BY..... LOREN MOORE
& CLARE WERSTERFER
THIS IS THE FIRST
OF A SERIES
THE YEAR WAS 1883 AND I WAS LOOKING FOR SOME LAND TO START A RANCH ON.
I HAD OWNED A SHIP FOR THE LAST TWO YEARS MAKING THE RUN FROM GALVESTON TO
NEW ORLEANS AND WAS TIRED OF THAT LIFE. I WAS NO SAILOR TO START WITH. I
HAD RIDDEN INTO GALVESTON ONE DAY AND GOT IN A POKER GAME. LADY LUCK HAD
BEEN RIDING ON MY SHOULDER THAT DAY. I WON THE SHIP IN THAT POKER GAME.
I HAD FINALLY SOLD THE SHIP AND NOW I WAS RIDING WEST OF SAN ANTONIO
LOOKING FOR A PLACE TO PUT DOWN MY ROOTS FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. LAND WAS
CHEAP OUT HERE ON THE EDGE OF CIVILIZATION. THERE WAS STILL LOTS OF INDIAN
TROUBLE THIS FAR OUT. THAT’S THE REASON THE STATE OF TEXAS WOULD SELL LAND
OUT HERE FOR ONE DOLLAR AN ACRE.
I WAS FOLLOWING THE LLANO RIVER WHEN I HEARD GUN FIRE NOT TO FAR AHEAD.
I RODE UP INTO SOME SALT CEDAR AND SET THERE LISTENING TO SEE IF THE
SHOOTING WAS GOING TO GET CLOSER. I DECIDED IT WAS STATIONARY SO I RODE ON
STAYING CONCEALED IN THE SALT CEDAR.
I CAME TO A SMALL HILL AND THE GUN FIRE SOUNDED LIKE IT WAS COMING FROM
JUST THE OTHER SIDE OF THE HILL. I TIED MY HORSE TO A TREE, TOOK MY RIFLE
AND EASED UP TO WHERE I COULD LOOK OVER THE TOP OF THE HILL. WHAT I SAW
MADE MY BLOOD RUN COLD.
THERE WAS A LOG CABIN WITH ITS BACK BUILT RIGHT UP AGAINST A BLUFF. IN
THE FRONT YARD OF THE CABIN WAS THE BODY OF A MAN WITH A BUNCH OF ARROWS
IN IT. IT WAS APPARENT THAT HE WAS DEAD. THERE WAS ALSO AN INDIAN LAYING
FACE DOWN IN THE DIRT AND TWO DEAD INDIAN PONIES.
THEN I SAW AN INDIAN HOLDING SEVEN PONIES BACK IN THE BRUSH AND SEVEN
INDIANS SCATTERED AROUND THE FRONT YARD SHOOTING AT THE HOUSE. WHEN I
FIRST GOT THERE A FEW SHOTS WERE FIRED FROM THE CABIN BUT THERE WERE NONE
COMING FROM THERE NOW.
I WONDERED IF THERE WAS STILL ANYONE LEFT ALIVE IN THE CABIN. JUST THEN
ONE OF THE INDIANS JUMPED UP SCREAMING SOMETHING IN THEIR LANGUAGE AND
DROPPED BACK TO THE GROUND. THERE WAS A SHOT FROM THE CABIN BUT IT DIDN’T
HIT THE INDIAN. AT LEAST I KNEW THERE WAS STILL SOMEONE ALIVE IN THERE.
WELL SHUCKS, I THOUGHT TO MY SELF, I GUESS I’M GOING TO HAVE TO TAKE A
HAND IN THE LITTLE SHINDIG WHETHER I WANTED TO OR NOT. I SHOULDERED MY
WINCHESTER LEVER ACTION 44 CALIBER RIFLE AND STARTED PUMPING LEAD AT THOSE
INDIANS. OF THE SEVEN IN FRONT OF THE HOUSE, I SHOT FOUR OF THEM BEFORE
THEY COULD RUN. AS THE OTHER THREE RAN FOR THEIR PONIES, SOMEONE FROM THE
HOUSE SHOT ONE OF THEM.
THREE OF THE INDIANS MANAGED TO FORK THEIR PONIES AND RIDE OFF. I STOOD
UP AND HELLOED THE HOUSE. NOT GETTING AN ANSWER I STARTED WALKING DOWN TO
THE HOUSE. THAT’S WHEN A BULLET ZINGED OFF THE GROUND JUST TO MY RIGHT. I
STOPPED IN MY TRACKS AND HOLLERED, “WHOA, DON’T SHOOT. I’M THE ONE THAT
DROVE OFF THE INDIAN FOR YOU.”
