Saturday, January 26, 2013


I've already written on this blog about my love for Western novels and films.  And recently I've e-published a number of my own Westerns.  Some of you have even bought and told me you enjoyed these e-books, for which I thank you.  Since I was a boy of twelve or so I've been fascinated not simply by the Western genre itself but especially by the oft-told story of Wyatt Earp and his disastrous two years in the silver-mining camp of Tombstone in Arizona Territory, which resulted in what has come to be called (incorrectly) The Gunfight at the OK Corral and Earp's subsequent Vendetta Ride against the men who crippled one of his brothers for life and murdered another. 

Ever since the day when the boy I was back in the 1950's read Stuart N. Lake's admittedly overblown biography Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal I've wanted to write my own version of this almost Shakespearean tragedy.  There hasn't been a year since when I haven't mulled over what such a book might be, and how I might approach it.  I've kept current with the new research that turns up from time to time as other writers who've come to share my obsession have delved into the records and made new discoveries and come to varying conclusions about why so much blood was shed in that remote spot in the early 1880's, and who was to blame.

Back in the 1990's I actually completed a bloated nine-hundred-odd-page novel about Wyatt and his Tombstone troubles, trying to place him and his enemies in a realistic light and somehow find a fresh way of telling the tale that would somehow be distinguishable from the many other versions found on film and in books.  Lately I've decided to try trimming and revising that novel, which has lain untouched now for many years.  But the size of the job is somewhat frightening, for my version of the story is complex and is related from many different points of view--those of Earp's family, friends and foes.

This of course meant that some of the voices in the novel would be those of Wyatt's enemies, variously known as The Rustlers or The Cowboys, the outlaws against whom he and his brothers and their friend Doc Holliday battled.  Just to fly in the face of convention I decided to start the novel with a chapter relating the viewpoint of the man most authorities believe was the chief outlaw in that time and place, a man known as Curly Bill Brocius.

Having posted on this blog off and on for some years now, I thought it would be useful to ask my readers whether they think I should pursue this massive endeavor. In order to render an opinion, of course, readers must have some evidence to go on. So I've decided to append to this blog the text of the first chapter of the novel I call Riding The Hearse. (That term comes from the old frontier gambling game of faro, which Wyatt practiced and which was so perilous that a person called a lookout was required to sit in a chair near the faro layout with a double-barreled shotgun to deal with sore losers. A case-keeper was also needed, who kept track of which cards had been played by means of beaded contraption resembling an abacus.  "Keeping cases" was also called "riding the hearse.")

I would be most grateful if some of you would read this chapter, which is below, and e-mail me whether you feel this is a project that is worthy of completion. I will be guided, in large part, by what you say.  My e-mail address is

Oh, a couple of clarifications about references in the text:  First, a "Cousin Jack" was a Cornishman; there were many working the Southwestern mines.  The "Cherry-Cows" was an Americanized pronounciation for the Chiricahua Mountain Range.  And the character called "John R' is John Peters Ringo, who along with Brocius was supposed to have been one of the leaders of the rustler gang. The "Old Man' is Newman H. Clanton, chief of another faction of the rustling combine in those parts.


