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Will to Survive

Ernest Bywater


Will to Survive

Ernest Bywater

All rights reserved © 2015

Author's Note: I've taken some poetic licence in the list of items in the survival packs in this story because it's just too hard to get a real list of what's currently in the ones used by the USAF and RAAF. Nor have I sought out the exact radio procedures they use today. Also, I've not named the Indian tribe due to issues I had in getting specific data on the family and social structure of the local tribes. So I used researched data on the ways of the major tribes from further east in the New Mexico Territory of that period.

Note: UK English is used in this story, except for dialogue by a US character where US English is used in the dialogue and some nouns.


This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. All rights are reserved by the author, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.

Product names, brands, and other trademarks referred to within this book are the property of their respective trademark holders. Unless otherwise specified, no association between the author and any trademark holder is expressed or implied. Nor does it express any endorsement by them, or of them. Use of a term in this book should not be regarded as affecting the validity of any trademark, service mark, or registered trademark.

Cover Art

The background images are Fall in the mountains by Gila National Forest and Bill Williams River at Southern end of Lake Havasu in Arizona by John Menard, both are used with permission under Creative Commons Attribution. The trimming and adding of text is by Ernest Bywater. All rights to the cover image are reserved by the copyright owners.

3 February 2022 version

Published by Ernest Bywater

E-book ISBN: 978-1-329-75669-4


The title styles in use are a chapter, a sub-chapter, and a section.


On the Range

The radar technician looks up and says, “Red Flight is entering the area of tonight's active exercise control zone for the range, Sir.”

The Captain in control of the practice range tonight looks over at the 'Activities Board' to confirm there are no other activities in the range tonight. The line for 'Ground Activities' has the 'No Exercises' plate up while the 'Air Activities' section lists only the one line saying 'Red Flight out of Luke AFB, night live fire exercise.' He nods to the Australian Air Traffic Controller in the tower to conduct tonight's exercise for the flight of Royal Australian Air Force pilots training on the new fighter planes just sold to the Australian Air Force.

The Australian Squadron Leader in charge of tonight's training gives a return nod to indicate he has control, he turns to the officer in front of him at the control board and says, “Talk them in, Pilot Officer Mills.”

The Pilot Officer is already tracking the flight into the radar control zone of The Barry M Goldwater Air Force Range, Arizona, and she also has the vector they need to be on to reach the location of the live fire area set aside for tonight's exercise. She activates her radio and says, “Red One, Range Control, turn ninety degrees to heading two, seven, zero. You are clear to arm weapons. Repeat, turn to two, seven, zero, and clear to arm weapons. Over.”

All hear the reply, “Range Control, Red One confirms turn to two, seven, zero, and clear to arm weapons. Roger. Out.” A moment, then they hear, “Red One to Red Flight, follow me and turn to two, seven, zero.” They all watch the radar displays while they wait. Seconds later the radar shows the flight has made the ninety degree turn to the west, and they hear, “Red One to Red Flight, arm weapons. Out.”

Things sound a bit confusing while each pilot confirms they have live weapons, but it's an organised confusion with each pilot waiting their turn to radio the confirmation to the leader. Following a short break after the last pilot reports in they hear, “Range Control, Red One. Red Flight is on two, seven, zero, and weapons are armed. Over.”

“Red One, Range Control confirms Red Flight is on heading two, seven, zero with live weapons. Out.” Silence descends on them all while they watch the radar displays.

A little later the Captain looks up from his display and says, “Drone controllers start your vehicles. Range Control, they should be picking up the targets soon.”

The controller is about to activate her radio when they hear, “Range Control, Red One has two moving ground targets on radar bearing two, six, five, and moving right to left. Request attack authorisation. Over.”

Squadron Leader Davis looks at the main radar display, as there's nothing else showing as in the area he says, “Attack authorised.”

Pilot Officer Mills activates her radio, “Red One, Range Control, attack authorised. Repeat, attack authorised. Over.”

“Range Control, Red One confirms attack authorisation given. Out.” A short delay, and, “Red One to Red Three and Red Four, make your attack run on the targets bearing two, six, five. Northern target for Red Three and Red Four the southern target. Over.” All of them hear the two pilots confirming their targets.

The radar displays show Red Three and Four heading down to attack the ground vehicles as the rest of the flight turns aside while it gains a lot more altitude to leave the field to the two pilots on their attack run.

A moment's delay, then they hear, “Red Three has radar lock on a ground target moving south.”

Another voice with, “Red Four has radar lock on a ground target moving south.”

A short break, and Red Three says, “Commencing strafing run with cannon.”

One of the drone operators looks a bit worried as he has concerns over what he's hearing of the radio transmissions as the location doesn't seem right to him. He glances at his mate's controls, then up at the main radar screen, and says, “Captain, abort, those aren't our drones. They're too far south and our vehicles are going north-east.” All of the other people's heads come up in shock.

Squadron Leader Davis doesn't wait to confirm or argue, as he immediately activates his radio and says, “Red Flight, Exercise Control, abort attack, abort attack. Over.”


Flight Lieutenant William March is piloting Red Three while he's busy with his attack run. He squeezes the trigger to shoot the drone with his cannon. He can see the fire from Red Four out of the corner of his eye, and he's watching both lines of tracers head toward the targets. Then he hears, “Red Flight, Exercise Control, abort attack, abort attack. Over.”

He immediately takes his finger off the trigger while saying, “Red Four, Red Three. Head for the roof, out.” He pulls back on the controls to start climbing straight up at full power, away from the targets, while saying, “Exercise Control, Red Three, aborting attack and withdrawing. Over.”

Red Three and Red Four are very busy controlling their planes when the dark night is suddenly as bright as day while both of the aircraft are buffeted and they hear, “What the hell!” Will March looks to his left where his friend and wingman, Will Hall, should be, and he can't see him due to a large fireball. Of more concern to him is the way his plane's wing is coming apart. His training kicks in and he pulls the ejection handle.


Two large black SUVs are driving across the Arizona desert late at night. They're driving across the Barry M Goldwater Range toward the Mexican border. They know the border patrol will be easier to avoid at the point they intend to break through the fence, and then they'll race along the Mexican Federal Highway 2 to vanish into Mexico. They know it's safe to cross the range tonight because their friends at Luke Air Force Base have seen the flight orders for all of the USAF Squadrons based there and none of them are having night exercises tonight. The four men smile when they think of the millions they'll get paid for the four stolen tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) in their two vehicles.

Suddenly the night is torn apart with cannon shells exploding in the two SUVs. The planes only fire their guns for a second, but they are rapid fire cannons and they fire at a very fast rate. Also, the targeting is spot on so all of the rounds are on target. In both SUVs the exploding cannon shells detonate and they activate the explosives used in the TNWs to slam the nuclear material together. These actions set off the four devices in a simultaneous explosion that turns the night into a bright day while also vaporising the thieves.


