Deadlands: The Early Years

Ten. Thousand. Dollars.

Once the blessin’s were done and we’d managed to gather our sleep-deprived band together, I for one felt a great affection toward the idea of sleepin’ the rest of the way to our destination. Somehow, we’d made it all the way through Confederate Missouri and the disputed Kansas Territory – with a padre named Cantrell, a buncha ferriners, yankees, tinhorns, and at least one yankee tinhorn – completely unscathed.

Yet once we set foot into Colorado territory, our fortunes seemd to change for the dangerous and queer. At this point in time, my sleep-robbed mind was focused upon the terminus of our journey. For me, this meant the final collection of my pay from the Dallas to Saint Louis drove (and an end to my dispossessed status), and mebbe a shot at startin’ work at this new ranch I’d travelled so far to see.

Unfortunately, there was no rest for the weary on this day. While John-Boy would recover from his injuries, Benny hadn’t pulled through the day. Since we had our own dead to bury, the Padre was elected (as well as our unnamed United States Marshal) to go back to Purity and return the stolen supplies and valuables to what all people that belonged to ‘em that they could find, and I was quickly becomin’ the posse’s designated gravedigger.

I did my best to put Benny in a place that was sunny and used the same passages from the Good Book the Padre did. I figured he’d come along when he’d gotten back from town and finish the ceremony right.

Sayin’ what-all everybody else did would reveal the identity of the Marshal, which I have been asked not to do, so I won’t. The Padre and the Marshal (I’m not sayin’ that they ain’t the same person, stop tryin’ to figure it out!) got back as Benny was gettin’ the topsoil above him, and we all had a short service.

After that, we headed on out with Prof. Chuck and the Padre takin’ turns runnin’ the auto-engine on accout of John-Boy recoverin’. We drove that auto-engine day an’ night in a sort of frenzied charge toward Denver.

No, I din’ get no sleep. The Marshal told us there was a bounty on the Schneiders in Montana, and that we were all eligibile for a share of Uncle Sugar’s justice. It gave me enough to think about that I couldn’t sleep.

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The Tale o' the Tailors

I have to admit, the end of my previous entry was a bit abrupt. ‘As soon as we could get aboard’ was a bit of sophistry, y’see. We didn’t leave Purity so much as we fled it, an’ to say that we simply hopped on the auto-engine an’ made our get-away would be over-simplifyin’ matters unto prevarication.

Y’see, when we all got to the place we’d left the auto-engine, John-Boy and Benny was there, beat-up, and the auto-engine weren’t. A buncha ruffians called the Schneider’s Gang done bush-wacked our boys an’ made off with the danged thing! (God only knows why.)

Well, after the night we’d had, what with Colorado Cockroaches, Dead Men, and a Beautiful but Unconscious Schoolmarm, this was almost more than a sane man could bear. Incensed as I was, I lost my composure entirely an’ flew off in the direction of the ol’ canyons near Purity. My detractors might note that this was also the most expeditious way available to me at the time to leave town. Think of me what you will, but I was a man following auto-engine tracks with blood in my eye.

Fleeting moments later, I arrove at the precipice of a stairwell-like formation leading down into a canyon where I could see a few men an’ Mr. Hellstromme’s auto-engine, The ragged breaths of my companions behind an’ near me gave me the inklin’ that the crazy band of misfits I travel with had felt something akin to the same way I had an’ had thus followed me. While this is a sobering thought in and of itself for reflection upon at a later time, it was all the encouragement I needed then an’ there.

Throwin’ all caution to the wind, I bellowed a great Rebel Yell, and charged down the rocks into the canyon. It was a punishin’ run, but in what felt like no time at all, I was in the belly of the canyon, facin’ the three armed men I’d seen from the precipice … an’ the three armed men I hadn’t seen that had been on the other side of the auto-engine.

Brandishing the messkin-style cavalry sabre I’d picked up in Prosperity, I commanded the bandits to drop their guns an’ make ready to have themselves arrested. Of course, they laughed. They laughed a little less hard when the
Padre took a poke at one of ’em. I have to say, it impressed the Hell outta me!