Ambling his new paint filly down the Río San Pedro on a bright but blustery All Fool’s Day, Brocius began to hear a rhythmic thumping in the distance.  After a moment he knew it for the familiar racket of a stamp mill.  He shortened his reins and checked the little pony and sat with his forearms crossed on the flat-topped horn of his Mex saddle, shoulders rounded in a slump, listening to the grating rumble of the big steam-driven rock-crushers.  He spat sideways.  April Fool, he thought bitterly.
He cocked his head and listened, trying to place it.  A few miles back, he’d cut west from the river to skirt the worst of its breaks and high banks.  Just now he was on the lip of a cutbank with higher brush-covered ground lifting to his right, the bed of the river lying just beyond that eastern rise. It was hard to judge the source of the racket but it sounded as if it were coming from beyond the river and raising echoes off the buildings in Charleston, whose dun-colored abobe walls stood to the north and west of him in a low and broken line.  He swore.  Since he was last in the valley some damned smelting outfit had opened an ore mill on the river over there.  Its pulse hammered at him; the long western slant of the valley caught that ruction and hollowly repeated it, a beat or two behind the echo that Charleston too was sending out. 
           He gave his head a scornful shake.  His mouth hardened; the pitted skin of his face drew tight over his cheekbones.  It scarcely seemed possible that so much change—something so big and able to make such a commotion—could have come about so quickly, during the few short weeks he'd been Below.  But it had.  The mill had come.  The knowledge sent a hot rage tumbling through him.   He preferred the country steeped in nature’s true quiet.  Yet more and more all a man could hear was the clang and roar of machinery.  “Shit,” he said aloud.
         The wind might have been vexed too, the way it buffeted him, tugged at the brim of his hat and at the skirts of his coat, uncoiled and coiled again the tails of the bandanna knotted loosely about his neck.  The pony shifted under him as he grimly pondered.  After a time he stirred and touched her with his spurs and they moved on.  Idly he turned in his saddle and swept his gaze across the great tawny front of the Huachucas twelve miles to his southwest, mottled now with blue patches of cloud shadow that moved slowly over the the crumpled face of the range.  The highest summits still wore white cowls of snow.  A broad sweep of grassland ran north from its foot till the cinder-gray pile of the Mustang Mountainss closed that off; and beyond the Mustangs rose the taller peaks of the Whetstones, a row of rough-hewn pyramids showing a royal purple in the sun.
           A few minutes more and he was at the mouth of Graveyard Gulch, with Charleston on its rutted shelf a little to his left front.  The thudding and rumbling of the stamp mill was louder now, each stroke of the rock-crusher sending its shock of hard noise against him.  He clucked to the filly and neck-reined her to his right toward a little hogback crowned with a clutter of greasewood and ocotillo.  She took the low slope easily.  Around him the wind bustled in the brush and he heard blown grains of sand rattling among the twisty stems and hard-edged leaves.  The bright brisk air washed over him.

          The filly crested the rise.  Here he stopped.  On this loftier spot the clamor of the stamps came throbbing to him unimpeded across the tops of the cottonwoods that lined the river below, the river itself running scant and chocolate-colored, and underneath the noise of the stamps he heard the constant rattle of the ore in the mill's troughs.  The racket drowned out the rush of wind and sand.  He could not yet see the mill, but above the treetops he glimpsed its tall stacks spouting rooster-tails of smoke that ran in dingy wind-driven plumes along the bottom of the sky.

         He spoke and the filly carried him down into the flecked shade of the cottonwooods.  The wind gusted at the trees and whipped at the edges of his clothes.  Breaking from the timber, he came to the expanse of new green gramma.  He gave Gypsy her head.  Her stride was easy.  The thought of her somewhat eased his chafed temper.  He smiled on the spot between her little ears.  He'd swapped his old gray and twenty dollars American for her a week ago in Cananea; it was the best deal he’d ever made on a saddle mount.  In fact, it was the first time he could remember that he’d gotten a pony legal; but it was worth it, having papers on his Gitanita Guapa.  He crooned to her and leaned and gave her an approving whack on the withers.
          But then the sight of the new mill on its ugly hummock sucked out of him the good humor the notion of his pony had briefly inspired.  Behind, Charleston was unlovely enough—little more than a huddle of mud-brick huts strung together with coyote fencing; it might have been made by dirt-daubers.  But what stood before him—a broad frame building beneath an enormous slant of roof, spewing its volumes of smoke and steam from two tall stacks—looked monstrous.  It might have been what had come of some unnatural mating of the the earth and the worst of all possible architectures that man might conceive.  All around it the slope looked diseased, pitted and pockmarked, swarming with men and mule-teams and wagons, swept now and then by blowing clouds of rock-powder. 

