Guns and Roses in the Rockies

March 6th, 2011

(I wrote this several years ago, because I know that government is the biggest, worst gang of thugs in the country, and because I know that kindly women, pushed to their limit, can and will protect themselves against thugs, even those wearing badges—maybe especially against those wearing badges. IMJ)

Guns and Roses in the Rockies
A short story from the Granny Gulch Series

In a small community in the foothills of the Rockies lived a group fifteen  feisty and fiercely independent elderly women, each occupying her own little rough cabin, each tending her own plot of ground, although the crops varied from cabin to cabin.

None of these women were younger than seventy, and all had wise eyes that had seen much of the world and its good and evil. Each owned her small plot of ground, having acquired the right to live upon her own land through trade of various kinds. The larger town was long abandoned, but their community was still a lively one.

One woman had been a storekeeper for the early tie hack camps, and had put by a dollar a month until she converted those hoarded bits to gold pieces. When she married, she and her newly-freed husband purchased a dab of land on trade from the local tribe, and over the years, had spent their time when not working in the store building up a nice, snug cabin.

Another woman had taken in the laundry and mending of the long-gone tie hacks, and had hoarded her coins as well, until she fell in love with a drover and they settled down to keep company for the rest of their lives.

A third woman had been a belle and a flirt, and her chosen line of work had paid her well, as women were scarce in the rough timber camp. When she married the camp cook, she also acquired his three children and a small garden patch behind a cabin—the cabin sorely in need of a year of cleaning. She, a versatile and good-natured madam, was up to the task.

Another woman had been the local distiller. Her Scots husband had brought barley with him from the Highlands, and planted it in the small fields watered by mountain snow melt.  After learning that there were other things to eat in this new land, she discovered that with a bit of work, the added value of pouring long-changed barley into glass jars for sale to the camps and taverns provided her with a good life. This was after her husband had been trampled to death by a runaway team of coach horses he had attempted to halt.

Each of the fifteen women had a skill and trade to share with the others, and their voluntary trading kept them all comfortable and safe in their small community, among the long-abandoned larger structures. With their memories and company, they had a happy and peaceful life there in their beloved mountains.

One day, they looked down the dusty road to see a handsome man on a beautiful dun gelding riding up to their little remote community. Dressed in gray, he sported a silver badge on his coat.

All the women advanced to their front porches, staring with welcoming smiles at this unexpected visitor, for few ventured up to this tiny remnant of former times, and fewer still came well dressed and so handsome. As the man dismounted form his horse, he asked to speak to Mrs. Hegwood, and she stepped forward, thinking it must be some news, carried by a passing traveler,arriving from her distant daughter, now living far off with her husband in a large town in another state.

But no: instead, he pulled from his inside coat pocket a bit of paper, and handed it to her, while informing her that she had twenty-four hours to clear her personal effects from her home, as the cabin and ground would be sold at auction in a few days for unpaid taxes. Little did the women know that the successful bidder on tax auctions was this man’s cousin, recently retired as tax assessor after many years of unremittingly raising the land taxes of remote landholders. Such parcels brought good money from rich dudes and developers who lived second-hand off of government plunder and theft.

As Mrs. Hegwood began to cry, the retired madam rushed to comfort her, and offered to return to her home to bring over packing materials and assist in the effort to gather up photos, hairpins and such. The madam raised her eyes to the other women, all struck dumb with shock and fear, all realizing they had never paid taxes nor received any notice, but knowing that such seizures were possible and considered “legal” under “government.”

“Go, all of you, and gather your personal packing materials and come back and let us help our dear friend!  There isn’t much time, and we must all work together!” Slowly, one by one, the other women nodded and made their way back to their cabins. In a few minutes, they returned, each carrying a basket, box, carton or sack, each laden with their share of packing materials and grim faces.

As the handsome man in gray settled in the cabin’s sole rocker, the women sidled into the small structure, each nodding politely and with apparent fear as they entered the door.

Once inside, however, a small woman of eighty-three quickly went to the stove and poured a fresh cup of hot coffee for the man, and took it out to him, where she remained.  The two chatted while he sat, the man in gray not offering her the only seat, his hat tilted back but not removed.

The others, wasting no time, quickly drew out from the packing materials their respective hand guns, and checked for full loads, although had any of them found an empty chamber, all would have been shocked at the carelessness.

“We can’t all miss, even if our hands are shaking,” said Mrs. DuBose, the retired shop keeper, “this is a simple recipe, just the basic Three Esses – 3 Ss – and although others may follow, they will have no proof he ever arrived.”

As the women stepped out to the cabin porch, each hid her weapon in the folds of her apron or calico dress. When Mrs. MacGregor, the barley farmer, said the word recipe, the man in gray fell off the porch with thirteen holes riddled through his frame. The blood soaked into the ground, where it would soon be spaded for a late-planted rose bush.

Across the hills, the echoes of the gunshots died slowly, but such noises were both common and expected in this part of the country. Hauling out shovels, a small wheelbarrow and several beautifully-honed axes, several of the women loaded the gray-clad body and headed downhill for the ham and bacon farm of Mrs. Black.

Two women stayed to turn the earth to receive a rose bush that would be transplanted  from a cabin further up the path. More digging would take place at  scattered intervals along the community pathways. Other, deeper pits in the woods would later receive any shards of bone left after the hogs finished their grisly meal.

“We have all done it,” said Mrs. Hegwood, “and I thank you, for if we do not stand together against tyranny and thugs, they will mow us down one by one. Property rights must be protected by the community, or no property rights are safe.”

“Yes,” chimed in Mrs. Black, wiping her hands on her apron after a rinse at the well, “government is always the thug, and we need only stand together to keep our individual property rights safe from trespass and seizure. I like this simple recipe we thought up those many years ago, the first time they sent someone to take our homes – the three Esses – Shoot, Shovel and Shut up.   How many has it been so far? Not more than ten, I think. We may need to order more rose bushes soon. I’m going to go finish baking my cookies.”

Iloilo M. Jones, January 31, 2004

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