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The Territory

Jack Knapp


The Territory

A Novel of the American West

By Jack L Knapp


The following books by the author are available as ebooks. novels in print format. Some are available as audiobooks.



The Wizards Series

Combat Wizard

Wizard at Work


The Wizards Series Boxed Set (Combat Wizard, Wizard at Work, and Talent)

Veil of Time

Siberian Wizard


Angel (A Wizards Short Story)


The Darwin’s World Series

Darwin’s World

The Trek


Boxed Set, the Darwin's World Series (Darwin's World, The Trek, and Home)

The Return

Defending Eden


The New Frontiers Series

The Ship

NFI: New Frontiers, Inc

NEO: Near Earth Objects

The New Frontiers Series Boxed Set (The Ship, NFI, and NEO)

BEMs: Bug Eyed Monsters

MARS: The Martian Autonomous Republic of Sol




Short Novel

The Wizard’s Apprentice




The Territory

Copyright © 2019 by Jack L Knapp

Cover Photo courtesy of Yuri B, via Pixabay and Canva


All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Any reproduction or other unauthorized use of the material or artwork herein is prohibited.

Disclaimer: The persons and events depicted in this novel were created by the author’s imagination; no resemblance to actual persons or events is intended.

Product names, brands, and other trademarks referred to within this book are the property of the respective trademark holders. Unless otherwise specified, no association between the author and any trademark holder is expressed or implied. Nor does the use of such trademarks indicate an endorsement of the products, trademarks, or trademark holders unless so stated. Use of a term in this book should not be regarded as affecting the validity of any trademark, registered trademark, or service mark.


Table of Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one




Chapter One

I paced off the distance from the old chestnut tree to the small rise before deciding that was far enough. There I started digging.

Chestnut hill, it was called. An ordinary name, but I would remember it. For the work I’d done, and the pain I now felt.

I’d cleared the land myself, though it took me the best part of two years. Cut down the chestnuts, all except the biggest one atop the hill. Grubbed out the stumps that first winter, burned out the centers, then with axe I cut the roots away and with a team of borrowed oxen I dragged out what was left. Between the plowing and planting, I built a snug cabin, as good as a body would find in the old country.

Of chestnut boards it was, and with boards I’d selected for their beauty I built my intended a bed. Bored the holes with brace and bit, and carved the pegs on cold nights when the wind whistled loud through the trees. I knew it like my own hand, for I’d left my blood in the work from time to time as a carpenter will.

And now I would take it apart. As carefully as I’d worked in the making of it, that carefully would I take apart the boards, for I had a need for them. The table and two chairs I’d built, let the next man have them for his own for like the cabin I’d no more use for them.

Carefully I measured, and carefully I built the long box that would hold her body and that of our baby unborn. Tight I fitted the seams, and when I was done, I pegged tight the lid. And finally, I placed the coffin carefully in the hole, filled it in, and mounded it over.

A last board I’d saved, for a headboard. With a piece of charcoal from the fireplace, I marked the places I would carve. I had no proper carving tools, but my old knife would do as it had done for so many other things. And when it was done, I tapped the pointed end into the earth and tamped around it, making sure it was as sturdy and straight as she had been. The words were clear enough, although even chestnut wood wouldn’t last forever.

Here lies Barbry Belle Clancy, beloved wife of Liam Clancy.

Died of the cholera, April 1867. Rest in peace.


I saddled my old roan gelding, a gift from the Army that no longer wanted him or me now that the war was winding down. My converted Remington revolver, holstered and wrapped in the belt with its US stamp, went into a saddlebag, and a bag of provisions filled the other.

For a moment, I thought of looking back, but behind me was the past. No changing it. All a man can do is go on. So I lifted the reins a mite and gently squeezed my knees together, and that old cavalry horse stepped right out. I relaxed my grip and he turned southwest. Maybe he was as anxious as me to be on our way.

Late that afternoon, I stopped by a spring-fed creek. I unsaddled that old roan and let him roll before I picketed him, and happy he was for the chance. He got up, shook himself, and took to grazing. I watched for a minute, then let his lead rope out a ways before I half-hitched it to a young hickory. Built me a small fire from dry wood, under a tall elm tree where the smoke would spread out among the branches, and let it burn down to coals while the dry beans soaked. Took a spell to get the beans soft, but there was no hurry. Nobody was waiting for me, not now, and my old horse needed time to rest and graze.

I reckon I nodded off for a while, but there was no one to see. That old cavalry horse would have alerted if danger had come upon us, and so would I.

I saddled him again after I ate, which he was plumb unhappy about, but I figured a cold camp was safer. Ohio was settled for the most part, but a lot of the men who’d headed for home after the war had got used to living with guns. And some of them had fought with the rebels. Being careful didn’t do a body no harm, my pa always said. I figured it to be good practice for what was to come.

I came to Zoar town and found it was about what I expected. So was Mister Kehr’s bank, the fourth building I came to after leaving the livery stable. I let the door swing closed behind me and nodded at the clerk. He looked back at me, trying not to show how he felt.

I didn’t blame him none, for there wasn’t a lot to see. Of middling height I am, mustache but no beard, and it as black as my hair. Irish people run to that, them that aren’t light brown or red haired. My clothes had seen better days and my boots needed attention. The best part of my outfit was my old cavalry hat, some five years old now. It had been that long since I first put it on, and since it had done me good service in the Valley I had kept it.

The clerk wasn’t impressed, but then I hadn’t come to see him anyway.

I headed for the back where an older man worked at a desk and stopped by the low railing that separated his space from the lobby.

“Mister Kehr? I was told to come see you if I needed help from a banker, and I reckon I do.”

He carefully wiped the ink off the pen and laid it down. I looked at it and it was a wonder, sure enough. Where the trimmed quill would be on an ordinary pen was wood, and the nib was metal! But the inkwell was ordinary enough.

“Who told you to see me, young man?” Heinrich Kehr asked.

“His name was Henry, Mister Kehr. Private Henry Kehr,” I said.

He blinked. I reckon he had adjusted to it by now, Henry’s death I mean. Parents do, and while our child hadn’t lived to be born I figured it had to be worse for him. But accidents, Indians, sickness, or war; the reason didn’t matter all that much. Folks tended to large families for a reason.

