Boot Hill: El camino del Diablo

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Old Earl dishes up some stew and remarks to one and all, "Eat while the eatin's good! I'm just sorely sorry I got nothing but water for you to wash it down with."

To Eli in a whisper: "And I sure am sorely curious to know what all is in that box! But don't tell me or I may be tempted to run off to Frisco with it!" And aloud, "Say, Eli, I sure wish you'd play us a song or two. I got a gitfiddle lyin' around in t'other room with all six strings, just needs tunin'. Fella passin' through traded me for a pick and a shovel and said he was making his way to his placer claim up in Pima Canyon in them Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson."
 
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Boone thinks to himself 'At least these two fellas seem basically honorable.'.

''Remind me to look you two up should I ever need someone I can trust to look after somethin'.' he tells Eli and Steve.
 

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"This is fine fare, Mr. Earl! Would anyone care for a measure of gin? Speaking of which, please remind me to discuss provisions with you before we disembark," says Oliver.

He continues, "Surely, Mr. Earl, you must hear a great deal of interesting news at this outpost. Any tidings of Tuscon? Not that I'm picky where news is concerned..."
 

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"I hear some Englishman is setting up to start him a newspaper!" Old Earl replies. "Don't that beat all? Half the folks in Tucson can't read and the other half got no money anyway and the third half is dead set against him 'cause newspapers mean stirring up trouble! I also got word there may be a range war brewin' betwixt and between some of the big outfits. I hear Old Man Lester died and the Lazy Y and the Boxed B outfits was figurin' on moving in on his range." He slaps his knee and laughs. "Guess they didn't figure on him willing all his L-Bar land to some nephew they never heard of!"

Eli and Steve notice Oliver trying to subtly catch their attention by way of hand signals: "Why don't we three find that guitar?" He winks and nods his head toward the next room.
 
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Eli tips his cap to Boone in appreciation, but is distracted by Old Earl's comments. "Earl, have you heard where this nephew of Lester's is moving in from?"
 

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Eli tips his cap to Boone in appreciation, but is distracted by Old Earl's comments. "Earl, have you heard where this nephew of Lester's is moving in from?"

Travis Beck steps up with hat in hand and laughs, saying, "I, sir, am that nephew. My name is Travis Beck. Glad to meet you."
 

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"Mr. Beck. Name is Eli Johnson. Looks like you'll have your hands full when you get to Tucson." He notices Oliver hand signals and moves towards the door with a nod. "Pardon us for a few." He follows the man into the next room.
 

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Boone chuckles 'I figured it was you Beck! '

Boone notices the others leaving and his exclusive. 'Enjoy the food. There's probably o money in whatever those fools have going on' he thinks while enjoying the food.
'Mrs Beck did you grow up in these parts? 'asks Boone
 

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Boone chuckles 'I figured it was you Beck! '

Boone notices the others leaving and his exclusive. 'Enjoy the food. There's probably o money in whatever those fools have going on' he thinks while enjoying the food.
'Mrs Beck did you grow up in these parts? 'asks Boone

"Not far from here." She smiles and volunteers, "My father has a prosperous vineyard near Caborca and does a great deal of business in Santa Fe. He also recently acquired from Señor Lester a half-share in the L-Bar near Tucson." Blushing slightly, she adds, "Sometimes I believe his goal is to reacquire all the lands ceded to the Americans after the war."
el_camino_del_diablo_map.jpg
a7m1.jpg
 

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"Mr. Johnson, as I understand the situation we are in, it looks like you could use some help protecting this lockbox. I am both an agent of the Federal government and a Pinkerton's man, and I think I can be of assistance." Oliver produces his identification for Eli, handing them over.

OIiver begins, "Part of my duty for this new Department of Justice is to act as a force of law and order here in the frontier. So I'm pre-disposed to lend you boys a hand."

"But your country needs you, too," continues Oliver. "I could use the help of at least one man for a confidential mission that will take us straight back to Fort Yuma. So before I tell you more, do you think you might be interested, and is at least one of you even available to assist me in return?"
 

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Meanwhile in the main room, Travis Beck says to Boone, "So, Mr. Boone, what are your plans in Tucson? I hear a ranch can always use hands if you're looking for work, ain't that right, Reuben?"

Sanford nods, "A good hand is hard to come by. A good hand who knows how to handle shooting irons is even harder."

Juanita Beck interjects, "Oh, do you really think there will be shooting? We own that land legally without question!"

Travis Beck shrugs and says, "Well, the law don't mean a lot where lawmen are few and far between. How about a game of cards?"
 

