Steeds 22

29 04 2017

“Well, hello, Sheriff. We do not see you here often. It is usually only when there is some kind of trouble.” So spoke Johann Fesenthal, owner and proprietor of one of Uttica’s taverns. No one patronizing the place employed that term. Those who spoke German said bierstube, which is what the owner preferred for his indoor enterprise. Outside was the biergarten. Those of German ethnicity, but whose heart language was English, said beer hall and beer garden. Almost everyone else in the small city of Uttica and outside in the surrounding townships said saloon.

“And trouble comes rarely here, Jack,” said Lee.

Johann, who still spoke with a noticeable German accent, thought going by the English nickname would serve him in better business stead within a middle-American community.

“Your clientele tends to conduct itself with greater control.” Lee looked at the big bar standing between him and Jack and at the bigger unit of shelving and drawers and closets behind, and then he looked about the entire room, admiring all the Teutonic woodwork. “Maybe I should come in here more often.”

“Just because you are a Yankee does not mean you cannot.”

“Thank you,” said Lee. “I’ll have to deal first with my disdain for the stench of burning and spit-soaked tobacco.”

“Let me help you.” Jack had a Bavarian pipe in his left hand. “Prior to your entry, I filled this with a good, American blend. From North Carolina.” Jack struck a match and lit the pipe.

Lee looked at Jack’s reflection in the mirror behind the bar. “Is that huge thing leaded glass?”

“It is,” said Jack with smoke floating the words into the room. “It would not be here if it were not for the railroad. I could never have gotten such a thing to such a rural burg otherwise.”

“I believe I see leaded crystal lamps, too.”

“You do, in places protected from traffic.”

“You don’t serve drinks in such crystal.”

“Only on special occasions.”

Lee nodded.

“Is this a special occasion?” Jack asked.

“I’m here to buy a bottle of brandy.”

“You do not drink.”

“True. It’s for Benedict Ziemcewicz.”

“So he is Polish. He is not unwelcome here. Many of my customers are Catholic.”

“It’s a surprise.”

“What kind?”

“Of surprise?”

“No. Brandy. But you can tell me the surprise, if you want. I like surprises.”

“How about the kind that goes well with a leaded crystal glass?”

“I have that kind. It is not cheap, but it is not too expensive for these parts.” Jack looked among his assortment of bottled distilled spirits. “And here it is … unopened, of course.” Jack held it for Lee to examine. “What do you think?”

“You tell me.”

“Actually, it is for the vicar to say.”

“I’ll let you know.” Lee produced coins from a pocket: most silver, a few gold. He held the entire collection out in his left hand.

Jack picked through the money and removed a number. “This is correct.” He handed Lee the brandy.

“Thank you.”

“Thank you, Sheriff.”

Lee turned from the bar and toward the front door.

“Have you taken up drinking, Sheriff?”

The question came from a group of three older men seated at a table. Each had a personalized stein containing a favorite brew.

“Perhaps those horse thieves are driving you to it.”

Lee walked over to the table. “You have me at a disadvantage, sir. Your name is?”

“My name is Hugo Kleindl, sir.”

“And these other gentlemen?”

Hugo pointed. “This is Ludwig Brueker.”

“Lud,” the man said.

“And that is Gerhardt Pischke.”

“Gary,” that man said.

“Hugo, Lud, and Gary,” Lee repeated.

“Is there any progress in catching those thieves?” Gary asked.

“Very little, I’m sorry to say. I have one witness, and what he saw was in the dead of night. Two unidentifiable mounted men wrangling four unidentifiable horses. I suspect they were the horses owned by Elmer Villwock. Because of the darkness, my witness can’t be sure, and so I can’t be sure. Deputy Redman went in pursuit and came back ten hours later with nothing to report. Too many tracks on the roadways left by too many horses, wagons, and people. There were no other witnesses to be found who could say anything about two men and six horses.”

Each man shook his head and then took a sip of beer.

“As long as I’m here and we’re on the subject, has any of you seen or heard anything?”

The three looked at one another.

“I’m in the market for stories from braggarts, men boasting about something they’ve done or something they’ve received that sounds suspicious. Perhaps you’ve heard one or more men in this establishment who may have had too much alcohol, and who therefore can’t help but swagger as they stagger around the room. I’m interested in stories from men who bluster and crow and blow about a secret they simultaneously share and won’t share.”

The three looked at one another again.

“Nothing, Sheriff,” said Hugo.


He had been listening. “No, sir. Not yet, anyway.”

“I’ll tell you something, Sheriff.” The voice came from another older man sitting by himself near a wall.

“Yes, sir.” Lee walked over to him. “And your name is?”

“Manfred Schulz.”

“Thank you. And what can you say?”

“If anyone tries to take my horse, I’ll shoot him.”

Lee nodded. “Did everyone hear that?” he asked as he looked at everyone else in the room.

Other men nodded.

“Is that your horse and wagon parked just outside the front door, Mr. Schulz?”


“To whom does that horse and buggy belong, the one parked next to Mr. Schulz’s rig?”

Lud said, “That’s mine.”

Lee nodded again. “Gentlemen, this is Wisconsin. This is not one of the territories farther west. Out in the deserts of Nevada and Arizona, or out in the mountains of Montana or Colorado, stealing a man’s horse can very well be a death sentence for the owner. Left on foot, it could be as bad for him as it was for Hagar. Defending one’s horse would be the same as defending one’s own life. That is not so here, however. Here, generally speaking, the law does not allow the use of lethal force in the defense of one’s property. One defers to officers of the law and of the court.”

“Such a law cannot be just,” said Gary. “Why should a man who has worked by the sweat of his brow twelve and fourteen hours a day, six days a week, year after year, for decades … why should such an honest working man allow a dishonest, degenerate man to take the fruits of all that labor away out of laziness or lust?”

“Because,” Lee answered, “the law of our state has a basis in the Law of Moses, which Christians and Jews alike believe to be the Law of God. That Law states that a livestock thief does not pay for his crime with his life. Rather, the thief either returns the animal plus twice its value, or the thief pays five times its value. That was substantially greater than the penalty for stealing other property.”