“I was there when it happened, Mister Kehr. My name is Liam Clancy, and Henry was one of them we picked up after that fight.”

“Can you tell me about it?” He stopped, took a deep breath, and asked, “How did my son die?”

“Shot through the heart, he was, Sir. He never had time to feel a thing.” Which wasn’t exactly true, but why tell this old man about the stink of a festering gut? Henry would have done the same for me, if he’d known where to find my parents. But when we’d talked of an evening around the campfire, all I could tell him was that after his lordship turned us out, my family, all except for me, headed for the narrow sea on their way to the land of the Sassenach. My father’s brother had written that he owned a public house not far from the River Mersey, and if we got tired of training horses for his lordship there was work for men who knew horses.

My family had headed up the Mersey River to where my uncle lived, but contrary as I was at the time I’d taken ship for America. There were jobs there too, well-paying jobs or so we’d been told, and no lords to turn an honest man and his family out.

“Apparently that happened a lot,” Kehr said wryly, “pistol balls through the heart! Seems like every letter that got back to us reassured the parents and wives that their sons and husbands didn’t feel a thing. But before we left Westphalia for this place, I was a soldier. Cannonballs did much of the killing back then, and then there were the musket volleys. I know what happens when a musket ball hits a man, Liam Clancy, and the bayonets were almost as bad. Our surgeons were overworked after the fighting, and if there’s any consolation to be had, we were told the French had it worse. Maybe they did, not that it matters now.

“But for trying to shield me from the truth, I thank you. Not for me, but for his mother, for I can now tell her your story with a clear conscience. It may be that in time we’ll both believe it. But you mentioned my help?”

“Yes, Sir. I own a nice piece of farmland about 28 miles from here, and I’m looking to sell it. Some of it’s in timber, mostly chestnut, but there are sugar maples on the slopes and wild cherry trees in the sheltered draws. Beech and walnut too. Thirty acres I cleared, and planted too, some in potatoes, for my folks knew the way of it and I learned from them, but there’s some corn too. There’s a snug cabin on the land and a well, and good water it is. If the other crops don’t sell, well, sugar syrup from the maples and corn can be converted to whisky. That always sells.”

“You’re right, it does,” agreed Kehr. “But I have to ask, Mister Clancy; why are you selling? You’re young, and all you need is…” his voice faded. “Your family?”

“She died, Sir. The cholera it was, and after that, I just couldn’t stay there.”

“Yes,” Kehr said softly. “But if you own the land and have already built a house, you’ll not be needing a loan. So why are you here? Not that you’re not welcome, especially since you brought me word of my son’s fate.”

“No loan, Mister Kehr. I came because Henry mentioned that you speculate in land. This is prime land, some of it cleared and planted, and I built the cabin myself. ‘Tis of chestnut wood, and I sawed the boards myself and left them to dry. Proper stickered they were, to let the breezes flow through, so that by the time I was ready to build they were dry. But not too dry; chestnut doesn’t shrink much during drying, even when it’s green, and there was just enough shrinkage to lock the pegs into the holes. Solid, it is, for I was careful in the building of it. A man takes care of his family as best he can, and such was my thought during the building. As for the roof, the shakes I rived from three-foot sections of log that had cupped a bit. That helps the roof to shed water and snow. We Irish know about rain and snow.”

“I’ve heard your name, Liam Clancy. Henry wrote of you, about that fight where two creeks joined? Fearless, he said of you, and you were wounded there?”

“I’ve as much fear as any man before the fighting starts,” I admitted, “but if you let it show, it only encourages Johnny Reb. And after it starts, you’re too busy just staying alive. The wound I took was a cut from a saber and not bad as such things go. The point is worse, but a cut, unless it hits in a critical place, heals up well. It can drain, you see, where a point penetrates and seals up after the blade is withdrawn.”

“I remember,” said Kehr softly. “Well. It’s true that I speculate in land from time to time, but how much would you be wanting for this property? Claimed, you said; is it deeded land? And of course I’ll want to see it.” We agreed to meet Friday afternoon. He’d ride with me and see for himself, and after that we’d dicker.

I couldn’t make it too easy or he’d not respect my work, but I wanted to sell. The roan would get me to Louisville, and from there I would take the steamboat down the Ohio to where it joined the Mississippi. I figured to outfit myself there in Saint Louis for the western lands, and either join a wagon train heading west or if the boss needed hands, hire on.

For there were many Irish in the New Territories out west, and I would find welcome among them. ‘Twas said there was land for the taking, although the Indians would need persuading.

For a moment, I remembered. Land of my own!

Such had been my dream when I left the Old Country, not yet a man, but grown up enough to do a man’s work. To do what a man would not be allowed to in that land of my birth, work hard, and one day own land of my own! A few acres, perhaps more, where no man might take it in his head to turn me out.

To find a wife who might be Irish, or at least one that would not look down upon me, and raise children who would be Americans! Children who would grow with the new country and like me, find land of their own in time.


For a moment, I remembered the wondrous feeling when I stepped off the gangplank onto America. New it was and different, with the hope that my native land no longer held for me or my family. The land was different, but the sea was much the same as the land I’d left behind. I would need work, but a man can always make his way. I would begin looking as soon as I reached the city of New York.

Soldiers there were, standing off to the side, and a sergeant. But I’d seen solders before, and these were dressed all in blue. I had nothing to fear from them. Or so I, indeed all of us, thought.

“Aw right, you Paddies!”

The bellow caught me by surprise, and I was not the only one. “Married men who are with their wives and children, to my left! Single men to my right! And if there are single men among you who can ride, you line up behind the others! Move it, Paddy, for Mister Lincoln has need for your services!” Bewildered we were, but bayonets prodded us into line, suddenly afraid as a small detachment of the soldiers escorted the families away toward a huge building. I could see the smile on the face of the man who waited for them there, beckoning them to hurry. As soon as they were inside, he closed the door and nodded to a soldier I’d not seen before.

A bored-looking young man he was, hardly old enough to grow a proper beard, but dressed in a fine blue uniform and a fancy hat with a plume. “Get on with it, Sergeant,” the fancy fellow said. “Medical exam, no consumptives or men with ruptures. The rest, turn them over to Colonel Carrigan and do not slouch! There’s another ship behind this one that’s waiting to dock.”


Such had been my introduction to the Federal Army and to the cavalry arm, for I had been one who’d stood with the second rank.

