Latest on the movie

It has been confirmed that Gore Verbinski will direct the new Lone Ranger movie for Disney. Jerry Bruckheimer is producing and Johnny Depp has been cast as Tonto. Depp was recently quoted as liking Brad Pitt or George Clooney for the part of the masked man.


Lone Ranger rides on

In my last column I wrote about my desire to sell the Lone Ranger Fan Club and to make more time with my family. I am happy to report that a solution is being worked out that will take most of the load off my shoulders but keep me involved. I can’t tell you what that is just yet, but I think what is being worked out will benefit everyone in the long run.
Stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks.


The sun is setting on the Lone Ranger Fan Club

There comes a time at the end of the trail when every cowboy must ride off into the sunset.
I’m afraid I’ve hit that point with the Lone Ranger Fan Club. For the last eight years I’ve been riding the range with my faithful companion, Tonto (a.k.a. Sandy), bringing back the thrilling days of yesteryear to fans young and old. I’m afraid I’ve reached a season in life where it’s time to take off the mask, send Silver out to pasture (I’m keeping Tonto!) and let someone else chase down the bad guys for a while.
Actually, I never came across any bad guys. Lone Ranger fans are some of the most enjoyable, fun-loving people I’ve ever known. It’s been a real thrill to get to know so many of them, even if it’s only been by correspondence. I will always treasure my time in the saddle. To understand why I’m giving it up, you must first know what got me into it.
Back several years ago I got the notion into my head that I wanted to write a novel. At first I wanted to do a Star Trek novel, but that field was crowded and the storyline I had in mind played out one evening on my television set. Realizing that I was not going to be sending the Enterprise and her gallant crew on any missions against the Klingons, I took stock of other heroes that were still beloved but not necessarily in the mainstream. That led me to one of my childhood favorites, the Lone Ranger.
As much as I liked the character, I didn’t know much about him. At least it wasn’t fresh in my mind. I began doing research, looking for any information I could. I found an address for Clayton Moore and wrote him a letter requesting a phone interview. I also included a photo for him to sign. He signed and returned the photo, but I missed his call. A few months later he was gone.
As my research continued, I found a contact for John Hart, the actor who took over the role for a season. I did a phone interview with him and wrote a feature story for the newspaper I was working for at the time. Not long after that, I came across a website for a Lone Ranger newsletter called “The Silver Bullet.” I was sure that would be a treasure trove of information, so I subscribed.
I was right. It was loaded with all kinds of information about the masked man. A few issues into my subscription, the writer/publisher, a guy from Washington State named Terry Klepey, wrote that he was losing interest since Moore’s death and was ready to let someone else take the reigns. As a professional journalist and now a Lone Ranger enthusiast, I felt it was something I could do very easily. I talked it over with my wife and gave Terry a call.
A short time later I was running the newsletter. It’s a quarterly publication and was printed on a copier and stapled together in the top left-hand corner. I did it that way for a while, but felt it deserved more, so I upgraded it to a booklet. At the same time, I began to hear from some of the old-timers who lamented that there wasn’t a club they could belong to like they did when they were kids. That got me to thinking, why not?
So in 2003 the Lone Ranger Fan Club was formed and The Silver Bullet became its official publication. I contacted the trademark owners of the character and got their seal of approval for what I was doing. They were thrilled to have free publicity for their character. At the time there were plans announced for a major motion picture to be made, a television pilot was being filmed and several other major projects were in the works. My timing couldn’t have been better.
I got a website up (www.lonerangerfanclub.com) and the club began to grow. So did my family. I now had four kids and became the Cubmaster of a Pack we started at church. On top of that, we started a home-based business printing T-shirts, mugs and things. Then, my world fell apart. The movie was dropped. The television pilot became a movie of the week and it bombed big time.
I left my job at the newspaper to focus on my business at home, but it tanked. In the span of a few months I fell off my lofty perch atop my world and hit rock bottom with a thud. We moved to Amarillo to seek a new start in life. Through all the chaos, the fan club continued to thrive. But with an active church life and another son going into Scouts, it became a struggle to meet the publication schedule.
In 2008 we held a convention in honor of the 75th anniversary of The Lone Ranger. It was a mild success. We barely broke even, but had a ball in the process. I got to meet a lot of people I only knew via e-mail and phone calls.
About that time I took a job that was an hour away from home. The commute really took its toll on me and further hindered my ability to do the newsletter. Yet the fan club continued to grow. Disney announced that super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer was going to make a Lone Ranger movie and membership began to skyrocket.
Then came the move to the Houston area. We moved into Sandy’s grandfather’s house in Rosenberg and I accepted this job in Waller County. Almost two years later and my family is pretty entrenched in Rosenberg. We now have three boys in Scouts and a hyperactive church life. My commute is still about an hour and it’s wearing me and my car out. The demands on my time here at the paper and at home with my family have me burning my candle at both ends and melting in the middle. Something has to give.
Now, as we are just months away from the movie being filmed, it is time to let go. I’ve put the fan club up for sale. Someone else can bask in the bright lights of Hollywood. I’ve carried this ball to the goal line. Someone else can score the touchdown. I have a family that needs me. I need my sanity back. My boys need a Scout leader and a dad who will play catch, ride bikes and go fishing.
While giving up the fan club won’t shorten my commute, it will take off a lot of my stress at home. There is still a big part of me that wants to keep going with it and maybe I’ll find a way to keep my hand in it. But I have to accept the fact that I am first a family man and that’s the role I need to play. No mask required. It’s time for me to ride off into the sunset before the sun sets on me. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll find time to write my book.
If you’re interested in doing this gig, e-mail me at lonerangerfanclub@sbcglobal.net. Hi-Yo Silver, Awaayyyy!


