Friday, February 8, 2013

Warrants for the Arrest of the King Boys

In the middle of the night the town tailor woke to the commotion of hooves and men. He brushed aside the curtains and peered through his bedroom window at the street below. He could see the lights still shining at Hamp’s saloon, a group of men were gathered in the mud, draped in long dark coats that shielded them from the rain’s misty leftovers. He changed his pants, threw on a white undershirt and grabbed the jacket hanging near the bedroom door. His wife woke from the noise.
“Where are you going James?” She asked.
“There’s some commotion out there. Nothing more than another bar fight I’m betting. You stay in bed, I’ll go see if some of those boys are going to need a shirt or two mended.”
His wife nodded and turned over.
James left the bedroom, hurried down through the shop and emerged into the street. He crossed to the other side, passing over the ridges of mud and divots of rain water that had been created by the night’s riding. Once across, he worked his way up to Hamp’s saloon, keeping to the road’s edges where the ground remained mostly undisturbed. Ahead he saw the men still gathered in front of the bar. They were standing in a half-circle around the entrance, looking down at something obscured from James’ view. James heard noise behind him. He stopped and watched as a wagon approached, pulled by two large, black horses and accompanied by a lone rider. The wagon slowly made its way towards the bar, its wheels struggling to push past the resistance of the fractured street. The rider was speaking to the driver, giving him instructions on how to navigate the mud.  James was surprised when he recognized the voice as that of the old Colonel, Bart Everett.
“What business does the holy man have at the saloon at this hour of the night?” James thought to himself.  
The wagon continued on and as it was passing James, the wheels got lodged in the muck and refused to move. The colonel shook his head and then whistled to the men at the bar. The men lifted their heads.
“You boys get over here. The wagon’s stuck.” Bart called out at them.
A few men broke away from the semi-circle and hurried towards the trapped wagon. As the men approached, the colonel noticed James standing on the side of the rode and gave him a long look. James instinctively took a step back and then nodded. The men approached, James recognized them as Davy McNeil, Francis Whiteman and Beau Thompson, all faithful Everett supporters. It occurred to James that the men ahead were probably all Everett supporters; he wondered if they weren’t robbing the saloon. But it seemed strange that they would steal so openly. And where were the Tutts to defend their property?  The three men gathered at the back of the buggy. When the driver urged the horses forward, they began to push. It was an exercise in futility; their arms pressed at full strength but their feet slid and sunk in the mud, refusing to grant leverage.
The colonel let out a sigh, swore under his breath and then turned his horse to face James.
“Go push.” He ordered.
Although Bart’s voice was calm and even, James couldn’t help but feel it was more a threat then a command. He shifted in his boots uneasily. 
The Colonel pulled his horse closer to James and pulled out a pistol.
“You hear me?”
James took a few steps backwards, staring at the gun. Even in the dark he could see the cold glimmering off the steel barrel.
Bart’s voice quieted and he cocked the pistol hammer.
“Wagon’s the other way.”
James nodded and moved towards the wagon. The men waited for him to grab a hold. Once again the driver started the horses and James pushed against the road. The men groaned and slipped with their efforts, and soon they were caked in the foul mud. Bart sat atop his horse, watching the men. The wheels finally budged, pushing slightly forward before rolling back to its original position. This small movement was a victory for the men, who began to rock the wagon until they had gained enough momentum to free the wheels from the groove. Once released, the wagon team hobbled towards the bar.
James and the men followed behind. As the wagon neared the front of the bar, the remaining crowd parted to make room. James approached and saw a man lying on the porch. He saw the face, unrecognizably covered with rivulets of dried blood that had escaped from the gore-brown cloth above and knew instantly the man was dead.  Some of the men stepped forward to gather the remains. Two more men hopped into the back of the wagon and together they carefully transferred the man from the porch to the wagon bed. When the deed was done, the men reverently stepped away from the wagon. James watched Bart ride to the side of the wagon and stare down at the corpse. Though there were no tears shed, the stillness of the men watching Bart hinted to James that the dead man was none other than Sim Everett.
Bart lifted his gaze and brought his horse near the Saloon porch.  He shouted into the bar, his voice was loud and clear, but still calm and sad. He sounded like a wary pastor advising a prodigal congregation.
“Hamp, I know you are in there. Your King boys killed my brother, Hamp. Sim’s dead. It was your boys’ who did it.”
He paused before shouted again.
“You know where this leads Hamp. It’s been coming for some time now. I was a fool to think it could end any other way, but I see that now. Tonight it’s our blood, but next it will be yours.” Bart lifted his pistol. The gun sparked in the dark air, accompanied by a loud report and followed by the dull thump of the bullet hitting the wood. 
“You be ready, Hamp.” He fired again at the door.
“The bloods coming,” Another clap of powder.
“And even the great Hamp Tutt won’t be able to stop it.”
He fired the rest of the rounds in slow, spaced intervals until the pistol was empty. Neither James nor the other men moved, they stood and watched the flicks of bright flame and listened to the splintering of the wood door.
When the gun was emptied, there was silence once again. It was broken a few moments later by the arrival of two more riders. It was Mooney’s deputies, Ned Harris and Red Jennings. They lingered for a moment, armed with their pistols and badges, eyeing the crowd suspiciously. The deputies rode around the wagon and examined Sim’s body from their saddles. Bart turned on his horse to face the deputies.  Ned stopped when the colonel turned, Red continued to the front of the bar and then dismounted. He walked up to the door and fingered the holes, then turned to address Bart.  
“Go on and take your brother out of here, Colonel. The doors done nothing to harm him. Go see to his burial and we’ll see to the King boys.”
“Where’s Mooney?”
“He’s doing what he always does, serving warrants.”
“He’ll have to serve those warrants on corpses, Red.”
“You know how the law works, Colonel. They’ll be arrested then tried and then punished if guilty. They won’t be dead unless the law convicts them.”
The colonel shook his sad. “You think the law will really give them justice?”
Red sighed, resting his hands on his hips.
“I remember how you ran the law, Bart, so it’s no wonder you mistrust it. But the law is the law, and you’d best remember that our Sheriff doesn’t appreciate people who don’t respect his law.”
Red paused for a moment, but didn’t wait for a response.
“Now get on out of here. You’ve got more important things to be doing then idling in front of this saloon showing off your pistol.” 
Bart stared at Red a moment longer before turning. He signaled to the driver and the wagon set off down the street. Bart took one more look at the deputies and the men, then turned and followed.
Red watched Bart disappear into the dark and then began to disperse the crowd.
“Go on, get on out of here. Saloon’s closed for the evening.”
The men began to shuffle away. Red noticed James and stopped him.
“What’s a tailor doing away from his wife at this hour.”
