Yinnuwok – The Ghost Stallion

The Ghost Stallion

They set out in a northeasterly direction toward the Sierra Madre. All that afternoon and most of the following night they pushed rapidly on until they emerged upon the eastern slopes of the Sierra Madre and looked down upon the town of Canutillo. Not until then did they stop to rest and make camp.
“Tomorrow we will ride into Canutillo to find Dick Lloyd and Charley Snow, two more cattle rustlers who ride with John Kinney and what he calls his chain gang,” Esben said, as he unfolded the two wanted posters to show to Shoots Plenty. “This is what they look like” He threw two more logs on the fire. Sparks and flames shot into the air.
Shoots Plenty removed his pipe and looked at the posters.
“Hmm, all you white eyes look the same to the Lakota.”
“Just make sure you shoot the right ones when we find them or I might be finding your face on one of these wanted posters.”
“What is this thing the chain gang that they run?”
“A group of horse and cattle thieves that are operating between the Texas Panhandle and southern Arizona Territory. They alter the brands and sell the cattle to butchers and ranchers who ask no questions. Tomorrow we are gonna put an end to that.”
“And how do you know that this Lloyd and Snow are in Canutillo?”
“Captain Smith said that is where they visit their favorite whores. If they aren’t there, we wait. I’m tired and I’m going to turn in.”
“You should think about getting rid of that one-eyed mule, Wasichus. Have I told you the story of Yinnuwok?”
“No, you have not. Who is Yinnuwok?”
“Yinnuwok is the Ghost Stallion”
“I don’t want to listen to you tonight, speak to yourself. I’m turning in.”
“Do not close your ears to our talk. It is important that you should listen, Wasichus. The sun, the darkness, the winds are all listening to what the Lakota have to say and so should you, li meta cola.”
“Well, make it quick. I’m tired.”
“ This story has been passed down from generation to generation by my people. My grandfather spoke to me of when the wind blows the stars clean, and the coyotes jump, and, if you remain still, you can sometimes hear the sound of running horses. When you do you should move closer to one another and pile more wood on the fire, he said, and listen to the old ones tell this story from long ago. It is about a great warrior and chief of the Lakota but a foolish one as well. What the man’s name was, no one knows now, and so they call him the Traveler.
Long ago, the Traveler was a wealthy chief and he had taken many scalps and many horses. He increased his wealth by hard dealings with the less fortunate and younger men who were no match for his cunning.
The Lakota did not love him but they did admire his bravery for he drove hard bargains and prospered from the ills of others. His wives were taken away by their parents; his children hated him and he had no love for them.
There was only one thing he cared for, his horses. They were fine horses, beautiful horses, for he kept only the best. When young warriors returned from a raid with a particularly good horse, the Traveler never rested until he had it in his possession. At night, when the dance drum was brought out, and the other Lakota gathered around, Traveler went alone to the place where his horses were picketed, to gloat over his treasures. He loved them. But only the ones that were young, and handsome, and healthy. A horse that was old, or sick, or injured, received only minimal care and consideration.
One morning, when he went to the little valley in which his horses were kept, he found in the herd an ugly white old stallion, with crooked legs, and a matted coat, thin, and tired looking.
The Traveler flew into a rage. He took his rawhide rope, and caught the poor old horse. Then, with a club, he beat it unmercifully. When the animal fell to the ground, stunned, The Traveler broke his legs with the club, and left him and returned to his lodge, feeling not the slightest remorse for his cruelty.
Later, deciding he might as well have the hide of the old horse, he returned to the place where he had left him and to his surprise, the white stallion was gone. That night, as the Traveler slept, he had a dream. The white stallion appeared and slowly turned into a beautiful horse, shining white, with long mane and tail – a horse more lovely than any the Traveler had seen.
Then the Stallion spoke: “If you had treated me kindly, I would have brought more horses to you, but because of your cruelty to me I shall take away the horses you have!”
When the Traveler awoke, he found his horses were gone. All that day, he walked and searched, but he had found no trace of them. At night when he was asleep and exhausted, he dreamed and in his dreams, the White Stallion came again, and said, “Do you wish to find your horses? They are north, by a lake. You will sleep twice before you come to it.”
As soon as he awakened in the morning, the Traveler took a young warrior’s horse and hastened northward a two days’ journey, and when he arrived there were no horses.
That night, the Ghost Stallion came again. “Do you wish to find your horses?” he asked. “They are grazing in some hills. There will be two sleeps before you come to this place.”
When the sun had gone down on the third day, the Traveler had searched the hills but had found no horses. That night the Stallion came again to the Traveler, directing him to some distant spot, but he never found his horses but he continued to look.
His horse became thin, and footsore. Sometimes he got a horse from some friendly camp; sometimes he stole one.
In the night. before morning, there would come a loud drumming of hoofs, the Ghost Stallion and his band would gallop by, and the Traveler’s horse would break its picket, and go with them.
And never again did he have a horse; never again did he see his own lodge. And he wanders, even to this day, still searching for his lost horses.
Sometimes, the elders say, on a windy autumn night when the stars shine very clearly, over on the quiet plains, above the wind you may hear a rush of running horses and the stumbling footsteps of an old man. And, if you are patient, you may see the Stallion and his band, and the Traveler, still pursuing them, still trying to get back his beautiful horses.
Perhaps tomorrow I will catch a horse for you, Wasichus, and then we can eat that one-eyed mule you have been riding before he decides to kill you.”
“He won’t kill me, Shoots Plenty, and he is better and surer-footed then any horse.”
“You need a good Indian pony, Wasichus.”