I confess, the brawl that ensued is largely a colored blur in my memory. I remember puttin’ my cousin’s fencin’ lessons to good use, thick gunsmoke everywhere, strange snappin’ noises, ferriner cussin’, and alot o’ prayin’ (on my part, anyway). Things don’t start to make sense in a logical fashion again until I heard what I thought must be the Voice of God on High crackin’ thunder. There were a few thunderclaps in the space of a frenetic minute that caused men to die horribly, their heads a mess o’ blood an’ gore.

It was a real good thing there weren’t nothin’ in my gizzard afore that but devil-spit, for it woulda been real hard to hold on to anythin’ else. Men droppin’ dead in that unnatural way near-unnerved me, an’ it was all I could do to not stand there like a moon-calf jus’ watchin’. The noise of the doors on the auto-engine openin’ shook me outta my fugue, tho’, and I reacted jus’ in time to grab the Padre outta the way of a danged hand-canon wielded by a better-dressed bandit.

From our new position on the ground, the Padre and I could see what the people who’d stayed on the precipice with the rifles had been shootin’ around – big bundles of gun-cotton and powder! All of it seemed to lead up to some sort of cave … and that was all I saw of it afore the Padre lept back up to ‘talk’ to the bandits.

I could see now that we were handily out-numbered. Eight or twelve of ‘em were outta the fight, either on the ground bleedin’ in a horriffic way or runnin’ for thier lives. But there were easily about twenny more of ’em in and amongst the powder, near the cave.

To be honest, I’m not really sure what happened next – there was more than enough confusion around us, what with the thundercrack of rifle-fire, more sixguns goin’ off, the chin-ko-ren makin’ his ferriner cussin’ and his odd fisticuff style causin’ the slappin’ noises. The Padre and I were jus’ talkin’ gentlemanly with the bandito leader and his oddly-clothed companion when…

I don’ know what. Next thing I can compell myself to remember, I was diggin’ a whole lot of graves, or rather, a mass-grave for a horrible amount of meat and bone. The powder-kegs around me were asploded and some were still smoulderin’, the guy Ko-rhee-ahn was flat out unconscious nearby, an’ Wit was tellin’ me to keep an eye on “deet-RICK” (‘Dietrich’) for any suspicious behavior while he wasn’t about.

I nodded dumbly and continued my grim-but-holy task, and when I was done, went ta check on the chin-ko-ren. It’d been hours of course, and he wasn’t where I’d seen him sleepin’, but his weird not-shoe shoeprint tracks definitely showed he’d walked away. Din’ even help me with buryin’ the dead. Heathen.

Any-who, my next destination was into the cave where-all the rest of the posse had gone in order to have the Padre put a final polish on whatever blessin’ he’d started when I started diggin’ the grave (whenever that was) an’ found the shootist, Wicked, first.

By now, I was nearly apoplectic with strain, and it had started to show in the nameless saloon in Purity. Mebbe sooner, since I’d picked up spirits in Prosperity – but at the time, I’d intended to fend off the rots and suchlike with that volatile spirit, our band being somewhat prone to ‘little scraps’.

So, it showed again in the cave while I was waitin’ for the Padre with Wicked. As we sat and talked, we saw a truly queer thing – a small flame like the burn of a really long fuse started to burn its way along one of the chamber walls. The flame made its way about two-thirds of the way along the wall while the shootist and I jabbered on, finally settling on a bet as to whether or not one of the two of us could shoot the flame out.

Since he was usin’ six-guns and seemed to be in a hard way for cash, I let the shootist go first. He missed. I hope to God that boy gets in more practice afore somebody calls him on his shootist status. As for me an’ Ruth, well – you don’t need to aim a rifled shotgun much at that range. My next shave and hair-cut will be on Wicked.

That’s about all the anecdotes about leavin’ Purity, Colorado as I might care to tell, save for one. The cave, accordin’ to John-Boy, was called the Ol’ Bear Cave. Prof. Chuck said the banditios had strung up nitro (I can’t write what he called it, but everybody knows what nitro is!) in some sorta trap. Once the belongin’s of the people of Prosperity and Purity were properly out of the cave, The Boom Brothers remotely detonated the cave rendering it ‘safe’.

…hunh. I thought Dietrich had died in Prosperity…I ‘spose gettin’ ones-self blowed up with regularity has its advantages.

