June, 2022

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Issue #153

Welcome, Western Fans!

Looking for free, tantalizing Tales of the Old West?
You're at the right place.


Read this month's Tales and vote for your favorite.
They'll appear in upcoming print volumes of The Best of Frontier Tales Anthologies!

The Rescue
by Ray Paltoo
Uncle Abner was the richest man in town. But when his only daughter runs off with a smooth-talking member of a clan of no-good outlaws, the law is unwilling and afraid to go after her. So he hires a half-Indian bounty hunter to get her back, with surprising results.

* * *

American Apostolic
by M.F. Robinson
A prophet searches for God during and after the Civil War, then tries to save a godless county from ruin.

* * *

Black Appaloosa
by Jason Crager
Lewis Bordeaux and his father live in far-off Montana, where they sift for gold in Snake Creek. When they're suddenly caught in the middle of the U.S. Army's campaign against native Nez Perce, their lives are in danger and Lewis discovers the power of his ancestry.

* * *

Prairie Wife
by Phillip R. Eaton
After the death of her new husband, Southern belle Annie is leery of spending the winter alone in Kansas. Her fears subside when a frozen stranger enters her life—until she discovers he is a wanted man.

* * *

Getting Swept Away
by Ginger Strivelli
The piano sometimes plays itself. They kick everyone out early every night. This is not your normal Wild West saloon. It is wilder.

* * *

Gallagher and Gaines
by Victor Kreuiter
Aaron Gallagher, a loner, isn't sure he wants to stay on his stake . . . but he won't be driven off by a greedy ex-employer.

* * *

Want all of this month's Western stories at once? Click here –

All the Tales

Black Appaloosa
by Jason Crager

October, 1877

Snake Creek, Montana

Although the air was still crisp, the rolling winds which regularly meandered down from the peaks of the Bears Paw Mountains had come to a temporary halt and the late-morning sun held strong in a clear, blue sky. The surrounding landscape was pale in every direction, an unattractive scene of grays, browns and yellows. Unless from region-trained eyes, spotting game in this season was a near impossible task.

Lewis Bordeaux, clad in treated hides and a cap of fur, held still, crouched and concealed behind a jutting stone in the foothills; his rifle loaded, poised and ready. At the age of twelve, he knew that his single shot, .22 long was not enough to fall a mountain lion. Still, with four head of cattle already slain at the hands of this beast and his father, ignoring sleep to watch after the remainder of the small herd, becoming more stressed each day, Lewis hoped to find the cat and wound it, at the very least. If he could manage to put a hole in it, then it would become clumsy and slower, less agile. Furthermore, the animal may leave behind a blood trail that could lead Lewis's father to its den, or a place of hiding.

Knowing the risks involved, he had not told his father of these daily hunts. He simply undermined them as scouts for small game, which his father encouraged by allowing Lewis ten grams of black powder for each trip. At five grams a shot, this allowance would keep Lewis's hunts short and bring him back to the cabin in time for dinner each evening, be it through boredom or lack of ammunition.

Lewis relaxed his grip on the rifle and laid his cheek upon the cold rock. He was beginning to feel the exhaustion of staying awake for several nights with the hopes of being there when his dad killed the predator that threatened their Winter's food supply. His eyelids grew heavy and his body relaxed. Just as he was on the brink of dozing off, there came a movement in the hills above him. He lifted his head, squinted and strained his eyes in search of the nature of this movement.

Then, he saw it. It was a feline of thick and ragged coat, much larger than he had imagined it to be. The animal stood atop a narrow precipice, its shoulders thick and proud, looking down at Lewis. He slowly inched the stock of his rifle back to his shoulder as the cat stirred in alarm, scanning its perimeter for an escape route. As the animal lowered its thick body to spring away, Lewis sprang to his feet and began to take aim.

As he came up, his right foot skidded across a patch of loose gravel and before he could gain balance, Lewis tumbled to the hardened earth, knocking the side of his head against the surface of the rock he hid behind, his rifle leaving his grip. Cursing his own clumsiness, he quickly scooped the gun up and went back to seeking his target. The mountain lion was gone.

