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03 December 2011

Burnt Alive in Gumption Junction Chapter 1

Till the end of the dadburn War of Northern Aggression in the spring of 1865, German Jack Fordern wore the Cinco Peso all his adult life.  Joining up at barely 16 years of age, he was a Captain and company commander at 18.  He was commander of all them Texas Rangers by the age of 20.  By 1867, the dadburn policy of Reconstruction proclaimed by the government of these United States had been taken over by Radical Republicans.  The conditions of allowing the states of the defeated Confederacy once again to participate in the bureaucracy of the new government of these United States following the dadburn War of Northern Aggression come with many disagreeable terms. 
Strict demands were placed on former Confederate states in order for them to regain U.S. statehood.  For Texas, this meant that the honorable line of work twas the duty and way of life all them years for Jack, Sage, Crick, Boudreaux and the rest of his men was no longer possible for the former Ranger captain known variously throughout Texas as The Big German or El Diablo Rubio.  According to the dadburn Military Reconstruction Act issued by the dadburn Radical Reconstruction government of them United States in March 1867, German Jack Fordern and them that rode with him were outlaws now.
By then Jack was nigh unto 38 years of age.  He and them others that rode with and for him most all that time had waged war against all them Mexican, Comanche, and other dadburn outlaws  stirring up trouble in the No Man’s Land for over 20 years in one way another. This included the time in which they and other Confederates took on them dadburn centralized government bureaucrats in Washington DC under the Stars & Bars Battle Flag.  If that don’t beat all, Cap’m Fordern and his Texas Rangers had even been attached to the Army of these United States when his career had commenced.  Their most famous action against them Mexicans had them that wore the Cinco Peso make Fordern sure Sam Houston’s temperance and broken ankle were not in vain.  They secured Texas her rightful place as the 28th of them United States. 
Now Jack and his most trusted men had to consider other possibilities as opportunities.  This meant taking on assumed names.  Jack was first amongst his team to journey to Gumption Junction.  He had his cabin built all by hisself afore the others even come up.  Jack hisself had come by invite of his beloved Bessie’s Papa. Juan Padilla de León was a curandero from Saltillo known variously as Doc or Rojo de León.  Not long after, his trusted lieutenant Sage Jackson got there.  The both of them was soon followed out to Gumption Junction by the likes of Lance Corporal Bear Boudreaux and Gunny Crick Youngblood.  All of them shared bonds that no other men could understand.  They all had personalities no others could tolerate neither.
The man that O.R. “Jack” Fordern called Sage Jackson had always been his very closest friend.  In fact, he was the only other man Jack really ever listened to besides his father.  Friends since Jack was born, he and Sage had rode together for the Cinco Peso all of their adult lives.  After years of blowing up and shooting down ever dadburn person and thing that you can imagine towards that end of protecting the people of Texas, Sage just wanted to live out quietly the retirement that had been forced upon him by the dadburn policy of Reconstruction created by the centralized government of them United States.  In order to make ready for this new life that he, Bessie, Sage, and them others wanted to live, Jack was the one that split all them rails that become the fence ‘roun’ the property where Sage come to live outside of Gumption Junction. 
Jack even built the double log cabin on Sage’s land, as well as the smokehouse in back it.  A little of the wood used to build Sage’s cabin was cut from trees on Jack’s land, then brung through town by Jack for use on the land now occupied by Sage Jackson and Heather Parker.  Jack and Sage built the fence and the hog pens together.  For this, they used wood from trees that were already on Sage’s land.  When Prairie Creek Youngblood come up from the Piney Woods of East Texas to join them there in Gumption Junction, Bear Boudreaux and the three of them cut wood on Crick Youngblood’s land for the home he would make with Rebecca St. Patrick.