Lone Ranger comic book

While it's true that The Lone Ranger comic book series by Dynamite Entertainment will end with issue #25, I happen to have it on good authority that DE isn't finished yet with The Lone Ranger.


Only one man left standing in the end

(NOTE: This is the eighth and final part in a serial-type story about the origin of the Lone Ranger. In the last part, Tonto was recalling how John Reid saved his life when they were boys.)

Fight to the death
As Tonto and the teenaged Dan Reid Jr. watched from the canyon floor below, Butch Cavendish stared in disbelief as the man before him on the canyon rim removed his mask to reveal his identity. The realization that the Lone Ranger – a man he vowed to kill – was really John Reid – a man he thought he had already killed.
All of a sudden the troubling pieces that have tormented him for 13 years fell into place, completing the picture in his mind that led to his imprisonment. How the physical evidence came to be used against him at trial and how the prosecutor had such an accurate account of the ambush suddenly made sense.
“You’ve wrecked my life for the last time, Johnny,” Cavendish said, practically spitting out the name in disrespect. “I killed you once and I’ll kill you again. And this time I’ll make sure you stay dead!”
Reid dropped the mask and bandana. He felt his aching muscles tighten as he readied himself for action. Cavendish lunged toward him with his knife held high. There was nowhere to go with the ledge behind him and scant room to move left or right.
At the last moment, Reid stepped to the side and reached out to block the knife-wielding arm. He moved just a shade too late. The blade cut into his thigh. The blow brought Reid to the ground. He clutched the wound to stem the flow of blood. Cavendish raised the knife again, bringing it down hard and fast.
The move was clumsy and Reid easily rolled out of the way – too easily. He rolled over the side but was able to grab onto ledge before plunging to his death below. The blood on his left hand made his grip tenuous at best. Cavendish stood there, glowering down at him. He raised his foot to stomp on Reid’s hands. As he did, Reid grabbed hold of boot, causing Cavendish to slip. As he fell, he drove the knife into the ground, giving him a firm handhold. He hung off the side with Reid precariously grasping him by the right foot.
Cavendish shook his leg and kicked vigorously at Reid with his left foot. Reid not only maintained a firm grip, but he was able to snare Cavendish’s other leg, securing his hold and preventing any more kicking. The more he struggled against Reid, the weaker his grip became on the knife and ledge above.
Giving up on dislodging Reid, Cavendish focused his strength and effort on pulling himself back up. As he got his waist over the side, Reid was finally high enough to grab the ledge himself. Letting go of his adversary, Reid climbed back onto solid ground and both men lay there gasping for breath.
Slowly, the men climbed to their feet and they lunged at each other, hammering blows with their fists. They battled for only a couple minutes when a blow to Reid’s face, coupled with the loss of blood from the knife wound, made him wobble and fall. Triumphantly, Cavendish charged and dove for Reid. Reacting instinctively, Reid grabbed Cavendish by the wrists and brought his legs up under him. He flipped Cavendish over his head. The enraged man slid over the edge, grabbing hold of the ledge in an attempt to stop his fall.
“Butch! Take my hand,” Reid said, laying on the ground and offering his hand to his former friend and mortal enemy.
“Never!” he shouted. “I’d rather die.”
With that he let go and he plunged nearly 60 feet to the canyon floor. He was dead the moment he hit the ground.
It took Reid about a half hour to climb back down and join Tonto and his nephew at the place where Cavendish’s body lay. A blanket was already spread over the corpse.
“So that was the man who killed my father,” Dan Reid said, more as a statement than a question.
“Yes Dan,” Reid, masked once again, said. “He killed your father, my brother, and Tonto’s father as well.”
“It is not good that any man should die,” Tonto said. “But I will not mourn him. A hate within me has been set free today. I am glad his is dead.”
“You are right, Tonto,” the Lone Ranger said. “A great hate was released today.”
(Copyright 2010, Joe Southern)


Risking life to save that of a stranger

(NOTE: This is the seventh part in a serial-type story about the origin of the Lone Ranger. In the last part, Tonto was recalling how he first met John Reid when they were boys.)