Lewis ran his fingers across the painful lump on the side of his head and they came back red. He could feel the blood trickling down his neck. Discouraged, he knew that he needed to head back down to the cabin and find a way to explain this mishap to his father. One last time, he looked up to verify to himself that his intended prey was no longer there. The precipice was vacant. His shoulders slumped in disappointment and he turned to head home just as a shuffling above stopped him in his tracks.

In an effort to not startle anything again, Lewis raised his rifle back into firing position and very slowly tucked his chin to aim before he began to turn around. Once his sights were set on the location where the nuisance cat had stood, he paused in confusion.

There before him, not thirty feet away and much closer than the feline had been, stood a magnificent, short maned steed, the definition of its rippled muscles shining in the sunlight. The horse stared at Lewis, its ears perked and its breathing steady. It was a fully-grown stallion with a muzzle of mottled skin and bright white sclera in its eyes. The horse's front quarters were of a sleek and flawless, jet black, and the rear was snow white marked with randomly located and oddly shaped spots of black. Its wide hoofs were dark with distinct, golden lines running vertically through them.

Suddenly, the stallion gave a loud snort and then let out a tremendous neigh which echoed through the slopes and off the cliffs above, its front legs rising and kicking into the air before it leapt and broke into a full gallop directly at Lewis. Terrified, Lewis turned and fled as fast as his feet would carry him, running towards his home. Without looking back, he crossed the hundred, downhill and lightly wooded yards to Snake Creek, his heart thumping and his eyes watering, hearing the stomping hooves behind him all the while. He nearly lost his balance as his legs went crashing into the clear, icy waters of the creek and he plowed straight into his father, knocking the tin sifting sieve from the prospector's hand.

"Lewis, what the hell you doing?" William Bordeaux demanded, wrapping his strong arms around his son's thin frame and bringing the boy to a halt.

Lewis, trembling and sobbing while gasping for air, held his father tightly and pressed his cheek to his chest. It took some time for the boy to calm himself enough to realize that the dry thump of approaching hooves had ceased. Sniffling and opening his eyes, he scanned the perimeter in search of any sign from the great horse. There was nothing. All was still and no dust was disturbed into the air. It was silent except for the lazy trickle of the creek's water.

"Dad! There was a giant horse, a wild one! It was chasing me through the hills!"

William guided Lewis to the opposite bank of the shallow creek. There, he sat the boy down and retrieved his .44 caliber, Allen & Wheelock breech rifle from the rock he had leant it against in the early morning hours. He shouldered the trusty rifle and began a field search of the trees and hillsides across the creek, clear up to what visible bluffs there were of the Bears Paw Mountains. Satisfied that there were no immediate dangers lurking, he returned his attention to his son.

"Lewis, what happened? Why are you bleeding?"

In the heat of the moment, Lewis had forgotten all about the opened lump on the side of his head. He touched it now, and winced away in pain, hissing between clenched teeth. "Dad, the horse was after me. I didn't do anything to it, I promise. It just came after me for no good reason."

Knowing that the boy had never been one for creating tall tales, William once again squinted and peered into the hills. Again, he saw no trace of any wildlife nearby. Upon looking back to his son, he could see that regardless of what Lewis may have thought he saw, the boy's back to his son, he could see that regardless of what Lewis may have thought he saw, the boy's fear was genuine.

"Where's your twenty-two, boy?"

Lewis looked around and suddenly realized that in his escape, he had failed to bring his rifle along. His shoulders slumped, knowing that his oversight would be the cause of disappointment from his father. Long was the lecture that his father had given him in regards to the level of responsibility that came with receiving his first rifle and now, the reality of his having let his father down was quickly setting in. Tears welled in Lewis's eyes and he looked down into his own lap.

"I'm sorry. I must have left it up there."

William sighed and bit his tongue, knowing that now was not the time to berate the boy for his error. "Do you remember where you were?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, we best go get it, then."

