The Writer's Corner
Who is Ben Hurt?
Written by Klara's
Micah was an experienced lawman,
who could rely on his instinct and his wits. But the letter his
hand made him feel sick for a moment. He had to do something! He
had to ride out to the ranch and warn them. Right now! His
trembling hands took the shotgun and he checked if it was
loaded. Then he saw a rider coming down the street and
dismounting on the other side of the street. Micah thanked the
Lord and left his office in a hurry. He had to stay calm now, no
“Lucas! I have to talk to you, right now!”
Lucas turned around smiling at his old friend.
“Sure, Micah, what is it?”
Micah was afraid. He knew how Lucas would react in a second
after reading the letter. And he hoped that he could keep his
best friend from doing stupid things.
“Read this …”
The rancher's face became hard. The few sentences on the paper
sparked something that was more than hate and fear, something
Lucas looked down on the old lawman and his voice was like blade
hammered out of steel.
“When was that sent?”
Micah tried to keep his mind together. Now was no time to lose
“I just received it this morning, a couple of minutes ago. It
was brought here by stage. I´ d say that letter needed three
days to be delivered so they can be already close to North Fork.
I was just about riding to your place to tell you. Where is
Lucas shivered. His expression was that of a man who became
aware of the fact that he had made some fatal mistake, something
he could never change again no matter what.
“He is somewhere with the cattle on my land, checking on some
cows with their new-born calves. I sent him there because we
have heard some coyotes last night and so he is out there now on
his own and … it is entirely my fault if they … please Lord …
don't let that happen …”
Micah nodded. Now it was clear. They had to find the boy under
all circumstances and bring him back to safety. Mark was now
fourteen years old and was surely capable of taking care of
himself but that short letter had changed everything. Micah
turned around to get his horse.
“So we better hurry. We have to find Mark before they do.”
The old man looked around and watched the steep walls of the
canyon. It was a mighty unpleasant place to make camp but the
old man seemed to have poise despite the fact that he only had
one arm. The right sleeve of his brown jacket hung empty by his
side. But the left arm seemed enough for him. He spread his
blanket on the sandy ground between the rocks and placed his
saddle as a pillow at one end of it. His brown mare was nibbling
on the desiccated grass nearby.
The old man looked up. His face was covered with hundreds of
wrinkles but the short white beard gave it the flair of dignity
and wisdom. Now the old man's left hand slowly opened the buckle
of his gun belt and put the long-barreled Colt 45 next to his
saddle. Before lying down on the blanket he put some more dry
wood on the fire and soon the nice scent of fresh coffee filled
the air in the narrow canyon. Now he was resting on his blanket
and closed his eyes.
“You can come out now, gentlemen. Coffee is ready. Help
Without lifting his head he seemed to being waiting. Everything
was quite and he was all alone.
“I heard you ten minutes ago when you rode into that canyon. No
need to be shy. If you are hungry I can also offer you some
fresh biscuits. Or maybe you would like one of my cigars. I
brought them all the way from Texas. It's mighty good tobacco I
can assure you.”
Again only the icy wind could be heard as it blew over the white
rocks that covered the ground of the canyon. But now two men
emerged out of the tense bushes below the walls of the canyon,
guns in hand. The old man watched them as they came slowly
closer. Both were able-bodied fellows, tall and handsome,
wearing white hats, black shirts and dusty pants. Each of them
was armed with two revolvers. For a moment they seemed unsure
what to do. The old man raised invitingly his hand.
“You can put those shooting irons away, gentlemen. It's just me.
How about that coffee now?”
The two men looked at each other, before slowly holstering their
guns. One of them was a man in his late forties, lean muscular
and clean shaven. He politely tipped his hat and smiled.
“Thank you, Mister. We didn't expect running into somebody in
here. Mighty grateful for your offer. I am Richard Rover and
that morose fellow over there is my younger brother Ron.”
He pointed to the other man, whose eyes were dark and cold. Ron
was a little smaller than his older brother, but his shoulders
were broader and his voice was much deeper.
“We are the Rover Brothers. Ever heard of us, stranger?”
The old man shook his head. He was still lying on his blanket,
relaxed and calm, enjoying the scent of the coffee on the fire.
The long-barreled gun was lying right next to him. A cold wind
moved over the three travelers like the creepy fingers of a dead
“I hope I don't trigger any open hostilities between us when I
have to tell you that I have never heard of the Rover Brothers
before. But that doesn't mean anything. Be my guests, gentlemen.
You look as you could use a little refreshment. Please sit down.
Come a long way?”
The old man tossed them two tin cups so they could pour
themselves some of the hot beverage.