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Purity, CO (2 of 2)

Near the darkest hours of the morning, we finished layin’ the dead to rest. We then headed toward Purity, CO. As we were bearin’ some of the Doc’s medical instruments, near all of his books an’ journals, as well as the now-unconscious Vernon, it took us a piece ta git back ta town.

My turn of mind was still on the abominable events of earlier in the evening, and despite the crowin’ cocks, I had no inclinations toward breakfast; maybe whiskey – but not food.

So it was that I came ta be in the telegraph office while the rest o’ Wit’s posse went inta town. Once Chuck finished fixin’ the tower, I sent off a few messages:
• Linwood, KS – Tryin’ ta catch the Brigade.
• Nolan County, TX – Writin’ sissy an’ the ranch.
• Prosperity, CO – Checkin’ ta see if the signal went through.
• Saint Louis, MO – Update on the job, remindin’ hoss traders not ta sell Chucks’ hoss).
I suppose the messages lookin’ for help from Purity never arrived, for there were no messages passin’ through Purity until Chuck fixed it.

I got lucky an’ three messages came back in at a fair speed. The Brigade had moved on, Prosperity’s return ping worked out just fine, and Chuck’s hoss was saved for another season or two.

I was further lucky to meet a breathtakingly beautiful young lady. The woman’s smile made me forget all about the last night’s shenanigans. I was tryin’ ta introduce myself, hat in hand, as the telegraph-man told me Mina was the town’s school-marm. when I heard a loud commotion outside. Hat already in hand, I tipped it, and stepped outside.

Apparently, while I’d been in the telegraph office, the posse had tried to explain the events of the previous evening and managed ta rile up a whole mess o’ people. It was startin’ ta git ugly by the time I arrove on the scene, and I was fixin’ ta raise my voice when that chin-ko-ren (ko-rhee-ahn by name, I would later learn) plumb lost his mind and started tossin’ debris at the crowd.

Most of these missed thier mark or were ignored, but one of them hit and made a mark. Grey eyes, cute upturned nose, and long black hair … of course, it was that beautiful schoolmarm, Mina, and she was flat out on the ground.

At this point, I think I might have taken a rope ta a few of my travellin’ companions. Unfortunately, I’d been marked as bein’ one o’ them, and was bein’ pushed out of town. So, at this time, a member o’ the posse stepped forward and attempted ta use their special legal authority ta calm tha crowd.

It din’ work as expected, but it managed to hold ’em off ’till we could get ta the auto-engine. As soon as we could get aboard, John-Boy fired off toward Boulder.

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Purity, Colorado (1 of 2)
Hard travel and the odd glow of Chuck an’ Ricky’s potash lanterns revealed to us that the town of Purity, Colorado was plenty scairt. We pulled inta town as we had afore in Prosperity, leavin’ the auto-engine at the outskirts of town and walkin’ in ourselves, leavin’ John-Boy an’ Benny with their charge.


On the way to the saloon, it became clear that the Prosperity refugees were none too welcome. Apparently, they were considered bad luck, and good folks seemed to be of a mind to run ‘em outta town. Simply tellin’ folks we was on our way ta Denver was enough not ta get poked with a pitchfork.

The saloon – if it had a name, I didn’t see a shingle – was fulla scairt people that needed drinks. Fine company fer me – I ordered up my first bottle since the Katahdin stole our drove and I chose a more righteous life. The burn was like perdition’s own fires, but it was nothin’ compared to my naggin’ conscience.

But enough of my troubles – I was surrounded by scairt people what was all aflutter to tell the new people in town about how the refugees from Prosperity were bad luck, an’ Ol’ Doc Sawyer never were right, an’ how the screamin’ from his house several nights ago sure was queer.

I din’ care. Not one bit. I din’ even care when a chink-o-ren (who’d been up to no good somehow, no doubt) started hangin’ about with the band o’ buffoons I travel around with. The whiskey was all I cared about. Actually, watchin’ Belle order a man’s drink in a saloon and then ask for a room was all kinds of interestin’. I don’ think I’ve ever seen colors like that on a booze-slinger’s face afore.

…and so it came to pass that my travelin’ companions bought a guy who had drunk more than his share a little more, and a few minutes after the semi-paralytic man had a few words with them, they all took off in a rush. I figured it was a good time to play some cards, since I was sinnin’ anyway.