“What was that?” Lud asked.

“Return the property or pay one hundred per cent of its value, plus pay a fine of twenty per cent of the property’s value.”

“And what if the thief couldn’t pay?” Gary asked.

“The thief worked it off as a limited-term slave.”

“We don’t have slavery anymore,” said Jack. “You fought a war to put an end to it.”

“I did,” said Lee. “In the Law, the penalty for man-stealing, to include kidnapping for enslavement and to sell into enslavement, was death.”

Jack said, “One wonders if God punished the nation nigh unto death.”

“What did Mr. Lincoln think about that?” Lee asked.

“And what if, in the Law, a thief attacked an owner in the process of stealing his property?” Hugo asked.

“That’s aggravated,” said Lee. “The property owner had a right to protect himself and his family. As it was then, so it is now.”

“Well,” said Manfred, “if one of those horse thieves comes my way, I’m shooting first and asking questions later. I’m protecting my interests.”

“Your interests,” Lee said. “You will be interested to learn that you have not been doing a good job in protecting them, or those of your neighbor.”

“The dickens! What are you saying?”

“Come with me, gentlemen, and I will show you.”

All five men followed Lee into the afternoon sunlight.

“Mr. Schulz. You said this is your horse.”


“You will note where I have hitched my horse.”

“Yeah. So?”

“Normally, I keep her within sight, even if I am inside a building. Not here and now, though. Why? Your horse has strangles.”


“Note the discharge from the nose. Note the swollen glands under the jaw. Watch this horse drink some water from the trough and note the difficulty in swallowing. This horse should not be here; he should be isolated in a warm place receiving hot fomentations and soft food.”

Lee repeated with emphasis, “This horse should not be here. If any of the abscesses burst open, the pus is highly contagious. It doesn’t just put your horse at risk of pneumonia, Mr. Schulz, it puts Mr. Brueker’s horse at risk of the same illnesses.”

Lud, Hugo, Gary, and Jack all stared at Manfred.

Lee asked Manfred, “So, to protect his interests, should Mr. Brueker shoot you?”



Steeds 21

26 04 2017


            Horses are being stolen in Tuscumbia County, according to Sheriff Llewellyn E. Leall. Since Easter, at least thirteen have been rustled from citizens located throughout his jurisdiction. These are among the victims.

Fred Sommerfeldt, a farmer in the Town of Green Prairie, lost one.

Walter Stancil, a tinker in the City of Uttica, lost one.

William Chesney, a farmer in the Town of Utley, lost one.

Jeffrey Rayner, a farrier and owner of a livery stable and wagon dealership in the City of Mascoutin, lost two.

Willard Zik, a patent medicine salesman visiting the City of Mascoutin, lost one.

Adolph Kleindl, a hog farmer in the Town of Fox Prairie, lost one.

Edward Chastain, of Chastain & Sons Farm Equipment in the Town of Pleasant Valley, lost two.

Elmer Villwock, a farmer in the Town of Spring Grove, lost four.

Of particular interest, according to Sheriff Leall, “Only the horses have been taken. No tack, no vehicles, and no other equipment were stolen. Indeed, in one case, the horse was unhitched, leaving wagon and harness behind. In two other cases, saddles and bridles were left behind.”

As of this writing, no suspects have been identified, let alone apprehended. None of the stolen horses has been recovered, alive or dead. Sheriff Leall has said, “My entire department is at work trying to solve these crimes. Add to us every constable in every township and the Mascoutin police force.”

Sheriff Leall advises citizens to be on the alert. To those who own or care for horses, “Take extra precautions to guard and secure your animals, especially at night. Make sure they cannot get loose of their own accord, as this will only complicate our investigation.”

Sheriff Leall encourages citizens to familiarize themselves with their horses’ physical characteristics. “Such knowledge will aid us in returning horses to their rightful owners in the event of theft and recovery.”

Branding is a common means of indicating ownership, but it is not necessary, the Sheriff said. “Brands can be altered. Besides, both the original burn and any subsequent burns put the horse’s health at risk.”

Sheriff Leall also advises against notching ears. “Wicked men will cut marked ears off.”

Sheriff Leall added, “Clipping a horse’s coat into a distinctive pattern can be helpful, as can distinctively grooming a horse’s mane and tail. These, however, can be altered. Tattoos are more difficult to change.”

Said the sheriff, “It is best carefully to note a horse’s conformation, color combination, and marking pattern. Note any scars and blemishes. Even the pattern formed by the arrangement of hair on the face is significant. Note the horse’s age. Note the breed. Any record of pedigree can be valuable.”

No other livestock have been reported stolen.

Any citizen having information helpful in solving these crimes should contact the nearest officer of the law.

Citizens needing to maintain confidentiality may contact the staff of this newspaper.

Steeds 20

22 04 2017

“Mornin’, Sheriff. Deputy.”

“Good morning, Zeke,” Lee said. “How are you today?”

“Fair to partly cloudy, I reckon. I’m on my way to t’e courthouse, but I figur’t I should stop an’ say a piece.”

“Sure. What have you got?”

Zeke closed the front door and took a stance close to the center of the office. “Well, now’t t’ays are nice an’ long, I decided yeste’day after work to go fishin’. Up ‘long Elford Creek.”

“Catch anything?”

“Oh, yeah. You know t’e creek’s spring fed. Water’s cold t’rough most t’e summer. Got some trout. Had a nice supper right ‘long t’e bank. So nice, I said to myself, I said, ‘Self, whyn’t you jus’ stay out all night? It’s warm enough. There’ll be moon enough.’ So I said, ‘You talked me into it.’ I found a nice, grassy place, an’ I bedded down. Well, sir, I slept well ‘nough, but t’e grasses weren’t my reg’lar rack, an’ so I woke up now an’ again. Towards last, I woke up to hear some noise: a couple of men on horseback wranglin’ some ot’er horses ‘cross t’e ford downstream.”



“How many men?” Lee asked. “Two, did you say?”

“I did. Two.”

“How many horses?”

“Besides those they were ridin’, four.”

“When was this?” Philip asked.

“Jus’ last night.”

“I know, but what time?”

