The trio of of opposing gunmen gasped as they would each swear that Jed I. Knight’s voice took on a demon like tone as he coldly invited them, “You first!”
The scent of salt was sweet in the morning air as the wind carried with it the fine mist of the sea. The waves bounced off the shallow hull of the paddle steamer Beaver as it forged its way towards the Port of Monterey Bay. The First Mate approached the lone passenger on this voyage, a man riding with them from the State of Jefferson.
“Captain says we will dock in less than thirty minutes, Sir. You can retrieve yer horses after yer finished in the Customs House,” the First Mate stated.
The quiet passenger nodded his head in acknowledgement before the mate turned back to his duties. Dressed head to toe in black with only his silver spurs and shoulder length auburn hair offering contrast, he reached inside his duster to review the packet of documents he received from Wimpy Hank Yoho. Unfolding the lettersheet he read the note scribbled on the inside:
Jed- Study these handbills from Jack Rojas and meet up with B. Fitz.
Good luck Dammit- WYY-D
Wrapped up inside the lettersheet were three sheets of paper. There was the handbill, a note from Jittery Jim Jonah, Dammit Leader and friend of Jack Rojas to Flatland Kid, and the third was a letter from Jack Rojas to Wimpy with descriptions of ten men Jed needed to study over so they could be easily recognized if Jed met up with any of them down the trail.
The handbill advertised the need for horsemen with cavalry skills to hire on for a short job. Riders with experience in Guerilla warfare were preferred but not mandatory. Interested riders should be in Rancho Rincon on May 31, 1878. Jack Rojas was well known in Rancho Rincon so he needed to send an agent on his behalf that would be unknown in the area. Jack contacted his friend and fellow Dammit member, Wimpy Hank Yoho, a man who ran with the Orygon Dammits. Jack wanted to see if Wimpy could send someone down on his behalf.
Once inside the Custom House, Jed was directed to an office at the rear of the building. There he was reunited with Bronco Fitz, a Pinkerton Agent and also an Orygon Dammit.
“Jed I. Knight!” he exclaimed. “I never thought I’d see you this far inside the Republic!”
“All Wimpy had to do is ask,” Jed responded. “Are the Boys about?”
“They’re out back at the hitchin’ rail,” Pinky-D replied. “Here’s the map to Rancho Rincon. Did you study the handbill and descriptions of who to look out for?”
“Why Pinky.” Jed lost his gunfighter face as a smile the size of the horizon took its place instead. “Don’t fret none, it’s all under here!” he continued while pointing to his Boss of the Plains Stetson. “Daylights awastin’,” he concluded as his spurs began to jingle as he headed for the back door.
At the hitchin’ post, two horses stood lazily side by side. One was a true black mustang stallion named Raven, standing three-legged under a slick fork saddle adorned with buck stitching and four silver conchos highlighting the saddle strings. It was topped off with a silver horncap with crossed pistols in bronze and ‘Jedi Gunfighter’ around the perimeter.
Next to Raven was an eye catching bay stallion of exceptional breeding named Brutis. Brutis was one of the emerging Colonial Quarter Horse breed out of the foundation sire Old Cold Deck, foaled in 1862. Brutus wore a =KZ on his left hip and was part of the KZ Renegades remuda. Jed recently began spending more and more time riding the KZ range and Brutis was in his string. On this trip, Brutis was adorned with a set of custom pack bags Jed designed to carry his assorment of firearms on the trail.
“Rave, Brute!” Jed called out to his close companions, “Ready to go?”
The unlikely pair lifted their heads and pricked their ears forward at the sound of their rider. Jed mounted Raven and while leading Brutis, headed northwest to Rancho Rincon some thirty five miles away.
Rancho Rincon lay in a box canyon at the base of Mount Harlan and Mount Johnson. There was an adobe wall built across the west end of the canyon sealing it off from the Brocero Trail. The trio rode into Rancho Rincon late in the afternoon of May 30. The hiring of horse soldiers was set to take place the next day so the street and boardwalks were crowded. Jed rode past the Agua Fria Saloon, the Bank, Jail, and down to the Livery at the east end of town where the street opened up to the grassy slopes at the end of the box canyon leading to the Mounts beyond.
Beyond the Livery, Jed could hear horses running and guns of all calibers being fired. In the big corral, two men loped their horses in a circle taking turns firing their pistols or rifles at assorted bottles sitting atop of the fence posts. “Child’s play,” he thought as he directed his attention towards three other hombres that were across from the main trail leaving town. They were all sitting in chairs with their backs to him and with their shotguns across their laps.
Outlaw Jim, Jacka$$ John, and El Bandito de Honor all peered at the ground ahead of them. One of the three would yell ‘snake’ and they would all commence shooting. Between snake spottings, the three were bantering back and forth about one of the ‘Wheels of Chance’ in the Agua Fria offering a mulligan on bets of $2.00 or less, one per bettor. It was then that Outlaw Jim took notice of Jed over by the corral. The three proceeded to go over and make friendly conversation with him.
Silence overtook the east end of Rancho Rincon as four gunmen approached, flanking a strikingly handsome woman. The only thing more eye-catching than her platinum hair was the pair of nickel plated Colts that clung to her hips.
“It’s Querida!” Outlaw Jim whispered to Jed.
