Thunder Butte

October 05, 2005

Gunslingers, Desperados, and Other Sorry Strangers

One of the scariest days in my memory was when two very strange horsemen stopped at our house. These two characters were right out of a grade "B" Western movie, or maybe escapees from the Twilight Zone. I will surely never forget them. These two men were of swarthy complexion, unwashed, garbed in dirty jeans, old boots, spurs, chaps, rawhide vests and old weathered cowboy hats. To complete the picture, they both wore low slung revolvers on their thighs with the end of the holster tied to their legs with rawhide thongs. Gunslingers from another time.... I had seen enough Western magazines to recognize them immediately. These were two bad hombres.

The two dismounted in our front yard, ground hitched their tired horses, came into the house without knocking, and told my mother to fix them some grub. She told them she didn’t have a thing in the house that she could fix in a hurry. The uglier of the two then told her to go kill a chicken. He then picked up a stick and ordered me to go get chips and firewood, shaking the stick at me to emphasize what would happen if I didn’t. My mother was visibly shaken and I was scared to death, but we did as the guy ordered. She soon had a chicken frying, fried up some potatoes, and had the two desperados fed. They ate the food without another word. When they had finished, they burped, wiped their faces on their dirty sleeves, mounted their horses, and rode off into the sunset. No one [in the area] ever heard of them before or after that incident.

Not long after that unwelcome visit, my parents and my brothers were all home when a nice young cowboy stopped for supper. He had just come from the river (the Moreau), where he had picked up a horse that had strayed from where he worked up on the Grand River. He was pleasant company, clean cut, and about twenty years of age. My folks urged him to stay the night because he would have to ride the entire night to get home, and maybe not make it then. But, he was determined. He said he owed it to his boss to get back with the horse and get his work done. He saddled up, thanked my parents for the nice dinner, and started out. By this time it had gotten dark.

A half hour or so after he had left, we heard horses out in front. We went to look and it was the two horses the young cowboy had just left with. Fearing that he had been thrown somewhere and hurt, my father and brothers started searching for him. There was a box canyon behind our house with a trail skirting it on the left. Well, the cowboy had gone on the right of the canyon and tried to climb a cut bank. The horse he was leading had pulled back or reared. Tied to the saddle horn, this pulled the cowboy’s saddle horse over backward on top of him, crushing him to death.

--John Crowley
Mike Crowley Wednesday, October 05, 2005


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