“Came to see the commotion.” James replied. “I didn’t know there’d been a murder. You know how he died?”
“A garden hoe. The old boy reaped what he’d sown.”
“A garden hoe?”
Red didn’t give any more response. He was staring down the street at the line of men disappearing into the dark.
“Get on home James, don’t want your wife worrying.”
James gave a quick parting nod and shuffled away from the Saloon. Red turned his attention to his partner, who was standing on the steps waiting. Red walked towards his partner.
“Mooney isn’t coming?” Ned asked.
“His wife is in tough shape tonight, he told me he couldn’t leave in case it was time. You know that pup’s coming any day.”
There was a pause. Ned kicked his boot on the step to shake off some mud.
“I wish he’d do more Sheriff’n and less babysit’n. This town’s in a bad spot.”
“Family, Ned. You know the man.”
“Family after duty. It’s Mooney who’s got the title and me who’s left to deal with all the messes.”
“If you did more dealing and less talking, there might be a lot less messes round here.”
The Deputies entered into the saloon and examined the room. They could see the main floor had been cleared. The near wall hosted a pile of splintered wood and fragmented furniture. The tables and chairs that had escaped the fight were pushed against the far wall.  A colored boy gave the deputies a greeting nod before returning to his task of sweeping the remaining wood chips and glass shards towards the doorway. Two more men were stooped over a dark stain, unmindful of the deputies’ entrance. They were dedicated to their task, scrubbing the floor like fated slaves resigned to their purpose.
The deputies watched the men in silence. The rags passed over the darkened wood in tempo as regular as a grandfather clock, but whether it was to any effect, they couldn’t tell. Both men guessed the scrubbing was frivolous, knowing that water lacked the strength to cleanse wood of blood. Yet they didn’t object to the men’s chore. It was a reminder of guilt and a ward against the ghost of Sim Everettt. After this brief reverie, Red called out to the sweeper.
 “Boy, where’s Hamp?”
The boy stopped his sweeping and pointed towards a door on the backside of the room. The deputy nodded. He and Ned moved towards the back, warily passing the rags at work. They opened the door and entered a lightless pantry. The flicker of the lantern’s from the main hall cast dim shadows onto the pantry’s shelves. When their eyes adjusted, they saw a door on the other side and beside it a window decorated with a faint light. The deputies proceeded out this door and back into the humid night.
Hamp and his boys were sitting around a table, huddled around a single lantern.  When the deputies exited the saloon, the group ceased their quiet conversation and eyed the deputies. Hamp spoke up.
“Just you two boys? Where’s Mooney.”
“Just us two.”
Hamp stood slowly from his seat at the end of the table. His beard was long and his eyes were old, but the deputies knew Hamp’s strength.  He wasn’t tall, but even in the dark they could see the man’s stout chest and his sure will. He beckoned to the deputies, welcoming them towards the table. The deputies approached, hands on their gun handles.
“You seen the bar.” Hamp said. “Our saloon’s in a pretty bad way. Four tables broken, busted so bad they wouldn’t even warm a fire, three more wouldn’t support a deck of cards no more, and Lord knows how many glasses and chairs gone. Them Everett boys think they can get away with damaging my property, startin fights in my saloon. I expect Mooney will be serving warrants.”
“Not over the chairs, Hamp” Ned answered. “If we were to throw someone in jail every time someone broke a chair in one of your bar fights, we’d have to take Tutt Hill and turn it into a jailhouse to fit the prisoners.”
“Feel free to bring them on by deputy, I’d be happy to take them off your hands.”
“Sim’s dead, Hamp. There’s going to be warrants served.”
Hamp’s voice quieted. “It’s a sorry thing he died. I ain’t going to pretend to care for the Everetts, but I don’t ever like to see a man give up the ghost.”
Ned nodded. “Now I’ve heard enough to know that John and Sam King were involved, and so were the Irish twins. Mooney is off to old man Kings to serve their warrants in the morning.”
“The King boys? Deputy, you can’t be expecting to arrest them boys. What happened to Sim was his own doing. He was too much like his brother Jesse. He was out of control. I tell you if it hadn’t been his blood on that floor it would’ve been somebody else’s.”
“We can only go off the blood in front of us.” Ned replied. “Murder’s been done, Hamp.”
“So that’s what you come here for. To get our leave to take our boys and throw them in jail, just for defending themselves from that son-of-a-bitch.”
  “We ain’t come to get your permission. You know Mooney, he’ll serve those warrants come hell or high water. But he sent us here to make sure you stay smart. You heard Bart shouting for you out front. The man’s ready for revenge. This town’s gone wild, Hamp. Mooney wants to make sure it doesn’t turn savage.”
Hamp glanced at his boys.
“We won’t be going looking for Bart.”
“He’ll be looking for you.” Red replied tersely. “I know you get how to look after yourself and your own, but the man’s dangerous. You and your boys go hold up on the hill for a while, give things time to cool down.”
Hamp passed his hand through his beard and up through his white hair. He looked down at his boys again and back to the deputies.
“We ain’t hiding. If he comes, we’ll settle things whatever way he chooses to settle them.”
“You’re a stubborn old fool, Hamp.” Red replied.
“That’s what my wife tells me.”
Red nodded. “Just know that there will be accountability. Whatever trouble you get into, you’ll be needing to answer for.”
“I hear you deputy.”
There was a pause. Ned spoke up from behind.
“What can you tell us about Cherokee Bob. We ain’t heard where he’s hiding up at.”
“I ain’t seem him, deputy. You know how those half-Indians are, probably skirted off to the Indian nation at the first sign of blood.”
“So you ain’t holding him up here?”
“No sir. I got no loyalties to Cherokee Bob. Honest truth I’d turn him in right now if I knew where he was. It’s that Injun who’s to blame for this whole mess. Them King boys is innocent.”
Ned gave a nod. “I hear ye Hamp.”
The deputies turned to go. But Ned stopped to address Hamp. “Mind if we take a drink for the road Hamp? Lord knows we’ll earn it these next few days.”
Hamp had already re-huddled with his boy. He gave a brief look over his shoulder and nodded. “Lord knows” He said. The deputies were off.

As they passed through town on the way to Mooney’s farm, thin wisps of light began to peak in the east. They rode in quiet companionship, watching the sun rise. The sky was clear, with the exception of a few tufts of pastel clouds, left behind by the retreating storm. Even this early the air was still warm, with occasional gusts of a cool Northeast breeze that gave relief against the ever-present summer humidity. The buildings of town faded away and soon they were in the outlying forests. Mooney’s farm was not far ahead.