Taking Down Bartolo Sepulveda and Juan Soto – From The Texas Bounty Hunters

Esben and Shoots Plenty spent the day riding along the Rio Grande River heading to Fabens, Texas, the town where Captain Smith of the Texas Rangers said Bartolo Sepulveda and Juan Soto were last seen. Fabens, located 25 miles southeast of El Paso on the Rio Grande River, was formerly known as Mezquital.
Esben was contemplating how they would take down Sepulveda and Soto when he realized Shoots Plenty was speaking again.
“Last night after you fell asleep Wanaghi Tachanku was visible in the sky. To the Lakota people, it is called the Trail of the Spirits. The white man calls it the Milky Way. I do not know why the white man calls it that.
The trail of the spirits is the road of the dead to the spirit world.
The Lakota people believe that after death, the deceased person’s soul will go to the happy hunting ground, a place that resembles the world of the living, but with better weather, and more plentiful animals that are easier to hunt than they are in the world of the living. I do not think any wasichus are found there. That is why the Lakota spirit goes there. ”
“So, your lady friend, Carmen, won’t be able to join you in your spirit world?”
“Carmen will join me if I wish her to. She is not a white eye.”
“You have that much influence, Shoots Plenty?”
“You must have forgotten, Wasichus, I am a member of the Bear Clan. The Bear Clan is highly regarded by all my people.”
Esben ignored him and said, “There’s San Felipe,”pointing to a small log building in the distance. Esben and Shoots Plenty rode up to the stagecoach station and Esben dismounted and walked inside. “Hiya, Rex, how have you been?”
Rex Simpson, a small man with a full white beard, wearing a beat-up hat and leather vest over a frayed flannel shirt replied, “I’ve been able to sit up and take nourishment. How ’bout you, Esben?”
“I’ve been fine. We are looking for a couple of Mexicans, Bartolo Sepulveda and Juan Soto,” Esben responded, placing the wanted posters on the counter.
“We were told we would be able to find these two in Fabens. Have you seen them?”
“For sure. They been coming and going here for the past year. I believe I saw those two in the presence of another Mexican by the name of Julio Cardenas go into the Darby Saloon down in Fabens. That Cardenas fella goes by the name of Two Ropes.”

“How far is Fabens from here?”
“Bout three miles.”
“Thanks, Rex, we’ll see you later.”
He walked outside and took the reins of his one-eyed mule from Shoots Plenty and said, “According to ol’ Rex we can find them in town. Most likely at the Darby Saloon.”
“The Mexican spends too much of his time drinking that corn whiskey. It will be easy for us to kill these men,” Shoots Plenty replied as Esben mounted his mule and rode in the direction of Fabens and the Darby Saloon.
There was a soiled dove sitting at a piano against the far wall playing and softly singing the song, The Yellow Rose Of Texas. Two young cowboys were standing at the bar with a bottle of whiskey and a couple of glasses in front of them and at a table in the far corner sat Bartolo Sepulveda and Juan Soto, along with a very large Mexican. They were in the middle of a card game.
Shoots Plenty and Esben spread out as they walked to the back, one on each side of the table.
“You fellas are coming with us,” Esben announced.
Bartolo Sepulveda turned around first and looked at Esben and Shoots Plenty with disdain before he declared, “Who are you? You ain’t the law.”
“Oh, but we are,” Esben responded.
“Hell, they’s bounty hunters,” Juan Soto replied.
“I knew you wasn’t no law. No redskin can arrest a Mexican,” Sepulveda answered as he faced the two men. “This the best you could rustle up, bounty hunter,” he spat on the floor while staring at Shoots Plenty?
Shoots Plenty could smell his breath six feet off.
“I did the best I could with what I have,” Esben replied. “I’ve got six slugs and so does he and there are only three of you. Seems to me we have more than enough.” He glanced over at Soto and the other man, Julio Two Ropes Cardenas. Two Ropes had six inches on Soto and more gristle than the other two combined.
“Wasichus, this hombre’s breath smells worse than your one-eyed mule,” Shoots Plenty said.
“That bad?”
“Yes, that bad.”
“Two Ropes,” Sepulveda barked the name without taking his eyes off Shoots Plenty.
Two Ropes got up and stepped away from the table, his wide mouth turned up into a malicious grin.
Shoots Plenty’s eyes followed him and his hand tightened on the grip of his pistol.
“You might as well make your move, Bartolo because none of you are walking out of here.”
Esben could see a slight tremor in Sepulveda’s hand.
Shoots Plenty had enough and drew his .45 and cracked the hammer and fired point blank at Sepulveda. Sepulveda’s gun had barely broken leather when Shoots Plenty’s shot struck him just above his mouth, shattering his teeth. Blood splattered over his face as he crumbled to the ground.
“You bloodsucker,” Soto screamed as he drew his gun but Esben had a bead on him and pulled his trigger striking him in his right arm, rendering it useless.
Shoots Plenty turned and fired at Two Ropes Cardenas striking him in the throat. The big Mexican stood gurgling in his own blood before oxygen was cut off from his brain, killing him before he hit the ground.
Soto reached across his body with his left hand, attempting to get his .45 when Esben shot him again, this time in the chest, spinning him around. He fell face first onto the floor.
Esben looked over at Shoots Plenty whose .45 was still smoking in his hand and said, “Well, that was easy.”
“Yes, it was easy,” he responded while holstering his Colt. “Now we collect our money.”
As they rode out of Fabens Shoots Plenty felt he had something important to say.
“Did I tell you the story about how the catfish got a flat head?”
“I’m sure you did, you old squaw, but you are going to tell me again aren’t you?”
“My grandfather told me this story…”

 

The Killing of Outlaws Grambling and Pilson – From The Texas Bounty Hunters

Shoots Plenty secured his horse to the hitching post in front of Madam Cortez’ House and proceded to walk around back to where Carmen had her crib. Two men came walking by, laughing and talking loudly. One of the men bumped into Shoots Plenty almost knocking him to the ground. They kept walking without looking up or acknowledging what they had done. When he arrived at the back of the house he rapped on the door, “It is Chief Shoots Plenty,” he said. The door cracked open and a slender arm reached out and pulled him into the room. Later, as he sat on the bed strapping on his Colt .45 and placing his black stovepipe hat securely on his head, he said, “Carmen, it is time that I go.”

