No, these aren’t political smears or gotcha-moments.
Instead these are stories that take place 150 years ago.
Yeah, Montana in 1866.
That’s a popular time period, at least when it comes to Montana books and such.
People like it. They like reading about the old days, and the people that populated ‘em.
Gunfighters, vigilantes, cattleman, rustlers, rangers, traders, and more.
I just put out a short book called They All Died that takes place in Montana Territory in 1867.
It touches upon the Acting One’s death, or Thomas Francis Meagher as he was also sometimes called that year.
Another character I mentioned was Cecil Hampton, a cattle baron. I made that guy up, and I made up his son too, Lyle Hampton.
Lyle Hampton works his father’s holdings around Gallatin City. In my new story, he also sees to it that two additional toll bridges are built south of the Healy/Largent toll bridge.
John Healy was a real person, born in Ireland in 1837, and at just 25-years-old he started the Sun River Crossing trading post. It was 1862 and Montana was two years shy of territorial status.
In 1867 he teamed up with John Largent, a 23-year-old Virginian that’d first come to Montana in 1866, to start the Sun River Crossing toll bridge.
Daniel Flowerree is another character that enters our story.
The 32-year-old Missourian struck it rich in the California gold camps between 1852 and 1855, headed to Nicaragua in 1857, went back to Missouri until 1864, and then moved up to Montana to get into the cattle business.
In March 1864 he came to Virginia City via the stage from Salt Lake City and in 1865 he was around the Prickly Pear Valley just north of Last Chance Gulch. It was at that point he decided to get into the cattle business and he bought up a herd from Missouri.
The Flowerree cattle operation stretches north from the Prickly Pear Valley all the way up past the Blackfoot River and along the Rocky Mountain Front to Sun River and even a little beyond.
It’s the days of the free range and the cattle do just that – range for hundreds of miles over thousands of acres, sating themselves on the prime bluegrass, wheatgrass, needlegrass, hard fescue and wildrye.
Fed on that for a year or two and the animals were ready to hit the Mullan Road then the side roads of the Montana Trail to the Corrine Road down to the area in Utah where the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads would eventually meet.
At $40 a head it was business and Montanans were getting good at it. Many were realizing the future was in cattle, not gold. Young people were coming up to take advantage of that as well, and one was Kenny Boyle.
Kenny was born in 1843 in Virginia, Kenny’s a young and idealistic 23-year-old that wants to make it rich in the Montana Territory. He takes a job with the Diamond R Freight Company, getting on in Utah with an outfit connected to them.
He’s heading up toward Sun River from their last drop in the Prickly Pear Valley and hoping to get on with the Flowerree cattle operation when it’s all said and done. A friend from back home was lucky enough to get on with them for $30 a month.
All Kenny has to do first is finish up this last Diamond R shipment for John Healy, who requisitioned it for his Sun River Trading Post.
Kenny’s just dropped off a load of goods at Camp Cooke and just has to get to Sun River. When he does, however, he comes across a new toll bridge, one put there by some of Lyle Hampton’s men.
Arguments break out with one of the Hampton men named Roland Kind. He’s 25-years-old and a real hard-ass, one that doesn’t take kindly to Kenny.
At one point it looks like guns might be drawn but in the end Kenny and others move on along the south bank, heading to the Healy/Largent toll bridge a couple miles upriver.
James Vail is manning it, the real-life superintendent of the federal government’s Blackfeet Indian school at Sun Crossing. He works the toll bridge evenings and early mornings for a little extra on the side.
The men are still talking when one of Flowerree’s cowboys rides up, telling how one of his men was shot at the new toll bridge.
Kenny and James ride there and see that Cecil Hampton is there, as well as his son, Lyle, and just as Healy is riding up as well.
The Hamptons get into an argument with Healy and it looks like it’ll come to blows before Major Clinton rides up from Camp Cooke, which is near the mouth of the Judith River, 20 miles upriver from Sun River Crossing and 5 miles upriver from the Mullan Road’s crossing.
Major Clinton is in charge of the 13th Infantry stationed at Camp Cooke and he settles things down. He later tells Healy and Kenny about problems with cattle thefts.
The thefts are being blamed on the Blackfeet...but they look awfully suspicious.
And thus our story begins.