         He couldn't abide the thought of going nearer.  So he swung the pony about, back toward Charleston  A dry wash turned off and he followed it past the lower end of the village with the adobe hovels along the trash-littered lane the Charleston folk were pleased to call Fifth Street passing shoulder-high on his right hand.  Riding up out of the wash he entered the path leading past the irrigation ditches that fed the Chink truck farms on the outskirts of the town.  Some of the Celestials were working around a trunk-gate.  They bowed low as he approached, showing him the tops of their cone-shaped wicker hats. He'd fixed up his shooter to quicken it some while he was Below, and seeing the Chinks he thought this a grand opportunity to pull her off against something livelier than cholla and paddle cactus.  He'd sawed the barrel down even with the ejecting rod and cut away the front of the trigger guard and tied the trigger back with whang and loosened the action so she'd fire if you glanced at her crosseyed.
  He drew her and sliphammered two rounds into the trunk-gate where one of the rat-eaters was standing, and the Chink jumped off into the ditch and the others scattered.  "I string up Chinks by their God-damned pigtails and cut their throats like hogs while they dangle!" he hollered at them.  "I’m the original boss hand of all Chink-killers in the whole of America!"  He fired off his other three loads and kicked up pebbles around the heels of the ones that were running while the one in the ditch-water kept ducking his head and making praying-motions with the knuckles of both hands pressed together.  Charleston was used to gunfire and nobody would come running.  The piece had shot smooth and Brocius was pleased. 
Reloading with his reins loosely dallied, he rode up out of the wash and took Mitchell Street north and came into the town, walking the pony past Charlie Tarbell's Eagle Hotel, past Jaw Bone Clark's dance hall and Jack Swartz's saloon and Quinn's and Jerry Barton's.  On the porch of the Chinaman's restaurant a row of idle laborers roosted on a wooden bench like so many buzzards and a huge sow dozed by the doorway of the express office.  He noted how delicate were the white lashes fringing the sow's closed eyes.  The air was full of fine rock crystals that glittered like a cloud of floating diamonds might.  They settled into his eyes and he tasted their grit in his mouth.  He smelled the odor of coal-smoke and the sweetish stink of shit.  In front of Ayers's place he reined back and sat his pony beneath the alamosas looking over the little blue mustang ground-hitched there with the English Boys' Empire brand on its rump plain as day, and John R's center-fire, full-stamped rig on its back.  Brocius shook his head and thought, The least he could do was blot the God-damned brand.
Just then John R himself emerged from the outhouse and came limping up the path toward the saloon.  He was coatless and in his sock feet.  One foot was wrapped thick with a filthy bandage.  His fine-boned face looked oddly delicate behind its fierce brush of mustache and below the flattish crown of auburn hair, till you noticed the level stare it meted out.  He carried his roll-brimmed white hat against his breast, and from his free hand his bandanna trailed softly in the dirt behind him like a fallen banner, and Brocius could see that he was as tight as a tick.  John R paused and tottered very slightly, looking at him but giving no sign of recognition.  He placed his hat exactly level on his head and solemnly began to wind the bandanna around his throat.  Presently he remarked in a tone of ridicule, "Some pony."
           For answer Brocius spoke of her best virtue:  "She's got bottom."  He dismounted and fed her two sticks of horehound.  He hitched her to the rail while she munched and began to loosen her cinch, eyeing John R across the saddle-seat as he slowly advanced along the path.  "Thought you was over at Sonoita."
