Nov 1, 2014

First Draft


Nathan leaned out the second story window of his hotel room. The room had a bed, a basin to wash, and a dresser. Below him, a crowd of people moved west down Roger Street heading towards the courthouse and gallows on Garrison Avenue. The sun was just rising to the east. The hangings were scheduled for nine in the morning. According to Superintendent Waters, Judge Parker was going to allow each man time to say his piece and hopefully make his peace with the almighty.  

     Seeing a crowd was already gathering, Nathan, dressed and carried his rifle, Army holster, and valise down to the desk clerk. In the holster he left his new Colt Peacemaker The Peacemaker cost fifteen dollars, but had the advantage that it used the same cartridges as his Winchester 73. He told the clerk he would collect his guns and valise later. This morning he was dressed in his blue Army pants without the stripes and a blue work shirt he bought at a mercantile. Out of habit he had his Army issued Colt stuffed in his belt. The older Colt required a cap and ball. Nathan purchased the pistol from the Army when he was discharged, along with considerable ammunition, which he now carried in his valise with a second shirt and a spare pair of long underwear. He loved the feel of the Army Colt with its wood handle. He was determined to carry the older pistol in his belt until he ran out of ammunition. 

     Nathan joined the throng of people heading towards the old Army fort, now the Federal Courthouse. The crowd was a mix of locals dressed in business and trade clothes and country folk who had traveled for days to see these six men die. There were whole families with small children and dogs, women with little babies, older boys and girls dressed for school, and men of all ages and colors, most in various stages of drunkenness.

     Being a large patient man, Nathan was able to work his way gently through the mob until he could see and almost touch the gallows platform. The gallows were painted white with a roof to protect the condemned from the rain and a fence below the platform so the crowd could not see the men jerking at the end of the ropes. There were thirteen steps up to the platform. On the platform, there was room for eight souls. A long trap ran the length of the platform. A single lever opened the trap and the men would drop all at the same time. Today, six ropes, ending with a hangman’s noose were evenly spaced across the white stag.

     Around Nathan, the mass of onlookers were abuzz, talking about the hanging and the various crimes. In addition to Daniel Evans, James Moore, Samuel Fooy a quarter Indian, Smoker Mankiller a full Cherokee, Edmond Campbell an ex-slave, and John Whittington were scheduled to hang. Each man was convicted of murder among other heinous crimes, including rape and robbery. Talking with those around him, Nathan learned that like Evans, William Whittington killed his traveling companions for cash and  Samuel Fooy murdered a school teacher his money. Edmund Campbell and another black man, Frank Butler murdered a man and his daughter at a prayer meeting over an insult. Butler was shot by Marshal Maledon, the Court’s hangman. Smoker Mankiller shot and killed his neighbor, and James Moore, was convicted of killing a peace officer and seven other men. He claimed to have killed more than eight men, if you counted ‘Niggers and Indians’. Daniel Evans was the only Boot Thief in the group.

     Nathan stood waiting with the crowd . Marshals roamed the grounds with repeating rifles. After seeing a Marshall remove a man wearing a revolver, Nathan moved the Army Colt to his side and buttoned his coat.
At ten, a Marshall with two dozen deputies lead the six men out of the basement jail. Several men blinked and shaded their eyes as they emerged from their prison. Judge Parker with his distinctive goatee and wearing a black suit follows the men. 

     The hangman, Marshal Maledon, also dressed in black was already on the platform. The six men were led up the steps and made to sit on a bench at the back of the gallows. The Marshall stepped forward and read the sentence for each man. Then he asked the men if they had any last words.
James Moore stood up and announced there were worse men than him in the audience today. This received a laugh as men looked around at one another. James Fooy claimed he was anxious to get out of this world, and Edmund Campbell claimed he was innocent. The last man had written a statement which was read by a local minister. His words fell on deaf ears as the crowd anticipated the men’s end.

     The hangman put the noose over each man’s head and a black sack. With no ceremony the crowd became silent, waiting for and a nod from Judge Parker. When the trap was opened and the six men dropped the only sound was a collect snap, and a cheer from the excited crowd.  Justice had its pound of flesh and Arkansas and the Indian Territories would never be the same. 

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