When Red Three and Red Four peel off to attack Red One turns the rest of Red Flight aside while gaining altitude, thus there can be no mistake about who is where and doing what. This is to minimise the risks of an accidental friendly fire incident. The fast fighters take only a few seconds to move well away from the two planes attacking the drones. He hears the abort order and he thinks it's just an extra test of the pilots' skills, until the desert is suddenly as bright as the noonday sun. He looks over to where the radar says the drones are, and he's surprised to see an elongated fireball expanding up and out. He glances at his radar because the distance is already too far to pick out the two fighters by sight, especially in the light of the fireball, and he's stunned when both planes vanish from his radar screen.

“Exercise Control, Red One, two planes are down. Red Three and Red Four are no longer on my radar. Over.” Control comes on the radio to order the flight to land back at Luke Air Force Base.


The explosion is too far away from the range control centre to see it in detail, but they can easily see the bright burst of light down that way. They all turn to stare at each other while they wonder what the hell is happening down there. After a moment everyone is soon busy carrying out the required Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to report a major range incident, and the SOP to report the loss of the two aircraft with their crews.


The next day Squadron Leader Davis has the sad duty of calling his sister to tell her his brother-in-law, Will March, is missing and believed dead. Thus she's now a widow due to his aircraft being destroyed in a training accident.

The investigators do find most of the aircraft frames, engines, and one ejection seat; thus they can tell both pilots ejected, but nothing can be found of the pilots or the other ejection seat. It's assumed the missing pilots and seat were totally destroyed in the fireball, like the canopies and some parts of the planes were. The investigation takes four months to be completed, but the main details are so obvious they're in the preliminary report lodged at the end of the third week.

A month after the incident funerals are held in Australia for the two dead pilots. It takes time, but the families grieve and move on with their lives. Both men are missed by their family, friends, and workmates.


Orientation Time

Will March blinks twice then he looks around him. There's a short blank spot in his memory and he's sure he wasn't knocked out, but even if he was it couldn't have been for long because he's still hanging from his parachute with the ground still a long way down. What's a big worry is there's no sign of the fireball, fire, or aircraft wreckage. Being night he should be able to see the fire of his downed aircraft wreck burning, or what's left of the drones that blew up in so spectacular a fashion.

A few seconds later he's thinking, Was that the drones we shot and blew up? Now he's not so sure of that because of the abort command. He thought it was a test, but the explosion now has him wondering about what did happen. Whatever went off did so in a big way, and he's not seen anything make such a large fireball so quick before. It was way short of the film footage he's seen of nuclear explosions so he rules that out as a possibility. Even so, there should be something still on fire, and he can't see any flames at all.

He still has his helmet on with its built-in microphone so he reaches for the radio lead to plug it into the emergency radio unit on his flight suit. He turns the emergency radio on, but there's nothing on the frequency. He looks down to check the power, the light shows it's on so he activates the radio and says, “Exercise Control, Red Three, do you receive me? Over.” He gets no response so he repeats the call several times, but there's no reply. This worries him because this radio is on the emergency frequency which is always listened to, and no answer means there's a major communications breakdown for the whole area.

Will puts the matter aside to look at the ground as he's now low enough he can start to make things out to decide where he wants to land. For now, all of his attention is on getting safely down on the ground in one piece, and that's the way it should be.

Some minutes later he hits the ground and he rolls the way he's been trained to do it. A moment to deflate the parachute before he takes a few minutes to roll it up the way he's been taught. They can repack it for re-use, and if he's really lost it's a useful resource for shelter, warmth, etc.

He stuffs the chute away in its pack as per the SOP before he gets out his GPS (Global Positioning System) device to check it, only to be stunned by the screen saying, 'No signal.' He should have several satellites in range here. Oh well. On with the SOP to check what he has to work with in the way of survival gear. The major items are in the big pack that's part of the ejection seat which should have landed nearby, but it didn't. However, his vest and small pack with the chute are on him.

Going through the survival items is necessary to ensure he knows what he has to work with, and also because the RAAF and USAF have different packs. He's wearing a RAAF survival vest with some of the gear but the USAF pilots no longer use one. Plus the gear in the USAF seat and chute packs vary too. So he needs to sort out what he does have on hand. It takes him several minutes to go through it all and to move some of it to be a bit more ready to hand than where it's first stored. He also changes the way the parachute and packs are strapped on so they'll be more comfortable while he's walking about. One of the first things he does is to ready and load the survival rifle in the pack. Things are just way too screwed up for him to be complacent about his situation. He moves out with everything still on him. The helmet is easier to carry strapped on his head, but with the visor up and out of the way.

He takes his time to look around the area, and when he spots a hill a few miles away he heads toward it. He figures to be able to see further from there when the sun comes up. A couple of hours later he's near the top of the hill and he's working his way under a bush to be out of sight while he sleeps for the rest of the night.


Time for a Walk

Will wakes up in bright sunlight. He glances at the sky, and he can tell the sun's been up for a couple of hours, but not too long. He takes a moment to get out from under the bush, stand, stretch, unload excess fluids, and have a sip from his canteen. All of the time he's looking about him, and all he sees is the same Arizona desert he's seen since arriving a few weeks back. He gets out his monocular to start looking around.

For several minutes he closely examines everything within sight, and he isn't happy with what he sees. The wreckage of the two planes and the drones or the burnt patches marking their wrecks should be visible. But there's no burnt out areas, nor are there any of the roads he's seen in the area when taking daylight training flights. He wonders if there was a very strong wind and he's been blown far away from the wrecks. If that's so the usual rule of waiting near the wreck for the recovery unit isn't going to be of any use. Also, with no wreck in sight he's got nothing to wait beside. Oh well, out with the compass and to pick out a sight target to the north-west because the city of Yuma is the closest major urban area and it should be in that general direction. He can fine tune his path when he has it in sight since the city is big enough to see from many miles off.

A moment to double check everything is secure, take out an energy bar to nibble on, set the rifle in his hand for use, and start walking. He's not happy with having to walk out, but he can't see any other option. So he takes his time and great care. He walks slowly to conserve his energy while he keeps to the shade as much as possible to avoid heatstroke. Near noon he takes a long break in the little shade available. He has some food prior to taking a two hour nap through the heat of the day.

After waking up he sets off again. Late in the afternoon he tops a fair sized hill and he stops to survey the path ahead of him as well as all of the surrounding area. Using the monocular he has a good look around him. He's about to put it away when he spots movement on a rise near the limit of his vision to the north. Up comes the monocular again to get a better view. He's shocked to see a group of a dozen or so Indians on horses carrying bows while one has a very long rifle. He holds still as he watches while they check out the area before moving off to the east.

While they're moving off to the north-east Will thinks, They look like they belong in a film set in the mid 1800s. Modern Indians all use saddles and they dress in normal work clothes like jeans, except when they put on a show for people. I wonder what sighting that group of Indians means?

He continues to walk through the remaining day and twilight, only stopping when he walks up to a large scrubby bush after he figures it's getting too dark for him to see his way well. While crawling under the bush he thanks the powers that be for the tough gear he has because he doesn't have to worry about getting them torn up by the bushes. A moment to find a comfortable position, a bit of food, and a sip of drink, then he settles down for a night's sleep. The bush will protect him from most of the desert wildlife and it'll give him warning about the rest.