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Boone shuffles the cards and responds "I appreciate the job offer. I'm a travelin man Mr Beck. I figured the Lord made a big world to be seen not to just have a man sit in one place. That kind of travelling necessitates working a lot o' jobs including some ranch work."
Boone looks to see who's in for a hand and begins dealing.
He continues "With regards to the rougher parts of life, the good Lord saw fit to grant me with a strong body, a quick draw and respectable aim. I've been in a scrape or two but my daddy always told me don't go looking for trouble, it'll come find you often enough without you needing to help. I've found that to be good counsel."

Looking at his hand quickly he responds to Mrs Beck "The law and lawmen didn't come about because men could be counted on to always be reasonable and peacefully. If this ranch a worth anything to you someone will come along to see how badly you want to keep it. That's just the way of the world. "

He finishes by addressing Mr Beck "If we're all still friends at the end of this trip, and I sincerely hope we are, I'd be happy to help out at your ranch. I had no definite plans in any case so once again providence has smiled on me. I seems rude not to smile back wouldn't you agree?"
 
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He finishes by addressing Mr Beck "If we're all still friends at the end of this trip, and I sincerely hope we are, I'd be happy to help out at your ranch. I had no definite plans in any case so once again providence has smiled on me. I seems rude not to smile back wouldn't you agree?"

Mr. Beck nods his agreement and affirms, "I always set store by Providence. It's nothing but plum luck that led me to Juanita and a hunnerd thousand acres of grazing land. I hear the neighbors are ornery about the whole thing, so any man willing to ride with me will get top wages. Now deal those cards and let's see if my luck holds!"

"I got half a mind to quit Wells Fargo and take you up on that offer, Mr. Beck," says Zeke. "Deal me in."

"Don't mind if I play a hand or two," says Old Earl. "Just don't clean me out."

Reuben merely watches, and of course a lady wouldn't be interested in gambling thinks Mrs. Beck if her expression is any indication.
 

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Cards are dealt, discarded, and drawn.

Marcus: QC, JC, JD, JS, 10C
Travis: AC, AH, 10D, 5D, 3S
Zeke: AD, AS, 6C, 5H, 4H
Earl: QD, 9D, 8H, 8S, 3H

Everyone gets a respectable hand, but Marcus comes out on top with three Jacks and wins $3. Another hand?

[I'm assuming bets are still $1 unless I hear otherwise.]
 
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Eli raises one of his eyebrows as he looks at Oliver's credentials. "Looks might official to me." He hands them back to the agent. "I'm interested in hearing what this mission might be."
 

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Cards are dealt, discarded, and drawn.

Marcus: QC, JC, JD, JS, 10C
Travis: AC, AH, 10D, 5D, 3S
Zeke: AD, AS, 6C, 5H, 4H
Earl: QD, 9D, 8H, 8S, 3H

Everyone gets a respectable hand, but Marcus comes out on top with three Jacks and wins $3. Another hand?

[I'm assuming bets are still $1 unless I hear otherwise.]
Markus smiles and deals another hand to any interested players.
 

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Cards are dealt, discarded, and drawn.

Marcus: KH, KS, 8C, 8D, 4S
Zeke: AD, QD, QH, 5C, 3H
Earl: AH, 10S, 9D, 9S, 5S
Travis: AS, KC, JD, 10H, 3D

Travis appears to be triumphant until he reveals his last card and it becomes clear he was hoping for an ace-high straight but instead came up with a big fat nothing. Earl disgustedly spits a resounding wad of wet chaw into the nearby spittoon. Marcus prevails with two pair and takes another pot, up another $3.

Zeke comments, "My luck's got to kick in sometime! Deal!"

Another hand?
 
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Oliver purses his lips thoughtfully as if to make a quick decision of importance. "I been tasked with escorting a dangerous prisoner back to Fort Yuma. This desperado goes by the name of El Asesino, and he's the leader of a gang of men not unlike those half-baked banditos we ran across this afternoon."

Oliver leans back. "They got themselves a reputation, and they were only able to spare me a single man from Tuscon to watch my back. That might be enough, but you never can be too careful. Unfortunately, the paper pushers in Washington don't give me a budget for a full security detail, so I have to get creative trading service-for-service," he continues, wryly.

"So what do you say? We can start tonight by setting up some much-needed watches."
 

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Markus deals another hand.

Cards are dealt, discarded, and drawn.

Zeke: AC, AD, KD, QC, 10H
Marcus: QD, QS, 10S, 9S, 2D
Earl: JS, 9C, 8D, 8S, 7H
Travis: 9D, 8H, 6H, 5C, 5D

Amazingly everyone is dealt a pair. Zeke comes out on top with a pair of aces, closely followed by Marcus with a matching set of ladies. Zeke grins big as he collects the pot. "I told you my luck was bound to come up clovers!"

