Thursday, April 30, 2009


A couple of years ago I placed a short story at the Amazon Shorts program at I'd done a fair amount of research on it, down to finding out what kinds of guns were used in the west shortly after the end of the Civil War, and to reading actual period letters and discovering how semi-educated folk actually wrote in the dialects in which they spoke.

The editor there apparently appreciated the effort, but requested that I change the ending. The story, "Ice Bounty" had what he considered a finale that was "too downbeat". I've rarely minded making editorial changes, being of a commercial mind when it comes to my fiction. However, "Ice Bounty" was a horror story and required, I think, a "downbeat" ending to remain effective. At the time I was eager to increase my exposure because of the then-recent appearance of my
first novel (THE FLOCK). So I agreed to the changes and the story was accepted.

But, I really felt the need to show the original story as I had written it. My short story collection A CONFEDERACY OF HORRORS never appeared, and that was the only other venue for the original version. Now, though, I've decided to place the tale here, online, at my blog. Take a look at the story as the author intended it:

copyright 2009
James Robert Smith
Approximately 5,650 words

10 January 69
Dear Momma an Daddy,
I am still here in Colorada. Scobie is with me an yor old Cherokee friend Ben Gess. We look a site travelin together, a white man an a nigger an a Indin. When we are in a town Scobie goes to the kitchen door to et an Ben waits with the horses till I brang him food. Some has said some stuff to us an you know me. We have broke some jaws out here. Thar aint hardly no law out here an a man has posted a bounty for a Chinaman. A big bounty for two thousan in gold. If we can get it Scobie wants to go to New Orleans wher he says a nigger can buy a house an be a man. An I will come home Momma. I will come home an get some land near you an Daddy Maybe get some pasture from Mr Oakey south of yals farm. I do not know what Ben will do with his gold. He says that his family is all dead kilt by the Union army.
I wisht we had not loss the war, Daddy. I wish. I will writ agin when we come back from the hills. Lord thay is big here. Snow all year roun an in the winter like now it is terribl cold. Ben say he knows where the chinee is gone. We will track him. You know Scobie can track anythang. We will git that chinee an brang him an git that gold. I will writ when we come down then I will come home.
Yor son.


Bill Yard had read the bounty notice that Scobie had brought back to the camp. Scobie was black as a man could be, but he could read as good as any white man. Bill and the Cherokee, Ben, were sitting in the teepee, smoking; the big man had returned from what passed as a town out here at the frontier. No one said anything, but Yard passed the pipe to Scobie, who stomped the snow from his boots and squatted down to smoke. Outside, the wind was blowing hard, and the three could hear little shards of snow and ice pellets tapping against the tent. From somewhere in the camp, someone was moaning.

"He'll be dead before the night's over," Ben said.

Bill and Scobie just looked at one another. And the wind whipped harder and the dying man wailed a little louder.

For a time, no one said anything. They had tired of wondering what they were going to do next, jawing over and over their plans and fantasies. For now, they had just a little money left, their horses were boarded in quarters more comfortable than their own, so they merely smoked and bided their time. The trio sat in the relative warmth of the teepee, huddled round their hot coal fire, the whistling of the wind broken only by the silent sucking and puffing of lips on tobacco pipe. They had bought the teepee from a young Indian, from a western tribe none of them had ever heard of. The man had taken the money, bought too much of the bad whiskey being sold in town; Bill found him lying dead in a frozen puddle of bloody vomit three days after they had bought his home.

The harsh crackle of paper filled the close spaces of the buffalo-skin shelter. Bill and Ben peered at the yellow-white square that Scobie had pulled from beneath his coat, unfolding it now that he had his lambskin mittens off of his hard hands.

"What is it?" Ben set the pipe aside, the bowl gone all cold and dark.

"Remember that Chinaman who was here last month? The one who got a room at the hotel?"

"I remember," Bill said. It was strange, that. Only white men were allowed to stay at the hotel, no matter how much money one might have hidden in the lining of one's coat. But that Chinaman had got him a warm room and had eaten there and been served just like a white man. And the word in town was that he had asked for a whore who was brought to him, but nobody saw her after that. The Chinaman had not stayed long, had been here one day and was gone the next. But nobody was sad to see him go. All the while he had been there, Bill and Scobie and Ben had felt strange, as if something bad were about to happen. Even the saloon had been quiet, none of the mountain men coming out of the hills to get drunk with white Indians whose furs and pelts they would try to steal. Short though his visit had been, none of them had forgotten the little man.