The next morning he wakes up soon after dawn and he gets out from his overnight bush. He does the usual daily preparations while looking around, then he starts walking toward Yuma while eating an energy bar. Today he sights nothing except the desert, and that's a worry because there are roads and old buildings he should be passing, but he doesn't.

Again he stops for a two hour nap through the worst of the day's heat. After the nap he keeps moving until near the end of the twilight before taking refuge under a large bush for the night. While having his evening feed he's real worried because he figures he should've sighted the outskirts of Yuma by now, and he's not seen a thing.


Today he wakes up in time to watch the dawn while going through his morning preparation. When he moves off he thinks, Bedding down at twilight means I get a good night's sleep and I'm still up early the next day. I like it, but I do wish I could find someone and find out what's up. Sighing, he continues his slow and steady walk toward Yuma.

He takes his usual midday nap under a bush on the southern slope of a hill, just down from the ridge line. When he wakes up he thinks he can hear a horse in the distance so he stops to listen harder, but he's not sure if it was a horse or his imagination. He gets going and stops on the hill to look around, but he can't see anything except desert so he gets going.

In the mid-afternoon Will is nearing a small hill when he hears guns being fired on the other side of the hill. He's not sure what's going on so he decides to be careful. He takes a moment to remove his pack and the flight suit he's still wearing, which he secures to the top of the pack. That takes him down to the desert pattern fatigues he has on under the flight suit. He also makes sure his pistol and rifle are ready to use with their spare magazines on hand. Wanting to blend into the desert while still keeping his helmet on he gets the poncho out of the survival kit to put it on with the hood over the helmet. It's not a combat helmet, but it's still more protection than no helmet at all.

Will carries everything up the hill and he stops just below the ridge top, right behind a bush on it. He puts the pack down. With his monocular in one hand and his rifle in the other he duck-walks up behind the bush until he can see what's going on over the hill.

Stunned at the sight before him he puts the monocular to his eye and he has a very good look around the area. Below is a stream with a cabin, a barn, a fenced corral, a group of about twenty-five Indians attacking the cabin, plus one Indian on a slight rise waving directions with a short spear. It looks just like the Indian attacks on ranchers he's seen in many of the western films, except there are no cameras around, no make-up van, no food van, and no cars of any sort. He studies the scene for a moment, then he moves to a better position to fire from.

While taking aim Will thinks, With nothing else to indicate otherwise I'll assume I'm watching an Indian attack on a rancher, so I'll act to end it. This rifle is a twenty-two firing subsonic hollow-points intended to help me hunt small animals, but it has the range needed here. First, the guy in charge of the attack then the three in the stream gully.

Will takes careful aim at the base of the man's neck, and he fires. His target falls forward and off his horse. Working left to right he aims between the shoulder blades of the three Indians in the gully, each slumps forward when hit. Being a sub-sonic round the sound of each shot is a low pop compared to the harsh bangs and booms of the guns being used by the ranchers and the Indians, so his shots are lost in the general combat sounds. However, the rifle flash is visible, and he can see he's been spotted when two of the Indians on horses point up at his bush before they lead a charge of five Indians toward his position.

The attackers are heading straight toward Will so there's no need to aim in front of them, just two simple shots straight at the two in the lead has both of them slumping down to fall off their horses. The other three turn aside to gallop off to the east, and they're soon followed by the rest of the Indians still alive. Will waits to see what's happening. After about a minute he stands, retrieves his pack, puts it on, and he starts to walk down the hill while keeping a watchful eye on everything all around him.

He sees the door of the cabin open and some people walk out with guns in their hands. Will raises the monocular to look at them. Their clothes and guns are in line with the 1800s western theme of the attack.

Will soon reaches the horses of his last two kills as they ran on a little from where their riders fell off before stopping. Taking the rope reins in hand he leads the horses to their last riders, confirms the men are dead, and lays them on the horses. One has a pistol Will sticks in the leg pocket of his trousers while the other has a rifle he picks up and carries. Then over to the leader, put him on his horse which hasn't moved, and adds the spear and a pistol to his collection. While moving to where the three are in the gully he notices the people from the cabin are watching him.

At the stream he ties the horses to a nearby bush and he places the gear from the dead on the ground beside the bush, along with his pack. He goes into the gully to drag the three dead out, one at a time, retrieving two pistols and a rifle. A bit of work and the Indians are two to a horse. He puts his pack on, picks up his gear, and he goes toward the cabin.

While leading the horses to the cabin Will thinks about what he's seen and the gear he just collected, Percussion cap revolvers and rifles along with standard frontier type clothing and behaviour. I wonder if I've, somehow, been thrown back in time to the mid 1800s?

A man and woman in their mid-thirties are standing on the porch while watching him walk up. Will stops near the two steps to the porch and he ties the horse reins to one of the posts. He puts the collected rifles on the porch, drags the dead off the horses, and he starts stripping the bodies of everything he can use. In a few minutes he has six naked dead men on the ground along with everything off the horses.

The woman asks, “Why are you taking their loincloths?”

Will glances at her as he replies, “Everything can be used. The cloths can be either sewn together to make a bigger cloth, or cut up to use as ties or patches on other things. All I have now is right here in front of you, so I intend to keep and use everything I can.” She slowly nods in reply.

A young woman's voice comes from inside the cabin, “Pa, Ma, you need to look at Jim's leg. It's not bleeding much, but the ball is still in there and he can't stand.”

Will looks up, “Want me to have a look at it? I'm not a doctor but I've had a bit of training on how to treat bullet wounds and the like!” He's not a qualified paramedic but he does have a Certificate in Advanced First Aid plus a few extra courses on combat medicine. He figures they put him a little ahead of most people, especially those in the 1800s.

The man looks him over, nods yes, and says, “You and the women can look to Jim. I'll take two of your horses to bring in the two we killed in the back, if you don't mind!” Will nods his approval while moving toward the door.

Walking into the two-room cabin Will sees many things to confirm his working assumption about being in the mid 1800s. He also sees a late teen girl helping a slightly older boy onto the rough table in the room.



Will says, “Right! First, get them pants down and off, along with the boots.” The boy goes to speak, so he adds, “Getting them off will hurt less than me having to cut them off, and this way you can patch them to keep using them afterwards.” The woman nods her agreement, so the boy starts to undo his pants when Will takes his pack off. While the boy strips Will gets out his first aid kit.

In a moment the boy is sitting on the table with just his shirt on and Will says, “I want a pot and a pan of boiling water.” The girl turns to the fireplace to start arranging them. Turning to the woman he asks, “Got any whisky or moonshine about?”

She looks at him for a moment, then she goes into the other room. Returning with a quart bottle she asks, “You want me to get him drunk so you can work on his leg?”

Will is still sorting things out so he replies without looking up, “No! He'll pass out if it hurts too much. I want the alcohol to clean out the wound. That way he shouldn't get gangrene.” He only takes out what he thinks he'll need: tweezers, antiseptic fluid, a gauze pad, a syringe without its separate needle as he leaves the needle in the pack, his torch, the kit's small metal mug, and he opens one of the survival kit's knives.