Tonto (continued)
“Wait! Stop!” John Reid shouted at his brother, Dan, and friend, Butch Cavendish.
The two either didn’t hear or else they ignored him as they pursued the fleeing Indians into the woods. John took off after them, pushing his horse hard and shouting for his brother and friend to stop. He finally caught up to them in a clearing where they had a man and his son cornered by an impassable thicket of brush. The Indian was brandishing a large knife and shouting something at the white men. He held his son behind him. Both had a look of fear and rage about them.
Dan and Butch got off their mounts and cocked their guns as they closed in on their captives.
“Dan, Butch, NO!” John shouted. “They’re not the ones. They didn’t do it!”
Dan stopped and turned his head to look at his brother. It was a near fatal mistake. The Indian charged him with his knife and Butch shot him in the chest, stopping him just short of Dan. The son let out a loud cry and began to charge at Butch.
Cavendish cocked his pistol and pointed it at the boy, who appeared to be only a year or two older than he was. He pulled the trigger, but nothing happened. That caused the boy to hesitate and Butch tried two more times to fire the gun, but it didn’t go off.
Dan was about to fire, but John arrived in time to pull back his arm and point the firearm into the air.
“What did you do that for?” demanded Dan.
At that moment, Butch bent over and picked up the knife the dead Indian had dropped. He and the Indian boy went after each other. John threw himself between the two, knocking the unarmed Indian back and taking Butch’s blade in his side. The wound was superficial. It was enough, however, to get Dan and Butch to turn their attention to him and leave the boy to escape back into the woods. As Dan patched his little brother’s wound, Butch apologized profusely and then got on John’s case for getting in the way and letting the Indian escape.
Several days later, John rode his horse back to the place where the encounter happened. This time he was alone. What was left of the small band had moved on. As he stroll through the clearing, recalling the events of the day, a movement in the trees caught his eye. He stood there and watched as the same Indian boy emerged from the woods and approached him.
“I had hoped you would come back,” he said to John. “I wanted to know why you saved my life after you attacked us.”
“The attack was a mistake. It shouldn’t have happened,” John said. “Our homes were attacked by Indians and we were seeking revenge when we found your tribe. My brother and friend attacked, but I realized your people were not the ones we were after. I tried to stop them. I’m sorry I was too late.”
The two spoke for a while, coming to terms and trying to understand one another. Finally, as it came time to part, John extended his hand.
“My name is John Reid and I am proud to be your friend,” he said.
The Indian took the hand and they shook.
“I am called Tonto,” he said.
Tonto took off one of his necklaces and placed it around John’s neck. It was a simple leather string with an intricately carved amulet on it.
“You are ‘Kemosabe’ and with this I will always know you,” he said.
“Kemosabe?” John said. “What does that mean?”
“It means ‘trusty scout.’ You are my trusted friend and this will help protect you on your trail in life,” Tonto said.
John turned to his horse and came back with a sheathed hunting knife. He handed it to Tonto.
“This is for you. I pray that you never have to use it against another human being,” he said.
Over the years the boys would encounter each other several more times. Dan and John eventually joined the Texas Rangers. Dan did so to become an Indian fighter. John was more interested in preserving justice and peace between the whites and Indians. It was that balance that made them a formidable team. Butch struggled to take on the man’s role in his family and saw his childhood come to an abrupt end when his father and brother died.
In the present time, Tonto looked up from the canyon floor and watched as the Lone Ranger and Butch Cavendish fought on almost the exact same spot where the ambush occurred 13 years earlier.
Stay tuned next week for the deadly conclusion of this Lone Ranger story.
(Copyright 2010, Joe Southern)


Tonto comes to the Lone Ranger's rescue

(NOTE: This is the sixth part in a serial-type story about the origin of the Lone Ranger. In the last part, Butch Cavendish and his gang had just ambushed the Texas Rangers.)