Coming rount the bend in Cripple Creek and on to the two sections of Jackson land about a half a mile west of town, Jack Fordern read them rough edged letters him and Sage had burnt into the sign placed above the simple wooden gate.  He had Fordern sure arrived at Heather’s Hog Heaven.  Heather Parker heard the big black horse that Jack give the name Raven canter up to the hitching post at the time that had become Jack’s habit.  As she had already done so many times in just a few months, Heather stepped out onto the porch of the cabin she shared with the pig farmer to greet German Jack.  Having spent her childhood in refinements and her early adult years in the outfit of what could only in polite company be referred to now as the provocative clothing of a “saloon girl”, Heather now come to find herself dressed and working like a man. 
Knowing full well her afternoon would pass by feeding them scrawny piglets in the pens out back, Heather had spent the better part of the morning fixin’ up coffee and breakfast for her, Jack, Sage, and the large Lance Corporal Bobby “Bear” Boudreaux.  As the familiar figure of German Jack carefully dismounted his oversized frame from Raven [his oversized horse of only the last year or two], Heather struck up a conversation with him not unlike the one they had the very first time they ever met just a few months prior [though it already seemt liked years ago] when she first served drinks to him and the pig farmer at Katie Casey’s Saloon in Abilene, KS.
“Howdy gunslinger…see anything you like?”
“I’ll have some of that there cowboy coffee, ma’am!”
Twas the same response German Jack Fordern had give Miss Parker at the end of the trail in Abilene, KS.  Setting him up with a warm cup, she stepped outside to go and find the pig farmer.  This exchange was similar to one the two of them had repeated many times afore in the months since Jack Fordern and the pig farmer brought Heather Parker down to Texas from the aforementiont life of  a “saloon girl.”  Other former saloon girls had come back from Abilene with Jack and Sage as well.  All of them had worked with Heather.  Nearly all of them girls had stayed there in Gumption Junction.  None remaint in the life they had lived in Abilene though.  The new life Heather Parker made with the pig farmer out west of town was even better than she had ever hoped.
Cap’m O.R. “German Jack” Fordern was “the gunslinger”.  He had come to look the part after a lifetime in that line of work.  He wore a Confederate cavalry hat with captain bars above the crossed rifles.  His cowboy duster was the same as the one provided for Sage at the start of the very first cattle drive the both of them had been on earlier that year.  Acrost his back and over the duster was slung a short and double barreled shotgun Jack had received from the Confederate Cavalry during the War of Northern Aggression.  Affixed to his belt beneath the duster, Heather didn’t know it but Jack wore a pair of pearl handle .44-calibre Walker Colt wheel guns, a Bowie Knife, and a pouch of chewing tobacco. 
The Walker Colts had been presented to Jack by their innovator not too long after Jack joint the Texas Rangers on 2 January 1846.  He had won the Bowie Knife in a shooting match with Sage on the last day of 1845.  Jack had only got hisself hooked on chewing tobacco in the last year or so.  The experiences Jack accumulated during the period of time through the years 1845 and 1846 had done more to shape young Fordern than just any two other years could have ever made their mark on the life of any young man.  Twas Fordern sure.
Them boots Jack wore were nearly new Frye Boots issued to him by the Confederate Cavalry.  The bandana ‘roun’ his sun brown neck was long ago a tourniquet, still bearing the blood stains of a leg wound Jack endured during the siege of Chapultepec whilst them Texas Rangers was fighting in the dadburn Mexican War.  He and Bessie both had tried ever possible thing the both of them knew of to get them awful blood stains out.  For all their efforts, they had not a single thing to show for it neither.  Jack’s long blond hair covered the knot of his bandana and the collar of his shirt.  Jack’s trousers and shirt had been the clothes his oldest brother Hank wore when he was massacred with the rest of Fannin’s surrendered and disarmed men at Goliad in 1836.   Of course, Heather did not know the origin of Jack’s clothing.  She may have found this to be a might too macabre—even for Cap’m Jack Fordern. 
