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The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (21st Installment)

September 30, 2018 07:59PM
PART TWENTY-TWO

The next day, O’Brian got up early, and took a cab to a car rental agency, where he rented a large Honda SUV (large for a Honda, anyway). He got back shortly after seven AM.

Jane and Ada were already up.

“Morning, ladies,” he greeted them. “You both packed?”

“Packed?” said Jane. “Are we going someplace?”

“We sure are,” said O’Brian. “Clear to the other side of the country. San Francisco, California, to be specific. I told you we were taking this show on the road.”

“San Francisco? How far is that?”

“It’s on the Pacific Coast. Somewhere between 2500 and 3000 miles.”

“How long will that take?” asked a stunned Jane, unable to conceive of a trip of such a distance, though having come two hundred miles into the future, it shouldn’t have seemed that imposing.

“Three or four days, if we drive straight though, and go for ten or twelve hours a day, but we’ll be going at a more leisurely pace, stopping along the way, seeing some of the sights. Might take us a week and a half, two weeks.”

“I’ve got everything packed, Mike,” said Ada. “Didn’t tell Jane about the trip on account of I knew you wanted to surprise her, but I packed her a suitcase.”

“Great, let’s load everything into the SUV and get going.”

*

A half-hour later, they were all seated in the spacious (comparatively spacious, compared to the Honda Civic) CR-V, headed west on Interstate 66.

“You rented this carriage, Michael?” asked Jane.

“That’s right.”

“Why did we not simply take the one you already own?”

“This is going to be a long trip, and a bigger car’s more comfortable for long trips, and has more space for luggage and such. The other reason is that we’re taking a train back from the Coast to the Seaboard, and renting a car means I can just leave it with a rental agency out there.”

“You have planned this for some time, then?”

“Yep.”

“And you didn’t tell me?”

“Wanted to surprise you. Hope you don’t mind.”

“Do you have any more surprises planned?”

“Quite a few, actually.”

They road in silence for a while, then Jane asked “Why is it the ‘West Coast,’ but the ‘Eastern Seaboard?’”

“The first European settlers in the East were mostly British or Dutch. ‘Seaboard’ derives from the Dutch words ‘zee’ and ‘bord,’ meaning the plank of a ship facing the sea rather than the land, a term that, in English, came to be used for a long stretch of land adjacent to the ocean. Like Britain’s Welsh Seaboard. California, and most the rest of the Pacific states were originally settled by Spaniards, and their word, ‘costa,’ was simply translated to ‘coast.’ So when you say the ‘Seaboard,’ it’s understood that you mean the ‘Eastern Seaboard,’ but when you say the ‘Coast,’ it’s understood that you mean the ‘West Coast.’”

“And where will we be stopping along the way?”

“A few places I think you’ll find interesting.”

*

The pace of their trip was, as Michael had promised, leisurely. As leisurely as travel can be in a vehicle that is going more than seventy mile an hour. Not counting meal breaks and overnight stops at what Michael called “motels” (“It’s a portmanteau. A contraction of the words ‘motor’ and ‘hotel.’ A place along the highways and freeways for people traveling by car to stop for the night.”), they made no stops until they came to a town in the State of Mississippi called Vicksburg.

“A key victory in the Civil War was won here.” Michael said. “On the very same day, the 4th of July, 1863, the Union won another key victory in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Those were the two most important victories of the war, and the Union won them both on 87th anniversary of the founding of the nation. That struck a lot of people as Providential. The biggest mystery is how the South managed to hang on for another two years.”

Together, the three of them toured a National Park that the government maintained as a memorial to all the soldiers, Union and Confederate, who fought there. They also took a boat ride on the river to see where the Naval operations occurred. It occurred to Jane that, though Americans had, comparatively, so little history, they very much treasured the history they did have.

“You celebrate this victory the way we celebrate the Battle of Hastings. Yet it only happened a little more than a hundred years ago,” she said to Michael.

“The British have a saying about that. To an American, a hundred years is along time. To a Briton, a hundred miles is a long distance.”

They continued their tour through the park as Michael continued to talk.

“General Grant became a hero of the nation after winning at Vicksburg,” he said. “Pretty soon after that, Lincoln put him in charge of the whole army. And, after the war, he was elected president. But you gotta give General Pemberton credit. He held out longer than most would’ve thought possible, with almost no support from the rest of the Confederate forces, against three of the Union’s most capable generals, Grant, Sherman, and Admiral Porter of the Navy. The tragedy is, he wasn’t even a southerner. Went with the Confederacy ‘cause he was married to a Southern woman. Cesca used to think that was romantic. A northerner who went Confederate for love.”