Lewis led his father up to his secret hunting spot. There, behind the stone ledge and partially covered in silt, they located the .22 long. William silently scanned the earth surrounding the ledge, searching for evidence of the boy's horse story. That there were no prints or visible disturbance of the landscape confused William. Surely, he thought, Lewis must have seen something around here that spooked him enough to leave his rifle behind.

"I swear, it was here, Dad." Lewis attempted to erase his father's unspoken doubt.

William noticed a smudge of fresh blood smeared across a sharp point on the ledge's surface. "Did you hit your head, Lewis?"

"Yes, I slipped in the sand on accident."

"Were you holding your rifle when you fell?"

Lewis hesitated. "Yes, I was, sir."

"You have to be more careful when carrying a firearm, son. It could have ended very bad for you," William pointed out. "Did you bump your head before, or after you say you seen this horse?"

"It was before," Lewis recalled, quietly.

William nodded in understanding of what he now believed occurred up here. "My guess is that you clobbered yourself a good one and probably blacked out. That would be when you thought you seen the horse. It's not uncommon for someone to wake up in a panic after taking a fall like that, Lewis." He put his arm around the boy's shoulder and looked up into the steeper hills.

"Besides, there ain't no wild horses 'round these parts anymore. They've all been domesticated, killed, or ran off by now. Come on, let's get you home and cleaned up."

The Bordeaux homestead was a small plot of unclaimed, flat land that they had squatted on many years ago. At just a short walk from the Eastern bank of Snake Creek's shallowest stretch, which ran along the edge of Bears Paw Mountains to the West, and virtually no neighbors to compete with for riches or wildlife, it was the ideal location for William Bordeaux to settle and begin his quest for gold. The house itself was a small, dirt floored cabin constructed of earth and wood. It was basic, with one, ground level room that served as the living quarters, the kitchen, and a bedroom for Mr. and Mrs. Bordeaux. A ladder in the corner led up to a tiny loft where Lewis slept on a bed of straw covered with his mother's handmade linens. A fireplace with chimney built of stone debris from the mountains and clay from beneath the creek provided heat, light, and means for cooking hot meals.

Having free reign of the open land, the family always utilized its grassy resources to their full extent. They maintained a herd of approximately fifteen beef cattle, minus those that had recently fallen prey to the mountain lion, that they used for food source and bred with cheaply purchased cows from the Idaho territory. The Bordeauxs also kept a thriving field of wheat, as well as a large potato patch. They had four aging, yet able mules, a quality quarter horse gained in trade from the Crow, and a number of chickens pecking randomly about the property, plucking pea gravel and wild oats from beneath the soil. At the Southeast corner of what they knew to be their property, there was a buried crate where William stored the highest quality of his discovered nuggets.

William Bordeaux had no intention of becoming a lifelong prospector. He simply dreamed of one day accumulating enough of the precious mineral to move his family to the Eastern civilization of Pennsylvania and sell his score for profit enough to live a comfortable lifestyle. Having lost his wife to polio five years ago, he now held onto that same dream for the benefit of himself and his only son.

When they drew near their cabin, they could see the saddled horses in front of it, even over some distance. William instructed Lewis to remain behind him and keep his mouth shut as they approached the house; William's rifle leveled and ready, his finger on the trigger as three men emerged from the cabin's door, two were white men dressed in military blues, complete with yellow accents, caps, and polished boots. The third, who wore a more aged version of the blue jacket, was a dark-skinned man with yellowed eyes, the sides of his head shaved to the scalp and a dirtied red bandana over his brow.

"Who goes there?" William yelled, startling the men, two of whom were quick to draw sidearms and set their sights on Lewis's father.

"Mr. Bordeaux?" The officer with the stripes who had not drawn his weapon questioned.

William answered with a slight nod, standing his ground and never lowering the long barrel of his Allen & Wheelock.

"Stand down, men." The other two soldiers lowered their pistols, the regret evident on their faces. "I am Commander Samuel D. Sturgis of the United States Army. My brigade is camped a few miles back and we have come to scout these premises."

