“The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”
- Alexis de Tocqueville
Dear Mr. Turner, It is perplexing to come face to face with a certain group of people so ignorant, so disorientated, and so pathetic that a man of even my stature and intelligence can’t come to a simple conclusion as to what to think. Even with all my reason and factual intellect they are still clueless to what one might call my forceful amelioration or my helping hand to their skirmish excuse of an ideology. What is one to do with a group of people so helpless? God bless their souls.
My dreariest apology for the delay of this letter; before leaving Black Hill I learned my wife passed away. My poor darling, God Bless her soul. ***
The coach came to a roaring halt, dust from the desolate rails wiped around in a roaring cloud against the steel wheels of the engine. A blank crusted landscape cracked under the full moon illuminating a small wooden building with a rusted sign reading “Black Hill Train Station.” A small elderly man, only alive by his teeth, sat in a wooden rocking chair gazing in amazement at the steel beast. The chair screeched at each swing but went unheard due to the loud engine’s roar. The coach door opened to reveal a well dressed man who jumped down, gave a quick gaze around, not noticing the old man and yelled “Alright Mr. Adams things look clear.”
“Ah thank you Mr. Heming” A young man dressed in the highet of Victorian fashion stepped onto the platform giving a quick glance around, took a deep breath, a few puffs of his pipe and demanded, “Bring my bags to deck and be sure not to leave any- Oh, who are you good sir…we mean no harm I am Benjamin A. Adams.”
The man kept rocking, coughed and stated, “I take it you ain’t be the monthly shipments of goods for the Turner family ain’t yee?”
“No, I come from the east, I am a mere traveler.”
“You ain’t bringing any of ‘em Negros now did yee?” The question went unanswered and the old man kept rocking. Mr. Heming finished placing the bags at Mr. Adam’s feet.
“Well thank you Mr. Heming. I will be leaving you now or I should say you are leaving me. I’ll be back east as soon as my business is done.”
“Very well sir, umm sir may I ask what business do you need to exactly tend to in the Dakota Territory?”
“That is to be kept to myself, now don’t miss your train back east”
“Right sir.” Mr. Heming ran for the coach.
“Now, sir I may ask you for your immediate assistance…sir where can I find the closest town from here. Black Hill is the name.”
“Closest town. Closest town. I’d guess id be about 20 miles thata way.” The man pointed a frail finger towards the hoodoo, licked his lips and said “’at would be Black Hill home of the famous Turner family. Yeah, he owns that town you know. Founded by the Turner family couple years back after George A. Custer founded gold out there, ’83 I believe was the year.”
“So this is the place huh? Could you be of any assistance in providing me with a horse?”
“George A. Custer good man, never meet ‘em but I’ve heard stories him fightin’ in that civil war an’ all. It’s a damn shame them Ingins killed ‘em off a Bighorn, couple years back now. God bless his soul.”
“Yes, good man fighting for our white west. Now, could you assist me with a horse?”
“I recon you find gold in these parts, yeah real good gold now… I heard a story about ol’ Custer. Said he was the brother of ten other siblin’s, smartest one out of the bunch too. Smart man I’d vote him to be the president one day. Maybe he be running in ’92. He’s got my vote for sure.”
“Sir, the horse… and Custer is dead… he was killed by savages at the battle of Little Bighorn in “76. “
“Custer is dead?! That poor man I wish I’d know earlier. Say boy when yee get to Black Hill tell everyone the news of Custer’s passing, they’ed like to know. God bless his soul. The horses in the back there saddle up and take off the town’s down thata ways.” The old man pointed over a hill away from the hoodoo.
After saddling up Mr. Adams rode off in the distance leaving the station, the hoodoo, the old man, and the east behind. After ridding off the train roared away leaving only the sound of a rocking chair screech.
