Thursday, March 26, 2020



the blog about the medicine and surgery of yesteryear

Dr Keith Souter aka Clay More

[We are living through a difficult and worrying time  as we are in the midst of a global pandemic of Covid-19. I have been called out of retirement to go back into medical practice to help out, so I was not intending doing a blog this month.  However, this blog from 2015 may be of interest as we can empathise with how people lived through past epidemics and pandemics.]

Fevers of all sorts were a constant anxiety to both doctors and the public in the 19th century, just as they had been in every society for millennia. Many of them could rip through a community, causing disability, suffering and death. They were poorly understood, yet somehow doctors had to do the best they could.

Hippocrates and fevers
The great Hippocrates of Kos, (460-370 BC), left a vast amount of medical writings. Philologists have spent whole careers trying to workout which of the books that make up the Hippocratic Corpus were actually written by him. Of the seventy books that make up this collection it is currently thought that he wrote nineteen  or twenty, the rest being based upon his teachings. Two of them are relevant to us in this section. They are entitled: Airs, Waters, Places and Epidemics.

In Airs, Waters, Places he tells budding physicians that they should make a study of the air and the climate, the water supply and the surrounding countryside, including plants, animals and people, in order to understand how the environment can cause illness.

Anatomical theatre of the Archiginnasio, Bologna, Italy - the statue of Hippocrates

In Epidemics, he gives us a remarkable series of cases in which he describes actual people suffering from the various feverish illnesses, complete with clinical descriptions and the path to recovery or death. He describes the physical changes that occur, the alteration in the appearance of the urine, bowel movements and the fluctuations in the fevers.

In this section from Epidemics, translated by Francis Adams in 1865?  gives you the impression that you are listening to this ancient doctor recounting his rounds of his patients, staying in the different parts of  a Greek city, complete with numerous temples to the gods:

In these diseases death generally happened on the sixth day, as
with Epaminondas, Silenus, and Philiscus the son of Antagoras. Those
who had parotid swellings experienced a crisis on the twentieth day,
but in all these cases the disease went off without coming to a suppuration,
and was turned upon the bladder. 

But in Cratistonax, who lived by the temple of Hercules, and in the maid servant of 
Scymnus the fuller, it turned to a suppuration, and they died. Those who had a crisis
on the seventh day, had an intermission of nine days, and a relapse
which came to a crisis on the fourth day from the return of the fever,
as was the case with Pantacles, who resided close by the temple of

Those who had a crisis on the seventh day, after an interval
of six days had a relapse, from which they had a crisis on the seventh
day, as happened to Phanocritus, who was lodged with Gnathon the fuller.
During the winter, about the winter solstices, and until the equinox,
the ardent fevers and frenzies prevailed, and many died. The crisis,
however, changed, and happened to the greater number on the fifth
day from the commencement, left them for four days and relapsed; and
after the return, there was a crisis on the fifth day, making in all
fourteen days. 

The crisis took place thus in the case of most children,
also in elder persons. Some had a crisis on the eleventh day, a relapse
on the fourteenth, a complete crisis on the twentieth; but certain
persons, who had a rigor about the twentieth, had a crisis on the
fortieth. The greater part had a rigor along with the original crisis,
and these had also a rigor about the crisis in the relapse. There
were fewest cases of rigor in the spring, more in summer, still more
in autumn, but by far the most in winter; then hemorrhages ceased.

Hippocrates divided fevers according to times when they peaked. Thus: quotidian (daily), tertian (peak every 3 days), quartan (peak every 4th day). 

Splenic enlargement as it occurs in malaria

He also noted that those who lived in or near swamps or marshes and who drank stagnant water had large stiff spleens, a characteristic of the disease that he called swamp fever. This undoubtedly was malaria. Although he did not appreciate that it was  spread by mosquitoes, it was a startlingly accurate description of the disease. We shall return to the spleen later in another post when we look at some of the fevers.

Fevers and Pest houses

As we saw in a previous blog post about The Fight against Infections, people realised that many diseases spread case by case. The manner in which they spread was not understood, but three things were thought to cause illnesses: drinking tainted water, breathing bad air or touching affected individuals. The concept of contagion developed, meaning spreading by touching.