“Where do you go to now, mi hermoso gran jefe?” Carmen asked while looking up at Shoots Plenty and placing the palm of her right hand gently on his cheek.
Shoots Plenty smiled as he slowly removed her hand and placed some crumpled up bills into it. He felt strong when she called him her beautiful big chief. He had never been called that before, not even by Gray Grass, because he was not a chief, and because he was not beautiful. Maybe it was his black stovepipe hat with his magical eagle feather, or maybe it was because he lied and told her he was a chief, or maybe because she liked that paper money he gave her. It did not matter. He was glad to be her big beautiful chief.
“There are two bad men in town that I must see and then I get more paper money. We travel to where the white men call Fabens. Do you know this Fabens?”
“Si, I know of it. There are hombres muy malos who come there from Ciudad Juarez to rob and kill so many people. You be careful mi hermoso gran jefe and return to your Carmen, si?”
“Shoots Plenty is careful.”
He stepped out into the morning sun, adjusted the gun belt on his hip, and walked around to where he spotted an old man across the street, sweeping down the steps of the saloon. He walked over and asked him if he knew where he could find Buster Grambling and Fred Pilson.
The old man stood up and removed a pipe from his mouth while looking Shoots Plenty up and down with a scornful eye and replied, “Yep, but I wouldn’t want to get crosswise with either of them two if I was an Injun, especially an old Injun like you. They got them Yankee rifles, the ones you load on Sunday and fire all week.”
“You mean the Henry Repeaters like that one?” Shoots Plenty asked pointing to the rifle hanging from the scabbard on his saddle.
“Yep, thems the ones. How’d an Injun get one of them? Ain’t that against the law?”
“I am the law.”
“Sure you are,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief. “Them twos in there in the saloon. Good luck cause you’ll need it.”
Shoots Plenty walked into the saloon. It was one of only a few times he entered one. Mainly because Indians were not allowed in most of them and also because he had no desire to be in one.
He saw the men standing at the bar with the Henrys propped on the floor, smoke curling over their heads from the cigars they were smoking. Grambling, the one who bumped into him, was the larger of the two, but still not a large man. His clothes were filthy like he had just ridden into town after spending a long time on the trail. Pilson didn’t look any better. Both of them wore what appeared to be Colt .45’s in their belts with most of the cartridges missing. He figured they stopped in the saloon first after riding into town then planned to go to the mercantile store to purchase or, more likely, steal more cartridges and gunpowder.
“You two you should come outside with me.”
His voice startled both men. They quickly swung around to see who was behind them, their hands instinctively going down to cover the butt of their gun.
“What did you say?” Grambling asked, not sure he heard correctly. “You an injun?”
“I am Lakota. Now, you and your friend, Pilson, come outside with me.”
“How do you know our names?” Pilson asked.
“I know. Now you should come.”
Grambling glanced over at Pilson and then they both started laughing.
“Don’t try to play rooster in my town, you filthy red skin,” Grambling said, while a grin spread across his pockmarked face.
Shoots Plenty took him in without moving his eyes. They were the coolest things in the hot smoky saloon but they set Grambling on fire. He was fumbling at his belt for fresh cartridges all the while smiling. Shoots Plenty had his fill of his charm so he shot him point blank between the eyes.
When he died he was still grinning.
Shoots Plenty turned to Grambling’s partner and said, “Your friend looks healthier than you do white eyes.”
“You best listen to good advice, you old red skin, Red don’t last around here.”
Shoots Plenty cracked the hammer of his Colt .45 again and shot Pilson between the eyes as well.
When he died he was not grinning.
Shoot Plenty stared with contempt at the dead body of Fred Pilson and said, “Red lasted longer than you white eyes.” He removed their gun belts and returned Grambling’s gun to his holster and threw them over his shoulder while he picked up the two Henry Repeaters and left, leaving both outlaws bleeding out on the filthy beer-stained floor.
Before he mounted his horse, he looked over at the old man who had his back pressed against the saloon wall and said, “You should take those two over to the man with the box that captures the soul of the whites. Tell him to send them to Captain Smith with the Texas Rangers in El Paso.”
“I ain’t takin’ no orders from no redskin,” he said.
Shoots Plenty just stared at the old man.
“Okay, don’t get all worked up you crazy old Injun, I’ll do that.”
“I will be back,” Shoots Plenty said before he turned and rode off into the west Texas hills.
Later when Esben returned he dismounted his mule and sat down next to Shoots Plenty who was drinking Moccasin flower tea and softly chanting and speaking to himself.
“I return and that whole town is talking about some crazy old redskin, wearing a black stovepipe hat with an Eagle’s feather, claiming he is a law dog, who just walked into a saloon he ain’t allowed in, and shot Buster Grambling and Fred Pilson without even blinking an eye and took their guns before riding off. By any chance was that you, Shoots Plenty.”
“That was Shoots Plenty.”
“Did you fry your brain in this heat?”
“I told the white eyes I was a law dog. Did you tell them Shoots Plenty is a law dog and collect my paper money?”
“Whoever heard of an Indian being a law dog?”
Shoots Plenty sat puffing on his pipe without replying.
“You are not the law.”
“I know that, but they do not.”
“They know you aren’t the law. Everybody knows you aren’t the law.
They are glad to see those two gone, but they ain’t too happy that an Indian would think it was alright to ride into town and gun down two white men, no matter how much they deserved it.”
“They should be happy the crazy old redskin stopped at shooting just two white eyes. He could have killed many of his enemies.”
Esben shook his head.
“I told them we are bounty hunters and I made sure the pictures of Grambling and Pilson got sent off to Captain Smith. I have the paper money in my saddle bags on my mule.”
“That is good, Wasichus. Your Captain Smith has hired an old Indian and an old mule packer to find these men because he cannot find other white eyes to do this. Plus we are pretty damn good at it, is that not so, Wasichus?”
Esben looked at the old Indian and smiled, “I guess we are.”
“Did I tell you the story when that trickster Coyote tricked the long knives into believing that their paper money grows on trees? You remember how that trickster Coyote tricked the long knives to release him from their jail by telling them he could train that big white horse?”
“I remember. I’m going to collect some wood and start a fire.”
“That is good. I will speak louder so you can hear this story as you do your chores.”
“My chores?”
“Is that not what the white man calls their work?”
Esben shook his head in exasperation and replied, “Just don’t scare my mule.”
“Your one-eyed mule will like this story because Coyote took the pack mules from the long knives. That is a good thing.
This is how it happened. Coyote was out of the cheese and crackers that the long knives gave him when he trained that big white horse and he had little money left so he came up with another trick to play on the long knives who were still pursuing him.
He knew they were greedy, like all white men, and he devised a plan to get all the pack mules the long knives had with them.
He found a big walnut tree and swept the ground clean under it and strung what money he had left on its branches. Pretty soon the long knives came along and Coyote said, “I am going to tell you about this tree. Money grows on it and I want to sell it. Do you want to buy it?
The long knives were interested so Coyote told them, “It takes a day for the money to grow and ripen. Today’s crop is mine, but tomorrow it is all yours. I will sell you this fine tree for all your pack mules.”
The long knives agreed to Coyotes terms, and Coyote got a big rock and threw it against the trunk. Most of the money fell to the ground. “See, it only ripens at noon,” he said. “You have to hit it just at noon.” He whacked the tree again, and the rest of the money dropped out. Now it was all on the ground and the long knives helped him pick it up and put it in sacks. They turned all their pack mules over to Coyote as agreed upon, and Coyote started off.
He traveled the rest of the day and all night until he was in another country. Meanwhile, the long knives camped under the tree waiting for noon. then the officer told the soldiers to hit the tree, and they pounded it hard. When no money fell out, the officer ordered it chopped down, cut into lengths and then split up, in case the money was inside. Of course, no matter what they did they couldn’t find even five cents just old worms and bugs.”
Esben shook his head. “Shoots Plenty,” he said, “I am finding so many of your stories so far-fetched they are laughable. You surely cannot expect anyone in their right mind to think that a company of Union Soldiers would be that gullible that they would give away all their pack mules to a mangy old coyote in exchange for a walnut tree that the coyote said had money growing on it?”
“It is so, le mita-cola, my grandfather told this story to me.”
“I’m turning in. We have a long ride ahead of us tomorrow.”