“Oh, I didn’ bot’er to check my watch. It ‘as dark. I couldn’ see’t.”

“So how could you see the men and horses?”

“It wasn’t too dark. I was t’irty, forty paces away, an’ I could make ‘em out at the ford ‘cause it’s open. No trees. Moon.”

“Did you recognize anyone?” Lee asked.

“Nope. Too dark.”

“And I’ll presume there was no way of recognizing any of the horses.”

“Nope. I could make out some had some white markin’s.”

“Which way were they going?”


Another man entered the office. “Sheriff! I’m glad you’re here.”

“Good morning, sir. And you are?”

“Rudolph Seitzinger, sir.”

“This is my deputy, Philip Redman.”

“I’ve seen him out and about.”

“And this is Zeke Eisenga.”

“Mornin’,” Rudolph said.

Zeke touched the brim of his hat.

“You seem to be in something of a lather, sir,” said Lee.

“I am actually. I’m takin’ time away from chores to report this: Old Man Villwock’s horses have been stolen. All of ‘em.”

“And how many is that?”


“All at the same time?”

“He thinks so.”


“Last night. Maybe yesterday.”

“Can you provide any details?”

“Not many. I wasn’t there. I’m Villwock’s neighbor, but I’m not that close to see everythin’ that goes on at his place.”

“What can you tell us?”

“Villwock says the horses were there, and then they weren’t.”

“Please, more detail.”

“Well, folks know Old Man Villwock is all but bedridden. If he’s up two or three hours a day, that’s it … total. So he’s in bed, but he can see the paddock out his window. He wakes up this mornin’ and looks out, as always. His clock ticks. How come he’s not seein’ any of his horses out there? He waits. He watches. Enough ticks, and he gets up. He opens up the window and sticks his head out. No horses. That gives him enough gumption to walk out the house and look around. He even hauls himself into the barn. No horses.”

“What about other animals?” Philip asks.

“What other animals? Except for a few cats, there ain’t any. Well, the neighbors round about, we take food to Villwock. At least one hot meal a day, plus staples. He pays something every visit. Today, it was Hazel’s turn. Hazel’s my wife. She takes some victuals over, and he says his horses are gone. So, talk about bein’ in a lather. Hazel tells him she’ll look around. She tells him maybe the gate got open, or maybe the horses kicked some boards off the fence. That would be easy enough to do, considerin’ the state of his place. But nope, the paddock was still closed up. Hazel tells him to eat his breakfast, and she’ll get me.

“That time of the day, the milkin’s long done, and I’m just headin’ out to the fields, so I figured I could take some time to have a look-see. If the horses had broken out, they probably wouldn’t have wandered far, but I couldn’t see hide nor hair. And I was on horseback, not in our buggy, so I could go cross-country. Other neighbors are lookin’ around. I’m here.”

“Have you seen those horses? Before, I mean,” said Lee. “Can you describe them?”

“Grade horses, common bred. Gettin’ old. Nothin’ special. I never paid much attention.”

“White markings?”

“I recollect three of them have white on their faces and legs.”

“Thank you, sir,” said Lee. “Zeke may very well have seen those horses.”


“Last night, out by Elford Creek. They were being led by two men on horseback.”


“What time was that, Zeke?”

“I said I couldn’ see my watch, so I didn’ try lookin’.”

“Where was the moon in the sky?”

“Oh, well….” Zeke looked out the windows and then repositioned himself. He pointed at the ceiling. “T’e moon was along about t’ere.”

“You’re thinkin’ of goin’ after ‘em, Sheriff?” Rudolph asked.

“They have a six-hour lead. Maybe seven.”

“Some’at else,” said Zeke. “I heard t’e men speakin’.”


“I cannot say. It was anot’er language. Indian, I t’ink.”

“Indian?” Philip said. “There is no such thing. Ho-Chunk, yes. Sauk or Menominee: yes, maybe. But there are no such people here, not anymore.”

“Zeke,” said Lee. “You’re sure it was a language other than English.”


Philip said, “Half the people in this county are German. A quarter are Dutch. A quarter are Polish.”

“That don’t cipher,” said Zeke. “What about all t’e Yankees?”

Lee said, “Zeke, the point is that many, many people here speak the languages of their ancestors, of their European heritage. German. Dutch.”

“I know Dutch. An’ I know German when I hear it. I can’t speak it, but I know it.”

“Swedish? Norwegian? Danish?”

“I know t’e sounds.”

“Polish? Czech?”

Zeke hesitated.

“You’re confident it was quite different, quite unusual.”


“Try this,” said Lee. “ ‘Fel hyn y dywed yr Arglwydd, Nac ymffrostied y doeth yn ei ddoethineb, ac nac ymffrostied y cryf yn ei gryfder, ac nac ymffrostied y cyfoethog yn ei gyfoeth;  Eithr y neb a ymffrostio, ymffrostied yn hyn, ei fod yn deall, ac yn fy adnabod i, mai myfi yw yr Arglwydd a wna drugaredd, barn, a chyfiawnder, yn y ddaear: oherwydd yn y rhai hynny yr ymhyfrydais, medd yr Arglwydd.’ Does that sound like what you heard?”

“Yeah! Yeah!” Zeke said. “What is it?”



Lee walked over to the map of the county he had on the wall near his desk. “Deputy Redman.”

“Yes, sir.”

“It may very well be that those two men have at least a six-hour lead. Then again, maybe not. I wouldn’t travel in daylight with stolen horses. Even if no one along the way suspected them of being thieves, citizens would surely remember them. Two horsemen wrangling four other horses is an unusual sight. I think those two may have stopped and set up camp for the day, out of sight and out of sound. That requires cover and concealment. That requires a forest or woodlot not likely to be visited by landowners. There are only so many places that will work.” Lee pointed at the map. “You have your Colt.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Take a Winchester from the rack, plus ammunition. Grab some food from Mrs. Oakley. Get on your horse and ride. Conduct a reconnaissance.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’m going out to talk to Mr. Villwock. Before that, though, I’m sending some telegrams west as far as the Dells.”

