Colt's Justice: Blood Along Dove Creek
"No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow
that's in the right and keeps on a-comin'."
It was a typical spring day in East Texas. The trees were sporting their new plumage for the season, the grass was greening up, the dogwoods and other bushes and shrubs were in early bloom and life was good. Sissy Raines was sitting quietly on the porch rocking her youngest son, Simon, while the oldest of the two boys, Arthur, was playing on the steps with a toy wagon his father had brought home from a trip into Gladewater.
It was midmorning, and Colt was somewhere out in one of the pastures with Tommy and Billy Baker, who had become good ranch help under Colt's tutelage. Millie Baker was inside getting lunch ready for the men, as she did whenever her boys came to help, giving Sissy some time to rest. Sissy's brother Ed was expected sometime that morning, as he and Colt had planned a trip to Longview to look at a bull being sold at auction along with half a dozen heavy cows and yearling heifers.
Sissy, who was sitting there with her eyes closed, never even looked up at the sound of a horse coming down the lane and into their yard. She surmised that it was Ed, until the deep voice spoke.
"Mrs. Raines, is it?"
"Yes, I'm Mrs. Raines. How can I help you, mister?"
"I come seeking your husband's help, ma'am. I am the Reverend Obadiah Mills of the only church in Knickerbocker, Texas. However, not long after we erected our church, it was burned to the ground by marauders, wild animals from San Angelo, or who knows where now that Ben Ficklin has been washed away. My flock has taken refuge on the outskirts of Fort Concho for safety. The soldiers at the fort are in such a diminished number now that they are of no help to us, and, in fact, we expect the fort to close any time now. We were at a loss as to what to do until Major Bowles, second in command at the fort, gave us your husband's name. Bill Veck also knows your husband, and said if there were any man alive who could help us, it would be Colt Raines. He is still talked about in the area, and regarded as a legend there."
"Reverend Mills, I cannot sanction my husband going on another mission of mercy without his being involved in the conversation. He is working cattle out in the pastures, and won't be in for another couple of hours, at the least. He has a great deal of work to accomplish today, and he and my brother Ed are planning to leave for Longview right after lunch. Perhaps your timing is well conceived, and you should have sent us some word of your arrival before actually coming here."
The preacher hung his head for several minutes before responding. "I apologize, Mrs. Raines, for my unannounced visit. We had no idea how to contact you, as our only knowledge of your location was said to be somewhere near the town of Gladewater. I had to ask at several stores before someone sent me in your general direction. One of your neighbors was kind enough to give me the final directions. Do you think it might be possible to have a few minutes of your husband's time after he eats his lunch, and before he leaves for Longview?"
"Well, that will be entirely up to Colt. Please, get down and tie your horse up to the corral. Would you like some coffee?"
"Yes, please. And thank you for allowing me a moment of rest. It has been a difficult journey, to say the very least."
A few minutes later, the preacher was seated on the porch with Sissy and the boys sipping coffee that Millie had brought out for them. They chatted nonchalantly about all things but the preacher's plea, and were still talking when Ed rode in, dismounted, tied off his horse and joined them on the porch, all without saying a word.
When he finally sat down, Millie handed him a cup of coffee as well, and after several sips, Ed finally spoke. "Mornin', Sissy. Colt still out in the pastures?"
"Yes, he should be along shortly. Ed, this is Reverend Mills of Knickerbocker. He's here to see Colt, as he and his parishioners are having a problem they think Colt might be able to help with."
"Well, Reverend, good luck tryin' ta get Colt ta leave now. We're lookin' ta grow the herd ta cover the new acreage he bought last month, an' it's near time for brandin' an' cuttin' calves. Yessir, purty poor timin'."
"I understand, but the Lord's work knows no time like the present, Mr... I'm sorry, I didn't catch your last name, sir."
"Justise, Ed Justise is the name. Sissy is my sister, an' her an' Colt are partners with me in some o' my business dealin's, mostly cattle an' such. Where'd ya say ya come from?"
"Knickerbocker, sir, near Fort Concho and San Angelo, just over halfway between San Angelo and Sherwood."
"Purty tough country out there from what I hear. Country is plumb full o' snakes, crawlin' an' two legged both, an' wilder'n a March hare. Hear tell them soldier boys ain' much help now either, since the hostiles has calmed down."
"Yes, what you say is true. However, until the last year, Knickerbocker was a quiet, peaceful farming community supplying the fort. I landed there just a few months after the Baze brothers, who were kind enough to donate a site for our church." Pausing, Mills looked down the lane toward the pastures. "I trust that is Mr. Raines and his aides coming, is it not?"
"Millie, they're coming in to eat. Is everything ready?" Sissy called out.
