Friday, September 12, 2008

The Leaning T

"Bear tracks," Eustace explained when you met up in Globe. "Big bear tracks I saw, and we need a couple of hard folk to go an' gun the thing down. Simple as that. I'm no hunter, and Tall's only got the one leg. I tried to scare up some Cibecue trackers, but they ain't interested. The reservation policies got 'em suspicious of pale folk ag'in." Shit: when your stomach's growling and you can count your worth in bullets what's a bear? So you agreed, and on the ride back you got the life stories of Eustace and Tall.

They - "Tall" Alban Brandt and Eustace Tillman - might be good men. If so, they shouldn't be here.

Tall is a German immigrant and a skilled tradesman. He served in the Army and fought at the Battle of Pichaco Pass in '62, where he lost his leg in service to his new country. Broken and broke, he arrived in the southeastern quarter of the territory in '63 and found employment as a blacksmith at the Leaning T Ranch, outside Globe in lands held by the Western Apache. With the Civil War raging on in the East, neither the Union nor the Confederacy could keep the pressure on the Apache, and it was only through the good will and careful diplomacy of Tillman's eldest son, Eustace, that the ranch persisted while other settlers found themselves at the mercy of native raids. Tall was impressed by Eustace's intelligence and restrained demeanor, and the two became close friends.

Tillman died of pneumonia in '67. When his will was read, the family – not to mention Tall himself – were surprised to learn that the Leaning T had been passed on to Brandt. Incensed at their father's slight, the two younger sons, Bartholomew and Roy, moved west to seek their fortunes prospecting the Colorado. Only Eustace stayed on to aid his friend and to help nourish his father's dream. Since then, Tall and Eustace have barely managed to hold the ranch together. They employ a constantly shifting menagerie of cowboys and ranch hands to do most of the work. Though the Leaning T never supported the expansive herds common on larger ranches and the open range, its current holdings are distinctly pitiful. At the beginning of the year, there were twenty-four scrawny head – only three months have passed and that number has been reduced by a third.

"So, I reckon it's feeding cubs." Eustace snorts. "No matter. It's them or us right now. Can't talk with a bear, invite it in for a howdy-do." He spits. "Plain as day, we gotta shoot it."


The foundation of Arizona’s economy is war: that's what General Ord said.

It was just a few years ago, as the gun smoke was still clearing from the skies over Camp Grant, that General Crook - pet of the mining barons – imported Sherman's notion of total warfare into the West.
His men drove every fragmented band of the five Apache tribes from their refuges, cut down their braves with howitzer barrages, destroyed their food stores, razed their camps, slaughtered their horses, murdered their women and children.

Cochise is dead.
Geronimo sits in a reservation in the south.
In praise of Crook's methods, the Santa Fe newspapermen are hailing the birth of an "Apache capitalism" in their territory.

Bullshit. The beast of war is curled up somewhere in Arizona Territory. Maybe it's licked for now. But it ain't dead. The dogs of Crook, those tame White Mountain Band scouts who led the army right down the parched and hungry throats of their kin in the Navajo and the Mescalero bands – oh, they might enjoy the privileges of agriculture and integration. But deprived of their mountain homes, the wild Chiricahuas have found nothing but malaria and frustration.
And they are stirring.

No, the Apache are not finished and the West has not been won. Not by the Union, not by the rebels, the Pima, the Maricopas, the Mexicans. Not by the steamboats on the Colorado, the Mormons, the company towns. Not by the Quakers who Grant put in charge. Not by the California investors. Not by the ranchers.