Those illnesses that spread rapidly as epidemics were thought best to be contained. Thus leprosy was dealt with by making affected people live in leper colonies, kept away from non-infected people. Many societies used special pest houses to 'look after' people with all those diseases that produced fevers that they thought could be risky to the community.

The origin of the term is from pestilence, for these were pestilence houses. In the Old West many towns had pest houses. What a lot of people don't realise, however, is that they had their origin back in the Old Country. And so, let me take you back a few centuries.

Epidemics and pandemics
These are terms used to describe the rapid spread of an infectious illness. An epidemic is when a locality is affected, whereas a pandemic is when an epidemic spreads across countries and across continents. 

Throughout history there have been some notable epidemics and pandemics:

The plague of Athens of 430 BC killed about a quarter of the population of the Greek city of Athens. The actual disease has been the subject of much debate among scholars for decades. It is not thought to have been plague, but may have been measles, typhoid fever, thus or one of the viral hemorrhagic fevers. We will never know for sure.

The plague of Justinian from 541-542 AD was the first recorded instance of bubonic plague. It affected the eastern Roman Empire and killed between 25 and 50 million people. It is said that it killed 5,000 people per day in Constantinople. 

The Black Death of 1347-1353 was a pandemic that raged across Europe, killing between 75-200 million people. It began in Asia and was carried along the Silk Road to Constantinople where it spread along the merchant routes across Europe. In England it reduced the population by 50 per cent.

Bubonic plague victims, 1411

Epidemics recurred across Europe on a virtual five year cycle for the  next few centuries. 

The three types of plague

Bubonic plague - characterised by large swellings called buboes. These are lymph nodes that swell to a huge size in the axillae (armpits), neck and groins, and become matted. The victims also experience fever, headaches, nausea and vomiting. The mortality rate was about 30 per cent. This was the dominant type of illness during the Great Plague. It was spread from the bite of an infected black rat flea, now identified as the bacterium Yersinia pestis.

Pneumonic plague - this is when the lungs are involved to produce a severe pneumonia. The death rate for this was even higher. 

Septicaemic plague - this occurred when the infection reaches the blood stream. The mortality rate in those days would be almost 100 per cent.

The treatments would have been well virtually ineffective. People, including children were encouraged to smoke. Buboes were bathed and had leeches attached to them to such out blood and lymph.  Bleeding was also done, using any number of recommended bleeding points. According to the medical texts of the time, bleeding at different points could have different effects.

Points for blood-letting, Field book of wound medicine, 1517

According to the Doctrine of Humours, which we looked at in the post on Joseph Lister and Aseptic Surgery people of a hot temperament were thought to be most likely to contract plague, because they had larger skin pores.  They having greater heat could easily be treated by bleeding, because blood was considered to be wet and hot. Thus bleeding was thought to reduce the bad humour causing the disease.  

Treating the sick was an unenviable task, considering the high mortality rate. Doctors wore long leather gowns and gloves and wore make with long beaks, which contained a sponge soaked in vinegar.

London and the Great Plague
The Great Plague was the worst outbreak of actual plague since the Black Death. The earliest cases occurred in the spring of 1665 in the parish of St Giles-in-the-Fields, the spread rapidly through the city of London during an especially hot summer. Those who could afford to fled the city. This included King Charles II, parliament and the law courts, which moved to Oxford.

The Lord Mayor, Sir William Lawrence and his aldermen(town councillors) were left to enforce the orders of the king, to try to limit the spread of the disease. He issued the so-called lord Mayor's orders on 1st July 1665. These stated that examiners, watchmen and searchers had to be established for each parish. The examiners (who had no choice in being appointed, upon penalty of imprisonment, had to serve for a two month period) had to enquire and determine which houses had anyone who was sick in them. They informed the constable who would arrange to have the house boarded up to contain the residents.

Every infected household then had to have two watchmen  one for the day and one for the night, whose duty was to ensure that no-one entered or left the house. 