Tuintsunde Mescalero Renegades – Texas Bounty Hunters

 

They saw a pack of Mexican Red Wolves, wearily watching their approach on the distant horizon. They stopped and watched them for a moment before kicking their mounts as they climbed upward. The wolves turned and scampered into the sage and Creosote bushes that lined the vista and disappeared.
They were cotton-mouthed and dusty, sweaty, and growing weary when they stopped to water their animals. They hadn’t seen or tasted water for a long time.
Shoots Plenty felt he had something important to say.
“This is the land where the shunkaha is lord.
“Why don’t you speak English so I can understand what you are saying, you old squaw? What is a shunkaha?”
“You should know our language, Wasichus. The white eyes call him wolf the Mexicanos call him Lobo, but he is shunkaha to the Lakota. But even he is disappearing because of your people, Wasichus.”
“Are you sure he just ain’t hiding because of this heat you’ve been complaining about?”
“I am sure because now we see many more coyotes. They have moved in where the shunkaha used to be. The coyote is smart. The white eyes will not make the coyote disappear. He is too smart for the white eyes.”
Esben absently nodded his head as he scanned the horizon for any movement. Shoots Plenty had been talking for the past month about how the white man drove the Lakota from their ancestral land. He silently agreed with just about everything Shoots Plenty said, but he wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of letting him know.
“I dreamed that I was back in Paha Sapa and I was with Gray Grass and she was braiding my hair. Do you dream, Wasichus?”
“No, I don’t have time to dream. Dreams are just a waste of good sleep.”
“When our Creator sleeps his sleep is filled with dreams of His creation.
My people tell of the time He saw strange things in His dream. He saw animals crawling on four legs, some on two. Some flew with wings, some swam with fins. There were plants of all colors covering the ground. Insects swarmed everywhere. Dogs barked, birds sang. People called out to each other. Everything seemed out of place. The Great Spirit thought He was having a bad dream. He thought nothing could be this imperfect.
When the Great Spirit awakened, He saw a beaver nibbling on a branch. He realized the world of his dream became His creation. Everything He dreamed about came true. When He saw the beaver make his home, and a dam to provide a pond for his family to swim in, He then knew everything has its place, and purpose in the time to come.
We must not question our dreams, Wasichus. They are our creation.”
“Why are you dreaming of Gray Grass? You have been spending a lot of time with Carmen.”
“I dream of both women but not at the same time. That would not be wise.”
Above them Esben noticed a falcon circling, looking for a meal.
“You see that, Shoots Plenty?” he said pointing to the sky. “It’s not too hot for that Falcon to come out and look for food.”
“He probably smelled your one-eyed mule and thought it would make a tasty meal.”
At that moment they saw movement behind the plateau in front of them. They looked at each other. Shoots Plenty motioned with his hand in the direction of some Pinyan bushes.
“We are being watched, Wasichus.”
Esben kicked his mule, “Let’s ride.”
Outside of Tornillo, they came upon the bodies of a family of six Anglos. They were scalped and their eyes were poked out and they were all stabbed up. Their throats were cut too, and they were full of bullet holes. The woman’s breasts were cut off and they all were butchered between their legs. The odor of rotting flesh was overwhelming. Flies were everywhere.
“Reckon they killed everyone or did they take the rest prisoners?” Esben asked.
“I do not think so. Why take prisoners? It is not the way for the Tuintsunde Mescalero, who you call renegades.”
“How far are they ahead?”
“I would say they are here and they know we are here.”
After burying the six Anglos they continued toward Tornillo. When they got there it was deserted. They both glanced down at the dust below them and were shocked at what they saw. There were tracks of at least a dozen rigs, buckboards, wagons and carts as well as horse tracks, all shod, headed in the same direction – east.
“People left for a reason, Wasichus,” Shoots Plenty said, gazing in the direction the tracks led.
“Afraid of something.”
“Apaches.”
“Tuintsunde Mescalero Apaches. That’s who they are afraid of and who we came looking for. The people of the town have not vanished into thin air, they made a sudden frightened panic-stricken rush to get away.”
“I feel evil in this place,” Shoots Plenty confessed.
They looked over the desert toward the mountains while a lonely dust devil danced around them. Nothing met their eyes save an unbelievably vast stretch of desert.
“The Tuintsunde Mescalero are getting bolder and are on the warpath, burning, killing, maiming. The people of the town fled like sheep. Let’s get ready.”
Shoots Plenty didn’t argue. They tethered their animals in the trees near the shady spot they found. They loaded their rifles and Colt .45’s along with the Winchester ‘73s they took from Max Bentley and Wilson Kerrick and opened boxes of ammunition and then lay out, Esben lighting up a cheroot.
“Those small smoke sticks smell almost as bad as your one-eyed mule. You should only smoke Kinnikinnick.”
“I want to see the Tuintsunde Mescalero when they come for us, not some narcotically induced ghost.”
“When the renegades smell your smoke stick they will know you are a white eyes and think you must be a mule skinner because you smell so bad. That is why you should smoke Kinnikinnick it smells better. The Mescalero will think you are their people when they smell it and then we could ambush them.”
“Once you told me, Silence is the mark of respect; so, respect me.”
Before long they viewed a band of renegade Tuintsunde Mescalero appear over the horizon. There were twelve of them heading their way at a gallop.
As soon as they were in range, Shoots Plenty picked up his Henry rifle and began firing off as fast as he could aim, getting off five quick rounds.
Soon four Apaches lay dead on the ground and a fifth was dragging himself with his hands toward some brush, attempting to escape.
Esben rolled out three shots, all of them hammering into a Mescalero’s chest and throwing him backward off his horse.
At the same time, Shoots Plenty fired from behind a barrel at the front riding Mescalero. One of the slugs smashed the Mescalero’s elbow; the second tore his throat out. He went down with blood pouring from the wound. It looked more black than red in the fading afternoon sun.
One renegade had rapidly fired his gun at Esben but missed with every round. He was desperately thumbing fresh cartridges into the cylinder as Shoots Plenty and Esben were firing at the rest of the Mescalero’s who were falling around him. He snapped the weapon closed and lifted it, grinning as he aimed it at Esben.
It was Esben’s gun that was empty now. He couldn’t do anything as the renegade thumbed back the hammer of the old Army Officer’s Colt .44 revolver.
When the renegade was about to pull the trigger, Esben left his feet in a dive, snatched one of the Winchester’s from the ground as he rolled over, and came up firing. There were two shots left in the rifle and he put both of them into the Mescalero who was firing at him. The renegade went over backward and twitched a couple of times, and then lay still as a dark bloodstain spread over the front of his shirt.
When the dust cleared Esben and Shoots Plenty stood over ten renegade Mescalero’s dead bodies while they watched the last two riding hard toward the Rio Grande and back into Mexico.
Shoots Plenty, holding the scalp of the renegade who had crawled for cover in the surrounding bushes, said, “How will your Captain Smith know that these Mescalero are the renegades that he wanted us to kill? All us Indians look alike to you white eyes.”
“He’ll know. Let’s get these bodies loaded on the horses that were left behind and get them photographed and sent off to the captain. We got more work to do.”

WHITE MAN LEAVES A TRAIL OF BLOOD BEHIND HIM – FROM TEXAS BOUNTY HUNTERS

“Tomorrow we find these two outlaws,” Esben said,  pointing at the two wanted posters he had spread out on his blanket next to the fire. Max Bentley and Wilson Kerrick. A couple of horse thieves.”

“That is good. Your people have been stealing horses from my people for many sleeps. It is time the Lakota got revenge.”

“Well, you will get your chance for revenge tomorrow. They were spotted up near the area of Socorro. We’ll ride out first thing in the morning,” Esben replied, grabbing the posters as a burst of wind snaked around his ankles. “Now settle in and get some sleep.”

“I do not wish to settle. Your people have settled my people on a reservation near the mountains. I love to roam over the prairies. It is there I feel free and happy, but when we settle we grow pale and die.”

“Damn, Shoots Plenty, stop talking, will ya’? I don’t know who the hell you’re talking to half the time. You are either telling another story, or you are complaining about something. I’m tired. I’m going to sleep.”

“You should listen to what I say, Wasichus. A long time ago the land belonged to our fathers, but when I go up to the river I see camps of soldiers on its banks. These soldiers cut down my timber, they kill my buffalo, steal my ponies, and when I see that, my heart feels like bursting. When the white man comes in my country he leaves a trail of blood behind him.”

He turned and looked at Esben and found him asleep.

“I enjoy this killing of the white eyes,” he said, “where I get your paper money for doing something I would proudly do for nothing.”

Sleeps Plenty threw another log on the fire and pulled his buffalo robe around his shoulders and closed his eyes while softly chanting.

The next day they found themselves on a rocky windswept ridge. Esben was glassing down on the outlaw camp below. They were near Socorro, about thirty miles west of Agua Dulce.

“We will stake our horses here and approach on foot,” Shoots Plenty said.

