II. Horse Thieves

by Sevenstars

Disclaimer: This is an original amateur story based on the characters and situations created in the TV series, The Magnificent Seven. No profit is made from it and no infringement upon any copyright held by any individual or organization is intended.

Author's Notes: This is the second in the “Jamesburg Cycle” of AU OW stories. It isn´t vitally necessary to have read the first Convergence to appreciate it, but doing so will certainly give a better picture of the basic premises of the AU.

Some factual background: Julesburg, Colorado, which was the geographic and historical model for “Jamesburg,” was founded as a trading post, in 1859, by one Jules Beni, described as a Frenchman. He apparently became an employee of Russell, Majors & Waddell when they began using his facilities as a stage-and-Pony-Express station, much as many road ranchers did, because when Jack Slade came in as Division Agent, he fired Beni. Beni didn´t take to this, and ultimately, in the fall of 1860, Slade killed him.

During his period of ascendancy, Beni seems to have used his monopoly power to make more than one dishonest dollar, much as did the later infamous Henry Plummer of Montana, who served simultaneously as sheriff of the Virginia City Mining District and chief of a band of notorious road agents and murderers. Beni permitted his community to become a rendezvous for gamblers, horse thieves, and desperados--with himself as leader of the pack--and turned it into a hotbed of wild times, loose women, and the unfair treatment of travellers. He also acquired at some point an Indian wife, who gave him two children. In the climactic gun battle between Beni and Slade, the woman died with her husband, and the couple´s little daughter ran to hide in the brush and froze to death there. The son survived and was taken in by the contrite Slade, who had never intended harm to Beni´s family.

For the purposes of the Jamesburg Universe, I´ve moved the town´s founding back by ten years, proceeding from the historically established fact that white people began settling permanently along the principal overland trails as early as the middle ´40´s, as outlined in Convergence. I´ve also basically split Beni into three, with each of the villains partaking of one aspect of his character: Stuart James to found the town and serve as its ruler (until Ezra got there and won part of it from him!); Lucas James to serve as hands-on boss of the local marauders; and Guy Royale to be the employee who gets fired and resents it. Lucas also is the one to whom I assign the Indian wife and children, giving his uncle thereby some influence with the local tribe. Whether Beni´s group ever went quite so far as James´s does I don´t know, but given the near nonexistence of formal law in that time and place, to say nothing of the heavy traffic, both commercial and private, in the locality, it seemed reasonable to set the situation up that way.

Frontier law enforcement officers were generally either locally elected or appointed (sheriffs, marshals, the canonical Seven), occasional Federals (U. S. Marshals like Gunsmoke´s Matt Dillon), or Pinkertons and other detectives employed by railroads and cattlemen´s associations. I´ve assumed that senior agents of the railroads´ predecessors, the stagecoach companies, could serve similar functions.

Pony riders not infrequently had to “double”--ride to the next home station due to the unavailability of the relief rider or the failure of the courier from the opposite direction to arrive. It involved eight to twelve more hours in the saddle and “taking the top off” at least six fresh more horses, but to the riders, inured to saddle fatigue by the daily demands of the job, it meant nothing. JD´s 408.5-mile epic ride is based on two actual incidents of the Express. “Pony” Bob Haslam was once set upon by Paiutes in Nevada, and during the running fight that followed his jaw was fractured by an arrow and his arm pierced by another--but Bob delivered the mail, travelling 120 miles in eight hours ten minutes (an average speed of 14.7 MPH) and using thirteen horses. William F. (not yet “Buffalo Bill”) Cody, having covered his regular 76-mile relay, once found that his relief had been killed; so, with scant rest, he rode another 85, and then made the return trip, for a total of 322. And he was only fifteen when he did it!

Thanks to Gloria for suggesting JD´s “broken Colt” mishap, and to Mattie of Black Powder for providing details on the difference between Colt and Remington reloading and cylinder-changing. And to Robin and Nancy for assistance in choreographing a recalcitrant scene (you know which one!).

Size: Approx 836K

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Comments to: sevenstars39@hotmail.com