           "Was.  I came back."
           "There's a true bill out on you, for jumping bail on that Safford business."
           "I know it."  Unsteadily John R knelt and ran his hands over the thorn-scars on the filly's fetlocks.  "She's used to rough country," he observed.  He stood again and shook his head.  "Still, I could never abide a filly."  He fixed Brocius with iron-gray eyes.  "Don't think much of a calico, neither."
           Brocius grinned.  "The color don't go plumb through, like a marble cake."
          "Something's wrong in the breeding," John R insisted.  "The bloodlines are all crossed up.  It's a degenerate."  He took Brocius by the shoulder and gently but firmly shook him.  "You must get drunk like me.  Come inside and get full with me.  Then we'll come back out and shoot this damned hybrid beast."  He turned Brocius to the door and led him inside.         
           With the windows shuttered against the blowy weather, the place was dim.  Old newspapers covered the walls and the single Rayo lamp hanging from the ceiling beam awakened mellow antique colors in them that seemed to fetch the walls agreeably close.  A fire was burning in the potbellied stove, and the first touch of its warmth reminded Brocius how chilled and sore he was, after the long ride up from Old Mex.  John R settled at a table next to the stove and poured them both a drink while Brocius unbuttoned his coat and nodded a wordless greeting to Ayers, who lounged behind the bar absorbed in a yellowbacked number of Beadle's Dime Library entitled Revenge of the Border Scouts. 
Brocius eased gratefully into a chair and accepted the brimming tumbler John R shoved across.  "You ought to blot that brand, you know," he advised.  "And that ain't no April Fool."  But John R didn't seem to hear him.  He sat slumped forward over the table, gazing into his glass.  His wrists were crossed and his long white hands lay in repose like two implements dropped there, inert, waiting to be put to use.  Brocius tried again.  "Walter Vail's not a man to set still for having his stock stole and then left on the public street with its kept-up mark a-showing plain as a bull's pecker."
           John R said nothing, so Brocius relaxed against the back of his chair and propped his boots on the table where a bottle of Virginia Dew and two tumblers sat waiting as if Ayers had known they were coming.  He listened awhile to the snap and whine of the piñon-wood in the stove and the ticking of the old Seth Thomas clock behind the bar.  But there was no escape from the stamp mill's commotion.  It traveled from the dirt floor up through the legs of the chair and into his bones.
After a spell John R broke his silence.  "About that Safford business. I never meant it, you know."
Brocius smiled.  "It damn sure looked like you meant it.  You blowed part of his cheekbone out the back of his neck." 
John R picked up his drink and tossed it off in a single motion of head and arm, then his hands returned to their position on the tabletop, crossed in expectant immobility.  "Was he a nigger, or a breed?  I recollect he was dark-complected."
"No, he was fair.  Till you shot him in the face, anyway."  Brocius grinned.  "After that he was some darker, from the powder."
"Seems to me he was a nigger or a Mex or a breed."
"You was so drunk, it could've been your own little old mother," Brocius laughed.  "But you run yourself a good straight line afterwards.  I expect you was cold-sober as you passed through the door."
A faint gleam of humor kindled in John R's eyes.  "That's so," he admitted.  "A rational man, flying his coat-tails to the breeze."  But he didn't smile.  He examined his empty glass.  "I reckon I'm through down on the Gila for a spell."
"Hell," said Brocius, "Safford ain't no God-damned paradise that I ever noticed."