Three men rode into the canyon known as Bryant’s Gap. At least, that is what the white men called it. These men, however, were not white, but native. As they entered the canyon on a scouting expedition for game, they heard shots being fired a distance into the canyon. They dismounted upon hearing the shots and moved to the safety of a small grove of trees.
The youngest of the men scrambled up the gentle slope of the canyon near the grove to see what was happening. He returned about the time the gunfire ended.
“What do you see?” asked the oldest of the three.
“Many white men shooting guns into the canyon. I could not see what they were shooting,” the man answered.
A look of concern crossed the faces of his companions.
“I do not like it,” the older one said. “When white men shoot their guns, there is always trouble. We should leave before they find us.”
The third man finally spoke up.
“Ta-ha-ho-nee, I am not afraid of the white men. I think we should go see what they are shooting. Maybe they have killed some buffalo that we can take for food,” he said.
“No, Tonto. Where there are white men and guns there is trouble. I want no part of it,” Ta-ha-ho-nee said.
“What about you, Nay-yawa? Will you come with me or leave like Ta-ha-ho-nee?”
Nay-yawa was still unsettled by what he had seen. He clearly had no interest in getting closer to the white men and chose to go with Ta-ha-ho-nee.
“I will go and see what I can find,” Tonto said. “You should go and look elsewhere for food. I will see you back at the village.”
The men split up and Tonto rode cautiously into the canyon. By the time he reached the scene, the shooters were gone. All that was left in a sea of blood were the bodies of horses and men. Realizing the killers could return at any time, he set about quickly scavenging the bodies for anything of value, especially guns and ammunition. As he came up on the body of one of the men, he noticed the man was still breathing, but just barely.
Tonto drew his knife and held it to the neck wound intending to mercifully end the man’s misery. Just before he thrust his blade, he noticed the man’s necklace and a very familiar amulet attached to it.
“Kemosabe?” he said, looking closer at the man’s face.
He didn’t recognize the face behind the blood and bushy beard, but he did recognize the amulet. He had given it to a young white man several years ago as a gift for saving his life.
For the next several hours Tonto busied himself tending to the man’s wounds. As he worked, he thought back to the last time they had met. An Indian war party had attacked the Cavendish and Reid ranches. In addition to taking off with livestock and horses, they killed Mike Cavendish, along with his oldest son, Hank. James and Martha Reid were also killed. Their sons, Dan and John, were off hunting with Butch Cavendish and didn’t know about the raid until they returned to their homes that evening.
Butch found his mother weeping inconsolably over her husband’s body. The Reid brothers ran a gamut of emotion as they found the bodies of their parents and most of their animals gone. The next morning the three boys, now in their late teens, banded together and went in pursuit of the Indian raiders.
As they followed the trail, they came across a few stray cows and a couple of their horses. They lost time rounding up the animals and eventually the trail went cold. Heading in the general direction the raiders had gone, the boys came up on a small encampment of Indians.
Without hesitation, they galloped their mounts into the camp, charging in with guns blazing. Within the first 30 seconds, seven Indians were dead, including three women and two children. The tribe scattered and Butch and Dan rode after them. John stopped, slid off his horse, and picked up a quiver of arrows dropped by one of the dead men. He looked at the arrows and compared them to one that he had pulled from his father’s body. They were very different. These were not the killers.
(Copyright 2010, Joe Southern)


The Lone Ranger finally unmasked

(NOTE: This is the fifth part in a serial-type story about the origin of the Lone Ranger. In the last part, Butch Cavendish overheard the Reid brothers talking about their discovery of silver in an old cave.)