Once in the forests, the Ozark trees began to crowd the deputies.  Old and irritable Hickory trees watched the riders from above. Crowding around their scaled trunks grew schools of teeming Sassafras and Red-bud, who, despite the number of stumped limbs brought on by axe-wielding travelers, still daringly reached their branches over the boundary grasses and onto the well-worn roads. The deputies passed through these crowding masses, chatting lazily amidst the buzz of cicadas and the sudden stirring of animals in the brush.
When they arrived at Mooney’s, beads of perspiration were beginning to form on both the horses and the men. They dismounted the animals and tied them at the water trough. The front door opened and Jesse Mooney stepped out. Ned took off his hat.
“Sheriff, your deputies are here.”
“Thanks for coming boys.” Mooney approached and extended a firm handshake. “Come on in.”
“Is the Mrs. alright then Sheriff?” Red asked.
“No baby yet. It’ll be coming any day. Thought for sure it’d have been last night. But she’s resting in the other room, come in and catch me up.”
The deputies followed orders and entered the house. The front room was empty and the men took seats at the table. Ned set his hat on the table and rubbed his hand against the surface.
“I’ve said it before, Sheriff, but this here’s a beautiful table.” Ned said. “Last time I saw a carved trestle I was still a boy in Carolina.”
“There are some things a son can learn from his father and some things he can’t. My old man taught me how to carve, but he ain’t never taught me how to Sheriff. What did you find in town?”
”Sim’s dead alright.” Red responded. “We met Bart loading up the body at the saloon. He made threats and it sounds to me like he’s ready to kill those King boys.”
Mooney nodded. “I’m going to go out and serve those warrants this morning.”
“Why don’t you let me go get them boys, Sheriff.” Ned said. “Town needs to see your face, let them know there’s still order around here.”
“If I leave now it’ll be little more than an hour ride out and I’ll be back early in the afternoon to show my face around town. I want them to see the King boys have been arrested.”
“I’ll bring them in for you, Sheriff. The earlier you appear in town the better. It wasn’t even sunrise yet when we were there, but already there’s a tension building. You best get a pulse of the situation so you know what needs to be done.”
“I hear you, Ned, but I’m telling you it’s best for me to deal with the King boys. They won’t be wanting to come along for the ride. Old man King and my father held decent respect for each other, I think it’s best I talk to him and see if we can’t work things out reasonably. There will be warrants served for five arrests: Cherokee Bob, John King, Sam King, and the Irish twins. From what I hear, John was the one guilty of the murder, but I want to make a statement by arresting the other boys. They won’t be convicted, but that doesn’t matter.  The violence between the families has to stop and I’m going to make sure the town gets that message.”
Red spoke up.
“Make it four arrests, Sheriff. Cherokee Bob is gone. We suspect he’s made for the reservation.”
“Damnit.” Mooney leaned forward in his chair. “I don’t expect we’ll be seeing Bob again.”
The bedroom door cracked open and the men turned to look.
“Come on out, Tom. If your only options are listening through the door or listening outside it, might as well be the latter.” Mooney said.
Tom emerged from the bedroom. He was a handsome boy of 15, with his mother’s curly blond hair and his father’s dark eyes.
“Want me to go after Cherokee Bob, dad? He left after the rain stopped, he’d be easy to track.”
“No boy, you’re going to stay here and look after your mother.”
Tom looked disappointed, but managed to mutter “Yes sir.”
 Mooney turned to his deputies.
“I want you boys back in town. You go to the Tailor and have him dust you off. I want those badges shined and those guns gleaming. People will know the law’s still king when they see your brasses baring. And especially keep an eye on the Everetts and the Tutts.”
The deputies nodded.
“Anything else?”
The deputies remained quiet. Mooney’s eyes turned to Ned who was shifting in his boots, his eyes fixed on the table.
“Damnit, Ned, speak up.”
Ned’s eyes remained on the table. He hesitated a moment and then looked up at the Sheriff.
“Word is they sent for Jesse.”
Ned’s eyes returned to the table. There was a moment of silence before Red spoke, his head also downturn.
“They expect he’ll be coming up from Texas. I suspect he’ll be here within the week.”
There was another pause. Mooney shook his head.
 “When he comes to town, we’ll arrest him straightaway and hang him. The warrant on him is still valid. And if he resists don’t hesitate to shoot him. We all know what kind of man Jesse Everett is, and we don’t need him causing more bloodshed. Red, when you’re in town I want you over to Hamp Tutts place. Warn him that Jesse’s coming up. It’s best that he be on guard. And if either of you two boys hear as much as a little profanity in town, I want you the throw the son-of-a-bitch in jail. Now you boys ready? This month you’ll earn your wages.”
“Yes sir.”
Ned shook his head as the two deputies stood to go. “We’ll earn double our salary, Sheriff, and it won’t take more than a week.”
They exchanged quick handshakes and headed out the door with Tom and Mooney trailing.
Tom brought the deputies’ horses round to them. They thanked the boy, said goodbye to the Sheriff and started back.
Mooney and Tom headed for the barn. The Sheriff’s horse, a spotted black and white appaloosa, greeted them with a twitch of the head and a tussle of his hoof. Mooney stroked the bridge of its nose and patted its side. He had bought the horse from an Indian trader years before. It was a smaller horse and stubborn as hell, and at the price of 15 dollars the Indian begged to be rid of him. When Mooney first saw the beast, he could see the intelligence in the eyes and bought him straightaway. Mooney told all who would listen that the horse was the best investment he’d ever made. The horse was already alert, sensing the urgency and the danger of the coming ride. Tom brought over the saddle and in a few moments Mooney was ready to leave. He mounted the horse and Tom walked them out towards the road.
“I’ll ride for you first thing if mom says she’s ready.”
Mooney nodded.
“And I know how to prepare the water and the blankets. I’ll make sure she’s taken care of.”
“You’re a good boy Tom.”
“I wish I could ride with you, doesn’t seem right for you to be going alone.”
 “Watch your mother today, but before this mess is through you’ll be riding with me.”
Tom nodded and extended a hand towards his father. Mooney shook it and said goodbye to the boy.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Chapter 3: August 15, 1848--The Bar Fight

Generations later, historians have come to dispute the existence of Cherokee Bob. They contend that he is nothing but a frontier archetype, conjured up by turn of the century dime novel writers seeking to profiteer off the escapist desires of urban audiences. Admittedly, the almost ubiquitous presence of Cherokee Bob in frontier stories lends credence to their theory. However, despite the clich├ęd name, local residents of the Ozarks today insist that such a man did exist. He was, they say, an outsider whose short cameo in the history of the hills acted as the catalyst for the war. I, of course, believe they are both right. Cherokee Bob was only a phantom. But as to his existence, I have no doubt. The half-Indian drifted into Marion County, lit the town on fire and was never heard of again. He was a ghost produced by the land, and he fulfilled the purpose of his creation.    
