Last Man Standing

Since he had refused to sell his ranch to greedy land grabbing Jeff Walker, he knew it was just a matter of time before he and his family would be forced off. Many of the other ranchers in the valley had given in to Walker’s pressure tactics, and sold their property to him for almost nothing. Some of the fearful were just forced out, while others were killed.

Since the railroad was scheduled to come directly through Pine Bluff, Walker, his four sons and his many hired hands, owned nearly all the land within a hundred mile radius of Pine Bluff. Walker knew if he owned all the land, he would become the most powerful man in the territory. Which would mean he would be a sure bet to be the first elected governor within the next five years.

Many of the most powerful men in the territory had set their sights on that office, and many of them would stop at nothing to achieve that objective. This was a young and growing territory, and the man who would be governor, would be a force to be reckoned with.

Walker and his boys were able to force all the other ranchers off their land, except, Joe Black and his family. Joe Black had a wife and son, and he was a hard working and principled man, who wanted nothing more than to raise his son in peace.

Walker had a great deal of respect for Joe and did almost everything in his power to strike a good deal with him. Unlike many of the others, Joe would not be forced off his land, the land he had worked for most of his adult life.

Walker and Joe had served in the army together, and after the war, they moved west in hopes of owning a ranch. For many years, they were good friends, fighting side by side in developing their respective spreads. As other settlers established ranches in the valley, something strange happened to Walker. He became a man of greed and wanted to own all the land. As Joe watched his old friend become a total stranger, he knew they would soon go in different directions. As time passed, Walker called most of the shots in the valley. He owned all the stores, the bank, the sheriff’s office and anything else of any meaning.

Joe was always a fair man, and that is the way he attempted to raise his son. Whenever possible, he avoided Walker because he could not stomach the man he had become.

One day while feeding his livestock, Joe observed a cloud of dust, and saw eight men approaching him. One of the men was Walker. Walker ordered his men to leave the two of them alone. Walker said, Joe you know why I am here and I will not take no for an answer. Joe did not say a word, because the look in Walker’s eyes told the story. Joe knew what Walker was capable of doing, he knew what he meant, and he also knew what he would do. Prior to leaving, Walker told Joe to be gone within ten days.

Being the man he was, Joe did not intend to leave, and he would fight to the very end for his property. Knowing what would happen, he tried to get his wife to take their son and go east, but she refused to leave his side. Since she refused to leave, Joe gathered all his money and possessions and sent his son to a boarding school to be raised.

On the eleventh day after Walker’s departure from Joe’s ranch, large clouds of smoke could be seen in the direction of Joe Black’s ranch.

Part Two

Five years after the smoke was seen in the direction of Joe’s place, an election was held to seat a governor. To this very day, I do not really know why it was called an election. Walker had become so powerful and well known, that he received nearly every vote that was cast. It appears that the only votes he did not receive were the ones of his opponents.

Nearly everyone in the territory owed Walker some money or some other things, which kept them obligated and beholding to him. After being sworn in as governor, Walker convince the election committee to make Pine Bluff the state capitol.

Walker had used his power and influence to own the majority of the rail system. This meant all cattle shipments had to originate through him or his sons. Nothing in the territory could gain any traction without his approval. Many people hated him and his boys for the way everyday people were treated.

In addition to his ruthless behavior, he had the audacity to appoint each of his four sons to cabinet post within his administration. Although this caused outrage, no one was in a position to take any action against him. If he wanted a law enacted and someone opposed, either he would buy them off, or they would mysteriously disappear.

As time passed, the folks knew they had to do something to rid them of this corrupt administration. Each time a group would attempt to mount an effort to somehow grasp the governorship from him, some of his paid informants would tip him or his sons off, and that would be the end of that. Some of the town folks became so angry, they attempted to hire a gunman to put an end to his terror.

Walker had the power to kill any hired gun the town folks hired. Each time they hired someone, he would triple the going rate for the gunman, give him a big bonus and a very good salary for joining his crew.

After a few more years passed, strange and unusual things began to happen in and around Pine Bluff. One morning, a foreman discovered over five hundred head of cattle dead from no apparent reason. Initially, Walker thought it was some type of disease the cattle had been exposed to. He sent for a prominent animal specialist to inspect his heard.

After a thorough inspection, the specialist found nothing to indicate anthrax or any other disease. The final report indicated: Cattle died from unknown cause or causes. Walker didn’t know exactly what to think. With all his hired hands, he refused to believe that someone would be crazy enough to challenge him in that manner.

Nonetheless, to be on the safe side, he tripled the guards at all his vast cattle spreads. Two weeks later, another five hundred head of cattle were found dead. It was very strange, because that was the exact number of cattle found dead previously.

Two weeks later, his ranch house went up in flames. Walker had never been in a position wherein he wasn’t in control. These incidents began to take control of his thoughts. He knew this mystery had to be solved immediately, or the folks would cease to fear him. He pronounced to his crew that he would pay ten thousand dollars to the person who solved the mystery.

Two weeks later, four of his hired gunmen were found dead. This scenario repeated itself for more than three months. At the end of that period, all of Walker’s cattle had been killed, and his hired gunmen who were not killed, abandoned him.

With this news being spread throughout the territory, Walker was unable to hire anyone, which in effect, brought him down to size. With most of his physical powers gone, no one feared him anymore.

Part Three

Joe Black’s son, Joe Black turned out to be a fine young man. After getting his law degree, he became the head master of the home in which he was raised. After hearing of the trouble in his former home town, he decided to return there and run for governor.

He ran and won by a landslide. Many of the town folks knew the story of his family and wondered where and what he had been doing during the last ten years. Each time he was asked that question, he would respond by saying, I was on a special mission.

People also view

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *