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A Medal for Sgt. Freeman

By Kevin Gonzalez 

Border trash, summed up deputy marshal Clem Atkins as soon as he spied the stranger shamble into Cobre’s only saloon. A sneer accompanied the thought as he gripped the billy club snugged into his gun belt out of habit.

One small step above a desert rat and just as dusty, he continued to himself as the man dug into a pocket of his faded canvas pants, fishing for a coin to buy a mug of the lukewarm beer offered at the bar. It was wet, at least, and brightened a man’s day better than plain water, especially if he drank enough of it. The lawman took a sip of his own whiskey, smacking his lips. It came from a bottle under the bar reserved for Cobre’s badge-toters and accounted, in part, for the roll of gut hanging over his belt.

Not wearing a gun, the deputy marshal thought as he continued his inventory of the newcomer. Probably pawned it for eating and drinking money. The rest of the man’s lightweight, loose clothing marked him as someone savvy to the ways of the desert heat. The moccasins he wore instead of boots were lighter and cooler, too. And the big sombrero kept the heat at bay and shaded his eyes.

Schmidt noted the sound as the stranger slapped a nickel on the bar to pay for the beer and the cheap chili lunch that went with it, the one usually avoided by regular customers. It was more of a Mulligan stew with beans and chili peppers added. The bar owner, Sam Goldberg, made it himself, using whatever meat scraps were available at the time. Sometimes that meant beef and sometimes that meant things other than beef, such as desert denizens like snakes.  If the stranger knew, it didn’t show because he packed it away, finishing his tin cup of chili in about as much time as he had taken to dip it into the big serving bowl at the end of the bar.

“More?” he asked, holding up the greasy cup, dripping red sauce down its sides.

“Only when you pay for another beer, mister,” answered the bartender, pointing to the man’s half-empty mug.

“OK,” the man said, downing the beer in a big draught, some of the foam dripping down his chin, which he wiped with a dusty sleeve. He sought another nickel, flipping it off his thumbnail. It spun in the air, hit the warped wood of the bar, and clattered as it hit the floor, rolling the length of the saloon until it bumped into the toe of one of Atkins’ dirty boots.

“Pick it up.” Atkins’ voice rasped like sandpaper on stone.

“Sure thing, mister. Didn’t mean no harm or nothing.”


“OK, mister.”

“It’s deputy to you, tramp.”

“Now hold on, mister deputy,” the man protested. “I’m sorry I interrupted your drinking and all, but you got no call to insult a man by calling him names.”

Atkins tossed back the rest of his drink and slammed the empty glass on his table. “I said come over here and pick up that coin you were so careless with. Or maybe I’ll toss you in the hoosegow for vagrancy.”

“I may not have much, but I can pay my way.” The man slipped a small leather pouch out of his worn canvas pants. He held it up so everyone in the bar could see.

Atkins waited until the stranger bent over to pick up the nickel, then whipped out his club and smacked a dent in his sombrero with it. As he reeled back in shock, clutching his head, Atkins rammed the club into the pit of the man’s stomach and stepped back to avoid the resulting spew of rancid chili and beer.

 “Creating a public disturbance. Vagrancy. Resisting arrest. ” Atkins recited, looking around to see if anyone objected. He nodded to himself and then picked up the man’s pouch of coins. He slipped it into his vest pocket

“You two,” he said pointing at a couple of townspeople. “Drag this sorry excuse of a man over to the jail. He’ll have his day in court soon enough.”

The stranger knelt on the floor, still retching, his head throbbing in pain.

It appears that everything I’ve heard about this half-baked excuse of a town is true, thought Arizona Ranger Eli Weiss as he levered himself up from the floor an inch at a time, wiping vomit from his lips. Just wish I could have found out a lot easier.

Hunched over and hands clutching his head and gut, Weiss allowed himself to be steered to the town’s jail. I prefer seeing them from the outside, not as a guest, he thought.  