John R sank back into his chair, took out his watch and began winding it.  Morosely he nibbled one end of his mustache.  He snapped the watch shut and strung it across his middle and poured himself another glass of Virginia Dew.  "I see worms in my dinner and snakes in my saddlebags.  The jim-jams come over me at night.  I'm broke down."  He hoisted the glass and drained it.
"You ain't near the wreck you say you are."
"No, mine's a fatal case."
"You've been saying so six months or more.  Yet here you set."
"There's such a thing as despair."
Brocius laughed.  "There is, but 't'ain't fatal."
"You're wrong.  A man can waste himself, and then see what he's done and fall into despair, and die of it."
"Your trouble is, you're too God-damned educated for your own good. You've been up there in the Cherry-Cows reading all them pomes and romances and such till you've confused yourself with some damn English cunny-boy, perishing of a broken heart.  Why, you're an example of the dangers of education."
"Still, I'm broke down."  John R extended his leg and woefully regarded the grimy dressing on his foot.  "I'm lame," he mourned.  "I got full and shot myself in my very own foot, and now I'm lame."
Brocius rolled his eyes.  "It's a month now since you done that.  The God-damned thing is healed by now.  Take off that wrapping afore it rots, and the foot with it."   Bored with John R's self-pity, he turned his attention to the dime edition Ayers was examining.  "Say, J.B., who are the God-damned Border Scouts anyway, and why are they out for revenge?"
Ayers pointed to a figure on the cover that looked to Brocius more like one of those old-time Spanish Main pirates than anything ever seen along the border, who appeared to be scalping some poor wretch alive.  "That there is Deadshot Dick Plummer, the most fearless scout and Deputy United States Marshal in the Indian Nations," Ayres replied, pointing to the figures on the cover,"and the chap he's working on with the steel is a breed name of the Choctaw Kid. The Kid is a fiend in human form who ravished and murdered Dick's intended."
Brocius whistled.  "Hell, if he done that, I wouldn't be cutting off his hair."  He rolled himself a quirly and lit up.  "I've been in the Nations, J.B., and I don't recollect no Deadshot Dick atall.  Though I will admit to encountering a fiend or two."
"It's all very well for you to mock me," John R complained, put out that Brocius wouldn't credit the calamity of his having wounded himself.  He poured a fresh swallow.  Outside, the gusts whistled and murmured at the corners of the saloon and puffs of pink dust blew into the room around the edges of the shutters. The flame in the lamp guttered and smoked. "The trouble with you is," he said, "you're too God-damned full of hope.  And confident hope at that."
Brocius shrugged in agreement.  "I expect I am a hopeful cuss."
John R made a short, explosive, deprecating noise in the back of his throat.  "You're a fool.  What good did it ever do you?"
After a moment's thought Brocius drew on his quirly and replied, "Well, lately them boys over yonways"—he tipped his head to the east, in the direction of the San Simon and the country along the New Mexican line—"they’ve been letting me take point." 
            Surprisingly, it was so.  He'd ridden into the San Simon Valley over there a year ago with Bob Martin after they’d skipped Texas and bided some time in Chihuahua.  After Bob got killed at Stein’s Pass, Brocius ran into Joe Olney at San Simon Cienega hazing a rustled herd of Mex beeves up to Camp Grant to sell to the army.  He'd known Joe in Burnet County before Joe had to take leave of that place for letting out the light of a deputy sheriff, who was also the sheriff's brother-in-law, in the Hoodoo War.  Joe called himself Joe Hill now.  He’d hired Brocius on.  John R was in that outfit too.  So were Pony Diehl and Jim Hughes and Dave Estes and some others of the boys that rode with Brocius now.  And it was true, they were giving him the point.
The San Simon agreed with Brocius, and right off the reel he’d approved enough of Joe, Pony and them that it almost made up for disliking John R so much.  It hadn't been long before Brocius went into the cow business for himself, taking in the stock from the greaser rancheros down Below and driving it north to sell at Camp Grant or the big Apache reservation at San Carlos.  He’d settled on a small spread in the Chiricahuas and soon set himself up on another one at the Roofless Dobe in the Animas Valley, building a rock chosa  just this side the line. 