The pan of hot water is ready so he places the instruments in it for a moment. For the knife he rests the handle on the edge with the blade in the water. He's surprised about how quick the water is boiled.

He has the woman pour him a cup of the alcohol and he sniffs it. It's powerful stuff. He rolls the boy over to be face down so he can flush out the wound better. Using the torch for light, and getting a shocked look from the woman, Will probes the wound with the tweezers until he has the ball and several threads out. Next is to fill the syringe with the booze, he pushes it as far into the wound as he can then he forces the liquid into the wound. The boy gasps and screams from the sting. Will does this twice, and he's happy to see a few more threads wash out of the wound.

The woman asks, “What are you doing? And Why?”

He replies, “I'm washing out the wound to get all the dirt and cloth threads out so the wound won't fester. Also, the alcohol will clean it.”

Another thorough check with the torch: nothing is in sight except human skin and muscle. No serious bleeding, and only some muscle damage. He should heal well, if they can avoid an infection. Will rolls the boy onto his back, and he bends the leg to keep the thigh off the table.

“Now I need a strip of clean cloth about as wide as your hand and as long as your arm plus a pad about the size of the palm of your hand when folded over twice so it has four layers,” is Will's next set of orders. “When you have them ready I want them boiled in the pot for five minutes. I need some soap as well.” The woman frowns, but she does as he wants. Soon the cloth is in the water being boiled while he's rinsing the used instruments in the remaining water in the pan. When that's done he uses the water and soap to wash his hands.

After pouring some of the antiseptic into the wound he places the gauze on it, uses the tweezers to get the pad cloth out, wrings it out, folds it, and places it over the wound. Next is to get the long cloth out, wring it out, and use it as a bandage. Last is to give the boy an antibiotic tablet.

The man is back by the time the bandage is on. Will packs up his gear while saying, “The pad and bandage will have to be changed a few times each day. Whenever you do that have the replacement on hand. It needs to be a just boiled clean cloth, and also wash your hands before handling it. That's to minimise the risk of germs infecting the wound.”

The man asks, “What are these germs you speak of?”

Looking over at the man Will says, “You know animals come in many sizes, some big and some small?” The man nods yes. “Germs are smaller than gnats. So small you can't see them with just your eyes. They're all over the place. They like to set up house in wounds and multiply.”

The woman asks, “Are they what causes gangrene?” Will nods yes. “The alcohol and hot water kills them?” Another nod. “Thank you.”

Will adds, “A good soap will also kill most germs, but the lye is just as bad if it gets into the wound. If it gets infected we'll need to clean it out with a stiff brush and lye soap then rinse it well with water as hot as he can stand before a final rinse with the alcohol. As long as we keep the leg and the bandages clean he should heal well. However, I may not have been able to get all of the cloth threads out. Only time will tell us. If the wound gets hot and red he has an infection then we'll have to deal with it. That'll mean I'll have to open the wound to get a better look into it for threads, but I think I rinsed them all out.” Both the adults nod to show they understand. “Do you have any willow-bark tea or a similar remedy for a fever treatment?” She nods yes. “Give him some every few hours as it'll help with his recovery and further reduce the chance of infection.”

The man asks, “Can you stay for a few days to keep an eye on Jim?”

Will nods yes as he says, “Will March,” while holding out his hand.

The man takes his hand, “Sam Wilson. My wife Betty, son Jim, and daughter Ann. Thanks for helping out with the Indians. We get on well with the local tribe, so I don't know why they attacked.”

“Neither do I. Where can I stack my gear and set up a pad to sleep?”

The woman points to a spot beside the fireplace on the side away from the kitchen area, saying, “You should be nice and warm there.”

Will walks over, places his pack at the spot, takes off his poncho and helmet, and puts them with the pack. He walks outside and he returns with all his booty from the fight to add it to the pile while saying, “I want to have all these cloths and blankets hot washed with soap. Can you show me what I can use to do that tomorrow?” Both Betty and Ann nod yes in reply. He turns to Sam, “What should we do about the dead?”



Sam starts to speak, but he stops when they hear horses approaching so they grab their guns and go out to see who it is. It's another group of Indians so Will checks his gun. Sam smiles and says, “This is Long Snake, the leader of the local tribe. Also, they don't have weapons in hand and up ready to use them, so this is a friendly visit.” Will smiles.

Most of the Indians stop at a good distance and only two come up to the cabin. One of them greets Sam in a variant of Spanish, very much like the Mexican Spanish Will was taught by a neighbour when he was in high school. She was a lady of Mexican descent who married a Texan who worked for one of the computer companies and he got posted to Sydney. Sam responds in the same language and he also introduces Will.

After the exchange of greetings Long Snake looks at the dead lying on the ground and says, “I see I'm too late to warn you about Dark Wolf talking some of the young braves into making some raids. I see you made Dark Wolf pay for attacking you. I'll find the others and deal with them myself. Now Dark Wolf is dead they should settle down.”

Will speaks up in the hopes he can resolve the problem of disposing of the dead. He says, “Long Snake, all of the young braves died like warriors in battle. I killed three when I shot them from behind while they were attacking the house and the others were killed from the front while attacking us. However, Dark Wolf was killed while running away from me when I shot the others.” This gets the attention of the listening braves. “We do not know the proper ceremonies to honour the dead warriors to see them properly on their journey into the next world. Will you please take them with you so their families can know what happened to them, and so they can perform the proper ceremonies for them?”

Long Snake stares at Will for a moment, then he smiles and says, “Yes! It is proper their families know of what happened and see them on their way into the next life.” He signs to the other Indians. In a moment the dead are all across horses and they're ready to be taken back to their families. “I thank you for thinking of their families and their honour.” The Indians are on their way again after a few more words with Sam.

While they walk back into the house Sam says, “That was a neat way to get rid of the dead Indians.”

“It saved us some work. It also shows them we want to get on with them and to let them worship in their own way. I think he liked me asking them to do it right.”

“Oh, he definitely did. I know they often have to steal their dead back if they want to bury them right. If that's what they do with them!”

“I've no idea what their rites are. But I'll let them perform them.”

After putting his new horses in the corral, and giving them food and water, Will spends the remainder of the day with Sam going over the guns to make sure they're all working and are safe to use. The revolvers are all working .36 calibre Paterson Revolvers, but some parts are in a better condition than other parts are. It's a little work to take them all apart and to then reassemble the best parts into better guns with the worst parts made into not so good guns. Will now has two good pistols. One of the rifles is very worn and it's not accurate to shoot at anything except close range while the other is still good to use at long and medium ranges.

Sam and Will sit and talk about many things until Betty calls them to the table to eat. They talk while eating and for a short while after that, then they settle down for the night. During the talk Will learns he's in the same area he thought he was in. However, at this time it's the Territory of New Mexico and he's in the spring of the year 1857. Yuma isn't a city yet, just a small town called Arizona just across the Colorado River from Fort Yuma, California, which is reached by a cable ferryboat.