Steeds 19

18 04 2017

Lee and Freyja travelled a country lane. The leaves of the oaks and hickories intermittently lining both sides had grown to full size for the season. Croplands of winter and spring wheat spread bright green. So did pastures and hayfields. Grass not yet grazed or mown stood knee length while grass in fields having been subjected to the first of three harvests already reached one’s ankles. All of it waved like surf in the breeze. By contrast, corn clattered softly.

Rounding a curve, Lee looked ahead to see a man tumble from his horse. After regaining his feet, he slapped the horse in the face and then tried to remount. The horse hopped and spun to prevent the man from getting back onto the saddle. The man jerked at the reins and used them to whip the horse on the neck. Even so, the horse refused to let the man climb up. The man stepped in front and took aim with his fist to hit the horse on the tip of her nose.

Lee had his sub-compact side-by-side shotgun out. He fired one shot into the ground to his right and rear, keeping the sound of the blast as far as possible from Freyja’s ears, as well as his own. He then urged Freyja to an immediate gallop. In seconds, they were upon the other man and horse. “Stop that!” Lee commanded.

“What the…?”

Lee brought Freyja to a halt a few yards from the man, put the shotgun back into its place, and slid from the saddle. “Stand still!” He spoke not to his horse, but to the man. He strode over and yanked the reins from his hands.

“What do you think you’re doin’?”

“Shut up! What’s your name?”

“Who wants to know?”

Lee’s badge was plainly visible. “Llewellyn Elias Leall, sheriff of Tuscumbia County, at your service. What’s your name?”


“What’s your full name?”

“Terrence Allison.”

“Where do you live?”

“What business is it of yours?”

“Is that yours?” Lee pointed to a small, rectangular bottle laying some feet away on the road. “It looks like it fell out of your vest pocket.”


“Pick it up.”

Terrence stepped over to retrieve it.

“And stay there. Don’t move.”

“Stop givin’ me orders!”

“Shut up! You’re under arrest.”

“Under arrest? For what?”

“Disturbing the peace.”

“The dickens! The closest farmstead is a quarter mile away.”

“Disturbing my peace.”

Terrence was about to cuss.

“I said shut up! Or do you want me to add drunk and disorderly to the charge? That bottle has only a few ounces of liquor in it. Judging from your breath, the other five ounces are swamping your brain. Now stand still.”

Lee turned his attention to the horse. He began by letting her take a good look at him while she smelled his hands. Next, he ran his fingers up and down her face and around her jaws. Then he rubbed her neck. He eased to her left side and kept moving around her rear and to her right side, all the while keeping in touch.

Lee looked at the saddle and then more closely at the pad underneath it. Gently, he slipped a hand between the pad and the horse. Resuming his circuit, Lee stepped around the horse’s front. At her left side again, he reached underneath to unhitch the girth strap. He lifted the saddle, took it over to Terrence, and let it drop to the surface of the road.

“What are you doin’?”

“I said shut up.”

“That’s my property!”

Lee returned to the horse and carefully lifted the pad. “Tell me about this numnah.”

“This what?”

“This saddle pad, saddle blanket, whatever you call it.”

“What about it?”

“Where did you get it? It looks like an old rug.”

“It is.”

“I can appreciate the adage, ‘Waste not, want not.’ But this?”

“What are you talkin’ about?”

“This old rag still has carpet tacks snagged in the material!” Lee dug one out and showed it to Terrence, and then he pulled two more. “Look what they did to the horse. She’s bleeding.”

“I thought I had those all out.”

“Sure you did. Look at this rag. It’s full of dirt and chaff. No wonder the horse couldn’t tolerate having you on her back. How far did you come?”

“A mile or so.”

“You live within a mile or so?”


Lee tossed the saddle pad to him. “Clean that.”

“With what?”

“Don’t you have a comb and brush in your saddle bags?”


“Use your hands.”


“Do it before I make you lick that thing clean.”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“Listen, Mr. Allison. ‘He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.’ I don’t expect you to know who said that, but I do expect you to believe it. Or shall I drag you back to your place and see how well you’ve been treating, whom? Your wife? Your children? Your parents? Your hired man?”

Terrence did not answer.

“Get to work. I’ll tend to these wounds.”

Lee walked over to Freyja and opened a saddle bag, from which he removed a carrot. After withdrawing a Barlow knife from a pocket and opening it, he sliced the carrot lengthwise. One piece he gave to Freyja. Returning to Terrence’s horse, he gave the other piece to her.

“Where’d you get a carrot this time of year?” Terrence asked.

“That was the last one from last year, actually. My landladies are quite skilled at storing root crops in their cellar fall, winter, and spring. Use clean, dry sand. Keep the individual vegetables from touching one another. Works for beets and sweet potatoes, too. Do you know why I sliced that carrot the way I did?”

“I suppose I won’t have to wait long before you tell me.”

“It’s to reduce the chances of the horse choking.”

Lee returned to his horse, gathered a number of items from a saddle bag, and then grabbed his canteen. These he carried to Terrence’s horse. He said, “Since you don’t seem to know much about feeding a horse, Mr. Allison, I suspect you likewise don’t know much about doctoring a horse, so pay attention.” Lee went to work. “Cold, clean water to cleanse the wounds…. Clean cotton cloth to dry them…. This is a concoction of my own making containing plantain, witch hazel, wild indigo, and white oak sap in a carrier of natural oil. It protects the injuries while promoting the healing process…. ”

Lee returned the items to Freyja, and then he pointed in both directions across the road. “Do you know these folks?”

Terrence pointed in one direction. “That’s the Balda place.”

“You cordial with them?”

“I reckon.”

“Unless you want to carry your saddle on your shoulder back to your place, I suggest you hide it in the grass of their pasture, and come back later to get it.”

“My place? I thought you said I’m under arrest.”

“You were. Now you’re on probation, and these are the terms. You walk your horse home. You give her some oats and clean water. You keep her away from manure piles. You put her on good pasture. You keep saddles and harnesses off her until these wounds heal. That goes for flies, too; you don’t want them laying eggs in these injuries. Do you understand?”

“Who are you to tell me what to do with my property?”