"A fella come up from Denver with these," Scobie said, holding the unfolded poster for the other two. Sure enough. Once you had seen that slant-eye, you would not forget him. He was old, his face a badland of chewed leather. His mouth was a crooked slash, thin black lips that everyone figured must have been tattooed to be so dark; like he had just drunk some sweet, dark molasses. And his eyes were scary. They stared all of the time, even when the Chinaman was laughing. Bill and Scobie had seen him laugh. Elvin, the pimp who had sent the whore up to him had asked the Chinaman where his woman was; and the Chinaman's face had split in half, showing his rows of white, even teeth. He had laughed like that, staring at Elvin and then he had thrown a gold coin at the pimp. When the pimp had gathered the coin out of the sawdust, he had trembled and left the hotel. “Gold. From the Plains of Leng,” the Chinaman had cackled at him.

“More valuable than any whore.”

"That's him, sure," Bill said, reaching out to touch the picture. "Some Chinee gover'ment wants him." And then he had seen the bounty. "They gosh," he breathed. "How much is two thousand split three ways, Scobie?"

"Six hunnerd and sixty-six, with two dollars left over."

Bill's breath huffed out and rose with the charcoal heat toward the vent above them. "Them ain't good numbers, Scobie."

"Money is money, Bill. What y'all say? Ben?"

The Cherokee peered at the paper, touching it. "I'll track him with you if you want to do it."

"Good," Scobie said. "I know which way he went when he left here." His head turned toward the slopes behind them, his coal-black beard jutting out from his chin to point the way. "He headed up toward Big Lick Pass."

"Damn fool, then, this time o' year." Yard hunched his shoulders, thinking of winter storms.

"Only means we can catch him. He ain't goin' far 'less he can tunnel under the snow like a worm." Scobie tried to smile a little. But nobody laughed.
12 January 69
Dear Momma an Daddy.
We are now up in them hills I was tellin you about since I mailed the last letter. I as reckon this will be a long note from me since there ant no way to send this out until we come down. Scobie allows how we are on the Chinamans trail but how he can track from the topside of two foot of snow I dont know. He has never got us lost yet so I reckon we are on the trail. We will see.
The onlies thing I can say for this country is that the sky is purty at night. Lord has put many a star in it up here an you have never seen the like not even up in them Grate Smokies yonder east of yals farm. I am thinkin of home.


As cold as it had been, the weather was with them. There had not been a hard storm since they had set out and five days traveling found them bearing down on the bounty. Bill and Scobie had thought that others from the camp would be willing to go after the Chinaman, but Ben was not puzzled by their lack of competition. "He was bad," was all he could say.

Scobie and Bill had learned to respect Ben's opinion, and the way the Cherokee could sometimes lay claim to knowing such things. It was Ben who had taken one look at a miner's camp near the Yellowstone and had pronounced it unwise to go down from the ridge and into the makeshift village. Half the place had burned that night, tents and cabins going up like kindling in the dry summer air. Fifty men had burned to death and six more had died later. "I dreamed it," he had said. They listened when the Cherokee voiced his opinion.

Scobie was twenty yards ahead; Yard that far in front of Ben who, like the others, struggled through the crusted snow, leading his horse. Bill was in the middle of a measured step, his eyes focused on the wet rawhide straps that anchored his snowshoes to his boots; Scobie had stopped short, no sound of crunching snow, the wind still and the air filled with no more sound than that made by a beam of sunlight. The kid looked up the slope. Above him there was the low, easy line of the saddle, snow making a pale contrast against the almost purple blue of the sky. Scobie, he knew, was just at the verge, and could see over the swag of the gap and toward whatever was beyond. The black man was frozen, a bit of dark with the drifts offering a small protection; he did not move, only continued to peer at whatever lay beyond. In a while, he made a small flicking motion with his right hand, and Bill came up, he and his horse breathing steam.

At the edge of the gap, Bill squatted next to Scobie and looked off where the other man stared. To their left and right, the mountain loomed, twin peaks reaching up toward tree line and above, rock and snow and ice stabbing at the sky. Below them lay a small valley, almost like a bowl and carved out by glaciers long since melted away. Down in the pit of it was a blue smear of water, a tiny lake spotted with bits of floating ice. Down there, at that cold shore, was a dot of onyx; it moved. The Chinee.

Scobie motioned again and the two edged back down to the waiting Cherokee. The three huddled as a mass with their horses like some warm, dark beast panting on the mountainside.

"How far you figure him to be, Scobie?"

"That's three mile, maybe a tad more."