Richard nodded as he sat down next to the small fire, stretching
his long legs in the grey sand.
“We sure did. We left our horses at the other end of the canyon
when we spotted your camp, sir. But we will soon be on our way
again. Ron is no exactly what you would call a patient man.”
After a few seconds his brother joined him and soon the three
men were drinking the strong coffee. Ron never took an eye off
the one-armed man, gazing at the old man with uneasy suspicion.
While drinking his left hand was always near his beautiful Colt
45 with the expensive buckhorn grip.
“Where are you heading, stranger?”
The old man looked up and after taking another sip of the coffee
he closed his eyes.
“I took the way through that canyon because it's the shortest
way to North Fork. I intend to meet a sodbuster called Lucas
Richard lifted his head and exchanged a swift glance with his
sturdy and taciturn brother.
“It seems to me that you want to do business with that
The old man revealed some of the vim and vigor that once must
had been in him.
“You can call it that. I have two personal scores to settle with
McCain. First of all: I spent a couple of years in prison
because of him and I will never forget that.”
Ron frowned. He put his cup down and his dark eyes looked at the
frail body of the old man.
“Let me guess: the second reason to go there is the loss of your
right arm. That sodbuster is responsible for that too? I would
not be surprised at all, stranger.”
The old man's eyes met his. The howling of a lonesome coyote
could be heard in the distance.
“You are right about that, Mister Rover. Yes, I have to thank
him for that too. That bone in my arm was shattered by a bullet
and it hurt real badly. So I intend to get even with him no
Richard's interest was sparked. He slowly got up and tipped his
hat again. Unlike Ron he seemed a man of good manners. His
handsome face showed a charming smile.
“In that case I would like to have a word with my brother, if
you excuse us, sir. Come with me, Ron.”
The old man didn't answer and closed his eyes again, sinking
back on his blanket.
Richard and Ron walked over to the brown undergrowth that had
hid them a few minutes ago. Here the old man could not hear
their talk. Cool shadow covered their lean bodies under the
white rocks. Now a gust of wind howled over their heads in the
steep cliffs. But it was just a breeze, hardly perceptible. But
almost all tribes of the proud Apache nation had known that
canyon all too well and it was the only place they would have
avoided under all circumstances. Now it was just a weak breeze
and nothing explained the fear of the Indians. Not now …
The brothers looked back to the fire: the old man seemed to be
drowsing on his blanket, thinking of a sodbuster called Lucas
McCain. Again the coyote howled, closer this time. Richard
casually put his palms on the guns at his sides and turned to
his grim brother.
“We will ask him to come with us. An additional gun can be
really helpful. After all we have to deal with the man whose
Winchester is faster than any pistol.”
Ron shook his head, biting his lips. A tender gust of cool wind
was playing with his brown hair under the sweaty hat. Still it
was just a gentle breeze smooth and silent.
“Have you gone completely loco, Richard? I have never believed
all those stories about McCain. There is no way that sodbuster
can be faster than I am. You know very well, how quick on the
draw I am. And now we should rely on some one-armed man who
cannot even hold a gun anymore? You have no pride anymore, I
tell you. You are a stinking yellow coward, that's what you are,
nothing but a disgrace. You have lost your touch if you seek
help from that measly fellow over there.”
Richard scratched his chin as his charming smile disappeared.
That provocation was just too much.
“Ron, I know that you are the fastest gun around. But that is
about all that speaks for you. I am the one in our outfit that
does all the thinking. Remember what mother always used to say:
you were born under a stupid star and so we do things my way as
For a couple of seconds the tension between the two men showed
deep-buried hate that reached back for years. No man liked to be
called stupid and Ron was surely not the man, who took an insult
that easily. Richard knew that and for a second he looked ready
to draw his guns. Ron's hands also touched the holsters at his
side. His deep voice was now like a stone: hard and heavy.
“At least I am not the one who lost her farm at the poker
Richard's eyes revealed his sudden intention to hit his brother
for that unfriendly remark.
“Ron, I told you never to bring that up again. You see: nobody
would expect any danger from a one-armed man so we can use him
as a distraction. If he wants to take on that sodbuster, that's
fine by me. In the meantime we can see our plan through. And if
McCain should really kill him … better him than us, I'd say.
Just think about that. And I tell you: that sodbuster's rifle is
really that fast.”
Ron seemed to contemplate for a moment. Again he looked over to
their host who still seemed to be sleeping near the fire. But
then he had to admit that Richard had a point.
“Alright, we do it your way. I can't wait to get to North Fork.
And once we are there you let me do things my way just like back
in Salinas. I hope you remember that night, Richard.”
