Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie
Death at Devils River
A Creed Novel
"No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow
that's in the right and keeps on a-comin'."
In No Town for Outlaws, we were introduced to the Creed family and learned what they were capable of when it came to enforcing the law. Not only the men, but also the women of the Creed family were deadly fast with a pistol, and deadly accurate with either rifle or pistol, and fear was not in their vocabulary.
In Gold, Silver, and Blood in Arizona, the prequel to No Town for Outlaws, we saw what hard work and determination could create, what generosity could do to help others, and also got a glimpse into the beginnings of who would become the leading lawmen of Colorado City, Texas—at least for a time.
Leaving Arizona as extremely wealthy young men who were called home by their father to help combat the problems at home, they volunteered their gun hands to assist in cleaning out what had become a den of thieves in their hometown. But in very short order, they were given no choice but to accept the lead in the fight to come, as the sheriff was severely wounded, along with several other critical players, including members of their own family.
In the end, Colorado City was cleaned up and made safe for its citizens again, and the Creed family members had the opportunity to relax and enjoy their rewards. All except Zack and Todd, when Zack was elected sheriff, and Todd was made his chief deputy. It is at this point that we pick up the story and follow the Creed brothers on their next adventure, as they ride into danger in Death at Devils River.
“Zack, Maw tells me you ain’t running for sheriff this election. Why not? Ya know you’d win in a landslide again, right?”
“There’s just nothin’ ta do, Ben. Do you know what me an’ Todd’s biggest case was last month? A chicken thief who stole ol’ Mrs. Jacobs’ best layin’ hen. It was three o’ the kids from across the street took it, thinkin’ it was funny ta watch her near lose her mind over a missin’ chicken. An’ now that the town has hired a decent lawman for town marshal, an’ there ain’t much crime ta contend with, they don’t need gun hands like me an’ Todd ta just sit around the office an’ wait for the next chicken thief to steal a bird ’r the eggs.”
“So, you don’t think Todd will want ta run?”
“Naw, he said he wants ta go do somethin’ else, maybe help Maw an’ Paw.”
"“An’ you? What’re you figurin’ on doin’ with your time, ’sides chasin’ after Missy Stewart?”
“Remember Chuck Lively?”
“Name rings a bell, but no, I don’t recall him.”
“His folks used ta have a place south o’ town about eighteen, twenty miles. Down near the county line in that big sweep o’ the Colorado, south o’ Silver Crick. Him an’ his sister, Betsey, went ta school with me an’ Todd.”
“Yeah, I remember him now. But I remember Betsey in her pigtails chasin’ me. She couldn’ o’ been more’n thirteen ’r fourteen at the time. So why bring them up? You know somethin’ more you ain’t told me yet?”
“Well, yeah. I got a letter from Chuck a few days ago sayin’ they needed some help down there. Now that the place he’s got is part o’ the new Val Verde County, an’ that crazy ol’ Roy Bean is about the only law out there, Chuck asked if I could find somebody ta send down ta help him out. Seems they got Mexican banditos stealin’ anything that ain’t tied down an’ half o’ what is, an’ since the Army closed down Camp Hudson near ten years ago, the banditos are replacin’ the Comanches for causin’ trouble.”
“What are you thinkin’? You ain’t plannin’ on goin’ down there yourself, are ya?”
“Well, yeah, I am, Ben.”
“Zack talkin’ about goin’ down ta Sotol City ta help out Chuck Lively?” Todd asked as he walked into the office.
“It’s called Comstock now, Todd, after they moved over ta where the railroad comes through so’s they could use the water from the lake. An’ Chuck is some twenty miles north o’ there, a mile ’r so north from where Camp Hudson is, 'r was,” Zack clarified with a hint of annoyance in his voice.
“I thought they were formin’ a sheriff’s office in Del Rio when they formed Val Verde County a couple o’ years back. He can’t get help from them?”
“Yeah, well, it seems the new sheriff don’t get out that far, an’ Judge Bean ain’t at all interested in curtailin’ the Mexican bandits much, since they do a ton o’ business with him. Chuck says it’s a hard day’s ride ta Langtry, and two days’ ride ta Del Rio. His nearest neighbors are either a day’s ride east, south, north, or west, ’cept for Juno. So he’s parked out there in the middle o’ nowhere, with four hands, a wife an’ two kids, an’ Betsey. An’ the only ones who are good shots are him, his wife, Darla, an’ his sister, Betsey. He tells me his hands are a near seventy-year-old feller, a kid from back East who works for near nothin’, an’ two Mexican brothers originally from up around Lubbock. Apparently, neither one owns a gun, only knives, an’ they have no desire ta learn how ta shoot.”
“Damn, Zack. An’ do ya really think one more gun will make that much difference when it comes ta a shootin’ war?” Ben queried, a deep concern resonating through his words. “I sure wish you’d think long an’ hard ’fore ya take that risk on. ’R find a half-dozen men ta ride with ya. What’s Chuck payin’?”
“Why? You wanna ride along?”
“Aw, hell no. Don’t you know Opal would castrate me just for thinkin’ about it? ’Sides, she thinks she’s pregnant again, which is why we’re in town. She’s over ta Doc’s place now.”
“Dang, Ben. Ain’t you figured out yet what causes that?”
“Yeah, but it’s so much fun I can’t quit doin’ it. Same as Paw was, I reckon. Which is why I have so many brothers an’ sisters ta contend with.”