I had survived the rebellion, though many a good Irish lad had not. I had never met an Indian to that time, nor I had ever met a rebel until they came at me. But I fought back, for they intended to kill me and my fellows and I had no wish to die.

I had no wish for trouble with the wild Indians beyond the frontier either, no more did most who’d lived through the fighting, nor with any man. Yet I was here in America, and more than that, I’d earned the right to be here.

I would not look for war. But it takes two to make peace, and only one to make a war. I would find a new start, there in the western lands, and if the Indians had a mind to finish what the Johnnies couldn’t get done, so be it. If they came at me, I would fight.


Chapter Two

What looked easy enough from a distance turned out to be difficult, and slow in the doing. Work, for one not trained to it, was not to be had. I had too much time on my hands, too much time to reflect on what I’d lost.

‘Twas First Sergeant Michael Bock that had brought us together.

I was wounded, blood dripping from a saber slash that had caught me in the ribs, but Michael Bock had been shot through the chest. Every breath was torture, but he would not give in until he’d done what he could for the daughter he was leaving behind. “Ye’re a good lad, Liam, and that cut is no more than a scratch for a strong young lad.” He wheezed for a moment, gathering strength, then continued. “I want you to have my Henry rifle, Liam. The war is winding down now, but you may yet have need of it. Take it, and when you’re discharged I ask that you go to Ohio and tell my daughter Barbry Belle of my passing. Do what you can for her, Lad, for she’s alone in the world now.” He managed to tell me where to find her and I agreed to do as he asked, which might have given him comfort as he passed.

I picked up the rifle and worked the action, ejecting the spent cartridge. Michael Bock had gone down while fighting. His blood stained the stock a dark rusty color, and for a moment I considered wiping it clean before I reconsidered. I would leave the stain as it was, a remembrance of the good man who’d gifted me his rifle.

BeBe had taken the news hard. I’d offered what comfort I could, then used the last of my mustering-out money to stay around until she recovered. Love was not something I’d thought of in the beginning, but after I met the girl who would be my wife, there was a hollow feeling inside that would not go away.

We had little enough time together before we married, what with her working in that millinery story that paid a scant wage in addition to a tiny room over the store and taking meals with the family who owned it, but in the end ‘twas enough. Two weeks later we were married and we headed for the land that Michael had owned, the place he’d intended to build a home for himself and his daughter after the war.

And now she was gone, and so was the life we’d begun to build.

Lacking work to occupy my time now was torture. I couldn’t stop thinking, wondering what I might have done differently. I walked, leading my horse, but that didn’t help; I could still think, still remember.

Along the river I found temporary work, unloading the boats that carried freight and passengers. But when there was no boat waiting, I was back to thinking. And remembering.

I’d seen much death in the war, much suffering. A man becomes hardened to it. As I’d put Michael Bock’s passing behind me, in time I managed to do the same to my memories of BeBe and our unborn child. Gradually, the hollow feeling faded but some remained. I think it always will.


I got work in a livery stable for a while and when that slowed down, I landed a job in a saloon. It wasn’t much, but I could sleep upstairs and get at least one meal each from the free lunch spread. I’ve had better, but I’ve had worse too. The best thing about it, other than it being free, was that it was filling.

Spring turned into summer, then to winter. By March, I had the fidgets and I’d had enough of Saint Louis.

The railroad had reached Hays, Kansas, so I headed that way. As many had done before me, I watched for a bit, and when no one was paying attention I boarded a freight train.

There was plenty of work in Kansas City, but it didn’t suit me so as soon as the roads had dried enough I hired on as guard with a train of freight wagons headed for Santa Fe. To equip myself, I bought a blood-bay gelding that was about 5 years old and a sorrel that looked steady enough to make a good pack-horse. The two, and the outfit I bought before heading out, took most of what I’d earned since starting on the trip, but by late March I was on my way southwest.

And I still had most of the gold I’d got from selling my land, in a belt that I wore around my waist.

Working in saloons had paid off for me, not in what I’d earned for that was little enough, but in knowledge. Western men gossip about most everything and nobody pays much attention to the young fellow sweeping out the sawdust of a morning, and from time to time scrubbing away the worst of the bloodstains from the night before. Most often it was from bloody noses and such, but twice it happened because two men had gone after each other with knives. According to what I heard later, one lost an ear but lived to brag about it.

They talked, I listened, and figured out pretty quick that most of the wild-west stories were pure hogwash. Bill Hickok, of dime novel fame, was dangerous enough, but he was as apt to shoot a bystander as he was the fellow he was shooting at. But like the rest of the town-tamers, he was nobody to mess with without a good reason. And if you had it to do, a double-barreled shotgun beat a six-shot revolver if a man had a choice. Them little pocket-pistols that men carried, if they carried anything at all, might be okay across a poker table. If a man had time to take good aim, that was.

But that was in town. Out on the trail that led westward to Santa Fe, that 16-shot .44-rimfire Henry rifle of mine was a handy thing to have. My converted Remington revolver used the same loads, and I made it a point to keep both clean and ready. Depending on the weather, I hung the Remington on the saddle in a holster where I could get to it at need. But if Indians attacked, I figured to use my Henry.

The wagon boss was apt to blame me if somebody made off with a mule or took from one of the wagons, but after the drovers understood that I would stand for no thieving, guarding was usually not that much of a job. When I wasn’t riding alongside the wagons, I turned-to where I could. I helped with the harnessing if we stopped early, curried the mules each night after they’d been unharnessed, and lent a hand when the wagons bogged down or when a wheel busted. I did my share and more than most, so that men accounted me as strong as well as willing. Shirkers there were among the company, at least in the beginning, but the wagon boss had sharp eyes and they were turned out at the first town we stopped at.

From time to time, when the cook’s helper got too deep into cookie’s store of medicinal whisky, I rustled wood or buffalo chips for the fire. I did some camp cooking too, now and again, because the cook himself liked a drink of an evening.

In late April we came to a fork in the road and the train split up, with most of the wagons heading over to Fort Union under Army guard. I wasn’t needed, so I stayed with the rest. Ten days later, we rolled into Las Vegas, a town in the New Mexico Territory.