They found six horses staked out, while the two rustlers slept, rifles close by their sides. Esben and Shoots Plenty readied their own rifles, and then Esben called out, “In the name of the law, come out with your hands raised.”

“We are not the law, Wasichus,” Shoots Plenty told him.

“I know that, but they don’t.”

The rustlers scrambled up, groping for their rifles.

“Don’t go for your guns,” Esben yelled out.

“You ain’t no law dogs,” Max Bentley replied as he raised his weapon and triggered a shot. For a moment the flat explosions of Winchesters broke the desert silence as each man brought his gun into play.

Esben cracked the hammer on his Colt .45 and fired. Max Bentley was struck in his right arm, rendering it useless. Esben fired off two more quick rounds. One striking Bentley in the neck and the other in the left cheek, killing him instantly.

Wilson Kerrick, a killer, and ex-convict, fired a shot at Shoots Plenty, but the Lakota warrior dropped him with the first round from his Henry .30-.30 Lever-Action Repeater Rifle.

Shoots Plenty emptied his rifle into Bentley. The first slug punched into Bentley’s belly, but the outlaw held his kneeling position. The Lakota pumped three more .30–30 bullets into Bentley’s torso. Yet somehow the stricken rustler stayed up, gamely trying to get his gun back into action. Shoots Plenty’s final shot drilled into Bentley’s left temple, ripping through his head and out his right ear. Bentley fell face forward, dead when he hit the ground.

Shoots Plenty said “That Wasichus showed more nerve under fire than I have ever seen displayed by a white eye before. Perhaps he is part Lakota.”

“That part would be his black heart,” Esben replied.

They cautiously walked over to the fallen rustlers, both were dead. They collected several new Winchesters from the camp, threw the bodies across the stolen horses, packed everything else that needed to be hauled out and headed north.

“Maybe now we can eat that one-eyed mule you ride and you can take one of these fine ponies.”

“I told you, we ain’t eatin my mule. So just quit askin.”

Shoots Plenty stared at the mule and finally said, “Let us get the man with the box that captures a white man’s soul. You can send it to Captain Smith so he can see that we killed these bad men, Kerrick and Bentley. They are beginning to smell as bad as that one-eyed mule you are riding.”

By the time they reached Ten Miles Well, a journey of 25 miles, the corpses had swollen badly in the heat. They sent word via wire for the Agua Dulce coroner, but he refused to come. Finally, the justice of the peace at Socorro, who had jurisdiction over the area, rode up with a wagon to take the bodies from them.

Two days later they received the reward money and left Ten Miles Well in search of the renegade Apaches who were terrorizing ranchers on the Texas Panhandle.

THE LAKOTA SACRED RED ROCK – THE TEXAS BOUNTY HUNTERS


“Wasichus, did I reveal to you the Lakota story of the sacred red stone?”
“Is this going to be another of your crazy stories, you old squaw?”
“You should listen, le mita cola, for my words are simple. You have not heard them because you have not taken the time to listen.”
“Oh, I listen. I can’t help but listen. You talk all the time.”
“You should open your ears and heart to the words of wisdom my people have to say. My people found a sacred red rock. It was shaped by the proud Sioux people upon the prairie of what the white eyes call the Black Hills in the Minnesota territory where the buffalo roamed known as Paha Sapa, to the Lakota.
We smoke it before battle and offer it in peace. There is power in this rust colored rock. When the winds blow ancient memories return to my people. The spirits of forefathers echo across the grassland. This red stone has powerful magic the Wasichus can not take it. The Great Spirit speaks to us through this rock; it speaks to our soul.”
“Why don’t you carry on your crazy conversations with your sacred red rock then and quit bothering me?”
Shoots Plenty continued, “When my people walk the windswept prairie of this Minnesota Territory we can feel the power of the haunting Red Stone. This is why when our people die we take them back to Paha Sapa, our holy land.”
“You better pray to the red rock that the white man doesn’t find gold or something in your Paha Sapa or you will have to find another place to plant your dead.”
“Sadly you are right, Wasichus. It is a shame what the white eyes do to the land of our ancestors. You know, we should shoot that one-eyed mule you are riding and eat it and get you a real horse. It would be nice to taste meat again.”

“I told you we are not killing this mule so just quit talking about it.”

“He smells too.”
“Hold up there, Shoots Plenty. Is that a body near that big rock?”
“I cannot see, I am old and my eyes are tired.”
“But your mouth doesn’t tire, does it? Let’s ride over there and take a look.”
Their animals snorted and pranced about nervously as the smell of rotting flesh entered their nostrils.
Esben and Shoots Plenty stared at the bloated and decomposing body of what appeared to be a young Charro, covered with rocks and lying among the dry sage next to a large boulder. He was wearing a serape, the garment worn by the farmers in the area.
“Some one shot him, Wasichus and it was not Apache. If Apache did this, they would have taken pecokan sunpi, a scalp lock. He was killed by the white eyes or possibly the Seditionistas that took your horse and guns.”

“There were twenty of them.”

“They would not be able to sneak up on a Lakota.”

“Maybe not a young Lakota.”

