Having been raised by a caring Methodist Minister when left an orphan, Ryan could never forget that no one had tried to stop the murder of his entire family. This would in time destine him to venture into a land that would test the core of his beliefs unlike any other minister, Circuit Rider or preacher in pioneer America.
Ryan carried a pair of holstered precision made Beau-Fort Adams, five shot Revolvers given to him by the caring minister who raised him as a child for ten years. Jarred was skilled to expert level in the use of these weapons.
Paramount to Ryan's absolute belief was that for evil to grow and prosper all it takes is good people to stand back and do nothing. He did not...
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Reverend Charles Stevens carefully straightened his white neck sash and adjusted his coat as he looked through the window, glancing at the street directly outside of his cottage. He contemplated a good just life, but always at the back of his mind, haunted by his absolute belief of why (with good men outnumbering the evil) in the Indian Territories did evil still prevail?
Kansas city was such an impressive sight with the movement of people and horses moving in all directions. Hattie's Restaurant and the Millinery were doing particularly good in business, he thought, on this sun filled morning. The church was directly to the right of the Reverend's cottage and as the rays of sunlight filtered through the churches garden, he felt a deep feeling of happiness and contentment to be the minister of the Methodist "Church of Caring Heart'.
His attention was drawn to the movement of Mrs. Bartell, the bell ringer and custodian of the church who was as busy as ever cleaning the church windows. A lovely natured lady she was, who supported her four children after the death of her husband to pneumonia some two years back.
The political climate in Kansas City in late 1865 and indeed throughout the whole of America itself was that of friction amongst the general consensus The Civil War, although five months ended, was still very much tearing families and the fabric of American society apart. The country was split in half during the war and the body count was devastating. It cost 600,000 lives and 1,000,000 injured, President Lincoln was assassinated and ravaging and pillaging was rampant in outlying territories. Christian beliefs and values especially the balance of good over evil and teachings were lacking in territories and the Methodist strategy and that of the Rev was to bring the message of God to the masses at all costs. The Rev brushed his coat down, removed the silver pocket watch, and confirmed the time, squinting as he fondled the faceplate. A look of anticipation was apparent. His gaze towards the road and then the door certainly indicated this. He was now walking back and forth in the living room of the cottage and smiling.
The Reverend was a kind looking man with intense, piercing eyes, around forty-three years of age, standing around five feet eight inches and with the build of a runner. His background was that of an educated man, a schoolteacher who entered the Methodist church some nine years previously and later ordained as a minister. None of his congregation really knew why the Reverend left school teaching to join the Methodist Church but it did not matter. He was admired, respected and adored throughout Kansas City.
Three U.S Cavalry soldiers could now be seen quite clearly by the Rev and his attention was channeled to the magnificence of the lead soldier's bay mount, its muscular frame swaying as the rider tightened the reins to steady the walk. The other two soldiers were equally as impressive riding in unison behind the bay. The only sight the Rev noticed, with a smile that appeared to unbalance this vision of precision, was the saddled but unmounted black mare that was tethered and following the soldiers with an air of independence.
I wonder if she is mine? the Rev thought with an excitement that he felt was almost childlike, but he didn't care. The prospect of riding such a beautiful horse brought back memories of a previous phase of his life.
The three loud knocks on the door were precise and executed by a firm fist as the Rev crossed the room and opened the door.
"Good day to you Rev. You are Rev Charles Stevens I trust?" asked the soldier on seeing the Rev answering the door.
"I am," said the Rev smiling inquisitively at the huge man that stood before him dressed in the U.S Cavalry soldier's uniform with the distinct three stripes and diamond on his uniform that indicated the rank of First Sergeant.
"I am here to escort you back to the Fort as per orders from my Captain, Sean Nichols; I believe that the church hierarchy has had discussions with the army to take key religious personnel out on territory exercises to see how things are in hostile zones. Strange request if you ask me Rev-but they are my Orders!"
"Strange Sergeant?" answered the Rev. "Nothing really that strange about it, Good people are not able to travel to the fine church here and the request from the Methodist Ministry to the Army is to allow some of us to reach out and where possible teach the good book and its essence to the good people outside of the cities protection and comforts."
"Very noble of you sir, but the territories outside these city limits are not populated by all good people." said the Sergeant with a slight grin on his face. "Can I assist with anything light you may wish to take, but please Rev, keep it light?"
The Rev placed a crucifix around his neck and looked at the Sergeant nodding in a way to communicate all he was taking was on this person, In his right hand he carried a small leather bag with nothing more than writing material to journal his travels.
The men walked down the cobbled path that wound through the church garden and towards the other two soldiers who were looking with some interest towards the Rev. Both troopers greeted the Rev. The younger of the troopers slipped down from his mount, untethered the black mare from his saddle, and gently walked the horse towards the Rev
"She's a beautiful beast," said the trooper to the Rev, "but can be spirited if not controlled properly. Is it ok Rev if I held the reins and you stay behind me? No disrespect to you sir, but the Captain wants you to arrive in one piece." The three soldiers laughed loudly.