“Do you want to discuss this at length as you walk all the way to jail? Once there, you’ll be allowed to discuss it with a lawyer of your choice.”

Terrence picked up his saddle, carried it off the road, and buried it in tall grass under a burr oak. When he returned, he saw Lee holding the reins of his horse. Lee held them out. As soon as Terrence touched them, the horse bolted. She backed away quickly, dragging the reins on the ground.

Lee walked over and took up the reins. He held them out. As soon as Terrence moved toward her, the horse again moved several paces away.

“Does she know the way home?” Lee asked.

“From here, yeah, I think so.”

Lee walked over to the horse and removed the bit and bridle. He walked back to Terrence and gave the items to him. Then he went to his own horse and mounted. “No charge for the veterinary service. I’ll look you up later. If not me, then Deputy Sheriff Philip Redman. One of us will check back.” He and Freyja resumed their journey.

Terrence’s horse followed.


Lee and Freyja stopped. “What?”

“You’re stealin’ my horse.”

“I most certainly am not.” Lee and Freyja started again.

The other horse followed.


Lee and Freyja stopped. “What?”

“My horse!”

“Call her.”

“I dasn’t.”

“Why not?”

“It doesn’t have a name … other than cuss words.”

Lee and Freyja started once more. Terrence’s horse followed them all the way to Uttica.

Steeds 18

14 04 2017

Sheriff Leall stood before the class of twenty children who ranged in age from six to fourteen. He did not stand front and center; that position he gave to Miss De Havilland. Instead, he stood a few steps to her right and closer to the tall windows lining the west side of the schoolhouse. His hat was off. He held it in his left hand at belt level, but right of center so that it partly concealed his holstered Schofield revolver.

“You are all accustomed to being asked questions,” he said. “Allow me to begin by asking one.” He spoke loudly, more so than necessary. This allowed the sound of his voice to carry from the open windows and doors to Freyja, who remained out front. Lee preferred keeping her aware of his presence as much as possible, if not by sight, then by sound and even scent. “Among all the animals of the earth, which one has been the most significant in the history of the world?”

Without hesitation, a girl’s hand shot up.

“Ethel,” Miss De Havilland said.


“Try that again, Ethel.”

“Oh.” Ethel left her seat to stand at attention. “The most important animals in the world are dogs.”

Miss De Havilland turned to Lee and said, “Ethel received a puppy this spring.”

“Ah,” Lee said. “And what kind of dog did you receive?”

“He’s a mutt, but he’s a good-looking mutt. And he’s a good dog. We’re good friends.”

“I can agree that the dog is man’s best friend. Humans and dogs have been living and working and playing together for many thousands of years. Dogs provide us many services, so many that it would be difficult to carry on without them. Can you name any of these services?”

Ethel thought for a few seconds. “Dogs make us smile. Dogs make us feel warm and comfortable inside. Dogs don’t care if we are young or old, fat or thin, rich or poor, ugly or pretty. They don’t call us names; they don’t talk behind our backs. Dogs don’t leave you or forsake you.”

“Very good. Thank you.”

“You may be seated, Ethel,” Miss De Havilland said. “Does anyone else have something to add about the services dogs give us?”

Another hand went up.


Jesse stood. “Dogs herd other animals. Sheep. Cattle. Our dog herds our chickens and ducks. He even tries to herd our cats.”

“Dogs herd livestock,” Lee said. “They also guard livestock. They guard property, and people.”

Another hand.


“They hunt. They help with hunting. They track. They catch. They retrieve. Exactly what they do and how they do it depends on the kind of dog.”

“True,” said Lee. “Hunting and herding, guarding and protecting, I would say those are the biggest jobs dogs perform for people. Attend to the words of my question, however. I did not ask, ‘What is the most important animal in the world?’ I asked, ‘Which one has been the most significant in the history of the world?’ Do you note the difference?”

No hands went up.

“Sheriff Leall asks a good question,” said Miss De Havilland. “Do think about it.”

One girl had her right hand half way up, but her left hand held it as if holding it down.

“Harriet, do you have something to say?”

Harriet did not move.

“Could it be … a cow?” Miss De Havilland asked. “Could it be … a sheep? Or a goat? Could it be a rat?”

Some children laughed. Others sneered.

“If you lived in Europe some five hundred years ago, when the Black Plague was rampant, your answer might settle on the rat,” the teacher said. “What about … a bee?”

All the faces expressed bewilderment.

“Don’t you know how important bees are to farming?” Miss De Havilland asked.

No hands went up. No heads moved to shake or nod.

“I see we have a topic to discuss in science.”

Lee said, “Let me help. I daresay you are all at least a little familiar with steam engines. You have all seen―and heard―steam-powered locomotives.”

Heads nodded.

“You may have seen a steam-powered fire engine. Our small city of Uttica has one, not yet two years old. Mascoutin has one.”

Heads nodded again.

“You may have seen steamboats on the Fox River. Certainly you have heard and read about them. You have heard and read about steamships sailing the Great Lakes as well as the high seas. And you have heard and read about steam engines providing power in so many of our nation’s manufactories. Now, when men speak of the power of these engines, what term do they often use?”

A hand went up.



“Again, please,” said the teacher.

“Men describe the strength of a steam engine by saying how much horsepower it has.”

“Yes,” said Lee. “I suppose one could just as well employ a term referring to ox-power. Oxen do a great deal of work for humans; they put in long hours and pull heavy loads. But the term is horsepower, and there are reasons for that.” Lee swung his hat from right to left. “Who among you can name a famous horse?”

Many hands went up.



“Again, please.”

“Traveller was the name of General Robert E. Lee’s horse.”


“Black Bess was the name of Dick Turpin’s horse.”


“Marengo was the name of Napoleon’s horse.”


“Widow Maker was the name of Pecos Bill’s horse.”

Miss De Havilland smiled. “I’ll accept that. Benjamin.”

“Fauvel was the name of King Richard the Lionheart’s horse. Tencendur was the name of Charlemagne’s horse.”


“Yeah. And Babieca was El Cid’s. Durendal and Veillantif were Sir Roland’s. And Hengroen was King Arthur’s.”