Richard nodded gleefully. For a second he could not help
“Salinas was your masterpiece, you are right: one whole family
in less than two minutes. Only you can do such a thing without
batting an eye. You are right: you are the best with any gun and
mother would be proud of you. I need you. You know that, Ron.
With you I take on any sodbuster.”
Richard obviously knew how to handle his ruthless brother. Ron
smiled for the first time but there was no warmth his face. For
a moment his wicked mind remembered that night in Salinas: the
sound of screams came up again, the heat of the blaze and black
smoke that covered the pale moon …
“And no sodbuster will ever stop me from doing what we have
planned. So we take that crazy old-timer with us just as you
say, Richard. Let's see how he can be of use to us.”
Richard playfully slapped his brother like a little boy, showing
how proud he was of him. The old truce between the two hostile
brothers was restored for now.
“Now we are talking, Ron. Come on. We have to finish our
The two men stepped out of the shadow under the weathered rocks
and walked over to the fire. The cool wind refreshed their
faces. Richard Rover smiled once more as the one-armed man
looked up. Richard sat down next to the smoking fire and
refilled his cup again.
“I must say: you make a very fine coffee, sir. It seems to us
that we share certain common interests. That's good. In this
cruel world we have to rely on each other. As a matter of fact
we are also on the way to North Fork and my brother and I would
be most pleased if you could join us.”
“He is not at my place and he is not out here. Where can he be,
Lucas was fighting his tears. Sitting on his sweat-covered horse
he overlooked the lovely landscape from a hill, looking for any
sign of his beloved son. But to no avail: Mark had disappeared
without a trace. Micah was also deeply worried but he tried his
best to keep his feelings under control. Maybe it was his
professional pride as a seasoned lawman to stay calm under all
circumstances. But the situation was more than dire.
“Well, the way I see it, LucasBoy: it's the best we split up. I
go back to town and raise a posse. You ride back to your ranch.
When they try to make their move there you are prepared to
defend your property. Maybe Mark has returned in the meantime.
As soon as I have enough men we come straight to you. Either we
find Mark or them: in any case we have the upper hand.”
Lucas turned around and started shouting.
“The upper hand?! That's easy for you to say! You don't know
what it feels like to be a father! They have already found him.
I can feel it! My son is dead and it's my fault. I was the one
who sent him out to take care of my cattle. And now he is dead!
Go back to town and stay there, Micah! I don't need you! I don't
need anybody! That whole town can go to hell! You can go to
hell! Mark is dead!”
Micah didn't say anything but for a moment he looked at the
Winchester in the hands of his best friend and suddenly he felt
something he had not felt for a long time: fear for his own
“It will take me about two hours before I will be back with the
men, LucasBoy. Until then stay at home and wait for me. You have
stay cool now. And don't you forget: we have one important
advantage: those killers have no idea that we already know about
their arrival. So their element of surprise is gone. We will
take them on before they know what hit them.”
Lucas steadied his breath and wiped the salty sweat from his
forehead. Although it was just early spring it was unusually hot
already. Birds were up in the blue sky and the grass was lush
and green. It was a beautiful day. Lucas lowered his head and
his voice was just a desperate whisper.
“Maybe you are right, Micah. I am … sorry. I didn't mean to …
but I have no idea what I will do … if …”
Micah nodded thoughtfully before turning his horse. Deep inside
he was not at all convinced that he was right. Mark could be
dead by now and he didn't allow himself to think what would
happen when Lucas would found the body. But he knew better than
to tell Lucas about his doubts. The father was worried enough.
But before the lawman galloped down the green hill his friend's
voice stopped him.
“Micah … thank you.”
The old lawman even managed to smile before he rode back to
Mark lied motionless near the creek on his back. Flies were
circling over his face and his bare chest. His eyes were closed.
A crow has spotted the boy while flying over the hills. The
black bird came down and sat on a branch of an old tree a few
meters away. Its dark eyes gazed at the body. But when Mark woke
up the crow left the tree and flew away. The boy yawned. After
taking a short bath in the creek he had felt sleepy. The shadow
under the majestic tree had looked inviting and so he had taken
a nap. Mark looked up to the sun: it was almost noon, time to
get something to eat.
“I hope Pa has already finished his business in town …”
His horse was grazing next to him, enjoying the warmth after the
long winter in the barn. Mark put on his shirt and … he saw the
uncanny figure behind the bushes only when the man started
walking towards him. Mark shadowed his eyes. Mark didn't know
the stranger and since he was all alone he could not help but
feeling a little scared.
“Howdy, … sir.”