When Jack finished up his coffee, he caught up with Heather Parker down at the hog pens.  Despite having a poorly healt broke ankle to compliment the prickly Chapultepec ball still in his thigh, Jack got ‘roun’ better than you might expect.  He would tell hisself that at least his ankle didn’t hurt like the prickly rifle ball still stuck in the thick hard muscle of his left leg.  Taint nothing could hurt worst than his mangled jackleg ribs.  Jack got ‘roun’ well because he stood nigh unto six foot and two inch tall and carried pert near 225 lbs. on his suntan frame.  That give him the advantage of four inch of height and 30 lbs. of weight on his friend the pig farmer.  The blond in Jack’s long beard was starting to gray like the salt and pepper sprinkled into his eggs.  Because of it, Heather didn’t know about the childhood knife fight with Paco Gilipollas that left a scar across the right side of Jack’s face.  
Unlike the pig farmer, Heather had no more seen Jack clean shaved of his long blond goatee or the sideburns on his chin than she was likely to see him without the scabbards of his so-called “hand warmers” that were his weapons of choice and the tools of the only trade he had ever known.  Owing to the duster he wore, she was likewise unaware Jack normally [as that day] wore two bandoliers across his chest—one with shells for his shotgun, the other to reload them Colts.  Neither had she seen the noose scars from the time when Jack was very nearly dragged to death by Pancho Gilipollas as a young man.  Sand, wind, snow, heat or no, this awful hideous gash from his childhood was as much the reason Jack always wore that bandana ‘roun’ his neck as the extra growth of his chin whiskers.
After a hitch more or less of a year in the Office of the U.S. Deputy Marshal afore the cattle drive that took him and Sage out of Gumption Junction, Jack figured he very well ought to start off and try to grow a few little pigs into hogs for Bessie and hisself.  All Texas Rangers had been replaced with the new “state police” as part of the dadburn centralized federal government policy of Reconstruction.  Men like Jack, Sage, Bear, and Crick had spent their entire adult lives enforcing the law in some form or another.  Now they were not left with much else they could do.  Jack found hisself with more than enough time to think about that lately.  He was Fordern sure never far from being angry or feeling low when the sensitive subject matter was breeched. 
Owing to a great mutual dislike of his former reluctant employer Deputy U.S. Marshal Milo Cobb Mays, Jack even ruminated on running hisself for sheriff if the Panhandle District of Texas ever got divvied up into counties.  Bessie discouraged any such notions just as quick as Jack breeched the subject though.  After biding her time 20 years waiting for the life she by all rights deserved to get to live with Jack, Bessie did not want to see her life with Jack disrupted yet again.  She laid down her own brand of law to him—that his duty could now be to his family, rather than the State of Texas.  Of course, Jack went along with that in order to have peace with Bessie.  For whatever reason, though, he still had a bad taste in his mouth from the whole thing.
The pig farmer had been born at San Felipe de Austin not too long afore Jack was.   At his birth, the name bestowed upon Sage was that of Seymour Arnold Jackson.  He rode with Jack through all them many battles against the Mexican, Comanche, and other outlaws they had known during their Texas Ranger days.  For his worldly wisdom as much as his initials, 1st Lt. S.A. Jackson was known as “Sage”.  Since Jack knew Sage to prefer playing at the lap Dobro or cards to making any sort of business deals as well, he also realized that any nudging towards his purchase of them scrawny piglets come at the less-than-subtle urging of Heather Parker.
At birth, Jack had been given the name Obed Rex Fordern.  The name that he would attach to any sort of legal document now though would be Leon Johansen.  He had used that name to travel whilst his parents were still living, and now Jack had to use that name to live his daily life.  Along with Sage, Bear, Crick and others that he rode with over all them years, Jack really believed the career he enjoyed with the Texas Rangers was his calling to the Lord’s Work.  He Fordern sure felt thataway from the days of the dadburn Mexican War through the dadburn War of Northern Aggression. 
Now twas this new feeling of being considered some sort of a dadburn outlaw by them that did away with states rights in the change towards the new centralized government of Reconstruction.  This left Jack and his men with the awfulest taste in the mouth for any sort of paperwork under any name.  He wisht to God twas Fordern sure some way he could just disappear forever into his new life with Bessie.  All she ever wanted was for him to stay at home in his own house.  The promise of having a stable home life was the only way for Doc and Jack to persuade Bessie to leave Bexar and join them all the way up yonder to Gumption Junction.