The searchers were women of the parish who had to search the bodies of anyone who died to determine what disease they died of, specifically the plague. 

In an attempt to reduce the carriage of disease, men were appointed to kill cats, dogs, pigeons and rats, although the relationship of rats and rat fleas to the plague were unknown. 

Public gatherings and funerals were not permitted. People dying from plague had to be buried in plague pits rather than in church graveyards between sundown and  sunrise. Relatives were not allowed to hold a service at the grave.

In 1666 an important statute was passed entitled Orders for the prevention of Plague. This set down the law certain things that had to be done in every town and city in the land. It stated that every town had to provide a pest house (a pestilence house), consisting of a building, huts or sheds in readiness for any break out of infection. Thus was the pest house established in law. That law extended to the colonies and as such, over the centuries, the pest house became part of the culture. Originally intended as a place to care for and exclude plague victims, it became the infectious disease 'hospital' for communities.

The plague in literature
Samuel Pepys (1633-1703) was a Member of Parliament who famously kept a diary from 1660 -1690, which gives us a great insight into life during the Restoration period (the reign of King Charles II, or the restoration of the monarchy after the English Civil War of 1642-1651, when King Charles I was executed for tyranny). 

Samuel Pepys the great diarist

From his diary entry for Wednesday, 16th August 1665:

 "But, Lord! how sad a sight it is to see the streets empty of people, and very few upon the 'Change. Jealous of every door that one sees shut up, lest it should be the plague; and about us two shops in three, if not more, generally shut up."

Daniel Defoe (1660-1731), was a journalist, novelist and pamphleteer and spy, who penned such famous novels as  Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders. In 1772 he wrote a novel entitled Journal of the Plague Year. 

 Daniel Defoe, author of Journal of the Plague Year, published 1722

In the novel he tells of how between 18 and 20 watchmen were killed as people attempted to escape from plague houses. 

Not far from the same place they blew up a watchman with gunpowder, and burned the poor fellow dreadfully; and while he made hideous cries, and nobody would venture to come near to help him, the whole family that were able to stir got out at the windows one storey high, two that were left sick calling out for help. Care was taken to give them nurses to look after them, but the persons fled were never found, till after the plague was abated they returned; but as nothing could be proved, so nothing could be done to them.

Site of a City Pesthouse of London, used in the Great Plague

The thermometer - a vital clinical instrument
The Doctrine of Humours was, as I have mentioned before, the dominant theory in medicine for millennia. Doctors were aware that when people had fevers they felt hot to the touch, yet assessing this heat was totally subjective. A physician could postulate about a patient having a hot temperament and a hot illness, yet there was no way of demonstrating this.

In 1625 Santorio Santorio, a friend of Galileo invented a thermometer, capable of assessing body temperature. With it he was able to show that people with so-called hot temperaments did not have raised temperatures. In a sense it was evidence against the Doctrine of Humours, but it no effect on medical practice because practitioners clung to the teachings of antiquity.

In physics various thermometers were developed by scientists who needed to measure the amount of heat that things could attain. Fahrenheit developed his temperature scale in 1704 and Celsius produced his in 1742. Doctors did not adopt them, for they found no need to put a figure on the temperature of the body. They continued to feel with their hand and pontificate from ancient dogma.

It was not really until Professor Carl Wunderlich (1815-1877), a German physician started researching patient temperatures with a clinical thermometer that doctors started to understand the importance of temperature. 

Dr Carl Wanderlich introduced the thermometer into clinical practice

He established that there was a normal body temperature, of 37 degrees Celsius or 98.4 degrees Fahrenheit. He established that the pattern of a fever was important diagnostically and prognostically (prognosis is the technique of making a prediction of the outcome of a disease). He actually thought that every infectious illness had its own characteristic fever pattern, which could differentiate one disease from another. This is not actually the case, but his use of temperature charts was accepted and became an established part of medical practice.

Malaria and the clue to pain relief
In the mid-seventeenth century, powdered Peruvian Bark – known as chinchona – was extolled for its properties in the treatment of malaria and other fevers. The problem was that Peruvian Bark was expensive. 