William held his aim. "Scout for what?" He asked.

"For Injuns," the other soldier piped in, a low, guttural laugh rising from within his lungs.

Lewis bent over and snuck a peek beyond his father's waist. Having seen Yankees before, the bearded men in uniform were not foreign to him. It was the one in the red bandana, on the other hand, who grabbed at the youngster's curiosity. This one, quiet and straight backed with thin, pressed lips and an air of wisdom about him fascinated Lewis. This one stared steady eyes directly through his father and into the very soul of Lewis himself.

"Commander Sturgis, I'd appreciate it if you and your men would be so kind as to step away from my home. Then, we can talk." The three complied and William finally lowered his rifle.

The men talked openly as William tended to the side of Lewis's head, cleaning the wound with hot, sanitized water and bandaging it with a strip of white, cotton cloth. All of this doctoring seemed rather unnecessary to Lewis, but he allowed his father to proceed with whatever he felt to be best at the time. Although never making direct eye contact with the man, Lewis could feel the eyes of the one in the red bandana upon him the entire time.

"Ain't been no Indians around here, Mr. Sturgis." William assured him.

"No, maybe not yet. We've received word from Oliver Howard that the Nez Perce are, without question, heading this way, though. Word is, they should be coming through somewhere near these parts before daybreak tomorrow."

"If you don't mind me asking, why these parts, Sir? The Idaho territory's a far more abundant land than these. What would they want here?"

The other military man, whom they learned was called Crazy Pete, snickered and spat over his shoulder. "You been missing a lot of updates all the way out here by yourselves, Bordeaux." This man with the scraggly, red beard and the tobacco juice stains on the collar of his coat now began to stare at Lewis with a crooked, sinister grin at the corner of his mouth. Lewis felt threatened by Crazy Pete's glare.

"It's true," Samuel Sturgis confirmed, stuffing his pipe full of tobacco from a small pouch he kept concealed within the breast pocket of his navy colored jacket. He put fire to his pipe and released a cloud of sweet scented, blue smoke from his lungs.

"Seems that their Chief Joseph, along with his brother Ollokot, are not so keen on taking their generously given place in the reservation to make room for expansion of Lewiston City. Seems the Wallowa band also has a knack for killing government officials. After rebelling and committing murder, they've ran their red asses north to get in with the Crow. Word is, the Crow won't have them, tough. So now, we've received wire that the Nez Perce plan to head straight through here on their way to Canada."

William finished nursing Lewis's head and motioned for the boy to give the adults their private space to continue this conversation. Lewis was quick to make his presence vanish around the corner of the cabin, the silent scout with the red bandana's eyes following his retreat. There, out of sight from the grown men, Lewis squatted and strained his ears to hear the rest of their words.

"Where'd you get the Injun boy?" Crazy Pete interjected before his leader could continue speaking.

"That's no Indian. That's my son, and if you have any issues with him, then why don't you just come right out and say what's on your mind, Pete?" The malice in William's voice was evident to all as he lowered his hand to the butt of the .44 rifle that lay ready across his knees.

Crazy Pete grinned and motioned to reach for his revolver. "Leave it be, Pete," Sturgis ordered.

Although Crazy Pete's words still stung, Lewis knew that the soldier referred to him, and he was not in any way ashamed. His father had always made sure that he knew his heritage well. Even at a young age, he had always been aware of his obvious difference in appearance. With his sienna eyes, pointed chin and prominent cheek bones, along with the soft, straight and long, ebony hair which he kept tucked back into a tightly knotted tail, Lewis always knew that there was something odd about him. The tanned, almost olive colored skin only reinforced his suspicions.

At the age of seven, shortly after the passing of his beloved and nurturing mother, Lewis's father had made it a point to let the child know the nature of his physical features. He explained to the boy how the Bordeauxs of years past had been French-Canadian explorers and fur traders who made their way south in search of the original Oregon trail, and the bountiful trapping opportunities along that route. Some of that early clan found a love for the Pacific Northwest and remained in the area while the rest of the expedition moved on. One who stayed behind was Lewis's grandfather, William's father.