“Mark McCain, am I right …?”
Mark didn't answer. Suddenly his tongue was tight. And now an
uncertain fear sank into his heart and he sure wished that his
Pa was with him that very moment.
Hamilton was busy with his ledger, setting the numbers right.
But now everything was in good order again. Lucas would be happy
to hear that the interest on his account had …
Micah rushed into the bank, his shotgun under the arm. Hamilton
looked up and smiled.
“Howdy, Micah. What brings you here? Do you have any idea where
Lucas is? We had an appointment today about his new account and
I wanted to tell him that the bank can grant him even more …”
Micah shook his head. There were surely other things on his
“John, I hereby deputize you as … you know the rest: just raise
your right hand and say: I swear. Come on now. I need you! You
will get one of my extra rifles in the office.”
Hamilton was a true gentleman, honest and polite. Somehow the
citizens of North Fork regarded him a harbinger of the East, a
man of civilization and progress, of law and order. They liked
him and what's more … they trusted him with their hard-earned
money. Hamilton was a man of quick thinking always keeping a
clear head but now the good banker was obviously surprised.
“Well, Marshal, I don't know what to say. You see that I am very
busy. What is going on? You need deputies, you say?”
Micah nodded. He took one of the badges out of the breast pocket
and put it on the desk.
“More than ever! The Rover Brothers are on their way here and
they mean business.”
Hamilton looked down on the badge and then back to the thick
book on his desk.
“Never heard of them. Is somebody planning to hit my bank?”
Micah was tempted to say that money was not everything not even
if you were a banker.
“Worse than that, I am afraid. It happened long before you came
here. We had a serious series of rustling in these parts. Ron
and Richard Rover didn't bother to pay when they were after
somebody's cattle and when they met resistance … well, I helped
burying some of their victims. They were some of the most
ruthless killers I ever saw: totally without any qualm. One
evening they tried to steal horses after shooting three cowboys
in the back to get rid of any witnesses. At least that's what
they figured when they rode off. But there was one witness who
could identify them.”
Now Hamilton was all ears. He tried to ask a question but he
kept listening to Micah's words.
“Mark McCain had hidden behind some rocks and he saw the whole
thing. His observation helped a lot when I lead a posse to catch
up with them. Well, we did and arrested them when they were on
their way to Mexico. First the judge was not sure about hearing
Mark. Mark was a mere boy back then and the jury argued about
that point for quite a while. But the kid's testimony was so
clear and free of all contradictions that it was enough to
sentence those rustlers.”
Hamilton arched an eyebrow. And suddenly he understood why the
old lawman was so excited.
“Well, they were sent to prison but right after the verdict, Ron
came up to Lucas and …”
“Your boy has spoken like a man and like a man he will die when
we come back one day. If he is old enough to testify against us
he is old enough to suffer the consequences. We will kill him as
soon as we are out again. You can rely on that, sodbuster: we
will kill that little brat of yours.”
Hamilton was clearly shocked. Now he could understand. He slowly
closed the ledger. Micah's word sounded like the speech of a
preacher at a funeral: slow, sad and trying to sooth
overwhelming emotions among the mourners. He took a certain
sheet of paper out of his pocket.
“If you know Lucas you can imagine his reaction, John. We needed
three men to hold him back. And now the Rover Brothers are free
as birds again. Their slick lawyer pulled some legal trick and
they were released. I received a letter from the Marshal in
Silverton today and he warned me that they were seen there in
the saloon before heading for North Fork. He could not do
anything against them since they are not wanted there. All he
could do was sending me that letter to warn me. If there was a
telegraph connection between our two towns we could have used
the time to get ready for them but now we have every reason to
believe that they are already out there somewhere. “
Hamilton nodded. He took up the badge and pinned it to his grey
vest. The ledger was pushed away.
“So that's why Lucas didn't show up here today. Where is Mark
“We have been looking for him all morning but he is gone. We
need to find him before they do”.
His prayer had been in vain. Mark had been not at home when
Lucas had returned to his ranch. Now the towering man was
standing on his porch all alone. His right forefinger touched
the trigger of his Winchester. He tried to think clearly, tried
to remember Micah's comfort. But all his thoughts were
suffocated in tears. Now his knees could not carry the weight of
his body anymore. Lucas sat down on the porch and somehow he
didn't believe that he would ever be able to get up again. He
was so tired and weak and even his rifle failed to give him the
feeling of power. He gathered all his strength and dared to look
at the hills again, praying for any sign of hope. But not a soul
could be seen on the hills around the house: not an armed posse
and most of all not his son …
Again he heard that terrible voices in his head, torturing his
mind like hot blades forged in hell.