Over a hand of whist or two, I learned that the insensate man was Vernon, and that he’d taken the sheriff, his deputy, and a man named Eli out to the Ramblin House (where the Doc apparently lives or works) when the screamin’ was goin’ on. Only Vernon came back, and he’d been drinkin’ since. That’d been several days ago.

I was close to taking the rubber when Wit walked in and told me I was needed. His white face an demeanor suggested I might bring Ruth along. So, I conceded the game (much to my opponents’ delight) while standing up from the table. I then proceeded out of the saloon and thence to the auto-engine in order to secure possession of my rifle.

In short order, Wit and I reached the Ramblin’ House (armed), and lissened to Vernon continue ta ramble while the rest of our ‘posse’ stood outside the buildin’. Like Vernon was sayin’, the place was all lit up an’ eerie – like the special lanterns had been set up just inside the house’s windows, but there weren’t none there. Evidence that Eli had actually run out and then been pulled back in was present in for form of long, deep scratches an’ pulled-out nails in the porch.

With the Preacher remindin’ us of the right thing ta do, and Wit roundin’ us all up, we managed to form inta a manageable posse. Vernon wisely stayed outside, and I took up a position at the far right of the entrance.

A page has been physically removed from this point in the journal.

It’s a damned shame about those bandits killin’ ol’ Doc Sawyer, the sheriff, his deputy, and Eli. I was happy to give Wit a Hands or two with movin’ them on but good ta the land o’ the dead.
The Padre’s analysis of Doc Sawyer’s large collection o’ books an’ journals revealed he had a fixation with helpin’ people to be as near Immortal as one can be. In my opinion, the horrors that Purity will face without a doctor or a sheriff are best not considered. builds for a new town hav- in’ many people from both Purity and Prosperity mending limbs and body of a new communuity. Man can be resillient.
The kills of the bandits were surely all in a day’s work for a man of Wit’s caliber, as my journal will soon reveal, detailin’ how we were lookin’ for to quell the heart of a mob.

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Prosperity Behind Us, Purity Ahead

I was just gettin’ done settlin’ up (with nobody, I admit, but I had ta leave a fair trade!) when Wit came ta tell me about Chuck’s prgress. Chuck had found some more documents, these indicatin’ that the people o’ Prosperity had up an’ left for greener pastures, and was about done figurin’ out how ta get the telegraph workin’. He was then able to contact the next office up – a Purity, Colorado – and found out that the message was repeated three times, but never reached the unit they’d been trying to get – the 101st U.S. Cavalry Regiment!

Yeah, I mentioned that yesterday, but it still scares the willies outta me – they were part of the troop that whooped General Bragg in Kentucky last year, and I wanted no part o’ tanglin’ with them. As a Texan, far too many in Union Blue consider my people worse than fence-sitters in this Civil War – we provided the Brigade, and the Union started to lose the war.

So, once we knew the people of Prosperity were in Purity, we all got together and had a talk. As a group, it was decided that we have plenty o’ time to reach Denver by our deadline. So it’s argued that we should do the right thing, and look inta the matter o’ gettin’ these people back to their rightful town. After all, Chuck is technically Dietritch’s next-o’-kin, and Bruce has no family (at least, accordin’ to John-Boy and Benny, and I don’t see why they’d say somethin’ that wasn’t so…) – the right thing ta do, then, accordin’ ta the Padre, is ta visit Purity and set thangs arights.

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Keepin' Score

[OOG: For those of you that don’t care about stuff, you can skip this post. Remember that Jake is not aware of the gold from the well in Prosperity.]

Now, I’ve been told that a cowpoke’s gun is his best friend, and his hoss is his mistress, and that these two things satisfy most men. While that may be true, I’ve seen fit to supply up a bit bettern’ that, jus’ in case.