While bedding down for the night Will's mind is busy trying to get around his situation and to think of what he knows of US history of this time period. The only two things he's sure of are the 1849 Gold Rush and the US Civil War which starts in early 1861. He decides he has to get himself set up somewhere safe well before the war starts, and he's sorry he's too late to make use of the little knowledge he has of the gold rush.


Before he falls asleep Will says a short prayer for his family he won't be seeing again. He's very pragmatic due to his family background and his training, thus his focus is now on surviving in this here and now. He has no time to worry about the future which is in his past. Like many of his grandmother's ancestors have learned: accept tragedy, survive, and look to the future. Today is now his main concern and he needs to establish a new family in this time and place. However, that's for tomorrow and the days after it. Right now it's time for sleep.


A New Life

Will's mind had been working on what he knew of US history when he went to sleep, so it's natural it's the first thing on his mind when he wakes up. He remembers a few more historical facts, but a much more important memory is about a National Geographic show on gold mines in the US he saw several days ago in his time-frame. What stuck in his mind was the locations of a few of the mines near him when he watched it, with many along the Colorado River, one over near Phoenix, Pikes Peak in Colorado, many in California, and some places in New Mexico. He remembers them more because they're close to where he's based than any desire to mine them. The nearest one set up for tourism is the hard rock Vulture Mine mine close to Phoenix and he'd planned to visit it to see what a gold mine is like. He remembers the closest placer mining area to here is a spot on the Colorado River about 200 miles north of Yuma. He decides to try the La Paz location first because that allows him to stay near the river for fresh water while moving about during his search, and it's placer mining which the program showed how people pan for gold in a water course. La Paz doesn't exist at this time and it had ceased to exist in his original time, but he does remember it being on the river and its rough location north of Yuma. He figures he should be able to find the right area.

Everyone is up and getting ready for the day, so Will joins them. After breakfast he helps with the work around the ranch, working as directed by Sam because he doesn't know the work. During the day Will learns a lot while he's working for Sam.

Over the next few days Will learns a lot about the area, the times, and the work on a ranch like this. Jim's wound is healing well and he's real anxious to get back on his feet. The ladies wash all of the blankets and the clothes Will won in combat, making him very happy for doing it for him.

At the end of the first full day Will decides he needs to rationalise all of the gear he has. First is to take the parachute apart because he doubts he'll be doing much flying in the near future. Betty is surprised when he opens a pack to pull out a lot of fine cloth. He first removes all of the cords from the chute and winds them up to store for use as light ropes or cords. The rings and straps are set aside too. Using one of the cords as a measuring string he marks out some patterns to cut some t-shirts and shorts for himself, plus two large sheets. After cutting out enough for five sets of gear and the sheets he still has a lot of material left. He can't see a tag on the chute so he doesn't know if this is silk or nylon because he's not at all familiar with either material. He's about to let Betty have the rest of the olive drab material when he decides to measure and cut out patterns for a dozen pairs of simple tube socks, which he quickly does.

Looking over at Betty he asks, “Do you have some fine needles and good thread I can use, please?” She nods yes and she gets her sewing kit. When she hands him some thread and a needle he says, “I doubt I can use all of this. If you or Ann want to make something from it, go ahead.”

The speed with which the ladies move to get at the material makes him wonder if a tornado just raced through the cabin. Sam and Jim laugh at the fast movement of the ladies. Will starts to sew a simple tube style sock together while the ladies look the material over.

Sam asks, “Will what is that cloth, and what are you making?”

“It's a silk like material I got up north. It was originally made for a special purpose, but now I'm reusing it to make some underwear and socks. This stuff won't rub me as raw as some of the coarser materials will, so it makes wearing other clothes less of a hassle for me.” The ladies stop to watch how he's making the socks.

After a he does the first pair Ann takes the rest from him while saying, “I can do that better than you! Let me finish them.” He hands her the cut out material for the socks then he starts on the shorts, after the first pair are done Betty is doing his other shorts, so he starts on the first t-shirt. By then Ann is finished with the socks so she takes over his t-shirt making. The ladies don't seem to trust him to be able to sew things properly, and he's happy to let them do the work.

By the end of the evening, a later one than usual, all of the extra clothes are made so Will has to show them how they fit. He packs the rest away before he goes to sleep that night.

The next evening all of the Wilson family members have some new socks and underwear in olive green as the ladies were busy during the day, and they're now working on two summer dresses as well as more underwear.

While Betty is sewing her dress Will asks her, “Betty, do you have any knitting needles and wool?” She nods yes, and a little later she shows him a large box of balls of wool and the needles she has. They're all fine ones, so he asks, “Got any larger needles?” He gets a shake of her head.

The next morning Will asks Sam about large animal bones, and he's shown a few from dead animals in their rubbish heap that's downwind from the ranch. Will picks through them and he finds a few long thick bones he thinks are thigh bones from big animals, but he can't say what the animals were. However, they'll do for what he wants.

When Will asks him Sam informs Will he's not needed today, so he's free to work on his bone project. Will gets a few tools from the survival kit then he sits on the porch working on the bones. Although the others all look to see what he's doing when they go by none of them ask about what he's doing. They just take a look when they pass by.

After checking the bones Will takes one of the better ones and he splits it along its length to have six sections of bone about a foot long and a half inch wide. Next is to hold the wire saw in a loop to use it on the cut bone splinters to make them round before shaping a blunt point in each one. It's a slow and finicky job that takes Will the bulk of the day to get all six of them the way he wants and the same size. The remaining time is spent making six small wood discs about three times the diameter of the bone rods with a hole in the centre, then he pushes them down onto the six rods. He finishes in time to clean up for dinner.

Sam and Jim have no idea what they are or would be good for. But Betty recognises the design of the rods when Will sets them on the table to go and wash up, but she's surprised at how thick they are. She asks Will, “Why have you made those knitting needles so thick?”

He replies, “I want to make a specific type of blanket for which I need large needles to make it right.”

After dinner Betty is surprised at how fast Will knits when he works on his blanket. She gets another surprise when she can hear him still knitting away in the dark after the rest go to bed. In the morning she finds a loose weave blanket big enough to cover her bed sitting on the table, and she wonders what good it'll be with such big spaces in it.

Will knows they're interested in the blanket so he tells them during breakfast, “I'll sew two cloth blankets together with the new knitted one between them and sewn to one of them to hold it in place. That way it traps air in the pockets the knitted blanket makes and it's a lot warmer.”

None of them believe him. While Betty sews the blankets together the way Will wants he knits two more blankets. That night Betty and Sam try Will's blanket, and the next morning they admit it's a lot warmer than they expected it to be, which will be nice on cold winter nights.

Today Betty is sewing the two new style triple blankets together and Will is knitting two more a bit bigger to match the thermal blankets he has in his kits. The family is surprised at the silver looking material, but say nothing because they're getting used to Will's odd gear. When Betty finishes with the blankets for her kids Will has her sew three blankets together to wrap around each of his bigger blankets with a small flap.