Lee said, “May I deduce many, if not all, of you are more than pupils? You are students. You have done a good deal of reading, or your teacher has done a good deal of reading to you.”

“True on both counts, actually,” said Miss De Havilland.

“But you forgot the name of Alexander the Great’s horse.”

No hands went up.

“Bucephalus,” said Miss De Havilland.

“Again, please,” said Lee.

Children giggled. Miss De Havilland smiled. “Alexander’s horse was Bucephalus.”

“Now,” said Lee, “who can name a famous dog?”

Hesitation. After some seconds went by, one hand was raised.


“How about Cerberus?”

“That is an answer to consider,” Lee said. “Cerebus, the hound of Hades, having three heads and a snake for a tail. Being a creature of myth, it’s hardly a dog. If it ever existed, it was in reality a demon. But you make my point. Humans remember horses, individual horses. And the answer to my question about what animal on earth has been the most significant in the history of the world is … the horse.

“Many other animals have become important to us, but it is the horse that has been present and active in so very many of the turning points in human history. You will note how many of the steeds you named were warhorses. You now have a topic to discuss in history. What would have happened if the horses had not participated?

“It is written, ‘From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not; ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain; ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.’

“I have been to war. I have been in battle. I have seen men and horses alike die, and I have heard men and horses alike scream in agony because of their mortal wounds. I have ridden horses who heard those screams, and heard the gunfire, who smelled the gun smoke blinding them, and the flowing blood frightening them. Yet they charged forward. Even while men ran to the rear in madding fear, they ran forward.


“What would have happened if all the horses of all history, in seeing the sword of the Angel of the Lord, had behaved like Balaam’s donkey?

“What is it that we owe them, creatures who are innocent of the lusts of sinful men?”


Steeds 17

11 04 2017

Lee rode within sight of the Fairview School, located on section 16 of the township of Pleasant Valley. There, on a foundation of field stones, citizens had erected a small, simple, yet sturdy building using black oak for its frame, white pine for its siding, and red cedar for its roof. On the roof above the front door stood a belfry containing a cast-iron bell. Through the roof at the other end of the building poked a rectangular brick chimney.

Lee had his horse approach at a walk. Because of the warmth of the day, the school’s front door and windows lining two walls had all been opened. The gentle breeze blowing through the building carried the sound of the teacher’s voice outside. Lee stopped at the steps providing easy access to the front door. After dismounting, he tied his horse to one of the handrails. He studied the steps.

Normally, Lee concerned himself little about the noise his footfalls made. Indeed, he preferred the sound his riding boots made when hammering the boardwalks in Uttica; he wanted his stride to resonate candor and authority. Here, however, he wanted to cause as little disturbance as possible. He tiptoed slowly up the steps and entered the school, where he immediately stopped and stood in the cloakroom to await being noticed by the teacher.

“Sheriff Leall?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Lee removed his broad-brimmed riding hat.

All twenty pupils turned in their seats to look at him.

“What may we do for you today, sir?” the teacher asked.

“I would like to speak with you for a few minutes, please,” Lee said. “I can wait for a suitable break in your instruction.”

“Mae. Catherine. Come forward.”

Two of the oldest girls left their desks.

“Work with the youngest children. Mae, you handle addition and subtraction. Catherine, you handle rehearsals of the multiplication and division tables. The remainder of you older children, attend to the problems I have written on the chalkboard. As I was saying, these are of increasing difficulty; I don’t expect all of you to solve them correctly, but I want each of you to try.”

Problem 1: Find the cost of 6720 pounds of coal at $5.10 per ton.

Problem 2: A wagon box is 2 feet deep, 10 feet long, and 3 feet wide; how many bushels of wheat will it hold?

Problem 3: What is the price of a square parcel of land measuring 170 rods per side and costing $15 per acre?

Problem 4: A load of barley weighs 3942 pounds; if the load includes 1020 pounds of tare, and if the grain fetches a price of 40¢ per bushel, what is the load worth?

Problem 5: Lumber for the construction of a barn costs $512.60; if the farmer borrows the money and pays it back in 8 months and 18 days at an interest rate of 7%, what is the cost of the loan?

“I will speak with the sheriff now, but note that I will be watching and listening from the back of the room. Proceed.”

The children did not. They watched their teacher walk along the center of the room toward the main door. Once there, she turned and looked at them. “Proceed,” she repeated.

Lee took a couple steps away from the inner door so that he could not be seen by the pupils. “Miss Judith DeHavilland, I believe.” Lee spoke softly.

“Yes, sir.” She remained in the middle of the inner doorway.

“I’m on my way to Chastain’s Farm Equipment to conduct an inquiry.”

“I heard two of their horses have been stolen.”

“Two in addition to the seven in the county that have disappeared within the last six weeks or so. As my deputies and I investigate the apparent crimes, we seek information from citizens who may have already seen or heard something of significance, or who may see or hear something significant in the future.”

“I understand.”

“In your case, I wonder if you might learn something from your pupils.”

“You don’t think that school children are stealing horses.”

“I think school children see and hear things from adults that they then discuss among themselves. For example, a child may brag about the gift of a horse from parents or relatives, people you―as a teacher who interacts with the child’s elders―people whom you know cannot afford such a gift. For another example, a child may brag about certain exploits reported by elders within his extended family. The exploits may not have been told to him, but he may have heard stories being told among them. For a third example, a child may come to you seeking advice about what to do with knowledge regarding wrong behavior on the part of a family member or friend.”

“You are asking me to spy on my pupils?”

“I daresay, Miss De Havilland, that you already attend closely to the words of your pupils. You listen to every sentence, clause, and phrase, every word, syllable, and letter, every phoneme and every oral punctuation mark. You do teach the use of trigraphs, sub vocals, diphthongs, cognate letters, linguals, and diacritical marks.”


“That requires paying close attention to determine whether your pupils have understood your teaching and whether they are reading, writing, and speaking correctly.”


“You distinguish between correct and incorrect, and you let each child know the difference.”


“Indeed, dare I infer that, if you had Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn in your school, you would endeavor to correct their language?”

