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Ambush at Kansas City - Michelle Tanner Going West - Part One

Ron Lewis

Michelle Tanner - Going West

  Ambush at Kansas City

  #1 In a series of short stories


  Ron Lewis


  License Notes

  © Copyright 2014, 2015, 2017 by Ron Lewis

  Published by Red Kitty’s Publishing

  All Rights Reserved

  Cover Design by Shiloh Young

  This is a work of fiction and not intended to be historically accurate but merely a representation of the times. The names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any similarity to any person living or dead is merely coincidental and unintentional. Historical characters used are strictly for dramatic purposes. This story contains some violence.

  Ambush at Kansas City

  The Western frontier was settled and tamed by bold men and women whose exploits of derring-do reached mythological proportions. Fueled by writers who exploited their deeds in cheap, sensationalized books—the penny-dreadful and the dime-novel published stories by authors who, often, hadn’t even met the person about whom they wrote. They exploded the tales beyond recognition even to the person on whom it was based. One notable, upon reading one of the stories about himself, commented, “It may be the gospel, but I don’t have any recollection of it, a’tall.”

  For a time, a celebrated frontiersman’s legend grew and then declined—usually accompanied by two simultaneous events. Their age advanced and so their exploits declined, along with some new singularly unique individual capturing the nation’s attention. On rare occasions, the declining celebrant tutored the climbing upstart. Such was the case of Joseph Nathan Meeker and Michelle Tanner.

  Sleeps with Bears

  The rain had threatened to fall for several days. Winter was behind them, while summer didn’t yet beat its heat down on them. The north coast of Maine produced a hardy people with a yearning for adventure in their souls. Joseph Nathan Meeker was no different from other young folks from Maine. At fourteen years old, he wanted to see what there was to see.

  Many Maine adventurers turn to the sea. Not Meeker…he possessed a yearning to see what lay to the west. Therefore, it was on a beautiful March morning in 1830 that Meeker’s mother and father watched as he walked out of their life. Walking down the small rock walkway in the front yard of the house, Meeker mounted a horse, his horse, a big bay Morgan.

  Meeker’s father knew he would never see his boy again. Meeker’s mother feared he was far too young for the adventure he set out to find. Having raised him the Maine way, they taught him self-reliance, responsibility, and that he had a right to do whatever he wanted—as long as no one else was harmed by what he did. Having raised him this way, they found it hard to tell him, “You can’t do this.” Even so, he was only a boy of fourteen.

  Meeker’s father argued with him through the nights leading up to his departure. Yelled at him, accused him of breaking his mother’s heart, but in the end, he could not bring himself to say, “No.” They never had, in point of fact, said no to Nate. Always a good boy, Nate never got into trouble. The boy had excelled in school but left school short of where his parents had hoped for him.

  His father had a dream, a foolish one in retrospect. A dream his boy would share law offices with him. This was America, and they were Americans, a rougher cut of human than their ancestors back in England. Somewhat lacking in the social graces, or so it seemed in the 1830’s.

  Nathan rode less than a mile before the rain started to fall; showers fell on him for over one hundred miles. By the fourth day of his trip, he thought the deluge would never quit. Eventually, the rain did stop; the sun shone down on him, improving the mood he was in. Still, he missed his folks. Nate Meeker would never return to Maine in his life. Never again, stand watching the sea from the cliffs less than one hundred yards from the back door of his parent’s’ house. He would write to his mother once a year, and she would write back.

  His father would be dead for more than six months when he received the miserable news. The exchange of letters ended in 1847. He sent his message at the usual time and waited for the response, a response which never arrived. He received a letter from an uncle in 1850 telling him of the death of his mother three years prior. Joseph Nathan Meeker hated letters and telegraphs, for they only fetched you sorrow and sadness.

  The boy went westward, meeting with others with the same intentions as him. As some fortuitous piece of luck would have it, or perhaps the hand of God, Meeker fell in with a hearty, good-natured lot of men. They possessed foul mouths and some hideous habits, but still they were what you would call good men.

  Meeker became a trapper; he learned enough of many of the languages of the Natives he would contend with to communicate. He also learned sign language, which enabled him to talk to almost any member of any tribe. In the year of our Lord 1835, at the ripe old age of twenty, Joseph Nathan Meeker was an experienced trapper and mountain man. The respect afforded him by his fellow hunters and trappers, the company to whom he sold his pelts, and the many Indians he dealt with spoke as much to his temperament as his work ethic. In mid-October of that year, while young Meeker explored a new area he thought he would like to trap, snow fell hard, turning into a blizzard in the twinkling of an eye.