“I THANK YOU FOR THAT BUT I DON’T KNOW WHO YOU ARE. JUST RIDE ON
STRANGER.” CAME A WOMAN’S VOICE FROM THE CABIN.
“LOOK MA’AM MY NAME IS LOREN MOORE AND YOU NEED SOME HELP. I CAN HELP
YOU IF YOU’LL LET ME. THOSE TWO DEAD HORSES WILL BE STINKING SO BAD IN A
FEW DAYS YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO STAY IN THAT CABIN. YOUR MAN LAYING OUT
THERE IN THE YARD NEEDS A GRAVE DUG FOR HIM AND THESE DEAD INDIANS NEED TO
BE DISPOSED OF. NOW ARE YOU GOING TO LET ME HELP YOU OR NOT?”
The door to the cabin opened slowly and framed a lady standing with a
double barreled shotgun cradled against her shoulder. She was about
thirty years old and a good looker. Her hair was a light brown and
hung in a braid down her back.
"Come on up on the porch where I can see you better, and don't try no
funny stuff. Ain't no way I can miss with this shotgun, so walk
Loren approached with caution and got close enough to see her blue eyes.
"Here I am" he said, "If you want me to go on my way, just say so right
now, before I blister my hands digging holes to bury all the dead."
“You look alright to me, and since I ain't got nobody else to turn to,
you can stay.”
"How did this happen, that the Indians caught you off guard like that"
"Come on in here" said the woman "have a drink of water before you
start the digging."
Loren walked into a sparsely furnished room with several chairs and a
bed in the corner. There was a lean to kitchen attached that had a
large fireplace for cooking and a pie safe and table. After giving Loren a
dipper of water, the woman slumped into a chair and only then did she
begin to cry.
When she had gained her composure, she told Loren that her name was Mae
Blackwelder and her husband was named Joshua. They had come from
East Tennessee about six months ago, found this place and built the cabin.
They had no trouble with Indians before and was lulled into a sense of
security. Joshua was working on the water pump when she heard the
She had two loaded rifles and the shotgun, but they had shot Joshua
full of arrows, before she could get them. Loren pretty well knew the rest
of the story. Mae asked Loren what had brought him this way.
"Just the good Lord, I reckon," said Loren. “It looked to me like you
would have lost that braid along with some more hair if I hadn't got here
when I did. Too bad it wasn't soon enough to save Joshua. Guess I had
better get to digging some holes before it gets dark. Do you have a
place where you want Joshua buried? I'm going to try to tie the ponies to
my horse and drag them to the woods and maybe the Indians too and just
cover them with some tree limbs and leaves."
“YES LOREN, I WOULD LIKE JOSHUA BURIED UP ON THAT HILL WHERE YOU WERE
WHEN YOU STARTED SHOOTING AT THE INDIANS. YOU GO START DIGGING A GRAVE AND
I’LL WRAP JOSHUA IN A BLANKET. I DON’T HAVE ANYTHING TO MAKE A CASKET OUT
AFTER THEY HAD BURIED JOSHUA LOREN LED HIS HORSE DOWN TO THE CABIN AND
STARTED TO TIE ONTO ONE OF THE PONIES. MAE TOLD HIM TO TAKE THE INDIAN
BODIES FIRST. THEN SHE WENT INTO HER HOUSE AND CAME OUT WITH A SKINNING
KNIFE. SHE PEALED BACK THE HIDE OF THE HIND QUARTER ON ONE OF THE PONIES
AND PROCEEDED TO CUT LONG THIN STRIPS OF MEAT OFF IT. WHEN LOREN ASKED HER
WHAT SHE WAS DOING, SHE SAID “WASTE NOT, LOREN AND WANT NOT. I’M GOING TO
MAKE JERKY OUT OF THIS PONY MEAT.”
BY THE TIME LOREN HAD DISPOSED OF THE INDIAN AND PONY BODIES IT WAS
DARK. MAE HAD FIX HIM SUPPER AND TOLD HIM HE COULD SLEEP IN THE SHED THEY
USED FOR A BARN. LOREN DIDN’T SAY ANY THING, HE JUST LED HIS HORSE OUT
INTO THE BRUSH AND SPREAD HIS BED ROLL ON THE GROUND UNDER THE STARS.
AFTER ALL THIS IS THE WAY HE HAD BEEN SLEEPING FOR THE LAST SEVERAL WEEKS.
Loren was near sleep when he heard a twig snap. Immediately all his
senses came to life. He was ready for flight or fight in an instant. He
heard Mae whisper "Loren, Loren are you here?"
