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)