I helped unload half of the remaining wagons at the freight depot and after the mules were unhitched and watered, the boss told me to head into town if I was a mind to. I was, because I needed a new pair of overalls and I figured on getting a shave from a real barber. If he didn’t want too much for it, I figure to take a hot bath too.

That barber was right busy, but there was a wooden chair outside and a handy rail to prop my boots on while I waited and watched the traffic go by. Some there were on horseback, a few in light wagons and even a few on foot, but most were indoors by that time trying to escape the heat.

I got my shave and bath, a cold one as it turned out because I didn’t feel like bathing in the same water a few other fellers had used before me. After that, I headed for the general store and bought a new pair of Levi overalls that had come all the way from San Francisco, or so the clerk said, and a butternut shirt that had been made right there in Las Vegas.

I kept my old hat because it was pretty comfortable, and my boots still had plenty of wear left in ‘em before they’d need new soles and heels. They also looked a mite better after that Indian boy saddle-soaped them and used lamp black to cover the worn spots. He did the work while the barber trimmed my hair and shaved me. I felt mighty good after they were done and thought of heading back for the freight yard, but right across the street was the End of Trail saloon.

I figured I’d stop in and say howdy to the rest of the boys from the wagon train, maybe even have a drink with them before heading back to the yard where the wagons were parked. So it was that I walked on over and pushed through the batwing doors.

The saloon was pretty standard. Long, rectangular room with a bar extending most of the way to the stairs, and behind it a mirror and a row of bottles. Not different at all from the one I’d worked in back east.

The mirror was mostly intact, except for a lower left corner that had been chipped. There was a brass rail for a fellow to rest his feet on, and spittoons here and there for the chewers and dippers.

The bartender was middle aged and middle-sized, with oiled hair parted in the middle and slicked down on each side. He wore a long-sleeved mostly-white shirt with garters above the elbows holding his sleeves up. I’d seen his like before, so I nodded and looked around.

The place was dim and mostly empty, with no sign of the men from the wagon train. I figured they had moved on up the street to find a woman to at least talk to, and maybe more, for we’d all been on the trail quite a while. I thought of it too, but after BeBe it just didn’t seem right.

There was one feller at the end. He wore buckskins and a beat-up Hardee hat like mine. It was the same black color, but in worse shape. Four men sat drinking at a table, but I paid them no never-mind. At first.

Until I heard one mention a Jeff Davis hat, which is the other name for that cavalry Hardee I was wearing.

I perked up a mite and glanced in the mirror, just in time to see the man who’d made that remark stand up. His companions were grinning and he looked like he’d just found the pot of gold.


But I’d had no mind for trouble, which was why I’d left my guns with my gear back in the freight yard. If he wanted a fight, well, fights were common on the trail and I’d been in a few. Entertaining, you might say, long as it was just fists. Didn’t amount to much, and next morning, you’d see men shaking hands and getting on with the work.

But then that big man pulled out a pistol from a holster stamped CSA. No pocket pistol this one; it was a Colt, about the size of the Remington I wasn’t wearing because it was still back at the freight yard. I turned around to face him, still trying to figure out what was going on, and he chuckled.

“Pilgrim, you look like one of them Irish plowboys to me. But I’ll bet that with a little encouragement, you can show me and the boys a dance step or two.” And with that, he cocked that hogleg pistol, pointed it at the floor by my feet, and pulled the trigger. I reckon he thought it was fun, for he turned around to laugh with his friends as he cocked that pistol again.

But when he turned back, he found me standing right in front of him. He looked plumb astonished for a wee bit, but whether he was surprised that I hadn’t backed up or because when he looked down he saw the knife sticking in his chest, I don’t reckon I’ll ever know. But I’ll allow that knife took the fun out of hoorawing the ‘pilgrim’.

He was mostly busy trying to grab onto that knife with his left hand and not paying attention to that big old pistol when I grabbed it around the cylinder and twisted it out of his hand. I shoved him hard and as he fell down, I stepped up to that table. The creature on the right was still laughing, but not for long because by then I was beginning to hurt and I was mad clear through. I laid the laugher out cold by pistol-whipping him upside the head, and I’ll allow that by then I was plumb unhappy with the lot of them, which is why I up-ended that table and dumped it in the laps of the other two. One hit the floor on his back and I could see that he wasn’t going nowhere fast, because his spurs kept his boots from reaching the floor. The other one was reaching for something, maybe a pocket pistol, so I just made sure that Colt was full-cocked and pointed it right at his nose.

From maybe three feet away.

His eyes got big and he turned loose of whatever he was reaching for and tried to touch the ceiling. “Don’t shoot me, Mister! He was just havin’ a little fun, and now you’ve killed him!”

“Reckon I didn’t get the joke,” I grated. And stepped back so I could lean against the bar while I decided whether I would shoot him or not. That’s when I heard the click-click of a shotgun’s hammers being eared back.

“That’ll be enough, Irish. If there’s any more shooting needed, I’ll do it. You just let that hammer down easy, and as for you two, I’d as soon shoot you as him. You get up on your hind legs slow, and if you trouble me I’ll blow your guts out!”

“No trouble, Mister McArdle! Can I put my hands down now?” the big-eyed one said.

“You do that, friend,” McArdle said softly. “You might want to keep them in sight.”

The two got slowly to their feet, hands in plain sight even though it made getting up awkward. But they done it. That McArdle fellow’s shotgun was a powerful incentive. “Can we leave? We don’t want no trouble,” said the talkative one. “Just let us leave out of here and we’ll be out of town just as soon as we can reach the livery stable.”

“Take them two with you,” McArdle said, gesturing with the shotgun. “And don’t just dump ‘em in the street. The marshal is apt to take it wrong if you leave the dead ‘un where women and children might see him and be offended, so you probably ought to haul him down to the furniture store. Mister Schwartz makes coffins and he’s also the undertaker, but he’ll expect you to pay. Ten dollars, last I heard. I would pay the money, was I you, because otherwise the marshal will expect you to dig the grave.”

“I’ll have my knife back before you haul that one away,” I said. “Been with me since I was a tyke and it ain’t never let me down. One of you just pull it out and lay it on the bar, careful-like. And I’ll have that feller’s gun-belt too. I figure he owes me this wheel-gun for shooting me, and I might as well have the holster too.”

