Note: Mistakes should be overlooked, corrections welcome
The settling of the Frontier was one of the most unorganized, undirected, free settling of land ever undertaken in the history of mankind, and after a century of Indian fighting, forest felling and general destruction later, the colonial settlers penetrated deeper into the west. Different people came for different reasons; some lured by the opportunity to stake claim to free land snatched away from the native Indians; some, by the promise of gold for the taking right out of the ground or streams; yet others, driven by the abject poverty of the overcrowded east... tenacious, daring and sometimes, desperate men, women, and children, risking their everything in search of a better life...
But there were dangers in that perilous journey... Yet, the wagon trains set out regularly, and by 1850, there were literally thousands on the trail to the west, with one train rarely going out of sight of another. And once on the plains, violence being the general modus operandi of existence in those far removed frontiers, they could look to no one for defense against the bands of outlaws, desperate Indians, and their own members. Yet, with no help from any federal regulators, police, or any other authorities, it still became a vast source of riches for thousands upon thousands of farmers, ranchers, miners, merchants, saloon owners and any other entrepreneur willing to brave the journey and fill the need that existed.
Settlements sprang up where money could be made, and towns were often formed out of little more than a few ramshackle buildings. It was a libertarian society, where might was right, and political power was locally controlled, with the rule of law little more than a loose confederation of local governments held together only by economic interests and a faint loyalty to a national government that was virtually invisible. Economic dealings were unregulated, and the defense of an individual's life and property, the sole responsibility of that individual. Many pioneers lost their lives to thirst, hunger, or Indians defending their lands against what was a massive invasion of their home; while others fell to the rampant lawlessness of the wild frontier.
In this chaotic world of violence, vice and depravity, Hiram, in a desperate bid to make things better for his family, had set out along with his friends while the rugged, almost hostile land was still being tamed by the men who had preceded them... And after the arduous, but uneventful journey, they had made it safely, setting up a small township off one of the secondary trails... He worked hard and they seemed to prosper for a while, and their third child, a daughter, appropriately named Hope, was born there.
Maybe it was fate, or maybe the site selected, for soon the settlement withered away, the original community much decimated by the harshness of the inhospitable terrain and disease, the constant raids, and the marauding outlaws. Members began moving out and away, some even returning east, while others leaving for the bigger settlements and posts.
A loving husband and a caring father, Hiram was a hard working man who could do anything for a tender smile on the faces of his wife and children. He never lost hope, nor gave up, and with the support and love of Sarah, his wife, and the three children, they went further west and finally staking his claim on a piece of land, settled down at the foothills of the massive mountain.
Surrounded by big bluffs at the intersection of two narrow streams as they joined and then hurried along towards the valley below, the land was a lush oasis in the surrounding boulder strewn, desolate landscape, forming a fertile patch, rich in natural vegetation and green with trees. Together they built the house, and as Sarah and Reuben set out to clear the patch, readying it for the vegetables and corn they planned to grow, Hiram set out to try his luck at prospecting...
It was a sheer act of determination, hard work, perseverance, and the indomitable spirit of independence... a continuous struggle for existence, but finally he struck rich, making a decent package. But the work, besides being back-breaking, was also very dangerous, and as he toyed with the idea of giving up prospecting and turn to farming, things took another turn. A man's fondest hopes are sometimes broken with trouble, and in one fell-sweep, their lives changed... especially for their sixteen year old son, Reuben!
It was a warm summer's evening and as Reuben carried in the chopped wood for the old, battered cooking stove, his father looking up at him with a proud smile, that they heard the furious clatter of distant hooves. Wondering at who it could be, this late, Hiram rose to peek out from behind the kitchen window, where the family had gathered for the evening meal, and saw the huge cloud of dust raised by horses galloping towards their little home...
Quickly turning around he spoke in an urgent voice. "Hannah, take your sister and go up to your room," he ordered the older of the two girls as he went around dimming the lights, asking Sarah to lock the kitchen door, "and Rueben, bolt the front door and get my gun..." he instructed his son, who immediately rushed out into the adjoining hall that served as the family-room.
The room was dark with a single lamp flickering in the corner and Reuben felt a slight shiver pass down his spine as he ran to the front door, his hands outstretched... but before he could even touch it, the door flew open and two men entered, smiling at him with tobacco stained, moth eaten teeth, "What's the rush pretty boy..." said one of the men in a gruff voice as the other grabbed Reuben, restraining his arms behind his back.
"Let the boy go..." Reuben heard his father's stern voice from behind, and as the men swung around, facing Hiram, he caught the faint glint of the sharp edge, before feeling the cold touch of steel against his throat.
"Just stay pops, and no 'arm will come to ye'r precious li'l boy..." said the first man, walking forward and shoving Hiram into the nearby chair, "an' lady," he added turning to Sarah, "stan' quiet by ye'r 'usband's side an' no smart moves..."