"Was he alone?"

"Yeah. I know it's hard to believe, but he ain't got nobody with him, and I don't know how he's made it this far with no horse and nobody to help him."

"Yore right, Scobie. That boy's queer as cat shit."

Ben almost smiled.

"What do you boys thank he's packin? Thank he's got a long-range rifle? Thank he might could pick us off afore we could reach him?"

"He mought could, Bill. But we got him dead, anyways. All we have to do now is jus keep on his ass. It don't really matter if he sees us. An they ain't no way we gone be able to sneak up on him down there, anyway. Ain't nothin but ice an rock tween here an there. Mights well jus get in clost as we can an shoot him. You pop him, Ben. You the best shot of us."

"Alright." Ben turned to his horse and drew his rifle out of its scabbard. There was a rasp of oiled steel against frozen leather.

"An we gone have to leave the horses here. The slope's too steep on tother side. Gots to jus go down an git him. We come back an git the horses after we gets the Chinee."

Bill hobbled the horses, letting Scobie and Ben precede him over the top of the saddle. The two of them strode on over, making no effort to conceal their movement from anyone watching from the other side. The sun was rising high. Bill figured they still had five, maybe five and a half hours of daylight. Plenty of time.

17 Jan 69
Daddy. We fount that Chinee. They God I wisht we had not of ever heard of him. I believe in God Daddy. Tell Momma an everbody that they is a God.


The three topped the ridge and came plainly over the saddle. There was no wind. Yard and Scobie and Ben fanned out, making a considerable space between them so that the others could break and run if the Chinaman did have a gun of some range. They went down and down the slope, Scobie front and center, the others moving around to flank their bounty. It was obvious that he could see them: there was virtually no cover in the huge, iceless col. But he merely held his position by the small lake, waiting.

When they had crept to within a half-mile of the Chinaman, Bill stopped and squatted; gripping his rifle and once again checking to make sure he had a shell in the chamber. The snow was not very deep in the col, only a few inches. Across the steep saucer of the valley, Scobie was moving in, closing in a straight line, sighting down the barrel of his gun from time to time. There was no reaction from the little man they pursued, only an odd movement now and again, his arms lifting up, waving strangely in the air. Overhead, the sun was at its zenith.

On the far side of the bowl formed by the valley, Yard could plainly see Ben curling down and away, faster than the others. He had obviously decided that he could move in for the kill. Bill knew that the Cherokee could hit a target as big as a man from half a mile. In a few minutes, a shot would crack the silence and he'd see the evil little fellow fall down, perhaps a clear blossom of red preceding his body to the snow. The Cherokee was jogging, moving into range.

Bill tore his gaze from Ben to see what the Chinaman was doing. Their bounty was gone. What the Hell? He had been close to the edge of the cobalt lake. No one would be stupid enough to go into water in weather like this.

Scobie was yelling, his voice loud, even from a distance. Bill could hear him clearly, "Ben! Ben!" He saw Scobie raise his rifle and fire, but not toward the Chinaman: at Ben's position. Yard peered across, over Scobie. The sun shimmered blindingly off the snow. A puff of ice blew skyward from Scobie's shot, but Bill saw nothing where his companion had aimed. Nothing. Ben was gone. He blinked, and for an instant thought he saw something long and low to the ground go sliding down the slope, something that seemed to move beneath the snow. But the movement was so quickly gone that he thought it was nothing more than a play of sun.

Bill ran to Scobie, no longer afraid of any gun the Chinaman might have. Yard stood beside him, leaning on the bigger man, panting after his race across the snow. He had been wrong about Ben not being there; he was, but he was lying in the snow and barely visible where he had apparently fallen. His arms jutted out of the white, his lambskin gloves dangling where they were tied to his wrists. He must have taken the gloves off to fire. He must have been close enough for a clear shot.

"Scobie. What happened? I didn't hear no shot." He was still leaning against the black man; his breath was a great plume rising up and up, vanishing. No answer. "Scobie!"

"I don't know. I saw somethin. I don't know what it was. Somethin come up out of the snow an..."

"And what? What was it"

"It...crawled up on Ben's back. An then he jus froze up an fell over. I...I think mebbe it...bit him."

"What bit him, Scobie? What are ye talkin about? And whar's the Chinee? He ain't down thar! Look, Scobie! He's gone!" Yard pointed, but Scobie did not look down to the tiny blue lake that lay surrounded by white and white.