Growing up within such close proximity to the indigenous people of the region, they learned to peacefully coexist with these tribes, sharing in the spoils of the land without stepping on each other's toes. Young William Bordeaux soon fell in love with a beautiful maiden of the Nez Perce. After much argument and council, it was decided that as a symbol of the mutual agreement between the Bordeauxs and the Nez Perce, the two would be permitted to wed according to native traditions. Lewis was conceived shortly after their marriage.

"Why Canada? Why would Chief Joseph choose Canada for his people?" William asked Commander Sturgis.

"Well, with the prices on their heads and the warrants for murder on their tails, they're outnumbered and starting to realize that making war with the United Sates government wasn't such a good idea. Since the Crow won't have them, their last hope is to find refuge with that scoundrel Sitting Bull, and the dirty Lakota who followed him into Canada after the Battle of Little Bighorn."

"We plan to stop 'em." Crazy Pete added.

William looked over the three men, individually sizing them up. "All by yourselves?" He raised a brow.

"Far from it, Mr. Bordeaux." Samuel Sturgis looked towards the towering peaks of the Bears Paw Mountains. "I'll have you know that once our brigade combines with Oliver Howard's outfit after daybreak tomorrow, this field and those hills will be full with over fifteen hundred armed soldiers. The way we got it figured, that'll be right around the time them Nez Perce should be passing through. We're expecting a band of close to eight hundred of 'em, all desperate."

The officer turned his head, looking deep into the eyes of William Bordeaux, an expression of concern on his face. "I suggest that you and your, uh, boy hightail it out of here before things get messy in these parts. That's the best advice I can give you."

Lewis, still listening in from just out of sight around the front corner of the cabin, also looked to the hills. They were calm and tranquil, just miles of beautiful and untarnished, American landscape. Why would anyone choose this peaceful place as a scene for war? Why would someone befoul this country in such a way? He allowed his eyes to drift across the northern horizon and into the east, trying to imagine these vacant lands becoming a battlefield, a place of slaughter.

His sights came to rest on a darkened shadow in the far distance. He did not have to wonder what the figure was. He knew it to be the very same steed he had seen, or thought he seen earlier up in the hills. It stood statuesque in the fading sun, as if keeping a close, almost protective eye over Lewis. He thought it best not to disturb the adults by informing his father of the animal's presence.

The massive, orange sun was now beginning to dive behind the rocky mountain tops. It was the time of day when October temperatures dropped rapidly in this region, with the sun's warmth diminishing and the northwestern winds picking up force on their way through the hills. The chill quickly broke through Lewis's clothes. He folded his arms across his chest and squeezed himself tightly. His head was now throbbing from his earlier fall, and his stomach felt empty.

"Well, Commander Sturgis, I thank you for the warning, but I'm afraid we'll just have to take our chances here in our home. This ain't our conflict. Whatever dispute you may have with them Nez Perce . . . "

"Injuns," Crazy Pete spat.

"Whatever dispute you may have with them Indians," William continued, "has nothing to do with me and my son. We will hunker down, protect ourselves, and stay out of everything." He made this decision just as he spoke, all while thinking of his buried treasure at the corner of his land. "I'll get up with the sun and move what's left of my cattle out, but we will not give up our home."

William rose to his feet, the .44 propped in the crook of his arm. "Now, gentlemen, I'm afraid it's not much, but I can offer you a dish of home cooked, beef stew and a hot cup of coffee before you head back to your camp."

After the three scouts had thoroughly filled their bellies, showed their gratitude and departed, William and Lewis Bordeaux sat for some time in silence, warming themselves before the fire, rifles beside them and each lost in his own thoughts. Confronted with the bigger picture of the things that Samuel D. Sturgis had informed William of, he made no mention, negative or otherwise, in reference to his son's earlier lack of responsibility in leaving the .22 long behind in the hills. He also did not question the boy any further about the horse he had supposedly seen up there. After a while, they simply said their goodnights and Lewis climbed up into his loft for a try at sleep, something that he knew would not come easily.