Cherokee Bob had ridden east from the plains of Oklahoma along the old, familiar trail into Northern Arkansas. It was a journey he made many several times a year on his spotted Indian pony packed with varied odds and ends. His frequent migrations made him well-known in Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Harrison and other cities along the path. Though his pony was packed full with goods for sale, Bob rarely pushed his wares. He was in the business of conversation and entertainment, and so in every town he visited it was more important that he focus on the four necessaries of conversation: the names, the news, the gossip and the gospel, rather than peddle his goods. It was humor he sought, in talk and in act. And since this humor almost inevitably came at the expense of others, it made him many fast friends and a few scattered enemies.  By rule, it is a mistake to define a man using a single trait. Human nature, even in the 1800s, was still far too complex for generalizations. That being said, Cherokee Bob was, more than anything, a mischief maker. This habit certainly would have got him into more trouble had he not been so transient. Once the joke was done, he would disappear back onto the trail, only showing up again months later when tempers had already cooled and laughs could be exchanged.
In terms of looks, there was little, other than his long, dark, braided hair and tanner complexion that hinted to his half-Indian blood. In fact, a bystander seeing Cherokee Bob for the first time might more easily mistake him for a Victorian gentleman than a frontiersman. From waist-down, Cherokee Bob’s outfit was traditional enough. Though he would undoubtedly have preferred more elegant leggings, the practicality of his constant riding forced him to cover his coarse pants with a tanned Buffalo hide. But from waist-up, Cherokee Bob dressed the part of a rich city gentleman. His head always supported a black top-hat and around his neck proudly hung a white, cotton cravat. And although Cherokee Bob’s shirt was normally a dull, dusty white, it was perpetually covered by a fine, black, three-button waistcoat. It was a mystery to the townsfolk that year after year Bob would arrive wearing the same vest. The waistcoat was easily two sizes too small and it seemed as if at any moment his formidable chest would split the seams and explode the buttons. Yet somehow the coat held. The combination of his Victorian torso and cowboy legs made him a conspicuous sight atop his mottled pony.
On this day, as he approached Yellville, riding towards his customary stop, his English clothes were soaked with rain. The day had begun, like any usual August day in the Ozark hills, with air full of heavy humidity and buzzing insects. Yet as his day’s journey came to a close, the blue skies quickly filled with grey and drenched the half-Indian rider. With the arrival of rain, the tall oak trees that engulfed the road began to give the occasional shudder and bow as strong gusts of wind tumbled down from the hillsides. Though not far from town and shelter, the rain and wind caused no perceptible difference to Bob’s speed. Instead, he lazily rode on. He trotted past the junction leading to Tutt Hill, pausing to gaze up the path at the massive house perched atop the hill. He noticed lights in the windows and thought briefly about turning up the path, but instead continued into town.
Riding on, he passed over the crooked creek bridge and stopped to watch the rain-water rush underneath. On his visits, he had grown accustomed to seeing the creek water idly pass from stale pool to stale pool. Now, the creek was filled to a rushing torrent and still seemed discontent. He pondered on the significance and continued over the wooden bridge. Houses began to appear in isolated lots, some with manicured trees and tamed grass and others completely overrun by vegetation. Soon, houses were appearing in regular intervals and the path grew wider and deeper. His pony’s feet sank into the mud and slowed the pace even more. Bob tested his memory, conjuring up the faces with the passing houses and searching for the appropriate name. He was surprised both by how familiar he had grown with the town’s residents and the appearance of so many new buildings. In his early journeying’s through these hills, there had been little more than Mooney’s ferry. Now, there was a newly built tailor shop featuring an advertisement for fashionable pieces and cheap mends. Bob examined his waist-coat.  
A minute later, Bob stopped near the entrance of the saloon and dismounted from the horse into the deep mud. He pulled at the pony, dragging it towards the roof’s overhang, giving the animal partial relief from the rain, and tied it to the railing. Bob untangled the mass of goods, setting them to rest in a heap against the covered wall. After a brief inventory, he picked up one of the bags and headed into the saloon. At the doorway, he removed his hat, shaking drops of water from his clothes and long hair like a stray cat.
The patrons inside the bar were all staring. Enjoying the attention, Bob took a long, sweeping glance of the premises. He saw little Quincy at the bar, tending to his glasses and alcohol with nervous hands. In the middle of the room were dirty, round tables, strewn between the room’s pillars and occupied by the smoke and profanity of the bored and the drunk. There was no sign of Hamp or of Bart, but there was still a good audience to be had. Sim was sitting at a table in the corner with Isaac Bradford and Davy Mcneil, staring at Bob with cold eyes. Then there was Sam and John King, the proud sons of old man King himself, enjoying drinks and cards with the Irish twins George and Jeremy Dunbar. He wasn’t surprised to see the Kings here, they were faithful patrons of Hamp’s saloon. In actuality, it could’ve been said that Hamp was patron to the boys. Almost immediately after forging a friendship with old man King, Hamp began to employ the tall, strong boys in part to curry favor with their father and in part to stand in as a type of security for his town investments. They were always to be found lurking around the saloon and the general store, keeping an eye on the customers, discouraging any unruly behavior. The sight of these King boys only a few tables away from the glowering middle Everett brought back memories of the town’s bad blood. Bob knew at once that this room was dynamite and he couldn’t wait to light the fuse.
He gave a big smile to the King boys, who greeted him, pushing out an open chair and signaling for another drink.
“Well if it ain’t Cherokee Bob. Is it already time for you to come again?”
            “Can’t expect this old hand to stay in one place too long, boys. Too much Indian blood in me.”
            John and Sam rose from their chairs and exchanged handshakes with their old friend.
“Well, you take your time with this visit.” Sam said “We could always use some laughs. Take a seat, first rounds on John.”  
            Bob set his bag down on the floor and sat into the chair.
“You workin’ then now Johnny?” He said.
            “No sir. Seems I got some Injun in me too, can’t bring myself to go find honest work. But Quincy owes me a drink or two for not beating his ass.”
            “I don’t know how you restrain yourself.”
            “You remember the Irish twins, right?” Sam motioned his drinking partners.
            “Hard to forget. Only red-heads in the region.” He gave a nod to George and Jeremy who returned the greeting.
            Quincy brought over a drink, setting it in front of John, who in turn pulled his chair close to Cherokee bob and handed the drink over.
“I’ll trade you.” He said, and stooped over to pick up the bag of goods. Bob watched him root through the contents. There was a hint of anticipation in Bob’s eyes; John could sense it but refused to bite.
“Good lord, don’t you ever carry anything worth having?” John said with disgust as he continued to poke through the bag’s content.
