Deadlands: The Early Years

4 JUL 63 - Where We Were

It was a saturday…

After speaking a piece with the rest of the posse, I found that most of them found common ground at a tavern-town and railhead named Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, back east. Apparently, most of ‘em were there with the Union for a battle with the Army of Northern Virginia.

As for me, this was the day I headed out from Dallas, off to Jesse Chisholm’s string of tradin’ posts north on a long drive from San Antonio to Saint Louis.

A New Job

I was done with the cattle drive, for which I was paid $50 in gold, and offered a fine hoss as the balance for my work. The catch was that I needed to go to the ranch and pick the hoss up, and the ranch was in Colorado.

After some lookin’ about (and $12 dollars spent on just livin’ in the city), I chanced on a man offerin’ a unique position. For want of my new hoss, I took on a new “job” for a company called Hellstromme Industries. The work, if you can call it that, was to take a ride to Colorado for ‘em in their new-fangled ‘auto-engine’.

According to the representative, the device is said to be as fast as a hoss and buggy without a hoss involved. The catch is that this is a new model, and it ain’t exaclty got all the problems worked out yet. So, what they want in return for my passage is my thoughts and feelin’s about the ride – so they can make it better on the next model.

Enter the Padre

Knowing that my time to shuffle off this mortal coil may soon be at hand, I spent most of the day in church, doin’ an honest day’s work mendin’ broke thangs and whitewashin’. In the course of doin’ so, I met Reverend Cantrell. He’s a carpet-bagger from Connecticut, but better’n most. He says he’s not related to Quantrill and his band o’ bandits, but I think it’d be best just ta call ’im Padre around most folks anywhere near Kansas.

The Padre mentioned goin’ west ta save souls, and I told him about the auto-engine. At least this way we’ll have a man of God lookin’ out for us, and I’ll have somebody to discuss the good book with besides pa.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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