The Lone Ranger slowly climbed to his feet. He instinctively felt for his guns, forgetting that he lost them in the struggle with Butch Cavendish. One had fallen over the cliff and the other was several feet behind his nemesis, well out of reach.
Cavendish, who was unaware of the gun’s location and having lost his own sidearm, drew a knife from his boot.
“I don’t know who you are mister, or why you have it out for me, but you’re surely gonna pay for wreckin’ my life and sending me to rot behind bars. If it weren’t for you, I’d be living a dream. Now you’re gonna pay with your life,” sneered Cavendish.
“Wrecked YOUR life!” the Lone Ranger shouted with incredulity. “You killed my brother and my friends. I should have killed you when I had the chance, but I’m not like you. I value human life. I believe every man deserves a fair chance in life. You led that cowardly ambush on the Rangers. It was you who attacked us for no reason!”
Cavendish paused, the Ranger’s words echoing in his mind. “Brother? Us?” he thought. “What is he talking about? There’s no way anyone could know what happened down in the canyon below unless …”
“Who ARE you!” demanded Cavendish. “How do you know about the the Rangers?”
“I was there, Butch. I survived.”
At that the Lone Ranger reached up and untied the red scarf around his neck. Pulling it away, he revealed a nasty scar on his neck. The dim light of recognition began to form on Cavendish’s face.
Then the Lone Ranger reached behind his head and untied the strings to his mask, slowly pulling it off his face. Across the bridge of his nose was a scarred gouge.
“You did this to me 13 years ago,” he said.
“Reid!” Cavendish blurted. “It ain’t possible! You’re dead. I killed you myself.”
Both men could clearly envision the events that played out 13 years earlier in the canyon below. A group of six Texas Rangers, led by Capt. Dan Reid, trailed an outlaw by the name of Collins into the narrow canyon at Bryant’s Gap. Once the men were inside the narrow canyon, a hoard of outlaws appeared on the ridge and began shooting at the Rangers like so many fish in a barrel. Men and horses tumbled. A few of the Rangers were able to return fire, but their efforts were futile.
When all movement stopped on the canyon floor, Cavendish called a halt to the assault and led his men down into the heart of the carnage. The coppery smell of blood was overwhelming. Dead men and horses littered the ground. Collins came riding back and met up with the others as they surveyed the damage.
“Looks like you got ’em, boss,” Collins said. “Ain’t a one of ’em left alive, not even their mounts.”
Cavendish strode over to where two familiar figures lay. Even through the blood he could make out the faces of the brothers he used to call friends. All the Rangers had long, scruffy beards, as was the style and tradition of the lawmen. But what stood out the most was the mole on the bridge of John Reid’s nose. The mole always bothered Cavendish, but he never said anything about it. It made for immediate identification when he came upon the bodies.
“They’re not all dead,” Cavendish said as he eyed the rise and fall of John Reid’s chest.
Reid’s eyelids fluttered open and he gazed hazily at Cavendish. He tried to say the words, “Butch, why?” but nothing came out.
Taking careful aim with his rifle, Cavendish took a clean shot at the mole on Reid’s nose.
“Let’s see him breath through that,” he said as blood oozed from the new wound and the eyes closed.
Reid’s breathing became shallower, but did not stop.
“I’ll be danged if he ain’t still hangin’ in there,” said one of Cavendish’s men after a few moments of watching Reid’s bullet-riddled body.
“This’ll do it,” Cavendish said as he once again pointed his rifle at the dying Ranger.
He squeezed the trigger and a bullet tore through the beard and grazed across Reid’s throat.
“That’ll finish him,” he said.
Someone noticed a lone figure riding into the canyon from the far end. Before the rider could get close, Cavendish and his men made a hasty retreat before they could be recognized.
(Copyright 2010, Joe Southern)


The secret behind the silver mine

(NOTE: This is the fourth part in a serial-type story about the origin of the Lone Ranger. In the last part, Butch Cavendish was recalling his motivations for wanting to kill the Lone Ranger.)

The motive (continued)
As young Butch Cavendish walked along the side of the Reid’s barn in search of his friends, Johnny and Danny, he stopped, hidden in the shadows, as he overheard the two brothers talking. It was the evening of the day after their father had reluctantly purchased a portion of the Cavendish ranch, a portion that contained the “bear cave” the lads liked to play in. The sale of the land gave the struggling Cavendish family enough money to see them through a tough time.
“You know what’s in there, don’t ya Johnny?” Danny asked his younger brother.
“In the cave?” Johnny said. “There ain’t nothin’ in there ’cept a bunch of old rocks.”
“It’s more than just rocks. Haven’t you wondered what that gray stuff is in the walls?” Danny asked.
“It’s just mica. The stuff’s all over the place,” Johnny said.
Butch was about to come around the corner, but paused to listen some more.
“That ain’t mica, little brother,” Danny said. “I’m pretty sure it’s silver.”
“SIL…” Johnny started to blurt out before Danny’s hand clasped his mouth.
“Shh!” he admonished him. “Keep it quiet. No one can know, not even dad.”
“But why, Danny? Why do we have to keep it a secret? If that’s silver in there, then we’ll all be rich,” Johnny said.
“Think about it,” Danny said. “If I’m right and that is silver in there, then dad will just give the land back to the Cavendish’s. We won’t get any of it.”
“But isn’t that the right thing to do?” Johnny asked.
“Look, I know as well as anyone that Butch’s family really needs the money. But so does our family. If this drought continues another season, we’ll be as bad off as they are or worse. Besides, it’s Mr. Cavendish’s fault for not inspecting the land closer before selling it. I know that section is worthless for farming and ranching, but he should still know what he’s got. It’s his fault for being so careless,” Danny said.
“I see. Like always, you’re right, Danny,” Johnny said.
“Then it’s settled. This will be our secret. It will be our secret silver mine,” Danny said, offering his hand to Johnny in a solemn handshake.
As the bothers shook hands, Butch quietly slunk off away to be alone with his thoughts.
Years later, the brothers went on to be ranchers and part-time Texas Rangers. Cavendish, having carefully crafted his revenge for nearly a decade, had the band of six Rangers, including the two brothers, lured into the canyon known as Bryant’s Gap. There, he and his men ambushed and killed them all.
That left the land in the hands of the sole heirs, Linda and her young son Dan Jr. It also made Linda available once more for Cavendish with her husband, Dan Sr., dead in the desolate canyon. All Butch Cavendish had to do was woo the grieving widow to the alter and the woman of his dreams and the land of immense wealth would all be his.
That’s exactly the plan he had in motion when this masked cowboy and his Indian friend began hunting down Butch and his friends. He had no idea who they were and why they were hunting him and his pals down like dogs, but eventually everyone involved in the murders of the Ranger wound up in jail. Butch was the last one out when he decided to quit running and to take the offensive.
He set a trap and the Indian fell for it. With the masked man’s friend bound and gagged, the trap for the stranger was set with the Indian as bait. But the masked man didn’t bite. Instead of freeing his friend, the stranger sneaked up on Butch and the two engaged in a brief tussle before Butch broke free and took off riding hard on his horse.
Right on his tail, however, came the masked man riding on a huge, white horse. It didn’t take long before he overtook Butch and tackled him off his mount onto the hard, dusty ground. The two men fought, but the determined man in the mask seemed to fighting with an incredible strength, like a man possessed.
Badly beaten, the man captured Cavendish and hauled him to jail. That was the last time he saw the man. At his trial, his captor was nowhere to be seen. But enough hard evidence mysteriously surfaced to see that Butch and his cronies were convicted of the murders of the Rangers.
The case was strong, but the jury seemed to have enough doubt to not give the death penalty and to send the men to a life of hard labor in a state penitentiary. For 13 years Cavendish did hard labor, plotting revenge against the man who stole his hopes and dreams.
As motivated as Cavendish was, the man in the mask had an even greater motivation. Stay tuned next week to find out what it was.
(Copyright 2010, Joe Southern)