After riding long into the night Mr. Adams reached the small town of Black Hill. The sun was about to rise but the town was pitch black, and with much discretion only the shapes of old wooden buildings were seen. Mr. Adams rode into the town and up to the nearest building. With the adjustment of his spectacles and a squint of his eyes he made out the sign hung on the front of the porch reading “In.” He tied the horse to the porch gathered his bags and stumbled into the “In.” He entered a small room which was almost as dark as the summer night only illuminated by a small, barley lit oil lamp that hung from the far wall. Behind the desk sat a middle aged man wearing a somewhat nice suit, broken spectacles, and a distressed expression. Before the man could open his mouth Mr. Adams blurted out, “Good morning good sir, is this the town inn? I am Benjamin A. Adams a mere traveler that has business here out west and am in request of a room for the rest of the night.” The man’s face turned to a somewhat assuaging smile.
“Oh yes sir, we will worry about payment in the morning. You look exhausted. Oh sorry the name is Mr. Connaughton.”
“Well Mr. Connaughton this is most appreciated. A good friend like yourself is hard to find these days.”
“Thanks sir, go on back through this here door up them steps and the room at the end of the hall on the right.”
Exhausted Mr. Adams walked towards the doorway and before continuing on he turns to ask “Mr. Connaughton, does this town have church in morning?”
“Oh yes sir. 8 in the morn’.”
Mr. Adams woke the next morning egger for church threw on a newly tailored suit glanced at his pocket watch and realized it was 7:50. He quickly ran out of the “In” to be welcomed by a hot glairing son. He stood on the “In” porch and gave the town a quick inspection. The town was set up like your average stereotypical western city: wooden shacks, most of them containing porches of some sort, parallel to each other with a main strip running in- between them. The wooden buildings sagged, made up of rotted wood and covered in desert dust from roof to foot. The entire town looked as if it was build 100 years ago and keep up was out of the question. In short the town was in a definite state of decadence.
Mr. Adams strolled over to the church, which, like the rest of the town was falling apart. The cross on top of the building was missing one of its arms and tilled slightly to the right. Large factions of people were gathered talking with nothing on their minds.
“Good morning Mr. Adams good to see you are up in time for church.”
“Good morning Mr. Connaughton. I am just doing what any good Christian man would do.”
Mr. Connaughton turned to the crowd and yelled “People, people we have a visitor to our humble town. His name is Ben Adams.”
“Benjamin A. Adams. To clarify”
“Benjamin A. Adams people! He is here in regard to some important business he must attend to. Now we should all give Ben here a warm welcome.”
The crowd was relatively quite only a few “Hey partner” and “Good morin’” could be heard. The crowd continued their conversations. Mr. Connaughton turned to Mr. Adams. “So Mr. Adams church will be starting soon we best get in and find a seat.” Mr. Adams followed Mr. Connaughton into the church only to be disappointed in the church’s appalling state. Most of the wooden planks, that used to be considered a floor, were molded and braking away. Wooden benches littered the room in somewhat rows followed by a podium with a cross behind it. Mr. Adams and Mr. Connaughton sat in the in the back. The rest of the town’s folk shuffled in and took their seats.
A man stepped out of back room and stepped up to the podium and opened his mouth and before he could start talking broke out into a rather violent coughing fit.
“Father Mills are you okay?”
After whipping the blood on his hand onto his black rode he responded “Yes my son. Now may we begin?”
“We are gathered here today for one reason my sons and daughters, to give thanks to our Lord. We have had some hard times in the few years here in Black Hill. But with all of your help, Gods children, and the help of our Lord himself we have made it through these hard times and we thank our Lord. With our Lords help we have made it through the winter of 1886. All our cattle was killed during that winter but I have faith my children and you should too for I have spook to our Lord and he will shine his eternal light and wave his ensuring hand upon us. And he will turn this town around! He will make you healthy, our children healthy, and our new cattle healthy! He will give us the strength to fix this town up, rebuild with a new beginning, a new beginning for all of us here in Black Hill. He will make us strong like George Custer would want us to be!”
The crowd in a yelling chorus yelled “Amen!”
“Children I will tell you a story about our great hero Custer. It was said when Custer was fighting for our Union during Civil War he said he wasn’t fighting for the abolish of slavery or just fighting President Lincoln’s war he was fighting it because he knew that our Lord wanted him to fight that war. And with Custer and God on our side we defeated the spread of slavery into our west!