“I ain’t never carried anything on me that’s not worth its weight in gold. If you keep on insulting my wares I might not give you that special discount I gave you last time.”
“Discount my ass. That knife broke two days after you sold it to me. Damn thing couldn’t even whittle a sapling branch.”
Bob let out a laugh “The knife wasn’t for whittling. Shit, I should’ve known better to think a white man could understand the value of such a blade. That knife was pried out of the dead fingers of Sitting Bull, the Sioux chief responsible for butchering hundreds of settlers out in the plains.”
“You never told me that. Course, I can’t help but wonder how a vagrant like you could end up with Sitting Bull’s blade. You buy it out of Barnum’s museum?”
“Don’t be sour Johnny. If you aren’t pleased with your purchase I’ll be happy to buy it back. Can’t have my customers go unsatisfied.”
John stopped his digging in the bag and reached for his drink, giving Bob a smirk.
“You still got a mouth full of sweet smelling shit, Bob. Knowing your buy-back rates, I might as well keep it for flint-steel.”
“Don’t say I didn’t offer.”
“Come on John, if you don’t see anything you like pass it along.” Sam chimed in. John passed the bag to his brother and shouted at Quincy for another drink.
“Sam, I’ve prepared you something special in there.” Bob said with a wink.
Sam peered into the bag. It was the normal, eclectic collection of scraps. He sifted through a dried scalp, a rusty tomahawk, a harmonica box and pulled out a heavy gold colored bar. Bob shook his head.
“Not that. You heard what they say, all that glitters ain’t gold, and some things that are gold don’t glitter. Look for something a little luckier.”
Sam looked back in the bag and pulled out a single, muddy horseshoe.
Bob gave him a grin.
“This? What the hell would I want with a dirty old horseshoe?”
Bob adjusted his cravat and cleared his throat, preparing himself for the presentation. Sensing the entertainment to come, the Irish twins put down their cards and turned their heads. Bob paused, waiting for more encouragement.
“You’ll wait all day for the room’s attention.” John cut in. “Everyone knows not to trust Indian tales.”
Bob smiled over at John. “This story, John, I guarantee will satisfy.” He turned to Sam. “Hand me that horseshoe.” Sam passed the horseshoe across the table. Bob untangled his cravat and dipped it into his liquor, letting it soak. He lifted the horseshoe, examining it like an appraiser would his diamonds. Then, with delicate strokes, he used the liquored cravat to wipe away the caked mud. The others watched in silent curiosity. Their fixation on Bob’s work attracted the attention of the neighboring tables. Bob wiped one side clean and inspected it with a careful eye. He shook his head.
“Quincy, bring me something stronger than this watered down horse piss.” He called out. Quincy, who had also been watching Bob’s labor with the horseshoe, gave a startled jump when addressed. He reached under the bar and pulled out a squat, dark bottle. He then poured the drink hurried it over to Bob.
Bob handed him some coins and the dipped his cravat into the new cup.
“Wasting some good drink.” John muttered. The others shushed him.
With his cravat soaked anew, Bob began his gentle polishing. Soon, the mud was cleared and the iron of the horseshoe shone with the luster of liquor. Bob held it up again and released a satisfied smile.
“There it is boys, there it is.” He held up the horseshoe.
His words had a muffling effect on the room.  Even Sim and his boys at the other side of the room were glancing over, trying to simultaneously feign disinterest and feed their curiosity. 
There was a brief pause. Jeremy Dunbar finally spoke up.
“So, it’s a horseshoe?”
Bob gave Jeremy an approving smile.
“Yes, Jeremy it’s a horseshoe. But it’s also more than a horseshoe, for, as you all know…” He gave a sweeping gesture to the room. “Horseshoes always come with a horse.”
            He paused again.
            “So you’re selling me a horse?” Sam broke in.
            “No. I’ve got no horse to sell. But this little gem here raised two questions: what horse belonged to this horseshoe and where is it now? I’m afraid boys that I can only answer one of those questions. But luckily that answer makes for a fine story. You see, I have this Indian friend who told me about a time he wandered here to Yellville seeking some sport. Now, I won’t name names. I may be a no-good-son-of-a-Cherokee bitch, but I wouldn’t rat if Mooney himself rode up with some law papers. But the story my friend had to tell was too remarkable to keep quiet. As you boys know, from time to time every Injun gets the inclination to get retribution on the white man who stole their lands by stealing something of the white man. I can’t say I approve of this view of justice, but it’s hard to condemn a man for stealing some loose coins and frail chickens when his fore-fathers’ were robbed of entire territories.  It just seems wrong.
Well, my friend when he was wandering through town saw this one real sickly looking horse, ridden by this proud and slick looking man. He was watching the horse, thinking how weak and tired it looked, when the poor beast looked him in the eye. Now my friend had never been a believer in the medicine man traditions of his people, but at that moment he felt a connection to nature that the Indian’s call ‘Ganatlia Adonvdo.’ This sad looking horse looked him in the eye and pleaded in language as plain and understandable as I’m speaking to you now, asking John to save him from his slavery.
You can imagine John’s surprise. He thought maybe he’d imagined the whole thing or that he’d had a smoke too many of his peace pipe. But the horse looked at him one more time and in a clear voice told him ‘save me.’ As I said, John wasn’t one for believing in superstitions, but he remembered the experience of Balaam on the road to the princes of Moab and decided that when an horse or an ass talks to you, it’s best to listen. So he followed the horse and rider at a distance until he saw them pull off the road and head for a flashy manor that seemed to him to be the very house of Babylon. He watched from a distance as the rider disappeared into a shabby looking side barn before re-emerging alone and entering the house.  My friend thought to himself, 'how can a man with that much money treat his horse so poorly?’ He decided that compassion required him to listen to the horse and free it from its prison.”
Bob paused and took a drink. He swept his eyes across the room, making sure he’d got their attention. He saw Sim was reading the bottles on the Barkeeps shelf with a forced intensity. His hand held tight to his glass, bits of white were beginning to drift like snow onto the knuckle. Bob smiled and continued.
“My friend waited until night. He watched the lights go out at the house and snuck up to the barn. Of course, luck would have it that as he was getting to the barn, it started raining. It wasn’t a light rain. No, it was coming down heavy, heavier than that light shower out there today. The rain whipped through the air in thick sheets and loud claps of thunder echoed across the hills.  My friend took shelter in the barn. He was worried, he thought the devil had conspired against his divine mission. He thought about how the horse’s owners would follow his fleeing hoof prints and track him down. As he was sitting there fretting, he heard a voice call out to him. ‘Fear not’ it said, ‘have faith the Lord will provide for your good works.’ He turned to look and saw the sad horsing staring at him.  ‘I know better than to doubt a talking horse’ he said, ‘But I’m afraid we’re at our ropes end. I doubt you can outride the Sheriff’s horse and they’ll follow us print by print.’