Establishing the motive for murder

(NOTE: This is the third part in a serial-type story about the origin of the Lone Ranger. In the last part, the Lone Ranger recalled his boyhood meeting with Butch Cavendish.)

The motive
As Butch Cavendish cleared the grit from his eyes and caught his breath, more came into focus than his masked nemesis gasping for air at his feet as they struggled on the canyon rim. The memory of their last encounter seared his mind, haunting him with a hatred that would have scared the devil himself. Thirteen years of hard, tedious labor in prison were bad enough, but the torment of the events leading to his capture was what motivated him most.
After years of poverty and bad luck, Cavendish was about to have it all – the land, the girl … everything he ever dreamed of. The Texas Rangers were dead. With them were the Reid brothers, the ones who had made his life so miserable and stood in his path to nirvana. With them out of the way, the woman he loved could be his. The land that he coveted could be his. Just as importantly, the long, deep veins of silver that lay hidden in the cave would be his.
No one ever found out who murdered the band of Rangers that day in Bryant’s Gap. There were no witnesses. But Cavendish has plenty of “witnesses” who would place him miles from the scene at the time of the crime. It was said that an Indian found and buried the bodies. But it was nearly two weeks before the deaths of the missing Rangers were reported. By then the trail was cold and any physical evidence was long gone.
At the memorial service, only the widow of Capt. Dan Reid grieved harder than Cavendish did – or appeared to. Being old friends, no one questioned it when they consoled each other and mourned the men who had been closest to them. But moving in on Linda Reid was all a part of the plan.
Butch Cavendish had a crush on Linda Jones from the time he first laid eyes on her. His love for her grew stronger as the children matured into adults, but being poor and a couple years younger, Cavendish never did confide to her or anyone else how he felt. It was a private matter that would wait until he was ready to make her his bride. He burned silently with a jealous rage when Danny Reid stepped up and began courting the lovely young woman.
It was all he could do to act happy for them on their wedding day. And he was the first to shower them with gifts when Dan Jr. was born, though it pained him greatly to look on the face of the baby he felt should have been his child. He hated Dan Reid for stealing his love away from him. But he played it straight as to not alienate Linda or to let on to anyone his secret love for her.
Johnny Reid was his best friend. They were closer than brothers and inseparable – or so he thought. One day when they were boys, Butch, Johnny and Danny discovered what they called “the bear cave.” It was on Cavendish land not far from the Reid property line.
The boys had named it the bear cave after a bear had chased Butch out of it. Had it not been for some quick action by the brothers, the bear would have killed the lad. But the Reid boys, risking their own lives, managed to chase the bear away.
The cave became kind of a clubhouse or getaway for the youths. There was nothing unusual about it other than an abundance of quartz and mica. There were no Indian treasures buried inside and certainly no gold to be found. It was just a fun place to play and a cool place to go on hot summer days.
A couple years after discovering the cave, drought and hard times hit the area. With skinny cattle and no crops, Mike Cavendish, Butch’s father, was facing foreclosure by the bank. He came hat in hand to James Reid and begged him to buy half his land so he could afford to pay the bank.
Reid was reluctant because he wanted to find another way to help his friend and neighbor. Eventually he gave in and agreed to buy a remote, worthless plot for more than a fair price. It was enough to help the Cavendishs through a tough time and it also give title of several acres, including the cave, to the Reids.
The evening after the deal was closed, Butch came over to the Reids place to find his friends. Before they saw him, however, he overheard a conversation between the two brothers. That conversation would change the lives of all of them.
What did they say that was so profound? Stay tuned next week for the shocking revelation.
(Copyright 2010, Joe Southern)