Another hand?
 

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Oliver purses his lips thoughtfully as if to make a quick decision of importance. "I been tasked with escorting a dangerous prisoner back to Fort Yuma. This desperado goes by the name of El Asesino, and he's the leader of a gang of men not unlike those half-baked banditos we ran across this afternoon."

Oliver leans back. "They got themselves a reputation, and they were only able to spare me a single man from Tuscon to watch my back. That might be enough, but you never can be too careful. Unfortunately, the paper pushers in Washington don't give me a budget for a full security detail, so I have to get creative trading service-for-service," he continues, wryly.

"So what do you say? We can start tonight by setting up some much-needed watches."

[Taking over Steve as an NPC for the foreseeable future...]

Private Anderson replies, "I'm always happy to cooperate with the government. I reckon you're the fellow Corporal Lewis said I'd be working with, but that was supposed to be on the way back from Tucson. I'm sure there'd be no objection to working with you now as well."
 

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Oliver chuckles ruefully. "Just my luck that I strike a deal with a man for what he's already bound to provide. I suppose we're comrades and I better help you with this lockbox matter anyways."

Oliver extends his hand. "It's nice to have everything out in the open, Private Anderson. Shall we rejoin the others?"
 

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Steve shakes Oliver's hand and remarks, "Rumor around Fort Yuma is El Asesino dismembered Lieutenant Guthrie like he was gelding a horse for making time with his girl...I expect any sentence at his court martial is a foregone conclusion..." as they reenter the main room to find a poker game in progress between Boone, Zeke, Beck, and Earl while Sanford and Mrs. Beck sit off to one side and quietly discuss ranch business.
 

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(If there's anything else you guys want to do or discuss before leaving the stage stop, feel free; if not, I'll make a couple of random encounter rolls and move the stagecoach further east on the trail to Tucson.)
 

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(If there's anything else you guys want to do or discuss before leaving the stage stop, feel free; if not, I'll make a couple of random encounter rolls and move the stagecoach further east on the trail to Tucson.)

(Git along little doggie)
 

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Oliver would actually like to buy a couple more bottles of booze from Old Earl if possible. He's starting to realize he may not have packed enough.
 

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Old Earl dishes up some stew and remarks to one and all, "Eat while the eatin's good! I'm just sorely sorry I got nothing but water for you to wash it down with."

When Oliver inquires about the possibility of buying a couple of bottles of booze from him, Old Earl apologetically say, "Sorry, hoss, you must not of heard me say before I got nothin' but water or I would've offered it up with the grub. I was kind of hopin' to be able to get a bottle from one of you all. Your best bet is Tucson."
 

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"Shucks, Earl, you've been such a kind host, the least I can do is leave you with the balance of the gin. I wish I could do more but as you see, I'm running dry myself."

Oliver does his best to swallow his misgivings about doing so; he's learned that goodwill is a precious coin in the hinterlands.

(Ready to shove off!)
 

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After a few hours of rest, you find Old Earl has changed teams on your stagecoach and greased the hub of each wheel and axle with leftover meat greases and tallow, and poured the surplus lubricant into an ox-horn container that he has looped with a chain and mounted over the rear axle to be ready if needed during the long ride to Tucson. Old Earl passes up a basket of jerked beef and biscuits to see you off and says, "Look up my cousin Jenny if you're ever hard up in Tucson. Give her my name and she'll stake ya to some grub and a place to sleep for a few nights, but she don't like loafers and freeloaders so you'd best not wear out your welcome. I also got a nephew out thataway working a silver vein roundabout Pima Canyon who's always lookin' for a hard working man if you ever need a job. Claims he done found the Lost Dutchman Mine. Maybe so, maybe not, but either way he's got some silver and gold."

The stagecoach rapidly picks up speed descending the decline from Guadalupe Station back to the main trail, and also as rapidly the morning sun appears a white-hot blaze over the purple-blue Santa Rita Mountains to the east, casting light into a shimmering gold sky.
2d34558200d65b0b5df4b4eb4240312b.jpg

Soon your destination leads you away from the original el camino del Diablo that turns southward across the border into Mexico, way down to Caborca near el Golfo de California, passing through, if anything, even more inhospitable country, where the only source of water is the altas tinajas up in the mountainsides, natural tanks where the occasional rain forms pools known only to the Apache, wild animals, and a handful of white men who have dared to brave the desert and learn from the Indians. Your stone-scattered, uneven trail continues east from the fork and soon the Santa Rita Mountains begin to loom ever larger before you as you close the distance. The clippety-clop of your horses' hooves on the trail seem interminable under the scorching heat, the trail dust drying out your nostrils and eyes as the hours pass and set nerves on edge to the point that you almost wish for an Apache ambush just to break up the monotony.

