Meeting At Confederate Gulch
Mary Hutchins had been managing and working in the kitchen of the Stagecoach Station ever since arriving there. Although she was both a good cook and manager, the real reason she had stayed on was she and Jacob had feelings for each other. Jacob was a soldier assigned to patrol and guard the travelers and equipment associated with them. Now Jacob is out of the army and off to seek his fortune.
Daniel Luther, a teamster and friend of , was having lunch at the counter. Mary was serving him griddle cakes and pouring him a cup of coffee. “Ï heard you're goin' to haul a load of supplies to Montana for Jacob,”she said.
“Yeah. Your man thinks there's opportunity in Confederate Gulch for a store. I reckon if it works out he might be a sending for you to join him.”
Mary set the coffee pot down on the counter. “Your wrong about that,”she said.
“What you mean? You been stuck on him ever since you come here.“
“That you got right,”she said. “and I'm tired of being left behind. It's about time we were together and TO HELL WITH Jacob and his stupid pride.”
Oh, I'm sure he'll come and get you just as soon as he has a good stake so you can settle down secure,” Luther said.
“Your wrong again, Luther,” Mary retorted.
“How's that,”he asked.
“ Ï don't intend to be here.”
“Listen, Luther. The only reason I'm here, running this diner, was to be with Jacob. If we can';t be together, than I'm a going to be moving on.”
“Well, what about this place. Who's going to run it?”
“I can sell my interest in it. I can run a cafe wherever I end up. Hell, I'm sure I could run a store as well, if I took a mind to. Coming to think on it, Jacob just might need me there, even if he don't know it yet. Jacob can do a lot of things, but I ain't sure running a store is one of them.“
Luther held out his cup as a signal for Mary to refill his coffee. She filled his cup and took anoter one for herself. and sat down by the counter herself.
Luther sipped on his coffee and finished up his food. You could be right about that,” he said. Outside of soldiering...and he's might good at doing that...he might lack some other expeiences.I do know he's in love with you. What brought the two of you together, anyhow?
“I was just a stagecoach passenger passing through on my way to anywhere, I guess. I had come to Dodge City to get married. I was what they called a mail order bride, except I never got to be a bride because my fiancé was killed.“
“That had to be a shock,”the teamster said.
“Yes,””Mary replied. Ï was pretty broken up. Änyhow, we stopped over here and during the night some Indians tried to steal our horses. The stage horses were highly prized and valuable to them. Naturally they were important to us as well.”
Ï'm sure of that,” Luther said.
“You bet. We wouldn't get very far without our horses. Anyhow, Jacob was the only soldier there to defend the stationaAnd he was reluctant to let me help. But it wasn't long before he knew he needed help because he couldn't guard all sides at once. I grew up around guns and can handle them as well as a man. I finally convinced himt he needed my help. Anyway, there is nothering like facing extreme danger to bring two people together..”
Luther was reluctant to take a woman on a trip of over a thousand miles, but he finally agreed that Mary could come with them. He sent out telegraph messages to several contacts to have supples that could be sold in a mining camp to Jacob.
“My friends will get there before we do because they are a lot closer,” Luther told Mary.
“If your friends are bringing supplies and are closer, what are we bringing?“
“Something I make myself, actually.“
“You mean booze?” Mary said.
“How did you know?“
”It ain't no secret, Luther, that you make the best brew around. So what your bringing is a few ingredients and your own know how, right?“
When they got to their destination they found more immediate problems. They found a crowd of men gathered outside of the building that looked like a saloon or restaurant. Like the others it was made of logs and chinked with handy materials. The men looked angry. Many wore the remnants of gray uniforms. Mary and Luther asked bystanders what was going on.
Mary felt under the wagon seat to assure herself that theere was a shotgun there. She pocketed a handful of shells to be ready if needed.
“What's going on here?” she asked a bystander.
“Somebody found out that the storekeeper is a confederate traitor.“
“That's not true,”Mary said feeling her grip on the shotgun tighten. Then she forced herself to relax. It wouldn't do to panic. Ï know Jacob and he would never the South. What about the rest of you living here. Weren't you all Confederate soldiers who were paroled?”bMary was starting to get warmed up to the subject. She put shells into the shotgun and put some more into her pockets. With a swift determination she pushed through the crowd to the boardwalk of the building. She tried to continue what she was saying but there was too much noise from the crowd for her to be heard. She raised the shotgun to f and fired into the air. The noise startled the crowd and the chatter of voices stopped.
At that time Jacob came out to see what was going on.His revolver was in a holstered , he held up his arms in a gesture for attention.
“What's the problem here?“
Ä man wearing canvas pants and a confederate jacket and hat spoke out. “We found gold here after we were let out of a yankee prison. Any business here should belong to us.We don't need any turncoat rebel who joined with the bluecoats here. ”
“Turncoat? You have the audacity to call me a turncoat? I was in one of the worst prison camps of the war. Along with some others, I bought my freedom from the prison by joining the Union army but I never fought against the Confederacy. Can the rest of you say as much?”
Jacob knew that the confederates that found gold had been prisoners of war and were given parole, which meant they were released on condition that they get out of the area and not participate in anymore fighting..
Down to Business
There was a rumble of voices as the people in the crowd started to talk among themselves. Luther, the teamster, pulled the wagon right up tto the boardwalk and fired his revolver into the air. “Listen up, people. I know Jacob promised to replace the bad whiskey that was here with some good stuff. How about some of you helping me get my equipment set up, maybe behind the building. I bet my friends have been here already with some good beer of which I could use some of now.
Mary, in the meantime”, took a place by the door and announced she would serve food and beer but nobody would be allowed in uless they cleaned the mud off of their boots. Jacob wondered how she came to be there but was glad she had come.
© 2015 Don A. Hoglund
More by this Author
The Turtle is a children's story based on our own children and dogs that we had at at one time.
This is a fictional western short story told by an anonymous narrator about the publisher of the town newspaper. It starts with a local business being vandalized and she investigates.
African Americans have been conspicuously absent from histories of the west. They are not much represented in fiction either. Many people think they ere not there, but they were.