*

From there, they traveled nearly four hundred miles northwest to a town in Arkansas called Fort Smith, where another National Park, much smaller, was dedicated to preserving the courthouse where a famous frontier jurist named Isaac Parker presided over the only federal court for thousands and thousands of square miles.

“He was the only federal judge in a vast area that covered both a federal court district, and a theoretically larger, but in this case co-extensive circuit. The consequence was that, when he sentenced a defendant to death, and nearly eighty men were executed during his tenure here, there was no one standing between Parker ant that defendant's final judgment except the President, who could commute the sentence or issue a pardon.”

“Why was that, Michael?”

“He was the only one willing to take on the job. There were no other judges who could be persuaded to accept the position. Since the Supreme Court, at that time, didn’t hear appeals from criminal cases, the highest a defendant could go to appeal a judgment was the Circuit Court. And Judge Parker, again, because no one else wanted the job, was both the Circuit Judge and the District Judge. So he was the one you went to, to appeal his own decisions. Occasionally he overturned himself, but not very often.”

They saw the courtroom on the second floor, the jail on the ground floor, and the replica of the gallows where men paid the ultimate penalty on the grounds outside of the courthouse.

“This court is the main reason we US Marshals are so identified with the frontier era,” said Michael. “On the other side the Arkansas River there is the State of Oklahoma. But in Judge Parker’s time, it was called Indian Territory, a land mass set aside for the native peoples to be relocated to, particularly the five groups known as the ‘Civilized Tribes,’ the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole. Each tribe had its own courts, its own legislatures and governing bodies, and its own law enforcement, the Light Horse Police. But they had no jurisdiction over white people who committed crimes in Indian Territory, and so criminal gangs used the area as a haven. Judge Parker’s court had total jurisdiction over any crimes or criminals that were outside the authority of the Indian courts, and that was most of the crime that occurred in Indian Territory. And the only body of law officers with jurisdiction to enforce Judge Parker’s authority were the US Marshals.”

“How many were there, Michael?”

“About 200, to patrol a territory of nearly seventy thousand square miles.”

Michael went on to talk about some of the more famous marshals who rode for Parker. Bill Tilghman and Heck Thomas, who worked together and were among the law officers most feared by frontier outlaws. Bass Reeves, a former slave who became one of Parker’s most effective marshals. Paden Tolbert, who also worked as a railroad detective. Charles Colcord, who would go on to become the first Chief of Police in Oklahoma City, after white settlement was allowed in the western part of the territory.”

“Didn’t you say the territory was reserved for the Indians?”

“Yeah, but, for practical purposes, Indian Territory became the twelfth Confederate State during the Civil War. Most of the members of the Five Civilized Tribes were relocated from Southern States, where they owned plantations and slaves. And that continued once they were settled in Indian Territory. Even those that weren’t slave owners had a lot of sympathy for the concept of ‘states’ rights,’ just like a lot of non-slave-holding residents of the ‘official’ Confederate States did. Fact is, the last Confederate general to surrender, more than six weeks after Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox, was a Cherokee War Chief named Stand Watie. The consequence of the Indians fighting for the Confederacy was that the Western half of Indian Territory became open for settlement by whites, and was renamed Oklahoma Territory. Eventually the two territories reunited, and entered the Union as the State of Oklahoma.”

He looked across the street from the courthouse where construction of a new building was going on.

“They’re building a museum dedicated to the US Marshals Service,” said Michael, “because right here is where the Marshals became legends. It won’t open until 2019. Maybe we can come back and see it when it does.”

“Can we not go there using your time machine?”

“Can’t go to the future. I know you did, but from the machine’s perspective, so to speak, you were just returning to the present.”

“I see. Well, perhaps we may come back someday.”

*

That night, the three of them had a light dinner in Michael’s room (Jane and Ada shared an adjacent room), and watched a couple of filmed plays on DVD that he had bought at the Courthouse gift shop, one an adaptation of a novel called True Grit, with an actor named John Wayne, who Michael said was perhaps the most famous performer ever to appear in moving pictures, as Deputy Marshal Cogburn. The other featured a much younger actor named Clint Eastwood, who, Michael said, was almost as legendary as Mr. Wayne. It was called Hang ‘Em High. They were both set in and around Judge Parker’s court, and in the territory his court had jurisdiction over. The second used imagined names for the Judge and the town, but it was clear who and what the real-life counterparts were.