The big man tore free of Yard's grip, and he trotted over to the Cherokee. He could see Ben's cap there in the snow: squirrel's tail tied on gray and shedding, and there were a couple of hawk feathers stitched on, too. "Ben? Ben. Are you all right, Ben? Ben!" He knelt and put his hands on the Indian's coppery face. Ben's cheek, where Scobie's thumbs pressed, caved in, shattering like window glass. His teeth were plainly visible through the new hole.

"They God," Yard whispered. "They God, what has happent to Ben?" He drew his rifle to him and peered round; looking for that movement he had seen just after Scobie had fired the one shot. He didn't have to ask if the Indian were dead.

The black man cast about and found Ben's rifle lying at the dead man's feet. He grabbed it up.

"What was it, Scobie? I didn’t see nothin but the snow kindly movin over thar past ol Ben. What did you see?" Yard could make out a trail, of sorts, a disturbance in the sheer coating of snow that lay everywhere. There had been something there. Something.

"I cain't say, Bill. I cain't say. I was lookin over here an Ben was fixin to fire. An then I looked down to see what the Chinaman was doin. An I heard somethin, like a soft wind, an then there was a snake...only blue and white like ice an it was crawlin up Ben's back. They...I heard a pop, like it bit him. An Ben fell back an I took a shot. But it was gone by then. Gone."

There was still no wind. And the sun was yet high in the blue. "What are we gonna do, now? I didn't see at all whar that Chinaman went to. An what are we gonna do about Ben? We cain't jus leave him here. Wouldn't be right. Cain't bury him up here."

"Here." He held out Ben's rifle and Bill took it. Kneeling again, he took hold of Ben's left arm and made to pull him uphill, to get a better grip on the body. The Cherokee's arm snapped off in his hand, shirt and coat and all; the flesh inside had gone a pasty color, and the bone was a rounded cross section of white. "Jesus. Oh, Jesus." He dropped the arm and glared down the valley to where the Chinaman should have been.

"I'm sorry, Bill, but we gone have to leave Ben here. I know you didn't see the Chinee go, but he only could have gone up that draw yonder side an over the top of that ridge." He turned and began to trudge upslope to their horses.

"What about that thang, Scobie? What about that?"

"It run. It run when I shot at it. Let's go git our horses." And the snow crunching beneath their boots was the only sound.

19 Jan 69
Daddy. It is almost dark now. Some animal we aint never seen has killt Ben Gess. I know you two fought them Yankees together. I know he saved yor life an I am sorry. We are goin to try and kill that Chinee. We aim to brang him in for that bounty. I hope I see yall again. I will write more tomorrow.


Bill and Scobie took an entire day getting their horses around the wide col. They skirted the ridge top, knowing the horseless Chinaman would be moving well across the gaps and down the mountain. But they would catch up to him before he could get very far. The evening after Ben's death, they were heading downhill, already into the evergreens that lay like a black cloak beneath the bare tundra above. Now, their prey was leaving a track that even Yard could plainly see.

In the relative cover of a grove of birch trees, the two sat and warmed themselves over a small fire. The night had closed in, and above them the sky was mad with stars. "You thank there might be Crow Injuns in these woods?"

Scobie snorted. "There might be. But I ain't seen no sign of nobody but that Chinaman. He is one runnin bastard. But he ain't more n three hours ahead. An he gots to rest jus like us."

"I wisht Ben was with us. He can...could talk several injun tongues. Member him talkin with them Creeks in Arkansaw? We didn't have no trouble with red men with Ben with us. What was it you figure killt him?"

Scobie got his cup from the fire, and he drank down the hot water in it. "Wish we had some more coffee. Or even some of that tea we bought back in town."

"Hell, Scobie. We'll buy whatever the hell we want ater we kill that goddam Chinaman. You'll see."

Scobie's eyes scanned the blackness around them. He could make out the skeletal fingers of the birches reaching nakedly for those billions of stars shining their green light overhead. "May be," he grunted, swallowing the hot water. "We gone take turns watchin tonight. You go first. Then you wake me up an I'll let you sleep till jus befo dawn."

"Shore, Scobie. You go on an sleep. I'll watch."

Yard sat there after Scobie turned in. He sat by the hot coals, adding finger-sized sticks to the fire, faithfully manning his watch. He peered round and about, his ears straining for sound. Nothing moved, though. Not even the wind. Three hours later, Scobie rose and Yard huddled down into the black man's bedroll, relishing the warmth the other had left for him.