Well, they done it, and watched that bartender like he was a snake with a busted rattle while they did. Me, they paid no more mind to after they laid my knife and that belt and holster on the bar.

McArdle sighed, but he didn’t put that shotgun down. “You done for the day, young fellow?”

“Aye, I am. I’ll just be taking my knife if you don’t mind.”

“Go ahead.” He paused for a few seconds, then said, “You didn’t have to kill him, and you probably shouldn’t have. He had friends.”

“He didn’t have to shoot me in the foot either. Am I likely to have issue with that marshal you mentioned?”

“Not unless you plan on communing with angels. Or maybe devils, as the case may be. He was killed two weeks ago, but I figured they wouldn’t know. How bad are you hurt?”

“I don’t know, but there’s a hole in the toe of my left boot and it’s plumb squishy in there,” I said.

“Well, if it was me,” McArdle offered, “I’d head on down to the barber shop. He’s a pretty good barber and he does our doctoring too, if you need it done. But if you can ride, that’s what I would do. For one, we ain’t had a hanging in the last two weeks and there’s some that think we’re overdue. For the other, that Texan you killed won’t be missed by me, but like I said, he had friends.”


He likely did, but I had that Colt revolving pistol he’d used to shoot me and fourteen more shells in the loops on that belt after I replaced the one he’d used to shoot me. I added one more to the empty chamber, giving me six shots before I had to reload. Like most, he’d only loaded five and left the other empty as a safe place to rest the hammer. But I figured I might need that extra one before I got out of town, and anyway I didn’t plan on dropping that pistol.

I limped my way back to the barber shop. The barber looked like he might object when I sent the customer he was shaving on his way, but then he spotted the blood that was leaking out of my boot. He wanted to cut it off, but I figured I’d need it, so I clenched my teeth while he pulled it off.

That barber was as good as some of the field surgeons we’d had along during the Shenandoah campaign. He trimmed off the damaged part, sewed up the end of that toe, and after he’d bandaged it he walked across the street and bought me a pair of moccasins to wear while it healed up.

I’d been waiting for that yahoo’s friends to find me while the barber worked on my foot, but maybe they were still digging his grave. Anyway, they never showed up and as for the rest of the townspeople, you might think a gunshot was an everyday thing!

Maybe it was; Las Vegas was said to be a tough town, and I was in no position to debate the issue.

It was getting on to evening when I limped into the wagon yard, but I didn’t get to stay long. The boss listened to what I said, then paid me off and offered some good advice. “If they come hunting, that feller’s friends I mean, I intend to tell them you’re not here. No offense, Liam, but that’s the way it is. I’d find a place to lay low, was I you, until they find someone else to take an interest in, then go somewhere a long way from here. You’ve been a good hand and sorry I am to do this, but I don’t need the aggravation.”

“I understand,” I told him, “but I was heading this way and it’s right nice country. I might stick around for a while, until my toe heals up anyway.”

“Your funeral, Boy. But you keep your eyes peeled,” he said. “They’re a clannish lot, the Texans. You made yourself no friends this day.”

“It’s good advice you’ve given me, and I won’t be here when they arrive,” I said. “If any should ask, I figure to head on over to Arizona Territory,” He might have believed me, but he was a canny man, that train boss. He didn’t ask any more questions and I didn’t tell him more lies.

I gathered up my gear, cut my horses out of the remuda, and headed south.

The trail was easy enough to follow, even in the dark, and safer. The Apaches were mostly quiet, but now and then a young buck would take it in his head to gather a few friends and take to the war-path, so ‘quiet’ in the New Mexico Territory was a changeable thing. But from what I’d been told, traveling at night was safe enough. A man needed to keep a sharp watch at sunup, though, and I figured to find a place to lay up before then because my foot was aching something fierce.

I found a likely spot in an aspen grove to rest. The ground was covered to some distance away by dried leaves, which I thought might alert me to the presence of Indians if any came my way. There was also a small spring off to the side for water and grass enough for my horses, so I hobbled them, filled my canteens, and made a cold camp.

The night passed peacefully and I slept until noon. It was not my usual habit, but then I wasn’t in the habit of waking up with a bandaged toe either.

I built a small fire and breakfasted on sowbelly and coffee, then bathed my sore toe with warm water. I put the moccasins back on, saddled my riding horse, loaded my gear on the pack horse, then headed south again.

My Henry rifle was in a saddle scabbard where I could get to it if needed and I had my Remington hanging off the right side of that saddle horn, with my newly-got Colt hanging off to the left. I fiddled around with them for a bit until they were tolerably comfortable, or at least not too uncomfortable.

But that sore toe surely tried my patience.

Indians, or friends of that hombre I’d shot, if either one wanted a war I was of a mind to give them one.


Chapter Three

I hired on with John Simpson Chisum in May of 1868. I thought at the time that he represented the best of the Texas cowmen that were then migrating into New Mexico, and I’ve had no reason to change my mind since. He not only had the vision to see what the country might become, he had the grit to see it through.

For the next six years, I worked for him in one or another of his operations. When I wasn’t trailing a herd to market or working the fall roundup, I worked out of one of the line shacks. Time to time, John would send another hand out to the line shack if he was expecting trouble or if there was a special job he wanted us to do. That’s how I met Jesse Evans. Good hand, I thought, but fidgety.

Working alone, or nearly alone, suited me. Mostly, it was just me and the four or five horses in my string, including the one that had carried my supplies when I moved in to the line shack. The work was simple, if hard.

Clean out the springs, which could grow a fair crop of rocks and fallen branches if they weren’t cleaned out regularly. Creeks were reliable, thanks to the springs that fed them, but the beavers were thick back in those canyons. Their dams obstructed the flow, sometimes enough to choke off what had been good water for downstream flats. The easiest solution was to dab a loop on one of the trees blocking the flow and bust the dam. But when I did, I left the beavers alone for they’d done me no harm.

Look after the cattle when it was needed. Haul the bogged ones out of the mud, chouse them far enough away that with luck they wouldn’t wind up back in the same mudhole. Treat cuts when I found them to keep the heel flies from laying eggs in the wound, keep a rough tally for next fall’s roundup, and keep my eyes peeled for rustlers.