“Cobre’s a town that’s been hanging on as stubborn as a burr in a blanket for a long time,” Ranger Captain Tom Rynning had explained to Weiss several days before in Douglas, Arizona. An ex-Rough Rider and former soldier, Rynning had taken over command of the rangers after its first captain, Burt Mossman, left the outfit. The rangers had moved from Bisbee and set up a new headquarters in Douglas soon afterward, as their charter stipulated that they establish their home in the toughest town in the territory and the wide-open Douglas fit the bill.

“Name means ‘copper’ in Mexican and there was just enough there once a long time ago to fool a lot people into thinking that they could prosper off it. The big strikes were in places like Bisbee and Morenci. Most of the folks left but enough of the town exists to justify calling itself one, I guess.”

“So why is it so important now?” asked Weiss.  He was interested in getting back into the field. The recent use of the rangers to break up strikes in the Morenci mines had not set well with him. He wanted to use his skills against outlaws, not against Mexican miners with grievances. 

“Because of Ed Ware. That’s why,” answered Rynning. “I understand you met him once a while back.”

“Wasn’t Ware one of the Seminole-Negro Indian scouts who got recruited by the Army because they could out-shoot, out-ride and out-track the enemy? Weren’t but 50 in the field at any one time, but they managed to earn a handful of Medals of Honor.

“I did run across him before leaving for Cuba with the Rough Riders,” said Weiss. “Dust-up in a bar. He laid out a couple of good old boys who didn’t like his color and were loud about it. He was no spring chicken back then, but they don’t come any tougher.

“I was wearing a badge for the town so it was my responsibility to make it my business just as he unlimbered his pig sticker and was set to whittle parts off them unlucky lads. Talked him out of it but it was touch-and-go for a while and I thought I’d have to shoot him to make him see reason. He settled for an apology from those yahoos, which I prodded out of them with my Colt, and the two of us split a bottle of tequila to make peace. I had to turn in my badge once the town elders heard that I had sided with a black man and not shot or jailed him for assaulting white men. That was the last I heard of him or the town.”

“Tough used to be part of his job description,” said Rynning. “Comes in handy when you’re running Apaches to ground. He was later attached to the 10th Calvary, as a special scout under Colonel Benjamin Grierson in the campaign against Victorio.”

“Which all ended at the Battle of Rattlesnake Springs in early August, 1880,” said Weiss, recalling some military history. Like Rynning, he had ridden with the 8th Cavalry; unlike the ranger captain, however, he had been too late to take part in the capture of Geronimo. His cavalry experience and previous time spent as a law dog explained his current sergeant’s rank with the rangers.

 “Classic example of a forced march,” he continued. “Grierson and the 10th Cavalry covered 65 miles in 21 hours, keeping parallel but out of sight to Victorio’s men. They had to keep the Apaches away from the waterhole there and force them out of Texas and to retreat to Mexico. Grierson got to the springs first, surrounded the area, and his men sprung an ambush, proceeding to teach the Apaches a thing or two about the high price of water.

“It worked. Victorio was forced to return to Mexico, where some months later, he was trapped and killed by Mexican troops,” he concluded. “So why all this interest in one of the battle’s participants almost 25 years later?”

“Grierson eventually retired as a brigadier general. He’s been spending time going over his old campaigns and writing personal letters to participants about them. He feels that Ed Ware was slighted by not being formally recognized for his role in that battle and has written him a special letter of commendation. He’d like Ware to be presented with it. Trouble is, no one knew where he was and it took a while to find him. The trail ended in Cobre where he was living, last time anyone heard of. Government even dispatched a messenger, but he got run out of town, real rough-like, without seeing the old scout. Seems like the local law doesn’t take kindly to strangers.

“Sorta suspicious, don’t you agree? So the authorities would like one of us, stretched thin as we might be at the time, to mosey on over and to make sure that Ware gets his letter from the general.”