When Jack caught up with Heather, she was waiting for him with all the patience she could muster at the side of her partner, Sage Jackson.  Sage wore the sombrero that had been his regular head covering throughout his Texas Ranger career.  To cover the rest of his body, he wore a old serape and a new pair of overalls.  Sage’s hair was thicker, shorter, and darker than Jack’s, and he wore spectacles.  His upper lip was almost covered up by his handlebar mustache.  Sage wore them same Frye Boots of the sort that had also been issued to him by the Confederate Cavalry during the war.  He had no use for any sort of shirt whilst working with them filthy hogs.  Heather always kept one ready for him to wear into town when he had a hankering for an evening at the poker or faro tables in the Good Knight Hotel.  She allowt this now and then—so long as he stayed away from any more troublesome alcohol.  Heather had a notion such a night was in the making, seeing as how there really was so much work he ought to get done afore dark.
Jack knew Sage had a Bowie Knife and a Walker Colt .44 secreted in his overalls beneath the serape.  The knife had been a gift from Jack when Sage turnt 21 in 1850.  Sage had served at the right hand of Jack Fordern throughout their time with the Texas Rangers.  This amounted to the greater part of 20 years, when you consider their proud service [both in combat and prison] to the Confederate Army during the War of Northern Aggression.  This second war together found Sage in the official service of what amounted to the Confederate Army’s Corps of Engineers.  He was more experienced in demolition than construction though.  Sage learnt that trade from two of the very best.  His mentors were two of the most famous men in the history of these parts—Cap’m Erastus “Deaf” Smith [amongst the many heroes of San Jacinto] and then-Cap’m Robert E. Lee [later commander of the Confederate Army].
“Hello Cap’m!  Is you ready t’ buy some o’ them hungry hogs?” was Sage’s greeting.
“Let me joos git ‘nother look-see at ‘em, Looftenant,” was the usual response Jack give.
German Jack Fordern had built hisself a little cabin outside of town when he come to Gumption Junction a couple years prior to this.  He hoped to God to finally get to have the chance to make the life with Bessie that she had always hoped and prayed to God the both of them would get to share.  Soon after his arrival in the town, the Mexican woman with the given name of Abyssinia Goldia de León moved up from San Antonio de Bexar and into that cabin with Jack.  Of course, this fancy name meant nothing to Heather and them other girls that come down from Abilene.  Them girls just knowed her as Bessie.  Them girls knowed who Jack really was too, but they Fordern sure kept it to themselves. 
Them ladies that Jack and Sage brought back with them when they come back from down from driving them cattle up yonder to Abilene did know that Sage, Jack, and Bessie had been in school together as children.  All three of them went to Independence Academy whist Baylor University was still located at Independence, TX.  Jack and Sage were friends since Jack’s birth in San Felipe.  The both of them come to know Bessie in the one room school at Independence.  When the crops weren’t being put in or harvested, there were so many other students that Bessie had to help the teacher with some of them.  Jack wasn’t very good with math, and Sage was too much of a natural with numbers to explain them to him a’tall.  Jack was very good with learning and understanding more than just math when it come to Bessie though.  Jack’s mother was the school marm, and she didn’t see no harm in it a’tall.
During the course of Jack’s conversation with Heather turning into greeting Sage and discussing the business of them piglets, the butcher slowly made his way up from the barn as well.  Bobby was mindful of the personal nature of the visit from his Ranger Captain.  He left all his gloves, bloodstaint apron, and knives at his work station in back of the hog pens to join the others for breakfast and conversation.  Bobby “Bear” Boudreaux was known as The Butcher of Bienville.  He was raised in New Orleans, LA.  His father had been a pirate and slave trader there with the Brothers Lafitte and Brothers Bowie afore the Texas Revolution.  His mother gave him the name Rêne-Robert La Salle Boudreaux. 
