The Road to Calistoga


Twyla Jane

The disclaimer is and always will be I don’t own ‘em and never made a plug nickel off ‘em. Wish I did. This is a series of stories where Ezra’s a child and the remaining seven are adults this story taking place prior to Ezra’s arrival in Four Corners a little AU created by Wyvern. This is a sequel to my story God Given Talent so please do enjoy. This is the fourth installment of ‘Life Before Four Corners’.  This story ain’t betaed all the mistakes are my own. Geographic knowledge of Old California is lacking so I apologize in advance for any discrepancies there may be.

The sun hung overhead as the tired steed plodded on shifting occasionally under the slight weight of the boy on its bareback. For the first time in his life he was completely alone and eleven year-old Ezra Standish was reflecting on the twisted turn of events that left him on this isolated dusty road.  The letter that his mother forwarded to the Reilly’s cheered his weary soul. He reread the letter several times happy that he would soon be reunited with his mother. 

The boy remembered his mother’s words, the delicate script that it was written in. The letter was hidden in the lining of his carpetbag along with his money.

My Darling Baby Boy,

I have found opportunities for us in this bustling city. There is potential here amongst the gentile folk.   I look forward to you joining me here in San Francisco.

Your Loving Mother

The note said little but it spoke volumes to the boy. He was in her plans for the future. Ezra fervently hoped that she would wait for him this time. The boy tried to clear such a notion from his mind and pay attention to the task at hand. At least it seemed he was coming down the mountain in the correction direction. That is if he had followed Mr. Bean’s directions correctly, the boy sighed nudging the horse again because as the hours had passed the horse slowed its pace walking with its head hanging low.

Less than an hour later the beast stopped in the middle of the trail unwilling to go any farther, Ezra sat there quietly on the horse’s back for several long minutes unsure of what to do next but it decided for him. The weary animal sat down on its haunches almost unseating the boy, then rolled over on its side nearly pinning Ezra to the ground. The animal finally succumbed to its injuries as it heaved its last breaths. The boy lay in the dusty road exhausted, gently patting the horse’s neck not bothering to get up, he no longer had the strength

. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tucker McClain’s wiped a deeply tanned hand across the light beard that covered his face as he urged his mount a young mule named Precious along the trail. He had just left Calistoga two hours earlier. A trapper by trade he had gone to the post to pick up the supplies he needed for the upcoming trapping season. The man was headed back to his shack after he had just traded in his pelts. The only reason Tucker had been this late going into the trading post was because he had taken a bad turn earlier in the year due to a injury that had turned putrid on him, kept him in town when he should have been checking his traps. Lost out on the winter season at least he didn’t lose the arm. The Doc said he might have if he didn’t take proper care of the injury, a might stupid one at that he fell into one of his own traps.

Tucker had been pondering on the bad year he had been having mumbling to himself, when he glanced up the road he noticed an odd hump to the road. The man looked again, a dead horse sprawled out on its side in the road.  Poor beast he thought, how did it get here?

“ Come on Precious…”

Ezra thought he heard a voice he raised his head slightly and squinted at the approaching rider. Tucker thought he saw something move as he got closer and was surprise to find a dirty well dressed lad probably no older than eleven curled up next to the horse looking at him from under the brim of his hat. The boy’s eyes slid shut and as his head lolled back the black hat fell off.


Ezra woke to a gentle rocking, bringing back memories of Mrs. Reilly. Confused because he was outside in the light and the person he rested against smelled like sweat, tobacco and leather, the boy didn’t know where he was or who this person was so he panicked and pushed himself away. The boy fell away. Falling and painfully landing right on his backside, starting to scramble away when Tucker jumped down after him.

“Whoa Kid!”

The boy froze and looked up his wide green eyes filled with fear.


Tucker could see the kid was terrified and stopped where he was, called out to the boy.

“Name’s Tucker McClain this here is Precious now I know she don’t look like much but she’s a good friend of mine.”

Ezra looked at him strangely for a moment then smirked. The grizzled trapper smiled back as he raked a hand through his bushy brown hair.

“Ezra P. Standish…Hello Precious and Mr. McClain.”

McClain would have found the situation amusing if the kid hadn’t looked like he tangled with a pissed off bronco.

“Well Ezra P. Standish how did you manage to get out here a stone’s throw from no where?”

“The Stagecoach I was riding in went off a mountain side…”

“Any one else with you?”

The boy shook his head then looked down. McClain didn’t have to ask if they were dead, the state of the horse’s carcass a mile back told the story.

“No, just me.”

“It’s all right Ezra P. Standish. How about we let Precious here take us back to town?”

The boy hesitated for a moment then followed Tucker back to the mule where he was lifted into the saddle and the man climbed up behind him. Ezra clearly bone-tired leaned back against the man that held him gently in the saddle. Eventually the tired boy was lulled to sleep by Precious’ rocking motion.  His only thought being that soon he’d be with his mother.

The kid hadn’t had said much about what had happened, Tucker McClain wasn’t waste time trying to figure it out as he urged Precious along as fast as he dared towards town. Ezra hadn’t stirred once since the man got into the saddle behind him that was two hours ago and they were almost to Calistoga the mule’s rider encouraged it to pick up the pace. The sturdy animal cantered down the trail over a crest as the small town came into view.