A chance discovery by the Reverend Edward Stone (1702–68) an English clergyman in 1763, that powdered willow bark tasted like quinine, led him to use it as a substitute for chinchona bark. 
To his delight and amazement, it seemed to have a range of activity beyond that of chinchona’s ability to reduce fevers. Most significantly, it also had pain-relieving qualities. Crucially for the scientific community, he wrote about his discovery in a letter to the Royal Society, who published it in their Philosophical transactions in 1763.

I treated five and forty of my parishioners who were suffering from various agues [fevers] with increasing doses of powdered willow bark … and almost all of them rapidly improved.

Significantly, Reverend Stone referred to the Doctrine of Signatures as being the reason that he was drawn to test willow bark. Although he does not say so, it is likely that he had been aware that willow preparations had been used in local folk medicine. 

Aspirin the wonder drug
Throughout the mid-eighteenth century, doctors prescribed salicin and salicylic acid with good results for many painful conditions, including arthritis, gout, rheumatic fever and typhoid fever. Unfortunately, they also found that many people suffered from significant bleeding problems, gastric irritation and stomach ulceration. There was a need to find a less troublesome treatment. 

The major breakthrough came in 1897, the German chemist Felix Hoffman was working for the German pharmaceutical company Bayer. He was looking for a way to produce a form of salicylic acid that would not produce stomach irritation. There was a personal motivation behind this: his father had found salicylic acid effective, but also found the gastric side effects too hard to cope with. 

Felix Hoffman (1868-1946)

Using the herb meadowsweet as the source for salicylic acid, Hoffman gave his father various modified forms of salicylic acid and eventually managed to produce acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) by using a different chemical process. The result was a form of acetylsalicylic acid that his father found worked extremely well. 
In 1899, Bayer patented the method of preparation of aspirin and obtained the trademark for it as Aspirin. It is thought that the choice of name derived from ‘A’ for ‘acetyl’; ‘spir’ for Spiraea ulmaria (meadowsweet) and ‘in’ … which was simply a common ending for a drug.

In the 21st century we have learned much about this amazing drug - which certainly cannot be used by everyone, because it can have dangerous side effects for some people. Apart from being an antipyretic and analgesic drug, it is anti-inflamatory and seems to have protective effects against heart disease, stroke, many cancers and possibly even doe types of dementia.  It is outside the scope of this book to say further, but fuller information about research is contained in the author's book An Aspirin a day. 


If you want more Clay More!

My short story from Sundown Press

Twisted Knee, Ohio, 1866

Nothing could ever damp down the smell of the pest house.

Especially not in the sweltering heat of summer.

It was a strange, stomach-twisting smell that wafted from the two chimneys that belched smoke most days when the place was full of patients. And even when the smoke was dispelled by the wind the odor hung like a miasma around the old two-storied timber building a couple of hundred yards from the edge of the town of Twisted Knee.

But the smell was only a prelude to the evil that took place in the old building that housed the wounded, the diseased, and the hopeless. Though Doctor Cutler had his own faults, murder was not one of them—and that was going to be the death of him…


And  if you want to know about Aspirin, this book as  Clay's alter ego.....

Tuesday, March 24, 2020


Post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines

Mustache Cups and Mustache curler - Otero County Museum
photo property of the author
In doing online research in newspapers from the 19th century, I occasionally come across pieces of humor. With all that is happening, I thought I'd share a couple of them. Some of the humor is a bit morbid, some silly and some I'm not so sure of. I will leave you to decide.

Colorado Miner (Weekly), (Georgetown, CO.) Volume IX, Number 16, August 28, 1875

A successful practical joke

The most insufferable of all idiots, the practical joker, does not always escape on earth the wrath that is laid up for him. There lived and taught school in St. James Parish, Louisiana, recently, a man by the name of Bowden, a well – meaning person, but afflicted with that peculiar sense of humor which is sure to get somebody or other into trouble sooner or later. One of his most successful jokes was that of displaying advertising bills printed in imitation of greenbacks, and offering to bet hundreds and thousands of dollars with people who didn't know that he was fooling. The other day an offensive smell coming from an out-house led to a search for the cause, and the corpse of Bowden was found beneath the floor and under a covering of corn – husk, where it was rapidly decaying. A Swedish plantation hand, who had seen him displaying his imitation bills, had mistaken him for a person of large and available means, and had murdered him for his money. The Swede is now a fugitive, and he feels doubly the weight of the joke, for he got no money, and the governor has offered $1000 for his arrest.