Bobby learnt to fend for hisself as a child.  He commenced using a knife by throwing them for fun just playing mumbltey-peg with other children living on the street with him.  He wound up finding work preparing animals for sacrifice by all them voodoo practitioners ‘roun’ town.  Bobby tired of this life after a while though.  He had left town with a coon root mojo bone and a nickname twas as seemingly ominous as it was actually humorous.  Bobby was able to make his way up to kin folk in Acadia, Québec.  There Bobby found work for several years as a hunter, skinner, trapper, and trader. 
Bobby started out hunting small game and fishing with his uncles and cousins.  In the course of this time he also figured out how to use firearms for hunting even larger animals.  He was one of them twas happy for the Pope to let them eat otter meat on Friday during Lint.  Bobby come by the nickname of “the Bear” on a hunting trip in the spring of 1848 when his weapon jammed on a hunt.  He was forced to bring the bear down with his father’s Bowie Knife [a gift from Rezin Bowie Jr. hisself].  What was left of Bobby’s face as a result of that encounter was henceforth covered with a long, dark beard.  The beard grew longer as the hair atop his head thinned out.
After several months of recovery at Detroit following his unfortunate encounter with the bear, Boudreaux reckon he ought to make his way down to the reasonably new state of Texas.  After losing some excess weight during his recovery, the formidable 6’3”, 250 lbs. frame Bobby was left with still suited him for any sort of work on the frontier of the time.  Wanting the best adventure he could find, Bobby set out to find work with the Texas Rangers. He practically rode right into the company of Cap’m Jack Fordern.  Bobby arrived in Texas after the dadburn Mexican War had already been fought.  A lot work still had to be done with keeping the peace and divvying up the land won from México.  Bobby was Jack’s quartermaster in about a year after he come down to Texas.
Boudreaux also served as a scout and medic with the Rangers.  He was equally valued for his work butchering the Ranger horses for meat they ate on the trail when they literally rode them horses to death.  Faithful and honorable in his efforts, Boudreaux achieved the rank of Lance Corporal in the Confederate Army afore the Texas Rangers were disbanded after the War of Northern Aggression.  He then spent some time back in New Orleans, courting a young lady twas performing in a dance hall there.  Ellie Marie Sawyer was so smitten as to come back to Texas with him when Bobby decided to follow his old company leaders to the peaceable little town of Gumption Junction.  Whilst tending to the early education of their baby girl Sally Renée, Ellie Marie managed to keep up a nice home for the three of them south of town.
Just as ever Bobby carried a fiddle with him when he come up to join his friends.  He was always ready to play if the chance allowed itself.  But he reckoned that Heather and Sage were still about talking business with Jack.  They all figured that Jack was trying to cipher out what he had to try to do to make a better life for Bessie.  Heather waited as he continued to consider whether this ought to include a few of them hogs.   He always left open the possibility that he might return for them later with his wagon by making the observation that Heather and Sage had already come to expect.  With varying words, the idea was the same. 
Jack let Sage know, “Even the scrawniest one o’ them little piglets Fordern sure make th’ porcine commitment to a feed, Sage.  My chickens don’t have t’ give all they got t’ put their contribution t’ breakfast on our table.  But then my beloved Maestra Dulce hadn’t even felt up t’ wringin’ out one measly little chicken neck in weeks.  Ya know, she used t’ wring one o’ them out pert near ever day t’ cut up fir supper till th’ pregnancy brang her down t’ th’ sickbed t’ other day.  Taint had much chicken a’tall for nigh on a month now, Heather!  And what I’ve had, I’s had t’ cook my own dadburn self!  Thank God for all them fish in Cripple Creek!”
As she had nearly ever day for several weeks, Heather Parker chuckled at this revelation.  She oft times [as then] muttered mostly to herself, “You’d pluck out th’ dadburn gizzard from th’ throat of any o’ them dadburn Mexicans loyal to Santa Anna, or even some dadburn Comanche shaman just for the pleasure of watchin’ ‘em bleed out—but lift nary a fanger t’ feed your own dadburn self?  Why, you lazy no account....”  The smile on her face let Jack know that Heather knew better than to be serious about what she was teasing for.  Heather invited Jack to join them at the house for what she had finally learnt folks in Texas refer to as “dinner” [the meal she knew as “lunch” growing up in Kansas].  With that, Sage finally tried to approach an increasingly more prickly subject with his captain.
