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The gentleman from Harper's Weekly, who didn't know mesquite beans from goat shit, looked up from his reference collection of back issues and said, "I've got it!" Very pleased with himself. "We'll call this affair ... are you ready? The EarlyMoon Feud."
The news reporters in the Gold Dollar shrugged and thought some more, though most of them went on calling it the Rincon Mountains War, which seemed to have enough ring to it.
Somebody said, "What's the matter with the Sweetmary War?" Sweetmary being the name of the mining town where all the gawkers and news reporters had gathered to watch the show. The man from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat wanted to call it the Last of The Great Indian Wars. Or -- he also mentioned to see how it would sound -- the Great Apache Uprising of 1893. Or the Bloody Apache Uprising, etc.
The man from the St. Louis newspaper was reminded that, first, it wasn't an uprising and, second, there weren't just Apache Indians up in the mountains; there were also some niggers. The man from St. Louis, being funny, said, "Well, what if we call it the Last of the Great Indian-Nigger Wars?" A man from Florence said, "Well, you have got the chili-pickers in it also. What about them?" Yes, there were some Mexican settlers too, who had been farming up there a hundred years; they were also involved.
What it was, it was a land war.
The LaSalle Mining Company of New Jersey wanted the land. And the Indians from the White Tanks agency, the colored and the Mexicans -- all of them actually living up there -- wanted it also.
Dana Moon was the Indian Agent at White Tanks, originally established as areservation for Warm Springs Apaches, or Mimbreños, and a few Lipan and Tonto-Mojave family groups. The agency was located sixteen miles north of SweetMary and about the same distance west of the San Pedro River. The reservation land was not in dispute. The problem was, many of Moon's Apaches had wandered away from White Tanks -- a bleak, young-desert area -- to set up rancherías in the mountains. No one, until now, had complained about it.
Brendan Early worked for LaSalle Mining, sort of, with the title Coordinating Manager, Southwest Region, and was living in Sweetmary at the time.
It was said that he and Dana Moon had been up and down the trail together, had shared dry camps and hot corners, and that was why the Harper's Weekly man wanted to call it the Early-Moon Feud; which, as you see, had nothing to do with the heavens or astrology.
Nor was there any personal bitterness between them. The question was: What would happen to their bond of friendship, which had tied them together as though on two ends of a short riata, one not venturing too far without running into the other? Would their friendship endure? Or would they now, holding to opposite principles, cut the riata clean and try to kill one another?
Bringing the land question down to personalities, it presented these two as the star attractions: two well-known, soon-to-be-legendary figures about to butt heads. It brought the crowds to Sweetmary to fill up both hotels, the Congress and the Alamosa, a dozen boarding houses, the seven restaurants and thirteen saloons in town. For several weeks this throng swelled the normal population of about four hundred souls, which included the locals, those engaged in commerce, nearby farmers and ranchers and the miners at the Sweetmary Works. Now there were curiosity seekers, gawkers, from all over the Territory and parts of New Mexico.
(Not here yet were the hundred or more gunmen eventually hired by the company to "protect its leases" and quartered at the mine works. These men were paid, it was said, twenty dollars a week.)
There were newspaper representatives from the Phoenix Republican, Phoenix Gazette, Yuma Sentinel, Safford Arizonian, Tucson Star, Florence Enterprise, Prescott Courier, Cococino Sun, Clifton Copper Era, Graham County Bulletin, Tombstone Prospector, St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Chicago Times and the New York Tribune.
Harper's Weekly had hired the renowned photographer C.S. Fly of Tombstone to cover the war with his camera, the way he had pictorially recorded Crook's campaign against Geronimo and his renegade Apaches.
C.S. Fly set up a studio on LaSalle Street and there presented "showings" of many of his celebrated photographs of Indians, hangings, memorial parades and well-known personages, including Geronimo, former president Garfield and several of Brendan Early and Dana Moon. The two photos that were perhaps best known showed them at Fort Huachuca, June 16, 1887, with a prisoner they had brought in that day.
There they were, six years ago:
Brendan Early, in his hip-cocked cavalry pose. First Lieutenant of the 110th at Huachuca but wearing civilian dress, a very tight-fitting light-colored suit of clothes; bare-headed to show his brown wavy hair; a silky-looking kerchief at his throat; a matched pair of Smith and Wesson .44 Russians, butt-forward in Army holsters, each with the flap cut off; cavalry boots wiped clean for the pose; Brendan holding his Spencer carbine like a walking cane, palm resting on the upraised barrel. He seems to be trying to look down his nose like an Eastern dandy while suppressing a grin that shows clearly in his eyes.
Dana Moon with his dark, drooping mustache that makes him appear sad; hat brim straight and low over his eyes, a bulge in his bony countenance indicating the ever-present plug of tobacco; dark suit of clothes and a polka-dot neckerchief. Dana's .44 Colts revolver is in a shoulder rig, a glint of it showing. He grips a Big-fifty Sharps in one hand, a sawed-off 12-gauge Greener in the other. All those guns for a man who looks so mild, so solemn.
Between the two:
Half a head shorter is a one-eyed Mimbreño Apache named Loco. What a funny-looking little man, huh? Black eyepatch, black stringy hair hanging from the bandana covering his head, he looks like a pirate of some kind, wearing an old dirty suitcoat and a loincloth. But don't laugh at him. Loco has killed many people and went to Washington to meet Grover Cleveland when times were better.Gunsights. Copyright © by Elmore Leonard. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.