Going for a Visit

Life at the ranch moves on with Will helping out while Jim recovers from being shot. One morning, a few weeks after the shooting, Long Snake pays them another visit to ask Will to visit his village, and Sam also decides to go. Neither man knows what it's about but they saddle up after Will changes back into his fatigues and vest. He's been changing what he wears every day and washing the dirty clothes every couple of days. He wants his best combat gear on while visiting the village.

While riding along Will asks Long Snake what's up, and he's told, “One of the dead braves had two mates who are sisters. His mates' mother is a widow too, and they now have no man to hunt for them. Our traditions say they're your slaves because you killed him in a fight of war. So you need to collect them and his other things.”

Sam says, “Long Snake, you don't normally apply that tradition to us whites, so why now?”

The Indian chief gives a half smile as he replies, “To have killed so many braves by himself your friend must be a good warrior. I hope this is true. Black Wolf is unhappy you said his brother, Dark Wolf, died a coward running away. He wants to challenge you. Also, he wants Light Fawn as a mate, but she doesn't want him. Once you accept Big Fawn, Light Fawn, and Little Fawn as your slaves he intends to challenge you so he can win them all as his slaves. That also means he doesn't have to submit to Big Fawn as the mother of his mate, which is our tradition.”

Will grins, “Is this Black Wolf as big a troublemaker as his brother?” He gets a nod yes in reply. “So you want me to kill this troublemaker?”

Yes! That will make things a lot easier in my camp.”

They ride on while Will thinks on this situation as he asks questions to learn about the traditions of this Indian tribe so he doesn't cause any trouble by accident. Both Will and Sam learn a lot about the tribe and its social structure.

Nearing the camp Long Snake says, “The women and gear are close to the horses and are waiting for you to inspect them.” So Will gets out his monocular to examine the camp and the three women standing near the group of horses. The women are comely, but not real pretty. The oldest looks to be in her mid or late 30s.

Will says, “Before I meet them I want to think on a few things and to speak to your elders. Can you show me the rest of the camp before you take me to the women?” Long Snake glances over at him as he nods yes.

Stopping at the edge of the camp they dismount and Long Snake has one of the boys take care of the horses while he leads Will and Sam away from the waiting women to look at the camp while telling them how they do things in the camp. It's all very interesting information.

Near the far end of the camp Will says, “From what you've said I gather the mother of a man's mate runs the family, he can have multiple wives and the senior or eldest mother is the family head. He submits to both mothers in the same way while the women are sister wives. All slaves are property and are dealt with in the same way as property, but a woman can't be both a slave and a mate. Is that all correct?”

“Yes, it is. If you take the women as slaves and Black Wolf kills you they all become his slaves. But if you take one of the young widows as mate their mother is your family head and neither can be slaves. Also, Black Wolf can't claim them as his slaves because they're widows.”

“Long Snake, who is the head of a family if a man takes a woman and her widowed mother as mate at the same time?”

He gets a stunned look as he's told, “I don't know! I must ask this of the elders who keep the tribe's knowledge and wisdom. Wait here!”

Long Snake walks away as he leaves them watching two women at work preparing a flour of some sort. A little later the Indian leader is back with two older men and two older women.

The oldest woman says, “Long Snake has told us your question. It hasn't happened, to our knowledge, but there is no reason why a man cannot take both a woman and her mother as his mates. Then they will stop being mother and daughter to become sister wives. The mother's mother will be the head of the family. If she is in the other world she will visit you in your dreams to give you directions.” She smiles at Will while talking, so it's obvious they all know what he's thinking.

Will says, “Thank you for the information.” He turns to look at Long Snake, “I think it's time we examined my new property.” They all go to where the three women are waiting, and Long Snake presents them all.

A crowd gathers while Will looks over everything. He turns to Long Snake and says, “I accept these goods won in battle with one exception. I don't believe in slavery and I won't have slaves. However, I am a man who has no mate, but I need someone to cook my meals and to keep me warm at night. So I accept these three women as my mates. How soon can you arrange for the proper ceremony for us to be mated?”

The oldest woman says, “I'm Bright Fox, one of the medicine women, and I can conduct the ceremony tomorrow, once all is ready.”

One of the men in the crowd says, “He can't take a woman and her mother as mates together!”

Bright Fox says, “There is nothing in our traditions that says he can't do this, so he can do it. It's just we haven't seen it happen before.”

The man continues, “This white man laughs at our traditions.”

Will guesses this man is Black Wolf so he says, “Long Snake, I'm being annoyed by a loud gnat. Am I allowed to squash this annoying insect?”

Before Long Snake can reply the man pulls out a knife and attacks. Will steps toward him while swinging his left arm down to knock the arm with the knife to the side as he strikes the man's chin in a fast and hard upward motion with his open right hand. The man falls down.

All are stunned by how fast it happens. The man isn't breathing so Long Snake asks, “Is Black Wolf dead?”

Will shakes his head no and says, “He isn't breathing and he is dying, but if you look close you'll see his eyes can move and he can hear us. He'll be dead in a moment. There's a short time between when a man stops breathing and his mind dies. Black Wolf is in that time. My blow broke his neck to stop his body from working and to send him on the path to death.” While talking he strips the body of everything useful.

Standing up Will says, “Big Fawn, move all of the things that used to belong to Black Wolf to be with my other things. Then select our best fur as a gift to Bright Fox for conducting our mating ceremony.” The woman smiles, nods yes, and leads her daughters off to get the things.

Bright Fox says, “You must stay here tonight to get ready for the ceremony tomorrow.”

Will nods yes, turns to Sam, and says, “Sam, you should go home to tell them what's going on. I think you may also want to tell Ann she can be a part of tomorrow's ceremony as another mate, if she wishes to.”

Sam grins, “Betty and I weren't sure you'd noticed the way Ann was acting. I'm not sure if she wants to be one of four, but I'll tell her.”

“Tell her to think of it as having three helpers to look after me.”

Sam laughs as he nods yes before asking, “Will, have you seen an Indian challenge fight before?” He gets a head shake of no in reply. “What was your aim with Black Wolf?”

“I figured Black Wolf thought he could kill me in the fight so I set out to protect the women from him if he won it. Then I goaded him to make him angry because an angry man doesn't fight well. Why?”

“In a challenge fight you're tied to each other and it's not like a normal fight. By attacking you when he did Black Wolf gave you a better chance to win. I wondered if you'd planned it that way.” He gets a no head shake in reply. “I didn't think so. I'll tell Ann all about this. Then she may be more understanding about the extra wives tomorrow.” Sam goes to his horse, mounts it, and heads for home. The crowd disperses as they all go on about their other duties.

Long Snake moves up beside Will and quietly says, “That went a lot quicker and easier than I thought it would. I also learned you're a much more dangerous man than I thought you were. I'll see to the ceremony for Black Wolf. You now have five more horses as well as two hogans. What will you do with all these things?”

“I'll tell my women to go through it all and to give away what we don't need to those who need them the most. I don't need to be carrying too much gear around.” He glances about, “Earlier I noticed you had an interest in my question about a woman and her mother. Why?”

“My youngest son wishes to take a maiden as mate, but her mother has been nothing but trouble since her man died last year. So he is hesitant about the situation. If he takes both then his mate's mother will be her mother, and she isn't as much trouble for others.”