Replica School House - Otero County Museum
Photo property of the author

Colorado Daily Chieftain, (Pueblo, CO) Volume 10, number 2599, October 21, 1880


Why not call hanging a necksecution?

If the Turkish government doesn't look out, their country may be called a place of ex-porte.

Might not the act of extinguishing a fire in a bookstore, although no joke, be called a play upon words?

The dealer in salt must have a precarious time of it. The salt cellar, you know, is always getting overturned.

When a Cincinnati man takes up the production of his pen, you never know whether he is a literary feller or a hog raiser.

A Norristown youth, who was trying to master a bicycle, when asked his age, said he had seen fifteen summers and about 155 falls.

For the benefit of other colleges we will state that ever since the resignation of Prof. Coe, Yale has not had co-education. – Yale record

"I am surprised," said a politician to a heavy property owner, "that you do not run for some office." "Well, you see, somebody has to do the taxpaying."

A gentleman in this – town has a curl taken from his grandfather's head, which is 5 1/2 inches long. His grandfather's curl lock stopped when the old man died. – Whitehall Times.

View from the top of Pikes Peak
photo property of the author

North American (Philadelphia, PA) Tuesday, June 15, 1897


A touch of nature.
Mendicant – I aint' had nuttin' ter eat fer a week, sir
The Approached – Why, I gave you the price of a meal yesterday.
Mendicant –Yes sir; but me dog had ter be fed.

Orator – "I tell you, gentlemen, there is something radically wrong with this nation."
Man on the edge of the crowd – "Heavens! Another office – seeker has left Washington in disgust.

Out of humor
Editor – Mr. Cose, your jokes have lost all their humor here of late. What's the trouble?
Joe Cose – I guess I'm not well. I felt rather funny for a week past.

Self love – There is no use talking to stubborn. He won't listen to reason.
Crabtree – What's the trouble?
Self-love – I've talked to him for five hours now, and he still believes he's right.

All agreed.
The court – Gentlemen of the jury, have you agreed upon a verdict.
Foreman (in the far West) – The gents has; but that stubborn cuss and No. 7 seat won't agree with us.

Sadi – Now, Poppa, I know dear Jack is just like you.
Poppa –Humph! Why do you say that?
Sadi – I heard you say the other night that when you married Mama you hadn't a penny. Jack wants to marry me, and he's in the same condition.

Until next month, happy writing, stay safe and well.

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet

Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here

Friday, March 20, 2020

The Western Scores: Hour of the Gun

Ten years after 1957’s fictional film, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), director John Sturges revisited the infamous face-off between the Earps and the Clantons. Promoted as a more historically accurate piece, Hour of the Gun (1967) starred James Garner as Wyatt Earp, Jason Robards as Doc Holliday and Robert Ryan as Ike Clanton.

The ‘60s were a booming time for a post-war crop of composers who cut their chops on Western film scores, and when Sturges hand-picked Jerry Goldsmith for the job, the composer brought along his acclaimed experience with the genre. 

Five years earlier, having found success with the theme for Boris Karloff’s TV show, Thriller, Goldsmith had been introduced to the head of Universal’s music department by composer Alfred Neuman. Universal assigned Goldsmith to Lonely Are the Brave, with Randolph Scott, directed by John Sturges. The film’s lyrical score won Goldsmith widespread recognition, and before long he’d written music for another Western, Rio Conchos (1964).

Beginning with a rousing flourish of trumpets immediately followed by a volley of French horns reminiscent of Elmer Bernstein’s Magnificent Seven score, the theme from Hour of the Gun settles into a sweeping ebb and flow of strings and brass. There’s the hint of wide-open vistas and galloping horses, but I also detect an undercurrent of darkness in the bridge. 