“And that ‘one of us’ would be me.”

“Correct. You’re an old horse soldier and you have met Ware.”

“Uh-huh. Message to Garcia,” he muttered to himself. “True enough. Want me to work undercover?” The first year of the rangers’ existence, almost all of its law enforcement operations had been spent undercover, working for cattle ranchers to put the state’s rampant rustlers out of business. Weiss didn’t mind it, but usually preferred to work out in the open, being upfront about his man-hunting matters.

“Makes sense, given the way they manhandled the government’s messenger. Just drift in, get the lay of the land, locate Ware, and hand him the letter. Keep your badge hidden, but handy,” the captain advised. “Same thing applies to your hardware.” Rynning knew that while the new ranger badges had five-pointed stars, the star carved on the mesquite grips of Weiss’s Colt .45 had six points because it was a Mogen David and represented his faith. Being too distinctive was a handicap to a lawman undercover.

It was also a subtle rebuke about Weiss being a tad too handy with it. Rynning preferred arrests, not gunplay, to finish the rangers’ criminal cases.

Weiss agreed with the captain’s judgment. “You know, that man’s a hero,” he said. “He and the Buffalo Soldiers, their blood was the same color as the white officers who led them into battle against the Apache,” he added, knowing a bit about discrimination and prejudice himself, given his Jewish background.

“Cavalry units like the 9th and 10th beat some of the toughest warriors on earth and they did it under some of the most hostile conditions any soldier has ever faced. Even the settlers they defended used to shoot at them and invite them to necktie parties just because they were black. It’ll be an honor to meet up with Ware again and give him a token of the general’s esteem, late as it is. I’ll bring along some tequila so we can make a toast. He’ll probably like that better. If he’s above ground, I’ll find him, sir.”


“My, my. What do we have here?”  asked Marshal Frank Creeden in the jailhouse. A skinny man, he leaned back in his chair, feet crossed on the desktop, and eyed Weiss through the notch formed by his boots as if it was the rear sight on a Winchester.

On the desktop were the meager contents of Weiss’ pouch and the saddlebags stripped from the mule he had ridden into town.

“Tramp. Started a ruckus at the bar.” Atkins’ stare begged Weiss to protest otherwise and he tapped the side of his leg with the billy club for emphasis.

“Cobre’s a small town, but a peaceful one, mister …?”

“Elijah Webb, sir, uh, marshal.” Weiss, hat in hand, kept his eyes lowered. “Most folks call me Eli, sir.”

“OK, Eli, sir, just what is it that you do?”

“Drifting what’s I seem to do best,” answered the ranger. “I do work when the money’s low – swamping saloons, mucking out stables, being handy with a hammer and nails, if need be.”

“Well, Eli, sir, it appears that you are also handy at making trouble and we do not abide such folk here. We used to have a local judge at our beck and call, but nowadays we avail ourselves of a circuit judge who appears about as frequently as rain. And that, you may have figured out, ain’t often. Were you to wait for him to show up and try your case, we could run up quite a bill feeding you.

“So here’s what we do, then,” the lanky marshal continued as if lecturing a dull student. “I will figure out a fine. If you can’t pay it, we will confiscate any personal possessions to make up the difference.”

Weiss was glad that he had cached his badge and guns outside of Cobre before riding in.

“You have all of $11.38 on your person and the town’s fine is $50.”

“Fifty doll… Ugh.” Weiss’s protest was shut off when Atkins nudged him across the kidneys with his club. He gasped and then fell forward, grabbing at the desk for support.

“You heard correctly. We will keep your cash and confiscate your mule and saddle. In the meantime, you will work around town to pay off the rest of your fine. Your meals will be added to your bill. Deputy Atkins will pop in from time to time to make sure that you are laboring and not loafing. You will find him quite attentive to his duties. He has ways of encouraging folks to do their best. And if you decide to escape, just remember that you would have to ride faster than a rifle bullet to leave our little town alive.