Loren grabbed her from behind with his hand over her mouth and
whispered SSSHHHH back at her. She stood very still until Loren released
his grip on her. He was satisfied that no one was in the woods
"What is tarnation are you doing out here in the dark?" asked Loren.
"I thought you were sleeping at the house. Did you see or hear them
“No, no, I didn't see or hear a thing. It was just so scary
laying there thinking that I was all alone and them savages could come
back at any minute and kill me while I was sleeping. Then I got to
scared to sleep and went looking for you. When I didn't find
you on the place I knew you had gone to the woods. I brought a quilt
with me. Can I sleep out here with you? I would feel a lot safer
with someone around than all alone.”
Loren shifted his feet and told her she could stay, but he wasn't sure
it was any safer. Mae spread the quilt and laid down on half of it and
pulled the other half over her. After a few minutes, Loren asked her
if she was asleep.
"No, not yet" said Mae.
"Well, you been thru a lot today, loosing your husband and all.
I was wondering if you would feel better if I held your hand."
Mae didn't answer him. She reached over in the dark and found his
hand. In another minute Loren could hear the even breathing that indicated
Mae was asleep.
AS IT BEGAN TO BREAK DAY, THE THRUSTS WERE FLYING AROUND IN THE BRUSH
WHERE LOREN AND MAE LAY. LOREN WAS AWAKE WITH THE FIRST FLUTTERING OF
WINGS. HE LOOKED OVER AT MAE AND SHE WAS FAST ASLEEP.
LOREN QUIETLY GOT TO HIS FEET AND WENT TO THE EDGE OF THE BRUSH SO HE
COULD SEE THE HOUSE. EVERYTHING LOOKED JUST LIKE HE HAD LEFT IT LAST
NIGHT. SO HE WENT BACK AND WOKE MAE. THEY WALKED DOWN TO THE HOUSE AND
WHILE LOREN WAS FEEDING HIS HORSE MAE FIXED THEM SOME BREAKFAST.
AFTER EATING, LOREN WENT OUT TO THE WATER PUMP AND FINISHED FIXING IT.
MAE SAT IN THE DOOR WAY OF THE CABIN WATCHING HIM.
“MAE IS THERE SOME PLACE YOU CAN GO? DO YOU WANT TO GO BACK TO
TENNESSEE? I HAVE TO GO. I’M STILL LOOKING FOR A PLACE TO START A RANCH.”
“Loren, I don't know what to do. There's no way I can stay here
alone. My folks left East Tennessee and moved to Missouri about two months
after Joshua and I came out here. I've not had a letter from them
since they moved and don't have money to buy a ticket to go there. You
said you were looking for a place. Would you be interested in staying
“We could share this land. Joshua had bought it with money he saved, so
I guess it belongs to me now. I would just have to get the deed made
over to us both. Don't know how good the land is for raising crops, but
there is 200 acres so we could run a few head of cattle on it. If it
big enough for you, then I know for a fact that more land is for sale on
both sides of this spread.”
“If you don't want to do that, then I will just have to pack up and go
with you to some place where I can find work. I am a pretty good cook so
maybe I could hire on cooking at a restaurant or hotel. What do you think
is best for me to do?”
“MAE THIS IS NOT THE KIND OF PLACE I HAD IN MIND FOR A RANCH. I NEED AT
LEAST TEN OR TWELVE THOUSAND ACRES TO BUILD THE KIND OF RANCH I WANT. I
NEED TO FIND IT NOW WHILE I’M OUT HERE. IN THE MORNING I’M GOING TO RIDE
UP ON THAT BLUFF YOUR CABIN IS BUILT AGAINST AND LOOK AROUND. YOU LOCK
YOUR SELF IN YOUR CABIN AND KEEP THOSE GUNS LOADED UNTIL I GET BACK. I MAY
BE GONE TWO OR THREE DAYS.”
SO IN THE MORNING LOREN RODE OFF LEAVING MAE BEHIND. HE RODE WEST FOR A
WHOLE DAY UNTIL HE FOUND A LARGE CREEK RUNNING INTO THE LLANO RIVER. LOREN
RODE UP THIS CREEK FOR SEVERAL MILES UNTIL HE FOUND A SMALLER CREEK
FLOWING INTO THE FIRST. LOREN CAMPED THERE THAT NIGHT AND THE NEXT MORNING
HE RODE A BIG CIRCLE AROUND THE AREA.