After much struggle, Lewis did eventually manage to catch a short period of restless shuteye. This came at a price, though, as his dreams were plagued with vivid visions of smoke and fire, of the only home he'd ever known being attacked by savages, and being forced onto the bare back of a wild, bucking and unbroken horse, a black and white one with short hair and spots across its hind quarters.

Lewis awoke in a cold sweat, startled by the thundering sounds outside and the bumpy trembling of his loft. He sat up and threw his bedding aside. Having lain down in his clothes, he threw his cowhide, outer coat on, along with his well-worn boots, and hurried down the ladder, where he found his father at the opened front door, Allen & Wheelock in hand. The yellowish-gray, predawn light barely filtered through the doorway and into the small home.

Lewis rushed over for a look through the cabin's eastern window just in time to see what remained of their cattle fleeing into the unknown lands beyond while the four mules remained secure to the hitching post, grunting and stomping in a nervous state of panic. All of the chickens had apparently scattered as the thundering drew nearer and now seemed to be right on top of them. Cookware fell from its hanging place on the wall and what was left of the fireplace's flames flickered and flinched as the coals and remaining wood shifted in the rumble.

He grabbed his still loaded and ready to shoot .22 long from the corner he had left it propped in the night before, and he joined his father at the cabin's door. "Dad! What's happening?"

"Horses, Lewis! Hundreds of them!" William shouted over the noise, watching the spectacle outside in amazement.

Lewis focused, searching through the thick, mushrooming cloud of dust in search of what his father seemed so fascinated by. Suddenly, his vision adjusted and he began to make out the figures tromping through the field, powerful horses as numbered as the stars, galloping in a single mass for as far as the eye could see. Lewis watched in shock and awe at this breathtaking display, as the pack strived for some unknown destination to the north. It was the most amazing sight the boy had ever laid eyes on.

Then, there began to filter in another line of horses, these outside the perimeter of the pack and mounted by armed men in scant clothes, all howling and hollering in high pitched voices. William reached to his side and brushed young Lewis behind him. When he looked back, Lewis could now see the alarm in his father's eyes, which caused the scared boy to glance away for a brief instant.

Before he had the chance to turn forward again, a ground-shaking blast rang out and Lewis felt a warm liquid splash across his face, clouding his vision and flooding his mouth with the taste of iron. William's limp body crumbled to the floor and Lewis ran, screaming, to a back corner of the house.

The man who entered the cabin, stepping over his fallen father with still smoking revolver in hand, had a majestic appearance. There was a warrior's demeanor to him. His bare, browned torso was cut with muscle and his flowing, black hair waved wildly about; a single feather, large and brightly colored, hung from behind an ear. The man made eye contact with Lewis as the boy raised his rifle, attempting to level it at his father's killer with unsteady hands. A look of confusion seemed to cross the man's facial features and then, he turned on his heels and ran off before Lewis could muster the courage to fire his weapon.

Now, the unmistakable sound of multiple guns erupting outside filled the room. Lewis rushed to the eastern window, which seemed to be the primary source of this gunfire, and he peered out. The newly rising sun lit up the horizon in that direction and Lewis could see a mighty cavalry of soldiers approaching, mounted upon thinner and lesser animals than those in the northbound pack, all firing at will with both pistols and muskets, the gun smoke floating above them like a massive storm cloud of blue. Horses and men fell in their fury as the valiant army progressed with increasing speed.

Lewis turned and slumped to the floor, his back against the wall. His breathing came in short, quick gasps and his eyes filled with tears as he watched the sickening pool of dark red spread through the dirt around his father's shattered skull. Lewis managed to suppress his tears and fear enough to give his next step a rational thought. Discarding his .22 long for a moment, he went in a bent over run to his father's body and retrieved the more powerful .44 caliber.