The score continues with riffs on that single theme, and has been called “sparse and transparent – a refreshing and remarkably original take on the traditional western score,” by Screen Archives Entertainment.

After Hour of the Gun, Goldsmith would go on to write music for Bandolero (1968), 100 Rifles (1969), and Rio Lobo (1970).

After growing up on a Nebraska farm, Richard Prosch worked as a professional writer, artist, and teacher in Wyoming, South Carolina, and Missouri. His western crime fiction captures the fleeting history and lonely frontier stories of his youth where characters aren’t always what they seem, and the windburned landscapes are filled with swift, deadly danger. In 2016, Richard roped the Spur Award for short fiction given by Western Writers of AmericaRead more at

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

RIDE THE WILD RANGE--by Cheryl Pierson

It's funny what "pops up" on Facebook and how it triggers memories--things you might have completely lost track of. Recently, a memory from a few years ago showed up of where I had shared my "latest" publication--RIDE THE WILD RANGE--with Prairie Rose Publications.

This story had come out as a compilation of three novellas in the Texas Legacy series: RED EAGLE'S WAR (BOOK 1), RED EAGLE'S REVENGE (BOOK 2), and TEXAS FOREVER, (BOOK 3).

I started to write this tale as a short story, but it wasn't long before it turned into a novella. But after I wrote the novella, I realized I wasn’t done with the story…so I wrote two more. These stories really wouldn’t be classified as “romance”, since there’s no sex and very little romance--not really even any spoken words of love between Jacobi Kane and Laura, who later becomes his wife.

I did this on purpose, since the stories are told from the point of view of a young boy, Will Green. That stuff would be too mushy for him to think about for too long! No, these stories were more action-oriented, and being told from the first person viewpoint, it was necessary to keep a high level of feeling to the forefront.

Will Green is the young boy who tells the stories. In RED EAGLE'S WAR: TEXAS LEGACY BOOK 1, we meet him at the age of 9, almost 10. His parents and older sister have just been murdered by the Apache, and he has been kidnapped as they torch his home. But a few days later, just as he’s given up hope, a fearless man walks right into the Apache camp and rescues him. Jacobi Kane has a mysterious past that he isn’t too keen on discussing with Will, though Will senses a kind of kinship between the two of them as they travel toward Fort Worth and safety. Kane harbors a terrible secret that might force Will’s hero worship of him to turn quickly to hatred…or of understanding, that Kane is a man who does what he must. But will that realization be enough, and is Will mature enough to come to grips with what Kane had to do?

In RED EAGLE'S REVENGE: TEXAS LEGACY BOOK 2, Will continues to learn more about Jacobi Kane’s past when a group of law officers seek Kane’s help in capturing some of the same Apache Indian band that killed Will’s family. Kane resists going because he is now re-married, with a new baby on the way and tells the lawmen he’s turned in his badge for good—years ago. But a promise he made in the past keeps him hungry for vengeance, and his new wife urges him to go and see an end to it all. Of course, Will is not going to be left behind. Jacobi might need him!

TEXAS FOREVER: TEXAS LEGACY BOOK 3 wraps up the trilogy with a surprise visit from a man Will had never expected to see—his ship-building magnate grandfather from Boston, Robert Green. His grandfather first tries to intimidate him into returning to Boston with him, then falls back on honesty only when he must to convince Will to come back. Will vehemently refuses, but when he hears two of his grandfather’s men planning to murder his grandfather, he knows he has to go at least part of the way—to the first stop, back where it all started—the little burned-out cabin where his family was murdered over two years past. Jacobi is out there, trailing them for protection, unseen and silent, but then Will learns a secret that makes his blood run cold. A man that Jacobi thought of as a friend is also caught up in the plot—but Jacobi doesn’t know the tide has turned. He’s in as much danger as Will and his grandfather are.