Judith put a hand to her mouth to stifle a giggle. Removing it, she said, “I would endeavor to induce Master Sawyer and Master Finn to have a command of English as strong as Mr. Twain’s.”

“Are you familiar with the story of Achan?”

“Yes, sir, though it has been some time since I’ve read it or heard it cited in a sermon.”

“Why did God punish Achan’s household for the crimes he committed?”

“I still wonder about that, actually.”

“Can it be that they, too, were guilty? Yes, Achan’s wife and children were under his authority as the patriarch of his family. A superintending precept, however, is this: we must obey God rather than men. This was true under the Law of Moses, and this is true within the Age of Grace. Under the circumstances, it is unlikely Achan’s wife and children knew nothing of his thefts. They said nothing. Saying nothing put the entire community in jeopardy. As it is written, ‘Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.’

“The Chastains have lost two horses. They used them to haul new implements from the train depot in Uttica to their dealership outside Dartford. They used them to test the implements on their farm, and to demonstrate the implements to farmers of the entire county. They have two more horses, yes. They may be able to afford buying two new horses.

“However, we have children of a farm family in the township of Utley who are now out of school and pulling implements because their horse was stolen. We have a tradesman in Uttica who cannot pull his tinker’s wagon after the theft of his horse, so he now has to conduct business by walking to and from customers while carrying tools and wares on his back.

“I am not asking you to become a tattletale or engage in gossip. I am asking you to be a teacher and address that which you may discern to be incorrect. If you can accomplish correction yourself, please do. If, however, you need my professional service, which I suspect would be likely, do not hesitate to contact me.”

“I will do my best, Sheriff Leall.”

“Thank you.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Lee put on his hat.

“Is it necessary for you to leave immediately?” Judith asked.

“No, I don’t believe so.”

“Please, as long as you’re here, would you address the children? As you have seen, they are presently engaged in arithmetic. As you may remember, for most pupils, it is a dull subject. A presentation by you would be a treat on a day when all would rather be out of doors.”

“So you want me to come indoors and suffer with them.”

“You jest, sir.”

“I do. But what shall I say?”

“I admit, this is short notice. Tell a story or two. If nothing else, let them ask questions.”

“You see I am armed.”

“As if any of them has never seen a gun. Besides, you are wearing your badge.”

“My horse is armed, as well.”

“Your horse?”

“She is packing a 20-gauge shotgun. Depending upon what happens later, if necessary, please assist in keeping all the children away from my horse.”

Steeds 16

8 04 2017


“Emil, your barber pole needs paint.”

“Again? That’s because the kids around here just won’t stop lickin’ the thing. They think it’s some kinda giant peppermint stick, every kid’s dream come true. That is, until they get splinters in their mouths. Then it’s a nightmare. Seems they’d spread the word.”

“Thanks for opening early for me,” said Lee. “I wanted to be able to talk without other customers listening.”

“Fine by me. I charge half again as much for workin’ outside business hours.”

“You think you can get three bits out of me … or anybody, for that matter?”

“So you’re pretty good at arithmetic, too. Take a seat an’ tell me how in Sam Hill you decided to become a sher’ff. I’ve been wonderin’.”

“This is the city of Uttica, located at the intersection of four townships in the County of Tuscumbia. There is no municipality in the county named Sam Hill. To my knowledge, neither is there a geophysical feature by that name in the county.”

“By crackee, no one can say you don’t know whether you’re a horse or afoot. Wha’d’ya have? The usual?”

“Yes. My hair just short enough so I don’t have to run a comb through it every time the wind blows or I take off my hat. My beard just long enough so I don’t have to shave every day, but not so long that some miscreant can grab ahold and yank.”

“Miscreant, you say. I s’pec’ you can spell it, too.”

“Speaking of Yanks,” said Lee, “why do you have a picture of William T. Sherman on your work bench?”

“I’ve heard tell you look like Sherman. Land sakes alive, I wouldn’t know Sherman from Hermann the German.”

“You mean Hermann the Cheruscan.”

“Do I?”

“With the surname Teutoburg, you do.”

“I must’ve forgotten. He died some years back, as I recollect.”

“Some ninety-two score or so, as I recollect.”

“There you go. How did such a whipper-snapper decide to become a sher’ff?”

“Why do you have a picture of William T. Sherman?”

“Oh, yeah. Well, some folks say there’s a passin’ resemblance between you two. I couldn’t say, but one day when I was passin’ time in Madison, I saw a book in a window with a picture in a frame. I bought the book because it had the same picture inside. I cut it out an’ put it there.”


“Well, I reckon it’s because of your influence. Got it into my head to do some investigatin’ of my own. You see that picture ain’t labelled. It’s there an’, in the course of chewin’ the rag with this one an’ that one, I turn him around in the chair an’ make sure he sees the picture. Then I wait to hear, ‘By golly gee, that’s the sher’ff.’ An’ then they’re sure to ask, ‘Why d’ya have a picture of the sher’ff? You kin? You run his campaigns? What?”

“So how many people say that’s me?” Lee asked.

“More than say it’s Sherman. Almost as many as those who don’t say nothin’ or who don’t know nothin’ ‘bout either of you.”

“I’ve seen Sherman,” said Lee. “His hair is auburn. Or at least it was at the time. It may be gray now. His was auburn; my hair is brown, dark brown, like walnut.”

“Can’t tell from that picture. That’s what they call a photograph. It ain’t got the color of what they call a lithograph.”

“Oh, really? I didn’t know that.”

“Liar. You ain’t jus’ some hayseed blown off the rick who don’t know his left from his right. Hey!”


“Is it true that, back in the war, some farm boys were so dumb they really didn’t know left and right? They marched to hay-foot, straw-foot, hay-foot, straw-foot?”

“And they knew the difference because they had hay in one pocket and straw in the other.”

“The dickens. Well, you ain’t one of them. You could be one of those what they call professors down in Madison. Why’d you choose sher’ff?”

“Are you campaigning for someone else?”

“Shut up. Why’d you become sher’ff?”

“Well, it goes back to the war. Down outside Shelbyville, at a campsite. It was night. I was in my bunk, and a fellow officer was in his bunk. He wakes me and asks, ‘Lee, look up and tell me what you see.’