“I have a half-interest in the town’s stable. You will work there, taking orders from Mose, a colored man who works for me for room and board there. He is considered the lowest of the low around here, just so you know how you fit into the local pecking order.”

Uncrossing his long legs, the marshal Creeden leaned forward and grinned. “You are dismissed, Eli, sir. Welcome to Cobre.”


The old man, with skin the color of an old penny, eased himself out of his cot where he had been taking a siesta, when he heard footsteps approaching; the straw flooring of the stable made a good sentry. He was dressed in a faded but clean top half of a union suit and faded blue serge pants.

Prodded by the deputy’s club, Weiss stopped in front of the old man, who was as lean as a pitchfork.

“Got you a worker, boy.  Fellow’s name is Eli Webb. Tell him what to do and if he doesn’t do it, tell me about it and I’ll come back for a little talk with him.” The deputy treated them to a sneer as he left.

Weiss eyed the Spartan cubicle that Mose called home. Cramped, the room was as clean and tidy as any barracks he had ever seen. A small footlocker was arranged at the foot of the bunk.

The stable worker thrust a pitchfork and a broom toward him. “Show me you know how to use these things. You think you’re done, see me, and I’ll say if I agree. Savvy?”

“OK, fair enough. You got a first and last name, boss?”

“People here call me Mose. You do the same.”

“Funny how white folks get to be called Mr. This-and-That, but anyone who isn’t white gets called by their first name only, don’t you think? Forget about ever being addressed as a mister. And isn’t strange how a grown man gets to be called a ‘boy?’”

The stable worker was silent for a while, before saying, “Has something to do with respect. You don’t have it, you don’t get to be called mister.” The stable worker stared at Weiss for a long time. “Moses Freeman,” he said, as if parting with a secret.

“Enough gabbing like an old woman,” he added, gruffness back in his tone. “Get to work, Webb. You’re burning daylight. You smell anything cooking, that’s when it’s time to eat. You stop working when it gets dark. Your bunk is anywhere in the loft you want. Reveille is sun-up.”

“Yes, Mr. Freeman, right away.”

He paused. “Was it ever Sergeant Freeman?” he asked the as the older man walked away.

Freeman looked back. “When I was with the 24th Infantry. How’d you know?”

“The way you keep your things, those old uniform pants, standing like you’re at attention all the time, and referring to waking up as ‘reveille.’ And every sergeant I ever knew had the knack for giving orders. It shows.”

Freeman’s lined face creased into a thin smile. “Not everybody would agree. Now get to work, soldier.”

“Never made it past corporal, sir.”

“It shows.”

Weiss labored hard in the smelly stable for the next week. His reward for cleaning was being handed a hammer and nails and being told to repair the corrals. His man-hunting skills, honed through the years, told him when Deputy Atkins was spying on him. Probably praying that I’ll yield to the temptation of being close to this many horses and saddles and attempt to skedaddle, he thought. And hoping to plant a rifle slug betwixt my shoulder blades should I do so.

And he knew, also from the swishing sound on the straw-covered floor made by Freeman limping around the place, whenever the old stable hand was inspecting his work.  Must have been a terror to fresh recruits when he did a barracks inspection, he thought. Few words passed between them about the job; they sometimes spoke about their past military experiences.

“Ever meet Colonel Grierson?” he asked one day during a break from currying and graining the horses.

“Nah, just seen him from afar. But I knew his reputation. The other white officers couldn’t understand him. Thought he was hurting his career by commanding what they called ‘brunettes,’ their name for us colored troops. Treated my kind fair and with respect, he did. Said he believed in us.”

“History proved him right.”

“Wasn’t history, corporal. It was us.” Weiss noticed that Freeman stood just a little straighter when he said that.  

“Seems like you got a touch of Grierson in you,” the older man noted.