When I left St. Louis, the nice men from Hellstromme Industries enumerated my belongin’s and weighed me. (For posterity, they said.) For those of you keepin’ score, here’s my list:

Backpack (containing: Axe, Mess Kit, Iron Dutch Oven, and a Shovel)
Clothing: Stetson, Boots, Duster, Gloves (Leather), Trousers, and a Work Shirt (Flannel)
Pockets: $10.00 Bill, CSA (5), Bible (KJV), Cigar (5), Flask (Empty), Matches (50), Pocket Watch (Gold), Coupon good for 1 (one) Horse of Quality of Mr. Callahan’s choice upon arrival.
Winchester Lever-Action Shotgun (Bespoke) in Rifle Scabbard (12 ga. (5))
Crated: Bed Roll, Canteen (2) – Water, Food: Trail Rations (10 Man-Days), Gun Grease (2 oz.), Saddle (Vaquero), Saddle Bags (2 Pair), Tack and Harness

Since everyone else had been doin’ a little er, uh … lootin’ for supplies while the people o’ Prosperity were gone, I decided to trade in them Davises for some more gear.

Looking back, it was a long list, but about a fair trade: A box of 12 ga. slugs, a humidor of 100 cheap cigars (with more matches), a pair of chaps, a new set of clothes and longjohns (and a pair of mittens for the unexpected cold), 20 lb. of bacon, a 5 lb. can of coffee beans, a hip-flask of potent spirits, a cake of soap, a pair of towels, some parrifin wax to waterproof stuff (especially my matches and humidor), deck of cards, a length of good rope, a scabbarded cavalry sabre, a spyglass (15x), and a straight-razor. This last piece was especially appreciated by all and sundry, as after a week on the road we were all beginin’ ta look pretty scruffy.

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Prosperity, Interrupted

I can say for certain that as we pulled up to this town an’ John-Boy told us it’s name, Prosperity seemed to resent the invasion of it’s solitude. There was not a soul out in daylight to be seen, and what daylight there was seeemd to be dimmed by the pall which hung over the town like a heavy storm-cloud.

John-Boy parked the auto-engine jus’ utside o’ town. Lead by the Padre, most of the posse took off inta town. The Padre went to the Church (o’ course), Chuck ab’ his brother-in-law went ta the telegraph/postal office and the gunsmith, respectively, and Wit, Belle, and the shootist – Wicked – went into the saloon/hotel, all lookin’ for people. For my part, I wan’t much for the place, so I took the opportunity to fire up a cigar an’ talk to the boys.

Well, to say that there was somthin’ queer about the place would be speakin’ mildly of it. Prosperity seemed ta be anythin’ but. As ever’body else was loot-igatin’, a whole mess o’ fire-ants of an ornery breed I’ve never seen the like of boiled up faster than a hive o’ bees, and started swarmin’ toward the auto-engine. Sensibly enough, John-Boy would have none of that. He pushed the boiler from idle to vamoose in no time, and we started pushin’ through town ta pick everybody up.

About this time, three things happened about simultaeneously:
1) Chuck discovered messeges in the telegraph office. (More on this in a bit)
2) Belle started yellin’ at the top of her lungs from the second floor of the Hotel. It was somthin’ about folks bein’ in love or whatnot. I later found out she was talkin’ about two people she was readin’ about in some dead girl’s journal.
3) The ferriner – Deitritch – started yellin’ inside the gunsmith’s and causin’ loud explosions.

John-Boy sensibly put the spurs to the auto-engine, and we pushed our way through the (un-squish-able!) fire ants toward the town square. Bruce fell off along the way, and his agony was so obvious at the ants’ bitin’ as well as the injuries of his fall, I was obliged ta put the poor man down.

The ants hadn’t quite reached the hotel by the time the auto-engine did, and the resounding kabooms in the gunsmith’s hadn’t settled down yet. I jumpped off the auto-engine ta go find the Padre, and Wit managed to get the Trouble Twins out of the hotel.

Trouble was, by the time I got to the Church, the Padre had already left, lookin’ inta the commotion he doubtless heard from the rest of the town. While everyone else was gettin’ away from the ants and talkin’ about how the deal with our situation, I ended up next ta the town’s hangin’ tree. About then, the explosions stopped.

I would find out later that Dietrich – that’s Chuck’s ferriner brother-in-law, ya see – hod got himself kilt in some sort of row and series of explosions in the gunsmith’s store. The Good Lord only knows what happened in there, but it would mean we’d need a double-funeral for him an’ Bruce.