It hardly qualified, as a town the only wood building was the trading post, the rest were comprised of tents and crudely made shacks. Full time population fifteen, the rest were miners, trappers and such. Tuck headed towards the trading post that stood on the far side of town with his quiet cargo and pulled the mule to a stop. A few curious patrons stepped out of the Pick Axe Saloon to see what was going on.

“Hey Sheriff Gordon git on out here!”

A slender tall man with graying hair stepped out of the darkened doorway, squinting at the rider while his eyes adjusted to the light.

“This had better be good Tucker. The stage hasn’t shown up yet…”

Calistoga’s sheriff stopped in mid sentence as he laid his eyes on the small boy.

“Sheriff I know… the boy says it went off the side of a mountain.”

Arthur Gordon blink twice turned his head and yelled.

“Addie, get yer ass out here…Hand down that boy to me Tucker.”

Adelaide Gordon had followed her man into the back room of post that served as their sleeping quarters. Mr. McClain followed closely. Watching as Gordon gently lowered the child down on the bed as while walked into the room carrying in the boy’s belongings.

“What happened Tucker?”

“Boy didn’t say what exactly happened other than they were all dead. I found the kid, says his name is Ezra P. Standish, ‘bout two miles outside town lying across a dead horse.”

“Addie take care of the boy…Tuck, you and I are going to get some of the boys and check this out. Probably can make it out there before it gets too dark.”

“I don’t think we need to hurry…”

“He tell you what happened?”

“Nah just said he was alone.”

Gordon didn’t ask again instead he steeled himself for the task that lay ahead then walked out of the post with Tucker McClain close on his heels.

A dim lantern cast shadows in the dark room where the boy woke. It was just after sunrise. He heard muffled voices in the next room and he saw there was a plump little woman in a chair asleep by the window. Ezra slowly sat up in bed wondering where he was as he swung his bare skinny legs down to the floor. Clad in an over-sized shirt he stepped across the uneven planks until he reached the curtained covered doorway. From where he stood watching the adults talk in the Trading Post’s main room, no one could see him.

“Art, what the hell happened out there?”

It was the first clear voice he heard as he peered through the curtains. A small group of men had gathered, there were nine people in all. Most of them stood by the trading counter the rest sat on the display tables. The voice asking the question belonged to the owner of the Pick Axe Saloon Gil Kelly.

“Wish I knew…been two days since Tuck found the boy. Don’t know what else to say boys. Found the dead horse and we followed its tracks back ‘til we found the first grave. Then Pete and Amos here, went on ahead to find where the coach went off and that’s when they found the others.”


Pete Connelly and Amos Twillinger were amongst those sitting on the tables. Arthur Gordon had set out with McClain, Connelly and Twillinger right after the boy was brought into town. The four men had just returned with a wagon laden with the bodies and they had managed to find the driver who’s crushed body was found underneath the stage. At least they would get a Christian burial. Tucker who had leaning on the counter stood up and caught sight of the boy who was partially hidden behind the thick fabric.

“Fellas I do believe we have company.”

 McClain smiled at the boy, who looked a little bewildered as the group of men turned to look at him. Ezra didn’t say a word just leaned closer into the door jam.

“Well boys I believe we all have some work to do…”

Tucker said in an even voice but his eyes never left the boy’s.

“I’d better wake Addie and tell her patient is up.”

Art Gordon pushed back the curtain leaving McClain to deal with the boy. The remaining men went out to begin digging the graves for the unfortunate victims of the stage accident.

“Morning Kid.”

Ezra just blinked. He could here the whispered voices coming from the room behind him.

“Morning Mr. McClain.”

Came a quiet reply.

“You better get back into that bed ‘fore Mrs. Gordon has a fit.”

The sleepy child nodded and disappeared into the room.

Adelaide hurried back to the Trading Post, Mr. Markham had made up a bowl of soup for the boy and she wanted to return before she spilled it all over the street. Silly really, that a man could cook better than she could but her abilities to haggle more than made up for her inability to create anything but a hideous meal.

The men had woke the poor child at a ridiculous hour, her husband as the town’s sheriff had wanted to question the boy. She just shushed he out of the room. The poor victims of the accident would still be just as dead later in the day as they were at the crack of dawn, the child was exhausted and she wouldn’t let him be disturbed until he woke on his own. That was earlier today but she wanted to wake the boy to eat, after that she would decide then if Art could ask his questions.

His stomach rumbled as the faint aroma of chicken soup wafted into the room he was in. Ezra took a deep breath, turned around as Mrs. Gordon walked into the back room.


The pudgy gray haired woman smiled at Ezra.

“Who are you?”

“Mrs. Gordon you’re in my home. Would you like a little soup?” She held up the bowl for him to see, the boy nodded. The woman carried the steaming soup over to him setting in on the table in front of him along with a hunk of bread.

“Thank you Ma’am.”

