I was born in the spring of 1845 to a German farmer, Hans and his wife Marta, in the state of Michigan. I was the oldest of two girls born to them. We were poor but we were happy. We had a small plot of land that we farmed. We raised a couple of horses, a few cows for milk, some pigs and a bunch of chickens. My parents put a lot of emphasis on my education, so I went to school, like my younger sister. Learning to read and my arithmetic. In 1863, I met a fine young man who lived a few farms over from us. We fell in love and were married and soon started a family of our own. My daughter, Katerina was born. But this was a couple of years into the war between the states, my daddy and husband, Robert, volunteered for Custer’s Michigan Cavalry Brigade and went off to war. My mother and I were very proud of them for doing this and in the summer of 1864, she and I left my younger sister and my baby with relatives and went down south to assist the best we could. We cooked meals, washed laundry, bandaged wounds, and sang for the troops around the camp fire. One summer day, my mother and I were washing clothing near the river, a few hundred yards from the camp. I heard the cock of a pistol and turned to see blonde woman, maybe a few years older than I was, pointing a colt at my mother and me. Both my mother and I had dark hair. I was 19 and had the same fulsome breasts and womanly hips with strong legs as my mother.
“I am gonna need those clothes,” the young blonde said with a southern accent. We were only a few miles from border with Virginia.
“I am sorry miss, but these aren’t for you,” Marta said. She moved slightly between me and the woman with a pistol pointed at us.
“I would hate to have to kill you, Yankee,” the blonde said with a smile, “But I will do it.”
My mother threw the shirt she was holding at the blonde, who fired but missed and my mother tackled her to the stream. Both were only dressed in simple cotton dresses that were immediately soaked to their skin. Over and over they thrashed in the water, pulling hair, slapping at faces and even pulling at their dresses. The gunshot had alerted the Union soldiers and a few rushed over to where we all were and jumped into the water to pry my mother and the blonde apart. The two women were now topless and their chests sported scratches. They kicked and flailed at the other as the men separated them.
“Well, Ms. Marta,” said the captain, “Do you know who you caught here? This little hellcat is Bella Reed. She is a famous or rather infamous Confederate spy. I even think there is a reward for her capture. Well done, but you may want to cover up before taking Ms. Ahnalize back to camp, don’t want the men too excited.”
My mom blushed and realized she was half naked and quickly covered up. As we lay down in our tent later that night, my mother explained that sometimes women need to protect what is theirs by any means necessary. She told me that women can be especially cruel to the other in a fight, even more so if it is over love or family.
The war ended the next year and we traveled back to Michigan as a family again. The winter of 1865 was a rough one and we lost some of our animals to the harsh winter and my son, Hans was born. We decided to head west for the promise of a fresh start and a new life in the Great Planes. With the bounty money we had received and luckily saved, my father and husband bought a large plot of land with two homesteads a few miles apart near Dodge City and leased it to the cattlemen who brought their steers up from Texas for slaughter.
Trips to town could be adventures themselves. On one such trip with Katerina to buy some school supplies from the general store, I witnessed the town marshal, Wyatt exchanged gunfire with some unruly cowboys. As one of the cowboys was making his way towards Katerina and I on the street, I pushed her behind me. He tried to shoot Wyatt in the back so I swung the satchel of school books and hit him over the head. We went down like a ton of bricks.
“That was very dangerous, Miss,” Wyatt chided as the and his brother, Morgan, strong armed the woozy cowboy.
“It’s Mrs., Mrs. Stevens, Marshal,” I corrected, “I couldn’t stand by and see him shoot you in the back.”
“Well Mrs. Stevens,” Wyatt said with a smile, “I am very much obliged.”
My husband, Robert, chided me for getting involved. But I remembered the lessons my mother taught me. Always protect what is yours.
Tragedy struck my family. One night while little Hans had been visiting my parents on their farmstead, a Cheyanne war party attacked. My father, my mother, my younger sister Hildi and my son Hans were killed. I was distraught and for almost a year I wore nothing but black. I hated all Indians and my only happiness that year was when I was told the war party was hunted down by the Army. Robert knew we needed a change in our lives, so we packed up and headed south to a small mining town in the Arizona territory called Silvertown. After selling our home and my parents property, we had a good sum of money and bought a ranch a few miles outside of Silvertown. Robert started getting sick soon after we arrived and only lasted until the fall. I buried him near us next to a set of trees. This time I couldn’t mourn like I did with my parents, sister and son. I had to make sure I provided for my family. I prayed and prayed for a miracle and it showed up one morning. I awoke one morning early and found that one of the fences was busted and a few of my cattle were gone. At that time, I had about 20 head. I was beside myself thinking I had failed, but a short time later a hulk of man came back towards the ranch, leading the cattle that had gone missing. He was well over six feet and layered with muscle. He name was Billy and he was a simple man who as a boy had gotten hit on the head hard. But he had grown into a behemoth of a man with a child’s mind. I thanked Billy and he told me he was looking for work. I told him that in return for work, he would have three meals a day, a roof over his head and pay. That was the summer of 1880. I was 35, a widow with a young daughter and a ranch to take care of.
1881 was a wild year. It was the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in the neighboring town of Tombstone; where the town marshal I knew in Dodge City, his brothers and Doc Holliday fought the Cowboys. Every reputable cattleman never wanted to be called cowboy because of the reputation of this wild bunch. The gang spent lots of time between the neighboring towns. There had been a few time when I would have to take a scattergun or rifle out on a horse to chase them off my land. After the dust-up with the Cowboys settled, life in Silvertown and the surrounding county started to calm. I got more cattle (over 200 head), sold some, using the profit to open a mercantile store, and I got involved in the bustling town. There were a couple of saloons, the Sling and Soiled Dove. The Dove was run by Kristina Blanchard, a gorgeous woman who worked her way up from being a working girl to now the one running them. Even though I didn’t see it, she and the previous madam battle for hours with their bodies to see who controlled the girls and saloon. Kristina won and the older women left town. On the ranch, I had Billy and my daughter Katerina as well as 5 other hired hands and a cook, Nettie. She was a voluptuous black woman from South Carolina who grew up in slavery but took the Underground Railroad to freedom. When she came to town looking for work and made me a quick meal, I was hooked and hired her immediately. She lived in the house with us and got along with everyone but I could tell there was a mystery about her but I never probed. And that brings us to the start of our adventure, are you ready to tighten the reigns, dig your spurs in and ride with me?
To Be Continued in Chapter 1.