"No disrespect taken Trooper!" The Rev in one graceful motion placed his boot in the stirrup and mounted the mare in a fluid motion that left the Sergeant looking a little bewildered. "Looks like the Rev is a more than a capable rider to me," said the more senior of the troopers.
The Rev, stroking his horse's mane compassionately, looked towards the Sergeant who had just mounted his bay.
"How far to the Fort Sergeant? I am looking forward to breaking her into a gallop and not so looking forward to the saddle sores that will possibly accompany this.
"The Fort is a good fifty miles in the heart of Indian territories." was the reply. "It's in Arkansas, and from 1819 many of the Indian tribes were relocated here in reservations Rev." The Sergeant and Troopers were still laughing from the Rev's saddle sores comment.
All four men turned their mounts and rode carefully as the main road was a bustle with people starting to open stores. Wagons were starting to roll in as the day's businesses were commencing their trade. The Rev was smiling as people wished him a safe journey and a safe return. The Rev tipped his hat more times than ever at the ladies from his congregation. The ladies were all well aware that the Rev was to visit outlining territories in the company of the U.S. Cavalry.
The early morning breeze whipped up and the dust could be seen billowing up from the main street as the men were now on the very outskirts of Kansas City.
"Now gentlemen, I do not wish to address you by Sergeant, Trooper and Trooper. Could you for the duration of our journey to the Fort and the week after give me your names, my name is Charles Stevens."
The Sergeant looked curiously at the Rev, "You are certainly liberal in your manner Rev," then with a smile added, "I like that, and my name is Shane-Shane McConarchy."
The younger of the two troopers followed answering in rapid succession. "And my name is Daniel Crook."
The Rev looked at the young Trooper and guessed he was not much older than nineteen, a tall good-looking young man with a mop of sand colored hair.
"And so you are," smiled the Rev. "Daniel it is then."
The Rev looked at the other trooper who was around twenty-five, stocky in build, dark features with a small scar at the corner of his mouth.
"Stephen sir, my name is Stephen Boone."
"No 'Sir', please Stephen. You can call me by name or Rev if you wish, but 'Sir' is a title earned and given to officers of rank. I appreciate your extending me this mark of respect, but such title is in my opinion given to men who do not deserve it. Sorry gents, I ramble on some times-pull me up if I do so again."
The three soldiers laughed and all four now rode well out of range and sight of the city.
The Rev was enjoying his riding immensely and continuously his eyes darted back and forth at the breathtaking scenery that lay before him. He thought how alive and vibrant the sights were as he beheld trees, grass greener than green and valleys that seemed to go on forever. Not far in the distance he could see the river meandering through the bottom of the valley and reflected on the comfort of the city that could offer nothing of this magnificent visualization.
The men had now ridden for some thirty miles and the Sergeant called the troopers to rest up and water their horses at the boulder-lined river meandering through the valley floor, which now lay ahead of them.
The young trooper dismounted his horse and removed the saddle, allowing his mount to feel the gentle breeze against its lathered and sweat laced torso. The horses were all allowed this temporary relief and relished the cold refreshing water, babbling down the stone bottomed river.
"Boone, get a fire started," cried out the Sergeant as he was patting his bay while the horse enthusiastically drank.
"Pleasure Sarg," came the reply.
"Rev," the Sergeant said, now tethering his horse to the low lying branches overhanging the river's edge, "Charles, sorry Rev, I do feel more comfortable addressing you by title, twenty-five years in uniform do that to a man. Would you like to have an Army style brew of coffee? Not the greatest coffee as you will taste but hot and satisfying none the less."
The fire was crackling along and the pot was on the boil, the aroma of the fresh brew filled the air and after riding thirty miles to this point the Rev looked forward to the break as his rear end was noticeably troubling him.
"Would you like us to set the table and bring out the china Rev," quipped young Boone. This brought a round of laughter from the soldiers and the Rev was the most audible with his laughter.
"No thanks Daniel When in Rome ... But I would appreciate anything for my saddle sores if there is anything?" Laughter erupted again. The soldiers took to the Rev and the men were more open to discussion from this point on.
Drinking from the hot tin mug, the Sergeant sat down on the log next to the Rev.
"The Methodist Church has a policy I hear, Rev, which is strongly leaning towards bringing religion to the frontier wilderness. Your Circuit Riding Ministers travel as far and wide as thousands of square miles. Brave men venturing out if you ask me. Are you here as part of the churches' push to embrace this policy?"
The Rev looked deeply at the Sergeant and smiled.
"Well, Shane, you impress me that you know this, no disrespect, it's just nice to hear such a summary come from a military man. You have nailed the Methodist strategy in a paragraph. The Circuit Riders you speak of are normal men. Most are from trade backgrounds; some are schoolteachers-all sorts of professions can become traveling ministers.
The two troopers sat in stunned silence hanging on the Rev discussion with the Sergeant.