THIS IS IT LOREN THOUGHT. HE WOULD BUILD HIS RANCH HOUSE RIGHT HERE
WHERE THE TWO CREEKS MERGED. HE PILED UP A BIG PYLON OF ROCKS TO MARK HIS
CLAIM. THEN HE STARTED BACK TO MAE’S CABIN.
WHEN LOREN GOT THERE HE HELLOED THE HOUSE AND MAE CAME OUT TO MEET HIM.
“LOREN, I’VE BEEN WORRIED SICK THAT I WOULD NEVER SEE YOU AGAIN.”
“MAE I FOUND IT. I FOUND WHERE I’M GOING TO BUILD MY RANCH. NOW I HAVE
TO GO BACK TO THE LAND OFFICE IN SAN ANTONIO AND BUY THE LAND. I WILL TAKE
YOU BACK TO SAN ANTONIO AND YOU CAN DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT TO DO.”
AFTER SEVERAL DAYS OF TRAVEL LOREN AND MAE WERE AT THE LAND OFFICE IN
SAN ANTONIO. LOREN MARKED OUT HIS LAND ON THEIR MAP AND IT CAME TO A
LITTLE OVER TWELVE THOUSAND ACRES. LOREN PAID FOR IT WITH A DRAFT ON A
BANK WHERE HE HAD DEPOSITED HIS MONEY. MAE PUT HER 200 ACRES UP FOR SALE
AND TOLD THE MAN IN THE LAND OFFICE TO PUT HER MONEY IN THE BANK WHEN HER
NEXT LOREN BOUGHT FOUR WAGONS AND TEAMS OF MULES TO PULL THEM. THEN HE
HIRED EIGHT MEN TO GO WITH HIM TO SET UP HIS RANCH. LOREN BOUGHT SUPPLIES
FOR A YEAR AND 100 HEAD OF CATTLE. HE ALSO BOUGHT 16 SADDLE HORSES AND 8
SADDLES AND BRIDLES.
LOREN HE HAD PUT MAE UP IN A HOTEL AND GIVEN HER $100. BUT THE ONLY WAY
SHE WOULD TAKE IT WAS IF IT WAS A LOAN THAT SHE WOULD PAY BACK WHEN SHE
GOT A JOB. BUT FOR THE FOUR DAYS THEY HAD BEEN THERE MAE HAD NOT BEEN ABLE
TO FIND WORK. THE MEXICAN PEOPLE HAD ALL THE JOBS BECAUSE THEY WOULD WORK
CHEAPER THEN OTHER PEOPLE.
ON THE DAY LOREN WAS READY TO LEAVE HE WENT BY THE HOTEL TO TELL MAE
Mae met Loren in the hotel lobby. They walked into the dining
room and had some coffee. Mae's blue eyes were shining with tears about to
spill down her cheeks.
Loren, you are the only friend I have in the world. It's impossible
for me to imagine what my life will be like without you. If I don't
get a job here pretty soon, I'll run out of money and then what will I do?
don't want to serve drinks in the saloon, and that is the only job I have
been offered. I’m awondering if maybe I should strike out right now
on the stage to Missouri and try to find my parents. I'm not real
sure where they were going to light in Missouri, so it may be a tough
job to find them. If I stay in San Antonio they won't know where to
look for me.
Do you think I could go back with you? Maybe I could be some help to you,
like cooking for these hands you've hired. There's a few chicken running
loose on my place and the old cow that needs some looking after.
Take a few minutes and think about it. If you think it would work out then
fine and good. If not, just say so and I'll be on my own. I'm
able to take care of myself and won't be a burden to you. I can shoot
straight and ain't afraid of snakes and varmints. If I stay close to
the place I lived on, maybe I'll get some word from my family as that
where they would look for me. Don't worry about hurting my feeling
by saying no, just tell me what you are thinking.
“WELL I GUESS I COULD HIRE YOU ON AS A COOK. BUT IT WON’T BE EASY.
THERE WILL BE NO HOUSE TO LIVE IN FOR A WHILE. DIGGING A WELL FOR THE HOME
LOCATION, DAMMING UP RAVINES TO CATCH RAIN WATER FOR THE CATTLE AND
BUILDING CORRALS FOR THE HORSES WILL COME FIRST.”
“WE COULD FIX ONE OF THE WAGONS FOR A PLACE FOR YOU TO SLEEP AND HAVE A
LITTLE PRIVACY. WE COULD ALSO STRETCH A TRAP FROM SOME TREES SO YOU WOULD
HAVE A PLACE TO PUT THE STOVE AND YOU COULD COOK EVEN IF IT WAS RAINING.”
