1 March, 1879
Twenty-four Bay hooves thunder-drummed against the desert floor, their sound nearly drowned out by the crescendo of heaving lungs and flaring nostrils. “Hyah!” the driver yelled and slapped his reins, stealing hurried glances over his shoulder at the devil on his tail. A sign post just blurred passed him for Sweetwater. His horses knew this route to Carson City blindfolded. “Hyah! Hyah!" A shot rang out and the driver felt something icy hot whiz past his right cheek. His beloved horses were bleating in desperation--the six glorious beasts were work horses, large and strong. They were not bred to run, and they certainly were not for speed. Conway worried their stout hearts might soon explode in their chests, and still he had no choice but to spur them on. Running was their only hope. If they could out run the assassin--if they could survive for about ten more miles, they would be too close to the next town for--thwack! The round hit the commercial buckboard near the driver’s right foot. Conway shook the reins hard and sneaked another hasty look back. He saw Touchstone’s man, Parker, line up his aim at the lead horses. “Shit,” was all Conway managed before the last shot rang out. Boston, the lead 19-hand quarter-horse, who was Conway‘s best friend in the world, went down. Brimstone and Barley toppled over him, followed a fraction of a second later by the rest of the horses, the driver, and the enormous wagon rolling end-over-end, in a spectacular, splintering crash.
For Conway, seconds slowed impossibly. He observed with morbid fascination (and a healthy measure of disbelief), a kaleidoscope of brown and black shoot passed; he then smiled at a churning blue sky and clouds of cotton candy; now his eyes widened at the tremendous sprays of bright red and stark white shards glittering in the high desert sun. My horses are coming apart! Conway realized with horror. And then he was floating and twirling with the kaleidoscope--blue sky--red sprays--unforgiving desert floor. The sounds were peculiar too: a rhythmic snapping and cracking…of yoke and leather strap, and bone. Conway slammed into the ground with a concert of splintering bone and torn flesh, and his eyes came to rest on the lifeless eyes of Boston, his favorite horse. A sob choked on its way up Conway’s throat. “Bost…”, he croaked as he forced his look away--and up, just in time to see his oversized buckboard flying straight at him.
Robert Conway was dead.
Parker pulled a pouch from his vest and began rolling himself a cigarette as his horse, Clementine, circled the field of carnage--he had to be certain he had completed his assignment. He saw that a few of the horses, baring hideous injuries, were still laboring for final breaths. He sighed and pulled his revolver out, flipped open the cylinder and checked his ammunition supply. Three rounds. He dished two fingers into a pile of bullets in another pocket. He probably had a dozen or more rounds on him, and the beasts were suffering horribly. But, that wasn’t really his problem, was it? A man can’t afford to be wasting bullets in these badlands. He licked his cigarette paper closed, lit it up and inhaled deeply. As he blew out the exhale he tipped his hat at the few still-breathing horses. “Don’t worry; you’ll be dead ‘fore the buzzards gather to pick at ya…I think." He laughed cruelly, gave the grisly scene one last survey and turned back toward Bodie, whistling a catchy tune. It promised to be another beautiful California day.
Causes Anne Sweazy-Kulju Supports
The Villalobos Rescue Center for Pit Bulls
The Humane Society of the United States
Wounded Warriors Project