As morning phases to afternoon, but vast black clouds begin to roll in from the west, overtaking you with a cool wind and casting dark shadows over the landscape. The amiable smell of petrichor permeates the air and warns of the coming rainstorm, capriciously early in the summer for the Sonoran Desert. You hear the brontide of distant thunder and lightning flashes in the sky over the mountaintops and almost immediately the coach begins to be pelted with hard, fast rain, and in moments you're drenched and the trail is turning to mud.
491ba81662c4b12903444b931bf37d8e.jpg

You're about seventy miles from Tucson, rattling over the rough road in the rain as the afternoon begins to fade into evening, when the front left wagon wheel begins to make a crunching, cracking noise, the sound of wood breaking against stone or metal, and the coach begins to pitch and lurch to the left. Drawing rein, fearing the worst, you bring the stagecoach to an abrupt stop to survey the damage, your work illuminated by nearly nonstop lightning strikes as the desert descends into darkness.
cGlBGng.jpg
 

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"Can't say I like the lightning but the good Lord sure knows how to put on a show." Marcus says to no one looking out the window. Thinking it might rain Marcus thinks about what he might have that could be used to collect a little more water.
 

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"Can't say I like the lightning but the good Lord sure knows how to put on a show." Marcus says to no one looking out the window. Thinking it might rain Marcus thinks about what he might have that could be used to collect a little more water.

It's already raining on Eli, Zeke, and Steve as they have no cover. Inside the coach it's relatively dry due to the oiled leather curtains on either side meant to keep out dust and rain and wind. You've got your canteen and there are probably a couple of empty bottles rolling about from Oliver and the other passengers. Marcus would also have heard the wheel noise and felt the abrupt halting of the coach.
 

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Oliver peers out the window - he's heard stories about storms like these. Is the coach on high or low ground at the moment?
 

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Oliver peers out the window - he's heard stories about storms like these. Is the coach on high or low ground at the moment?
Definitely low-lying land in a flat between mountain ranges, approaching the foothills of Sierra Santa Rita. A good place for a flash flood if it rains that much.
 
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Oliver sighs - he was about to reach for his precious bourbon. He's starting to think that he should drink the good stuff while he has a chance.

"We're going to need to get to higher ground, gentlemen! We're in flood territory at the moment!" he hollers into the storm.
 

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"Zeke, keep an eye out. I'm going to take a look and see what the problem is." Eli steps down and takes a look to see what the damage is.
 

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Zeke readies his shotgun and looks around in the limited visibility cause by the rain and shadows. Not much can be seen more than twenty feet off. Eli checks the coach wheels and finds the flat steel tire on the front left wagon wheel has twisted and the wooden felloes has cracked around three of the spokes. Hammering out the tire with any hard object would not be too difficult, but replacing the felloes is impossible; the best you can hope for is to tie it up tight with whatever materials you can come up with and hope it holds fast to the tire and the rest of the wheel as you travel. If it works, the ride will be even bumpier than before but at least you won't be on foot seventy miles out from Tucson. The alternative would be to head back to Guadalupe Station for higher quality parts and repairs.

Private Anderson hesitantly remarks, "I could ride back or ahead for help..."
 

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Eli grimaces after looking at the wheel. "Well, that makes things a little more difficult." He walks back the coach and talks to the passengers. "Well, folks, we have a wheel out of whack and we'll need to head back to Guadalupe Station to see if Old Earl can help us with some repairs. I'll have to hammer out the tire and try to get us on our way soon." He looks at Anderson. "I think it best we travel back together for now. If the wheel gives out again, then you can ride for the station." He goes about hammering the wheel with whatever he can find available.
 

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There aren't any tools in the coach aside from a jack due to the weight and cost of such items, but looking around Eli can see plenty of stones of various shapes and sizes that should serve as an extempore hammer. Eli's going to need someone to help him unload the heavy "finger-masher," as they called them, from the rear boot and set it up under the coach so the wheel can be raised about an inch off the muddy ground, and then to hold the wheel steady so it doesn't spin while he hammers, or else he can hold it steady while someone else does the hammering.
s-l1000.jpg
 

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Eliot sighs heavily. The bourbon will have to wait.

"You need some help? Never done this before but I can follow instructions..."
 

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Marcus listens to what's going on and decides he's got nothing to add regarding the wheel.
'Well if there's any chance werwe all goin to be doing some serious walking I'd suggest we gather as much water as we can while we can. If you all have containers I'll get out and collect us some.' He tells the group.

After he gathers any and all containers he'll get out and collect water as best he can.
 
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