All through that country—the Animas, the San Simon, the San Bernadino, the Sulphur Spring—hands like himself, who'd come in riding the highlines and craning at the back-trail just as he'd done, were camping on the cienegas and tanks, running cows they'd gathered in Old Mex, Texas men most of them, that had done what he'd done and wanted what he wanted.  They'd turned to him, and he'd known they'd follow him if he led out.  Seemed he had the knack of leading rough fellows, a talent previously unsuspected.  It fell way short of likely—they were mostly in their twenties and he was an old duffer on the far side of forty and rheumatic and his gut hung out over his saddle-horn like a sack of oats—but they liked the way he carried himself and they enjoyed his large laugh and his joking ways and easygoing manner.  They liked it that he'd take a good deal of water before getting his mane up, that he never cared to swagger and brag, yet was right-down game and feared nobody whenever called out and then always gained the edge he needed and used it.  He could make a flash and drop a man as quick as any.  Finally they respected him because his judgment was mostly sound.  All of them, that is, except John R, who had no respect for anybody, least of all himself.
"I've made no fortune like I meant to when I run off from that farm in Indiana," Brocius went on.  "I've eat beans till I fart like the trump of Gabriel and I'm stuck full of jonco thorns and I've got a pound of horseshit in the arches of both boots, and mostly I ain't got two Mex dobe-dollars to rub together.  But I ain't despairing, not like you, amigo.  With the boys backing me like they are, why, I'm the jefe over yonder."  Again he dipped his head to the east.
"You may be jefe across the range," John R said.  "But it's only because the Old Man never bestirred himself to reach that far."  He grimaced, showing his blunt, spaced, yellow-rooted teeth.  Slowly and mockingly he wagged his head.  "And they tell me you're fixing to cross to this side."
Sharply Brocius eyed him.  "Who's telling such a thing?"
John R chuckled and allowed his finger-ends to flutter in the air beside his ear.  "Imps.  Gremlins.  A dozen tiny angels dancing on the head of a pin."  Then he turned grim.  "As things go, you can do as you please over in the San Simon country.  But if you come a-poaching this side, then the Old Man and Sheriff Charlie will get cross with you."
"If I take your meaning," Brocius said smirking, "you're counseling me against an ambition to better myself."
"No, I'm counseling you against harboring your confident hope."
Brocius sighed, dropped the stub of his quirly to the floor and crushed it under his boot.  He was a stout man with big stooped shoulders and a paunch, a man whose whose joints ached.  He was grizzled and twisty and gnarled as a juniper on the windward side of a bluff. His mop of tangled black hair—the boys called him Curly Bill on account of it—had waves of tarnished silver in it but his mustache was red with sun-bleach and turned up at the ends, making him look roguishly pleased even when he wasn't.  He'd punched cows in every part of Texas and in the Indian Territory and then for awhile in the Seven Rivers country on the Pecos.  He’d partnered with Bob Martin awhile, helped Bob brace the Mesilla stage, winged a pair of nigger passengers, got arrested, busted out of the El Paso jail.  Not once in all that time had he ever had a dream or an ambition beyond making a raise of spoils or drawing a steady wage and found.  Now, when he was bunged-up and past his prime, this aspiration had seized him, unlikely as it was. 
It could hardly seem any more peculiar to John R than it did to Brocius himself.  But the boys feared nobody more than John R, and if he opposed a thing, not a one of them would try it; without his help, or at least his indifference, what Brocius had in mind was bound to fail.  John R was the hardest of that hard bunch and could've bossed the outfit himself if he'd wanted to.  But he was a man of breeding fallen on bad times, was often drunk because of it, and embittered by ill fortune he liked to lean back and sneer at the hopes and schemes of others.  This was the flighty bird Brocius had to snare. 
He took his boots off the table and leaned close. "There's a big traffic around Tombstone now, and along the river 'twixt here and Old Mex and down Tucson-way.  And it's getting bigger by the day.  The Old Man's poorly.  Some say he's gone feeble-minded."  He jerked a thumb at the noise of the steam-hammers.  "He won't even take any goods out of the mining, though he could, protected as he is by the Ring.  He'll go into Sonora on a rustling raid, or he’ll layway the greaser conductas carrying contraband, but he won't come north of Fritz's Spring to do business on the bullion stages and mine paymasters and other suchlike.  Yet think of the treasure to be had.  I've heard his boys are longing for them goods.  I'm thinking maybe they'll cut their sorry old daddy out, if a certain jefe from across the way was to put it to 'em just right." 
John R had been watching him without expression, and now once more slowly shook his head.  "You reckon Providence has appointed us boys to try and stop that racket?" he asked with a crooked grin, raising his voice against the noise of the ore-stamps.
Brocius didn’t know what he’d meant by the remark and wondered if John R himself did.  "Stop it?  Can't nobody stop it."  Darkly Brocius scowled at the seeming bleakness of the notion.  "I only mean to grab off some of the goods that come of it."