“Maybe,” Weiss said with a shrug. “Been judged different on account of my religion. Nothing like you faced, but it’s made me more tolerant. People are people unless they prove different. Up until then they get back the respect they show me.”

By the end of his eighth day, over a supper of red beans, cornbread, and coffee, Weiss decided to question Freeman about the missing Ware.

“Seems like somebody told me about another fellow out here by the name of Ware. An old cavalry scout or something,” he said as he sopped up some of the bean juice with a hunk of bread.

Freeman froze. “Who told you?”

Easy now, thought Weiss. “Dunno. Just saloon talk. Probably because I was ex-cavalry.”

The old sergeant grunted. “Take my advice. You don’t want to talk about him in Cobre. Ain’t healthy.”

“Wasn’t he at Rattlesnake Springs?”

“Not many people know about that fight,” he said. “I was there, too, part of the escort for the supply train for the 10th Cavalry. When we got there after the ambush by Colonel Grierson’s men, the Apache attacked our wagons, expecting we had water. We gave them lead instead and helped drive them off.  Took an arrow in my hip. Wound got infected and I was invalided out when my bad hip stopped me from marching.

“Been downhill ever since,” he said, shaking his head. “Losing my stripes took away something from me. And then my wife Bessie left me. Crawled into a whiskey bottle for a long time. Ended up here, broke.

“Years later, I come across Ed Ware. Never met him there during the fight, but we came to talking over a bottle of hooch, being as how we were some of the few colored folks here, and found out we were comrades in arms. He had a small place outside of town. Nothing much really, but enough for just him. Close enough to the border so he could slip on over and see his relatives.”

“Where’s he now?”

Freeman fell silent, staring off into the distance. His food lay untouched.

“What happened to him?” Weiss persisted.

Weiss had to strain to hear the old campaigner’s story: “Way I heard it, Ed got into it with some of the locals at the saloon on a Saturday night. They wouldn’t believe him being a scout with the buffalo soldiers and beating Victorio. Called him a shiftless old nig- ...  Well, they cussed him and him being Ed, he started smacking them around. They ganged up on him and when he was all beat up, they, they,    It was awful, real bad, what they did.

“Come the next morning, once the whiskey wore off, they buried him someplace secret to hide the crime, but I found his grave. Atkins was part of it all along and that means Creeden is too. Man from the government came looking for Ed later and they run him off. I think they’re scared and being scared makes them act meaner. If anybody in town knows what’s good for them, they just pretend that Ed Ware never lived.”

Freeman gave him a hard stare. “That why you here? I got eyes, too, you know. That dirt on you is fresh, not worn on. And you got that habit of always knowing what’s around you, even when you’re doing something else. You move awful quiet sometimes, too. I’m betting that just below the skin you got a layer of tough that you let folks see if they mean you harm. And woe be to them. I right about any of this?”

Weiss clapped a hand to the older man’s shoulder. “Thanks. I’m a ranger and I’m here to set things right. But I am going to need your help. You know where they buried Ed? I’ll need proof if I’m to arrest the guilty and make it stick in court. I’ll need your testimony, too.”

“Who’s going to listen to be an old …” began Freeman.

“… and respected veteran of the U.S. Infantry who served his country with distinction,” finished Weiss.

 “You know, you’re the first man in a long time to look past my color and see a man.”

“OK, Sergeant Freeman.  I need you to do an errand for me. I left my guns and badge behind. I’ll give you directions and you can unearth them for me and bring them back. They won’t question you leaving town for a short spell.”

“One man against a whole town? You be needing help.”

“I don’t think everyone will set their hand against the real law. They’ll depend on men with guns, like Creeden and Atkins, to do the fighting. Got anyone in mind to help me whittle down the odds, Sergeant?”

Freeman smiled. “Indeed I do. I’m real good when it comes to being reinforcements.”


They decided to attack at dawn. Freeman dug out a .45-70 Springfield trapdoor carbine from under his bunk and some 405-grain ammo from his old footlocker. A battered but proud infantry kepi rode his brow.