I wasn’t overly worried about sleepered calves, the ones that had been earmarked with the jingle-bob but not branded. The cowboy who’d done it would be watchful at the next roundup, and if nobody was watching close he’d slap his own brand on the yearling and trim away that jingle-bob earmark. Replace it with an under-bit or even a swallow-fork, and just like that he owned himself a yearling. It was one of the not-too-dishonest ways cowboys supplemented the low pay we got for dangerous work. More than one successful rancher had built his first herd by sleepering calves, and if it didn’t get out of hand, people like John overlooked it so I did too.

Now and again, I’d spot where somebody had slow-elked a steer, which is what folks called it. As long as he was doing it to feed his family and not gathering a herd for market, the practice was part of the cost of doing business. John didn’t like it, no more than other big ranchers did, but it was common. People, even John and the other big ranchers, rarely ate their own beef if they had a choice, and for some of the little spreads it was how they kept themselves going for another year. I watched the few trails within a day’s ride, but never saw anyone trailing cattle. A body can’t be everywhere, and anyway I had no wish to confront a fellow that likely needed meat for his family.

Indians roamed those canyons too, and now and again I’d see sign that they’d camped up in one of the canyons. They preferred deer or elk to beef, but the offal we discarded they considered a special treat. They weren’t causing me trouble, so I made it a point not to cause them any.

The work was hard, but rewarding. Some of those old mossyhorns purely hated living down-slope where a body could find ‘em, and some had lived back in those draws since they were calved. I pushed them down toward open range when I could, but likely they were back as soon as I was out of sight. One man can only do so much, and John never complained. Neither did his foreman.

I had plenty of time to think, plenty of time to get to know the country. I wondered during that first year whether somebody might have sworn out a warrant for me for killin’ that hombre in Las Vegas, but I figured that in a year or two things would die down. Killings were common enough, most fueled by cheap whiskey and the six-guns that most men wore out on the range. Law officers in the towns might have objected, but they stayed there and I kept to myself up in the mountains.

No posse was going to come back in the Capitans, where I mostly stayed, or the Guadalupes either, if anyone decided to come hunting for me; Apaches claimed the Guadalupes, but so did the Comanches. A body needed to steer clear of both if he intended to keep his hair, but generally things were peaceful on John’s range.

One of the hands, a young fellow named Antrim, rode up one afternoon. I was cutting wood for the coming winter at the time, need for when the snow got deep. He told me to load up my gear, so I did and stored the saw and the axe where porcupines couldn’t get at the handles; they tend to chew anything that has traces of human sweat, likely wanting the salt.

He stuck around that night and caught me up on the news. The Navajo were gone from Bosque Redondo now, headed back to their old lands to the north, but there were still Apaches around Fort Stanton and there were several forts farther west now. Silver was being mined in the Black Range and there was a stamp mill and a smelter in Socorro. The railroads were pushing toward the state from both directions, a standard-gauge line from the north and a narrow-gauge line to Silver City over in the west. Victorio had raided a number of ranches in the Gila country, then headed south to Mexico. Chief Nana had led raids too, but more people were settling that part of the territory.

While I was finishing up, Antrim told me that John had several contracts to deliver herds to the Army. He spoke good Spanish, and I enjoyed the chance to improve my ability to speak it. Likable young fellow, Bill Antrim. He had a lot of friends, including among the Mexican families that had settled the country before the Texans had pushed their cattle west. A clannish lot, those old settlers, but they accepted him because he had a reputation for siding with his friends when such was needed. He had a fine singing voice too, and was popular when he showed up for a baile. More than one young filly had tried to hogtie him, but so far none had. Not much ambition, I figured.

Next morning, I headed back to the ranch. I moved my gear into the bunkhouse and turned-to around the ranch for the rest of that day, then headed out to help muster the culls for market. Excess bulls—too many lead to more fighting than breeding—and mature steers were what we wanted; the others, mostly cows and yearling steers, were turned back.

A week later, I joined a crew that was driving a small herd over to Fort Craig, a two-company infantry post south of Socorro on the Rio Grande. I needed a few things before we headed back, so I stopped at the trading post. The operator, a fellow named ‘Captain’ Jack Crawford, could talk a sidewinder into giving up its rattles!

Later on, I found out that a lot of what I’d figured had to be lies turned out to be true!

In August, John made me trail boss of a herd heading for Fort Selden, an Army post that was south of Fort Craig and almost all the way to Mesilla, and in early September I bossed the drive north to the Bell ranch. They took over the cattle, planning to hold them until a crew from Colorado arrived to trail them north, and we headed back to the ranch. John Chisum liked me and I liked him; he was set in his ways, but straight. I figured that he could ride the river on any drive I bossed, not that he would.

It was around the first of October that a man showed up at the Bosque Grande, wanting to talk to John. He paid me no mind and I returned the favor. Just another down-at-the-heels waddy, I figured, looking for a job.

And while Chisum had the final word, one of the straw bosses would decide whether to hire him or not. None of my affair. Until John called me in.

“Liam, I reckon you’ve not met Lemuel Cox?” I nodded to show that I hadn’t and shook hands with the man. “Lem’s got a ranch over north of Lincoln.”

It bothered me for a moment, not being familiar with a town of that name, but then I remembered that Bonito had changed its name to Lincoln a few months past. I knew the area, not as well as the Guadalupes, but I’d ridden through it because a lot of our cattle deliveries had gone to Fort Stanton. Some of the cattle were to feed the soldiers, the rest were intended for the reservation Apaches. Who didn’t stick too close to the reservation, being apt to hunt the draws and canyons that led up to the Capitans. Time to time, I’d seen one or two over that way while I worked stray cows out of the brush, but I hadn’t had much to do with them. They went their way, I went mine. But anytime I worked that country, I made sure I could get to that Henry rifle in a hurry. Notional, most folks said of them; today’s reservation Apache was tomorrow’s bronco, off the reservation and looking for scalps.

I sized Cox up while we were shaking hands. Older fellow, going gray, more wrinkles than face and a mustache that hadn’t been trimmed in a while. Strip of pale skin below his hairline, revealing that he spent a lot of time under a hat. Patched Levi’s and a blue shirt that had seen better days a long time ago. Well, that was pretty much the way all of us looked. Poor, but like this man we stood straight and looked people in the eye.

“Lem’s had a run of bad luck,” John went on, “what with last year’s drought and Indian raids. The upshot is that he’s looking to sell his place. It’s only 1000 acres or so, but it’s got several good springs and two or three creeks to water his stock. Are you interested?”

