From the Diary of Garret John McEwan
September 29, 1879
In the Vicinity of Alder Creek, California. Weather hazy, but not oppressive.
I haven’t been accustomed to writing in some while, but it seems prudent to set these things down where they can trouble no man, but prove a record one day should the need arise.
There is too much to tell in the main, but the upshot is I have reunited with Sgt. Marcus Hewett, late of the 18th Georgia Volunteer Infantry. Last I saw the man was in Jefferson, Missouri, back some seven years, and had not thought of him since but to down a shot in his honor when I was drinking to my absent comrades in arms. I don’t like to admit it, but I had assumed he had, like many of the men I last saw in that environs, perished at Union hands. But not a month ago he turned up in Alder Creek, very soon after I did, and I was glad of it, for the doings in the town were evil and Marcus is a damn fine shot and as brave a man as the South ever bred.
Alder Creek being without Law, Marcus and I have stepped into the void, him as Sheriff and I as Deputy. That might seem on its face a backwards standing, as I outrank him considerable as a soldier, but in truth he’s the kind of sergeant lesser men want to follow, whereas I’m an officer in name alone, without regiment under me as an Irregular Scout.
He’s a broad, big-chested man, built to earn respect, and I’m made more on a slender and unremarkable style, so it stands to reason him taking the name of Sheriff, being the kind of man to inspire confidence and fear in equal measure.
We’ve run into so many unnatural and fetid doings out here I can’t recount them all, but in the month Marcus and I have been here, there are some that have become, for want of a better word, friends.
There’s Reverend Hezekiah Adams, whom we all call Kiah. He’s been Alder Creek’s preacher and judge for as long as any hereabouts seem to remember. I think he’s Baptist, though he has more in common with John of that name than any pastor I ever heard teaching the Word of the Lord in a pulpit. If I found him eating locusts and honey, I’d not be surprised. He’s bearded and half-toothless, with a gunny sack for a garment and vermin nesting in his long hair, and the locals mostly treat him like a harmless old coot, but the man can call down the Almighty like a true prophet. More than once he’s laid hands on and healed me of an injury I was sure would cripple me, and he saved Marcus from an ugly death by festering gunshot, as well as some others I’ve witnessed. There’s more to Kiah’s story, which I may tell when I have discerned it more clearly and have time and space to set it down.
Also in our cadre is an Easterner who goes by the name of Doc Knuckles. He’s a bit of a dandy, and Kiah thinks he’s a Jew, though I’m not sure how you can tell that of a man by looking. Doc is his stage name, not for any actual medical degree, which is a use to him as he pedals a tonic the vapors of which alone can blister the hair from a man’s nostrils. Whatever the curative powers of his nostrum, it will undoubtedly ease a man’s DTs, if that’s what ails him, and it burns a trick in a pinch. The Doc’s a solid man, and generous with his wares, though he keeps to himself as much as he lets on, so I don’t feel I’ve had a fair measure of his character yet. But he’s stood up for me and mine, so I’ll call him comrade until he proves himself otherwise.
Most recently, a kid with a fast gun and a burning need for notoriety has joined us: Carter Burwell, out of Wichita, Kansas. He looks to be eighteen or nineteen, not yet in his full beard, and reminds me of more than a few of the boys I mustered in with back at War’s commencing. He’s brave, though, and for all he boasts of it, he is indeed keen with his pistols. If he settles down and doesn’t get himself killed trying to make his name, he’s got the makings of a man to be reckoned with some day.
My friend Ben Tsosie, the half-Navajo I’ve been acquainted with since I came this far West, has followed me to Alder Creek, if that’s a fair statement of things as they stand. That is to say, he comes to see me at the claim I staked just outside town near the abandoned mineworks, just as he used to find me when I was riding trail in this country. He’s a mystic and a shamen, and I don’t doubt that the spirits he talks to are Angels of the Lord, but with their names obscured into the Navajo tongue. Ben’s the only man who I can say that truly knows my heart, for he knows every inch of me, the good and the bad, and I count myself blessed.
These are the men I call friend these days.