But John R continued as if he hadn't heard.  "We're ruffians and vagabonds.  We amuse ourselves with drink and go about armed and do mischief.  Mischief is about all we can do.  Yet you think Providence has assigned us this great high work." 
He motioned toward the mill.  "They dig shafts miles deep in the earth.  They build railroads.  They stop up rivers and break rocks with steam-powered machines.  If you’re right that Providence has assigned you this task, then Providence has its sense of irony.  It has given you your confident hope, but look what It's given them."  He offered a wolfish smile.  "Providence, you see, is a bitch.  Hell, God's a bitch.  He's pitted us ants against giants.  It makes Him laugh to watch us scurry about.  He laughs till He shits, I’m telling you."  He lifted his glass and drank.  "That's the world, mi amigo."
Brocius regarded him with a mixture of contempt and ridicule.  "You're so damn drunk on rot you don't know what in the hell you're saying.  And you’re blaspheming and I don’t care a damn for it."
"You've made a cozy little nook for yourself rustling beef over in the San Simon," John R shot back  "You should be content with that. You're too fat and old to light up such a fire in your belly now.  The boys admire you because you're droll and make them laugh, not because they think you're Jesse James.  Listen to me, you're no bandit chief, you're a cheap low rustler, nearly used up.”  He wagged his head.  “Take no counsel of your goddamned confident hope."
It rankled Brocius to be belittled so.  What great deed had John R ever done, pulling always on his bottle, bemoaning a misspent life, sitting in judgment on the merit of others?   Once upon a time down in Texas he was so bloody that men spoke of him in the same breath with Hardin, Thompson, Longley and that stripe.  He was running then with Scott Cooley's bunch in those Mason County troubles.  But finally he showed himself mean and vicious, where most of Cooley's boys wanted at least to play a square game, hard but square.  Once he shot down a poor unarmed Dutchman while the fellow was wiping his face with a washrag.  He shot that poor chap in Safford last year because the fellow ordered beer instead of whiskey when John R was treating.  Such acts scared the daylights out of everybody that knew of them, but Brocius thought them a poor basis for John R rendering opinions on anybody's conduct. 
But before he could utter a rejoinder, a crowd of Cousin Jacks came bursting in, requiring Ayers regretfully to lay by his yellowback.  Shakily John R stood.  "I'm headed down to Tucson.  Let's go outside and execute your unnatural horse."
Brocius declined the invitation; he planned to take the Barfoot trail up past Tombstone and then through the Dragoons into the Sulphur Spring, and so along to the San Simon.  So they two gathered up their plunder and said their good-byes to Ayres and outside under the alamosas they stood to the saddle and rode out.
They splashed across the ford and came up between the bluffs into a cluster of cabins that had cropped up in the weeks since Brocius last visited.  John R said the place was called Millville. They rode past the roaring stamp mill looming amid its ugly mounds of ore tailings.  They followed the rising ground northeast toward the cluster of hills where the silver camp of Tombstone lay.  The Mule Mountains frowned on the skyline beyond, and on their left they could see the southern tail of the Whetstones.  The road was full of wagon traffic, bull trains bringing lumber up to Tombstone from the Huachucas, ore trains coming down to the mill, even a full twenty-four-mule jerkline outfit complete with trailers and a junk wagon, hauling mining machinery.  The noise and the dust drove them off the road, and they struck out cross-trail to avoid it; and presently, without any further talk, they parted to travel their separate ways. 
In spite of John R's carping, already it was in Brocius's mind to scrawl a letter to the Old Man's youngest, and ask Billy if he wouldn't ride down to Tucson and sit together with him and Sheriff Charlie Shibell of Pima County and make medicine.  Billy might be but eighteen, yet he was a sturdy hundred-sixty-pounder and a man in every way that counted, and was the steadiest and shrewdest of the Old Man’s get.  Friends of Brocius that knew Billy had confided the boy could see the sense in laying hands on the spoils the silver strike was offering, even if the Old Man resisted it and seemed happy just to rustle stock.  Brocius would see if he and Billy couldn't fix up with Charlie Shibell what the Old Man had fixed up with him and with that Tucson Ring of politicians too.  And then Brocius would turn the head of his little Gypsy-pony toward the San Pedro and, by God, he’d come in, and he’d fetch the San Simon and Sulphur Spring boys with him too.



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