  The storm howled through the mountains; the furious snowfall descended so fast and hard that Meeker could barely see his hand in front of his face. Moving as fast as he could, Meeker searched for some place of safety. At last, he spied an opening in the side of the mountain he was on just as the last rays of sunlight faded and darkness began to cover the land. Riding up to the opening, Meeker dismounted his horse and began to lead the animal into the cave. His horse dug his hooves in while it whinnied and snorted, protesting this decision. Meeker, not wishing to freeze, tethered the animal just outside the cave entrance. Gathering some twigs, sticks, and other firewood, he entered the cave.

  Young Nate busied himself with building a fire. Once the fire was going, he went out to the horse and tried one more time to get the creature inside the cave. The animal put up even more protest.

  “Well, the hell with you, you can freeze to death for all I care,” Meeker yelled, as he took his bedroll and saddlebags into the cave. He huddled up next to the fire while he chewed his jerky. Then he heard the audible soft, snorting sound almost like snoring. An enormous hulk lay on the cave floor only about twenty feet from him. Lifting its massive head, the bear’s eyes opened and she stared at him. The animal peered at the other inhabitant of her cave. Emitting a soft growl, the terrifying creature put a paw up over its eyes to shield them from the glare of the firelight. Laying her massive head down, the beast moved a smidge, settling in to get more comfortable. Soon the sound of snoring filled the cave again.

  To say Meeker was afraid would be wrong; however, he damn near soiled himself. He was firm in his knowledge of just how vulnerable his position was. He wondered whether he should go out and retrieve his rifle from the scabbard. Perhaps his pistols from their holsters hanging from the saddle horn would be a better plan.

  Looking at the slumbering beast, a sense of peace passed over him. Why should I kill her? His presence didn’t particularly bother her. He was not in any particular need of meat at this point. Why should I murder her in her sleep? Some would say his decision was foolish. I’ll just get me some shuteye, rise early in the morning, and be gone. He reasoned that more than likely he was safe. She would hibernate there for the entire winter. At least that was what he thought.

  In the middle of the night, Meeker awoke with a
start, feeling the sting of hot, moist breath blast across his face. Opening his eyes, Meeker was greeted by the sight of the colossal face that stared at him while her enormous paw pushed on his shoulder. Just above her left eye was a jagged scar from some previous adventure. She sniffed him and continued to push. Grasping the handle of his knife, Meeker stared back at her and spoke to her in a calm, soft voice.

  “I’m okay, ‘little lady,’ just sleeping like you.” The bear turned and walked back to her side of the cave. Again, she lay down and waggled about until she was comfortable. Soon her snoring filled his ears, and he drifted back to sleep.

  The next morning Meeker ventured out of the cave and looked at his horse. He stood knee-deep in the snow, still tethered to the tree. The snow was deep and fluffy, and Meeker waded through it to the still-nervous horse. The Morgan pawed the ground through the deep snow, desiring nothing more than to get away from this place.

  “Coward,” he told the beast as he loaded his gear back on the horse. Mounting up, he saw two Lakota dog soldiers looking at him. They stood by the stream, debating between themselves who would wade into the frigid water to catch breakfast. He knew the two men and signed to them, “Good morning!”

  They signed back the same. The big grizzly lumbered out of the cave. The horse tried to bolt, but Meeker kept the reins tight on him, telling him, “Whoa.” The bear held her head high as she rose on her hind legs, letting out a growl at the two men. Then she roared loudly in a threatening manner. She dropped down in the snow on all fours, turned from the couple, and made her way back up the mountain.

  “She’s a friend of mine,” Meeker hollered out to the men. He then signed it and added in sign language, “Leave her alone.”

  One of the Indians grunted out in his native tongue, “Crazy fool, sleeps with bears.” From that day forward, Sleeps with Bears was how Meeker was known to all the tribes. It wouldn’t be the last time Meeker saw these two Lakota dog soldiers or his bear.

  Twenty-Nine Years Later, 1864

  Screaming, whooping, and hollering filled the air. The bloodcurdling yell filled hearts with fear. The Rebel Yell preceded the attack. Rifle balls whizzed through the air; men fell on both sides. It always started that way...that God-awful yell! The dream, or rather a nightmare, invaded a peaceful sleep, shattering his rest. Jerking up in the bed, Meeker looked around the darkened hotel room and realized it was just the dream, well, the nightmare He’d had the same awful dream for over a year now, disrupting his rest. Cold sweat covered his face while a deep fear gripped him hard. All those bodies piled like cordwood, one atop another.

  The fear began to drop as his mind’s eye saw him standing his ground, sword drawn, determined not to break. He smiled, his fear gone just by thinking of the man, Chamberlin. The colonel gave instruction for an assault on advancing Confederate soldiers at Little Round Top. Pride and fear rolled into one memory of a dreadful gambit. Chamberlin led the Maine men in a charge down the slopes of that rocky, steep hill. Their daring maneuver while nearly out of ammunition saved the