(You can rely on that, sodbuster: we will kill that little brat.
He will die as soon as we are free again. We have the upper
hand. Go back to town and stay there, Micah. Go to hell. My son
Lucas closed his burning eyes and started praying again. His
lips moved when he repeated the ancient words over and over
“Our Father, Who art in heaven. Hallowed be Thy Name …”
He was still praying when a rider appeared on the ridge and
galloped down to the ranch and before he could say “Amen” he
heard a timid voice behind that curtain of tears in front of his
Nils, Hamilton and some other citizens had gathered in front of
the Marshal's office, silently talking with each other. Some had
brought their own guns, others were handed a rifle or a pistol.
More and more men joined the posse eager to go on the hunt. Most
of them remembered the ruthless brutality of the Rover Brothers
and now they had the chance to get rid of those dangerous
rustlers once and for all. But all of them shared also Micah's
worries about Mark.
Mark was at a loss: the hug of his father seemed endless and
also a little embarrassing. He was no kid anymore but almost a
man and men don't get hugs and kisses like that. But his Pa
didn't seem to care about a man's pride. Tears were still
running down his face.
“Mark, I was so worried! I thank the Lord that you are alright!
You never go out there alone again! Never! You hear? Thank you,
Finally Lucas released his bewildered son. Mark still could not
understand that weird behavior of his father. Yes, he was late
for lunch and he felt bad about that but his Pays reaction was
“I am sorry, Pa. I didn't want to scare you like that. I fell
asleep and …”
Lucas hugged his son again. All came up again for a horrible
second, sparking new tears:
(Go to hell Micah! My son is dead! It's my fault! He is dead! We
will kill that little brat.)
“Never mind, Mark. Everything is alright now. I love you so
Now Mark had enough. Of course he was happy to hear that but he
also had a story to tell.
“Pa, I met a man out there at the creek. He wanted me to tell
Lucas frowned. With his rifle still in his hands he looked down
on the boy. That whole thing was far from over. The Rover
Brothers were still somewhere out there, ready to strike.
“A man? What did he look like? Did you know him? What did he
They were still out there, two lurking shadows, ready to murder
an innocent child.
(You can rely on that, sodbuster: we will kill that little
“Pa, does the name Ben Hurt mean anything to you?”
“Men, you are all under oath now. You are under my command and
you will faithfully fulfill your duties and follow my orders.
You know who we are after. All of you can remember what those
rustlers did to our town some years ago. And now the life of a
young member of our brave community is at stake as well. I know
I don't say that very often but now I have to: when we catch up
with them: shoot to kill. We move out now and maybe some of us
will not come back.”
Micah's voice had sparked bravery and determination in the
hearts of the 14 men in front of him and nobody would have
questioned his authority. The hunt was on.
But then john Hamilton pointed to the end of the street and all
heads turned in that direction. Two riders appeared there: a
towering man with a Winchester in his hand and his son. When
they dismounted they were surrounded by all their friends. Mark
was surprised by the affection he was greeted with. Hands were
put on his shoulders, encouraging words of relief and happiness
were spoken. One or two ladies even kissed his cheeks and he
blushed. Smiling faces were everywhere.
Lucas looked around, truly touched by all the tokens of
friendship before he turned to Micah.
“Thank you, Micah. Mark could escape them but they are still out
there somewhere. Mark will stay in the hotel until it is over.
From now on I am on my own. There is one thing I have to take
care of and I will do that alone. There is no need to put so
many lives in danger.”
Micah shook his head. Now he spoke with all the authority of the
“I am mighty glad to see you and Mark again. But you should not
go anywhere alone. The danger is not over. And we will bring
them in, dead or alive, although I prefer the later, I must
Lucas nodded. He could understand his friend very well.
“Yes, but that is something that only concerns me. Mark told me
a story and I have to find out what it's all about. I can do
that on my own. I have to deal with that part of my life today.”
All the men of North Fork could hear what he had to say.
“Mister McCain: I have to remind you that I am still the Marshal
of North Fork and I am responsible for the life of all the
citizens here. So you better tell me what's on your mind.”
Mark admired Micah when he spoke his words with great dignity
and authority, true to the letter of the law. And again he
decided to become a lawman one day. His father turned around and
mounted his horse again. When he looked around he saw many men
wearing badges and guns and waiting for new orders.
“Thank you, my friends, that you all were willing to help me to
find Mark. But now I would like you to stay here and take care
of him. Please protect him when I am gone. I will soon be back.
There is something I have to take care of and I will do that on
my own. There is no need that you jeopardize your lives for me.