“We should not ask our Lord why he has taken Custer from us, because God has a plan for everyone and it was our Lord’s plan for Custer to pass on up to heaven. Custer, just like Jesus, died for you and me. Custer died in the name of our Lord and Custer died fighting those savages that threaten our lives every day. God bless his soul.”
“God bless his soul!”
“Now we shall ask our Lord of one thing. We shall ask him that little Johnny boy here finds a home and someone takes his poor little soul in.” A small boy could be seen in the front pew. He was scruffy looking torn clothes and hungry too. “We give thank to those of you who do your best to keep Johnny feed: Mr. and Mrs. Gohl and Mr. and Mrs. Warren. How we know things are rough and we only can do so much to help little Johnny but Lord we are doing our best. Now my children we all live to serve our Lord and keep the church alive and well but in recent time the church has run short of funds and our Lord as well as me ask you for any scraps of donations. I’ll send this here basket around.
Father Mills handed the basket to Mr. Warren who was sitting in the front row. Mr. Warren took a few coins out his pocket and dropped them in the basket and passed it down the pew. The town’s folk each placed a donation in the basket and was passed back up to Father Mills. “Thank you children God and myself our so glad to see you donate your hard earned money to our church.”
Before Father Mills could continue the doors in the back of the church swung open and a man wearing a fairly nice cowboy outfit with a cowboy hat and cowboy boots stood with a grin on his face. His outfit was most impressive and pristine but in comparison to his outfit his gold badge that was pinned to his breast was more of an eye catcher.
“Ah Mr. Tuner good of you to take time out of your busy schedule to make a visit”
“Not busy enough to visit the house of God on the holy day.”
“We won’t keep you very long sir I’ve got the church’s donation right here.” Father Mills reached down to pick up the donation basket. Mr. Tuner walked down the aisleand Father Milles happily handed the basket to Mr. Turner. He walked to the door and turned around.
“You all have a fantastic day now.” Mr. Turner turned and walked out.
“Now children isn’t it so nice of Mr. Turner to drop in? Now that concludes today’s service have a wonder day my children.”
The town’s folk including Mr. Adams exited the church and shuffled out in front of the church and continued their conversations.
“Mr. Connaughton I must say Father Mills’ service was spectacular, nothing like I have seen back east.”
“Yes he is quite the man isn’t he I’ve never seen a more devoted priest than Father Mills. He is a good Christian; you don’t see many people like that anymore.”
“Yes, I agree”
“So besides business what brings you out west?”
“Besides business, mainly curiosity. I have always been fascinated by the American West. As a lover of nature and hunting I have always dreamed of killing a buffalo.”
“A buffalo huh? Well Mr. Adams I’ll talk to some of the other men in town and see if we could arrange for us to go on a hunt one day. That is if your business obligations don’t intervene.”
“No, they shouldn’t get in the way at all.”
“Great well I’ve got to run back to the inn.” Mr. Connaughton walked on down to the inn.
A voice from the now agitated crowd yelled out “It’s not right you see for Mr. Turner to come down here from his big old estate over the hill and steal our donations to the church!”
“Mr. Gohl I agree this has been going on for too long now. Every week we all gives a donation to ‘at church and Mr. Turner justa comes down here and takes it away from Father Mills and the rest of us good folk.”
“I couldn’t agree more! People Mr. Warren and I have a point do you see this tyranny?” The crowd yelled in agreement. “We need to fight for what is right. We need to march up to Mr. Turner’s estate and confront this tyrant.” The crowd roared with anger. Mr. Adams chuckled and turned his back and began to walk back to the inn.
*** The next morning Mr. Adams woke again put on a new tailored suit and walked out onto the porch of the inn. Mrs. Warren stood waiting.
“Hello, I’m Mrs. Warren, Mr. Warren’s wife. I heard yous was new to Black Hill and we wanted to give you a good welcome so you’d remember us and maybe you’d come back sometime. Mr. Warren wanted me to ask you if you’d want to come has dinna with us tonight?”