Will smiles, “When you tell him of this tell him he also needs to do his nightly duties to both of his wives. I'm sure the mother is unhappy due to missing her man at night. Also, she can teach him things about that part of life.”

“I'll tell him. You may have started an interesting trend with this.”

“I hope not. If too many do this it can disrupt your tribal life in the long term. But a few in each generation shouldn't be a problem.”

“Will, you have much wisdom for one your age. Now go to your hogan to see what you have. Your women will want to see you.”

He does as suggested to spend the rest of the day getting to know the three women while they sort through everything, and they take many things out to give to others who need them. He enjoys the meals they cook, although they are a little different to what he's used to.

In the afternoon Bright Fox visits to explain what will happen in the ceremony tomorrow, and he tells her there may be another woman to be included. She leaves with a big smile and an odd look on her face.

At one point Big Fawn says, “Will, you now have two good stallions that want to fight instead of being friends. You should get rid of one!”

That's an easy problem to solve, a quick visit to Long Snake, a talk, and the biggest stallion is exchanged for two young mares.


The Next Day

The whole Wilson family arrives mid-morning with Sam on his horse and the rest in the farm wagon. Ann gets down, and she goes right past Will to speak with the women behind him. The women all vanish into the hogan.

Betty gets down and says, “You do live an interesting life, Will. Ann isn't happy about you having other wives, but she understands how it came about. If she gets on with the others you'll have four wives, if not, only three. Can you live with that?”

“Yes, I can. She shouldn't join us if she can't get on with them.”

Bright Fox turns up and tells Will what he has to do while handing him a set of clothes to wear. She leaves him to go into the hogan to speak to the women. Will takes the opportunity to go have a bath in the nearby river before getting dressed in the clothes just given him.

Thinking he may have to wait some time for the ladies Will looks at some of the wood piled up for camp fires and he selects a few pieces to work with. Then he sits to work on the wood with his knife by cutting it down to the shape he wants. It doesn't take him long to have three bits of wood shaped how he wants before he ties some cord to them.

He smiles when he stands up, because he has quite an audience who wonder what he's up to. Will hands two items to Sam to hold, steps clear of all his watchers, and he swings the device he made in a big circle. In just two turns it's making a loud noise and getting lots of attention.

Sam asks, “What the hell is that?”

“It's a traditional Australian noise maker. We call it a bull-roarer, and it's used to make a sort of music during celebrations and other things. Some are also made to scare bad spirits away.”

Long Snake walks over and says, “We have something similar for the same purposes. Ours look different to the ones you have there. Why the three shapes?”

“Each shape gives a different sound.” He proceeds to swap them and he tests each one. Thus demonstrating the different tones of them. Being an ambidextrous person he surprises them by timing the swinging while he swings one in each of his hands at the same time. He makes sure to have them swinging in a way to not hit together. The combined sounds of the two of the them together is very different to just one by itself.

A smiling Long Snake designates three of the older boys to practice with these so they can be used during the mating ceremony. Will hands them over then he starts to work on a curved piece of wood. He garners a new audience to watch what he's up to while he waits.

Due to him using his sharp knives and the saw wire it doesn't take Will long to carve a boomerang. The sure way he works makes it clear he's had a lot of experience making these things. He's almost finished when he's called to come forward for the ceremony, so he simply tosses the almost finished boomerang into his hogan before he goes to where he's told to go. About half an hour later he's a mated man with four wives, and all watching the ceremony are happy.

It's late afternoon when Will and his family finish packing all of his things into the Wilson's wagon so it can help carry them back to the ranch. The horses are put on long leads and tied to the back of the wagon. The ladies and Jim sit on the load in the wagon while Sam and Will ride beside it. It's almost dark when they get back to the ranch, but Will's women are fast to set up house in the barn for the night.



The next few days are interesting while Will and his ladies establish themselves living out of a teepee he makes for them when he sets it up by the cabin. Most meals end up being eaten at the table in the ranch cabin after all of the ladies work together to cook it. The Indian ladies are surprised at how warm Will's blankets are so they prefer to sleep in them.

Some days Sam needs Will to help him with things on the ranch, and some days he doesn't. On his free days Will spends time doing things to help Sam's family or preparing things for himself. He finishes making several hunting boomerangs and he demonstrates their use, surprising the others when he kills small animals near the ranch with them.

One thing that takes a lot of time, and help from his mates, is the making of a lot of sun dried adobe bricks he uses to build walls around the cabin. He also makes thinner ones to lay on the porch and he cuts sod to put on the roof. He's about half done before Sam asks him why he's doing it, and Will says, “Adobe doesn't burn as easily as wood. Also, it keeps the building cooler in summer and warmer in winter.”

Sam is surprised when Will has two of his ladies join them when they go hunting. After they get some game Will takes time teaching the ladies how to use both the rifles and the pistols. Once all are good with the guns he makes a number of woomeras and spears for them, then he teaches them all how to use the spear throwers to hunt small game. The result is a lot of the smaller local wildlife is added to their daily diet and all of his ladies are accurate with the woomera, pistols, and rifles.

Betty and Ann learn how to make many things the way the Indians do, like moccasins and buckskin clothes while the Indian ladies learn from them as well. The other Indians are regular visitors, and they're always welcomed. It's during one visit by a passing hunting party Will learns the Indians have given him the name of Fast Hand.

Will's family all get to know each other very well while the days turn into weeks, then into months, and soon winter arrives.


Getting Ready

Every few weeks Sam and Will escort the ladies into Arizona to get things at the stores there. They also sell the extra furs and things to make some money for what they buy. The thick blankets Will and Betty make are in high demand during autumn and early winter, and they sell at a good profit to them and the storekeeper. Will also sells off the worst of the pistols because he doesn't trust them to be safe due to their age. He buys his ladies pistols to carry that are newer and safer.

Will always wears his 9 mm pistol and a Paterson revolver each day, and he takes both his modern and old rifle with him when he rides out. He keeps the modern weapons for use as emergency backup weapons due to the limited amount of ammunition for them: seventy rounds for the pistol in two ten round magazines with a box of fifty rounds, and two eight round magazines with two boxes of fifty rounds each for the rifle - less the six rounds he fired in the attack by Dark Wolf's group.

On one of his early trips into town Will buys a lot of boards and canvas. Because the boards are shorter than those needed for a wagon or a house he gets them as 'offcuts' at a lower cost than usual. He also places an order for fifteen wagon wheels that are three feet in diameter - most are about five feet in diameter, with the rims twice as wide as the normal wagon wheels and the spokes extra thick to match the wider rims. Will also buys a several gallons of a varnish the man makes. This batch had something go wrong and it has a mid-tan colour to it, so Will gets it very cheap because of the unusual colour of the finished look when it dries.

The first thing Will makes is a new set of lodge poles for their teepee. These ones start a little longer than usual, but are back to the normal size by the time he finishes with them. Instead of being one long pole these are in sections a little over three feet in length that slot into each other to make long poles. A new teepee cover is made out of four layers of canvas with knitted wool between the inner three layers of canvas. He coats the third canvas layer with beeswax prior to putting the fourth layer of canvas on and painting it with a thinned lot of the varnish. A second coat of varnish is sprinkled with fine dirt while wet. The poles are also coated with two layers of varnish and a sprinkle of dirt. The end result is a much warmer and waterproof teepee that easily fits on a horse.