Many of you have families you have to think of. But our Marshal
is right: he is responsible for my safety so if he decides to
come with me I would appreciate that.”
And all the good people of North Fork watched the two friends
riding out of town.
After an hour of hard riding the two men had reached the
entrance of the narrow canyon that looked like an ugly wound in
the side of the rocky hills. Lucas and Micah stopped their
horses. The old lawman shook his head in disbelief. It was still
pretty hot and salty sweat burned in his eyes.
“So that's the place Mark wanted you to go? I rode once through
that canyon and I don't like the idea to do that again. I
suppose you know how the Apaches called it, LucasBoy?”
Lucas nodded and lifted his rifle. The sun was slowly sinking
behind the barren hills.
“The place where the spirits of the dead dwell.”
Micah remained motionless on his horse but then he slowly pulled
his deadly shotgun out of the scabbard at his saddle. It sure
was good to feel the cold steel in his hands.
“That´s right. You can hear their voices in there, although I
know it is just the wind howling between the rocks. But not even
their medicine men would have gone there. And now of all places
Lucas remembered the many scary stories about that canyon,
stories about hell and damnation.
“Mark told me that I should come here and I fully intend to do
Micah's tried to look into the narrow path between the white
rocks that looked like the skulls and bones of dead Apaches. But
it was too dark in there. All the light was swallowed by the
huge walls of the eerie canyon: a cave full of shadows and
ghosts. Micah shook his head.
“Why? Because some stranger told him? Some man he met at the
creek this morning?”
Lucas looked at his worried friend. None of them really believed
that that canyon was haunted but they felt uneasy and worried.
But Lucas was determined to find out what was hidden in there.
“That was not some stranger, Micah. It was Ben Hurt. He told my
son his name: Ben Hurt. I will never forget that name as long as
Micah shook again his head. Crows were circling above them in
the clear air.
“And who is Ben Hurt?”
The rancher's glance studied the dark entrance to the realm of
“I don't know yet.”
Lucas drove his horse to the weathered rocks and after a moment
of hesitation Micah followed him sighing at the stupid
stubbornness of his best friend …
“Any more apple pie, son?”
“Thanks but I am stuffed now. Mister Hamilton. But it sure was
tasty. Thank you.”
Mark and the banker had spent the last two hours together in the
hotel, having lunch together. Hamilton has closed his office for
the afternoon and enjoyed his time with the Prodigal Customer as
he called his young guest.
“Today it's all on the bank, Mark. We all are so happy that
nothing happened to you today. Micah told me about that trial
and I must say I was pretty impressed by your courage to testify
against those killers. I sure could use an honest and brave man
like you. If you ever need a job you come straight to me, son.”
For a moment Mark was stunned. He had never thought of becoming
a banker. Among all his plans about possible jobs it had never
occurred to him. But now his interest was sparked. That sure was
“Thank you, Mister Hamilton, thank you. My Pa would really like
that, I think.”
The young waitress came over and asked if she should bring
anymore coffee and Mark could not resist. To become a banker …
yes, he sure would like that: all the money he would be
Hamilton smiled. He had entered the restaurant with a customer
and a possible future coworker but suddenly he knew that he
would leave it with a friend.
Normally a man would have appreciated the refreshment of the
cold breeze after such a hot and exhausting day but Micah and
Lucas just shivered as they rode deeper into the barren heart of
the mountain. The cold air was a like a suffocating shroud as
they directed their horses carefully over the rocky ground
between the high walls of the narrow canyon. They constantly
looked around but there was no sign of any danger. Desiccated
trees and thorny shrubs framed their stony path.
Lucas held his rifle in one hand and the reins of his horse in
the other. Micah followed him, prepared for anything. Who was
Ben Hurt? Micah had never heard that name before. Another
killer? He cursed himself for following his friend into that
natural trap. The Rover Brothers were still out there waiting
for their chance. But at least they would not dare to strike a
whole town full with warned and armed citizens. But maybe they
would hit the ranch or …
And now all hell broke loose! The gentle wind turned into a
violent storm within a heartbeat and the terrible howling began.
The two men had troubles to keep their shying horses under
control. The cold wind drove through the canyon and formed
unearthly voices that sounded like human screams, full of
anguish and despair. The chilly air tortured the men like bony
fingers gliding up and down their backs. Yes, now it was more
than obvious: that place was haunted. Lucas looked around and
saw ghostly movements between the rocks, fast and impossible to
grasp and he tried to tell himself that there were just harmless
lizards hiding between the white boulders that looked like human
Yes, of course it was just the wind: a natural phenomenon,
explainable and logical. While he had a hard time driving his
jumpy animal further down the canyon he turned to Micah whose
face was now a dusty mask of exhaustion and fearful concern.