The boy had only been awake for a short while but in that time he had managed to wash up and change into a fresh set of clothes. He sat down at the table, while he slowly ate the soup and thought about what a strange journey this had been. The woman began to sing a quiet little tune as she settled back in her chair, mending a shirt while the boy ate his meal. Her husband could wait for a little while longer, Addie wanted to be sure the boy was up to the questions he still was a little too pale for her liking and she wanted to talk to him alone first.

Arthur Gordon was exasperated. His wife would not be swayed. Dammit! He was the sheriff after all, it was important to speak with the boy. Adelaide told him he would have to wait. Art knew she was right about the boy. The child had already slept over two days and Gordon was getting impatient. McClain said the boy called himself Ezra P. Standish. Well young Mr. Standish besides having a painful knot on the back of his head was covered with scrapes and bruises along with some older marks across his back that no child should ever have. The man turned on his heel back towards the Trading post only to be intercepted by his wife.


She warned.


He countered. With a look in his wife’s eyes he knew he was already defeated.

“No…listen to me Arthur… You’ll talk to that child with a civil tongue. The boy has been through a lot these past few days and he just wants to be with his Mama.”

“Adelaide I need to know who those passengers were, so I can notify their kin.”

Turned out Ezra knew little about his fellow passengers but it was enough to contact their families. He asked the sheriff to send a wire to the Reilly’s to let them know he was okay and another was sent to his mother by the sheriff to come get her little boy.   

Four days later

Maude Standish was furious. Taken against her will. The sheriff would argue that particular point since he went all the way to San Francisco walked in to the saloon and asked her to come with him. It wasn’t as if he slung her over his shoulder, hauled her out kicking and screaming. Arthur Gordon merely told her if she wanted her boy Maude would have to come with him otherwise the boy would remain were he was. Of course the man had sent her several telegrams informing her of Ezra’s whereabouts and what had happened. Mrs. Standish sent a reply. Send the boy to meet her in San Francisco as originally planned.

Now she was in this wretched wagon covered in a fine layer of trail dust. Uncomfortable and unhappy she had found out rather quickly that the man couldn’t be sweet-talked. Maude did her best to convince the man that she had indeed wanted her boy by her side just unfortunate circumstances prevented her from leaving the city, she implied she was working off a debt. Arthur confronted a very confused saloon proprietor telling him that Mrs. Standish would return.  On their way out of the city explained that everything would work out since her ‘employer’ knew she was being escorted there by the sheriff himself and would not doubt the validity behind her departure.

During the days that passed since leaving San Francisco, The con woman convinced Mr. Gordon that she was a dutiful mother widowed while the boy was a baby, who had due to monetary constraints sent her boy off to leave with relatives until she could get back onto her feet. Ezra’s return was unplanned her brother who had been caring for the boy had suddenly been called away and sent him along to her cousins. The cousins, who due to a sudden illness in the family was no longer able to care for the boy and he was on his way, back home. The entire situation was distressing for her, because had another cent to spare what little she had was spent on the boy’s coach fare to the city.

Ezra never told anyone what had happened at his uncle’s, it didn’t matter his mother was coming. They were expected at anytime. Mother was coming for him and that was all that mattered, he could barely contain himself, yet he managed knowing Maude would not approve if he behave in any other manner than dignified. Mrs. Gordon had done her best to make sure he got enough rest and he was pleased after receiving a wire from the Reilly’s, although they were distressed over the death of Father Brennan they were happy he was alive and well.

Adelaide would not let him wait outside alone, simply explain there were with so many strangers walking through wasn’t uncommon for gunfire to erupt in town not a good place for a boy. Ezra did not want to mention that he had a weapon of his own and had been in worse places. The woman had been kind and if humoring her made her happy then Ezra would yield. He had even gone as far as dressing in some ordinary every day clothes that had been traded in after Addie fretted that he might ruin his dress clothes. So the young lad had spent the day in the doorway of the Trading post watching the road coming into Calistoga. Finally he saw a wagon come over the crest in the road. Although he couldn’t tell if the driver was Mr. Gordon he knew without a doubt that the woman in the wagon was his mother dressed in all her finery. Ezra forgot all his manners and was off porch running down the street before Mrs. Gordon could stop him.

Maude weary looked around the stagecoach stop, she saw a young boy running down the street. Children, where was this child’s mother allowing him to run around such a squalid place? The little legs running as fast as they could the child was heading straight for them. Mrs. Standish looked again. It was her darling baby boy. She hadn’t recognized her child who was in a calico shirt and a plain pair of woolen pants.  The sheriff stopped the wagon as Maude hopped down kneeled on the ground as Ezra threw his arms around her neck and greeted her boy by showering him with hugs and kisses wiping a stray tear from her eye.

“Oh my darling boy.”

She cried and Ezra said nothing afraid to ruin the moment so he clung tightly to his mother. The sheriff stepped away to give boy a moment alone with his mother to go talk to his wife. Maude let go before her son did a gently pushed him away dabbing the tears from his eyes with a dainty handkerchief.

“Appearances my boy…appearances.”

She softly whispered.

Ezra calmed himself. He watched as she stood up and dusted her self off.

The boy reached out for her hand and it closed on empty aired as his mother stepped off in the direction of the Trading post.


God Given Talent