 “Never was much good with a six-gun, but this here Springfield saved my bacon many a time,” said Freeman. “Forgot to return it to the government somehow. Kept me fed when I couldn’t afford store-bought food and protected me from those who would do me harm. It just couldn’t stop me from harming myself. Oh well, time for boots ‘n’ saddles, corporal.”

“Just so you know, my rank is sergeant in the rangers.”

“Their mistake, I suppose.”

Rifles at the ready, they left the stable, spreading out with shadow-like stealth and silence as they approached the jail. Years of rest and rust sloughed off Freeman, adding spryness to his steps and almost erasing his limp.

Weiss wanted Creeden under arrest and lounging in his own jail first before going after Atkins. Once they locked the jail, with its supply of weapons and ammunitions, the deputy marshal would be cut off from supplies with which to resist.  After getting the drop on the other lawman, they could lock him up as well. The old trooper would stand guard while Weiss rode out to get help to bring in the guilty parties to stand trial.

Taking a deep breath, Weiss booted open the door and rushed in, the barrel of his Krag carbine leading the way. Creeden, who was fixing breakfast atop the jail’s stove, wheeled and grabbed for his holstered Colt Bisley revolver.

“Leave it.” Weiss punctuated the statement by working the bolt of the Krag.

His palm just an inch away from the Bisley’s ladle-shaped grips, Creeden relaxed his fingers and let loose a deep breath. “Why, it’s Eli, sir, with a colored handyman.”

“Sergeant, cover the door. Keep an eye out for the deputy.”

The ex-buffalo soldier knelt just inside the door, off to the side, rifle at the ready.

“Marshall Creeden, I’m Ranger Elijah Weiss and I’m placing you under arrest for your part in the murder of Ed Ware. You’ll soon be joined by your deputy as well as any of the people in town who took part in the crime.”

“Crime? Ed Ware was the worst of both worlds, a drunken, colored half-breed who won’t be missed by anyone. We just swept out some trash. What happened was an accident, a barroom brawl gone too far, but he brought it upon himself by being uppity and that’s what people here will testify to, if it ever comes to that.”

“Not everyone,” said Freeman, turning from his post at the door.

“Oh, excuse me,” scoffed the marshal. “The ranger will have the word of half the town versus the victim’s only friend, another colored man who’s spent half his life in a whiskey bottle. The case will never come to court.”

Weiss snagged the Bisley from its holster and jammed it into his gun belt. Gesturing with the Krag, he backed the marshal up, forcing him into the jail’s cell. He slammed the door shut and locked it.

“I think my testimony will count for something, marshal,” said Weiss. “I saw Ware’s body, or what’s left of it, when Freeman took me to the grave last night. Maybe he was to blame for the fight. But it will be real hard to explain how, after Ware was beaten senseless, it was necessary to tie him to a wagon and drag him to death.  

“And you kept quiet about it, even knowing that your own deputy was in the thick of it. You disgust me and you discredit that badge for every honest lawman there is or ever will be.”

“What about me, ranger?” came Atkins’ voice from behind Weiss. “Move and your new-found friend here gets a bullet for breakfast.”

“Sorry, Eli,” said Freeman. “He snuck up behind me. I was too busy watching you jail the marshal.”

“Yeah, the big bad Indian fighter let me creep up behind him. Him and Indian Ed, nothing but old has-beens. Probably just stable hands or cooks for the real soldiers. I cannot believe that the government would bother sending anyone to look for that no-account black trash,” the deputy laughed.

“That should have tipped you off that Ware was the real McCoy.  I have a letter of commendation from his former commanding officer to give to him. That’s what brought me to this one-horse town in the first place,” said Weiss.

“Do tell? Now just turn around real easy and set that rifle down, Webb, or whatever your real name is.”

“Or I could plug the marshal. You shoot Freeman, I shoot you dead.”