Of course Jed had already recognized the dangerous beauty from the description Wimpy had passed along. “Got a bad feeling ’bout this”, Jed thought to himself.
“Don’t say a word, let me do the talkin’ Pard.”, advised Outlaw Jim.
As Querida and her guards came within speaking distance, Jed’s new friends all removed their hats and slightly bowed their heads in reverence as the guards fanned out to form a semi-circle around them.
“Good evening Querida,” Outlaw Jim offered as a greeting.
“Who’s your friend, Jimmy?” Querida asked as she motioned to one of her guards.
“Why him? He’s…,” Outlaw Jim was trying to explain as one of the guards known as the Swede cold cocked Jed from behind with the butt of his pistol. Jed fell to his knees as stars seemed to cloud his vision.
“Whoever he is,” Querida continued, “he seems to be lacking a good upbringing.”
Then, she directed her attention to Jed. “You, what do you call yourself?” she demanded. “I take it you are here for the job?”
Not losing his sense of humor, Jed answered while still rubbing his aching head. “I’m here on account of the job, this is true. My friends call me Jed. You can call me Mr. Knight.”
“Well Jed,” Querida barked back, “I’ll make it easy for you and tell you now that you are culled out. You have five minutes to get your caballo and get out of Rancho Rincon!”
Slap Happy was another of the guards standing beside Querida. “Senora”, he said in a hushed tone, “Dee two caballos you were eyeing beelong to dis gringo sun of a beeech!”
“Que Tal!” Querida exclaimed. Hesitating a moment, she continued her ultimatum towards Jed. “On second thought, you don’t get the job cowboy but your caballos DO!”
Turning toward Slap Happy, she continued, “Happy, take those horses to Tres Pinos and tell him they are from me. He should be over to the Fria by now. He’ll reward you greatly.”
Returning back to Jed she finished by saying, “Sorry Cowboy, I reckon you’ll get to spend the rest of your life on the Rancho. What there is left of it,…..Swede!”
Querida turned and strode away as the other three henchmen grabbed Jed and dragged him off to the corral as the others in attendance skulked away. Each was relieved that they were not the subject of Querida’s wrath this time.
The men dragged Jed to the far side of the catch corral and each kicked him once after throwing him against the bottom rail. The Swede fancied himself quite a gun hand and wanted a piece of this long haired drifter, if for nothing else but his gunrig and outfit.
Jed used the fence rails to steady himself, the stabbing pains in his sides helping him forget about his throbbing head. “Three against one,” he taunted. “That will be close enough to a fair fight…., for me!”
The three henchmen looked at each other and laughed, although somewhat taken back by the young man’s resolve.
“I’ll make it easy on you,” Jed offered, “Tell me about this job and I promise to make it quick!”
By now, he was back on his feet and had folded the sides of his duster back, hitching them under the back of his gunbelt. Next, he slipped the hammer thongs off each of his well seasoned Colt Model 1851s that had been converted to shoot the newer metallic cartridge
The trio of opposing gunmen gasped as they would each swear that Jed I. Knight’s voice took on a demon like tone as he coldly invited them, “You first!”
The Swede just started to move his hand down to his six shooter when he saw his fate, Jed already had both of his Colts jumping in his hands. The first round out of each gun sent a well placed bullet into the forehead of each of the two flanking gunmen. The Swede was mesmerised by the stabbing flames and growing cloud of gunsmoke as Jed’s next two rounds from each Colt tore away at his knees and gun belt. As he lay on his side in the corral dirt, he could smell the stench of ammonia in the soil from horse urine.
By now, Jed I. Knight had crossed the eighty foot corral. As he stood over the Swede, he asked one more time. “They talk about this town honoring the tradition of the Mulligan. Well, here’s yours Swede, tell me about the job. Yer Pards have ridden ahead to give the devil his dues. Clean yer slate while ya still can.” Jed reached down for Swede’s six shooter as the wounded man tried to speak through the pain that made him feel like he was on fire.
“Couple weeks….Coyote Valley…..Grant,” Swede struggled to get the words out.
Jed emptied all but one round out of Swede’s six shooter and placed it in his hand. “Here’s yer ticket Swede,” Jed whispered, “now punch it.”
Jed turned and entered a horse stall inside the Livery. Reaching around to the belt loop in the middle of his back he removed what appeared to be a 45-70 cartridge. In reality the “cartridge” was filled with solid gold to give it the weight needed to free the wedges of his Open-Tops. After breaking down each pistol he exchanged the spent cyclinders with two more loaded cylinders he carried in a pouch on his gunbelt.
With his Colts reloaded he strode along with his spurs a jingling. “Now to get my boys back, Dammit,” he thought to himself as a single gun shot was heard from back in the corral.
The KZ Renegades are a Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association affiliated club in Eagle Point, Oregon of which Jed I. Knight is a member.
Rancho Rincon was the ranch named for the Gonzales family who discovered the town of Gonzales in 1872. Now the home of Faultline Shootist Society, this club is ramrodded by Tres Pinos and his wife Querida.
Tres and Querida put on an Annual SASS club shootout every September at Rancho Rincon. The Shootout is called “Adobe Walls”, they always honor the tradition of the Mulligan.
Hog Mountain Ranch
Republic of California
**This manuscript is the intellectual property of Jack Rojas and is printed here with his express permission. No part of this story may be copied or reproduced in any fashion without Jack’s written authorization.