Soon, Bill was dreaming of home. His daddy had a good farm. Two hundred acres and six mules and some milk cows. There were no more slaves; but sharecroppers did the same work and things hadn't been so bad. Not really. He dreamed of that warm Tennessee sun and going out in the morning to cut firewood for his momma. He could hear the axe strike home. Crack!

Bill opened his eyes, gummy with sleep. It had been a gunshot. One shot. Scobie was screaming.

"Bill! Oh! Gawd! Bill!" And then there were no words he could understand. Just Scobie's voice making awful, painful sounds.

Yard threw off the blankets and stood, his rifle coming up with him. He had gone to bed with it like it was a whore, his hands hot around it in anticipation. He kicked out with his left boot, shoving small sticks into the fire. The flames leaped, made orange light. Scobie still screamed, and something long and pale, like the snow, writhed in Scobie's arms. It seemed to have a long tail trailing like bluish ice into the dark. Bill fired at that.

The shot went true. Bill heard the report, and then a crack not unlike the explosion of powder. Something wet jetted into the night. The thing, whatever it was, dove into the snow like a mole, like a burrowing rat, and then it was gone.


Yard was answered by a low moan.

"Scobie?" Afraid to look, he edged over to his friend. He peered down.

Scobie's hands were gone.

Oh. No, they weren't.

There they were.

Layin over yonder in the snow. Bout eight foot away.

"Oh. Oh, Gawd, Scobie. Scobie, no!" He knelt beside his friend, tears welling up. There was nothing he could do. Nothing.

"Bill." He would have reached up to pull Yard down to him. "Listen to me," he whispered. "You gone have to kill him your own self."

"No, Scobie. We got to git out of here."

"Shut up, boy, an listen to me. I'm dead. I'm dead. An if you try an run, I thank he will catch up to you an kill you while you sleep. You hear me, boy? So you better git on yore horse before that sun comes up an you better find him before that sun sets! That's what you got to do."

"Oh, God, Scobie. I cain't leave you. I..."

"If I ain't dead in ten minutes, then you gone shoot me in my head. An then you better git, boy. You hop on that horse an you git that evil witch. He ain't goin nowhere but down. You folla him down to the river west of here. That's where he's goin. You folla him, an don't you leave me here alive. Not like this."

"Scobie. No. We can get you out of here." Bill reached down with his left arm, to lift Scobie up. But his friend had already stopped breathing.

"Scobie. Oh, God."

20 Jan 69

Scobie is dead now, too. I am writin this at the edge of this little fire. I have to get that Chinaman by myself now. I hope I can come home an tell you what happened. If I don't, then he killt me an this letter is all yall will have. Tell Momma that I love her an don't yall come out here to try an get that chinee. He is like the devil. At leas he has the devils power. I love yall.


The trail was plain, now. Whatever creature that Chinaman controlled, it was not always with him. It left a strange track, under the snow. Bill had seen that track twice, and it was not here. The Chinaman's tracks looked labored. Initially, Yard had thought the man was wearing snowshoes; but now he could see shoeprints, (sandalprints, actually), stamped down there in the deep snow. During the morning, Bill had made good time, and he figured the oriental was no more than a mile ahead. He would catch him. Soon.

There had not been a heavy snowfall in two weeks down there on the mountain's flanks. So the footing beneath those first soft ten inches was solid. The horse was moving easily through the forest. The trees were great evergreens that held snow. Ahead, limbs still sifted their icy burdens onto the ground where the Chinaman had brushed against them only moments before. Bill dismounted, his rifle in hand; and he led his horse this last little bit before he caught that yellow bastard.

And then he heard the roaring. It almost frightened him before he realized what it was: water, great amounts of water rushing madly down over shattered stone. It was the river Scobie had told him he would come to. The sun was straight above. Noon. He would kill the son-of-a-whore before the hour was done.

The trail led through a thicket of young hemlocks, and then out onto bare rock that dropped steeply down to the edge of a canyon. There, on the verge of the rock, was the Chinaman.
"You bastard!" Yard screamed it at he top of his lungs, and the Chinaman actually turned to look. The little man was not smiling. His face was that same evil map of chewed leather, his eyes black and piercing in the sagging flesh, his lips like a long black slash there in the weathered country of his head. In turning, he fell back, his arms waving as in counterbalance too late. The water roared and Bill could here nothing else save the rushing of bloodlust in his ears.

