Redeye: A Western

Redeye: A Western

by Clyde Edgerton

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Overview

This New York Times Notable Book is a quirky tale of the Old West from the author of The Bible Salesman, “a master of comic timing” (Richmond Times-Dispatch).
 
“A Hollywood pitchman might call Redeye Eudora Welty meets Mark Twain,” says the New York Times Book Review about Clyde Edgerton’s “small gem of a novel,” a witty adventure set on the nineteenth-century frontier.
 
“A rollicking tale . . . The cliff dwellings of southwest Colorado attract a motley crew of explorers in 1892, each with a personal agenda. Abel Merriwether, a local rancher and amateur archaeologist, wants to explore and protect the site; Andrew Collier, an Englishman, wants to write about it; Billy Blankenship, a local businessman, wants to develop it for tourism; Bishop Thorpe, a Mormon saint, hopes to find proof that Jesus visited there 2000 years before; and Cobb Pittman, a drifter with a red-eyed dog, seeks revenge on Thorpe for the Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1875. How this diverse bunch converges for an ill-fated tour of the site is unforgettable. A master storyteller, Edgerton proves that he is in full command of his craft no matter what the setting.” —Library Journal

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781565128194
Publisher: Workman Publishing Company, Inc.
Publication date: 01/04/1995
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 254
Sales rank: 1,086,254
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Clyde Edgerton is the author of eight novels, five of which have been New York Times Notables. He is a professor of creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and performs with his band, Rank Strangers. Author Web site—www.clydeedgerton.com.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

ORIENTATION

A WRITTEN GUIDEBOOK TO

THE MESA LARGO TOURIST EXPEDITION

(founded 1905)

a trip you will NEVER FORGET!! proffered April-August, annually, by

THE BLANKENSHIP-MERRIWETHER TOURIST CO. and the DENVER AND SANTA FE R.R.

WELCOME ALL!!!

containing

A • COMPLETE • GUIDE

authored by Mr. William B. Blankenship together with a full history of:

THE EAGLE CITY SHOOTOUT OF 1892

including MAPS (virtually to scale)

TRUE STORIES OF WILD WEST ADVENTURE DEPICTIONS OF MEN OF BOTH NOBLE & QUESTIONABLE CHARACTER TALES OF WILD DOGS & SAVAGE INDIANS

including

A VISIT TO THE WORLD-FAMOUS CLIFF DWELLING

EAGLE CITY!!

with its museum of authentic and enchanting relics and

MUMMIES!!

together with such sights as the Sangre de Hermanas Mountains, Captain's Rock, Johnson's Point, Panther Ridge, &c.

ALL of the foregoing combined and presented in a manner

HITHERTO UNATTEMPTED

MUMFORD ROCK, COLORADO • BLANKENSHIP ENTERPRISES

1905

A HEARTY WELCOME

to all you

COWBOYS AND COWGIRLS,

From All Over the World!!!

You are about to embark upon an unforgettable seven-day tour up to the top of Mesa Largo and back! After a hearty supper of cowboy food and a short Sunday-night worship service, there will be campfire music followed by an ORIENTATION to our journey, culminating with starlight and restful sleep in tents.

From our starting point, the comfortable, sprawling Merriwether Ranch, home of Abel Merriwether, the inveterate explorer, rancher, and discoverer of the Mesa Largo cliff dwellings, you will be witness to a spectacular view of the easternmost tip of Mesa Largo, across the incomparable Bright Owl River. This magnificent mesa, measuring twenty miles across at its widest point by sixty miles in length, with the red evening western sky behind it, takes upon itself a dark, yet mysterious and alluring circumspect. The aura of such a work of nature will become more and more apparent as you, noble explorer, and your dozen or so compatible compatriots venture forth with THE MESA LARGO TOURIST EXPEDITION, fully equipped with modern conveniences ...

Recently added to our normal tour of the CLIFF DWELLING CALLED "EAGLE CITY" atop Mesa Largo (and as a consequence of our exceedingly popular lectures at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis last year) we now have along with THE MESA LARGO TOURIST EXPEDITION the story and explanation of the EAGLE CITY SHOOTOUT of 1892, a historic event without modern precedent — an event which occurred a mere few years ago on the first-ever tourist trip onto the mesa, when the West was still wild, when bounty hunters still roamed these now-civilized parts, when Mormons unabashedly practiced polygamy, and when Wild Indians rose up in war paint atop the now-completely-safe Mesa Largo, and vengeance was a way of life!

This will be told to you with no attempt at fancy or scientific writing, just the natural facts to the best of our knowledge as we have received them. If we have been guilty of nomenclatural technical errors, we pray forgiveness ...

Any history of the EAGLE CITY SHOOTOUT of 1892 must commence with the mysterious bounty hunter, COBB PITTMAN, who arrived in Mumford Rock in 1891, the man dressed in black, the man with the shady background, and his now-infamous outlaw dog of the Wild West, REDEYE. Pittman came from humble origins. He was a man of ...

COBB PITTMAN

1891, MUMFORD ROCK

I got this little bulldog mix what can whip any dog alive. Sinks his teeth into the nose of whatever he's fighting. Whatever it is tastes blood, gets still, then starts backing up with Redeye still hooked in. Then it might try to shake him off, but Redeye's too heavy and so sometimes it just gives up and stands there froze until I can get over there and turn Redeye's flappy lip up under his back teeth and mash down hard until he turns loose. Then whatever it is runs away whimpering. I have seen Redeye chew up and swallow whatever piece of nose might got stuck in his teeth. Used to I'd say "Hold fast" for him to hang on, and "Halt" for him to turn loose, but he's unlearned the "Halt" part and got "Hold fast" stuck in his head somehow. I ain't worked him much in the last two years or so.

So now I've had to collar and leash him. He's got so when we come into some town and he sees a dog, he's off after it, and onto it, all hooked in — won't even take time to sniff ass.

Up in Garvey Springs he took to nosing pigs. After the second one I figured I'd better leash him before somebody shoots him.

I keep his head clipped close with a pair of number-nine scissors I picked up in Denver. That way I can see his fleas better. He likes me picking through his fur. I have thought about shaving a little bald spot right on top of his head so that when a flea runs out and I'm watching — he's made a big mistake. Fleas have to come that way to get a drink of water from his eyes. I've watched fleas work.

He rides in a tow sack tied to the back of my saddle. Got a hole cut in it what he can stick his head through. Just drop him down in there, any which way, and he'll find that head hole and stick his head out. The problem comes like I said when he started to jump out the hole when he seen a nose, even with me hollering, "Halt, you bench-legged bastard."

If he can see it, he can whip it.

I had to sew a ring of leather around the hole. Next dog he seen he tried like mad to get out — pulled his head back inside the sack and tried to root out. Like he was running in circles in there. He's got to liking the taste of blood, see.

A Papitaw Indian traveling by wagon's what left him behind for me — at a creek campsite. Indian said the dog had a bad spirit in him and needed to be killed, his legs tore off and buried at a crossroads so his spirit would walk off in four directions. There was a story about him. He'd been born with that red eye and the Indians had thought he was magic. Then they had a run of bad luck and blamed it on the dog. The Indian didn't seem warm to his mission, seemed wary of Redeye and I wanted a good dog so I said I'd take him. The Indian seemed relieved. I didn't know Redeye was a natural catch dog.

"Come here, Redeye. Come here, boy. Lay your scrawny ass down here and let's see what can't we dig up a few fleas."

On these Mountain Meadows jobs — there have been five, no, four plus this one — Redeye has done his job right and good. Before my man is dead I tie his hands behind him and sic Redeye on him. I like it when they see him coming. There comes that look in their eyes.

This is what my whole life is about.

First one was right after the war, in St. Louis, bragging about what he'd done at Mountain Meadows. The Mountain Meadows Massacre, 1857, September. When I heard him slobber his story out, about what they had done, about what he had done — it was more than the rest in the bar could stomach. You could feel the effect of his story. When he left the bartender said, "Ought to somebody follow him and see he don't see light of day."

I followed him. Couldn't stop myself. I was the one had to do it. I had to. There he was. Samuel Snow. He was so drunk it was easy. I shot him in his legs, gutted him, took his tongue and eyes back in a little leather pouch and showed them in the bar to a couple of fellows. One of the ones from the bar that night traveled with me for a while. Fellow named Washbourne. Called him Wishbone. We started looking for others. He finally married a Mexican singer and left me.

Back then, you didn't have to be too careful. Now you do, with agents all around, and government ideas. But the government finally washed its hands of all the Mountain Meadows thing because they never could get to any of the murderers except for Calvin Boyle, one of the leaders, and that trial was pre- arranged. That Mr. Boyle was on my list. Now I'm after his brother, Christian Boyle. I got a copy of his confession. His name is on it. I say it to myself every few days:

SWORN STATEMENT delivered on February 15, 1859, to Judge F. L. Barkley in the County of Iron, territory of Utah, United States of America:

The Indians reported that they had been attacking the Gentile wagon train at Mountain Meadows for three days, but could not unlock their defenses. So we of the Iron County Mormon Militia were called to the action. We took command and told the Indians to hide in a spot of brush nearby along the trail back to town from Mountain Meadows and wait until we brought the Gentiles to them. There was discussion and argument but the issue was settled. The Indians could hide undetected, looking like logs in the brush.

The emigrants had pulled their wagons into a circle and I was one of the three to carry in white flags. Me, Calvin, and one other one. There were about forty wagons. All their horses, oxen, and cattle had been driven off by the Indians. We rode up without being fired upon and they let us in. The conditions inside the corral were as might be expected after several days of attack. There were wounded and some dead, not yet buried, and flies clotted everywhere. They had dug a long trench in the middle of the corral for the protection of women, children, and wounded. They had been digging for water but had not reached any.

The women and children crowded around us, very excited at the prospect of deliverance. Some men joined them and some stayed back, looking upon us with fear and doubt upon their countenances. Mere words can never express the storms raging in my soul over what I was doing. Tears welled in my eyes. But my hesitation was brief. I knew in my heart that as a Mormon I had no choice but to play my part in the acts having been ordered to be committed ...

And so on for another page or two.

I ain't never had no shortage of energy on all this. I've searched through dark tunnels of the soul, down into blackest hell. I've traced my man, Christian Boyle, to Beacon City, little town across the ferry northwest of Mumford Rock. The confession is the one wrote up for Judge Barkley, the man sent into Utah to try to bring justice. He arrested a bunch that was involved in the massacre, but he couldn't find a grand jury that would do nothing but turn them all loose and then the war came. But he ended up with some confessions, because for a while he had them running scared.

"What you hear, Redeye? What you hear, boy? You better not go out there and nose you no mountain lion. Redeye! Get over here. See what we can't find us two or three big old fat fleas on — whoa, look a there. You want him? You hungry? No, settle down. That's it for now, boy. We got to get on down to Mumford Rock, Beacon City. Find our man."

* * *

... Also arriving in Mumford Rock in 1891 was a young woman, a bright star of the East, Star Copeland, educated in eastern schools, traveling west from the state of North Carolina ...

* * *

STAR

It seemed like the whole world swept by the open train windows during those bright days of traveling west. Only once did it rain hard enough for us to close them. Nevertheless, as the train speeds along the rail, you are not pressed back into the seat. In the dining car the tables and chairs do not slide to the back of the car as you might think. The train is speeding along and your body speeds along with it as if you and all else were of one little world inside the train and that other world outside goes sliding, speeding, flying by, heading to someplace far behind you.

The landscape upon my departure was hilly, lush, and green — home — and then later, mountainous, the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee, with here and there a small wispy cloud swirling slowly below a high green peak. There I became wrapped in the ache of separation from Listre, while yet still aching deep in my heart from Mama's passing.

And then, the arrow-like flight across the wide, flat plains, where, when we ventured to stop, if my raised arm and pointed finger slowly moved in an entire circle with my finger on the flat horizon line, there never would have been a single tiny bump to break that line, a line as straight as the line upon the surface of calm water. And, oh, such an open land enables one to see distant billowing clouds, bright white in the sun, very far away — long, clear distances that back home would be blocked by trees and hills. You can even see storms develop far away and approach and approach and approach and finally arrive, or not quite arrive after all that time. Such an open feeling causes me at times to fear my soul might just suddenly escape my body.

Aunt Sallie has entreated me to care for my soul with daily Bible reading and prayer, because the spiritual status of the West is not clear. There are pockets of lawlessness here yet still. And of course, along beside the lawless, stand some men of great faith and daring. There are churches in every town and even on the train I met two Mormon missionaries who explained how God has called all Mormons west to establish a kingdom. I have never been sure what the Mormons believe, but the young men assured me that I should find out all I can about the Mormon way. I must say that I was impressed with these two young gentlemen, especially as they compared with some of the more rustic "cowboys" who began appearing here and there as we continued west. I was impressed that the young Mormon missionaries in no way coaxed me unfairly, and isn't it such a great example of common sense to send missionaries among your own peoples as well as to, say, China?

Finally, we beheld the mighty mountains of the western states and territories, characterized by such splendor they can never be described by word but must be experienced in the very air, felt from a great distance, for it is at a great distance that they stand large and looming as if they were close at hand. But upon traveling several miles, there they stand, yet, still as if close at hand. Another mile of travel and they seem to still stand where they stood before — at yet the same distance away.

And the air between you and the great mountains is so clear — so void of mist, so clear that it seems to have a life all its own. No fog, no smoke. No hazy mystery of the foothills that lie far, far behind me. Here instead is a shining clarity, and as we do finally approach the base of these mighty bulwarks, we find that the North Carolina mountains are, in comparison, mere hills, as Mr. Perkins — the gentleman who wore his maroon-colored shirt and maroon-colored tie every day on the train — said over and over. Mr. Perkins convincingly proclaims that the West will fulfill the last great hope of America, and in twenty short years, by 1911, through the miracle of irrigation, the great dry western desert will become teeming gardens of more vegetables and fruit than we can ever use. That is when, perhaps, my little sister Content, and more of my aunts, uncles, and cousins may follow Uncle P.J., Aunt Ann, Grandma Copeland, and the children out into this great adventure called the Wild West.

* * *

There is a notable difference in the folks out west. I see this on our stops. Their clothes are dusty; their eyes, bloodshot; and there is a roughness and a sense of dark, hard, secret experience about many of them — whole families even. I have seen whole families living in dirty cluttered wagons that have wooden sides and wooden tops, so that they become permanent living quarters.

But the clean air sings, and dark shadows of clouds traverse the mountainsides as would shadows of giant flying carpets. And how is it possible that for centuries, only savages have been heirs to such air electric, mounts gigantic?

And the nights — surprisingly cool.

* * *

... Already residing in Mumford Rock in the year 1891 was a youth of unknown origins, young BUMPY COPELAND, an orphan adopted by Star Copeland's uncle, P.J. COPELAND, saddle and furniture maker, who traveled west from North Carolina years earlier with his fair wife Ann and settled near Mumford Rock. Bumpy apparently fell from a westward-traveling wagon around the year 1877 and was found in good shape ...

* * *

BUMPY

I work for Mr. P.J. Copeland — Pleasant James. He makes saddles and furniture mostly. Now he's starting into the corpse business. Him and Mr. Blankenship. Except they don't plan to call them corpses when women are around. They said they'll call them trees.

I'm probably sixteen now. Or fifteen. Mr. and Mrs. Copeland — Ann — took me in when I was little. I'm pretty happy here. I got my own room. Some of the things I do around the house and store is haul water from the windmill every morning, feed the chickens, milk the cows, feed the horses, black shoes for church, cut Brother's hair, grease the wagons, tend the garden, whitewash the chimney rock, and wind the clock.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "REDEYE"
by .
Copyright © 1995 Clyde Edgerton.
Excerpted by permission of ALGONQUIN BOOKS OF CHAPEL HILL.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

ORIENTATION,
THE RANCH,
THE FERRY,
THE TRAIL,
THE MESA,
ATOP THE MESA,
NOTES,

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Redeye: A Western 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
michaeleconomy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I think this was the only book that was assigned reading in high school that I remember enjoying. It also wasn't directly assigned, the teacher gave us a list of books or authors (don't remember) and since I didn't know any of them I showed my mom and she picked one.It was pretty cool cause before that point I guess I really didn't know that i could really enjoy reading the same kinds of books as my mom (we still maintain very different tastes in books, but there is some overlap).That said... I really don't remember a whole ton about this book, other than the converging plot lnies/characters and the dog, but i do remember liking it a lot!
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