All three of the Creed brothers laughed, with Todd adding, “Yeah, an’ it ain’t just us boys that’re that way. I heard Nellie an’ Zelda are both pregnant again, too.”
“That’s what Maw said when we saw her an’ Paw. We stopped by their place ta drop off the kids on the way ta town, an’ she filled Opal in on all the family doin’s while me an’ Paw went out to look at that new colt. I got the lowdown in the buggy on the ride from there ta town. Say, did you boys hear Mary Sue is engaged ta Rob Nelson?”
“Really?” Todd responded. “Rob Nelson? The new banker manager’s boy, the one workin’ as a cashier? HAH! What makes him think he can handle a Creed woman? An’ what the heck is Mary Sue thinkin’, marryin’ a city boy?”
“The way Paw tells it, he’s a better’n average horseman, has a good eye for both horses an’ cattle, an’ he ain’t afraid o’ hard work. Said he was surprised when the boy first showed up out ta their place ta call on Mary Sue. He was wearin’ ranch clothes and packin’ a new Colt an’ a slicked-up holster. Told Paw that Mary Sue was gonna give him some shootin’ lessons. They were gone near two hours, an’ he could only hear shootin’ for the first hour of it. Mary Sue came back flushed an’ hangin’ on ta the boy’s hand with a death grip.
“Rob showed up a week later, lookin’ the same way, sayin’ the same thing. Paw said all he could hear was shootin’ for a bit, an’ then it quit real sudden like. He decided ta take a ride over the hill ta the crick an’ check on ’em. Said he looked down usin’ his long glass, an’ there they were, sittin’ on a blanket, talkin’. After a bit, they stood up again an’ walked over ta where they’d been shootin’ at bottles. Standin’ side by side, they both drew. Rob was near as fast as Mary Sue, maybe just as fast. Paw said he’d seen enough, an’ he turned an’ rode back ta the house. When they came back in, Mary Sue was sportin’ a big ol’ diamond an’ dabbin’ at the tears in her eyes.”
“Ain’t that somethin’? Never figured him ta be any kind of a hand at all, but he looks straight at ya when he speaks,” Todd said.
“Speakin’ o’ that colt, whattaya think?” Zack made a feeble attempt to change the subject.
“I’d have to say, I think he’s the future o’ our ranches. He’s the best-lookin’ colt we’ve had yet, an’ I don’t think there is one better anywhere around. Now, I asked a question, an’ I’m still waitin’ on an answer.”
“Chuck ain’t payin’ nothin’. Says he’s about ta go broke from gettin’ stole blind for the last year.”
“So, why’d he ask you for help? I don’t recall you an’ him bein’ all that good friends back in school,” Todd said.
“Well, that’s so. An’ neither were you an’ him. But he did stand with us against the Caruthers when that ignorant lot came after you an’ me. An’ as I recall, he held his own real well. ’Sides, he didn’t ask me, he asked me if I knew of anybody ’r could send anybody his way ta help out. I don’t know of anybody I’d send except you two, ’r Billy, ’r Tim an’ Tom. Jack’s still kinda young but tougher’n nails an’ faster with a Colt than me,” Zack elaborated.
“Your term ain’t up ’til the end o’ the year. Can he wait that long for help?” Todd asked.
“Can’t say, but I bet he’d welcome help whenever he gets it. An’ sooner would most likely suit him better than later. Actually, I been thinkin’ on steppin’ down early an’ lettin’ Todd take over the rest o’ my term.”
“Oh, hell no!” Todd exclaimed. “You go, I go. Let Ned an’ Petey handle things. Ned’s a favorite o’ the judge anyway, so I s’pose he’d get appointed right off. In fact, I’m ready ta lay down this chunk o’ tin right now an’ go find some excitement.”
“Now, Todd, you ain’t quittin’, are ya?” Zack asked with a big smile.
“I am if you are. All I need ta know is if you’re handin’ in your badge. Lord knows we don’t need the little bit o’ money they pay for doin’ this job.”
Pulling out his pocket watch, Ben said, “Well, let me know what ya decide ta do. I need ta get over ta Doc’s and see what him an’ Opal figured out, see if I’m gonna be a daddy again. I’ll see ya, boys.”
“Yup, an’ tell Opal we said hello, will ya?” Zack asked.
Ben nodded and then stepped outside, walked to his buggy, and climbed in. As Todd and Zack stood on the boardwalk outside the office watching Ben drive off, Zack said, “Todd, I’m pretty serious about resignin’ early an’ headin’ down south to help Chuck. It’s a hard four-day ride if a fella presses hard an’ all goes well, six ’r seven days if there’s weather ’r anything else goes wrong.”
“When are ya thinkin’ o’ droppin’ the log on the judge?”
“Tomorrow mornin’ at our monthly meetin’. Dependin’ on how things go, I can hand in my letter of resignation tomorrow afternoon, step down within the week.”
“Tell ya what. You quit, I’ll quit the same day, an’ we can head out together. Ya reckon just the two of us are enough, ’r should we take Tom an’ Tim along? That is, if Paw don’t need ’em right now.”
“Paw said the other day that he was havin’ ta hunt work for them two, an’ Jack as well. Said Billy had everything pretty much handled, what with them two new hands he hired, now that the calvin’ an’ foalin’ is done for this spring. I s’pose we could ask ’em an’ see what they say. Course we need ta ask Paw first, an’ fill him in on what we’re thinkin’.”
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