“That dadburn Mr. Samuels from The Gazette come by agin yest’d’y a lookin’ for ya Jack.  He keeps a pesterin’ on ‘bout th’ notion o’ you runnin’ agin Marshal Mays fir sheriff come votin’ time in the spring, if’n the Texas districts git divvied up into counties o’ course.  He knows yore a hard man t’ track down, but I don’t reckon he has any notion jus’ how prickly a time he’s fixin’ t’ have a changin’ yore mind!  But then agin, I don’t reckon I know which side of th’ fence Mr. Samuels is on with th’ matter o’ that there dadburn Marshal Mays neither.  He also come along with th’ awfulest news ‘at our own elected Gov’ner Throckmorton done been run out o’ Austin for standin’ in support o’ th’ 10th Amendment t’ th’ U.S. Constitution.  Seems them dadburn Washington radicals have Fordern shore took over all o’ Reconstruction.”
“Now Looftenant, ya’ll know as well as me that Clem Samuels an’ Milo Cobb Mays is Fordern shore a couple o’ them no goot dadburn scalawags!  Twas men like them what took away our ‘bility t’ help all them good people o’ this here great state.  I tell ya’ll what, I Fordern shore spent most o’ th’ time on his dep’ty job with a shovel an’ broom out yonder in th’ dadburn livery stable o’ th’ U.S. Marshal’s Office .  Very little dadburn time was I in my ‘Phesians 6 saddle with this shotgun durin’ th’ prickly year that I wore that tin star wi’ th’ Marshal’s Office.  Twas a tough’n when we first come up here after th’ dadburn War o’ Northern ’Gression.”
Jack went on to say, “I kin tell all ya’ll Fordern shore that all his shortcomin’s as U.S. Deputy Marshal for th’ Texas Panhandle cause Milo Mays t’ cast em-bare-ass-mint upon ever single one o’ us that ever fought t’ keep peace an’ do right by any badge!  Did ya’ll even know that dadburn Marshal Mays very nearly tried t’ get me t’ surrender Cap’m Walker’s Colts when I resignt an’ left his office fir th’ very last time?  Ya’ll know these here hand warmers ain’t been out o’ my considerable arms’ reach since Cap’m Jack an’ Cap’m Walker had us strap ‘em on th’ very first dadburn time…” 
Bobby added, “I tell you what Heather, that dadburn marshal tried t’ take my knives when Ellie an’ me first come t’ Gumption Junction.  I had t’ show ‘im all th’ dadburn meat we had salted down in th’ wagon from our trip afore he’d let us be.  I very nearly left one o’ them knives in his bloated yeller belly.  Ellie didn’t want little Sally Renée t’ see such a sight as that fir her first memory at our new home though.  That would not have bothered me a’tall though Cap’m.  I’s ready t’ gut th’ sombitch then an’ there.”
Jack chuckled, “I wisht I’d a seen that Bob!  You ought t’ have done it, Corporal, just t’ save whatever awful trouble I’m sure that dadburn Marshal Mays is fixin’ t’ conjure up fir us.  Could have made good supper fir them turkey buzzards anyways eh?  Heather, I might just yet stretch that dadburn marshal’s chicken neck myself, given half th’ chance.  How ‘bout that?”  Most folk might be mortified by the making of such comments at the meal table in their home.  Heather Parker had Fordern sure learnt to expect the unexpected from Sage, Jack, Bobby, and Crick though.  After all, twas how she wound up living with the Ranger turnt pig farmer in the Texas Panhandle.