“There’s another version of True Grit that I bought,” said Michael. “Maybe we’ll watch that tomorrow. I also got a copy of the novel if you’d like to read it.”

“I think I would like that very much, Michael,” said Jane.

*

For the next leg of their trip, taking two days (during their overnight stop, they did watch the remake of True Grit, starring an actor named Jeff Bridges as Cogburn, a version, Jane thought, that was closer to the book in some ways), they traveled across both Oklahoma and New Mexico, and into Arizona, Finally arriving at yet another National Park, dedicated to one of the most spectacular natural sites Jane had ever seen. Michael said it was called “the Grand Canyon.”

“Grand” didn’t even begin to describe it. So wild, untamed, and dangerous looking, yet so magnificent. It seemed almost like a cathedral that nature, or the Lord, had built.

When she expressed this observation, Michael said, “That’s how the Indians saw it, as a matter of fact. The Zuni, Hopi, Acuna, and other Pueblo tribes regarded this as a sacred place. The first European to see it, that we know of, anyway, was a Spanish conquistador named Garcia López de Cárdenas. That was nearly three hundred years before your time, Jane. More than five hundred before mine.”

Michael told her there were campsites if she had any desire to rough it, but assured her that she had a room for her and Ada, if that was her preference.

“It’s a place that once belonged to another frontier lawman, Buckey O’Neil. He was good at thieftaking, but he had his hands in a lot of other occupations, too. Built this cabin that we’re renting ‘cause he was mining copper in the area. Along the way he was also a short story writer, a journalist, a lawyer, and a soldier. He got killed doing that last job during the Spanish-American War in 1898.”

The cabin turned out to be part of a large hotel complex called Bright Angel Lodge. After checking in, they went to dinner at one of the restaurants in the complex, the Harvey House, which, it turned out, was part of a well-known chain of restaurants.

“According to legend, the ladies who worked as waitresses helped civilize the West,” Michael told them, as he tucked into a huge steak. “There was even a movie about it called The Harvey Girls. A musical, like Seven Brides, but set later. It’s fun, but not as good as Seven Brides.”

As it turned out, Michael had a DVD of The Harvey Girls for them all to watch after dinner. That was followed by another moving picture, about a policeman trying to solve a murder in the Grand Canyon, called Edge of Eternity. The climax, truly thrilling, was a fight in a cart suspended from a line extending across the two sides of the Canyon between the policeman and the killer.

“That one was filmed on location,” said Michael. “That was in the 1950’s. In those days location filming was rare. Most movies were filmed in studios.”

Of Cornel Wilde, the handsome actor playing the policeman (who reminded Jane a little of her brother, Darcy), Michael said, “Playing cops was kind of unusual for him. This was only the second time he ever played one. Second and last. He was cast in what we call ‘swashbucklers’ a lot more often, playing characters like Robin Hood, Sir Lancelot, and that famous French swordsman and soldier, the Comte D’Artagnan. Makes sense that he’d play those kinds of roles. He was an expert fencer. Almost competed in the Olympics. Too bad though. He was pretty good at playing cops. The only other time, in a movie called The Big Combo, he was even better.”

“How could he compete in games that were held thousands of years in the past? Is he a time traveler, too?” asked Jane.

“No. I forgot you didn’t know. The Olympics were revived, or from your perspective will be revived, in 1896.”

“So much has happened between your time and mine, yet, as history is measured, it’s not really that much time. It was barely more than six decades between that first flight at Kitty Hawk, and the landing on the Moon. Yet it took over a hundred years to get from a balloon to a mechanized airplane.”

“Something for you to consider,” said Michael, looking very serious. “The two of use come from very different worlds. As you’ve experienced since coming here, even the forms of entertainment are very different.”

“No doubt about that,” said Ada. “Mike here is the biggest movie buff I know, but there’s no movies for him to be a buff about in your time.”

“You do love these moving pictures, don’t you, Michael?”

“Very much. And that’s one of the reasons I’ve chosen Los Angeles, California, to be our next stop.”

***
SubjectAuthorPosted

The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (21st Installment)

Jim D.September 30, 2018 07:59PM

Re: The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (21st Installment)

Shannon KOctober 02, 2018 01:27PM

Re: The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (21st Installment)

Jim D.October 02, 2018 04:58PM

Re: The Predator, the Prey, and the Protector (21st Installment)

Shannon KOctober 03, 2018 01:49AM



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