In My Dreams
Elk Meadow, Colorado1892
I have tried to forget, tried to move on, tried very hard to put it in my past. I can't.
I am sitting here at my table, re-reading a two week old newspaper, unwilling to believe the story, not wanting to accept the words as truth.
Neither of the men in the headline deserved what fate had in store for them. Jed "Kid" Curry and Hannibal Heyes had been killed trying to stop a bank robbery.
A tear falls from my red-rimmed, bloodshot brown eyes and a sob catches in my throat. I want to scream and wail at the unfairness of life. I want to find a reason to smile again.
The robbery happened in Pittstown, Colorado. They were going to Denver to see Clementine and had planned to pass through Pittstown on the way.
Four horsemen rode up in front of the First Union Federated Bank. Three went inside. Before it was over, two tellers were dead, two were severely wounded; four customers had been shot, one died later that day, two others the next. The deputy was shot in the chest as he crossed the street.
Heyes had tried to go around the side of the bank; he was found lying face down in a puddle of blood. Curry was found outside the back door, shot once in the chest.
The sheriff and a U.S. Marshal were shocked by the ferocity of the violence, according to the article. Sheriff Dawkins recognized both Heyes and Curry because he had tried to hire them both to be deputies just months earlier.
I sat at the table for hours. Darkness had long ago descended outside. I hadn't even bothered to light a candle or lamp. The fire in the cookstove went out some time ago. I was lost in a deep dark swirling pit of memories and dreams. Memories of the last few months spent in utter happiness, dreaming of a future with my new husband, Jed Curry.
The dog growled and startled me out of my fog. I hadn't heard the horses until they were well inside the yard. I felt fear creeping its tendrils all around me; I swallowed hard and grabbed the two canteens and sack of food that had accompanied me on my trip into town today. I grabbed up the rifle and disappeared into the bedroom as I heard the footsteps on the porch.
I knew better than to try to climb out the window. It was a bad idea, especially when I had no idea how many were outside. I dove under the bed and slid the door open for the safe hole. I lowered the canteens and food down, shimmied myself partly over the edge and then grabbed my shotgun from the floor near the head of the bed.
I had a shotgun, a rifle, a pistol and lots of rounds. Jed taught me to shoot, not to miss. He taught me the difference between survival and death is often only a second or two of hesitation.
I pulled the door over and slid it into place very quietly. I would be plenty safe. I heard muffled voices and retreated into a dug-out side tunnel of the safe hole.
Again, I was safe thanks to Jed and Heyes. They helped me dig out one side tunnel, and I dug out the other one myself after they had gone. I had kept it well stocked. Jed told me to keep extra shells in a good box down here and explained that an empty gun isn't as helpful as one that has extra rounds. (I kept lots of extra rounds per gun down here.)
I took the chance and crept back to the trap door for my safe hole. I wanted to secure it. There were four locks on it, one on each side. I held my breath and listened. It was quiet and I knew I had to risk it. The bolts went into place perfectly and quietly.
If need be, I could stay where I was for a few days. In the far side tunnel I could risk a bit of candle light. The dog would be fine outside, the horse was in the far corral with plenty of grass, water and shelter. Our few head of stock were in the west meadow. A few days would be hard on me, but I could do it. I love sunshine and that is what I would crave the most.
I fell asleep sometime during the next couple of hours. I almost panicked when I woke up until I remembered where I was and why.
I went over to the trap door and listened; again I heard muffled voices, louder than before, but still muffled. I retreated again, to the first side tunnel this time.
This side tunnel was where I had kept most of my supplies, the ammunition, and cans and jars of food. I groped about and found my jar of beef jerky. I hoped it was still good to eat, as I couldn't see if it had turned or (Heaven forbid) molded. God must have been watching over me because the jerky was delicious. I put the jar down and made my way back to the farthest part of my space; farthest away from the trapdoor, farthest away from danger.
I chewed on my jerky for awhile and reached for my canteen. The water was warm but still good. I knew I had to be careful and ration it, but I was pretty sure that I could do it.
I fell asleep again after a few hours. There wasn't much else to do in the inky darkness. I hated to light my candles, because I knew that I was safer in the dark.
Again I awoke, but this time there was a noise. Someone was sliding something across the floor. Across the floor in my bedroom. That scared me more than anything else could.