“When this is over I will write a letter to a smart professor at
a university in the East to come here and write some book about
The old man struggled to steady his nervous horse. The animal's
hooves raised grey dust.
“Tell him to bring a priest along so he can say a prayer for all
the poor souls who dwell here.”
Lucas tried to say something but suddenly the wind died away as
fast as it had started. The uncanny howling of the dead voices
faded away. After a moment it was utterly silent and the two men
were all alone again. Micah looked around and his weary glance
moved over the high walls of the spooky canyon around him. His
horse was still nervously nickering. Dust was in the air and
again tiny lizards ran swiftly over the rocks. The dried grass
between the boulders moved with the gentle breeze.
Micah managed to give his voice a serene tone as he gradually
lowered his shotgun.
“It seems to me it is over now. I hear that doesn't happen very
often so we can count ourselves lucky, I guess. The Apaches
showed some good sense to avoid this place. Are you sure that
your mysterious Mister Hurt is worth all that, LucasBoy?”
“I don't know yet, but something tells me that we will find out
Lucas and Micah rode on and after a few minutes the canyon
opened into a narrow valley surrounded by steep cliffs. The
ground was now covered with fine sand and the air was a bit
warmer. The men saw the little demon swiftly disappearing
between the white crags at the same time. Both lifted their guns
but when they heard the angry howling they relaxed.
“That was just some coyote, Micah, so nothing to be worried
about. Come on now.”
But then they saw what had attracted the animal's attention.
Next to the cold ash of an old campfire brown blankets covered
two human figures lying side by side in the trampled sand. The
friends exchanged glances and slowly dismounted. With their guns
in hand they carefully walked over to the lifeless bodies, still
highly alerted. What had happened here?
Lucas lifted up one blanket and looked down on the pale face of
a handsome man. The blood that had run out of the three round
bullet holes on the chest had already dried.
“This is Richard, alright.”
Micah nodded after slowly pulling away the other blanket that
was covered with fine dust.
“And here we have his fine brother. Shot twice right into the
heart at close distance. It seems to me that two more restless
souls will haunt this place for all eternity. They had it
Again the howling of the hungry coyote could be heard somewhere
between the white rocks that resembled human skulls with their
empty eye-sockets. Lucas kneeled down in the soft sand.
(We will kill him as soon as we are out again. You can rely on
that, sodbuster: we will kill that little brat of yours. He is
old enough to suffer the consequences. We will kill him.)
Gazing down on Richard's pallid face Lucas allowed himself a
short smile full of grim satisfaction.
“They won't bother Mark ever again.”
(Thank you, Lord.)
Micah looked around and tried to figure out what had happened in
that eerie canyon of death. He studied the close vicinity, his
shotgun still in hand. Everything was quiet and peaceful and
even the hungry coyote was gone now. The majestic walls of the
canyon were like unholy giants hammered out of rocks, older than
mankind. Micah examined the deep tracks in the grey sand. Then
he turned to Lucas who seemed tense and worn-out, strangely not
relieved or happy at all.
“Here is what I know: Richard and Ron were not killed by
Apaches. Not even the bravest Indian would come here. This place
is indeed scary, alright. Ron and Richard had no chance to
defend themselves and their holsters are gone as you can see.
Whoever shot those two rustlers took their guns and horses and
rode off long before we reached this place. Do you agree?”
Lucas didn't listen. His mind was far away, still tortured by
the many sentiments of the day. He could hear distant voices in
his clouded head that haunted his troubled soul like ghosts of
(Out there at the creek. We will kill that little brat of yours.
Go to hell, Micah. Thank you, my friends. Hallowed be Thy Name.
Where the dead dwell. It is entirely my fault. My son is dead.
I love so much, Mark. Many of you have families you have to
think of. I love so much, Mark. Thank you, Lord)
But then he heard Micah's question again and it sounded like an
order, hard as the bony rocks that surrounded the lonesome men,
alive and dead.
“I ask you for the last time, Mister McCain: Who is Ben Hurt?”
The old man waited for an answer but Lucas remained silent. That
very moment the lawman noticed the small piece of paper between
Ron's cold fingers. The picked it up and read the few sentences
on it. Then he looked into his friend's eyes. Lucas frowned,
still agitated and suspicious.
“What is it, Micah?”
“I believe that's for you, LucasBoy.”
Lucas stepped closer and took the letter. All became clear now.
The nightmare was over and again he thanked God. And even Micah
relaxed as the cool wind caressed his smiling face.