Enemy mine: A friendship forms

(NOTE: This is the second part in a serial-type story about the origin of the Lone Ranger. In the first part last week, Butch Cavendish was trying to choke the Lone Ranger to death as they fought atop a canyon rim. The Masked Man was barely able to break free.)

In the beginning
As the two men contemplated each other – the Lone Ranger on his knees, his chest heaving in desperate gasps for air, and Butch Cavendish nearly blind from the grit in his eyes – each flashed back in their minds to pivotal moments in time throughout the past 38 years. Cavendish was focused on their last encounter 13 years earlier when the masked stranger captured him and placed him behind bars for what was meant to be a lifetime of misery and hard labor.
The Lone Ranger’s mind wandered farther back, much farther. He recalled the first time he met Cavendish nearly four decades earlier as young boys on ranches on the Texas frontier. The Reid family had been established in their log home for almost two years when one spring day an ox-drawn covered wagon pulled up to the house. The wagon was driven by a man who appeared to be pushing 35. Next to him was a woman, apparently his wife. Two young boys rode up behind them on horses.
James Reid stopped the horse that was pulling a plow and strode over to the wagon. His wife Martha peered out the kitchen window before drying her hands on a dish towel and walking briskly out the front door.
The two young Reid brothers came running up from the wood shed where they had been chopping firewood. It was rare to have visitors, especially unannounced. Their spread was a ways off the beaten path and most of the people who visited were natives with whom the Reids had developed a friendly relationship. As the family encroached on the wagon, the man jumped down and headed for the elder Reid.
“Howdy, the name’s Cavendish, Mike Cavendish an’ this’s my wife Clara. Back there are our boys, Hank and Butch. We’re homesteaders. We bought some land ’round hereabouts and was hoping you fine folks could point it out to us.”
Reid grabbed Cavendish’s hand and pumped it vigorously.
“Pleased to meet ya! We don’t get many visitors in these parts, let alone neighbors. I’m James Reid. That’s my wife Martha and over there’s our boys, Danny and Johnny.”
Clara Cavendish clambered down from the wagon and joined her husband about the time Martha arrived at James’ side. Hank and Butch rode up and stopped. Danny, being the oldest at age 12, was the first to arrive at the group. He ran up and stopped, putting his hands on his knees and bending over to catch his breath. A few seconds later Johnny ran up behind him. He was barely winded.
“Who are they Paw?” he asked. “What do they want?”
“Hey Johnny, these are the Cavendishes and they’re going to be our neighbors,” Reid said.
The youngest boy slid off his horse and faced Johnny.
“Hi, I’m Butch and that’s my ugly brother Hank,” he said, pointing his thumb toward the older boy, who was sliding off his mount.
“Butch!” Clara said in a stern voice. “You be nice to your brother, ya’ hear?”
“Yes m’am,” he demurred.
“I’m Johnny, Johnny Reid and this here’s my brother Danny,” Johnny excitedly exclaimed to Butch.
The two boys sized each other up. Butch was a bout six months younger, but stood a half an inch taller.
“It’s gonna be so nice to have someone to play with who ain’t my brother,” Butch said.
Hank just ignored him, but Clara cast a sour glance at him.
“You will stay for supper, won’t you?” asked Mary Reid, turning Clara’s attention from her sons.
“We’re mighty appreciative of the offer,” Cavendish said, “but we’ve been on the road for a long time and we’re anxious to see this place we bought.”
“I hope you’ll reconsider,” Reid said. “It’s getting’ late in the day and the Indians will be coming out soon to hunt. Not all of them are friendly. You don’t want to be alone and unprotected if the wrong ones come along. Why don’t you folks stay here the night and we’ll help you on you way first light of morning.”
“That’s might kind of ya,” Cavendish replied. “We graciously accept your kind offer.”
Meanwhile, in the present, Butch Cavendish rubbed his eyes clear and glared down at his enemy. He mind raced back to their last encounter. The memory just made him all the angrier.
What was that memory? Tune in next week to find out.
(Copyright 2010, Joe Southern)


The Lone Ranger is riding again

The break is over! Below is my column from the Waller County News Citizen. It is cross-posted on my other blog. Since I will be writing about the Lone Ranger for a few weeks, I thought it should be posted here as well.