Just as he returned to the relative safety of his place beneath the eastern window, a very near shot boomed from beyond, followed by a loud braying and a heavy, earth pounding thud. He peered over the window's wooden ledge and watched a blue coat soldier pressing the barrel of his revolver against the side of the head of his next victims, another of the Bordeauxs' mules, mules not branded with the U.S. military's stamp of approval. Even with a disheveled uniform and dirt covered face, Lewis recognized the man as Crazy Pete.

"Hey!" Lewis yelled, knowing that his family's, and now his own every day existence relied heavily upon those very mules.

Crazy Pete's trigger finger froze in place and he turned to look at the boy with scorn and bloodlust in his eyes. "Injun," he snarled, spotting young Lewis through the window and smiling with joy.

Crazy Pete turned the business end of his gun toward Lewis just as the boy made to lift the heavy Allen & Wheelock, but before either one could manage to get a single shot off, there came a loud whinny followed by a bone splintering crack and Crazy Pete went flying into the air, landing with a cry onto the hard earth, his revolver dropping from his hand. There, next to the window, stood the large, spotted steed of black and white, his brutal kick having made quick work of the man who intended to shoot Lewis. As the injured Crazy Pete looked on in disbelief from his back, Lewis leveled his father's rifle and pulled the tight trigger, laying the soldier to eternal rest.

Understanding that holing up and single-handedly defending his homestead was no longer a realistic option, Lewis began to plan for his own escape amidst the mayhem outside. He scanned the room with eyes in search of his father's ammo and located the pouch still hanging from a jagged spike near the front door. As he began to lift himself to his feet, a shadow cast by the vibrant, morning sun filled the room. It seemed that William Bordeaux's slayer had returned to claim his trophy.

The warrior produced a short and stout, stone blade from a leather sheath at his side. He leaned over and, brushing pink flesh and gray matter aside, he pulled at a gnarled tuft of the dead man's hair, lowering his blade with a crazed look in his eyes. Just as the sharpened stone dug into what remained of his victim's scalp, a hand wielding a large and shining flat of solid steel crept swiftly over his shoulder from behind. There was a clean, slashing sound, much like that of beef being butchered, and the warrior's form slumped atop the body of William. He twitched and gurgled on his own blood before stiffening and then going limp.

There, in the doorway, stood the dark-skinned man with the mohawk and dirty red bandana who had visited Lewis and William alongside Commander Sturgis on the previous day. The tall man made a slow bow in Lewis's direction and then, for the first time, he spoke. "Come."

Somehow knowing that he had no other choice but to obey this man's beckon, Lewis gripped his father's .44 and followed him out of the house, reaching up to pull the ammo pouch from the wall on his way by the two deceased men.

Outside, as the gunfire, pounding, crying and hollering continued all around, the strong beyond his appearance man in the red bandana snatched Lewis up by the back of his collar and easily hoisted the boy onto the unsaddled back of the spotted stallion. With a loud 'whoop' and a quick slap to the horse's rear end, the man sent Lewis and the horse on their way. Gripping the steed's short main between his small fingers, Lewis rode the wild animal along the path of least resistance, joining in with the stampeding pack of unmounted and unguided, northbound horses, leaving the death behind and watching man, woman and child being gunned down in random slaughter as they left.

The Battle of Bears Paw Mountain ensued for five long days, nearly a week of havoc resulting in the deaths of approximately a hundred and twenty-five United States Army men, and substantially more people of the Nez Perce. In the aftermath, over four hundred of the Nez Perce surrendered and were eventually transferred by train to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Lewis Bordeaux and his spirit horse were accepted into the tribe and took up with the Lamatta band, led by the brave White Bird, who managed to escape safely across the Canadian border, which was a mere forty miles away from Snake Creek. The Bordeaux fortune of buried gold was never discovered.

The End

Jason Crager is an author of westerns and contemporary stories. Aside from his western novels and short story collections, Jason's work has been featured in literary journals, a number of anthologies, and published to various magazines. He lives a happy and peaceful life in the beautiful river and bluff country of De Soto, Wisconsin, USA.

Social media link: facebook.com/jasoncragerswriting

Amazon author link: https://www.amazon.com/Jason-Crager/e/B076VSZ4QQ

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