"Yes, it is. Table is set and ready, including a place for the Reverend."
"Reverend Mills, you are, of course, invited to eat with us. I'd especially like it if you were to give the blessing."
"I am honored to be included in your noon repast, Mrs. Raines, and I would be quite pleased to offer the blessing."
Colt, Tommy and Billy dismounted, tied off the mounts, and walked toward the house, stopping on the end of the porch to wash us before jumping up on the porch to join the others. Arthur ran to his father, and Colt picked him up, kissing the boy on the forehead before setting him back down. Walking up to Sissy, he also kissed both she and Simon on their foreheads before acknowledging Ed and their unknown guest.
"Ed, good ta see ya. Ya ready ta head out? I figure ta be in Longview by dark, an' back home by dark tomorrow after the sale."
"Yep, ready as I can get, Colt."
"An' who might you be, mister, an' what do ya want?"
"I am the Reverend Obadiah Mills of Knickerbocker, Texas, sir. It is my great pleasure to meet you," the preacher said sticking his hand out to shake. "We can discuss my being here after we have eaten the meal so graciously prepared for us."
Colt was impressed with the strength in the man's hands and his firm grip, not what he had expected from such a thin, frail looking man, let alone a man of God. "Well, then let's get ta eatin'. Me an' the boys are starvin'."
After an unusually fiery blessing, everyone ate their fill of roast beef, potatoes and beans, finished off with a sweet apple pie and plenty of coffee. The conversation was amicable, discussing Colt and Ed's upcoming trip, the wonderful weather, and all things but the reason for Mills' presence.
Pushing back from the table, Colt asked Ed, Millie and the boys to give he and Sissy some time to speak with Reverend Mills in private. Millie sat a fresh pot of coffee on the table, and joined Ed and her sons on the porch, carrying on their own conversation. As they walked outside, Colt couldn't help but wonder if Ed and Millie would ever get together. They had both lost their spouses within a year of each other, and with their places neighboring, it would only make sense for them to connect. Ed was a good man, and the only family Sissy had left after the rest had picked up and moved back to Tennessee. In Colt's mind, Ed would also make a fine father figure for Tommy and Billy.
Sissy broke his thoughts, "Colt, how long can you give the Reverend to speak about his problem?"
"Ya got about a half hour, preacher, an' only 'cause you're a man o' the cloth that I'll even give ya that much time."
"I understand, Mr. Raines. Let me start from the beginning." For the next twenty minutes, Colt and Sissy listened as the preacher made his case, and finally closed with, "So, as you can see, if we are to rescue Knickerbocker we need someone of your unusual talents and skills to come to our rescue. Though frankly I am not certain one man, even one as good as you, can save our community. Unless you also have God's blessing to do so."
"Mills, why do ya look familiar ta me? Ya said you're name is Obadiah. You wouldn' be Beedy Mills, would ya?"
"In a former life, yes, I was called Beedy."
"An you had a passel o' brothers, as I recall. Levi an' Jed an' y'all run with a bunch o' owl hoots outa Colorado. That right?"
"Yes, we were associated with the Brunson Gang. However, I was left to die after being shot in Alamosa, by you I believe, but I was never certain. Having never met or even seen you, I can honestly say that my only knowledge of you before now was this," he said pulling a .45-90 slug out of his pocket and handing it to Colt.
After Colt looked it over and handed it back, the Reverend continued, "I was saved and nursed back to health by a minister and his daughter. As a result of their teaching and their patience, I found the Lord and chose to carry on His work. I even married that girl, Mr. Raines, but we buried her last year, a victim of the violence we have faced in the past, and are still facing. Before you ask, my oldest brothers, Jedediah and Leviticus, were hung for stealing horses in Wyoming four years ago. My other brothers are still on the wrong side of the Lord, and I don't hold out much hope for them to change. They have chosen to continue the devil's ways, no matter how hard I've tried to convert them. We are the sons of a traveling minister, a man who also had an eye for the ladies, even though our mother was herself a very beautiful woman. He chose to lie down with the wrong woman, and they were both killed in her bed that night."
"Interestin', Beedy. An' it was me that plugged ya all right. Didn' have time ta make sure ya was dead. I was after Brushy and Cable Brunson for stealin' horses an' cattle, an' shootin' my boss at the time, Morgan Walters, along with a friend o' mine, Pete Moreno. But I reckon that I didn' kill ya turned out for the best. At least as long as ya don' start followin' in your daddy's footsteps. You an' the gal have any babies?"
"No, we were not blessed with children. It was one of our crosses to bear, possibly for all the evil that was in my family and for all the sins I committed, even though I know the Lord has forgiven me."
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