The name of this column is Faith, Family & Fun. For the next few weeks I’m taking a tangent on the fun side.
As most of you know, I own the Lone Ranger Fan Club (www.lonerangerfanclub.com). I got into that gig because I wanted to write a Lone Ranger novel. I have many ideas in mind. I simply lack the time to get them down on paper (or in Word on my computer). I’ve decided to do the proverbial killing of two birds with one silver bullet and hash out a condensed version of one of my story ideas here in my column.
All I’m asking of you is to be patient and to provide some feedback. If the Lone Ranger, or Westerns in general, aren’t your thing, that’s OK. There are plenty of other stories to read in this newspaper. But if you’d like to help me flesh out a really cool story, please read and respond. Please e-mail me at jsouthern@hcnonline.com or lonerangerfanclub@sbcglobal.net and let me know what you think of my little tale. It will appear serial-style over the next few weeks.
I figure the best place to start is with the origin story. As any fan knows, the Lone Ranger came to be when a group of six Texas Rangers pursued a band of outlaws to a canyon known as Bryant’s Gap. There, the Cavendish gang ambushed them and killed all but one. Unbeknownst to Cavendish, one Ranger survived the attack.
That evening, after the gang had gone, an Indian by the name of Tonto came upon the scene and found the one man still alive. He rendered aid and nursed the man back to health. Tonto buried the five dead men and made a sixth, empty grave so no one would know that anyone survived. Wearing a mask to hide his identity, the surviving Ranger – the Lone Ranger – dedicated his life to capturing the gang and serving justice throughout the West.
What follows here is a condensed version – an outline – of how I think the story should go down. I doubt the Disney version will be anything like this when the new movie comes out in a couple years, but at least I can put my spin on the legend.

From the Precipice
The Lone Ranger lay on his back, his head hanging over nothingness off the canyon rim and his vision blurred by sweat, blood and oxygen depravation. The two vice-like hands gripping his throat belonged to a madman – a man he once called his best friend. Hate and anger raged in the man’s eyes. The man’s teeth were clinched as tight as the death grip he held on the masked man pinned underneath him.
“I’ve wanted this for a long time,” he growled.
It was clear that the man intended to throw the Lone Ranger over the ledge into the rock-strewn canyon below, but not before choking the life out of him first. It wouldn’t be long before that happened. Darkness was creeping in around the Ranger’s peripheral vision, darkness as black as the mask around his eyes. All the Lone Ranger could think about was getting air back into his burning lungs. He made pitiful attempts to squirm and tug at the arms of the madman, but to no avail. The loss of blood and the lack of air coupled with extreme exhaustion had the Lone Ranger almost wishing the end would come – almost.
The Lone Ranger was not the kind of man to just quit. He hadn’t come this far and fought this long and hard to let it all end. Not here. Not now. The man on top of him may have been a trusted friend but he was also his most feared and deadly enemy. He was the man who had killed his friends; killed his brother – and left the Ranger to die. This man was the personification of everything the Lone Ranger had dedicated his life to defeating. If there had been any good in the man, it had vanished long ago. All that remained was hate-filled evil.
Thrashing now in what he felt for sure were his death throes, the Ranger grabbed a handful of sand and gravel and flung it with the last escaping ounce of his strength into the man’s face. It worked. The man howled with rage, and broke his death grip to wipe the grit from his bloodshot eyes. That was all the Lone Ranger needed to suck in a gulp of life-saving air and to reposition his upper torso enough to allow him an angle to throw a punch. His fist connected with the man’s nose and mouth. Before the man could react, the Lone Ranger followed with a second blow to the chin, stunning his assailant. The move was enough to allow the Lone Ranger enough time and space to roll the man off of him and break free. He rolled to his side and rose to a kneeling position, heaving and gasping for air.
The man stood fast, spitting blood and dirt.
“Butch,” the Ranger croaked. “Butch, it doesn’t have to be like this.”
A malevolent look crossed Butch’s face.
“Oh yes it does. You’re gonna die a slow, painful death, just like you left me to do when you put me in jail to rot. I’m free now, and you’re surely gonna pay!”
The two men contemplated each other from the top of the canyon. How had they reached this point? How had two friends as inseparable as brothers become such bitter rivals? Why was one of them about to die at the hand of the other?
Stay tuned next week for the flashback to a friendship gone bad.
(Copyright Joe Southern, 2010)