“That boy looks to be no more than twelve or thirteen years old. Shot through the left temple. Appears like he was executed. Someone tried to keep scavengers away from the body by covering him with rocks.”
“Why would someone kill a young boy? His family must be looking for him.”
“If he has a family. It appears like he has been here for a few days. I’m surprised the buzzards haven’t found him.”
“It is too hot here even for buzzards.”
“There are tracks over there. It looks like a shod horse and a small burro. The burro most likely belonged to this Charro. Perhaps he was robbed and then killed.”
“It is a shame to kill a small boy for his burro.”
“It’s a shame to kill a small boy. Let’s follow the tracks and see if we can find this person.”
They had almost reached the San Pedro River when the sun went down. The Cottonwoods lining the river banks were starting to shed their leaves. The ones remaining were yellow and faded. Their animals breached the water and they noticed what looked like another young Charro in the distance, leading a burro. They spread out about ten yards and each approached him from different sides.
“What is your name, amigo?” Esben asked.
“It is Juan.”
“Juan, we just found the body of a young Charro a ways back. Shot in the head. By any chance do you know him?”
“That is my brother, Pedro. He was trying to get his little burro back from a very bad man and he shot him.”
“Do you know this man’s name?”
“Si, señor, his name is Martin.”
“Brace Martin?”
“Si, señor, that gringo he take all thees belongings from me and my brother Pedro. We jeest getting it back when he come on us and he keeled my brother. I run off on my burro because I know he keel me too if I stay.”
“How did he get your things, Juan?”
“He ride into our camp and take everything we have off Pedro’s burro and beat us bad and leave us tied to a tree with no clothes. We find this hombre’s camp and sneak in at night and find our clothes and take what was ours and start to leave when the hombre he wake up and shoot and he keel Pedro.”
“Well, we have been following his trail. What kind of horse is he riding?”
“It is a beeg brown horse and he was leading Pedro’s little gray burro.”
Esben looked at Shoots Plenty and said, “You want to come with me or go back and play house with that Carmen lady?”
“I think I should go with you, Wasichus. She wants me to take up wah ti living and wants me to become her mihigna ki. I think I am too old.”
“You are old but not too old to become that woman’s husband.”
“No, I am too old. We should go. Who is this Brace Martin that we look for now?”
“He’s a stage robber out of the New Mexico Territory. He and a cow-boy by the name of Curly Bill Brocius tried to rob a U.S. Army conveyance near El Paso, Texas and wounded two soldiers. They were eventually captured but they broke jail and escaped to Mexico.
Martin came back and formed a gang of horse and cattle thieves. They have been riding out of the San Simon Valley of Arizona Territory. It’s time we ended that.”