The horse’s skinny face broke into a sad smile. ‘You see those horse shoes?’ The horse motioned to the wall. ‘Bring them here.’ My friend collected a handful of horseshoes from the wall and brought them back to the horse. ‘Now nail them to my feet. The rain will cover the noise from my oppressor’s ears. But when you nail them, place them on backwards and when we leave they will ignore our trail since it will lead straight to the barn.’ My friend took courage at the animal’s wisdom and did as he was told. When the deed was done, the two rode out into the rain carefree as virgins.”
            “Now the next day, the rich man and Mooney searched the ground all morning for some trace of the thief, but all they ever found was the lone prints that they assumed had been made when horse’s owner had brought the beast to rest in the barn. It was a mystery to all how the horse could disappear without a trace in the middle of a storm. Now if they’d been smart, they’d of thought that the hoof-prints in the mud leading to the barn were strange considering it’d hadn’t rain when the rich man brought it home. But the horse knew its master wasn’t so smart.”
During Bob’s story, Sim’s face had slowly caught fire, until now it was burning an intense red. He spoke up from the back of the room. His voice was quiet, but the rage inside created a palpable tension in the room.
            “You tell your no-good Indian ‘friend’ that he has until tonight to bring the horse back.”
            The King boys looked from Bob to Sim and back again. A slow smile spread across their faces. Bob shrugged at Sim.
“Wish I could Sim. But even if I could go get the horse back, I still wouldn’t know who to return it to. You see, the only clue my friend left me was this horseshoe.”
Bob held the horseshoe up again for the crowd to see.
“That rich rider was so proud that he had his own initials engraved on each horseshoe. Now, I’d like to render unto Caesar that which is his, but I’ve never been able to make out the initials. Maybe you can help me out Sam.”
He handed the horseshoe to Sam, who held it up against the light with a satisfied smirk.
“I see a B.” He squinted. “The middle initial seems to be an M. But I can’t make out the last one.”
            Bob grabbed the horseshoe back from Sam.
            “I should’ve known better than to think a King could help me read. I need an educated man. Sim, why don’t you come take a look.”
            The room went quiet. Sim slowly stood, glaring at Bob as he rose. The crowd watched with nervous anticipation as he made his way across the room. Bob patiently held the horseshoe in front of him, waiting for Sim with an inviting smile. Sim stopped in front of Bob. He grabbed the horseshoe, looked at it for but a moment and muttered.
The crowd remained quiet, unsure of the appropriate reaction. Bob gave them their cue,  letting out a great, bellowing laugh that caused the whole room to join in. Sim sat still as the noise grew louder and louder, staring at the horseshoe in his hand. Cherokee Bob and the King boys were doubled over in their chairs, gasping for breath between their tears of mirth. Sim looked up from the horseshoe at Bob and watched him laugh. Then, in one savage movement, he grabbed the back of the Indian’s chair and forced it back, sending Bob sprawling backwards. The laughter died immediately. The King boys at once leapt to their feet, their bodies poised for a fight. The room was now in a delicate balance, as Sim and his friends eyed the King boys and their supporters.
Cherokee Bob stood up slowly and let out a laugh.
“Hell Sim, if I’d known it was your brother’s horse, I’d have tried to get it back for you. But the problem is my friend told me that as soon as he’d left the town he decided he’d no need for the horse. The thing was too frail to ride, so he sold to a hungry looking fella hoping to get some discount horse-meat. The damn thing only fetched him ten dollars.”
The words had just escaped his mouth when his cheek was crushed by a blow from Sim’s fist. In an instant the saloon erupted. Fists and chairs and bottles and wild limbs exploded across the room as the men reveled in the violence. As the men traded fists, Quincy stood at the bar and continued on with his duties of cleaning the glasses, dispassionately watching the maelstrom of testosterone sweep through the room. He’d seen fights before, and Quincy was sure that it would be only a few short minutes until it died down.  For the men of Yellville, fights were as common and as necessary as water. On a macro scale, they acted as a vent for the political tension between the Tutt and Everett families, and on an individual level they were the proving grounds where men could forge coveted reputations. Once the men had exhausted themselves from either earning or losing their honor, peace would return.
But as Quincy watched, he began to suspect this fight was something more dangerous than simple proving grounds. He searched the room, trying to detect who or what was causing the difference. His eyes landed on Sim. The man’s shirt had been torn, revealing a strong body, glistening in the sweat of fury. He watched Sim approach Sam King, who was celebrating a knock-out punch with a swig from his shot-glass. The cup was still on his lips when Sim reached him. With a wild swing, the cup was shattered and the shards driven into Sam’s nose and lip. A misty cloud of blood and alcohol temporarily hung in the air. Sam beat his blood to the floor. Sim’s hand was cut and bleeding, but the pain couldn’t penetrate his rage. His anger had extended beyond Cherokee Bob and the Kings to all life. Both friend and foe fled from his indiscriminate fists.
Quincy’s intuition told him to go for the Sheriff, thinking that perhaps he could ward off the impending actions of the night. But fate would not allow the fight to stop until war had been started. On his way to the door, he bumped into Cherokee Bob. Bob grabbed Quincy and threw him in front of a charging Sim. He was knocked cold with one blow to the face. Cherokee Bob tactics only delayed his thrashing. The force of Sim’s fury began to work tranquility on the room. All other brawls simply ceased as the men stopped to observe Sim with a frightened awe. As they watched him smash tables, chairs and men, they realized that he had transcended man’s physical limitations and become something new entirely. They marveled at his transformation.
The men’s amazement doubled when they saw a garden hoe materialize in the room. It floated through the crowd like an ostrich’s neck, or a beaked snake whose charmed face waited patiently for a chance to strike. The onlookers stared at this dreaded portent, aware that no good could possibly come from a garden tool in a bar fight. The apparition paused in front of Sim, wary of the man’s mystical danger. The two supernatural creatures circled one another in a dance only they could understand. Then, in a flash of motion Sim lunged towards the hoe and it saw its opening. The thing fell like a weight onto Sim’s fallow skull. It was as if a pipe had burst, causing a spray of rich, crimson droplets. Sim fell, the hoe still lodged in his head. It was only after all the blood had settled from the air that the crowd noticed John King standing over the body, his face spattered with blood, his grip tight on the hoe’s handle.
There was silence as the men tried to process what they had just seen. These men were used to blood, but the battle between Sim and the garden hoe gave them glimpses at a new pantheon of violent mythology. The silence was interrupted when Sim’s friends rushed to their fallen comrade. The king boys woke their half-breed friend and slipped out the back of the bar. They were laughing as they left, but it was hollow laughter. They sensed that their victory tonight would have its consequences.