“You’re bluffing,” said Creeden, eyes narrowing as he calculated his odds of living through the next minute. “Your sort plays by the rules, unlike men like me and Atkins. That badge means too much to you. You wouldn’t let anybody die like that, even that worthless old Negro.”

Weiss’s knuckles showed white as he gripped the Krag. “Just how are you going to explain my death?”

“Easy. This here colored went loco after a bender and shot you with his old Springfield. Naturally, we had to kill him, too. How’s that?”

“No!” The old trooper lunged into Atkins, ramming a bony shoulder into the deputy. Hearing the commotion, Weiss dropped to one knee as he spun around, seeking a target for the Krag. A shot rang out and Freeman slumped to the floor, one fist clamped onto the barrel of Atkins’ revolver. The deputy pulled the trigger again and Weiss fired, drilling him through the midsection. The crooked lawman rocked backward and collapsed against the doorway.

“Serves me right, letting him sneak up on me like I was a raw recruit on his first patrol. Should have known I was too old for this,” gasped Freeman, clutching his side, which was stained scarlet.

Weiss set the Krag down and stripped off his shirt, bundling it against Freeman’s wounds. It was soaked through in seconds.

“Hang on, sergeant. That’s an order.”

“You can’t order me around. I’m a sergeant. You’re just a corporal.” The old man’s voice trailed off. “Thanks,” he whispered.

“For what?”

“For helping me remember the man I used to be.” His eyes glazed.

Weiss was silent as he held the man for a while. Standing, he turned to Creeden, who cowered in his cell, trying to make himself a smaller target for random shots during the fight.

   He picked up the Krag, its front sight finding a target in the cell. “You need to die and I need to kill you,” he said, each word making the marshal flinch as if struck by bullets. “But you’re right; I do play by the rules.  People have to see you executed for what you did and help spread the word about who the real trash was in this town. You’re responsible for the deaths of two heroes, no matter what color they were, and you’ll hang for it, Creeden. And that is the only thing keeping me from pulling this trigger. Now, you are going to give me the name of every man who took part in the killing of Ed Ware.”

Weiss talked himself into lowering the rifle. He would not dishonor the memory of the fallen buffalo soldier with murder.


Two weeks later, Weiss stood by the graves of the old warriors. He had ordered that the town bury them in the local cemetery. No one had objected.

He had returned after taking Creeden back to Douglas, along with three other men who had confessed their part in the fight that led to Ware’s death. It had been Atkins and Creeden who were responsible for the actual killing. Only Creeden would swing for it, with Atkins dead. The others would serve time in Yuma Territorial Prison.

Standing in front of Ware’s grave, he held the letter that had brought him to Cobre. “General Grierson said that he wrote it as one old warrior to another, to an equal who had faced a common enemy and vanquished him with uncommon valor. He said the nation should have been more grateful for your contribution to civilizing the frontier and offered you his trust and gratitude in this letter as a substitute he hoped that you would accept.” He folded it and tucked it into a small trench he had dug in the grave.

He knelt in front of Moses Freeman’s grave. Reaching into his vest pocket, he pulled out a Purple Heart, suspended by a ribbon. “Seems like they forgot about this after Rattlesnake Springs. Thought I would let you borrow mine. Sorry it took so long, sergeant.” Weiss draped the medal over the cross that marked the fallen soldier’s final resting place.

With a borrowed bugle, he blew “Taps,” thinking about its mournful lyrics:

Thanks and praise,
For our days,
’Neath the sun,
’Neath the stars,
’Neath the sky,
As we go,
This we know,
God is nigh.


And then from his own people’s prayer for the souls of the deceased, the burial Kaddish, Weiss added: “Exalted and sanctified is God's great name in the world, which will be renewed, and He will give life to the dead, and raise them to eternal life in the world which will be renewed.”

Weiss drew himself to attention and saluted. “At ease, men” he said, barely above a whisper. “At ease.”


The End










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