I grabbed some candles and my shotgun and went to the first side tunnel. I kept the shotgun in my hand as I went back for my canteens and food sack. I knew I had plenty of dried and canned food in the tunnel, but I had biscuits and apples in the sack.
I made it back just in time as the door rattled. Whoever was up there had found it and now wanted it open.
Again, fear wrapped cold fingers around my heart, but this time I needed to stay calm. I needed to think and hide.
The crates and barrels had been stacked and arranged so that it looked like they touched the back wall but in truth I had left myself a good sized crawl space. It wasn't much, but I had to try. I pushed everything into the space in front of me and then pulled a crate into place to cover my only exit.
I closed my eyes and begged God to spare me or else give me the courage to kill myself if I needed to. I didn't want any man to ever touch me again, because no man could ever take Jed's place. I swallowed a scream as I heard the wood splinter and the door get lifted away.
"Darlin'? Darlin' are you there?" The voice calling out to me calmed me down. It sounded like Jed's. I almost answered, but caught myself by remembering that Jed was gone.
Somebody was in my safe hole now. I heard the stones crunch at the bottom of the drop. I watched and saw a light flicker against the walls and knew I was in big trouble.
"Darlin'? Please honey, it's Jed. Just answer me. I just need to know that you're okay."
I clamped my jaws tight as a new wave of terror threatened to over power me. I peeked out as the room got brighter. It was a terrifying thought that I wasn't safe, that someone was in my safe hole with me.
"Holy...," the voice was shocked. "Heyes!! Heyes, you need to come down here!"
"Kid!" I heard Heyes yell as he dropped to the floor of my safe hole. He whistled softly as he looked at the crates and barrels of my now useless barrier. Useless because my own level of terror and fear had overcome any last rational thought.
"There's enough ammunition here to have your own small war." Jed'svoice sounded hollow.
"And even some foodstuffs. She did good, Kid. Missy did real good, " Heyes kept his voice quiet.
"Missy? Honey, where are you?" Jed had raised his voice again and he sounded like the Jed that I had fallen in love with.
I suddenly felt a calm blanket wrap itself around me. I decided to risk it. If I was wrong, and it was a hallucination, well, it was a good one.
I moved the crate just enough and then it was being pulled away from me. I crawled out of my hiding place and the Jed pulled me to my feet.
"Are you all right? Missy, honey, please tell me that you're okay?" Worry filled his voice and hung in the air.
I looked into anxious blue eyes and smiled. I nodded and whispered,"Yes." I was half afraid that this was a dream, but his arms felt real as he held me tight.
Elk Canyon, Wyoming - Present Day
I found the few pages and the fragile newsprint tucked into the hidey hole of my Granfather's desk. This was some of the proof he had tried so desperately to find before he died. He really was related to Kid Curry. His Grandmother's name was Missy, well, Melissa Jane Worther and she had always said she was married to Jed "Kid" Curry.
I know the cabin that the pages refer to; I grew up there and loved playing in those tunnels.
I inherited the desk when Grandfather went into the Willow River Elder Care facility last year. The desk had been in his family for several generations.
I looked at the date on the newsprint and knew that Heyes and urry had been granteda full amnesty a year earlier. I knew because I had researched the two former outlaws extensively and wished that I could have met them.
I sighed, I had kept my promise to my beloved Grandfather and not searched the desk until after his funeral, which was yesterday. I long to share this with him, knowing he would have been happier just to have had this much.
I looked out my window at the star-strewn Wyoming sky and saw a shooting star. I made a wish and hoped that somehow, over the vast chasm of time, Grandfather knew about my find.
I turned back to the desk, my desk now, and nodded. I have a small piece to the mystery now. It is enough to keep me working toward solving it.
A knock on the door startles me and my husband comes in to check on me. It has been a long, emotionally draining month for me to watch as the man who raised me fought a losing battle with old age.
I put the papers in the desk and lock it again. For now they are secure, but I know I will hold them again in just hours.
I turn out the light as I follow my husband out of my study. It is late and he insists that I need to try to rest, to try to sleep.
Perhaps, if I am lucky I will dream. And in my dreams, if I am fortunate enough, I will meet Heyes and Curry and ask them where to find the answers.
Caroline written in July 2008