Sim’s friends used dirty rags to stop the flow of blood. Quincy sat propped against the side wall, watching the men at their desperate work.
“Shit, He’s dead. Killed by a garden hoe.”
He kept recounting Sim’s fate, exhausting all the various ways to describe a man’s death. The others didn’t stop him. Quincy’s rambling seemed the only expression for the strange sight they’d seen.  Before leaving to fetch the Sheriff, Quincy took one last look at the man lying in the middle of the room.
“Wait till Jesse hears the news. Lord there will be blood.”

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Phone Call

               It was a quick conversation, which was to be expected now that we were both adults. Gone were the days of post-midnight rendezvous in the living room, staying up to hours normally off-limits to the sober, talking about life’s great mysteries. Back then women were a mystery, as was the future, gay marriage, politics, God and purpose. All was uncertainty. But the uncertainty was not to be feared. No, we played like hatters with mercury, rolling the boundless, limitless lives we led around the folds of our minds, conjuring up great webs of silver dialogue. The uncertainty led to creation at its purest. It made us the Gods of all ideas. Yet the uncertainty gradually flaked away, the iron edges of the cookie cutter descended upon us, and like hesitant infants ripped from the blessed womb we emerged as adults.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Chapter 2: On Fires and Fuel

             People say fire starts with the strike of a match. I say they are wrong. The match is only one part of building a fire. With our limited eyes, we seek to simplify complex processes by focusing on the most noticeable causes. And so we erroneously reason that because it is impossible to start a fire without a match, the match must be the beginning of fire. But how can a fire start without kindle to catch the flame or oxygen to breath it life or shelter to protect it from the elements? The striking of a match is only made significant by the fuel bed ready to ignite it into something more.  
            The match that lit the Tutt-Everett war was a bar fight. But the causes, the slow-building of tension that made the pile ripe for the match must not go unexplored. It is, after all, a question of origin so common to mankind. Without understanding beginning, the present loses significance. And just as a man living in the crossroads of life must find Father Adam or Mother Ape to find aim for his actions, so must the reader of this story understand the Genesis of the Tutt-Everett conflict to fully comprehend the violence.
As already explained, the primal cause was the land itself. But the Ozarks curse could never have come to fruition without willing actors, ready to push forward its cause. Those actors were none other than the Tutts and Everetts. The two families had divided Marion County almost from the moment of their settlement. Neither Hamp nor Bart had ever spoken to each other, but on that day when Bart stopped by to solicit a vote as Hamp was setting his saloon and general store, they both came away knowing they had an enemy.
Bart saw Hamp’s stocky build, dirty clothes, uncomely beard and surmised that the man was not of his class. But like any good politician, Bart ignored his reserves and succumbed to the temptation of gaining the additional vote. The conversation started cordially enough as Bart explained to Hamp the virtues of the Democratic party and urged the need for strong civic leaders to establish the newly formed county as a standard of patriotism and liberty. Who better to lead this county than Bart? After all, as he explained,
“I, my man, am a retired colonel with years of experience in civil service and am dedicated to making sure this county runs right.”
Hamp stayed quiet during the long pitch, his eyes steadily growing narrower with each passing minute. When Bart brought his discourse to a close, Hamp did not mince words.
            “I’d as soon fornicate with a goat before allowing a democrat son-of-a-bitch like you take office.”
            That was the start of politics in the County, and yet it was not really politics that made Hamp dislike Bart.  While the Tutts had generally not been in favor of Jackson and his supporters, they had never been active in promoting any party of their own. What was it that caused their enmity then? It was spiritual. Kindred spirits come together at first word, conflicting spirits grow grudges at first sight. When Hamp looked at Bart with his fine clothes and listened to his eloquent speech, he saw a threat and he knew that out here, in the wilderness of the Ozarks, he and Bart were meant to clash. 
But Hamp found it difficult to relate the divine origin of his hatred for Bart Everett. Even his own boys couldn’t quite understand it. They would listen and throw in the occasional supportive word, but he could tell they didn’t appreciate his grudge. They didn’t understand how some men aren’t meant to coexist. Better yet, they didn’t see that some men are meant to battle.
For days Hamp obsessed on how to rally supporters to his cause. He hated the way Bart talked and dressed and smelled and walked, he only needed some way help others understand why. The answer came as he recounted his experience to old man Bob King. Bob hung on Hamp’s every word in a way the others hadn’t. He nodding knowingly when Hamp complained of the pompousness of the self-appointed Democrat leader and his high and mighty doctrines. With this sympathetic ear, Hamp grew wild with excitement. Bob’s sagely nods emboldened him and gave him a renewed confidence in his justified hatred. His voice grew louder, his hands trembled, his body ached to find more to complain of. Just as Hamp was preparing to confide with the old man the divine root of this new hostility, Bob cut him off.
“Hamp, I never met a Whig more fiery than me until today. I tell you what, there are plenty of Whigs in town feeling the same way ‘bout those Democrat sons-of-bitches. They pushed us around with their damned policies but it stops here. We can’t let them vote us out.”
As soon as the words left Bob’s mouth, Hamp never again remembered the true origin of his grudge towards the Everetts. From that day on, he became a zealous promoter of the Whig platform and promptly ran for office. And so the war between the Tutts and the Everetts gained its footing in the political arena. The two families were driven by their strong-wills and prideful spirits. They initially set about forging alliances and corralling the most ardent supporters from the two institutions that hold the most sway over the hearts of man. For Hamp, it was his saloon and the liberal half-off drinks that rallied the Yellville Whigs and caused his constituency to swell. For Bart Everett, the democrats were found in the church meetinghouse, where a pious preacher religiously advocated the parish’s most prolific donator. 
            The 1838 election was tight. In the end it was Bart Everett who beat Hamp by a sliver of a margin (which Hamp of course claimed was due to fraud). But even with the loss, Hamp had enough successes that day to compensate when his eldest, Richard Tutt was elected Sheriff. Both families had now acquired footholds in county politics. Bart Everett immediately began to exercise his power. He enacted a law to uphold the Christian values of the community. Of course, the only noticeable change this law had on the town was to shut down Hamp’s saloon on not only the Sabbath, but also on Saturday nights. After all, as Bart explained to the approval of his religious supporters,
“Saturday nights were for men to come under the influence of the spirit in preparation for the holy day, not to come under the influence of the bottle.”
On Friday night of the next week, a fight broke out between the young King boys and some of Bart Everett’s closest supporters. The King boys came out on top, and to add insult to injury, the Everett supporters were arrested later that night for “disturbing the county peace.” Charges against the King boys were dropped.