In a effort to try and keep the peace with the woman from Abilene now living as his wife, Sage give a word of caution to his Cap’m, “Don’t go givin’ nobody any ideas now, Rex.  You know Fordern shore that Bobby th’ Butcher don’t like ‘at no good dadburn scalawag no more’n th’ rest o’ us do.  Anyways, you know pert near as well as him that knives don’t make as much mess or noise amongst th’ cover o’ darkness neither.  Bobby is liable t’ take that order t’ th’ bank, ol’ friend!  I have ruminated on that very dadburn thang myself more’n once!”
Heather Parker considered the topic of discussion along with the character, skill, and preparedness of the men gathered for breakfast ‘roun’ her table.  Sage tolt her that the only times in the last 25 years that he ever seen German Jack Fordern without that shotgun slung over his shoulder was when they were in the classroom at school as kids—or, in later years, when the leader of the Texas Rangers was taking a nap on a manhunt.  Them wheel guns was made by Texas Ranger Cap’m Samuel H. Walker for manufacture by Sam Colt.  Cap’m John C. “Devil Jack” Hays presented them to O. R. “Jack” Fordern and the other Texas Rangers.  The only time that there scabbard belt wasn’t ‘roun’ Jack’s waist was when Bessie’s arms were!  On the trail, Jack was known to take his short, infrequent naps with them “hand warmers” strapped on tight.  Sage had also let Heather know Fordern sure that Jack was the one that went to Paterson, NJ and tested them new Walker Colts afore the Rangers used them in the dadburn Mexican War.
Heather Parker recollected the very first time she had ever laid eyes on Jack and Sage.  The both of them were about to engage the locals in the makings of a gunfight on the streets of Abilene.  The topic of debate was the merits of Reconstruction as a national political policy.  The local authorities had interfered when the matter come to blows that day.  Jack had to give up his weapons for the night.  Sage looked after them as Jack spent the night in jail.   On that day just a few months earlier in Abilene, neither Sage nor Jack reckoned it was necessary to kill anybody.  We know this because none of their opponents died on the streets of Abilene that day.  Heather didn’t want to have to be the one to stave off the shooting of Marshal Mays on that October day in Gumption Junction.  She reckoned she ought to try and divert the conversation in a slightly different direction though.  She knew this rarely worked, but she always tried.
Finally, Heather suggested to Jack, “Fordern shore goodness sake Cap’m, why don’cha git on t’ ridin’ shotgun with Wells-Fargo like Crick Youngblood?  Rebecca come over t’ th’ house t’other day.  She’s positively regalin’ me an’ Sage with how th’ stage keeps Crick from bein’ under foot all th’ dadburn time.  She has made a nice home fir all them boys north o’ town.  The money seems t’ be mighty good, an’ Creek is always eager t’ make Rebecca feel mighty special whilst he is at home.  I think they’s gonna have a lovely baby.  I know she’d like t’ have a girl, but I think they’ll be happy with a third boy too.”
Gunnery Sergeant Grover McCormack “Prairie Creek” Youngblood was a sharpshooter with the Texas Rangers for the better part of 20 years as well.  For more than 16 of them years, Crick was the sharpshooter for the company that Jack Fordern rode herd on whilst also serving as the leader of all them Texas Rangers.  Creek come down to Bexar from East Texas with the outbreak of the dadburn Mexican War.  Gunny Youngblood actually joint the Rangers at Waco on Annexation Day, 29 December 1845.  Twas only a few days afore Jack and Sage saddled up.  He was the sharpshooter for another company for much of the Mexican War. 
Jack made Captain and become the commander of his company with the retirement of Devil Jack Hays after the Mexican War.  As the result of this, Jack needed another man in the company to replace him as sharpshooter.  Still a couple years from becoming supreme commander of all them Texas Rangers, Jack requested to have Gunny Crick Youngblood transferred to his company.  Even after Jack took command of all them Texas Rangers, they rode together for the rest of their careers.  Youngblood had only been in Gumption Junction a few weeks by the time of this October day that Jack was thinking about buying them hogs Heather and Sage was raising.  Crick had spent the larger part of his early retirement attending seminary at Sherman whilst wooing Rebecca St. Patrick back in East Texas.  He was riding shotgun with Wells-Fargo then, but got a transfer to the new office at Gumption Junction.