Mark had finished his chores and stepped outside the house to
join his father on the porch. The sun had disappeared behind the
hills long ago and it was a peaceful night after a terrible day.
Mark tried to find a proper way to start the conversation.
“So you would not mind if I became a banker, Pa?”
Lucas smiled as he held a match to his cigar.
“Of course not, son. I think it is mighty nice of Mister
Hamilton to make you that offer. That shows that you are
becoming a man folks can trust and nothing is more important
than trust. So if your heart tells you work there go right
ahead. But you know that people working for banks have to make
many calculations all the time so you better pay attention at
But Mark was not in the mood to talk about school right now: he
was far more curious about the man called Ben Hurt.
“You promised me that you would show me that letter Micah found
in the canyon.”
(I believe that's for you, LucasBoy.)
“Here you are, son.”
The rancher pulled the sheet of paper out of the pocket of his
shirt and handed it over to his son. After a moment of
hesitation Mark started to read.
“Lucas, when you find this I am already far away. After meeting
your son at the creek I came back to leave you this message. I
had eavesdropped on those men in the saloon in Silverton and I
heard what they planned so I rode ahead and waited for them.
They wanted to take the short way through the canyon and that's
where I took care of them. I lured them close and won their
trust. They never expected any danger from some one-armed man. I
once told you that I would repay my debt some day and I did. May
the Lord protect you and your son. Ben Hurt”
Mark lowered the paper and thought about his encounter with the
strange man with the dark voice.
“Go and tell your father that he should come to the place where
the spirits of the dead dwell, in the canyon. I repaid my debt
there today. There is nothing he has to fear anymore. He will
ask who I am and you will answer: Ben Hurt. Remember, Ben Hurt
told you that. And he will know that the old Ben Hurt is a man
who is as good as his word. Go now and find your father.”
Mark returned the message to his Pa. Still at a loss he was not
sure what to make of that. Who was Ben Hurt? And so his father
explained while his son sat down and listened to his story.
“Many years ago I came through Denver one day. I was young and
foolish and had some money. And somehow I had the notion to buy
a store and make my living as a merchant. I know that sounds
strange today but back then it seemed to be a good idea. The
town was growing fast and with any luck I could be a successful
businessman. But on the very same day I opened my store a man
came in and pointed a gun at me. I was so scared so I gave him
all the money I had. But some people had seen what happened and
the next thing I know … I was in a vicious gunfight. Bullets
flew through the air and one grazed my left temple knocking me
almost unconscious. In no time my whole face was covered with
blood. But the thief was hit in the arm and lied in the street
right in front of my place.”
Mark was fascinated. That was a story he had never heard before.
“In no time a lynch mob was there and somebody had already a
noose in his hand. Although I could not see much and felt very
weak I knew I could not let that happen. That man had to stand
trial. He surely didn't deserve to hang without being brought to
a rightful judge. So I did my best to keep that angry crowd back
and I can tell you that was not easy. That noise in the street
was so unbearable. The helpless man begged desperately for his
life and I fought to keep him alive although I was the one he
had tried to rob. Finally three deputies arrived and took him to
the nearest doctor.”
Mark could not stand it any longer. After such a long and hard
day he was so excited to learn all the facts about the old man
at the creek.
“Yes, that's how Mister Hurt lost his arm, right?!”
Lucas nodded calmly and buffed his cigar, encasing his face with
a tense wall of grey smoke.
“Yes, the doctor could not save that limp and sawed it off. When
Mister Hurt had recovered enough he was brought to court and was
finally sentenced to prison. But before he was taken away he
came to me and apologized. He said that he would be forever
grateful that I had saved him from getting lynched and he
promised that he would repay that debt one day. I reckon he did
Mark was stunned. He would have never expected that turn of
events. Yes, Ben Hurst was indeed as good as his word. But now
the boy grinned. Now everything made sense at last.
“We were lucky today. And you had been lucky in Denver. Had the
doctor also taken care of you?”
Lucas shook his head and Mark saw a spark of love in his tender
“No, son. He was far too busy with Ben but his young nurse
bandaged my head in the meantime.”
“Well, in that case you were really mighty lucky, wouldn't you
Now Lucas remained silent for a moment. The moon was like
friendly face spreading its light over the lonely ranch. A
blissful silence was in the air and the stars twinkled on the
“Yes, very lucky indeed, Mark. When I look into your eyes today
I can see hers. You have the beautiful eyes of your mother.”
And when father and son hugged again Mark didn't feel
embarrassed at all.
These stories are based on the TV series
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
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around The McCain Ranch