They remained still, watching the cloud get nearer... and now Reuben could make out the five horses and riders... They rode up to the front door and reining the horses, alighted...
The two men stood back respectfully as a tall, young man, barely in his twenties, entered the house, ruggedly handsome and virile, gun slung over broad shoulder. The other men following... rough looking, dirty and un-kept... reeking of stale tobacco and alcohol.
"So, Hiram, ol' man, 'eard you 'ave a stash of large nuggets stored 'ere, ready for the market?" asked the man, walking up to him.
Hiram didn't reply, as he looked up cautiously at the man.
"Guess, I don't need to introduce m'self, eh, Hiram?"
"The whole west knows you, the most evil outlaw, Morris 'Cut-throat' Young," replied Hiram with utter contempt, "stagecoach, bank and railroad robber, killer of over twenty law-abiding and upright men, a wanted man on the run..."
"My reputation sur'ly precedes me..." the man cut in, laughing out loud as he took a nearby chair, sitting down, "then you know what I'm capable of, so don't bother with me and 'and over the gold."
"There is no gold," Hiram hissed between clenched teeth.
Hiram remained silent.
With an evil smile Morris spoke again, addressing one of the men, "Buford, `ere are two pretty young girls somew'ere, ye' fetch 'em ladies down 'ere..."
"Don't you touch them girls..." Hiram shouted, jumping out of the chair.
"Then just 'and over the gold and we'll be gone..." repeated the man.
"I 'ave no gold..." Rueben's father mumbled in a soft voice.
"I ain't stringin' a whizzer," he said, his voice cold, "we`re rough men and used to rough ways, so don't make it difficult for yours'lf, Hiram, unless, you want to bury your cherished family with your own weat'er'd ol' 'ands."
"Tie `im up," he said turning towards the man he had addressed as Buford, and then added, "and fetch 'em girls, it's been a long time..."
Sarah stood shivering, tears of fright rolling down her pretty face as the men got some rope from one of the horse, advancing menacingly towards Hiram, who now looked decidedly intimidated, slowly sitting down and allowing the men to tie him.
"They say I beef men for spite," the leader said as he took a chair and sat back, "but it ain't true, only two came to death for spite, the rest I killed 'coz 'ey disagreed with me... or made trouble."
"Leave them children alone," pleaded Hiram, "in the name of the Lord, I have no gold..."
"My information is never wrong," Morris said, before adding, "I'm a good outlaw, unless you want to act stubborn..."
"The only good outlaw is a dead outlaw," Hiram said, his voice choked with impotent rage, "and one day the law will catch up with you, and then you shall rot in hell..."
"There is no law, no restraint in this god forsaken land of vice and depravity. And as for hell, let me alone and leave me go to 'ell by my own route."
All this while Reuben stood silent, trembling with rage and fright, watching his father, whom he loved and respected, being tied and bullied, and his mother, whom he adored, stand and cry silently... And though he had struggled a few times, the man was strong and only held him tighter... and suddenly Reuben felt the hardness against his rounded backside... hot and unbending... and even before he could fully realize, the man pulled him closer, into his groin, rotating his rigid manhood against the boy's firm buttocks.
"Lucius, w'at 'ave you 'ere?" the leader asked suddenly, turning towards where Reuben stood, held firmly by the man.
"'E's the ol' man's son, a pretty boy..." replied the man, shoving Reuben slightly forward, towards Morris.
The cold eyes glinted in the dim light as they studied him, the lips curling with an evil smile, "Pretty boy indeed," he finally said, "between hay and grass, perfect..."
But he couldn't complete his sentence for at that moment there was the sound of running feet outside the house and then the door burst open. "The cavalry..." panted the new entrant, "the cavalry is here..."
Quickly spinning around the Morris asked, "Is that a bluff, or do you mean it for real play."
"Down in the valley, headed this way, will be here in another half hour..." the man panted, his eyes wild, agitated.
"Well, then we must light a shuck..." he said, standing up, calm and in control.
"Hiram, we'll do a little dicker," he said turning back to Hiram, "I take 'ere, t'is son of yours, and if you want 'im back, keep the gold safe and fetch it to my men and take your boy..."
"And if one word you spill..." he paused, "you'll get the boy beefed and delivered to your door," he added menacingly before walking out of the door, the men following, dragging a struggling Reuben.
Sarah stood by her struggling husband's chair, sobbing. "Leave the boy, we `ave no gold..." she cried, but there was no one listening.
The men hurriedly clambered on their horses as Lucius and another man fought over who would have Reuben with him on the horse, "Don't mosey 'round," Morris shouted at the men as he lithely swung himself up on his horse, "and Gideon, you take the boy with you," he added over his shoulder, riding off into the setting sun.
End of Part One