Death of Brace Martin: The Texas Bounty Hunters

“We sleep so we wake before the heat comes and then we find that outlaw you want to catch,” Shoots plenty said as he stirred up the coals in the fire causing sparks to fly into the dark. Soon flames rose, like wild tongues around the oak logs and licked at the cool night sky.
“Why don’t you shoot that one-eyed mule. A mule is not like a horse. A horse will work with you but a mule just waits until he can kill you. We could eat him and then you can get a horse.”
“I like that mule. He’s smarter than any horse I ever had,” Esben replied.
“You never had an Indian horse. They are smarter than the Wasichus horse.”
“Why are they smarter?”
“Because the Indian is smarter than the Wasichus.”
“Yeah, so who is living on the reservations?”
“Ugh.”
The next day the blazing sun was rapidly emerging in the east and the temperature was rising when Shoots Plenty said, “We should go so we can travel far before the sun is three fists in the sky.”
They ate pemmican and corn while they rode West toward the Chihuahuan Desert
It wasn’t long before the heat was becoming unbearable as the sun beat down mercilessly on the two riders.
“She thinks I am a Lakota Chief,” Shoots Plenty said.
“Who thinks you are a Lakota Chief?”
“That Carmen lady.”
“I wonder how she got that idea.”
“Maybe I am chiefly.”
“Or maybe you lied to her.”
“She said her heart laughs with joy when she is in my presence.”
“Really?”
“That is what she said.”
“I don’t see it.”
“I was in love once, Wasichus. Yes, that is the truth. It was Chief Black Kettle’s daughter, Gray Grass. I said to him, “I love your daughter, will you give her to me, that the small roots of her heart may entangle with mine so that the strongest wind that blows shall never separate them.”
“Yeah, so what happened?”
“He said no. It made me sad. I cried. But you know, Wasichus, the soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears.”
“That’s too bad.”
“No, it is a good thing. Later Gray Grass had many little ones. She got fat. Now my heart laughs with joy because I am not with her.”
“What is with you Lakota and your laughing hearts?”
“We were a happy people until your people put us on a reservation. The Great Father promised that we should never be removed we have moved five times. I think you should put the Indians on wheels so that you can move them as you wish.”
They rode slowly for some time while the hot sun burned down on them before Shoots Plenty spoke again, “That meal was damn good. I am gonna think about living with Carmen if it is like this.”
“Can’t you just be quiet? I thought the Lakota liked silence.This is a bad day. The worst day. We have gone 35 miles in this blazing heat through cacti and blistering sands and all you do is talk. Our animals, they have gone without water the entire day,” Esben said, “and the water in our canteens is so hot we cannot drink it and all you do is babble nonsense about some Mexican woman.”
They made their way into the mountains, climbing all the while, going backward on themselves as they followed the sinuous path higher. In places, sections of the hillside had fallen away, leaving a gash of red earth and loose rock which slid dangerously as soon as their mounts hooves were set upon it.
Upon reaching the ridge top they were exhausted and came to a halt and rested. They had met no one, nor seen any evidence of habitation at any time since they had left that morning but they both felt the presence of something or someone.
“There is a cave up ahead with some water. We will rest there, Wasichus.”
“That looks out of place, stay alert,” Esben replied.
“If the Creator put it here, it is in the right place.”
Ahead of them, they saw layers of shale protruding from the summit of a small hill.
The heat in the canyon was intense. At the scent of water, Shoots Plenty’s horse and Esben’s one-eyed mule quickened their pace. Anything that moved had gone for cover and that was what Esben and Shoots Plenty had in mind when they hobbled and watered their mounts and approached the cave. The animals stood with their heads down with their ears laid back to show their unhappiness being near the mouth of the cave.
Shoots Plenty took his lance and poked inside to make certain no rattling-tails were lurking. They entered the cave.
The cave opened out, the sides spreading wide, the ceiling rising high as a church. Light filtered through unseen apertures, the slender fluted shafts falling from above. The sun filtered through the leaves of the nearby overhanging trees.
Then an explosion blew them in the air and everything turned black, leaving nothing but night.
Out of the darkness and into the edge of light Esben thought he saw something come rushing by him, tall and darker than night itself. A blackness inside a blackness. It’s footsteps echoed like thunder and its breath was foul like rotting flesh, eyes as hard as glass.
It disappeared deeper into the shadows of the cave.
The scent came to him, like stagnant water at the edge of a stock pond, with shat, urine, moss, algae, dead fish and fermented vegetation.
Esben opened his eyes. Where was he? How long had he been lying here. His head hurt like hell. What was that he just saw? What happened?
The last thing he remembered was the explosion. Someone must have booby trapped the entrance to that cave and he had a notion it was Brace.
He was unable to see due to the darkness surrounding him. He reached for his holster. His Colt .45 was still secure. He brought his Winchester rifle in with him. Where was it? He groped the damp ground surrounding him until his fingers found the rifle. He chambered a round.