“That sounds delightful, what time?”
“Six Mr. Adams, right over there in that house right there.” She gestured to the house then ran off. Mr. Adams walked eagerly to the bar, which was right next to the church, to avoid anymore interruption.
Upon entering the bar Mr. Connaughton, sitting at the bar, yelled out “Mr. Adams come join me for morning coffee. Gohl get my customer a cup of morning coffee!”
“Good morning Mr. Connaughton.”
“Every morning in the Badlands is a good morning Mr. Adams.”
“So things yesterday after church got a little hectic with that Mr. Tuner fellow?
“Oh heavens no this happens every once in a while the people get upset about something Mr. Tuner does, say they are going to overthrow his tyrannical grip he has on the town. But they never do anything they will complain and it soon dies down until the next disruption occurs and the cycle continues.”
“And him taking the church donations?”
“As an ex-business man myself I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Turner and the Turner family. They came out here in the height of the gold rush here in the Badlands and started from scratch worked their way to the top, Mr. Tuner that is. They took a gamble founded Black Hill in ’75 and people just as eager to get rich moved out here the only problem was they weren’t willing to work for their success they looked to Mr. Turner for some kind of hand out. Mr. Turner is sheriff and owner of this town but I wouldn’t blame him for the current condition of the town it is the poor’s fault. Mr. Turner does have a lot of money, however, that is his money. If it wasn’t for Mr. Tuner this town would have never made through the winter of ’86. Mr. Turner employees everyone in the town to simply keep the town itself going and if Mr. Turner needs a little break I believe it is understandable for him to take from the church.”
“Yes, I agree I’m an investor back east and I know how things can get for a business man. Things are the same way back east this is America’s rebirth from the great schism of the Civil War. The Industrial Revolution hitherto and forever will bring great prosperity to America and those Americans who have a dream of becoming rich and powerful. It comes down to an opportunity notion. The laborers back east have no good work ethic; they don’t have respect for their bosses. All they do is complain and form in there socialist unions and try to oppose this great age. They complain about unfair hours, child labor, and the great separation of labor and the upper-class. They should be thankful to be graced to be part of such a great time in America’s history. It is shame that we see here too, the poor are keeping people like Mr. Turner down; that is where the real chains are.”
“Mr. Adams I am growing to like you more and more it is good to finally talk with someone with an intellectual pro enterprise outlook like yourself. Mr. Turner and I used to work together, business partners you see, for awhile after the town started to get its footing. But Mr. Turner had to make some important business decisions that weren’t exactly in favor of my well being but we agreed that is was best for business.”
A man sitting in the back of the bar with a few other fellows, well drunk, stood up, barely and yelled “Hey, Mista Connaughton quit your there yapping about Mista Turner! I’ma tryin’ to enjoy my morning whiskey ands I don’t want to hear you talkin’ in no favor of that man you here?!”
“Crud, your alcoholic ramblings are of most annoyance, my friend Mr. Adams and I are trying to have n intellectual conversation.” The group of men all stood up and broke out into a chant saying “Down with Turner, down with Turner!”
Mr. Gohl came out of the back room and yelled “We will not have this in my bar if you wish to yell and patronize Mr. Tuner do it outside!” The men sat down and continued to drink.
“I’m glad you could make it Mr. Adams it is a great pleasure to have you in my home.”
“Mr. Warren the pleasure is all mine.” Mr. Adams, Mr. Warren, and Mrs. Warren sat at the dinner table feasting on some sort of stew.
“So what brings you to Black Hill Mr. Adams?”
“Business I have a particular business interest that I am interested in and that is also interested in me. I am sorry but I am not at the liberty of discussing details.”
“Oh that’s all right now.”
Mrs. Warren slightly angered blurted out “I think it is such a shame about that Johnny boy not have a home and everything. He is just a boy I wish someone would just take him in you know.”
Mr. Warren interrupted “God bless his soul.”
“Mrs. Warren if I may ask where is his mother and father?”
“Don’t get me started with that slut. You seen that slut Genève around town?”