“Depends on how much he wants for the place,” I said. “I don’t have a lot of money, for one, and for the other, you’ve made no secret that you intend to expand. Why don’t you want it?”

“Too far for me to manage,” John said, “but if his place was 20 miles further east or three times bigger, I’d buy it. The Jingle-bob is big, but it’s all close to the Pecos. All one continuous parcel, I should say. If I bought Lem’s place, I’d have to hire a manager, because it’s a full day’s ride to get there and back. The way stock prices are now, it would cost more to operate than it would bring in in revenue.

“I judge that it would make a good starter ranch for a young fellow like you. You’ve been a good hand and I ‘spect you’d make a good neighbor, better than that bunch in Lincoln that call themselves The House. Rustlers, the lot of them! Some do the stealing, others just buy my beef critters and resell them. Anyway, if you’re interested, I’ll stake you.”

“I’m interested,” I said cautiously, “but again, it depends on how much Mister Cox is asking.”

We settled in to dicker, and it took a spell. The upshot was that I spent most of my saved-up gold, but at the end I had me a ranch. In addition to the land and buildings, I owned whatever stock was still on his range, including a few bands of wild horses. As a final part of the arrangement, John sold me 60 cow-calf pairs and a dozen half-broke horses on credit. All I had to do was trail them west, and I figured to do that with help from a couple of the boys. He put Jesse Evans to work, collecting the cows, while I rounded up the horses.

John had a few parting words for me. “Easiest way to get to Cox’s place is up the Rio Hondo to the fork, then follow the Bonito through Lincoln. You might want to steer clear of Murphy and his partner Dolan while you’re there. Me and them don’t get along, and one of these days, I’ll have Mister McSween file suit. As for McSween, I figure he’s straight, but there’s some that hang around his store that I’d watch close was I you. As for Dolan, and Murphy too, they’re both as crooked as a dog’s hind leg.”

“I’ll do that, John. As for the rustlers, if you need to pacify that gang of crooks I’ll come if called.”

“You signed on with the territorial militia, as I recall. You’re what, a corporal now?” John asked.

“Sergeant,” I corrected him. “I might even be First Sergeant by now, the way people get tired of looking at the same range of mountains and head west.”

John nodded. “You’re a good man, Liam Clancy! Next time there’s an opening, you’ll be a lieutenant, my word on it! You’ve got the experience, you’ve got sand, and you’re straight.” I just nodded back. If that short-company of dragoons needed an officer, they’d vote on it.

But John’s heart was always in a good place, so if I was asked, I’d do it. Couldn’t do worse than a couple of others I’d seen!


The cows were a-wanting to stay where they were, but by the second day of the drive they’d settled down. An old dun cow had decided she was going to lead and the others fell in behind her.

Lem rode point, I rode flank, and from time to I’d drop back and spell one of the drag riders.

Three days later, we passed the Torreon, a stone tower at the edge of Lincoln. Settlers had built if as a stronghold for women and kids during Indian raids. I looked it over, and as far as I could tell it was as solid now as the day they’d built it.

Lincoln seemed a likely enough town, but I figured it was never going to amount to much. There was a little bit of placer mining up in the Capitans and more in the White Mountains to the south, but so far not enough for anyone to get excited about, and a few farms along the Rio Bonito that we had to look sharp about. Cows will naturally head for green stuff after a few days on the trail, and farmers get upset when they do. I had no wish to cause bad feelings among my new neighbors, so we kept ‘em moving.

Later that afternoon, we turned north up a wide, shallow canyon to what had been Lem’s ranch. Now it was mine, not that there was much to look at when we got there. A log ranch house that backed up to a hill, with a shake roof covered over with dirt, and corrals off to the side. The covered porch out in front was as wide as the house. It had log rails around it and a couple of thick logs that had been hewed flat on top for seats. I figured they’d do for now, but it would just naturally look better with a rocking chair or two.

Off to the south I could see the White Mountains. Thirty miles away, I figured, a full day’s ride from my place. I reckoned them to be higher than the Capitan Mountains behind the house.

That log house looked small from the outside, but it was a sight roomier once you got inside. Lem, or maybe the fellow he’d bought the place from, had dug back into that hill, creating a storage area and a place to retreat back to even if someone managed to set fire to the part of the house out front.

Looking closer at the logs, I could see where several rifle slits had been cut in the front wall and off to each side. The two windows that flanked the door had thick board shutters with rifle slits, and that door was mighty thick too. A Spencer .45-70 might be able to shoot through it, but no pistol or .44-40 Henry was going to.

While I was looking the place over and talking to Lem, the boys had been pushing the herd up the canyon behind the buildings. They stuck around long enough for the cows to decide that this was good country, had a cup of coffee or two, and then said so-long and headed back for the Jingle-bob. I didn’t have any whisky and Lincoln did, which probably had something to do with why they were anxious to get started.

Lem stayed the night and we talked until it got dark, then bedded down in front of that Mexican-style fireplace. Nights in the high country tend to be cold when they’re not freezing, and whoever had built that fireplace knew what he was doing. The thick adobe walls soaked up the heat of the cooking fire and released it during the night. Even so, it was a tad chilly, sleeping on the floor as we had done, but not nearly as cold as it was outside when we got up next morning.

Breakfast was bacon cooked in a cast-iron skillet, cowboy bread made from dough wrapped around a couple of iron rods and cooked in the fireplace, and coffee strong enough to get a man started in the morning. Now I can’t guarantee that a horseshoe stuck in that coffee would stand upright, as some claimed, but it was black and bitter enough to suit anybody.

We shook hands, Lem saddled up and rode away, and I started work.

The barn could wait, I figured, but I wanted the corrals strong enough to hold the wild horses I would need to capture and break. I had enough to start with, but only just; if a horse is to last, he needs to rest one day in three. During roundup or the early days of a drive when the cattle took more work to keep them together, a man would need three horses, one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and a calm night horse with good vision for riding herd after dark. Even then, most remudas had two or three spare horses for each man.

For tools, I had a shovel, a single-bit ax, and half a raw hide to work with. I dug me out a hole downstream from the house spring and as soon as the water filled it, I put that half-hide in to soak. While it was doing that, I replaced a few posts that would do better as firewood.