“Shoots Plenty? Shoots Plenty, where are you?”
He hadn’t intended to get the old Indian tied up in this mess. It just happened. Shoots Plenty insisted on riding with him on the way to Artesia. He should have told him no but it was too late now. Shoots Plenty couldn’t see beyond the end of his arm, so he wouldn’t be much good to him anyway.
“I am here, Wasichus.”
“Are you okay?”
“I think so. My head does not feel so good.”
Esben struck a match and saw the form of Shoots Plenty sitting up with his back pressed against the far cave wall.
“I thought you Indians could root out traps. What happened? Are you sure you are an Indian?
“I am an Indian and something like this would never happen to me. I used to have power. Now I have been civilized and old age is creeping up on me.”
“More like old bad habits. Come on, follow me. Something or someone ran past us into this cave.”
“Maybe we should leave. It could be an evil spirit.”
“It’s evil alright, follow me.”
Slowly, Esben rose to his feet, putting his hand against the wall, he ventured deeper into the cave with Shoots Plenty holding onto Esben’s gun belt.
Esben’s back hurt from landing on the cave floor and his forehead was sporting a welt the size of an egg.
They felt someone run past them.
“Stop!” Shoots Plenty yelled.
They heard a shot and then saw a flash from the barrel of a gun before they heard the ricochet of a bullet near their head.
Shoots Plenty dropped to the floor of the cave.
Esben leveled his Winchester in the direction of the fleeing person and fired.
A cry of pain was heard. The shot found its mark.
Esben ratcheted another round into the chamber of his Winchester and started toward the cave entrance in pursuit of the suspect that had just about killed him and Shoots Plenty.
When they reached the opening of the cave they looked around. There was blood on the ground heading toward the stand of Cottonwood trees.
“I do not see nothing, Esben,” Shoots Plenty said.
“He’s gone. Let’s mount up and head to town. I think I know where we can find him.”
Esben found his one-eyed mule, grazing near the opening of the cave next to Shoots Plenty’s horse. They were glad they had the foresight to hobble their mounts before they entered the cave.
They mounted up and headed for the town of Artesia. Someone set them up and they knew who. He would pay.
The stock dogs were barking up a storm as they rode into town. They dismounted at the corral. There were tracks in the dirt and they didn’t want to disturb the ground around the hitch rack. Walking carefully, they surveyed the sandy loam in front of the hitching post. The boot prints in the dust were large, and the left one had a hole in it.
“Most of these hoof prints have been here for a while and are not from freshly shod horses. But this one is,” said Shoots Plenty. A Bay gelding was tied at the end of the hitching post and it was wet with sweat.
“That is his horse,” Shoots Plenty uttered, nodding in the direction of the big Bay horse. “The foot prints are going toward the dance hall. There are splotches of blood on the ground over there and more foot prints between the wagon track.”
They examined the tracks as they went along. After awhile Shoots Plenty said, “This is the way he came back. Someone was bleeding badly. See drippings of blood? See where the grass is flattened down over there?” he said, pointing in the direction of green grass running along the side of the bank building. “Here is where he laid down and it was a time before he could get to his feet. A tough man. Who is this man, Brace?”
“The son of a bitch is a cheating killer. He can take on three men in a fight and win. He is so cold he’s known as the Iceman in parts of this territory. He has no feelings at all, to my knowledge. But this is the end of the trail for him. Come on, follow me.”
As they got to the end of the building, Esben stopped and looked around into the back alley. There were some barrels and wooden crates and discarded trash and he spotted a man stagger around some wooden barrels. It was Brace.
Brace was a large man, bow-legged and barrel chested, with a mass of fiery red hair growing straight out from the top of his shirt and the sides of his hat. His face was broad and sunburnt above a great tangle of beard
Brace continued to stagger into the alley. He went in gun up and out.
“Come outta there or someone is gonna get hurt,” Esben yelled.
“It’s gonna be you, Bounty Hunter,” Brace said cocking back the hammer of his gun.
Esben’s hand went down to his sidearm and he was clearing leather before young Brace could blink. Esben’s .45 caliber round pierced his neck and he dropped to the ground, bleeding out next to the wooden crates and barrels that littered the alley.
Esben took aim and fired again.
Brace let out a scream. He was still alive. He stuck his head out and that was when Esben’s next round went between his eyes. He dropped back behind the barrel. He was dead before he hit the ground.
They ran up to the barrels with their guns at the ready.
Looking down at the prone body, Shoots Plenty asked, “Is that Mr. Brace?”
“What’s left of him. The son of a bitch finally got what he deserved. Let’s go get the Doc and have him haul him outta here.”
“Why does the white man get his medicine man for someone who is dead?”
“Just to confirm he’s dead.”
“I can confirm he is dead. Will we get our money now?”
“As soon as we have his picture taken I’ll send it back to Captain Smith and he will wire us the money. You best not let Carmen know you came into so much money or she may make you buy her a tipi.”
“I will not tell her. Let us go and get that medicine man.”