“EVENTUALLY WE WILL GET AROUND TO BUILDING A RANCH HOUSE. BUT WHEN I
BUILD IT WON’T BE A LITTLE CABIN LIKE YOU WERE LIVING IN. IT WILL BE A
RANCH HOUSE BIG ENOUGH FOR A RANCHER WITH 12,000 ACRES AND A DREAM OF A
LOREN AND MAE WERE THROUGH WITH THEIR COFFEE AND HAD WALKED OUT ON TO
THE VERANDA OF THE HOTEL. HIS WAGONS WERE WAITING FOR HIM. FOUR OF HIS MEN
HAD ALREADY LEFT WITH THE CATTLE AND EXTRA HORSES.
“WELL MAE IT’S TIME FOR ME TO LEAVE. WHAT IS YOUR ANSWER? DO YOU WANT
Mae looked up at the tall man in front of her and the tears she had
been holding back began to flow down her cheeks. Yes! Yes! I want to
go back with you! Just give me a minute to grab my bag and we'll be on the
road. Loren barely had time to speak to one of the men he had hired
and Mae was back with her things.
Loren put her on the wagon with one of the men assuring her it would be
more comfortable than riding a horse and the train of wagons slowly drove
toward the horizon. It was a good day for traveling as the sky was
overcast and a breeze blowing to their backs.
Loren rode in the front of the caravan to lead the way. The wagon
with Mae was directly behind followed by the rest of the wagons. Around
noon they stopped and stretched their legs, eating some cold biscuits and
meat that Loren had gotten the hotel cook to pack up for them.
Thus refreshed, they would travel until sundown before stopping to eat
again and camp for the night. Loren had ample food and water.
Mae talked some with the young driver Loren had hired. She learned
his name was Juan and he was 24 years old. He was a capable driver and
addressed her as Senora. He kept a sharp lookout for indians and Mae
watched equally as well on her side of the wagon. They saw an
occasional rabbit, a herd of deer late in the day, but so far no indians.
Loren rode back and suggested they make camp in a clearing that was ahead.
It was not far from a little creek where the animals could drink. He
had scouted on ahead and saw nothing to indicate indians.
AS LOREN SAT IN A ROCKING CHAIR ON THE VERANDA OF HIS RANCH HOUSE, HE
WAS THINKING BACK OVER THE YEARS. THAT DAY HE HAD RIDDEN INTO GALVESTON
WITH ALL THE CONFIDENCE OF A 20 YEAR OLD WET NOSE KID AND GOT IN THAT
POKER GAME THAT HAD PUT HIM ON THE PATH OF A STEAM BOAT CAPTAIN. THE TWO
YEARS HE HAD MADE THE RUN TO NEW ORLEANS AND THEN SOLD THE SHIP HAD MADE
HIM A RICH MAN.
THEN AT THE AGE OF 22 HE HAD GOTTEN HIMSELF INVOLVED WITH THE KILLING
OF A BUNCH OF INDIANS AND HAD MET MAE. ALL THAT WAS TEN YEARS AGO NOW AND
HE WAS 32 YEARS OLD. HE HAD BUILT A FINE RANCH HOUSE WITH EIGHT ROOMS IN
IT. MAE WAS SOME WHERE IN HER 40’s AND WAS STILL HIS HOUSE KEEPER AND
LOREN’S RANCH NOW HAD OVER 1,000 HEAD OF CATTLE AND A WHOLE STRING OF
HORSES. HIS HIRED HANDS HAD INCREASED TO 16 AND THEY HAD A BUNK HOUSE TO
LIVE IN AND A COOK OF THEIR OWN. THERE WERE TWO LARGE BARNS AND MANY
MAE CAME OUT ON THE VERANDA AND SAT DOWN IN THE ROCKING CHAIR NEXT TO
LOREN. “I’M THROUGH IN THE KITCHEN FOR TONIGHT, LOREN. WHAT ARE YOU
THINKING ABOUT, SITTING OUT HERE ALL BY YOURSELF?”
“JUST THINKING ABOUT OLD TIMES, MAE. I’VE GOT TO GO INTO SAN ANTONIO TO
TAKE CARE OF SOME BUSINESS. I’LL BE LEAVING IN THE MORNING.”
“LOREN WOULD YOU STOP BY THE LAND OFFICE AND SEE IF MY 200 ACRES EVER
“I SURE WILL MAE. I MIGHT EVEN GO BY YOUR OLD PLACE AND HAVE A LOOK
AROUND. I THINK I’LL GO TO BED NOW. I WANT TO GET AN EARLY START IN THE
MORNING. GOOD NIGHT MAE.”