[Parenthetically, Wicked told me that Dietritch died fightin’ some sorta unquiet spirit that don’t cotton to bullets, but is immune ta both bullets an’ the bigger kinda bullets the ferriner had called ‘grenades’. He also said he’s got some sorta hoodoo witchery that lets him magick up bullets ta kill those sorta thangs. Can’t say as I believe ‘im, but that’s what the man said.]

Anywhoo, I would also later find out that Chuck told everyone about what he found on the telegrams sent outta the office. Seems the town o’ Prosperity was mighty powerful scairt of these ants and sent away for the Cavalry. The United States Cavalry.

What was I doin’ all this time? Why, finin’ a poorly buried soul underneath the hangin’ tree, I was compelled ta do the right thing – even a convictred, hanged man deserves a proper burial. With the Padre along with us, I figgured it had ta be done.

Fortunately, the ants seemed ta get tired of us about this time and cleared out ta wherever they came from. The Padre performed a service that we all got choked up for, an’ then we set ta that rest we’d been needin’. I must say, I musta been powerful tired, for the pall just seemed to fade ta mist, and we all felt quite a bit better. The ants didn’t come back, neither.

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A Somber Day or Two

There was alot of not-talkin’ goin’ on over the last two days of travel. I suppose I can understand that, as I had some troublin’ dreams, and it looks like nobody else slept well, either, what with the pile o’ scalped corpses an’ a bunch o’ (obviously false) injun markers we bypassed. It wasn’t until we got to the bridge our whell-guage was too large to bypass that people started talkin’ to one another again. It was slow goin’ but we managed to get across by removin’ the wheels an’ doin’ some fancy science stuff. All I know is we got across today, and we’ll be headin’ to Prosperity, Colorado for some supplies (for th auto-engine, not us) an’ some walkin’ around time.

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Before the Crack o' Dawn

Chuck and his brother-in-law Deemer? Deet-Rick? Ricky? Idunno … anyway, Chuck an’ the ferriner worked through the night when we stopped for rest so that we could continue to ride all day and all night when we arrive in injun country. This is possible on account that the auto-engine doesn’t get tired or need feed as hosses do. They jabbered at each-other an’ worked with the spares and supplies that came outta a foul-smellin’ trunk that the ferriner brung with ‘im. When they were done, they pronounced that the lanters were ready, and they wouldn’t go out because of the wind no more.

After breakfast and we got Benny up, we pushed on through the day into Coyote territory. When it got dark, we had cold sandwiches while the Padre tried his hand at drovin’ off an on with Chuck until mornin’. I’da preferred a good hoss, but this way seemed to work.

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The List

Today we started our journey west in our shiny new untried wagon.

Seems a passel o’ people want ‘free’ travel to Denver, or mebbe people have got lots o’pinions, an’ they wanna share. In any case, here’s the list I made of who-all showed up, with the interest of helpin’ the newsman – or the undertaker:

Jacob Thomas “Young Jake” Callahan: The cowpoke with no sense. Not sure why, but all these folks just call me ‘Texas’.

The Right Reverend Cantrell: The Connecticut Yankee I mentioned in my journal yesterday. He’s a tinhorn, but at least he’s lookin’ ta save souls. Just’a be safe, I call him, “Padre”.

Chuck: This ferriner from England’s got more money than sense and a spectacle fixation. He’s got a professorship and one o’ them ‘privileged names’, but to me, he’s just ‘Chuck’. Bet the tinhorn doesn’t even know what that means…

The Ferriner: Chuck’s brother-in-in-law smells of strong drink and says (I think) that he’s in the powder biz. Black powder and alcohol; I thought I had no sense. Anyway, I can’t understand ’im half the time.

Belle: An Irish girl who seems to look for trouble. She says she’s from N’Awlins-way, but she doesn’t talk like they do.

Wit: A well-dressed gent who looks more like a banker than a settler. He seems outta place.

John-Boy: Our drover. He’s got fifteen years on this here trail, but none with one of these auto-engines.

Bruce and Benny: Our guards. Good ol’ boys, and none too smart. They’re my kinda people.

…and…

Wicked: “Wicked?” This boy says he’s a shootist, too. Waste of air.

So, with this “posse”, we started our journey. Hope the cabin ain’t too cramped.

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