I suppose one would think that in this day and age, witchcraft or more precisely the belief in witches, devils and other minions of hell walking the Earth, would be a memory from less enlightened times.
My family has been in this country now for several generations. They came over from Ireland on a leaking, stinking ship crowded to the gunwales with hundreds of other dirt-poor folks looking for the opportunity of freedom. My ancestors were more fortunate than many on that poor excuse of a ship. They lived to see the New Land.
Once passed the gray, overcrowded cities that hugged the harbor and polluted the bays, the land was green and fair, much like the land they left behind. The landscape and smell of sweet grass were not the only similarities. Superstition and fear still clung to the people like the odors from their ethnic kitchens. Witch hunts and purges ruined lives and family here in this beautiful country as if a continuation of those in Europe. The new Church elders acted like the old Church elders. The demand for conformity as suffocating as any Monarch’s hard rule. So my father moved west and in turn did I. The difference being I had no family to uproot.
I was a man of my twenties when I first arrived in this semi-arid country surrounded by high sharp peaks. The year was 1869 and finer grazing land had never been seen by the European eye. I knew little of the requirements for cattle raising, but I knew enough. This place would hold many thousands of the beasts. A young man with too much education and ambition and not enough sense, I set about building all you see about you today. Several years of digging lost Spanish cattle and mustang horses out of the breaks and coulees gave me a fine start in the ranching business. The war was well over between the states and the need for beef diminished back East. The occasional visitor would scoff at my enterprise. I was never deterred. Before long the army pushed West and an army on the move needs beef and horses. I had both.
Gold in California and the Black Hills, silver in Nevada Territory, drew men in a steady ant like line over the Bozeman and Santa Fe Trails. Most of these fortune seekers were of little experience and there was a general clamor for protection from the resistant Indians whose land needed to be crossed or dug. Back East the politicians knew that expansion was the key to elections. Prosperity brought votes. But, if those who would be prosperous died before they could cast a ballot? Well, protection was called for.
So the army moved West. There was no shortage of army brass looking to move up in rank. Without war there was little chance of promotion. Killing Indians became the preferred and easiest way to advance. The story is not new. Like the War Between the States, this war between Americans took its toll on both sides. While I had no trouble with the local tribes that roamed the valley, fear grew, as did the number of small towns clustered around the more promising gold strikes and farmland. Fear of a different People, killing for no crime other than being supposed a savage or red devil; a minion of hell.
The ranch grew and so did a small town about five miles from where I built my home. I Had become a rich man, by most standards, before my twenty-seventh birthday. I named the ranch “Sun Valley”, surely the weather was fine but, I had a more spiritual meaning in the back of my mind. The wealth brought with it animosity and fear. The town’s people grew divided about me and my family. The previous year I took a wife, a beautiful and intelligent Indian girl. Our first child was on the way. I was disheartened by those newcomers who chose to shun me or talk about my family behind our back.
To hell with them. I came here with nothing but youth and muscle to be rid of small-minded people. This was my land and I didn’t need or want them. These people were in the minority, though slight, the rest were honest hard working farmers, ranchers and businessmen. There was even law and order, in the person of Sheriff Tom Harden. All in all the town and I prospered.