As the dawn broke over the San Pedro river, on October 29, 1880, Captain Lucius White stood up and poured himself what he and his men called a “frontier breakfast”, a neat shot of Tennessee Bourbon. He thought to himself, “Now that is one thing Johnny Reb could do particularly well, I have to say.” It had been 15 years since the war ended and he left the service, still called “Captain” by those who knew him from his days in the Union Army, he looked out across the river and beheld the stark beauty of the Arizona Territory.
“Damnation! Sun ain’t even up yet and it’s hotter than grits on a griddle of sizzling fat”, Crawfish Jackson swore to no one in particular.
“You know it will get hotter than that by the time you finish baking those biscuits, Crawfish”, replied the Captain without turning back.
“Yes sir, Captain.”, mumbled Crawfish. Crawfish had been with the Captain for over 20 years, born a slave in Georgia in 1839, Crawfish was also part Cherokee. He and his family had escaped to the North and soon after enlisted in the Union Army serving under the Captain in the New York Regiment. They had moved out west with Sergeant McEntire and Captain White’s brother Fred to try their hands at mining, but found there was better money in raising beef for the Army and the Indian Reservations. Fred didn’t take to the cattle, but didn’t want to return to the East, he was quick with a pistol, though and had been elected Town Marshall of nearby Tombstone nine months earlier. They missed having Fred around the bunkhouse, but it never hurt to have the law on your side in town.
The Captain saw the dust cloud of riders on small pinto horses come into view, his first thought was “Indian ponies” and wondered if the Apache or Navajo had gone of the reservation again. As they came closer he made them to be two Mexicans or Indians and a white man but one was on Freddie’s horse. He turned back to the doorway and grabbed his Richards-Mason Colt, checked it, put it in its holster and started out toward the gates. He called back to Crawfish.
“Jackson, go wake Iron Mike and Dusty, there may be trouble.”
Crawfish knew something was the matter as the only time the Captain called him by his last name was when there was trouble afoot. He ran to the bunkhouse for the other men.
Captain White strode out to meet them and recognized their faces: Jesús- María Yestes, half Mexican and half Apache boy whom they called “Jessie” as no man should be named for the Lord; the other was Nacho Salazar and the third was a friend of Freddie’s named Earp.
White didn’t care much for Earp, he was an undersheriff of Pima county, but from what he knew of him he was an opportunistic pimp and gambler who used the Law so he could bolster his businesses in Tombstone. Nacho’s horse carried Fred behind him, laid across the animal’s back like a sack of potatoes.
“Captain White! It’s Fred there’s been a shooting.”, cried Jessie as he came up to the gate.
White ran to the gate to open it for them. Behind him Iron Mike, Crawfish and Dusty appeared, Iron Mike clutching a Colt Peacemaker, Crawfish with a Henry rifle and Dusty a shotgun.
“What happened, Wyatt?”, called out Mike. Mike had been a boxer in a few cow towns before arriving in the Territory and knew Earp as a referee in Dodge City, Kansas.
“There was an accident, Fred was disarming Curly Bill Brocius and his gun was cocked and went off. He’s alive but in bad shape.”, answered the lawman.
“Brocius?” said White,” That no-good murdering Mexican cow thief son of a bitch!”
“Captain,” said Wyatt, “it was an accident, I was there.”
Dusty and Crawfish gingerly unloaded Fred from the back of Nacho’s horse. His blood soaked body carried the stench of his emptied bowels. Fred had been shot in the groin and was barely conscious from the pain.
“Where’s Brocius?,” demanded White.
“He’s in the town jail, I’m going to take him up to Tucson today for trial”, answered Wyatt, “I just wanted to see Fred home, first.”
“Bring him here!”, ordered White.
“No, captain, he’s going to trial, now tend to your brother.”
“Who in God’s name do you think you’re talking to, you pandering Jay-hawker?”
“Captain, I know what you did in the War and you have my respect for that, but right now your brother and my friend needs to be looked after” commanded Wyatt, holding White’s steely gaze with a cold one of his own “Now tend to him and I’m no jay-hawker, sir. The Earps are from Illinois.”
“Captain,” beseeched Crawfish, “Mr. Earp is right; we need to take care of Fred.”
Without unlocking his eyes from Earp, White said to Jesús- María, “Boy, I need you to ride out to Doc Bouchier’s place and bring him here, you know where I mean?”
“Yes sir,” answered Jesús- María.
“Well get to getting there, son, the good Lord ain’t going to miracle you up to Contention!”, boomed the Captain.
Jesus-Maria spurred Fred White’s horse out of the gate and headed out on the road up to Contention.
No longer able to lock eyes with the Captain, Earp turned away, “I’m sorry again, Captain, I’ll check back in a few days on him, I need to head back to town. Let’s go, Nacho.”
“Earp”, said the Captain, “if my brother dies and that man don’t hang, you’ll be hearing from me.”
Earp turned back in his saddle and leveled eyes again with Captain White, “Captain, I will see that justice is done, you have my word.”
Earp wheeled around and rode with Nacho back to Tombstone, while the men of the San Pedro Cattle Company carried Fred to the bunkhouse.
“By God, Earp, you’d better see that justice is done. You’d better.”, thought the Captain out loud.