Just before full winter settles in Sam and Will extend the cabin roof to the side of the back porch, as a cover between the teepee and the porch to have easier movement between the two during storms. This also helps to keep the weather off the wood pile against the back of the cabin. Thus the two families can spend time together in even the worst of storms.

During the winter Will makes three boxes thirty inches wide, forty-two inches long, with sides twenty-four inches high, and an open top. Dowel plugs are used to secure them together with the bottom going on last. Will has the three of them upside down on some frames in the barn to varnish them. While they're still wet he covers them in canvas while he makes sure to pull the canvas tight against the wood and to soak it in more of the varnish. The final result is the canvas becomes part of the varnish and it's glued to the wood to give it a rough texture in a mid-tan colour. It's only when he tests they're watertight does Sam realise what Will has done by adding the canvas like that. But Sam can't work out why Will wants three large waterproof boxes.

On a later visit to town when Will picks up the wheels and builds them into three box frames with four wheels does Sam see Will has three waterproof carts. The wheels are given the varnish and dirt treatment as soon as they get home. The frames go together around the boxes and lock the boxes into place. Then it's all painted with varnish - two coats with a light sprinkling of dirt on the second coat. Each cart gets a spare wheel mounted on its front, set between the two shafts that curve up and inwards through a distorted extended 'S' shape. The carts now have an open box frame over the top of them to give them double the height of the storage box. Will lays a canvas top cover over the upper frame, coats it with a thinned varnish, another layer of canvas with more thinned varnish, and he allows it to dry to make a waterproof mid-tan top cover. It's secured to the top by the simple process of sewing together a long strip of green rawhide to go around the top of the frame, but just a little short. He soaks the rawhide in water to stretch it, struggles to get it to sit in place then lets it dry in place to tighten up. Last is another coat of the thinned varnish with some dirt sprinkled on it while wet. The final wagon is a thirty by forty-two inch cart with a four foot high storage area.

Sam looks at the finished item and asks, “Will, why the tan varnish with the sprinkled dirt on the final coat?”

Will grins, “Usually you can see any wagon or cart from many miles away, mostly due to the white canvas top on it. Get out a few hundred feet and this one of mine will vanish into the scrub because it's the same colour as the dirt. I'm less likely to be attacked if I'm not seen.”

“OK! I see that, now! But why the small size?”

“These will hook up to the back of the saddle or the pack on a horse. Each of them will carry a load equivalent to that of several more pack-horses. The size is small enough to let them go anywhere a horse can, and thus they'll not restrict me to roads.”

“I gather you're getting ready to leave us?”

“Sam, as much as I like you and Betty this place won't support three families, so I need to move on to establish my own life elsewhere. You can manage with just Jim's help, and then do better when he's married and settles down here with you.” He gets a nod yes in reply. Sam knows Will and his family have to make their own life, but he'll miss them.



On a fine day toward the end of winter Sam and Will are outside to get the wagon ready for a trip to town as the whole family is going. Jim is standing beside three horses holding their reins, the ladies are in the wagon, Sam and Will have their arms full carrying the last two bundles of furs over to put in the wagon tray to sell. Then three men ride into the yard and stop near the wagon,

Stopping, they pull out their revolvers and point them at the men. Their leader is about to speak when three pistols fire as one and all of the riders all fall backward off their horses. Will looks over at his Indian ladies, and smiles. Each is sitting in the back of the wagon holding a just fired Paterson with the barrel resting on the side of the wagon. He made each of them a cross-draw holster they can wear under their traditional tops and he insists they always carry a revolver hidden on them at all times. That's now paying good dividends in the way of family safety.

Ann and Betty are sitting on the wagon seat, and they're stunned by the speed in which it all happens. Ann breaks the silence by saying, “OK! I'll start to wear a pistol from now on. It seems you're right.” Will smiles at her agreeing to carry protection since she can already shoot well.

Their departure is delayed while they strip the dead and go through everything they have. They find wanted notices for the men in one of their saddlebags so they decide to take the men into town to claim the bounties. The weapons the men have are only a year or so old: .36 calibre Colt Navy Revolvers, and 24 inch .36 calibre 1855 Colt Revolving Rifles.

A further delay ensues while the men change out their guns for the newer pistols and rifles with their ball and powder belts. The worst of the Paterson revolvers is now set aside for sale with Betty and Ann now carrying a pistol each and each of Will's Indian wives now have a rifle of their own. Now everyone has a pistol and a rifle of their own, and they're all ones Sam and Will feel will work with safety.

The new horses aren't in as good condition as theirs so the dead are put across them and tied down after the saddles are removed. The rest of the tack is removed and ropes are used as leads to tie the horses to the back of the wagon for the trip into town. Then they're off on their trip.


Arizona Town

The first stop in town is at the authorities to drop off the robbers and to get a receipt for the rewards, which they can spend at the store. Will is putting the receipt in his pocket while leaving the office when he spots Jim accepting a receipt from an army officer while two of his troopers are untying the horses from the wagon because Jim just sold the horses.

A short trip to pull up outside the store, then it's all hands at work to take everything in for sale. The store keeper is happy to see the furs they have because he knows they only bring in good ones, and the pile of their 'extra warm' blankets is another good seller for him. Weapons always sell well, and at a profit too. They soon have a good amount of store credit to spend and the ladies get busy at gathering the things they need or want from the store. First is food stuffs then materials for more clothes and their special blankets.

Will and Sam wander over to look at the weapons. One of the staff joins them while they examine the latest delivery of new guns. While he points at the new Colt Navy revolvers and Colt Revolving Rifles Will asks, “Doing much trade with them?”

The clerk replies, “Not really! They're too expensive for most people around here.” Will grins, and they start talking about the cost to buy a number of the guns and their associated accessories. The owner is called over so they can work out a good price for what Will wants as he wants a lot of guns and he has others to trade in.

Will and Sam go out to the wagon and they bring back all of the Paterson revolvers they have, getting them from the ladies when they carry out things to put in the wagon, and one of the rifles, they'll keep the four rifles they have in .44 calibre for long range hunting. The older guns are used with the receipts from the authorities to pay for five new Colt Revolvers, five new Colt Revolving Rifles with 24 inch barrels, and eight Revolving Rifles with 15 inch barrels; all in .36 calibre. The deal also includes fifty extra cylinders, ball and powder belts, kegs of gun powder, boxes of Minié balls in .36 calibre, boxes of bird-shot, boxes of caps, plus packs of paper Will wants to use for making paper cartridges. The others don't understand why he wants so much paper, because they've not seen a paper cartridge before. The men are happy to get new guns at a good price while the shopkeeper is happy to sell some of the slow moving new guns at a small profit while getting some good older guns he can sell at a better profit as well.


That was a preview of Will to Survive. To read the rest purchase the book.

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