The Rev continued, glancing occasionally at the Troopers but locking his eyes at the Sergeant's attentive manner.
"I am a Methodist Ordained Minister, the Circuit Riders are mentored and trained by a more senior experienced person on the circuit to gain knowledge and gauge critique."
"Excuse me!" Interjected young Trooper, "Rev Can I ask. If these traveling ministers are not educated to become ordained ministers they surely cannot preach in ignorance."
"Unlike the old school of thought, gentlemen, where our Eastern counterparts see education as the prime prerequisite the Methodist Church sees the most stringent prerequisite as, 'A love of God' and a genuine heartfelt desire to touch the lives of people with the values of good versus evil and to this end no compromise."
The Sergeant lifting himself from the log looked at the Rev, and then fixing his gaze on the impressed younger Trooper, he said, "You're a good man Rev, and your Church has a just and noble cause. No denying any of that. But you leave out much that needs consideration. There are many dangers. Evil will challenge and destroy much more outside the safety of the civilized church and the law and order of the large cities."
The Rev listened and nodded, not in agreement, but to his lack of understanding of the frontier way of life, that it was not a good footing to argue with the experienced and seasoned Sergeant's views.
"Drink your mugs dry, time to saddle up and make tracks," the Sergeant bellowed as he now moved towards his bay.
The trek forward looked formidable. The only way to reach the homeward trail to the fort was to scale upwards over a mountain that from the valley seemed an impossible task. The soldiers were talking of dinner and how much they were looking forward to it. The Sergeant now took the lead and beckoned the men on to what appeared a well-worn route, the Rev thought.
Boone looked at the Rev and realizing how much he admired the scenery, pointed back from half way up the steep mountain and quipped, "Kansas City may have the buildings Rev, but where can a city offer anything like that"
"My God," the Rev muttered under his breath. What beheld the eyes of this city bred Rev was an awesome spectacle. Nature had painted a picture that astonished the Rev with its beauty. Valleys passed by the men in the last hours now intermingled with streams, grass laden valleys as far as the eyes allowed one to see. The Rev temporarily forgot the pain of his juvenile saddle sores. He was overcome with a feeling of closeness to his spirituality.
The summit of the mountain was reached and the Fort would be reached from the valley below that now seemed to be enticing the horses for a feed of the lush grasses, the horses sensed this and all manner of haste was apparent in their eager strides. The Rev laughed at this and stroked his mare realizing her excitement to eat from the valley floor.
The horses were allowed to feed but the Sergeant would not allow them to overeat, as the juices from the rich grasses would make their bellies swell and cramp up. The Rev realized how much he did not know, even in matters of feeding of the horses. The Rev had dismounted from his mare and was walking about in a manner that suggested the saddle sores were giving him discomfort.
Crook noticed the Reverend's obvious discomfort and pulled a hessian cloth from his saddleback.
"Can't allow you Rev to meet the Captain walking like a turkey." and tying the ends of the cloth into a crude pocket shape the young Trooper filled it with the cool grass that abundantly grew.
The Sergeant and Boone looked on trying to stifle their laughter as Crook placed the makeshift cushion onto the Reverend's mare's saddle.
"That should do the job for you and give ease to your buttocks," said the young Trooper with some pride.
The Rev looked at Crook and smiled. Graciously accepting the young Troopers offer to leg him up, as the grimaces of pain were now apparent on his face for all to see.
Shuffling his rear end into the hessian cushion the Rev moaned with such relief the soldiers all laughed at the Rev.
Looking at the young Trooper mounting his horse the Rev without hesitation thanked the young Trooper for his kindness.
"Your cushion Daniel is like sitting on a cloud. My bottom is in Heaven thanks to you."
Laughter again came from all the men.
The valley was almost behind the men now and ahead was a lightly timbered forest. The Cavalry Fort could be made out through the trees and the horses, realizing this meant water and food and a brush down became a little more exuberant to reach the comforts of the Fort. The Cavalry cared greatly for their horses and the Troopers had strong bonds and kindness for these essential animals.
The trees of the forest cleared way, and the Fort was now no more than one mile from the men. The terrain was now cleared and the Fort looked formidable. The Rev gazed at the sheer size and the human endeavor it must have taken to build such a structure in the middle of nowhere. The outer timber walls alone he thought would have taken a small forest to erect; he was clearly impressed by what he saw.
The Bugler could be heard from the Fort to indicate riders were now approaching.
"How uncomfortable are you in the saddle Rev?" asked the Sergeant looking slightly down as his huge bay was a few hands higher than the Rev's mount.
The other two troopers looked at one another and smiled in anticipation.
"The young trooper has remedied that concern obsolete, thank you Sergeant. I feel that my rear end has been reborn."
The Sergeant looked at the two troopers, seeing their smiles and then back to the Reverend still laughing off the Rev's comment.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A Saddlebag Preacher's Story"
Copyright © 2019 John Fisher.
Excerpted by permission of PartridgeSG.
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