddled up to ride the range with the hands, planning to return in the fall. Bosco went with me.

They didn't need us out there and, after a few months, Bosco and I returned to the ranch. Etta was large with child, more like six months along than the two months she'd been married. So, Jed had been poking her while Etta and I had acted engaged. I was plenty riled, I can tell you that.

Before I'd left, I had been working with an outlaw mustang I named Sinner. Stogie wanted me to let him go, but I took a liking to that horse, and wanted him. When I got back, Sinner wasn't in any better humor. I got on him and he bucked so hard, he turned me wrong-side-out by the time I hit the dirt.

Jed showed up to have a talk with me, but between my broken heart and my contest with Sinner, I was in no mood to make nice with the brother who'd stolen my woman out from under my nose. I told him if he could break Sinner, I might consider forgiving him, knowing that Sinner couldn't be broke. Jed agreed, climbed on, and was thrown.

He laid there on the ground, not moving. I caught the horse and tied him up, then went to see about my brother. I thought he was dead. Some hands helped me get him into the house. I felt terrible, knowing that Jed was a miner, not a cowboy. I'd made him a challenge that I knew damned well he couldn't meet—but I knew he'd try, because he had never wanted to hurt me. No one knew more than I did how irresistible Etta was, and I couldn't hardly fault him for loving her.

Jed came to the next day. The doctor said his knee was smashed, and that if it didn't putrify and kill him, it would be stiff and he'd be a gimp the rest of his life. Now it was up to me to support my laid-up brother and his family—the family that should have been mine.

I'd heard about the mines in Silver City, Idaho, and that they needed beef to feed the booming town. I also heard there was some good ranch land and year-around creeks. I decided to check it out, and found a good place up on Sinker Creek.

Stogie wasn't all that happy with Etta, the way she done me wrong and all, so he agreed to give me a hundred head of bred heifers and loan me some men to drive them up to Sinker Creek. I'd already saved up enough money for operating capital to last the winter.

I moved Ma and my sister, Jed and Etta to my new ranch. Bosco decided to move up with us, too. Once settled, I hired a couple of hands from Silver City who'd had their fill if mining. We lived in tents until I could get a couple of cabins and a bunkhouse built. There was plenty of juniper, but the limbs were short and crooked, so the building went slow. We managed to get the job done before the snow set in, although I could only afford one cook stove.

Jed got better, but his leg healed up stiff as a board. He could ride, but his leg stuck out. Walking pained him, and so he did work like pitching hay and such. Etta had a baby girl in September. They named her Abigail, one of the names I'd discussed with Etta when we were courting. I could hardly look at that baby without feeling like Jed had stuck a knife in my heart. That beautiful baby girl should have been mine. But she wasn't.

That winter, we were snowbound. We couldn't even get out to check the herd, and just hoped enough of them survived so we could get established the next spring. During those winter days, I did my best to put aside my feelings. None of us ever said a word. Baby Abbie won my heart. Hell, she was the only innocent one in the bunch. I dandled her in my knee just like she was my own—which she should have been.

Jed and Etta were in love, and by spring I knew that I'd lost out completely without even knowing I'd kept a little spark of hope all that time. Jed had healed up as well as could be expected, and insisted he do his fair share of the work. I could see that some things still pained him, but he worked as hard as any able man and never complained. I didn't coddle him, because a man has to have his dignity and I'd already taken enough from him.

It was April before the snow melted enough so I could get to Silver City to buy supplies and take my pleasure on the sporting women. This time I didn't limit myself, poking all I wanted to. Afterwards, I extricated Bosco from a bar fight he managed to start and we went home. I felt good for the first time in a year, and thanked each and every one of those ladies for giving me what I needed. But as soon as I got back to the ranch and saw Etta, those same poison feelings came back, and I was mad at myself for being such a weak man.

All of us worked our fingers to the bone making that ranch work. Most of the cows lived through the winter, and we had seventy or so newborn calves. In June, we rounded them all up for branding and castrating. Jed worked harder than the rest of us, and I saw that he could run this ranch on his own. Right then and there, I decided to leave him with a good working spread, and I'd take off for Willamette the next year and start my own life—away from Etta. I'd stick with sporting women and stay away from all the Ettas who would break me up all over again. I knew I was a hell of a lot better off without a woman who could break me in two any time she pleased.

After the spring round-up, I went to the bank and got a loan to buy some more beeves. I needed more cows and a couple of bulls. Come fall, I'd sell off the steers that had been born in the spring to give me the money to pay off the loan and leave us enough to winter on. The banker charged me high interest, but I needed the money, so I took it. A month later, I bought two blooded bulls and fifty head of cows.

The future of the ranch looked bright and we all worked our butts off to make sure we took every advantage. I told Jed about my plan to start a ranch in Oregon, and he agreed it would be the best thing, although I was surprised to see that he seemed reluctant to see me go. He wanted to give me half the herd. I didn't want to take them, but he insisted that I should. I told him we'd worry about that next year, and we didn't discuss it any further.

In August, Sinker Creek started to dry up. The locals had told me it was a year-around creek, so we decided to ride upstream to see why we weren't getting any water. We found out—some miners were sluicing for gold and destroying the creek. I told them to get off my land, but they said I didn't own it and that they'd staked claim. It was true that they had the mineral rights, but I had the grazing rights.

Then I found out that the bank that loaned me money was also financing the mining outfit. I went to the banker and told him that the miners would put me out of business if they ruined the creek that fed my place. I asked him why the hell he financed an operation that would put another one he'd financed at risk. He said he didn't care about my problems, and that he'd continue to stake them once a month.

The creek had nearly dried up altogether by the end of August and my herd was getting might thirsty. Jed and I tried to come up with a way to get the miners to go somewhere else, but couldn't think of a single reasonable way. One day, we were joking, and one of us said that if the bank was robbed, the miners wouldn't get their stake and would probably leave. I guess Bosco must have heard us, because the next damned thing I know, he's trying to hold up the bank. I stopped him, but not before the woman working there had shot me in the leg.

And that's how I ended up in Oreana, Idaho, lying on a doctor's table with a hole in my leg, looking at a beautiful woman.

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This page updated December 17, 2012
All content, including graphics copyright © Jacquie D Rogers 2005-2012, All rights reserved.