Jack took more coffee with the German mustard and sauerkraut Heather put on his ham sandwich.  For his own delight, he begun his reply, “What’s th’ secr’t ingredient fir makin’ this coffee so special Heather?  Is it whale oil or wagon tongue oil?  Ya’ll Fordern shore might be on t’ som’pin concernin’ Wells-Fargo.  I caint consider any other dadburn thang such as that till th’ baby come though.  I know yore just barely showin’ Heather, but Bessie could give birth in a couple weeks.  She had t’ stay home sick from school t’day, an’ I really ought t’ be headin’ back t’ her Fordern shore quick.  She’ll be as mystified as all ya’ll that I have made no deal yet fir them pigs too.  Now stash yore Dobro, Sage. Taint got no time t’ pluck even one song on my banjo.  As much as I’d Fordern shore love t’ hear you saw on that thar fiddle, Bobby, Bessie don’t feel well a’tall.  I won’t neither if’n darkness beats me back t’ Fordern Shore Home!”
With that, Jack tipped his hat to the hostess, shook the hand of his oldest friend and lieutenant, and patted The Bear on the back.  Then, just as he had so many times afore that, Jack quietly rode on through and out of Gumption Junction towards the house he built for hisself and the woman he called his Maestra Dulce, Bessie.  This seemed to be an afternoon like any other.  The West Texas air was cool and crisp.  The wind could seem to cut a man half in two, blowing down off the Caprock.  Coyotes howled a lonesome song.  Twas a song Jack knew well from all them years spent patrolling the No Man’s Land for enemies of Texas.  The endless snow of the past few days had finally seemed to quit pounding the Earth.  The Llano Estacado was still covered in a soft white blanket as far as Jack’s traint eyes could see in any direction. 
Normally, Jack would Fordern sure stop in town for anything that he thought might bring a smile to the mother of his coming child.  On this evening, Jack’s intention was to make his way as quick possible without drawing the attention he never liked much anyway.  The brief visit with The Gumption Gazette publisher/editor, Clem Samuels, caused Jack to spur Raven on.  He cinched his duster taut ‘roun’ him and drew his Confederate Cavalry hat down close to his eyes.  Jack wisht he had worn his sombrero from his days as a Texas Ranger.  The way the sunlight reflected off the snow, Jack could hardly see a thing.  Mindful of all this, he once more gently urged his faithful horse Raven towards Cripple Creek and the bend in the road that would reveal the final quarter mile jaunt east of town and towards the house he hoped to make a Fordern Sure Home for Bessie and the baby they had coming. 
Jack’s mind had Fordern sure been fairly well occupied with just reckoning out the nasty business of the day in order to make room for the hope of seeing Bessie and tending to the needs she had whilst preparing for their coming child.  He had been trying to figure how to fashion a place for the baby to sleep in the small home he made for Bessie.  Jack tried not to speak of any unhappiness since Bessie come to join him in Gumption Junction.  As much as Jack liked leading the Texas Rangers, there had Fordern sure been enough of that talk during all them years at Bexar.  Now Jack just hoped to find the mother of his coming child alive and well. 
Jack had taken on all of the responsibility for tending to the two sections of land give to him by the state.  Twas the reward for his years of Texas Ranger service.  That responsibility was all his since the bed rest of her pregnancy kept Bessie from doing any work after each day of teaching in town.  Fishing Cripple Creek and raising chickens left Jack with little time to prepare a proper Fordern Sure Home for his lady afore learning that their family was fixin’ to grow.  He had moved Bessie from Bexar so they could be nearer her father and get away from the old life that had Fordern sure been snatched from Jack and his men as the result of Reconstruction.  Till that meeting with the newspaper man that left him spurring Raven home to check on Bessie, Jack had not regretted any of it.  Now Jack was not so Fordern sure he ever should have left Bexar, much less left Bessie alone at home.

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