As soon as the leather was soft and pliable enough, I carefully trimmed off inch-wide strips. Wet rawhide stretches; wrap one of the loose places where poles sagged against posts with a few of those rawhide strips and move on to the next. Let that rawhide shrink as it dried and by that afternoon, that corral was good as new. Lots of folks knew the way of rawhide, so much so that when the Texans moved into the country, local people had called ‘em rawhiders.


I worked hard that fall, only taking time away from building up my spread to work my way back into the canyons and bring back a deer or a turkey every few days. What I didn’t eat right away I jerked in preparation for winter, and later on I took to market-hunting as soon as the weather was cold enough.

One of the buildings I’d taken for an outhouse when I first saw the ranch headquarters turned out to be a smokehouse. Mountain oak provided the fuel, mostly the dried chips left after I cut the logs into billets. I’d heard that the mountain men who’d led the white migration west lived most of the time on meat, but I wanted more. Hard money was scarce, so I’d taken to delivering wild meat to McSween’s store in exchange for coffee, salt, and dried beans. He had potatoes, pickles, and dried fruit too, bought or traded for from the farmers in the Bonito valley. Most of my hunting was along the northern slope of the White range. Game was plentiful, but I figured that what lived on my property might come in handy during winter.

I had promised to pay John some of what I owed him in the spring, but by that time the price of beef had dropped even farther than it had been when he’d sold me the cow-calf pairs. A cowboy, riding the chuck line, showed up one day and told me that a rancher off to the west, over near the Arizona territory, reported that it had cost him more to ship the cattle east than they’d brought at auction. I could believe it. One difference, I could drive a few down to Lincoln town and swap them to McSween for supplies. He knew people in town that needed the work of butchering the beeves, and in return they got a hind-quarter or two, depending on how many they’d processed.

There was nothing I could do about the prices. Sooner or later, they would turn up just like they had turned down, if I could hold out that long.

I did, but some gave up, including the old man who owned the spread west of mine. I figured to give it a year, and if he didn’t come back I would add his place to mine.

So I hunted as much as I could, cut wood for winter when time allowed, and worried.

The hilltops had gone white with snow by mid-November, which made it easier to locate game because the animals had drifted down to lower elevations to find browse. That was how I spotted a good-sized buck up a draw, browsing on the tips of oak-brush. I tied my horses loosely to a couple of thick branches, then commenced to slip up on him.

That’s when I saw the Apaches.


Chapter Four

There was three of them that I saw, on foot like me. I figured there were probably others about and by the time I spotted them, they’d seen me. The only good thing was that they had no guns as far as I could tell. The bad thing, they all had bows. An arrow will kill a man as dead as a bullet.

That buck had seen me too. He had his head up, looking right at me, probably wondering if I was dangerous. I figured as soon as he realized what was going on he’d take off up the slope, and if he did, there’d be no catching him.

So I ups with my Henry rifle and shot him.

Down he went, with only a few dying kicks, and about that time I saw another one.

He had jumped when I shot the first one, which is how I spotted him. He was moving when I fired, but I downed him too, about a hundred yards beyond where the first one fell.

Pretty fair shot, even if I do say so myself, as shouldn’t. Bragging ain’t much admired, except when a feller is telling a windy that everybody knows is mostly made up, like that hombre that claimed he roped a whirlwind one time. He was uncommon good with a rope, though, I’ll allow him that.

I looked around, but by this time there was no sign of the Indians. But they hadn’t gone anywhere, and I knowed I was in a fix.

If they decided they wanted both those muleys they could have ‘em, but if I turned away and left them they’d likely be on my trail. So I took a pair of .44 rimfire cartridges from a box in my saddlebags, reloaded that Henry while being real obvious about it, and mounted up.

Leading my pack horse, I headed for that closest buck and just before I got there, I turned and gave a whoop down the canyon where the Indians could hear.

And then I waited. What would they do?

They respect bravery, so ‘twas said. I was about to find out, because if they decided to attack, I calculated I didn’t have much chance of getting out of this without a fight. Even with that Henry rifle, a feller can’t shoot what he can’t see, and Apaches can hide where you’d swear there was no cover at all. So as I rode, I reached down by the saddle-horn and thumbed the safety loop off the hammers on my two pistols.

The drawback to that Henry is that it doesn’t swing as fast as a six-gun does. If they closed in, my rifle wouldn’t be as handy as their bows, but with two pistols at hand and ten shots before I’d have to reload I figured I might have a chance.

I’d taken to carrying that .45 Colt I’d taken from that drunk in Las Vegas on the right side. That big bullet would put down most anything, but the pistol had a vicious recoil. More than one would-be fast-draw bad man had a scar in his hairline from not holding it tight. The .44 Remington on the left kicked some too, more than the .36 Navy revolver that many carried, just not as bad as that Colt.

I pulled my horse up just below where that first buck had fallen and waited. I hadn’t put my rifle in the scabbard, but I was resting it on the saddle-horn and making a point of not aiming toward where I’d seen them.

Down below, maybe a hundred or a hundred and fifty yards, something stirred. An old Indian, an Apache judging by his outfit, walked out in the open and watched me, waiting to see what I would do.

So I made a production of slipping that Henry into its scabbard, only glancing down for a moment to make sure the muzzle was inside the leather. I figured it wouldn’t do at all to make a mistake and drop it because I hadn’t taken the time to make sure the barrel was in the scabbard!

While I waited, I looked at that watching Apache.

Wrinkled up as a dried plum, he was. He wore a red cloth headband that was keeping his hair out of his eyes. No feathers that I could see. Regular white-man’s blue shirt, tie-strings holding it together at the bottom. Wide leather belt, thicker looking than deerskin, scabbarded knife on the right side. Faded red breechclout, with the front end pulled up under the belt and hanging down to his knees. Below that, knee-high Apache-style boots. He held his bow in his left hand, ready-strung, and there was a quiver on his right hip. Made from a hollowed-out yucca stalk, I judged. Half a dozen arrows, maybe one or two more in the quiver.

While I was studying the old-timer, being careful not to make any sudden moves, another one stepped out from one of them no-cover hiding places. He wasn’t there, and then he was. If I’d blinked at the wrong time, I would have sworn he appeared by magic.


That was a preview of The Territory. To read the rest purchase the book.

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