            Thus were the sticks laid in preparation of conflagration. Supporters were gained in Marion county not by honesty and integrity, but by a loose spoils system. With your man in power, you had nothing to fear. There began to spread a simple adage to describe the town’s new political philosophy: “if you are voted into power that’s exactly what you get.” Leaders were not chosen for their virtues and integrity, but for the rewards they could provide to their supporters. Farmers voted for legislators who promised free land and voted against those who encouraged gold standards, church-goers favored those who supported additions to schools and disapproved of those lax on saloon restrictions, business owners elected those who lowered taxes and opposed those who encouraged Indian relations. The number of the town’s factions, in correlation with the diversity of their opinions, created a delicate web of support that would not allow any one family to gain a monopoly of political power.
            Perhaps in today’s political climate, such a system doesn’t seem so foreign. Staunch federalists might even argue that such a structure is a perfect reflection of Madison’s envisioned faction democracy.  But such an argument ignores the truth that Madison’s political sentiments were for federal level or state level at the least. To have such a system in place in a town of only 500 was dangerous.  This deadlock magnified the town’s contention more than if one side had managed to conquer. It was as if all of Yellville had entered into Dante’s fourth circle and the frustration from their endless dance made them desperate for a release from the political impasse.
A mixture of pride and ambition made the two families fight against the inevitability of the town’s unique political web. They refused to settle with the positions they had already acquired and instead bitterly battled to expand their power. The result of their struggle, however, was a yearly shuffling of positions without either side gaining the upper hand. In 1838, Bart Everett was mayor and Richard Tutt was sheriff. In 1842, Bart Everett was sheriff and Richard Tutt was mayor. These two highly sought for positions switched hands every election up until 1848 when the conflict boiled over. However, even smaller positions that normally go unnoticed in politics, such as county treasurer or county recorder, were the source of intense strife. In fact, the 1844 treasurer election prompted the first major act of violence between the two families. Upon hearing that Jeremiah Quinn had won the treasurer position,  Jesse, the youngest of the Everett brothers, promptly marched to Quinn’s house, called him out of the house, accused him of cheating, and shot him dead. Bart swore to the public that he would punish the crime, but somehow Jesse managed to escape into Texas.  
The 1844 murder was undoubtedly the most dramatic of political events, but up until 1844, the election of the Board of County Commissioners provided the most drama. After his initial defeat, Hamp settled on being one of these elected members, where he sat without serious competition up to the point of the conflict. Bart’s younger brother Sim also took up the one of the board positions; he too faced little political competition. The third chair, however, was in hot dispute. In 1838, it was held by Hamp’s good friend Cole Perkins. With the majority of the board, the two collaborated as best they could to undermine the laws and executive decisions of the mayor. In 1840, Cole lost his seat to Bart’s good friend Jackson Bigsby, who colluded with Sim to smoothly pass and implement the mayor’s wishes.  The position continued to switch each election, with each side more audacious in their attempts to push their personal agendas. This last chair produced enough disputes that by 1844, it almost toppled the county into war.
But then came the murder of Jeremiah Quinn. In a way, it saved the town. The fringe supporters of the families and the few remaining neutral town members, fearing the outbreak of lawlessness, banded together to peel back the political web that seemed destined to last forever. In the election of 1844, Jesse Mooney was elected to the Board of County Commissioners. His election must have been God and Man’s last effort against the lands curse. Jesse never intended to run for politics. He had married a beautiful woman with whom he had brought forth three healthy children, Tom the oldest, followed by Susan and Jeremiah. His family was his life. He had long since moved away from his father’s ferry on the White river and established himself a respectable ranch. But after the murder, his father paid him a long visit, and it was then that Jesse Mooney decided to leave the ranch and enter politics.
Jesse earned a reputation in town for being a hard-nosed law-man. He always gave his best effort to enforce the law, no matter what family currently owned the Sheriff’s post or the Mayor’s office. His displeasure with favoritism and his devotion to justice nearly got him impeached. I have no doubt he would have been impeached had everyone in town not held such reverence for the Mooney family name. Jacob Mooney was the only true neutral member of the county. No matter how hard the Everetts or Tutts tried to curry his favor, he obstinately chose to remain in no-man’s land. Others in town who had tried to mirror Jacob’s nonpartisan stance had been stamped out by intimidation, force, or irresistible temptations. But Jacob Mooney was above the squabbles of the current settlers. He had long lived in the Ozarks and knew how to navigate its traps. This long experience gave him a power that elicited tacit respect from all residents of the county.
As Jacob’s only son, Jesse inherited some of his father’s respect. And yet, at the same time, he also inherited enormous expectations. The town expected Jesse to be his father. To his credit, Jesse did have his father’s heart. He tried his best to steer clear of politics and made his family his jewel. But despite these strengths, Jesse lacked his father’s mysterious power and so was as susceptible to the land’s curse as the other citizens.
At the end of his two year term, Jesse’s father became ill with a terrible fever. As soon as the gravity of his sickness was known to the county-members, they rallied their support around the old man. He was praised for his bravery in settling the land and his dedication to the general well-being of its citizens. When he died a few weeks before the 1846 election, several propositions were made to deify the man by renaming prominent town-features. Main street became “Jacob Street,” the tallest mountain became “Jacob’s Peak,” and the picturesque pond at the edge of town was renamed “Jacob’s Pond.” And, as a final testament to the strength of his power, all the town, both Tutts and Everetts, rallied together to once again unbalance the delicate web and elect Jacob’s only boy as sheriff. The town was right to deify the man; his death was his sacrifice for the people, his one last endeavor to save the county from its inevitable destruction.
Before becoming sheriff, Jesse made a promise on his father’s name that he would be the champion of justice and that he would “serve all warrants.” He made good on his promise, ignoring family and political affiliations to make sure the law was honored. His zeal was a promising sign for the town; it seemed as if Jacob’s sacrifice had succeeded. But even a man as powerful as Jacob Mooney could not subvert the land’s curse. By the end of Jesse’s reign as Sheriff, the beyond-reproach Mooney name would become the most hated surname in all of Northern Arkansas.
 To be fair, Jesse had as much a chance of success in politics as J. Edgar Hoover. Jeremiah Quinn’s murder and Jacob Mooney’s death were but temporary roadblocks to the lands curse. Even with Jesse’s groundbreaking elections to the Sheriff’s office, the town was too far hemorrhaged to be saved. By 1848, the pride, ambition and desperation of the Tutt and Everett families had formed Marion County into the perfect kindle box. All that was needed was a spark. That spark, the proverbial match, came in August of 1848 when Cherokee Bob dismounted from his horse and entered Hamp’s saloon.