This is just a short bit about each story, but the big news is, now you can get all three stories under one cover, RIDE THE WILD RANGE! With a little bit of editing and changing here and there for “flow”, these stories are all combined into one novel now. This book is loved by young and old alike, a great YA novel for boys (and girls!), but also something adults enjoy as well. I loved every minute of writing these adventures of Will Green and Jacobi Kane, and I have a feeling I’m not done yet.

Livia J. Washburn did all my wonderful covers for these PRAIRIE ROSE PUBLICATIONS books, and I just love them all.

My question for today is, what is the most memorable youngster you've read about in any story? I have several--Scout, in To Kill a Mockingbird is probably the "most" memorable young character, but what about Bob Starrett in Shane? So many, it's hard to choose!

Here's an excerpt from RIDE THE WILD RANGE:

THE SET UP: Thirteen-year-old Will and his grandfather are having a meeting of the minds as they travel up to Indian Territory from Fort Worth. Surrounded by men who want to kill both of them, they find themselves at odds in this conversation where Will tells his grandfather some things about himself that his grandfather didn't know.


I had learned a lot from Jacobi. And by the way my grandfather looked away and fell silent, I knew there was a mighty big hole in the story somewhere.

"What is it you're not tellin' me, old man?" My voice was strong but quiet. I wasn't sure if this was some kind of family secret or somethin' he didn't want Jack Wheeler, riding a few paces behind us, to hear.

He gave me a sharp look. "You may call me Grandfather, William. There's no need for disrespect."

"No need to tell half the story, either."

At first, he looked at me from under his eyebrows like he'd like to take a strap to me. But I looked right back at him. Finally, he nodded and glanced away.

"I've been so desperate to find you because…you're my only living heir. I built a ship building dynasty for my family, Will, and there's no one left but you." He cursed as the wagon hit a hole and jolted him sharply.

"My sister married a man, Josiah Compton, whose wife had died. He brought two sons to the marriage, but he and Margaret never had any children together. The boys are men, now, of course. George, the eldest, is a pastor. But Ben, the younger of them, is quite a wastrel. He has squandered his inheritance and is looking for more. If you weren't…alive….well—everything would fall to the two of them. And though George is not the type to seek gain, Ben is quite a different story.

"Ben knows I won't be around much longer. But you will always be a threat, Will. I'm afraid this is going to end badly for one of you."

I thought about what he'd told me. It seemed like maybe he needed me to say somethin'. It bolstered my confidence to know that somewhere out there, Jacobi was ridin' along easy, keepin' a eye out on us. Especially, now that I'd learned this part of the story.

I looked at him straight in the face. "I'll tell you one thing. It ain't gonna be me that ends up dead."

"I didn't say that—"

"It's what you meant though, ain't it? When there's a pile of money to be had, somebody's always worried it'll get taken away from 'em. Even if he knows I don't want it, he'll be worried about it. I've killed before. I'll do it again, if need be."

His expression turned to one of shock. I went on with what I was saying. "Ain't nobody gonna take my life over somethin' I don't even want."

He studied me openly, as if he were trying to decide what he should say. I saved him the trouble.

"I know you're wonderin' about it, so I'll tell you." And I did just that, from start to finish, from the day Papa and I had been out working together and seen the Apaches ride up all the way through when Jacobi had rescued me and we'd ridden out of the Apache camp together.

"We rode as long as we could, until I fell off the horse. Then Jacobi picked me up and we rode some more. When Red Eagle caught up to us, Jacobi and him fought." My throat dried up just thinkin' about how I'd felt to see Red Eagle and Jacobi locked close together, fighting with everything they had, and knowin' one of 'em was gonna end up dead.

"I killed Red Eagle. Shot him dead."

Grandfather was quiet.

"I ain't sorry for it, either. It felt good. Every time I think about what he did to Papa and Mama, I know it was the right thing. But mainly it was right because he was so dang pure evil."

I'm really proud of this story, and it's amazing to me to think it came from a short story idea. I'm so glad I had the opportunity to write the story to the length it really needed to be. And you know...I think there is more to Will's story that needs to be told. So, I'm wondering, what DOES happen between Ben, the evil relative, and Will when the time comes?