“I say, ‘Stars. There above us along the ecliptic from east to west are the constellations Capricorn, Sagittarius, and Scorpius. Antares is the bright star to the right. Farther above and toward the north, I see Altair in Aquila, the eagle; Vega in Lyra, the harp; and Arcturus in Boötes, the ox-driver.’

“He asks, ‘And what does that mean?’

“I say, ‘Well, consider the clarity of the sky. Look how vivid the Milky Way is. We could count between two thousand and three thousand stars. The moon rising in the east reveals a few cirrus clouds obscuring the view. The presence of those clouds, however, with their shape indicating a wind out of the northwest, along with the clarity of the atmosphere, that all means fair weather through the night and all day tomorrow.’

“He says, ‘No, you dunce. It means our tent has been stolen.’ ”

“Must not have been the Rebs. You’re still alive.”

“Good observation. It wasn’t the Rebs; it was a number of Yanks. Figuring out who did it inspired me to become a lawman.”

“You don’t say.”

“I just did.”

“You know, if I ran for sher’ff, not only would I put you out of a job, I’d put myself out, too.”


“In the interest of law an’ order, I’d set to institutin’ the three-kick rule.”

“And what might that be?”

“I got the tip from a stranger last fall. He came in lookin’ rather … what’s the word? Disheveled. You like that word? Sounds like you.”

“It works.”

“Anyway. He needs some tidyin’ before he gets on the train ‘cause he’s been roughed up. You see, he came up from Chicago to do some huntin’ hereabouts. He managed to shoot a goose. It didn’t fall into the water, though; it fell onto a field. Well, the feller decides to go an’ get the goose, but between feller and foul stands Mr. Farmer.

“Farmer says, ‘What’re you doin’ here?’

“Feller says, ‘I’m gettin’ the goose I shot.’

“Farmer says, ‘You’re trespassin’. Get off my land.’

“Feller says, ‘Not before I get my goose.’

“Farmer says, ‘Ain’t your goose. It’s on my land, it’s mine. I believe in bein’ neighborly, though. Gimme your address, an’ after I’ve had my fresh poultry dinner, I’ll send your lead shot back.’

“Feller says, ‘Listen, my good man. I’m takin’ that goose back. I am an attorney at law, an’ I’ve been practicin’ law for ten years, an’ I know the law. I’ll have my goose, or I’ll have you in court.’

“Farmer says, ‘You must not be from around here. Around here, we settle disputes by the three-kick rule.’

“Feller says, ‘What’s the three-kick rule?’

“Farmer says, ‘You kick me three times, then I kick you three times, an’ we trade off back an’ forth until one of us gives up and gives in.’

“Well the feller looks the old guy over an’ figures he can send ‘im into the marsh with just one kick, so he says, ‘All right. I agree.’

“Farmer says, ‘You’re the one on my land, so I go first.’ Now Mr. Farmer, he’s wearin’ hobnail boots, an’ before the feller can object, farmer sends one to the feller’s shin. Ow! The feller’s hopping on one foot. Farmer sends another kick to the other shin. Ow! The feller’s down on both knees. Farmer walks behind and sends the third kick right between the feller’s house an’ barn. Ow! The feller falls for’ard and tills some of the farmer’s field with his lower teeth, seein’ as he still had his mouth open when he went in.

“Well, after some spittin’ an’ cussin’ and such, the feller manages to get to his feet. He says, ‘Now it’s my turn!’

“Farmer says, “Naw. I give up. You can have the goose.’ ”

Lee said, “I rather doubt I’ll include that rule as a plank in my platform next election.”

“So what’d you wanna discuss outside the circle of gossip?”


“Say again?”

“I want you to tell me whether you’ve heard any gossip regarding the theft of horses here in Tuscumbia County.”

“I’ve heard Walt Stancil lost his horse.”

“That, plus at least two near Uttica, plus at least four up by Mascoutin, and now another two from the implement dealer outside Dartford.”

“Chastain’s place?”


“That’s news to me.”

“You haven’t heard anyone discuss Chesney and Sommerfeldt.”

“Oh, yeah, now that you say so. The news about Ivan Ulezelki has been front page, so to speak.”

“I’m here to ask you to listen carefully to the gossip in coming days. Men may have their ideas, their suspicions. Some may mention what will amount to clues or evidence. Someone may even brag about getting away with something, or do some teasing. I’d like you to let me know if you hear anything at all significant.”

“Sure.” Emil worked in silence for a minute or two. “Stancil’s horse,” he then said. “That was actually stolen?”

“I believe so.”

“Stancil’s old horse. Well, that brings to mind somethin’ you might want to consider.”

“What’s that?”

“Prowl around for someone conductin’ a raffle.”


“That’s how I got enough money to go into the barber business,” said Emil. “My father was a miner. I didn’t want to become a miner myself, an’ my father tended to agree. Dirty, dangerous work. As a young man, I thought maybe I could make my way sellin’ things to miners. Gloves. Knee pads. Canteens. You know. Well, for carryin’ my goods, I took a cart an’ converted it from mine use to road use.

“I needed a donkey or pony to pull my cart. I met a man who had a donkey for sale. Thirty dollars. My father knew him well enough, so I bought the donkey sight unseen. I said I’d come to his place the next day.

“Next day, I’m out at the man’s badger hole to collect my donkey. There he was, complete with founder. I objected. The man said I had shook hands, a man’s word was his bond, there was the bill of sale and the receipt, and all that. I brought the donkey home. He couldn’t work, so what was I to do? My money was all gone. I decided to sell the donkey.”

“Not for thirty dollars.”

“Nope. Four hundred.”

“Four hundred dollars!”

“Well, three-hundred and ninety-nine dollars, and I kept the donkey for a pet.”


“I sold raffle tickets. One dollar each. People said to themselves, ‘A three-year-old donkey for a dollar? I’ll try for that.’ Sight unseen. I learn fast, don’t you know. I sold four hundred tickets.”

“What’s with the three-ninety-nine?”

“Oh, the guy who won the raffle objected to the condition of the donkey. Unlike the man who took my money, I gave the guy his money back.”