Near a stand of shattered boulders, a shoulder of the mountain that had tumbled down, Yard stopped and let go the reins of his horse. He hefted the rifle, Ben's rifle, and he aimed it at the small black-robed figure that yet lay, arms dancing crazily, as if writing in air. He aimed carefully, the barrel pointing solidly: the great wad of lead would strike just under the rib cage.
To his right, Yard's horse reared up. From its throat, a scream that somehow bellowed past the roar of water. That thing had come down from the rocks, down from the ice in the cracks there, and it had landed upon the horse in its attempt to dash toward Bill.

For the first time, Yard had a good look at it. It was more like some gigantic bug than a snake. Its body was in segments, dozens of segments. And each segment bore a pair of thin, yet powerful legs that propelled the thing down the rock. Those legs had pierced his mount’s hide, and the insane horse was preventing the monster's advance. It snaked its body round the horse, encircling the neck, and it bit down into the mane. Bill could see mandibles creaking wide, closing upon hair and flesh, and something like blue water vomited out. The horse's jaws froze wide; and the weight of the animal's head caused it to break free of the neck in one great section that shattered like ice on the rock.

The body of the horse landed upon the thing, and it was struggling, rearing up like a big, blue erection.

And Bill shot it.

The bullet entered dead center, four segments below its head. Its carapace opened up, bled a gush of stuff that steamed, and then the wound was closed. But it retreated.

Bill drew out one of his pistols, and he fired it at the monster. His aim was true. The thing was wounded again, a leg falling to the ground like a broken stick. It backed away. Bill shot. The thing went back. He herded it along, his left hand producing yet a second pistol; and it fired and the thing was at the precipice. He leveled both barrels and the guns bucked in his hands.

The animal, if it was an animal, was pushed back like a paper kite in a strong wind. It tried to grasp the rocks with those legs, but it was too late. The edge went past it, and the thing went hurtling down into the gorge. Bill stood there by the lip and watched it plunge into the small river sixty feet below. The water froze around it, piling up as if by a dam, and the thing writhed there, trapped by the ice.

He was turning to see where the Chinaman was. That was why the blade struck his shoulder blade and skidded off, leaving a long, red cut down the flesh of his back.

"God!" He turned, fell. Warm blood oozed into his pants. "You!" The Chinaman twisted, too, wordlessly raising up the knife. Bill rolled, freeing his right hand. The gun shouted for him. A hole the size of Yard's boot blossomed on the yellow man's spine and he went down with a sigh.

"There, you whore-fuckin piece of dawgshit."

In pain, Yard retrieved Ben's rifle. He reloaded it carefully and slowly. Then he went to the edge of the cliff and sighted down its barrel at the thing that still squirmed and struggled in its trap of ice. He squinted finally and fired. Its head exploded in a hundred hoary shards. And the ice dam broke, sending pieces of the thing down the canyon as if in some kind of race.

By the light of the afternoon sun, he used the Chinaman's own knife to sever the wizard’s head. All the while, as he sliced and hacked, he kept expecting those white, even teeth to snap at him, to take off a finger. But the jaw was slack, and hung as dead as anything shot to and cut to pieces. He wrapped it in a blanket and took it back to where he had left Scobie's body, where he had left the other horses to hobble about the camp until his return. As night fell, the sky yet full of those billions of blue-green eyes, he made a fire and only fell into sleep when he could keep his eyes open no longer.

19 Jan 69 again
Dear Momma an Daddy.

I have killt that Chinaman an will git the bounty when I take him back into town. The two thousan is all mine now. I dont know any of Ben's family. But Scobies sister still lives down the holler dont she? I will give her some of the money when I get back. This letter will make it back befor me but not by much. With any luck yall will see me home befor summer is over. I will help with the corn.

Yor son Bill Yard.


14 June 69
To the Yard family of Crump, Tennessee.

Enclosed with this bundle, you will find the property your son had upon him when we found his body. I do not know what happened to him, other than what his letters to you state. When we found him, he was sitting there in what must have been his camp. The horses were gone, of course. There are just these pistols and this little bit of money. I sold his rifles to pay for his burial back in town. We looked for the Chinaman's head, but all we found was a bloody bit of cloth it may have been wrapped in. Some animal probably made off with it, it was so small. I guess no one will have the Chinaman's bounty. There are some anxious folk, I guess, in China, or that Plains of Leng the bounty stated. Be assured Bill Yard received a decent and Christian burial.

Sincerely, Joseph Whitaker, Territorial Deputy.


From the porch of his home on the edge of town, Deputy Whitaker gazed up in awe at the mountains rising up like dragon's teeth in the summer sun. God, he thought, how cold had it been up there? The boy had still been frozen when they had found him in June. Whitaker shivered and sipped his whiskey.

No comments: