By Gus Quarles
I was sitting in the saddle, wet, tired and cold when I smelled the cedar smoke. Now, out here some called them Junipers but back home in Tennessee we called them Cedars. Well, that smoke smelled like trouble or salvation. It was hard to say which, but I could handle trouble if it came and the Lord only knows how I would handle salvation. As the wind picked up I decided to hail the camp and take it as it came.
Now when you hail a camp at night it's to let the people in camp know you're coming in, but it also gives them time to hide someone in the brush, out of sight, with a rifle, just to make sure you stayed friendly. So I hailed and walked my horse up to the edge of the firelight. I was all smiles and friendly like. As I looked around I noticed there were five saddles but only four men sitting around the fire. I asked for a cup of coffee and said, "You might as well tell that other man to come into camp and have some coffee with us so he can hear the news for himself."
Well, you could tell that it had been a while since they had talked to anyone but each other let alone hearing news. They were pretty thirsty to hear about anything going on down the trail and the news that I had they not only wanted but needed to hear.
The Indians were on the war path. It seems that some Army big wig had given orders to move through the Indian hunting grounds that had been promised to the Apaches. As the army came the settlers came to live there too. The first settlers the army found were stripped and mutilated so they would be unable to get even in the afterworld. The Indians soon realized that no matter how many they killed, the white man never stopped coming. So now the Indians are snipping them every chance they get. Well, I told the men all I could and left the next morning under a low sky and rolling wind.
My name is Bud Logan and I'm from Tennessee. the Logan name was well known. Well known enough to be someone to avoid trouble with that is. But out here nobody knew anything about that and that's one reason I was here. The other reason what that I was just too good with a gun, something that was found out by accident. Now, Ma always did frown on wearin' hip guns. She said they just invited trouble, so I had to wear it and practice in the hollow way back of the cabin.
I was 19 when that terrible day showed up. I had lost my whole world in a few short minutes of violence. I knew I wouldn't rest until the ones who had done it were dealt with. I wanted vengeance like the good Book says an eye for an eye.
I had been out with the hogs on the ridge behind our cabin when I heard the shooting. I came on the run but was too late. Ma and Pa were in the yard shot to pieces and my brother, Rick, was in the barn dead after killing one of the outlaws. Now, my brother had a big 50 cal. and when you see what it can do you never forget it. When I looked at the dead man in the yard, who had his head nearly blown off, I found that I knew him and that the other shots I'd heard were probably his brothers and his Pa. His name was Bill Penland and his brothers were Luke, Toby, Cotton and Homer. These six boys were as mean as any ten men. His Pa was Jacob Penland, and was as mean a man as a body could find.
After looking around some more I found a large pool of blood behind the woodpile so I knew one of them had been shot and probably dying, but they had taken him with them. That's how I knew which way they had gone. I was going to follow a blood trail.
When the Penlands had attacked our cabin they were after whatever they could find but mostly the gold that Pa and we boys had washed out of the creek that ran down into Georgia. It wasn't much, just a pound or two, but it had meant a lot to us, a new mule and plow, food in cans, coal oil, plus some cloth for Ma to make us some new duds that were needed badly. We had found a small creek falling off to the south that had some good color and had been working it with pans and sluice boxes. I had went on up and sunk a shaft down into a sandbar on the outside of a bend. After two solid weeks I hit bedrock and found it lying thick with some nice pickers. I sacked up about ½ pound and went down to the settlement to buy myself a new rifle and hip gun.
The Penlands were there and saw the gold that I had. They were very interested in finding out where it had come from. I just told them that I had been a way down in Georgia when I found that pocket, but I don't think they believed me.
Well, on the way back up the mountain, I decided to start practicing everyday with that pistol I had bought. I already knew how to use the long gun pretty good. I could shoot a duck in the air or a deer at any range up to about 500 paces. What I really needed was to get good with that short gun. After working a few days with the short gun, I found that whatever I shot at I would hit. I guess it just came naturally; draw point and shoot. The drawing got faster and faster but my aim stayed true.
After the Penlands hit our place they hit two more places farther down the mountain. They stole a small herd of horses from one place and all the food they could find. The next one was where Lina Hallisy lived with her Ma and Pa. They had a small herd of cattle, about 250 head, of that new breed 'Herford'. These were big beefy cattle. Well, once they picked up those animals they started out of the county headed west. They still had the wounded man with them because when I found their first camp I found bloody rags where they had dressed his wound.
One thing about stealing livestock, they have to be cared for with plenty of grass and water, bunched up and moving. That meant they couldn't travel as fast as I could by myself. So it wasn't' long before I had picked up a little time on them. As I trailed along, riding steady, I started to wonder how I was going to handle all those Penlands by myself. Well, they had started out with killing, so they had laid out the rules, there weren't any. If it had been a stand up fight with my Pa or brother I would have had to let it lay, but they had attacked the cabin and shot my unarmed Ma and Pa, so I just decided it was shoot on site.
When I cut their trail it was coming on the dark. I speeded up enough to get close so as not to miss if anybody cut off to watch their back trail. Well, sure enough, one of them did. He turned up a small branch of water along the ridge. The water was still muddy so I hoped he hadn't stopped yet. I swung way off to the right and started up trying to get above him. As I topped the ridge, I could see down on a small nest of rocks above the trail they had taken, and sure thing, he was laid out with a rifle set to kill. I'm sure they knew I would be coming for them and were trying to be ready to stop me.
When I saw him and knew he didn't know I was there, I eased off my horse and shucked my rifle. I thought about just shooting him and letting him lay, but I couldn't do it. I'd give him his chance. I started down to him real careful like and was about thirty feet away when he either heard or felt me behind him. He turned around and I said, "Cotton, you and yours have killed my people and I've come for you." He didn't know what to say so he went for his gun. I was aiming at his heart but as I fired he tried that gunman's crouch and it brought his head down, so I hit him right over the left eye. His head fell back and he hit the rocks on his shoulders, dead, right then and there.
It was getting late in the evening, and I figured they had stopped to make camp. I knew that they had heard the shot and could tell it wasn't a rifle. They were probably wondering why, well, I decided to let them wonder. As I sat there in the growing dark, I felt more alone than ever before. We had been a small family but were very close. We all counted on each other for just about everything. Now they were all gone, gone forever. Now, that hits a man pretty hard. Well, we had counted on each other and they could count on me now.
Just before sunup, I loaded up Cotton's body on his horse and led it down to the trail. I slapped him on the rump and he started up the trail towards the Penland camp. I went back up the ridge and around so as to come up on the far side of the camp arriving just about the time the horse rode in. It must have been Toby that Rick had wounded because he wasn't with them when they ran up to Cotton's horse. So that means there were only four, but, four to one is still pretty tough odds.
I decided that to just step out and start shooting would be a fool's play, so I got behind a big boulder and told them to put up their hands. Now, when thieves and killers are cornered and hear a rifle cock, they can get pretty excited. That's what happened here. As I spoke they all wheeled around and pulled iron. My first shot killed Homer. Then all I could hear was the thunder of guns, theirs and mine.
When it was over I had took two slugs. One was through the meaty part of my shoulder and one through the side. The Penlands were laying there bleeding and dying. One thing about it, when your enemies are all dead, you don't have to follow a Blood Trail anymore.