©Julia Elliott 12/13/19
The story is fiction – mostly – the tool and what it’s use was, is very real.
In the late 1800’s early 1900’s, New Mexico and Arizona were preparing to enter Statehood.
Tumultuous times; gunfights in almost every town; and remote cantinas. Hangings for all manner of offenses. (Illustration)
Hole diggers, preachers and coffin makers were busy 24 seven. Business was ‘booming’ it could easily be said.
And those dead folks were only the ones known about. There were more.
Many, many more.
They arrived in these wild towns – and some managed to leave alive. Try for their own fortunes, however they could, only to meet the same isolated defeat of death; many were left for vulture fodder; few buried.
It was the reality of that erra. Survive and prosper – or – don’t and die. Few, if any cared; few, if anyone, tried to find out fates.
This may seem strange to a lot of folks reading this – but I am runnin iron. Not a name – but a thing – a tool of the early West.
I will tell parts of this story as it goes along – other parts will be told by those who handled me.
I came into being in a small town along what’s now the New Mexico – Texas border. Forged in fire, sparks, intense heat and hammer blows. Quenched in cold water – then processed again and again – until you see me as I am.
A length of hardened iron with a very special curl on one end.
A cattleman ordered me from the Smithy. Took the Smith a full day to fashion my worth. The cattleman paid for me and tied me across the outside pommel of his saddle – mounted – and headed north – into the unknown of New Mexico.
It was late fall – cattle were still being moved toward the rail head in Magdalena; even as a piece of newly forged and fully purposed steel – I could sense anxiety & excitement in this rancher… His horse felt it too.
Several hours later dust could be seen from the tail end of the drive, ever headed westward.
The dust spread far and soon began settling on rider, horse and me.
A rider was pounding up from behind – I felt the vibration through horse n saddle I was strapped to.
Cattleman’s weight shifted – felt him grab me – then release – then gone…
Horse shied as the shooter came up and grabbed the reigns of cattleman’s horse.
Then all kept moving toward the cattle trail dust.
Camping – I could feel the heat from the fire – then was untied from the saddle & taken to the fire; placed in the hottest part of the fire; held and turned. Turned. Turned.
I could feel my purpose.
Was taken out and pushed into a log, created smoke and fire and pulled free. It was my first demonstration as runnin iron.
I was not found wanting.
Chad now had two good horses & what seemed to be an excellent running iron. Looked like it could alter the best and worst of brands; heated fast and held that heat too.
Dawn coming – coffee done he saddled both horses – tied the iron in front of the pommel of the horse he chose to ride this day; the dead man’s mount.
They started off after the cattle drive.
As he moved down the trail, Chad looked up toward the brightening horizon, he could see lightning in the distance – gauged it might reach his area about high noon. Plenty of time to get to the meeting spot.
McCaully, Raoul and he were joining up at the track which led to the mountains and ran adjacent to the drive trail. They would do their planning a couple miles into that ride, at their first camp.
True – he hadn’t known them that long, barely the few days they spent just inside Texas – chasing women – and catching em too!
But they seemed real interested when on the night of their departure North, he outlined his plan to peel a few beef off the drive they knew about.
Had to get his horse re-shod next day, so he stayed behind – McCaully and Raoul went ahead.
In the morning he was at the Smithy’s… Horse was shod & as he’s leaving, he noticed the cattleman pull up, dismount and began asking about doing a piece of iron work. How much, how long?
Curiosity got better of Chad – he stuck around til the cattleman rode back into town.
Then he watched the Smithy work for a bit.
Half hour into it Chad figured it out.
Had to be.
He left n rode a few miles out of town, found a nice shady arroyo a distance off the main trail and got comfortable.
Late that afternoon, after a stage and small group of cavalry went by – finally the solo cattleman – with the iron lashed across and in front of the saddle pommel.
Chad waited another half hour to make sure no one was behind the rider, then took up the pace with him.
He knew a spot and no one was around.
Runnin iron here, and gotta say this isn’t turning out well – for the cattleman for sure.
Deeds like this never lead to much good – usually, to much bad and more bad. But since I’m just a piece of fresh iron – what do I know…
Something in the air though, a kind of electric feeling.
Chad was happy with his progress and prize. Now just to see where his two potential partners might fit in – if they showed.
Late mid morning and maybe another hour or so to meeting point. Storm was still coming but not as fast. “I’ll keep watch – might help with the plan” he thinks.
[To be continued of course ©J Elliott]